Part 3 out of 3
My hut is ablaze.
The fire was Herr Mack's doing. I saw through it from the first. I lost
my skins and my birds' wings, I lost my stuffed eagle; everything was
destroyed. What now? I lay out for two nights under the open sky,
without going to Sirilund to ask for shelter. At last I rented a
deserted fisher-hut by the quay. I stopped the cracks with dried moss,
and slept on a load of red horseberry ling from the hills. Once more my
needs were filled.
Edwarda sent me a message to say she had heard of my misfortune and that
she offered me, on her father's behalf, a room at Sirilund. Edwarda
touched! Edwarda generous! I sent no answer. Thank Heaven, I was no
longer without shelter, and it gave me a proud joy to make no answer to
Edwarda's offer. I met her on the road, with the Baron; they were
walking arm in arm. I looked them both in the face and bowed as I
passed. She stopped, and asked:
"So you will not come and stay with us, Lieutenant?"
"I am already settled in my new place," I said, and stopped also.
She looked at me; her bosom was heaving. "You would have lost nothing
by coming to us," she said.
Thankfulness moved in my heart, but I could not speak.
The Baron walked on slowly.
"Perhaps you do not want to see me any more," she said.
"I thank you, Edwarda, for offering me shelter when my house was
burned," I said. "It was the kinder of you, since your father was hardly
willing." And with bared head I thanked her for her offer.
"In God's name, will you not see me again, Glahn?" she said suddenly.
The Baron was calling.
"The Baron is calling," I said, and took off my hat again respectfully.
And I went up into the hills, to my mining. Nothing, nothing should
make me lose my self-possession any more. I met Eva. "There, what did I
say?" I cried. "Herr Mack cannot drive me away. He has burned my hut,
and I already have another hut..." She was carrying a tar-bucket and
brush. "What now, Eva?"
Herr Mack had a boat in a shed under the cliff, and had ordered her to
tar it. He watched her every step--she had to obey.
"But why in the shed there? Why not at the quay?" "Herr Mack ordered it
"Eva, Eva, my love, they make a slave of you and you do not complain.
See! now you are smiling again, and life streams through your smile, for
all that you are a slave."
When I got up to my mining work, I found a surprise. I could see that
someone had been on the spot. I examined the tracks and recognised the
print of Herr Mack's long, pointed shoes. What could he be ferreting
about here for? I thought to myself, and looked round. No one to be
seen--I had no suspicion.
And I fell to hammering with my drill, never dreaming what harm I did.
The mail-packet came; it brought my uniform; it was to take the Baron
and all his cases of scales and seaweeds on board. Now it was loading
up barrels of herrings and oil at the quay; towards evening it would be
I took my gun and put a heavy load of powder in each barrel. When I had
done that, I nodded to myself. I went up into the hills and filled my
mine with powder as well; I nodded again. Now everything was ready. I
lay down to wait.
I waited for hours. All the time I could hear the steamer's winches at
work hoisting and lowering. It was already growing dusk. At last the
whistle sounded: the cargo was on board, the ship was putting off. I
still had some minutes to wait. The moon was not up, and I stared like
a madman through the gloom of the evening.
When the first point of the bow thrust out past the islet, I lit my slow
match and stepped hurriedly away. A minute passed. Suddenly there was a
roar--a spurt of stone fragments in the air--the hillside trembled, and
the rock hurtled crashing down the abyss. The hills all round gave echo.
I picked up my gun and fired off one barrel; the echo answered time and
time again. After a moment I fired the second barrel too; the air
trembled at the salute, and the echo flung the noise out into the wide
world; it was as if all the hills had united in a shout for the vessel
A little time passed; the air grew still, the echoes died away in all
the hills, and earth lay silent again. The ship disappeared in the
I was still trembling with a strange excitement. I took my drills and
my gun under my arm and set off with slack knees down the hillside. I
took the shortest way, marking the smoking track left by my avalanche.
Asop followed me, shaking his head all the time and sneezing at the
smell of burning.
When I came down to the shed, I found a sight that filled me with
violent emotion. A boat lay there, crushed by the falling rock. And
Eva--Eva lay beside it, mangled and broken, dashed to pieces by the
shock--torn beyond recognition. Eva--lying there, dead.
What more have I to write? I fired no shot for many days; I had no food,
and did not eat at all; I sat in my shed. Eva was carried to the church
in Herr Mack's white-painted house-boat. I went there overland on
Eva is dead. Do you remember her little girlish head, with hair like a
nun's? She came so quietly, laid down her head and smiled. And did you
see how full of life that smile was? Be still, Asop; I remember a
strange saga story, of four generations ago, of Iselin's time, when
Stamer was a priest.
A girl sat captive in a stone tower. She loved a lord. Why? Ask the
winds and the stars, ask the God of life, for there is none that knows
such things. The lord was her friend and lover; but time went on, and
one fine day he saw another and his liking changed.
Like a youth he loved his maid. Often he called her his blessing and his
dove, and said: "Give me your heart!" And she did so. He said: "May I
ask for something, love?" And, wild with joy, she answered "Yes." And
she gave him all, and yet he did not thank her.
The other he loved as a slave, as a madman and a beggar. Why? Ask the
dust of the road and the leaves that fall, ask the mysterious God of
life, for there is no other that knows such things. She gave him
nothing--no, nothing did she give him--and yet he thanked her. She said,
"Give me your peace and your understanding!" and he was only sorry that
she did not ask his life.
