Part 2 out of 3
and cakes, we talked loud and sang, Edwarda's laugh sounded fresh and
careless through the room. But why had she never a word for me now? I
went towards where she was sitting, and would have said something polite
to her, as best I could; she was wearing a black dress, her confirmation
dress, perhaps, and it was grown too short for her, but it suited her
when she danced, and I thought to tell her so.
"That black dress..." I began.
But she stood up, put her arm round one of her girl friends, and walked
off with her. This happened two or three times. Well, I thought to
myself, if it's like that... But then why should she stand looking
sorrowfully after me from the window when I go? Well, 'tis her affair!
A lady asked me to dance. Edwarda was sitting near, and I answered
"No; I am going home directly."
Edwarda threw a questioning glance at me, and said: "Going? Oh, no, you
I started, and felt that I was biting my lip. I got up.
"What you said then seemed very significant to me, Edwarda," I said
darkly, and made a few steps towards the door.
The Doctor put himself in my way, and Edwarda herself came hurrying up.
"Don't misunderstand me," she said warmly. "I meant to say I hoped you
would be the last to go, the very last. And besides, it's only one
o'clock... Listen," she went on with sparkling eyes, "you gave our
boatmen five _daler_ for saving my shoe. It was too much." And she
laughed heartily and turned round to the rest.
I stood with open mouth, disarmed and confused.
"You are pleased to be witty," I said. "I never gave your boatman five
_daler_ at all."
"Oh, didn't you?" She opened the door to the kitchen, and called the
boatmen in. "Jakob, you remember the day you rowed us out to
Korholmerne, and you picked up my shoe when it fell into the water?"
"Yes," answered Jakob.
"And you were given five _daler_ for saving it?"
"Yes, you gave me..."
"Thanks, that will do, you can go."
Now what did she mean by that trick? I thought she was trying to shame
me. She should not succeed; I was not going to have that to blush for.
And I said loudly and distinctly:
"I must point out to all here that this is either a mistake or a lie. I
have never so much as thought of giving the boatman five _daler_
for your shoe. I ought to have done so, perhaps, but up to now it has
not been done."
"Whereupon we shall continue the dance," she said, frowning. "Why aren't
"She owes me an explanation of this," I said to myself, and watched for
an opportunity to speak with her. She went into a side room, and I
"_Skaal_," I said, and lifted a glass to drink with her.
"I have nothing in my glass," she answered shortly.
But her glass was standing in front of her, quite full.
"I thought that was your glass."
"No, it is not mine," she answered, and turned away, and was in deep
conversation with someone else.
"I beg your pardon then," said I.
Several of the guests had noticed this little scene.
My heart was hissing within me. I said offendedly: "But at least you owe
me an explanation..."
She rose, took both my hands, and said earnestly:
"But not to-day; not now. I am so miserable. Heavens, how you look at
me. We were friends once..."
Overwhelmed, I turned right about, and went in to the dancers again.
A little after, Edwarda herself came in and took up her place by the
piano, at which the travelling man was seated, playing a dance; her face
at that moment was full of inward pain.
"I have never learned to play," she said, looking at me with dark eyes.
"If I only could!"
I could make no answer to this. But my heart flew out towards her once
more, and I asked:
"Why are you so unhappy all at once, Edwarda? If you knew how it hurts
me to see--"
"I don't know what it is," she said. "Everything, perhaps. I wish all
these people would go away at once, all of them. No, not you--remember,
you must stay till the last."
And again her words revived me, and my eyes saw the light in the
sun-filled room. The Dean's daughter came over, and began talking to me;
I wished her ever so far away, and gave her short answers. And I
purposely kept from looking at her, for she had said that about my eyes
being like an animal's. She turned to Edwarda and told her that once,
somewhere abroad--in Riga I think it was--a man had followed her along
"Kept walking after me, street after street, and smiling across at me,"
"Why, was he blind, then?" I broke in, thinking to please Edwarda. And I
shrugged my shoulders as well.
The young lady understood my coarseness at once, and answered:
"He must have been blind indeed, to run after any one so old and ugly as
But I gained no thanks from Edwarda for that: she drew her friend away;
they whispered together and shook their heads. After that, I was left
altogether to myself.
Another hour passed. The seabirds began to wake out on the reefs; their
cries sounded in through the open windows. A spasm of joy went through
me at this first calling of the birds, and I longed to be out there on
the islands myself...
The Doctor, once more in good humor, drew the attention of all present.
The ladies were never tired of his society. Is that thing there my
rival? I thought, noting his lame leg and miserable figure. He had taken
to a new and amusing oath: he said _Dod og Pinsel_, [Footnote: A
slight variation of the usual Dod og Pine (death and torture).] and
every time he used that comical expression I laughed aloud. In my misery
I wished to give the fellow every advantage I could, since he was my
rival. I let it be "Doctor" here and "Doctor" there, and called out
myself: "Listen to the Doctor!" and laughed aloud at the things he said.
"I love this world," said the Doctor. "I cling to life tooth and nail.
And when I come to die, then I hope to find a corner somewhere straight
up over London and Paris, where I can hear the rumble of the human
cancan all the time, all the time."
"Splendid!" I cried, and choked with laughter, though I was not in the
least bit drunk.
Edwarda too seemed delighted.
When the guests began to go, I slipped away into the little room at the
side and sat down to wait. I heard one after another saying good-bye on
the stairs; the Doctor also took his leave and went. Soon all the voices
had died away. My heart beat violently as I waited.
Edwarda came in again. At sight of me she stood a moment in surprise;
then she said with a smile:
"Oh, are you there? It was kind of you to wait till the last. I am tired
She remained standing.
I got up then, and said: "You will be wanting rest now. I hope you are
not displeased any more, Edwarda. You were so unhappy a while back, and
it hurt me."
"It will be all right when I have slept."
I had no more to add. I went towards the door.
"Thank you," she said, offering her hand. "It was a pleasant evening."
She would have seen me to the door, but I tried to prevent her.
"No need," I said; "do not trouble, I can find my way..."
But she went with me all the same. She stood in the passage waiting
patiently while I found my cap, my gun, and my bag. There was a
walking-stick in the corner; I saw it well enough; I stared at it, and
recognized it--it was the Doctor's. When she marked what I was looking
at, she blushed in confusion; it was plain to see from her face that she
was innocent, that she knew nothing of the stick. A whole minute passed.
At last she turned, furiously impatient, and said tremblingly:
"Your stick--do not forget your stick."
And there before my eyes she handed me the Doctor's stick.
I looked at her. She was still holding out the stick; her hand trembled.
To make an end of it, I took the thing, and set it back in the corner.
"It is the Doctor's stick. I cannot understand how a lame man could
forget his stick." "You and your lame man!" she cried bitterly, and took
a step forward towards me. "You are not lame--no; but even if you were,
you could not compare with him; no, you could never compare with him.
I sought for some answer, but my mind was suddenly empty; I was silent.
With a deep bow, I stepped backwards out of the door, and down on to the
steps. There I stood a moment looking straight before me; then I moved
"So, he has forgotten his stick," I thought to myself. "And he will come
back this way to fetch it. He would not let _me_ be the last man to
leave the house..." I walked up the road very slowly, keeping a
lookout either way, and stopped at the edge of the wood. At last, after
half an hour's waiting, the Doctor came walking towards me; he had seen
me, and was walking quickly. Before he had time to speak I lifted my
cap, to try him. He raised his hat in return. I went straight up to him
"I gave you no greeting."
He came a step nearer and stared at me.
"You gave me no greeting...?"
"No," said I.
"Why, it is all the same to me what you did," he said, turning pale. "I
was going to fetch my stick; I left it behind." I could say nothing in
answer to this, but I took my revenge another way; I stretched out my
gun before him, as if he were a dog, and said:
And I whistled, as if coaxing him to jump over.
For a moment he struggled with himself; his face took on the strangest
play of expression as he pressed his lips together and held his eyes
fixed on the ground. Suddenly he looked at me sharply; a half smile lit
up his features, and he said:
"What do you really mean by all this?"
I did not answer, but his words affected me.
Suddenly he held out his hand to me, and said gently:
"There is something wrong with you. If you will tell me what it is, then
I was overwhelmed now with shame and despair; his calm words made me
lose my balance. I wished to show him some kindness in return, and I
put my arm round him, and said:
"Forgive me this! No, what could be wrong with me? There is nothing
wrong; I have no need of your help. You are looking for Edwarda,
perhaps? You will find her at home. But make haste, or she will have
gone to bed before you come; she was very tired, I could see it myself.
I tell you the best news I can, now; it is true. You will find her at
home--go, then!" And I turned and hurried away from him, striking out
with a long stride up through the woods and back to the hut.
For a while I sat there on the bed just as I had come in, with my bag
over my shoulder and my gun in my hand. Strange thoughts passed through
my mind. Why ever had I given myself away so to that Doctor? The thought
that I had put my arm round him and looked at him with wet eyes angered
me; he would chuckle over it, I thought; perhaps at that very moment he
might be sitting laughing over it, with Edwarda. He had set his stick
aside in the hall. Yes, even if I were lame, I could not compare with
the Doctor. I could never compare with him--those were her words...
