Part 6 out of 7
on his feet. These last were his old watertight boots--those in which
Pelle had left Stone Farm. They were still in existence, but had been
cut down to form house-slippers. The legs of them now formed part of a
pair of clogs.
Lasse was happiest with the children, and he looked quite an aged
grandfather now, with his wrinkled face and his kind glance, which was
now a little weak-sighted. When Young Lasse hid himself in the opposite
corner of the room Father Lasse could not see him, and the young rascal
took advantage of the fact; he could never understand those eyes, which
could not see farther than across the table, and was always asking
questions about them.
"It's because I have seen too much misery in my life," the old man would
Otherwise he was quite overflowing with happiness, and his old worn-out
body manifested its gratitude, for he began to put on flesh again; and
his cheeks had soon grown quite full. He had a peculiar knack for
looking after the children; Pelle and Ellen could feel quite easy as
they went about their multitudinous affairs. There were a hundred things
that had to be seen to before they could move into the new home. They
thought of raising a loan of a few hundred kroner. "Father will go
security for us," said Ellen.
"Yes, then I should have the means of taking proper drawing-lessons,"
said Pelle; "I particularly need to get thoroughly grounded."
* * * * *
On Saturday the term of the old tariff expired. The temper of the
workers was badly strained, but each completed his work, and contained
himself and waited. At noon the foreman went round asking each man for
his answer. They refused all information, as agreed, but in the
afternoon three men formed a deputation and entered the office, asking
if they could speak with the manager. As he entered Munck, the engine-
driver, stepped forward as spokesman, and began: "We have come in the
name of our comrades." He could get no further; the manager let fly at
him, pointing to the stairs, and crying, "I don't argue with my work-
So they went down again. The men stared up at them--this was quick work!
The burly Munck moved his lips, as though he were speaking, but no one
could hear a word on account of the frightful din of the machinery. With
a firm stride he went through the shop, picked up a hammer, and struck
three blows on the great steel gong. They sounded like the stroke of
doom, booming through the whole factory. At the same moment the man's
naked, blackened arms were lifted to strike the belts from the live
pulleys. The machinery ceased running, and the roar of it died away; it
was as still as though Death had passed through the workshop. The dense
network of belts that crossed the shop in all directions quivered and
hung slack; the silence yawned horribly in the great room.
The foremen ran from bench to bench, shouting and hardly knowing what to
do. Word was sent to the office, while the workers went to their buckets
and washed themselves, silent and melancholy as a funeral procession.
Their faces were uncommunicative. Did they perhaps foresee that those
three blows were the signal for a terrible conflict? Or were they merely
following their first angry impulse? They knew enough, at all events; it
was stamped upon their faces that this was fate--the inevitable. They
had summoned the winter because they were driven to it, and the winter
would return once more to ravage his victims.
They reappeared, washed and clean, each with his bundle under his arm,
and stood in silence waiting their turn to be paid. The foreman ran to
and fro apportioning the wages with nervous hands, comparing time-sheets
and reckoning the sum due to each. The manager came down the stairs of
his office, proud and unapproachable, and walked through the shop; the
workers made way for him. He looked sharply around him, as though he
would imprint the likeness of every individual worker on his mind, laid
his hand on the shoulder of one of the foremen, and said in a loud
voice, so that all heard him, "Make haste, now, Jacobsen, so that we can
be rid of these fellows quickly!" The workers slowly turned their
serious faces toward him, and here and there a fist was clenched. They
left the factory one by one, as soon as they were paid.
Outside they gathered in little groups, and relieved their feelings by
giving vent to significant exclamations. "Did you see the old man? He
was savage, he was; he'll hold out quite a while before we get back
Pelle was in a curious frame of mind; he knew that now the fight had
begun; first blood had been drawn, and one blow would follow on another.
Young Lasse, who heard his step on the stairs, ran into his arms as he
reached home; but Pelle did not notice him.