And his maid was set in the tower...
"What do you there, maiden, sitting and smiling?"
"I think of something ten years back. It was then I met him."
"You remember him still?"
"I remember him still."
And time goes on.
"What do you there, maiden? And why do you sit and smile?"
"I am embroidering his name on a cloth."
"Whose name? His who shut you up here?"
"Yes, the one I met twenty years ago."
"You remember him still?"
"I remember him as I did before."
And time goes on...
"What do you there, prisoner?"
"I grow old, and can no longer see to sew; I scrape the plaster from the
walls. And of that I am making an urn to be a little gift for him."
"Of whom are you speaking?"
"Of my lover, who shut me in the tower."
"And do you smile at that, because he locked you in the tower?"
"I am thinking of what he will say now. 'Look, look,' he will say,'my
maiden has sent me a little urn; she has not forgotten me in thirty
And time goes on...
"What, prisoner! sit you there idle, and smile?"
"I grow old, I grow old, my eyes are blind, I am only thinking."
"Of him that you met forty years ago?"
"Of him whom I met when I was young. Maybe it was forty years ago."
"But do you not know, then, that he is dead? ... Pale beldam, you do
not answer; your lips are white, you breathe no more..."
There! That was the strange tale of the girl in the tower. Wait, Asop,
wait a little: there was something I forgot. One day she heard her
lover's voice in the courtyard, and she fell on her knees and blushed.
And that was when she was forty years...
I bury you, Eva, and in humility kiss the sand above your grave. A
luxuriant, rose-red memory flowers in me when I think of you; I am as if
drenched in blessing at the memory of your smile. You gave all; all did
you give, and it cost you nothing, for you were the wild child of life
itself. But others, the miserly ones who begrudge even a glance, can
have all my thoughts. Why? Ask the twelve months and the ships on the
sea; ask the mysterious God of the heart...
A man said:
"You never go out shooting now? Asop is running loose in the woods; he
is after a hare."
"Go and shoot it for me."
Some days passed. Herr Mack looked me up. He was hollow-eyed; his face
was grey. I thought: Is it true that I can see through my fellows, or is
it not? I do not know, myself.
Herr Mack spoke of the landslip, the catastrophe. It was a misfortune,
a sad accident; I was in no way to blame.
"If it was someone who wished to separate Eva and me at any price, he
has gained his end. God's curse be on him!"
Herr Mack looked at me suspiciously. He murmured something about the
fine funeral. Nothing had been spared.
I sat admiring the alertness of his mind. He would have no compensation
for the boat that my landslide had crushed.
"Oh, but surely," I said, "will you not have some payment for the boat
and the tar-bucket and the brush?"
"No, my dear Lieutenant," he answered. "How could you think of such a
thing?" And he looked at me with hatred in his eyes.
For three weeks I saw nothing of Edwarda. Yes, once I met her at the
store: when I went to buy some bread, she stood inside the counter
looking over some different sorts of cloth stuff. Only the two
assistants were there besides.
I greeted her aloud, and she looked up, but did not answer. It occurred
to me that I could not ask for bread while she was there; I turned to
the assistants and asked for powder and shot. While they were weighing
it out, I watched her.
A grey dress, much too small for her, with the buttonholes worn; her
flat breast heaved restlessly. How she had grown that summer! Her brow
was knit in thought; those strangely curved eyebrows stood in her face
like two riddles; all her movements were grown more mature. I looked at
her hands; the contour of her long, delicate fingers moved me violently,
made me tremble. She was still turning over the stuffs.
I stood wishing that Asop would run to her behind the counter--then I
could call him back at once and apologise. What would she say then?
"Here you are," said the storekeeper.
I paid for the things, took up my parcels, and took my leave of her. She
looked up, but again without speaking. Good, I thought to myself. She
is the Baron's bride already, as like as not. And I went, without my
When I got outside, I looked up at the window. No one was watching me.
Then one night the snow came, and it began to be cold in my hut. There
was a fireplace where I cooked my food, but the wood burned poorly and
it was very draughty, though I had caulked the walls as well as I could.
The autumn was past, and the days were growing shorter. The first snow
was still melting under the rays of the sun. Presently the ground was
bare again, but the nights were cold, and the water froze. And all the
grass and all the insects died.
A secret stillness fell upon people; they pondered and were silent;
their eyes awaited the winter. No more calling from the drying grounds:
the harbour lay quiet. Everything was moving towards the eternal winter
of the northern lights, when the sun sleeps in the sea. Dull came the
sound of the oars from a lonely boat.
A girl came rowing.
"Where have you been, my girl?"
"Nowhere? Look, I recognize you: I met you last summer."
She brought the boat in, stepped ashore, made fast.
"You were herding goats. You stopped to fasten your stocking. I met you
A little flush rose to her cheeks, and she laughed shyly.
"Little goat-girl, come into the hut and let me look at you. I knew your
name, too--it is Henriette."
But she walked past me without speaking. The autumn, the winter, had
laid hold of her too; her senses drowsed.
Already the sun had gone to sea.
And I put on my uniform for the first time, and went down to Sirilund.
My heart was beating.
I remembered everything from the day when Edwarda had come hurrying to
me and embraced me before them all. Now she had thrown me hither and
thither for many months, and made my hair turn grey. My own fault? Yes,
my star had led me astray. I thought: How she would chuckle if I were to
throw myself at her feet and tell her the secret of my heart to-day!