I stepped out into the middle of the floor, cocked my gun, set the
muzzle against my left instep, and pulled the trigger. The shot passed
through the middle of the foot and pierced the floor. Asop gave a short
A little after there came a knock at the door.
It was the Doctor.
"Sorry to disturb you," he began. "You went off so suddenly, I thought
it might do no harm if we had a little talk together. Smell of powder,
He was perfectly sober. "Did you see Edwarda? Did you get your stick?"
"I found my stick. But Edwarda had gone to bed... What's that? Heavens,
man, you're bleeding!"
"No, nothing to speak of. I was just putting the gun away, and it went
off; it's nothing. Devil take you, am I obliged to sit here and give you
all sorts of information about that...? You found your stick?"
But he did not heed my words; he was staring at my torn boot and the
trickle of blood. With a quick movement he laid down his stick and took
off his gloves.
"Sit still--I must get that boot off. I _thought_ it was a shot I
How I repented of it afterward--that business with the gun. It was a mad
thing to do. It was not worth while any way, and it served no purpose,
only kept me tied down to the hut for weeks. I remember distinctly even
now all the discomfort and annoyance it caused; my washerwoman had to
come every day and stay there nearly all the time, making purchases of
food, looking after my housekeeping, for several weeks. Well, and
One day the Doctor began talking about Edwarda. I heard her name, heard
what she had said and done, and it was no longer of any great importance
to me; it was as if he spoke of some distant, irrelevant thing. So
quickly one can forget, I thought to myself, and wondered at it.
"Well, and what do you think of Edwarda yourself, since you ask? I have
not thought of her for weeks, to tell the truth. Wait a bit--it seems to
me there must have been something between you and her, you were so often
together. You acted host one day at a picnic on the island, and she was
hostess. Don't deny it, Doctor, there was something--a sort of
understanding. No, for Heaven's sake don't answer me. You owe me no
explanation, I am not asking to be told anything at all--let us talk of
something else if you like. How long before I can get about again?"
I sat there thinking of what I had said. Why was I inwardly afraid lest
the Doctor should speak out? What was Edwarda to me? I had forgotten
And later the talk turned on her again, and I interrupted him once
more--God knows what it was I dreaded to hear.
"What do you break off like that for?" he asked. "Is it that you can't
bear to hear me speak her name?"
"Tell me," I said, "what is your honest opinion of Edwarda? I should be
interested to know."
He looked at me suspiciously.
"My honest opinion?"
"Perhaps you may have something new to tell me to-day. Perhaps you have
proposed, and been accepted. May I congratulate you? No? Ah, the devil
"So that was what you were afraid of?"
"Afraid of? My dear Doctor!"
"No," he said, "I have not proposed and been accepted. But you have,
perhaps. There's no proposing to Edwarda--she will take whomever she has
a fancy for. Did you take her for a peasant girl? You have met her, and
seen for yourself. She is a child that's had too little whipping in her
time, and a woman of many moods. Cold? No fear of that! Warm? Ice, I
say. What is she, then? A slip of a girl, sixteen or seventeen--
exactly. But try to make an impression on that slip of a girl, and she
will laugh you to scorn for your trouble. Even her father can do nothing
with her; she obeys him outwardly, but, in point of fact, 'tis she
herself that rules. She says you have eyes like an animal..."
"You're wrong there--it was someone else said I had eyes like an
"Someone else? Who?"
"I don't know. One of her girl friends. No, it was not Edwarda said
that. Wait a bit though; perhaps, after all, it was Edwarda..."
"When you look at her, it makes her feel so and so, she says. But do you
think that brings you a hairbreadth nearer? Hardly. Look at her, use
your eyes as much as you please--but as soon as she marks what you are
doing, she will say to herself--'Ho, here's this man looking at me with
his eyes, and thinks to win me that way.' And with a single glance, or a
word, she'll have you ten leagues away. Do you think I don't know her?
How old do you reckon her to be?" "She was born in '38, she said."
"A lie. I looked it up, out of curiosity. She's twenty, though she might
well pass for fifteen. She is not happy; there's a deal of conflict in
that little head of hers. When she stands looking out at the hills and
the sea, and her mouth gives that little twitch, that little spasm of
pain, then she is suffering; but she is too proud, too obstinate for
tears. She is more than a bit romantic; a powerful imagination; she is
waiting for a prince. What was that about a certain five-_daler_ note
you were supposed to have given someone?"
"A jest. It was nothing..."
"It was something all the same. She did something of the same sort with
me once. It's a year ago now. We were on board the mail-packet while it
was lying here in the harbour. It was raining, and very cold. A woman
with a child in her arms was sitting on deck, shivering. Edwarda asked
her: 'Don't you feel cold?' Yes, she did. 'And the little one too?' Yes,
the little one was cold as well. 'Why don't you go into the cabin?' asks
Edwarda. 'I've only a steerage ticket,' says the woman. Edwarda looks at
me. 'The woman here has only a steerage ticket,' she says. 'Well, and
what then?' I say to myself. But I understand her look. I'm not a rich
man; what I have I've worked to earn, and I think twice before I spend
it; so I move away. If Edwarda wants someone to pay for the woman, let
her do it herself; she and her father can better afford it than I. And
sure enough, Edwarda paid. She's splendid in that way--no one can say
she hasn't a heart. But as true as I'm sitting here she expected me to
pay for a saloon passage for the woman and child; I could see it in her
eyes. And what then, do you think? The woman gets up and thanks her for
her kindness. 'Don't thank me--it was that gentleman there,' says
Edwarda, pointing to me as calmly as could be. What do you think of
that? The woman thanks me too; and what can I say? Simply had to leave
it as it was. That's just one thing about her. But I could tell you many
more. And as for the five _daler_ to the boatman--she gave him the money
herself. If you had done it, she would have flung her arms round you and
kissed you on the spot. You should have been the lordly cavalier that
paid an extravagant sum for a worn-out shoe--that would have suited her
ideas; she expected it. And as you didn't--she did it herself in your
name. That's her way--reckless and calculating at the same time."
"Is there no one, then, that can win her?" I asked.
"Severity's what she wants," said the Doctor, evading the question.
"There's something wrong about it all; she has too free a hand; she can
do as she pleases, and have her own way all the time. People take
notice of her; no one ever disregards her; there is always something at
hand for her to work on with effect. Have you noticed the way I treat
her myself? Like a schoolgirl, a child; I order her about, criticise her
way of speaking, watch her carefully, and show her up now and again. Do
you think she doesn't understand it? Oh, she's stiff and proud, it hurts
her every time; but then again she is too proud to show it. But that's
the way she should be handled. When you came up here I had been at her
for a year like that, and it was beginning to tell; she cried with pain
and vexation; she was growing more reasonable. Then you came along and
upset it all. That's the way it goes--one lets go of her and another
takes her up again. After you, there'll be a third, I suppose--you never
"Oho," thought I to myself, "the Doctor has something to revenge." And I
"Doctor, what made you trouble to tell me all that long story? What was
it for? Am I to help you with her upbringing?"
"And then she's fiery as a volcano," he went on, never heeding my
question. "You asked if no one could ever win her? I don't see why not.
She is waiting for her prince, and he hasn't come yet. Again and again
she thinks she's found him, and finds out she's wrong; she thought you
were the one, especially because you had eyes like an animal. Haha! I
say, though, Herr Lieutenant, you ought at least to have brought your
uniform with you. It would have been useful now. Why shouldn't she be
won? I have seen her wringing her hands with longing for someone to come
and take her, carry her away, rule over her, body and soul. Yes ... but
he must come from somewhere--turn up suddenly one day, and be something
out of the ordinary. I have an idea that Herr Mack is out on an
expedition; there's something behind this journey of his. He went off
like that once before, and brought a man back with him."
"Brought a man back with him?"
"Oh, but he was no good," said the Doctor, with a wry laugh. "He was a
man about my own age, and lame, too, like myself. He wouldn't do for the
"And he went away again? Where did he go?" I asked, looking fixedly at
"Where? Went away? Oh, I don't know," he answered confusedly. "Well,
well, we've been talking too long about this already. That foot of
yours--oh, you can begin to walk in a week's time. _Au revoir._"
A woman's voice outside the hut. The blood rushed to my head--it was
Edwarda. "Glahn--Glahn is ill, so I have heard."
And my washerwoman answered outside the door:
"He's nearly well again now."
That "Glahn--Glahn" went through me to the marrow of my bones; she said
my name twice, and it touched me; her voice was clear and ringing.
She opened my door without knocking, stepped hastily in, and looked at
me. And suddenly all seemed as in the old days. There she was in her
dyed jacket and her apron tied low in front, to give a longer waist. I
saw it all at once; and her look, her brown face with the eyebrows
high-arched into the forehead, the strangely tender expression of her
hands, all came on me so strongly that my brain was in a whirl. I have
kissed _her_! I thought to myself.
I got up and remained standing.