"You are so solemn!" said Ellen, "has anything happened?" He told her
"Good God!" she cried, shuddering. "Now the unemployment will begin all
over again! Thank God it doesn't affect us!" Pelle did not reply. He sat
down in silence to his supper; sat hanging his head as though ashamed of
A most agitating time followed. For a number of years the conflict had,
so to speak, been preparing itself, and the workers had made ready for
it, had longed for it, had sought to precipitate it, in order to
determine once for all whether they were destined always to be slaves
and to stand still, or whether there was a future for them. Now the
conflict had come--and had taken them all by surprise; they would
willingly have concluded peace just now.
But there was no prospect of a peaceful solution of any kind. The
employers found the occasion favorable for setting their house in order;
the matter was to be fought out now! This was as good as telling the men
to go. Every morning there was news of a fresh lot of workers turned
into the streets, or leaving of their own accord.
One trade involved another. The iron-masters made common cause with the
"Denmark" factory, and declared a lock-out of the machine-smiths; then
the moulders and pattern-makers walked out, and other branches of the
industry joined the strike; they all stood by one another.
Pelle could survey them all from his point of vantage. Old memories of
battle rose to his mind; his blood grew warm, and he caught himself, up
in the drawing-office, making plans of campaign for this trade or that.
His was the quick-fighting blood that assumes the offensive, and he
noted their blunders; they were not acting with sufficient energy. They
were still exhausted, and found it hard to reconcile themselves to
another period of unemployment. They made no counter-attack that could
do any damage. The employers, who were acting energetically under the
leadership of the iron industry, enjoyed from the beginning a
considerable ascendancy. The "Denmark" factory was kept running, but the
trade was on its last legs.
It was kept alive by the help of a few strike-breakers, and every one of
the officials of the company who had the requisite knowledge was set to
work downstairs; even the manager of the machine department had donned a
blouse and was working a lathe. It was a matter of sapping the courage
of the strikers, while proving to them that it was possible to do
In the drawing-office and the counting-house all was confusion; the
strike-breakers had all to be obtained from abroad; while others ran
away and had to be replaced. Under these circumstances Pelle had to look
after himself and assimilate what he could. This did not suit him; it
was a long way to the top, and one couldn't learn quickly enough.
One day he received the summons to come downstairs and lend a hand in
the centrifugal separator department. The workers had made common cause
with the machine-smiths. This summons aroused him from delightful dreams
of the future. He was swiftly awakened. "I am no strike-breaker!" he
Then the engineer himself came up. "Do you realize that you are refusing
to perform your duty?" he said.
"I can't take work away from my comrades," replied Pelle, in a low
"They may think that very nice of you. But now those men down there are
no longer your comrades. You are a salaried employee, and as such you
must serve the firm wherever you are asked to do so."
"But I can't do that! I can't strike the bread out of other folks'
"Then your whole future is at stake. Think a moment, man! I am sorry for
you, for you might have done something here; but I can't save you from
the results of your own obstinacy. We require absolute obedience here."
The engineer stood waiting for his answer, but Pelle had nothing to say.
"Now, I'll go so far as to give you till to-morrow to think over it--
although that's against the rules of the factory. Now think it over
well, and don't hang on to this stupid sentimentality of yours. The
first thing is to stand by those you belong to, through thick and thin.
Well, till to-morrow."
Pelle went. He did not want to go home before the usual time, only to be
met with a string of unseasonable questions. They would come soon enough
in any case. So he strolled through the mercantile quarter and gazed at
the shipping. Well, now his dream of success was shattered--and it had
been a short one. He could see Ellen's look of disappointment, and an
utter mental depression came over him. He was chiefly sorry for her; as
for him, there was nothing to be said--it was fate! It never occurred to
him for a moment to choose between his comrades and the future; he had
quite forgotten that the engineer had given him time for reflection.
At the usual time he strolled homeward. Ellen welcomed him cheerfully
and light-heartedly; she was living in a continual thrill of delight;
and it was quite touching to see what trouble she was taking to fit
herself for a different stratum of society. Her movements were
delightful to watch, and her mouth had assumed an expression which was
intended to betoken refinement. It suited her delightfully, and Pelle
was always seized by a desire to kiss her lips and so disarrange the
expression; but to-day he sat down to his supper in silence. Ellen was
accustomed to put aside his share of the midday dinner, and to warm it
up for him when he came home in the evening; at midday he ate bread-and-
butter in the office.