She would offer me a chair and have wine brought in, and just as she was
raising the glass to her lips to drink with me, she would say:
"Lieutenant, I thank you for the time we have been together. I shall
never forget it!" But when I grew glad and felt a little hope, she'd
pretend to drink, and set down the glass untouched. And she wouldn't
hide from me that she'd only been pretending to drink; she'd be careful
to let me see it. That was her way.
Good--it was nearing the last hour now.
And as I walked down the road I thought further: My uniform will impress
her; the trappings are new and handsome. The sword will rattle against
the floor. A nervous joy thrilled me, and I whispered to myself: Who
knows what may happen yet? I raised my head and threw out a hand. No
more humility now--a man's honour and pride! Whatever came of it, I
would make no more advances now. Pardon me, my fair one, for not asking
Herr Mack met me in the courtyard, greyer still, more hollow-eyed.
"Going away? So? I suppose you've not been very comfortable lately, eh?
Your hut burned down..." And Herr Mack smiled.
In a moment it seemed as if the wisest man in the world stood before my
"Go indoors, Lieutenant; Edwarda is there. Well, I will say good-bye.
See you on the quay, I suppose, when the vessel sails." He walked off,
with head bowed in thought, whistling.
Edwarda was sitting indoors, reading. At the instant of my entering, she
started at my uniform; she looked at me sideways like a bird, and even
blushed. She opened her mouth.
"I have come to say good-bye," I managed to get out at last.
She rose quickly to her feet, and I saw that my words had had some
"Glahn, are you going away? Now?"
"As soon as the boat comes." I grasped her hand--both her hands--a
senseless delight took possession of me--I burst out, "Edwarda!" and
stared at her.
And in a moment she was cold--cold and defiant. Her whole being
resisted me; she drew herself up. I found myself standing like a beggar
before her. I loosed her hand and let her go. I remember that from that
moment I stood repeating mechanically: "Edwarda, Edwarda!" again and
again without thinking, and when she asked: "Yes? What were you going to
say?" I explained nothing.
"To think you are going already," she said again. "Who will come next
year, I wonder?"
"Another," I answered. "The hut will be built up again, no doubt."
Pause. She was already reaching for her book.
"I am sorry my father is not in," she said. "But I will tell him you
I made no answer to this. I stepped forward, took her hand once more,
_"Farvel,"_ she answered.
I opened the door as if to go. Already she was sitting with the book in
her hand, reading--actually reading and turning the page. Nothing
affected, not the least in the world affected by my saying good-bye.
She turned and said in surprise:
"Oh, are you not gone? I thought you were."
Heaven alone knows, but it struck me that her surprise was too great;
that she was not careful, that she overdid it. And it came into my head
that perhaps she had known all the time that I was standing behind her.
"I am going now," I said.
Then she rose and came over to me.
"I should like to have something to remember you by when you go," she
said. "I thought of asking you for something, but perhaps it is too
much. Will you give me Asop?"
I did not hesitate. I answered "Yes."
"Then, perhaps, you would come and bring him to-morrow," she said.
I looked up at the window. No one there.
It was all over now...
* * * * *
The last night in the hut. I sat in thought, I counted the hours; when
the morning came I made ready my last meal. It was a cold day.
Why had she asked me to come myself and bring the dog? Would she tell me
something, speak to me, for the last time? I had nothing more to hope
for. And how would she treat Asop? Asop, Asop, she will torture you! For
my sake she will whip you, caress you too, perhaps, but certainly whip
you, with and without reason; ruin you altogether...
I called Asop to me, patted him, put our two heads together, and picked
up my gun. He was already whining with pleasure, thinking we were going
out after game. I put our heads together once more; I laid the muzzle of
the gun against Asop's neck and fired...
I hired a man to carry Asop's body to Edwarda.
The mail-packet was to sail in the afternoon.
I went down to the quay. My things were already on board. Herr Mack
pressed my hand, and said encouragingly that it would be nice weather,
pleasant weather; he would not mind making the trip himself in such
weather. The Doctor came walking down. Edwarda was with him; I felt my
knees beginning to tremble.
"Came to see you safely off," said the Doctor.
I thanked him.
Edwarda looked me straight in the face and said:
"I must thank you for your dog." She pressed her lips together; they
were quite white. Again she had called me "_Eder_." [Footnote: The
most formal mode of address.]
"When does the boat go?" the Doctor asked a man.
"In half an hour."
I said nothing.
Edwarda was turning restlessly this way and that.
"Doctor, don't you think we may as well go home again?" she said. "I
have done what I came for to do."
"You have done what you came _to do_," said the Doctor.
She laughed, humiliated by his everlasting correction, and answered:
"Wasn't that almost what I said?"
"No," he answered shortly.
I looked at him. The little man stood there cold and firm; he had made a
plan, and he carried it out to the last. And if he lost after all? In
any case, he would never show it; his face never betrayed him.
It was getting dusk.
"Well, good-bye," I said. "And thanks for--everything."
Edwarda looked at me dumbly. Then she turned her head and stood looking
out at the ship.
I got into the boat. Edwarda was still standing on the quay. When I got
on board, the Doctor called out "Good-bye!" I looked over to the shore.
Edwarda turned at the same time and walked hurriedly away from the quay,
the Doctor far behind. That was the last I saw of her.
A wave of sadness went through my heart...