"And you get up, you stand, when I come?" she said. "Oh, but sit down.
Your foot is bad, you shot yourself. Heavens, how did it happen? I did
not know of it till just now. And I was thinking all the time: What can
have happened to Glahn? He never comes now. I knew nothing of it all.
And you had shot yourself, and it was weeks ago, they tell me, and I
knew never a word. How are you now? You are very pale: I should hardly
recognize you. And your foot--will you be lame now? The Doctor says you
will not be lame. Oh, I am so fond of you because you are not going to
be lame! I thank God for that. I hope you will forgive me for coming up
like this without letting you know; I ran nearly all the way..."
She bent over me, she was close to me, I felt her breath on my face; I
reached out my hands to hold her. Then she moved away a little. Her eyes
were still dewy.
"It happened this way," I stammered out. "I was putting the gun away in
the corner, but I held it awkwardly--up and down, like that; then
suddenly I heard the shot. It was an accident."
"An accident," she said thoughtfully, nodding her head. "Let me see--it
is the left foot--but why the left more than the right? Yes, of course,
"Yes, an accident," I broke in. "How should I know why it just happened
to be the left foot? You can see for yourself--that's how I was holding
the gun--it couldn't be the right foot that way. It was a nuisance, of
course." She looked at me curiously.
"Well, and so you are getting on nicely," she said, looking around the
hut. "Why didn't you send the woman down to us for food? What have you
been living on?"
We went on talking for a few minutes. I asked her:
"When you came in, your face was moved, and your eyes sparkled; you gave
me your hand. But now your eyes are cold again. Am I wrong?"
"One cannot always be the same..."
"Tell me this one thing," I said. "What is it this time that I have said
or done to displease you? Then, perhaps, I might manage better in
She looked out the window, towards the far horizon; stood looking out
thoughtfully and answered me as I sat there behind her:
"Nothing, Glahn. Just thoughts that come at times. Are you angry now?
Remember, some give a little, but it is much for them to give; others
can give much, and it costs them nothing--and which has given more? You
have grown melancholy in your illness. How did we come to talk of all
this?" And suddenly she looked at me, her face flushed with joy. "But
you must get well soon, now. We shall meet again."
And she held out her hand. Then it came into my head not to take her
hand. I stood up, put my hands behind my back, and bowed deeply; that
was to thank her for her kindness in coming to pay me a visit.
"You must excuse me if I cannot see you home," I said.
When she had gone, I sat down again to think it all over. I wrote a
letter, and asked to have my uniform sent.
The first day in the woods.
I was happy and weary; all the creatures came up close and looked at me;
there were insects on the trees and oil-beetles crawling on the road.
Well met! I said to myself. The feeling of the woods went through and
through my senses; I cried for love of it all, and was utterly happy; I
was dissolved in thanksgiving. Dear woods, my home, God's peace with
you from my heart... I stopped and turned all ways, named the things
with tears. Birds and trees and stones and grass and ants, I called them
all by name, looked round and called them all in their order. I looked
up to the hills and thought: Now, now I am coming, as if in answer to
their calling. Far above, the dwarf falcon was hacking away--I knew
where its nests were. But the sound of those falcons up in the hills
sent my thoughts far away.
About noon I rowed out and landed on a little island, an islet outside
the harbour. There were mauve-coloured flowers with long stalks reaching
to my knees; I waded in strange growths, raspberry and coarse grass;
there were no animals, and perhaps there had never been any human being
there. The sea foamed gently against the rocks and wrapped me in a veil
of murmuring; far up on the egg-cliffs, all the birds of the coast were
flying and screaming. But the sea wrapped me round on all sides as in an
embrace. Blessed be life and earth and sky, blessed be my enemies; in
this hour I will be gracious to my bitterest enemy, and bind the latchet
of his shoe...
"_Hiv ... ohoi..._" Sounds from one of Herr Mack's craft. My heart
was filled with sunshine at the well-known song. I rowed to the quay,
walked up past the fishers' huts and home. The day was at an end. I had
my meal, sharing it with Asop, and set out into the woods once more.
Soft winds breathed silently in my face. And I blessed the winds
because they touched my face; I told them that I blessed them; my very
blood sang in my veins for thankfulness. Asop laid one paw on my knee.
Weariness came over me; I fell asleep.
* * * * *
_Lul! lul!_ Bells ringing! Some leagues out at sea rose a mountain.
I said two prayers, one for my dog and one for myself, and we entered
into the mountain there. The gate closed behind us; I started at its
clang, and woke.
Flaming red sky, the sun there stamping before my eyes; the night, the
horizon, echoing with light. Asop and I moved into the shade. All quiet
around us. "No, we will not sleep now," I said to the dog, "we will go
out hunting tomorrow; the red sun is shining on us, we will not go into
the mountain." ... And strange thoughts woke to life in me, and the
blood rose to my head.
Excited, yet still weak, I felt someone kissing me, and the kiss lay on
my lips. I looked round: there was nothing visible. "Iselin!" A sound in
the grass--it might be a leaf falling to the ground, or it might be
footsteps. A shiver through the woods--and I told myself it might be
Iselin's breathing. Here in these woods she has moved, Iselin; here she
has listened to the prayers of yellow-booted, green-cloaked huntsmen.
She lived out on my farm, two miles away; four generations ago she sat
at her window, and heard the echo of horns in the forest. There were
reindeer and wolf and bear, and the hunters were many, and all of them
had seen her grow up from a child, and each and all of them had waited
for her. One had seen her eyes, another heard her voice. When she was
twelve years old came Dundas. He was a Scotsman, and traded in fish, and
had many ships. He had a son. When she was sixteen, she saw young Dundas
for the first time. He was her first love...
And such strange fancies flowed through me, and my head grew very heavy
as I sat there; I closed my eyes and felt for Iselin's kiss. Iselin, are
you here, lover of life? And have you Diderik there? ... But my head
grew heavier still, and I floated off on the waves of sleep.
_Lul! lul!_ A voice speaking, as if the Seven Stars themselves were
singing through my blood; Iselin's voice:
"Sleep, sleep! I will tell you of my love while you sleep. I was
sixteen, and it was springtime, with warm winds; Dundas came. It was
like the rushing of an eagle's flight. I met him one morning before the
hunt set out; he was twenty-five, and came from far lands; he walked by
my side in the garden, and when he touched me with his arm I began to
love him. Two red spots showed in his forehead, and I could have kissed
those two red spots.
"In the evening after the hunt I went to seek him in the garden, and I
was afraid lest I should find him. I spoke his name softly to myself,
and feared lest he should hear. Then he came out from the bushes and
whispered: 'An hour after midnight!' And then he was gone.
"'An hour after midnight,' I said to myself--'what did he mean by that?
I cannot understand. He must have meant he was going away to far lands
again; an hour after midnight he was going away--but what was it to me?'
"An hour after midnight he came back."
"'May I sit there by you?' he said.
"'Yes,' I told him. 'Yes.'
"We sat there on the sofa; I moved away. I looked down.
"'You are cold,' he said, and took my hand. A little after he said:
'How cold you are!' and put his arm round me.
"And I was warmed with his arm. So we sat a little while. Then a cock
"'Did you hear,' he said, 'a cock crow? It is nearly dawn.'
"'Are you quite sure it was the cock crow?' I stammered.
"Then the day came--already it was morning. Something was thrilling all
through me. What hour was it that struck just now?
"My maid came in.
"'Your flowers have not been watered,' she said.
"I had forgotten my flowers.
"A carriage drove up to the gate.
"'Your cat has had no milk,' said the maid.
"But I had no thought for my flowers, or my cat; I asked:
"'Is that Dundas outside there? Ask him to come in here to me at once; I
am expecting him; there was something...'
"He knocked. I opened the door.
"'Iselin!' he cried, and kissed my lips a whole minute long.
"'I did not send for you,' I whispered to him.
"'Did you not?' he asked.
"Then I answered:
"'Yes, I did--I sent for you. I was longing so unspeakably for you
again. Stay here with me a little.'
"And I covered my eyes for love of him. He did not loose me; I sank
forward and hid myself close to him.
"'Surely that was something crowing again,' he said, listening.
"But when I heard what he said, I cut off his words as swiftly as I
could, and answered:
"'No, how can you imagine it? There was nothing crowing then.'
"He kissed me.
"Then it was evening again, and Dundas was gone. Something golden
thrilling through me. I stood before the glass, and two eyes all alight
with love looked out at me; I felt something moving in me at my own
glance, and always that something thrilling and thrilling round my
heart. Dear God! I had never seen myself with those eyes before, and I
kissed my own lips, all love and desire, in the glass...
"And now I have told you. Another time I will tell you of Svend
Herlufsen. I loved him too; he lived a league away, on the island you
can see out there, and I rowed out to him myself on calm summer
evenings, because I loved him. And I will tell you of Stamer. He was a
priest, and I loved him. I love all..."
Through my helf-sleep I heard a cock crowing down at Sirilund.
"Iselin, hear! A cock is crowing for us too!" I cried joyfully, and
reached out my arms. I woke. Asop was already moving. "Gone!" I said in
burning sorrow, and looked round. There was no one--no one there. It was
morning now; the cock was still crowing down at Sirilund.