"When we have once got properly settled we'll all have dinner at six
o'clock; that is much more comfortable."
"That's what the fine folks do, I've been told," said Lasse. "That will
be pleasant, to give it a try."
Lasse was sitting with Young Lasse on his knee, telling him funny
stories. Little Lasse laughed, and every time he laughed his sister
screeched with delight in her cradle, as though she understood it all.
"What is it to be now, then--the story of the old wife? Then you must
listen carefully, or your ears won't grow! Well, then, the old wife."
"Wife!" said Young Lasse, with the very accent of the old man.
"Yes, the old wife!" repeated Lasse, and then all three laughed.
"'What shall I do first?' said the old wife, when she went to work; 'eat
or sleep? I think I'll eat first. What shall I do first?' asked the old
wife, when she had eaten; 'shall I sleep first or work? I think I'll
sleep first.' And then she slept, until it was evening, and then she
went home and went to bed."
Ellen went up to Pelle and laid her hand on his shoulder.
"I've been to see my former mistress, and she is going to help me to
turn my wedding-dress into a visiting-dress," she said. "Then we shall
only need to buy a frock-coat for you."
Pelle looked up slowly. A quiver passed over his features. Poor thing!
She was thinking about visiting-dresses! "You can save yourself the
trouble," he said, in a low voice. "I've finished with the office. They
asked me to turn strike-breaker, so I left."
"Ach, ach!" said Lasse, and he was near letting the child fall, his
withered hands were trembling so. Ellen gazed at Pelle as though turned
to stone. She grew paler and paler, but not a sound came from her lips.
She looked as though she would fall dead at his feet.
Pelle was once more among his own people; he did not regret that fortune
had withdrawn her promise; at heart he was glad. After all, this was
where he belonged. He had played a great part in the great revolt--was
he to be excluded from the battle?
The leaders welcomed him. No one could draw the people as he could, when
it came to that; the sight of him inspired them with a cheerful faith,
and gave them endurance, and a fearless pugnacity. And he was so
skilled, too, in making plans!
The first thing every morning he made his way to the lock-out office,
whence the whole campaign was directed; here all the many threads ran
together. The situation for the moment was considered, men who had
precise knowledge of the enemy's weak points were called together, in
order to give information, and a comprehensive plan of campaign was
devised. At secret meetings, to which trustworthy members of the various
trades were invited, all sorts of material for offence was collected--
for the attack upon the employers, and for carrying on the newspaper
agitation. It was a question of striking at the blood-suckers, and those
who were loose in the saddle! There were trades which the employers kept
going for local reasons--these must be hunted out and brought to a
standstill, even at the cost of increasing unemployment. They were
making energetic preparations for war, and it was not the time to be
squeamish about their weapons. Pelle was in his element. This was
something better than ruining a single shoemaker, even if he was the
biggest in the city! He was rich in ideas, and never wavered in carrying
them into execution. Warfare was warfare!
This was the attacking side; but, permeated as he was by a sense of
community, he saw clearly that the real battle was for maintenance. The
utmost foresight and widely comprehensive instructions were required if
the masses were to last out the campaign; in the long run it would be a
question of endurance! Foreign strike-breakers had to be kept at a
distance by prompt communications to the party newspapers of the
different countries, and by the setting of pickets in the railway
stations and on the steamers. For the first time the workers took the
telegraph into their own service. The number of the foreign
strikebreakers must by every possible means be kept down, and in the
first place supplies must be assured, so that the unemployed masses
could keep famine at bay.