The vessel began to move; I could still see Herr Mack's sign: "Salt and
Barrels." But soon it disappeared. The moon and the stars came out; the
hills towered round about, and I saw the endless woods. There is the
mill; there, there stood my hut, that was burned; the big grey stone
stands there all alone on the site of the fire. Iselin, Eva...
The night of the northern lights spreads over valley and hill.
I have written this to pass the time. It has amused me to look back to
that summer in Nordland, when I often counted the hours, but when time
flew nevertheless. All is changed. The days will no longer pass.
I have many a merry hour even yet. But time--it stands still, and I
cannot understand how it can stand so still. I am out of the service,
and free as a prince; all is well; I meet people, drive in carriages;
now and again I shut one eye and write with one finger up in the sky; I
tickle the moon under the chin, and fancy that it laughs--laughs broadly
at being tickled under the chin. All things smile. I pop a cork and
call gay people to me.
As for Edwarda, I do not think of her. Why should I not have forgotten
her altogether, after all this time? I have some pride. And if anyone
asks whether I have any sorrows, then I answer straight out, "No--none."
Cora lies looking at me. Asop, it used to be, but now it is Cora that
lies looking at me. The clock ticks on the mantel; outside my open
window sounds the roar of the city. A knock at the door, and the postman
hands me a letter. A letter with a coronet. I know who sent it; I
understand it at once, or maybe I dreamed it one sleepless night. But in
the envelope there is no letter at all--only two green bird's feathers.
An icy horror thrills me; I turn cold. Two green feathers! I say to
myself: Well, and what of it? But why should I turn cold? Why, there is
a cursed draught from those windows.
And I shut the windows.
There lie two bird's feathers, I think to myself again. I seem to know
them; they remind me of a little jest up in Nordland, just a little
episode among a host of others. It is amusing to see those two feathers
again. And suddenly I seem to see a face and hear a voice, and the voice
says: "Her, Herr Lieutenant: here are your feathers."
Cora, lie still--do you hear? I will kill you if you move!
The weather is hot, an intolerable heat is in the room; what was I
thinking of to close the windows? Open them again--open the door too;
open it wide--this way, merry souls, come in! Hey, messenger, an
errand--go out and fetch me a host of people...
And the day passes; but time stands still.
Now I have written this for my own pleasure only, and amused myself with
it as best I could. No sorrow weighs on me, but I long to be
away--where, I do not know, but far away, perhaps in Africa or India.
For my place is in the woods, in solitude...
A DOCUMENT OF 1861
The Glahn family can go on advertising as long as they please for
Lieutenant Thomas Glahn, who disappeared; but he will never come back.
He is dead, and, what is more, I know how he died.
To tell the truth, I am not surprised that his people should still keep
on seeking information; for Thomas Glahn was in many ways an uncommon
and likable man. I admit this, for fairness' sake, and despite the fact
that Glahn is still repellant to my soul, so that the bare memory of him
arouses hatred. He was a splendidly handsome man, full of youth, and
with an irresistible manner. When he looked at you with his hot animal
eyes, you could not but feel his power; even I felt it so. A woman, they
say, said: "When he looks at me, I am lost; I feel a sensation as if he
were touching me."
But Thomas Glahn had his faults, and I have no intention of hiding them,
seeing that I hate him. He could at times be full of nonsense like a
child, so kindly natured was he; and perhaps it was that which made him
so irresistible to women. God knows! He could chat with them and laugh
at their senseless twaddle; and so he made an impression. Once, speaking
of a very corpulent man in the place, he said that he looked as if he
went about with his breeches full of lard. And he laughed at that joke
himself, though I should have been ashamed of it. Another time, after we
had come to live in the same house together, he showed his foolishness
in an unmistakable way. My landlady came in one morning and asked what I
would have for breakfast, and in my hurry I happened to answer: "A bread
and a slice of egg." Thomas Glahn was sitting in my room at the time--he
lived in the attic up above, just under the roof--and he began to
chuckle and laugh childishly over my little slip of the tongue. "A bread
and a slice of egg!" he repeated time over and over, until I looked at
him in surprise and made him stop.
Maybe I shall call to mind other ridiculous traits of his later on. If
so, I will write them down too, and not spare him, seeing that he is
still my enemy. Why should I be generous? But I will admit that he
talked nonsense only when he was drunk. But is it not a great mistake to
be drunk at all?
When I first met him, in the autumn of 1859, he was a man of
two-and-thirty--we were of an age. He wore a full beard at that time,
and affected woolen sports shirts with an exaggerated lowness of neck;
not content with that, he sometimes left the top button undone. His neck
appeared to me at first to be remarkably handsome; but little by little
he made me his deadly enemy, and then I did not consider his neck
handsomer than mine, though I did not show off mine so openly. I met him
first on a river boat, and we were going to the same place, on a hunting
trip; we agreed to go together up-country by ox-wagon when we came to
the end of the railway. I purposely refrained from stating the place we
were going to, not wishing to set anyone on the track. But the Glahns
can safely stop advertising for their relative; for he died at the place
we went to, which I will not name.
I had heard of Thomas Glahn, by the way, before I met him; his name was
not unknown to me. I had heard of some affair of his with a young girl
from Nordland, from a big house there, and that he had compromised her
in some way, after which she broke it off. This he had sworn, in his
foolish obstinacy, to revenge upon himself, and the lady calmly let him
do as he pleased in that respect, considering it no business of hers.