By the hut stood a woman--Eva. She had a rope in her hand; she was going
to fetch wood. There was the morning of life in the young girl's figure
as she stood there, all golden in the sun.
"You must not think..." she stammered out.
"What is it I must not think, Eva?"
"I--I did not come this way to meet you; I was just passing..."
And her face darkened in a blush.
My foot continued to trouble me a good deal. It often itched at nights,
and kept me awake; a sudden spasm would shoot through it, and in
changeable weather it was full of gout. It was like that for many days.
But it did not make me lame, after all.
The days went on.
Herr Mack had returned, and I knew it soon enough. He took my boat away
from me, and left me in difficulties, for it was still the closed
season, and there was nothing I could shoot. But why did he take the
boat away from me like that? Two of Herr Mack's folk from the quay had
rowed out with a stranger in the morning.
I met the Doctor.
"They have taken my boat away," I said.
"There's a new man come," he said. "They have to row him out every day
and back in the evening. He's investigating the sea-floor."
The newcomer was a Finn. Herr Mack had met him accidentally on board the
steamer; he had come from Spitzbergen with some collections of scales
and small sea-creatures; they called him Baron. He had been given a big
room and another smaller one in Herr Mack's house. He caused quite a
stir in the place.
"I am in difficulties about meat; I might ask Edwarda for something for
this evening," I thought. I walked down to Sirilund. I noticed at once
that Edwarda was wearing a new dress. She seemed to have grown; her
dress was much longer now.
"Excuse my not getting up," she said, quite shortly, and offered her
"My daughter is not very well, I'm sorry to say," said Herr Mack. "A
chill--she has not been taking care of herself... You came to ask about
your boat, I suppose? I shall have to lend you another one instead. It's
not a new one, but as long as you bail it out every now and then ...
We've a scientist come to stay with us, you see, and with a man like
that, of course, you understand... He has no time to spare; works all
day and comes home in the evening. Don't go now till he comes; you will
be interested in meeting him. Here's his card, with coronet and all;
he's a Baron. A very nice man. I met him quite by accident."
Aha, I thought, so they don't ask you to supper. Well, thank Heaven, I
only came down by way of a trial; I can go home again--I've still some
fish left in the hut. Enough for a meal, I daresay. _Basta!_
The Baron came in. A little man, about forty, with a long, narrow face,
prominent cheek bones, and a thinnish black beard. His glance was sharp
and penetrating, but he wore strong glasses. His shirt studs, too, were
ornamented with a little five-pointed coronet, like the one on his card.
He stooped a little, and his thin hands were blue-veined, but the nails
were like yellow metal.
"Delighted, Herr Lieutenant. Have you been here long, may I ask?"
"A few months."
A pleasant man. Herr Mack asked him to tell us about his scales and
sea-things, and he did so willingly--told us what kind of clay there was
round Korholmerne--went into his room and fetched a sample of weed from
the White Sea. He was constantly lifting up his right forefinger and
shifting his thick gold spectacles back and forward on his nose. Herr
Mack was most interested. An hour passed.
The Baron spoke of my accident--that unfortunate shot. Was I well again
now? Pleased to hear it.
Now who had told him of that? I asked:
"And how did you hear of that, Baron?"
"Oh, who was it, now? Froken Mack, I think. Was it not you, Froken
Edwarda flushed hotly.
I had come so poor! for days past, a dark misery had weighed me down.
But at the stranger's last words a joy fluttered through me on the
instant. I did not look at Edwarda, but in my mind I thanked her:
Thanks, for having spoken of me, named my name with your tongue, though
it be all valueless to you. _Godnat._
I took my leave. Edwarda still kept her seat, excusing herself, for
politeness' sake, by saying she was unwell. Indifferently she gave me
And Herr Mack stood chatting eagerly with the Baron. He was talking of
his grandfather, Consul Mack:
"I don't know if I told you before, Baron; this diamond here was a gift
from King Carl Johan, who pinned it to my grandfather's breast with his
I went out to the front steps; no one saw me to the door. I glanced in
passing through the windows of the sitting-room; and there stood
Edwarda, tall, upright, holding the curtains apart with both hands,
looking out. I did not bow to her: I forgot everything; a swirl of
confusion overwhelmed me and drew me hurriedly away.
"Halt! Stop a moment!" I said to myself, when I reached the woods. God
in Heaven, but there must be an end of this! I felt all hot within on a
sudden, and I groaned. Alas, I had no longer any pride in my heart; I
had enjoyed Edwarda's favour for a week, at the outside, but that was
over long since, and I had not ordered my ways accordingly. From now on,
my heart should cry to her: Dust, air, earth on my way; God in Heaven,
I reached the hut, found my fish, and had a meal.
Here are you burning out your life for the sake of a worthless
schoolgirl, and your nights are full of desolate dreams. And a hot wind
stands still about your head, a close, foul wind of last year's breath.
Yet the sky is quivering with the most wonderful blue, and the hills are
calling. Come, Asop, _Hei_...
A week passed. I hired the blacksmith's boat and fished for my meals.
Edwarda and the Baron were always together in the evening when he came
home from his sea trips. I saw them once at the mill. One evening they
both came by my hut; I drew away from the window and barred the door. It
made no impression on me whatever to see them together; I shrugged my
shoulders. Another evening I met them on the road, and exchanged
greetings; I left it to the Baron to notice me first, and merely put up
two fingers to my cap, to be discourteous. I walked slowly past them,
and looked carelessly at them as I did so.
Another day passed.
How many long days had not passed already? I was downcast, dispirited;
my heart pondered idly over things; even the kindly grey stone by the
hut seemed to wear an expression of sorrow and despair when I went by.
There was rain in the air; the heat seemed gasping before me wherever I
went, and I felt the gout in my left foot; I had seen one of Herr Mack's
horses shivering in its harness in the morning; all these things were
significant to me as signs of the weather. Best to furnish the house
well with food while the weather holds, I thought.
I tied up Asop, took my fishing tackle and my gun, and went down to the
quay. I was quite unusually troubled in mind.
"When will the mail-packet be in?" I asked a fisherman there.
"The mail-packet? In three weeks' time," he answered.
"I am expecting my uniform," I said.
Then I met one of Herr Mack's assistants from the store. I shook hands
with him, and said:
"Tell me, do you never play whist now at Sirilund?"
"Yes, often," he answered.
"I have not been there lately," I said.
I rowed out to my fishing grounds. The weather was mild, but oppressive.
The gnats gathered in swarms, and I had to smoke all the time to keep
them off. The haddock were biting; I fished with two hooks and made a
good haul. On the way back I shot a brace of guillemots.
When I came in to the quay the blacksmith was there at work. A thought
occurred to me; I asked him:
"Going up my way?"
"No," said he, "Herr Mack's given me a bit of work to do here that'll
keep me till midnight."
I nodded, and thought to myself that it was well.
I took my fish and went off, going round by way of the blacksmith's
house. Eva was there alone.
"I have been longing for you with all my heart," I told her. And I was
moved at the sight of her. She could hardly look me in the face for
wonder. "I love your youth and your good eyes," I said. "Punish me
to-day because I have thought more of another than of you. I tell you, I
have come here only to see you; you make me happy, I am fond of you. Did
you hear me calling for you last night?"
"No," she answered, frightened.
"I called Edwarda, but it was you I meant. I woke up and heard myself.
Yes, it was you I meant; it was only a mistake; I said 'Edwarda,' but it
was only by accident. By Heaven, you are my dearest, Eva! Your lips are
so red to-day. Your feet are prettier than Edwarda's--just look
yourself and see."
Joy such as I had never seen in her lit up her face; she made as if to
turn away, but hesitated, and put one arm round my neck.
We talked together, sitting all the time on a long bench, talking to
each other of many things. I said:
"Would you believe it? Edwarda has not learnt to speak properly yet; she
talks like a child, and says 'more happier.' I heard her myself. Would
you say she had a lovely forehead? I do not think so. She has a devilish
forehead. And she does not wash her hands."
"But we weren't going to talk of her any more."
"Quite right. I forgot."
A little pause. I was thinking of something, and fell silent.
"Why are your eyes wet?" asked Eva.
"She has a lovely forehead, though," I said, "and her hands are always
clean. It was only an accident that they were dirty once. I did not mean
to say what I did." But then I went on angrily, with clenched teeth: "I
sit thinking of you all the time, Eva; but it occurs to me that perhaps
you have not heard what I am going to tell you now. The first time
Edwarda saw Asop, she said: 'Asop--that was the name of a wise man--a
Phrygian, he was.' Now wasn't that simply silly? She had read it in a
book the same day, I'm sure of it."
"Yes," says Eva; "but what of it?"
"And as far as I remember, she said, too, that Asop had Xanthus for his
"Well, what the devil is the sense of telling a crowd of people that
Asop had Xanthus for his teacher? I ask you. Oh, you are not in the mood
to-day, Eva, or you would laugh till your sides ached at that."