From that time onwards, Thomas Glahn's name began to be well known; he
turned wild, mad; he drank, created scandal after scandal, and resigned
his commission in the army. A queer way of taking vengeance for a girl's
There was also another story of his relations with that young lady, to
the effect that he had not compromised her in any way, but that her
people had showed him the door, and that she herself had helped in it,
after a Swedish Count, whose name I will not mention, had proposed to
her. But this account I am less inclined to trust; I regard the first
as true, for after all I hate Thomas Glahn and believe him capable of
the worst. But, however it may have been, he never spoke himself of the
affair with that noble lady, and I did not ask him about it. What
business was it of mine?
As we sat there on the boat, I remember we talked about the little
village we were making for, to which neither of us had been before.
"There's a sort of hotel there, I believe," said Glahn, looking at the
map. "Kept by an old half-caste woman, so they say. The chief lives in
the next village, and has a heap of wives, by all accounts--some of them
only ten years old."
Well, I knew nothing about the chief and his wives, or whether there was
a hotel in the place, so I said nothing. But Glahn smiled, and I thought
his smile was beautiful.
I forgot, by the way, that he could not by any means be called a perfect
man, handsome though he was. He told me himself that he had an old
gunshot wound in his left foot, and that it was full of gout whenever
the weather changed.
A week later we were lodged in the big hut that went by the name of
hotel, with the old English half-caste woman. What a hotel it was! The
walls were of clay, with a little wood, and the wood was eaten through
by the white ants that crawled about everywhere. I lived in a room next
the main parlor, with a green glass window looking on to the street--a
single pane, not very clear at that--and Glahn had chosen a little bit
of a hole up in the attic, much darker, and a poor place to live in. The
sun heated the thatched roof and made his room almost insufferably hot
at night and day; besides which, it was not a stair at all that led up
to it, but a wretched bit of a ladder with four steps. What could I do?
I let him take his choice, and said:
"Here are two rooms, one upstairs and one down; take your choice."
And Glahn looked at the two rooms and took the upper one, possibly to
give me the better of the two--but was I not grateful for it? I owe him
As long as the worst of the heat lasted, we left the hunting alone and
stayed quietly in the hut, for the heat was extremely uncomfortable. We
lay at night with a mosquito net over the bedplace, to keep off the
insects; but even then it happened sometimes that blind bats would come
flying silently against our nets and tear them. This happened too often
to Glahn, because he was obliged to have a trap in the roof open all the
time, on account of the heat; but it did not happen to me. In the
daytime we lay on mats outside the hut, and smoked and watched the life
about the other huts. The natives were brown, thick-lipped folk, all
with rings in their ears and dead, brown eyes; they were almost naked,
with just a strip of cotton cloth or plaited leaves round the middle,
and the women had also a short petticoat of cotton stuff to cover them.
All the children went about stark naked night and day, with great big
prominent bellies simply glistening with oil.
"The women are too fat," said Glahn.
And I too thought the women were too fat. Perhaps it was not Glahn at
all, but myself, who thought so first; but I will not dispute his
claim--I am willing to give him the credit. As a matter of fact, not all
the women were ugly, though their faces were fat and swollen. I had met
a girl in the village, a young half-Tamil with long hair and snow-white
teeth; she was the prettiest of them all. I came upon her one evening at
the edge of a rice field. She lay flat on her face in the high grass,
kicking her legs in the air. She could talk to me, and we did talk, too,
as long as I pleased. Glahn sat that evening in the middle of our
village outside a hut with two other girls, very young--not more than
ten years old, perhaps. He sat there talking nonsense to them, and
drinking rice beer; that was the sort of thing he liked.
A couple of days later, we went out shooting. We passed by tea gardens,
rice fields, and grass plains; we left the village behind us and went in
the direction of the river, and came into forests of strange foreign
trees, bamboo and mango, tamarind, teak and salt trees, oil--and
gum-bearing plants--Heaven knows what they all were; we had, between us,
but little knowledge of the things. But there was very little water in
the river, and so it remained until the rainy season. We shot wild
pigeons and partridges, and saw a couple of panthers one afternoon;
parrots, too, flew over our heads. Glahn was a terribly accurate shot;
he never missed. But that was merely because his gun was better than
mine; many times I too shot terribly accurately. I never boasted of it,
but Glahn would often say: "I'll get that fellow in the tail," or "that
one in the head." He would say that before he fired; and when the bird
fell, sure enough, it was hit in the tail or the head as he had said.
When we came upon the two panthers, Glahn was all for attacking them too
with his shot-gun, but I persuaded him to give it up, as it was getting
dusk, and we had no more than two or three cartridges left. He boasted
of that too--of having had the courage to attack panthers with a
"I am sorry I did not fire at them after all," he said to me. "What do
you want to be so infernally cautious for? Do you want to go on living?"
"I'm glad you consider me wiser than yourself," I answered.
"Well, don't let us quarrel over a trifle," he said.
Those were his words, not mine; if he had wished to quarrel, I for my
part had no wish to prevent him. I was beginning to feel some dislike
for him for his incautious behavior, and for his manner with women. Only
the night before, I had been walking quietly along with Maggie, the
Tamil girl that was my friend, and we were both as happy as could be.
Glahn sits outside his hut, and nods and smiles to us as we pass. It was
then that Maggie saw him for the first time, and she was very
inquisitive about him. So great an impression had he made on her that,
when it was time to go, we went each our own way; she did not go back
home with me.
Glahn would have put this by as of no importance when I spoke to him
about it. But I did not forget it. And it was not to me that he nodded
and smiled as we passed by the hut! it was to Maggie.
"What's that she chews?" he asked me.
"I don't know," I answered. "She chews--I suppose that's what her teeth
And it was no news to me either that Maggie was always chewing
something; I had noticed it long before. But it was not betel she was
chewing, for her teeth were quite white; she had, however, a habit of
chewing all sorts of other things--putting them in her mouth and chewing
as if they were something nice. Anything would do--a piece of money, a
scrap of paper, feathers--she would chew it all the same. Still, it was
nothing to reproach her for, seeing that she was the prettiest girl in
the village, anyway. Glahn was jealous of me, that was all.
I was friends again with Maggie, though, next evening, and we saw
nothing of Glahn.
A week passed, and we went out shooting every day, and shot a heap of
game. One morning, just as we were entering the forest, Glahn gripped me
by the arm and whispered: "Stop!" At the same moment he threw up his
rifle and fired. It was a young leopard he had shot, I might have fired
myself, but Glahn kept the honour to himself and fired first. Now he'll
boast of that later on, I said to myself. We went up to the dead beast.
It was stone dead, the left flank all torn up and the bullet in its
Now I do not like being gripped by the arm, so I said:
"I could have managed that shot myself."
Glahn looked at me.
I said: "You think perhaps I couldn't have done it?"
Still Glahn made no answer. Instead, he showed his childishness once
more, shooting the dead leopard again, this time through the head. I
looked at him in utter astonishment.
"Well, you know," he explains, "I shouldn't like to have it said that I
shot a leopard in the flank." "You are very amiable this evening," I
It was too much for his vanity to have made such a poor shot; he must
always be first. What a fool he was! But it was no business of mine,
anyway. I was not going to show him up.
In the evening, when we came back to the village with the dead leopard,
a lot of the natives came out to look at it. Glahn simply said we had
shot it that morning, and made no sort of fuss about it himself at the
time. Maggie came up too.
"Who shot it?" she asked.
And Glahn answered:
"You can see for yourself--twice hit. We shot it this morning when we
went out." And he turned the beast over and showed her the two bullet
wounds, both that in the flank and that in the head. "That's where mine
went," he said, pointing to the side--in his idiotic fashion he wanted
me to have the credit of having shot it in the head. I did not trouble
to correct him; I said nothing. After that, Glahn began treating the
natives with rice beer--gave them any amount of it, as many as cared to
"Both shot it," said Maggie to herself; but she was looking at Glahn all
I drew her aside with me and said:
"What are you looking at him all the time for? I am here too, I
"Yes," she said. "And listen: I am coming this evening."
It was the day after this that Glahn got the letter. There came a letter
for him, sent up by express messenger from the river station, and it had
made a detour of a hundred and eighty miles. The letter was in a
woman's hand, and I thought to my self that perhaps it was from that
former friend of his, the noble lady. Glahn laughed nervously when he
had read it, and gave the messenger extra money for bringing it. But it
was not long before he turned silent and gloomy, and did nothing but sit
staring straight before him. That evening he got drunk--sat drinking
with an old dwarf of a native and his son, and clung hold of me too, and
did all he could to make me drink as well.
Then he laughed out loud and said:
"Here we are, the two of us, miles away in the middle of all India
shooting game--what? Desperately funny, isn't it? And hurrah for all the
lands and kingdoms of the earth, and hurrah for all the pretty women,
married or unmarried, far and near. Hoho! Nice thing for a man when a
married woman proposes to him, isn't it--a married woman?"
"A countess," I said ironically. I said it very scornfully, and that cut
him. He grinned like a dog because it hurt him. Then suddenly he
wrinkled his forehead and began blinking his eyes, and thinking hard if
he hadn't said too much--so mighty serious was he about his bit of a
secret. But just then a lot of children came running over to our hut and
crying out: "Tigers, ohoi, the tigers!" A child had been snapped up by a
tiger quite close to the village, in a thicket between it and the river.
That was enough for Glahn, drunk as he was, and cut up about something
into the bargain. He picked up his rifle and raced off at once to the
thicket--didn't even put on his hat. But why did he take his rifle
instead of a shot-gun, if he was really as plucky as all that? He had to
wade across the river, and that was rather a risky thing in itself--but
then, the river was nearly dry now, till the rains. A little later I
heard two shots, and then, close on them, a third. Three shots at a
single beast, I thought; why, a lion would have fallen for two, and this
was only a tiger! But even those three shots were no use: the child was
torn to bits and half eaten by the time Glahn come up. If he hadn't been
drunk he wouldn't have made the attempt to save it.
He spent the night drinking and rioting in the hut next door. For two
days he was never sober for a minute, and he had found a lot of
companions, too, to drink with him. He begged me in vain to take part in
the orgy. He was no longer careful of what he said, and taunted me with
being jealous of him.
"Your jealousy makes you blind," he said.
My jealousy? I, jealous of him?
"Good Lord!" I said, "I jealous of you? What's there for me to be
"No, no, of course you're not jealous of me," he answered. "I saw Maggie
this evening, by the way. She was chewing something, as usual."
I made no answer; I simply walked off.
We began going out shooting again. Glahn felt he had wronged me, and
begged my pardon.
"And I'm dead sick of the whole thing," he said. "I only wish you'd make
a slip one day and put a bullet in my throat." It was that letter from
the Countess again, perhaps, that was smouldering in his mind. I
"As a man soweth, so shall he also reap."