"Yes, I think it is funny," said Eva, and began laughing forcedly and in
wonder. "But I don't understand it as well as you do."
I sit silent and thoughtful, silent and thoughtful.
"Do you like best to sit still and not talk?" asked Eva softly. Goodness
shone in her eyes; she passed her hand over my hair,
"You good, good soul," I broke out, and pressed her close to me. "I know
for certain I am perishing for love of you; I love you more and more;
the end of it will be that you must go with me when I go away. You shall
see. Could you go with me?"
"Yes," she answered.
I hardly heard that yes, but I felt it in her breath and all through
her. We held each other fiercely.
An hour later I kissed Eva good-bye and went away. At the door I meet
Herr Mack himself.
He started--stared into the house--stopped there on the doorstep,
staring in. "Ho!" said he, and could say no more; he seemed thrown
altogether off his balance.
"You did not expect to find me here," I said, raising my cap.
Eva did not move.
Herr Mack regained his composure; a curious confidence appeared in his
manner, and he answered:
"You are mistaken: I came on purpose to find you. I wish to point out to
you that from the 1st of April it is forbidden to fire a shot within
half a mile of the bird-cliffs. You shot two birds out at the island
to-day; you were seen doing so."
"I shot two guillemots," I said helplessly. I saw at once that the man
was in the right.
"Two guillemots or two eiderducks--it is all the same. You were within
the prohibited limit."
"I admit it," I said. "It had not occurred to me before."
"But it ought to have occurred to you."
"I also fired off both barrels once in May, at very nearly the same
spot. It was on a picnic one day. And it was done at your own request."
"That is another matter," answered Herr Mack shortly.
"Well, then, devil take it, you know what you have to do, I suppose?"
"Perfectly well," he answered.
Eva held herself in readiness; when I went out, she followed me; she had
put on a kerchief, and walked away from the house; I saw her going down
towards the quay. Herr Mack walked back home.
I thought it over. What a mind, to hit on that all at once, and save
himself! And those piercing eyes of his. A shot, two shots, a brace of
guillemots--a fine, a payment. And then everything, _everything_, would
be settled with Herr Mack and his house. After all, it was going off so
beautifully quickly and neatly...
The rain was coming down already, in great soft drops. The magpies flew
low along the ground, and when I came home and turned Asop loose he
began eating the grass. The wind was beginning to rustle.
A league below me is the sea. It is raining, and I am up in the hills.
An overhanging rock shelters me from the rain. I smoke my pipe, smoke
one pipe after another; and every time I light it, the tobacco curls up
like little worms crawling from the ash. So also with the thoughts that
twirl in my head. Before me, on the ground, lies a bundle of dry twigs,
from the ruin of a bird's nest. And as with that nest, so also with my
I remember every trifle of that day and the next. Hoho! I was hard put
to it then! ...
I sit here up in the hills and the sea and the air are voiceful, a
seething and moaning of the wind and weather, cruel to listen to.
Fishing boats and small craft show far out with reefed sails, human
beings on board--making for somewhere, no doubt, and Heaven knows where
all those lives are making for, think I. The sea flings itself up in
foam, and rolls and rolls, as if inhabited by great fierce figures that
fling their limbs about and roar at one another; nay, a festival of ten
thousand piping devils that duck their heads down between their
shoulders and circle about, lashing the sea white with the tips of their
wings. Far, far out lies a hidden reef, and from that hidden reef rises
a white merman, shaking his head after a leaky sailboat making out to
sea before the wind. Hoho! out to sea, out to the desolate sea...
I am glad to be alone, that none may see my eyes. I lean securely
against the wall of rock, knowing that no one can observe me from
behind. A bird swoops over the crest with a broken cry; at the same
moment a boulder close by breaks loose and rolls down towards the sea.
And I sit there still for a while, I sink into restfulness; a warm sense
of comfort quivers in me because I can sit so pleasantly under shelter
while the rain pours down outside. I button up my jacket, thanking God
for the warmth of it. A little while more. And I fall asleep.
It was afternoon. I went home; it was still raining. Then--an unexpected
encounter. Edwarda stood there before me on the path. She was wet
through, as if she had been out in the rain a long time, but she smiled.
Ho! I thought to myself, and my anger rose; I gripped my gun and walked
fiercely although she herself was smiling.
"_Goddag!_" she called, speaking first.
I waited till I had come some paces nearer, and said:
"Fair one, I give you greeting."
She started in surprise at my jesting tone. Alas, I knew not what I was
saying. She smiled timidly, and looked at me.
"Have you been up in the hills to-day?" she asked. "Then you must be
wet. I have a kerchief here, if you care for it; I can spare it... Oh,
you don't know me." And she cast down her eyes and shook her head when I
did not take her kerchief.
"A kerchief?" I answer, grinning in anger and surprise. "But I have a
jacket here--won't you borrow it? I can spare it--I would have lent it
to anyone. You need not be afraid to take it. I would have lent it to a
fishwife, and gladly."
I could see that she was eager to hear what I would say. She listened
with such attention that it made her look ugly; she forgot to hold her
lips together. There she stood with the kerchief in her hand--a white
silk kerchief which she had taken from her neck. I tore off my jacket in
"For Heaven's sake put it on again," she cried. "Don't do that! Are you
so angry with me? _Herregud!_ put your jacket on, do, before you get wet
I put on my jacket again.
"Where are you going?" I asked sullenly.
"No--nowhere ... I can't understand what made you take off your jacket
like that ..."
"What have you done with the Baron to-day?" I went on. "The Count can't
be out at sea on a day like this."
"Glahn, I just wanted to tell you something ..."
I interrupted her:
"May I beg you to convey my respects to the Duke?"
We looked at each other. I was ready to break in with further
interruptions as soon as she opened her mouth. At last a twinge of pain
passed over her face; I turned away and said:
"Seriously, you should send His Highness packing, Edwarda. He is not the
man for you. I assure you, he has been wondering these last few days
whether to make you his wife or not--and that is not good enough for
"No, don't let us talk about that, please. Glahn, I have been thinking
of you; you could take off your jacket and get wet through for another's
sake; I come to you ..."
I shrugged my shoulders and went on:
"I should advise you to take the Doctor instead. What have you against
him? A man in the prime of life, and a clever head--you should think it
"Oh, but do listen a minute ..."
Asop, my dog, was waiting for me in the hut. I took off my cap, bowed
to her again, and said:
"Fair one, I give you farewell."
And I started off.
She gave a cry:
"Oh, you are tearing my heart out. I came to you to-day; I waited for
you here, and I smiled when you came. I was nearly out of my mind
yesterday, because of something I had been thinking of all the time; my
head was in a whirl, and I thought of you all the time. To-day I was
sitting at home, and someone came in; I did not look up, but I knew who
it was. 'I rowed half a mile to-day,' he said. 'Weren't you tired?' I
asked. 'Oh yes, very tired, and it blistered my hands,' he said, and was
very concerned about it. And I thought: Fancy being concerned about
that! A little after he said: 'I heard someone whispering outside my
window last night; it was your maid and one of the store men talking
very intimately indeed.' 'Yes, they are to be married,' I said. 'But
this was at two o'clock in the morning!' 'Well, what of it?' said I,
and, after a little: 'The night is their own.' Then he shifted his gold
spectacles a little up his nose, and observed: 'But don't you think, at
that hour of night, it doesn't look well?' Still I didn't look up, and
we sat like that for ten minutes. 'Shall I bring you a shawl to put over
your shoulders?' he asked. 'No, thank you,' I answered. 'If only I dared
take your little hand,' he said. I did not answer--I was thinking of
something else. He laid a little box in my lap. I opened the box, and
found a brooch in it. There was a coronet on the brooch, and I counted
ten stones in it... Glahn, I have that brooch with me now; will you
look at it? It is trampled to bits--come, come and see how it is
trampled to bits... 'Well, and what am I to do with this brooch?' I
asked. 'Wear it,' he answered. But I gave him back the brooch, and said,
'Let me alone--it is another I care for.' 'What other?' he asked. 'A
hunter in the woods,' I said. 'He gave me two lovely feathers once, for
a keepsake. Take back your brooch.' But he would not. Then I looked at
him for the first time; his eyes were piercing. 'I will not take back
the brooch. You may do with it as you please; tread on it,' he said. I
stood up and put the brooch under my heel and trod on it. That was this
morning... For four hours I waited and waited; after dinner I went out.
He came to meet me on the road. 'Where are you going?' he asked. 'To
Glahn,' I answered,'to ask him not to forget me...' Since one o'clock I
have been waiting here. I stood by a tree and saw you coming--you were
like a god. I loved your figure, your beard, and your shoulders, loved
everything about you... Now you are impatient; you want to go, only to
go; I am nothing to you, you will not look at me ..." I had stopped.
When she had finished speaking I began walking on again. I was worn out
with despair, and I smiled; my heart was hard.
"Yes?" I said, and stopped again. "You had something to say to me?"
But at this scorn of mine she wearied of me.
"Something to say to you? But I have told you--did you not hear? No,
nothing--I have nothing to tell you any more..."