Day by day he grew more silent and gloomy. He had given up drinking
now, and didn't say a word, either; his cheeks grew hollow.
One day I heard talking and laughter outside my window; Glahn had turned
cheerful again, and he stood there talking out loud to Maggie. He was
getting in all his fascinating tricks. Maggie must have come straight
from her hut, and Glahn had been watching and waiting for her. They
even had the nerve to stand there making up together right outside my
I felt a trembling in all my limbs. I cocked my gun; then I let the
hammer down again. I went outside and took Maggie by the arm; we walked
out of the village in silence; Glahn went back into the hut again at
"What were you talking with him again for?" I asked Maggie.
She made no answer.
I was thoroughly desperate. My heart beat so I could hardly breathe. I
had never seen Maggie look so lovely as she did then--never seen a real
white girl so beautiful. And I forgot she was a Tamil--forgot everything
for her sake.
"Answer me," I said. "What were you talking to him for?"
"I like him best," she said.
"You like him better than me?"
Oh, indeed! She liked him better than me, though I was at least as good
a man! Hadn't I always been kind to her, and given her money and
presents? And what had he done?
"He makes fun of you; he says you're always chewing things," I said.
She did not understand that, and I explained it better; how she had a
habit of putting everything in her mouth and chewing it, and how Glahn
laughed at her for it. That made more impression on her than all the
rest I said.
"Look here, Maggie," I went on, "you shall be mine for always. Wouldn't
you like that? I've been thinking it over. You shall go with me when I
leave here; I will marry you, do you hear? and we'll go to our own
country and live there. You'd like that, wouldn't you?"
And that impressed her too. Maggie grew lively and talked a lot as we
walked. She only mentioned Glahn once; she asked:
"And will Glahn go with us when we go away?"
"No," I said. "He won't. Are you sorry about that?"
"No, no," she said quickly. "I am glad."
She said no more about him, and I felt easier. And Maggie went home
with me, too, when I asked her.
When she went, a couple of hours later, I climbed up the ladder to
Glahn's room and knocked at the thin reed door. He was in. I said:
"I came to tell you that perhaps we'd better not go out shooting
"Why not?" said Glahn.
"Because I'm not so sure but I might make a little mistake and put a
bullet in your throat."
Glahn did not answer, and I went down again. After that warning he
would hardly dare to go out to-morrow--but what did he want to get
Maggie out under my window for, and fool with her there at the top of
his voice? Why didn't he go back home again, if the letter really asked
him, instead of going about as he often did, clenching his teeth and
shouting at the empty air: "Never, never! I'll be drawn and quartered
But the morning after I had warned him, as I said, there was Glahn the
same as ever, standing by my bed, calling out:
"Up with you, comrade! It's a lovely day; we must go out and shoot
something. That was all nonsense you said yesterday."
It was no more than four o'clock, but I got up at once and got ready to
go with him, in spite of my warning. I loaded my gun before starting
out, and I let him see that I did. And it was not at all a lovely day,
as he had said; it was raining, which showed that he was only trying to
irritate me the more. But I took no notice, and went with him, saying
All that day we wandered round through the forest, each lost in his own
thoughts. We shot nothing--lost one chance after another, through
thinking of other things than sport. About noon, Glahn began walking a
bit ahead of me, as if to give me a better chance of doing what I liked
with him. He walked right across the muzzle of my gun; but I bore with
that too. We came back that evening. Nothing had happened. I thought to
myself: "Perhaps he'll be more careful now, and leave Maggie alone."
"This has been the longest day of my life," said Glahn when we got back
to the hut.
Nothing more was said on either side.
The next few days he was in the blackest humor, seemingly all about the
same letter. "I can't stand it; no, it's more than I can bear," he would
say sometimes in the night; we could hear it all through the hut. His
ill temper carried him so far that he would not even answer the most
friendly questions when our landlady spoke to him; and he used to groan
in his sleep. He must have a deal on his conscience, I thought--but why
in the name of goodness didn't he go home? Just pride, no doubt; he
would not go back when he had been turned off once.
I met Maggie every evening, and Glahn talked with her no more. I noticed
that she had given up chewing things altogether; she never chewed now. I
was pleased at that, and thought: She's given up chewing things; that is
one failing the less, and I love her twice as much as I did before!
One day she asked about Glahn--asked very cautiously. Was he not well?
Had he gone away?
"If he's not dead, or gone away," I said, "he's lying at home, no doubt.
It's all one to me. He's beyond all bearing now."
But just then, coming up to the hut, we saw Glahn lying on a mat on the
ground, hands at the back of his neck, staring up at the sky.
"There he is," I said.
Maggie went straight up to him, before I could stop her, and said in a
pleased sort of voice:
"I don't chew things now--nothing at all. No feathers or money or bits
of paper--you can see for yourself."
Glahn scarcely looked at her. He lay still. Maggie and I went on. When
I reproached her with having broken her promise and spoken to Glahn
again, she answered that she had only meant to show him he was wrong.
"That's right--show him he's wrong," I said. "But do you mean it was
for his sake you stopped chewing things?"
She didn't answer. What, wouldn't she answer?
"Do you hear? Tell me, was it for his sake?"
And I could not think otherwise. Why should she do anything for Glahn's
That evening Maggie promised to come to me, and she did.