Her voice trembled strangely, but that did not move me.
Next morning Edwarda was standing outside the hut when I went out.
I had thought it all over during the night, and taken my resolve. Why
should I let myself be dazzled any longer by this creature of moods, a
fisher-girl, a thing of no culture? Had not her name fastened for long
enough on my heart, sucking it dry? Enough of that!--though it struck me
that, perhaps, I had come nearer to her by treating her with
indifference and scorn. Oh, how grandly I had scorned her--after she had
made a long speech of several minutes, to say calmly: "Yes? You had
something to say to me...?"
She was standing by the big stone. She was in great excitement, and
would have run towards me; her arms were already opened. But she
stopped, and stood there wringing her hands. I took off my cap and bowed
to her without a word.
"Just one thing I wanted to say to you to-day, Glahn," she said
entreatingly. And I did not move, but waited, just to hear what she
would say next. "I hear you have been down at the blacksmith's. One
evening it was. Eva was alone in the house."
I started at that, and answered:
"Who told you that?"
"I don't go about spying," she cried. "I heard it last evening; my
father told me. When I got home all wet through last night, my father
said: 'You were rude to the Baron to-day.' 'No,' I answered. 'Where have
you been now?' he asked again. I answered: 'With Glahn.'
"And then my father told me."
I struggled with my despair; I said:
"What is more, Eva has been here."
"Has she been here? In the hut?"
"More than once. I made her go in. We talked together."
Pause. "Be firm!" I said to myself; and then, aloud:
"Since you are so kind as to mix yourself up in my affairs, I will not
be behindhand. I suggested yesterday that you should take the Doctor;
have you thought it over? For really, you know, the prince is simply
Her eyes lit with anger. "He is not, I tell you," she cried
passionately. "No, he is better than you; he can move about in a house
without breaking cups and glasses; he leaves my shoes alone. Yes! He
knows how to move in society; but you are ridiculous--I am ashamed of
you--you are unendurable--do you understand that?"
Her words struck deep; I bowed my head and said:
"You are right; I am not good at moving in society. Be merciful. You do
not understand me; I live in the woods by choice--that is my happiness.
Here, where I am all alone, it can hurt no one that I am as I am; but
when I go among others, I have to use all my will power to be as I
should. For two years now I have been so little among people at all..."
"There's no saying what mad thing you will do next," she went on. "And
it is intolerable to be constantly looking after you."
How mercilessly she said it! A very bitter pain passed through me. I
almost toppled before her violence. Edwarda had not yet done; she went
"You might get Eva to look after you, perhaps. It's a pity though, that
"Eva! Eva married, did you say?"
"Why, who is her husband?"
"Surely you know that. She is the blacksmith's wife."
"I thought she was his daughter."
"No, she is his wife. Do you think I am lying to you?"
I had not thought about it at all; I was simply astonished. I just stood
there thinking: Is Eva married?
"So you have made a happy choice," says Edwarda.
Well, there seemed no end to the business. I was trembling with
indignation, and I said:
"But you had better take the Doctor, as I said. Take a friend's advice;
that prince of yours is an old fool." And in my excitement I lied about
him, exaggerated his age, declared he was bald, that he was almost
totally blind; I asserted, moreover, that he wore that coronet thing in
his shirt front wholly and solely to show off his nobility. "As for me,
I have not cared to make his acquaintance, there is nothing in him of
mark at all; he lacks the first principles; he is nothing."
"But he is something, he is something," she cried, and her voice broke
with anger. "He is far more than you think, you thing of the woods. You
wait. Oh, he shall talk to you--I will ask him myself. You don't believe
I love him, but you shall see you are mistaken. I will marry him; I will
think of him night and day. Mark what I say: I love him. Let Eva come if
she likes--hahaha! Heavens, let her come--it is less than nothing to me.
And now let me get away from here..."
She began walking down the path from the hut; she took a few small
hurried steps, turned round, her face still pale as death, and moaned:
"And let me never see your face again."
Leaves were yellowing; the potato-plants had grown to full height and
stood in flower; the shooting season came round again; I shot hare and
ptarmigan and grouse; one day I shot an eagle. Calm, open sky, cool
nights, many clear, clear tones and dear sounds in the woods and fields.
The earth was resting, vast and peaceful...
"I have not heard anything from Herr Mack about the two guillemots I
shot," I said to the Doctor.
"You can thank Edwarda for that," he said. "I know. I heard that she
set herself against it."
"I do not thank her for it," said I...
Indian summer--Indian summer. The stars lay like belts in through the
yellowing woods; a new star came every day. The moon showed like a
shadow; a shadow of gold dipped in silver...
"Heaven help you, Eva, are you married?"
"Didn't you know that?"
"No, I didn't know."
She pressed my hand silently.
"God help you, child, what are we to do now?" "What _you_ will. Perhaps
you are not going away just yet; I will be happy as long as you are
"Yes, yes--only as long as you are here."
She looked forsaken, kept pressing my hand.
"No, Eva. Go--never any more!"
* * * * *
Nights pass and days come--three days already since this last talk. Eva
comes by with a load. How much wood has that child carried home from
the forest this summer alone?
"Set the load down, Eva, and let me see if your eyes are as blue as
Her eyes were red.
"No--smile again, Eva! I can resist no more; I am your, I am yours..."
Evening. Eva sings, I hear her singing, and a warmth goes through me.
"You are singing this evening, child?"
"Yes, I am happy."
And being smaller than I, she jumps up a little to put her arms round my
"But, Eva, you have scratched your hands. _Herregud_! oh, if you had not
scratched them so!"
"It doesn't matter."
Her face beams wonderfully.
"Eva, have you spoken to Herr Mack?"
"What did he say, and what did you?"
"He is so hard with us now; he makes my husband work day and night down
at the quay, and keeps me at all sorts of jobs as well. He has ordered
me to do man's work now."
"Why does he do that?"
Eva looks down.
"Why does he do that, Eva?"
"Because I love you."
"But how could he know?"
"I told him."
"Would to Heaven he were not so harsh with you, Eva."
"But it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter at all now."
And her voice is like a little tremulous song in the woods.
* * * * *
The woods more yellow still. It is drawing towards autumn now; a few
more stars have come in the sky, and from now on the moon looks like a
shadow of silver dipped in gold. There is no cold; nothing, only a cool
stillness and a flow of life in the woods. Every tree stands in silent
thought. The berries are ripe.
Then--the twenty-second of August and the three iron nights. [Footnote:
_Joernnatter_. Used of the nights in August when the first frosts
The first iron night.
At nine the sun sets. A dull darkness settles over the earth, a star or
so can be seen; two hours later there is a glow of the moon. I wander
up in the woods with my gun and my dog. I light a fire, and the light of
the flames shines in between the fir-trunks. There is no frost.
"The first iron night!" I say. And a confused, passionate delight in the
time and the place sends a strange shiver through me...
"Hail, men and beasts and birds, to the lonely night in the woods, in
the woods! Hail to the darkness and God's murmuring between the trees,
to the sweet, simple melody of silence in my ears, to green leaves and
yellow! Hail to the life-sound I hear; a snout against the grass, a dog
sniffing over the ground! A wild hail to the wildcat lying crouched,
sighting and ready to spring on a sparrow in the dark, in the dark! Hail
to the merciful silence upon earth, to the stars and the half moon; ay,
to them and to it!" ...
I rise and listen. No one has heard me. I sit down again.
"Thanks for the lonely night, for the hills, the rush of the darkness
and the sea through my heart! Thanks for my life, for my breath, for the
boon of being alive to-night; thanks from my heart for these! Hear, east
and west, oh, hear. It is the eternal God. This silence murmuring in my
ears is the blood of all Nature seething; it is God weaving through the
world and me. I see a glistening gossamer thread in the light of my
fire; I hear a boat rowing across the harbour; the northern lights flare
over the heavens to the north. By my immortal soul, I am full of thanks
that it is I who am sitting here!"
Silence. A fir cone falls dully to the ground. A fir cone fell! I think
to myself. The moon is high, the fire flickers over the half-burned
brands and is dying. And in the late night I wander home.
The second iron night; the same stillness and mild weather. My soul is
pondering. I walk mechanically over to a tree, pull my cap deep down
over my eyes, and lean against that tree, with hands clasped behind my
neck. I gazed and think; the flame from my fire dazzles my eyes, and I
do not feel it. I stand in that stupor for a while, looking at the fire;
my legs fail me first, and grow tired; thoroughly stiff, I sit down. Not
till then do I think of what I have been doing. Why should I stare so
long at the fire?
Asop lifts his head and listens; he hears footsteps; Eva appears among
"I am very thoughtful and sad this evening," I say.
And in sympathy she makes no answer.
"I love three things," I go on. "I love a dream of love I once had; I
love you; and I love this spot of ground."
"And which do you love most?"
All still again. Asop knows Eva; he lays his head on one side and looks
at her. I murmur:
"I saw a girl on the road to-day; she walked arm in arm with her lover.
The girl looked towards me, and could scarcely keep from laughing as I
"What was she laughing at?"