She came at ten o'clock. I heard her voice outside; she was talking
loud to a child whom she led by the hand. Why did she not come in, and
what had she brought the child for? I watched her, and it struck me that
she was giving a signal by talking out loud to the child; I noticed,
too, that she kept her eyes fixed on the attic--on Glahn's window up
there. Had he nodded to her, I wondered, or beckoned to her from inside
when he heard her talking outside? Anyhow, I had sense enough myself to
know there was no need to look up aloft when talking to a child on the
I was going out to take her by the arm. But just then she let go the
child's hand, left the child standing there, and came in herself,
through the door to the hut. She stepped into the passage. Well, there
she was at last; I would take care to give her a good talking to when
Well, I stood there and heard Maggie step into the passage. There was no
mistake: she was close outside my door. But instead of coming in to me,
I heard her step up the ladder--up to the attic--to Glahn's hole up
there. I heard it only too well. I threw my door open wide, but Maggie
had gone up already. That was ten o'clock.
I went in, sat down in my room, and took my gun and loaded it. At twelve
o'clock I went up the ladder and listened at Glahn's door. I could hear
Maggie in there; I went down again. At one I went up again; all was
quiet this time. I waited outside the door. Three o'clock, four o'clock,
five. Good, I thought to myself. But a little after, I heard a noise and
movement below in the hut, in my landlady's room; and I had to go down
again quickly, so as not to let her find me there. I might have
listened much more, but I had to go.
In the passage I said to myself: "See, here she went: she must have
touched my door with her arm as she passed, but she did not open the
door: she went up the ladder, and here is the ladder itself--those four
steps, she has trodden them."
My bed still lay untouched, and I did not lie down now, but sat by the
window, fingering my rifle now and again. My heart was not beating--it
Half an hour later I heard Maggie's footstep on the ladder again. I lay
close up to the window and saw her walk out of the hut. She was wearing
her little short cotton petticoat, that did not even reach to her knees,
and over her shoulders a woolen scarf borrowed from Glahn. She walked
slowly, as she always did, and did not so much as glance towards my
window. Then she disappeared behind the huts.
A little after came Glahn, with his rifle under his arm, all ready to go
out. He looked gloomy, and did not even say good-morning. I noticed,
though, that he had got himself up and taken special care about his
I got ready at once and went with him. Neither of us said a word. The
first two birds we shot were mangled horribly, through shooting them
with the rifle; but we cooked them under a tree as best we could, and
ate in silence. So the day wore on till noon.
Glahn called out to me:
"Sure your gun is loaded? We might come across something unexpectedly.
Load it, anyhow."
"It is loaded," I answered.
Then he disappeared a moment into the bush. I felt it would be a
pleasure to shoot him then--pick him off and shoot him down like a dog.
There was no hurry; he could still enjoy the thought of it for a bit. He
knew well enough what I had in mind: that was why he had asked if my gun
were loaded. Even to-day he could not refrain from giving way to his
beastly pride. He had dressed himself up and put on a new shirt; his
manner was, lordly beyond all bounds.
About one o'clock he stopped, pale and angry, in front of me, and said:
"I can't stand this! Look and see if you're loaded, man--if you've
anything in your gun."
"Kindly look after your own gun," I answered. But I knew well enough
why he kept asking about mine.
And he turned away again. My answer had so effectively put him in his
place that he actually seemed cowed: he even hung his head as he walked
After a while I shot a pigeon, and loaded again. While I was doing so,
I caught sight of Glahn standing half hidden behind a tree, watching me
to see if I really loaded. A little later he started singing a hymn--and
a wedding hymn into the bargain. Singing wedding hymns, and putting on
his best clothes, I thought to myself--that's his way of being extra
fascinating to-day. Even before he had finished the hymn he began
walking softly in front of me, hanging his head, and still singing as he
walked. He was keeping right in front of the muzzle of my gun again, as
if thinking to himself: Now it is coming, and that is why I am singing
this wedding hymn! But it did not come yet, and when he had finished his
singing he had to look back at me.
"We shan't get much to-day anyhow, by the look of it," he said, with a
smile, as if excusing himself, and asking pardon of me for singing while
we were out after game. But even at that moment his smile was beautiful.
It was as if he were weeping inwardly, and his lips trembled, too, for
all that he boasted of being able to smile at such a solemn moment.
I was no woman, and he saw well enough that he made no impression on me.
He grew impatient, his face paled, he circled round me with hasty steps,
showing up now to the left, now to the right of me, and stopping every
now and then to wait for me to come up.
About five, I heard a shot all of a sudden, and a bullet sang past my
left ear. I looked up. There was Glahn standing motionless a few paces
off, staring at me; his smoking rifle lay along his arm. Had he tried to
shoot me? I said:
"You missed that time. You've been shooting badly of late."
But he had not been shooting badly. He never missed. He had only been
trying to irritate me.
"Then take your revenge, damn you!" he shouted back.
"All in good time," I said, clenching my teeth.
We stood there looking at each other. And suddenly Glahn shrugged his
shoulders and called out "Coward" to me. And why should he call me a
coward? I threw my rifle to my shoulder--aimed full in his face--fired.
As a man soweth...
Now, there is no need, I insist, for the Glahns to make further
inquiry about this man. It annoys me to be constantly seeing their
advertisements offering such and such reward for information about a
dead man. Thomas Glahn was killed by accident--shot by accident when
out on a hunting trip in India. The court entered his name, with the
particulars of his end, in a register with pierced and threaded
leaves. And in that register it says that he is dead--_dead_, I tell
you--and what is more, that he was killed by accident.