"I don't know. At me, I suppose. Why do you ask?"
"Did you know her?"
"Yes. I bowed."
"And didn't she know you?"
"No, she acted as if she didn't know me... But why do you sit there
worming things out of me? It is not a nice thing to do. You will not get
me to tell you her name."
I murmur again:
"What was she laughing at? She is a flirt; but what was she laughing at?
What had I done to harm her?"
"It was cruel of her to laugh at you."
"No, it was not cruel of her," I cry. "How dare you sit there speaking
ill of her? She never did an unkind thing; it was only right that she
should laugh at me. Be quiet, devil take you, and leave me in peace--do
And Eva, terrified, leaves me in peace. I look at her, and repent my
harsh words at once; I fall down before her; wringing my hands.
"Go home, Eva. It is you I love most; how could I love a dream? It was
only a jest; it is you I love. But go home now; I will come to you
to-morrow; remember, I am yours; yes, do not forget it. Good-night."
And Eva goes home.
* * * * *
The third iron night, a night of extremes! tension. If only there were
a little frost! Instead, still heat after the sun of the day; the night
is like a lukewarm marsh. I light my fire...
"Eva, it can be a delight at times to be dragged by the hair. So
strangely can the mind of a man be warped. He can be dragged by the hair
over hill and dale, and if asked what is happening, can answer in
ecstasy: 'I am being dragged by the hair!' And if anyone asks: 'But
shall I not help you, release you?' he answers: 'No.' And if they ask:
'But how can you endure it?' he answers: 'I can endure it, for I love
the hand that drags me.' Eva, do you know what it is to hope?"
"Yes, I think so."
"Look you, Eva, hope is a strange thing, a very strange thing. You can
go out one morning along the road, hoping to meet one whom you are fond
of. And do you? No. Why not? Because that one is busy that morning--is
somewhere else, perhaps... Once I got to know an old blind Lapp up in
the hills. For fifty-eight years he had seen nothing, and now he was
over seventy. It seemed to him that his sight was getting better little
by little; getting on gradually, he thought. If all went well he would
be able to make out the sun in a few years' time. His hair was still
black, but his eyes were quite white. When we sat in his hut, smoking,
he would tell of all the things he had seen before he went blind. He
was hardy and strong; without feeling, indestructible; and he kept his
hope. When I was going, he came out with me, and began pointing in
different ways. 'There's the south,' he said, 'and there's north. Now
you go that way first, and when you get a little way down, turn off that
way.' 'Quite right,' I said. And at that the Lapp laughed contentedly,
and said: 'There! I did not know that forty or fifty years back, so I
must see better now than I used to--yes, it is improving all the time.'
And then he crouched down and crept into his hut again--the same old
hut, his home on earth. And he sat down by the fire as before, full of
hope that in some few years he would be able to make out the sun...
Eva, 'tis strange about hope. Here am I, for instance, hoping all the
time that I may forget the one I did not meet on the road this
"You talk so strangely."
"It is the third of the iron nights. I promise you, Eva, to be a
different man to-morrow. Let me be alone now. You will not know me again
to-morrow, I shall laugh and kiss you, my own sweet girl. Just
think--only this one night more, a few hours--and then I shall be a
different man. _Godnat_, Eva."
I lie down closer to the fire, and look at the flames. A pine cone falls
from the branch; a dry twig or so falls too. The night is like a
boundless depth. I close my eyes.
After an hour, my senses begin swinging in a certain rhythm. I am
ringing in tune with the great stillness--ringing with it. I look at the
half-moon; it stands in the sky like a white scale, and I have a feeling
of love for it; I can feel myself blushing. "It is the moon!" I say
softly and passionately; "it is the moon!" and my heart strikes toward
it in a soft throbbing. So for some minutes. It is blowing a little; a
stranger wind comes to me a mysterious current of air. What is it? I
look round, but see no one. The wind calls me, and my soul bows
acknowledging the call; and I feel myself lifted into the air, pressed
to an invisible breast; my eyes are dewed, I tremble--God is standing
near, watching me. Again several minutes pass. I turn my head round; the
stranger wind is gone, and I see something like the back of a spirit
wandering silently in through the woods...
I struggle a short while with a heavy melancholy; I was worn out with
emotions; I am deathly tired, and I sleep.
* * * * *
When I awoke the night was past. Alas, I had been going about for a long
time in a sad state, full of fever, on the verge of falling down
stricken with some sickness or other. Often things had seemed upside
down. I had been looking at everything through inflamed eyes. A deep
misery had possessed me.
It was over now.
It was autumn. The summer was gone. It passed as quickly as it had come;
ah, how quickly it was gone! The days were cold now. I went out shooting
and fishing--sang songs in the woods. And there were days with a thick
mist that came floating in from the sea, damming up everything behind a
wall of murk.
One such day something happened. I lost my way, blundered through into
the woods of the annexe, and came to the Doctor's house. There were
visitors there--the young ladies I had met before--young people dancing,
just like madcap foals.
A carriage came rolling up and stopped outside the gate; Edwarda was in
it. She started at sight of me. "Good-bye," I said quietly. But the
Doctor held me back. Edwarda was troubled by my presence at first, and
looked down when I spoke; afterwards, she bore with me, and even went so
far as to ask me a question about something or other. She was strikingly
pale; the mist lay grey and cold upon her face. She did not get out of
"I have come on an errand," she said. "I come from the parish church,
and none of you were there to-day; they said you were here. I have been
driving for hours to find you. We are having a little party
to-morrow--the Baron is going away next week--and I have been told to
invite you all. There will be dancing too. To-morrow evening."
They all bowed and thanked her.
To me, she went on:
"Now, don't stay away, will you? Don't send a note at the last minute
making some excuse." She did not say that to any of the others. A little
after she drove away.
I was so moved by this unexpected meeting that for a little while I was
secretly mad with joy. Then I took leave of the Doctor and his guests
and set off for home. How gracious she was to me, how gracious she was
to me! What could I do for her in return? My hands felt helpless; a
sweet cold went through my wrists. _Herregud!_ I thought to myself, here
am I with my limbs hanging helpless for joy; I cannot even clench my
hands; I can only find tears in my eyes for my own helplessness. What is
to be done about it?
It was late in the evening when I reached home. I went round by the quay
and asked a fisherman if the post-packet would not be in by to-morrow
evening. Alas, no, the post-packet would not be in till some time next
week. I hurried up to the hut and began looking over my best suit. I
cleaned it up and made it look decent; there were holes in it here and
there, and I wept and darned them.
When I had finished, I lay down on the bed. This rest lasted only a
moment. Then a thought struck me, and I sprang up and stood in the
middle of the floor, dazed. The whole thing was just another trick! I
should not have been invited if I had not happened to be there when the
others were asked. And, moreover, she had given me the plainest possible
hint to stay away--to send a note at the last moment, making some
I did not sleep all that night, and when morning came I went to the
woods cold, sleepless, and feverish. Ho, having a party at Sirilund!
What then? I would neither go nor send any excuse. Herr Mack was a very
thoughtful man; he was giving this party for the Baron; but I was not
going--let them understand that! ...
The mist lay thick over valley and hills; a clammy rime gathered on my
clothes and made them heavy, my face was cold and wet. Only now and then
came a breath of wind to make the sleeping mists rise and fall, rise and
It was late in the afternoon, and getting dark; the mist hid everything
from my eyes, and I had no sun to show the way. I drifted about for
hours on the way home, but there was no hurry. I took the wrong road
with the greatest calmness, and came upon unknown places in the woods.
At last I stood my gun against a tree and consulted my compass. I marked
out my way carefully and started off. It would be about eight or nine
Then something happened.
After half an hour, I heard music through the fog, and a few minutes
later I knew where I was: quite close to the main building at Sirilund.
Had my compass misled me to the very place I was trying to avoid? A
well-known voice called me--the Doctor's. A minute later I was being led
My gun-barrel had perhaps affected the compass and, alas, set it wrong.
The same thing has happened to me since--one day this year. I do not
know what to think. Then, too, it may have been fate.
All the evening I had a bitter feeling that I should not have come to
that party. My coming was hardly noticed at all, they were all so
occupied with one another; Edwarda hardly bade me welcome. I began
drinking hard because I knew I was unwelcome; and yet I did not go away.
Herr Mack smiled a great deal and put on his most amiable expression; he
was in evening dress, and looked well. He was now here, now there,
mingling with his half a hundred guests, dancing one dance now and then,
joking and laughing. There were secrets lurking in his eyes.
A whirl of music and voices sounded through the house. Five of the rooms
were occupied by the guests, besides the big room where they were
dancing. Supper was over when I arrived. Busy maids were running to and
fro with glasses and wines, brightly polished coffee-pots, cigars and
pipes, cakes and fruit. There was no sparing of anything. The
chandeliers in the rooms were filled with extra-thick candles that had
been made for the occasion; the new oil lamps were lit as well. Eva was
helping in the kitchen; I caught a glimpse of her. To think that Eva
should be here too!
The Baron received a great deal of attention, though he was quiet and
modest and did not put himself forward. He, too, was in evening dress;
the tails of his coat were miserably crushed from the packing. He talked
a good deal with Edwarda, followed her with his eyes, drank with her,
and called her Froken, as he did the daughters of the Dean and of the
district surgeon. I felt the same dislike of him as before, and could
hardly look at him without turning my eyes away with a wretched silly
grimace. When he spoke to me, I answered shortly and pressed my lips
I happen to remember one detail of that evening. I stood talking to a
young lady, a fair-haired girl; and I said something or told some story
that made her laugh. It can hardly have been anything remarkable, but
perhaps, in my excited state, I told it more amusingly than I remember
now--at any rate, I have forgotten it. But when I turned round, there
was Edwarda standing behind me. She gave me a glance of recognition.
Afterwards I noticed that she drew the fair girl aside to find out what
I had said. I cannot say how that look of Edwarda's cheered me, after I
had been going about from room to room like a sort of outcast all the
evening; I felt better at once, and spoke to several people, and was
entertaining. As far as I am aware, I did nothing awkward or wrong...
I was standing outside on the steps. Eva came carrying some things from
one of the rooms. She saw me, came out, and touched my hands swiftly
with one of hers; then she smiled and went in again. Neither of us had
spoken. When I turned to go in after her, there was Edwarda in the
passage, watching me. She also said nothing. I went into the room.
"Fancy--Lieutenant Glahn amuses himself having meetings with the
servants on the steps!" said Edwarda suddenly, out loud. She was
standing in the doorway. Several heard what she said. She laughed, as
if speaking in jest, but her face was very pale.
I made no answer to this; I only murmured:
"It was accidental; she just came out, and we met in the passage..."
Some time passed--an hour, perhaps. A glass was upset over a lady's
dress. As soon as Edwarda saw it, she cried:
"What has happened? That was Glahn, of course."
I had not done it: I was standing at the other end of the room when it
happened. After that I drank pretty hard again, and kept near the door,
to be out of the way of the dancers.
The Baron still had the ladies constantly round him. He regretted that
his collections were packed away, so that he could not show them--that
bunch of weed from the White Sea, the clay from Korholmerne, highly
interesting stone formations from the bottom of the sea. The ladies
peeped curiously at his shirt studs, the five-pointed coronets--they
meant that he was a Baron, of course. All this time the Doctor created
no sensation; even his witty oath, _Dod og Pinsel_, no longer had any
effect. But when Edwarda was speaking, he was always on the spot,
correcting her language, embarrassing her with little shades of meaning,
keeping her down with calm superiority.
"... until I go over the valley of death."
And the Doctor asked:
"The valley of death. Isn't that what it's called--the valley of death?"
"I have heard of the river of death. I presume that is what you mean."
Later on, she talked of having something guarded like a ...
"Dragon," put in the Doctor.
"Yes, like a dragon," she answered.
But the Doctor said:
"You can thank me for saving you there. I am sure you were going to say
The Baron raised his eyebrows and looked at the Doctor in surprise
through his thick glasses, as if he had never heard such ridiculous
things. But the Doctor paid no heed. What did he care for the Baron?
I still lurked by the door. The dancers swept through the room. I
managed to start a conversation with the governess from the vicarage. We
talked about the war, the state of affairs in the Crimea, the happenings
in France, Napoleon as Emperor, his protection of the Turks; the young
lady had read the papers that summer, and could tell me the news. At
last we sat down on a sofa and went on talking.
Edwarda, passing, stopped in front of us. Suddenly she said:
"You must forgive me, Lieutenant, for surprising you outside like that.
I will never do it again."
And she laughed again, and did not look at me.
"Edwarda," I said, "do stop."
She had spoken very formally, which meant no good, and her look was
malicious. I thought of the Doctor, and shrugged my shoulders
carelessly, as he would have done. She said:
"But why don't you go out in the kitchen? Eva is there. I think you
ought to stay there."
And there was hate in her eyes.
I had not been to parties often; certainly I had never before heard such
a tone at any of the few I had been to. I said:
"Aren't you afraid of being misunderstood, Edwarda?"
"Oh, but how? Possibly, of course, but how?"
"You sometimes speak without thinking. Just now, for instance, it
_seemed_ to me as if you were actually telling me to go to the kitchen
and stay there; and that, of course, must be a misunderstanding--I know
quite well that you did not intend to be so rude."
She walked a few paces away from us. I could see by her manner that she
was thinking all the time of what I had said. She turned round, came
back, and said breathlessly:
"It was no misunderstanding, Lieutenant; you heard correctly--I did tell
you to go to the kitchen."
"Oh, Edwarda!" broke out the terrified governess.
And I began talking again about the war and the state of affairs in the
Crimea; but my thoughts were far distant. I was no longer intoxicated,
only hopelessly confused. The earth seemed fading from under my feet,
and I lost my composure, as at so many unfortunate times before. I got
up from the sofa and made as if to go out. The Doctor stopped me.
"I have just been hearing your praises," he said.
"Praises! From whom?"
"From Edwarda. She is still standing away off there in the corner,
looking at you with glowing eyes. I shall never forget it; her eyes were
absolutely in love, and she said out loud that she admired you."
"Good," I said with a laugh. Alas, there was not a clear thought in my
I went up to the Baron, bent over him as if to whisper something--and
when I was close enough, I spat in his ear. He sprang up and stared
idiotically at me. Afterwards I saw him telling Edwarda what had
occurred; I saw how disgusted she was. She thought, perhaps, of her shoe
that I had thrown into the water, of the cups and glasses I had so
unfortunately managed to break, and of all the other breaches of good
taste I had committed; doubtless all those things flashed into her mind
again. I was ashamed. It was all over with me; whichever way I turned, I
met frightened and astonished looks. And I stole away from Sirilund,
without a word of leave-taking or of thanks.
The Baron is going away. Well and good: I will load my gun, go up into
the hills, and fire a salvo in his honour and Edwarda's. I will bore a
deep hole in a rock and blow up a mountain in his honour and Edwarda's.
And a great boulder shall roll down the hillside and dash mightily into
the sea just as his ship is passing by. I know a spot--a channel down
the hillside--where rocks have rolled before and made a clean road to
the sea. Far below there is a little boat-house.
"Two mining drills," I say to the smith.
And the smith whets two drills...
Eva has been put to driving back and forth between the mill and the
quay, with one of Herr Mack's horses. She has to do a man's work,
transporting sacks of corn and flour. I meet her; her face is
wonderfully fresh and glowing. Dear God, how tender and warm is her
smile! Every evening I meet her.
"You look as if you had no troubles, Eva, my love."
"You call me your love! I am an ignorant woman, but I will be true to
you. I will be true to you if I should die for it. Herr Mack grows
harsher and harsher every day, but I do not mind it; he is furious, but
I do not answer him. He took hold of my arm and went grey with fury.
One thing troubles me."
"And what is it that troubles you?" "Herr Mack threatens you. He says to
me: 'Aha, it's that lieutenant you've got in your head all the time!' I
answer: 'Yes, I am his.' Then he says: 'Ah, you wait. I'll soon get rid
of him.' He said that yesterday."
"It doesn't matter; let him threaten..." And with closed eyes she
throws her arms about my neck. A quiver passes through her. The horse
I sit up in the hills, mining. The autumn air is crystal about me. The
strokes of my drill ring steady and even. Asop looks at me with
wondering eyes. Wave after wave of content swells through my breast. No
one knows that I am here among the lonely hills.
The birds of passage have gone; a happy journey and welcome back again!
Titmouse and blackcap and a hedge-sparrow or so live now alone in the
bush and undergrowth: tuitui! All is so curiously changed--the dwarf
birch bleeds redly against the grey stones, a harebell here and there
shows among the heather, swaying and whispering a little song: sh! But
high above all hovers an eagle with outstretched neck, on his way to the
And the evening comes; I lay my drill and my hammer in under the rock
and stop to rest. All things are glooming now. The moon glides up in the
north; the rocks cast gigantic shadows. The moon is full; it looks like
a glowing island, like a round riddle of brass that I pass by and wonder
at. Asop gets up and is restless.
"What is it, Asop? As for me, I am tired of my sorrow; I will forget it,
drown it. Lie still, Asop, I tell you; I will not be pestered. Eva asks:
'Do you think of me sometimes?' I answer: 'Always.' Eva asks again: 'And
is it any joy to you, to think of me?' I answer: 'Always a joy, never
anything but a joy.' Then says Eva: 'Your hair is turning grey.' I
answer: 'Yes, it is beginning to turn grey.' But Eva says: 'Is it
something you think about, that is turning it grey?' And to that I
answer: 'Maybe.' At last Eva says: 'Then you do not think only of me...'
Asop, lie still; I will tell you about something else instead..."
But Asop stands sniffing excitedly down towards the valley, pointing,
and dragging at my clothes. When at last I get up and follow, he cannot
get along fast enough. A flush of red shows in the sky above the woods.
I go on faster; and there before my eyes is a glow, a huge fire. I stop
and stare at it, go on a few steps and stare again.