In a vision, Pelle had beheld the natural solidarity of the workers
extended over the whole earth, and now this vision was of service to
him. The leaders issued a powerful manifesto to the workers of Denmark;
pointing to the abyss from which they had climbed and to the pinnacles
of light toward which they were striving upward; and warning them, in
impressive phrases, to stand firm and to hold together. A statement as
to the origin of the lock-out and the intention which lay behind it was
printed and distributed throughout the country, with appeal for
assistance and support, in the name of freedom! And by means of appeals
to the labor parties of foreign countries they reminded the people of
the vast solidarity of labor. It was a huge machine to set in motion;
federation had increased from one small trade union until it
comprehended the whole kingdom, and now they were striving to comprehend
the laboring populations of the whole world, in order to win them over
as confederates in the campaign. And men who had risen from the masses
and were still sharing the same conditions, were managing all this! They
had kept step with the rapid growth of the movement, and they were still
The feeling that they were well prepared inspired them with courage and
the prospect of a favorable result. From the country offers of
employment for the locked-out workers daily reached the central office.
Money was sent too--and assistance in the form of provisions; and many
families outside the capital offered to take in the children of
unemployed parents. Remittances of money came from abroad, and the
liberal circles of the capital sympathized with the workers; and in the
workers' quarter of the city shopkeepers and publicans began to collect
for the Federation.
The workers displayed an extraordinary readiness to undergo sacrifices.
Books of coupons were circulated everywhere in the workshops, and
thousands of workers gave each week a fourth part of their modest wages.
The locked-out workers left their work with magnificent courage; the
sense of community made them heroic. Destitute though they were as a
result of the hard winter, they agreed, during the first two weeks, to
do without assistance. Many of them spared the treasury altogether,
helping themselves as well as they could, seeking a little private
employment, or going out into the country to work on the land. The young
unmarried men went abroad.
The employers did what they could to cope with all these shifts. They
forbade the merchants and contractors to supply those who worked at home
on their own account with materials for their work; and secret agents
were despatched all over the country to the small employers and the
farmers, in order to prejudice them against the locked-out workers; and
the frontier of the country was covered with placards.
Their intention was obvious enough--an iron ring was to be drawn round
the workers, and once imprisoned therein they could do nothing but keep
starvation at bay until they had had enough, and surrendered. This
knowledge increased their resistance. They were lean with wandering
through the wilderness, but they were just in the mood for a fight. Many
of them had not until now understood the entire bearings of the
campaign; the new ideas had been stirring within them, but in a
fragmentary and isolated condition--as an expression of a dumb feeling
that the promised land was at hand at last. Often it was just one single
word that had fixed itself in their minds, and had to serve to express
the whole position. Any one might approach them with plausible arguments
and strike it from under them, and shatter the theory to which they had
clung; but faith itself remained, and the far-reaching concord; deep in
their hearts was the dim, immovable knowledge that they were chosen to
enter into the time of promise.
And now everything was gradually becoming plain to them. The battle shed
light both backward and forward. It illumined their existence in all its
harshness. Life was the same as it had always been, but now it was
revealed so plainly that all could see it. All the many whips and scorns
of life had been bound together in one vast scourge--the scourge of
famine--which was to drive them back into the midst of poverty! Want was
to be set upon them in its compactest form! This was the last, most
extreme weapon; it confirmed them in the certainty that they were now on
the right track, and near the goal. The night was always darkest before
the break of day!
There were all sorts of things that they could understand now. People
used to go about saying that the Germans were the hereditary enemy, and
that the Fatherland was taking the lead of all other countries. But now
the employers were sending to Germany for troops of hirelings, and were
employing them to drive their own countrymen into a state of poverty.
All that talk about patriotic feeling had been only fine words! There
were only two nations--the oppressors and the oppressed!
That was how things appeared on closer inspection! One could never be
very sure of what those above one told one--and yet all teaching came
from them! A brave lot the clergy were--they knew very well which master
they had to serve! No, the people ought to have had their own schools,
where the children would learn the new ideas instead of religion and
patriotism! Then there would long ago have been an end of the curse of
poverty! So they profited by the campaign and their compulsory idleness
in order to think things over, and to endeavor to solve all manner of
The specter of hunger presently began to go from house to house, but the
result was not what was expected; it awakened only hatred and defiance.
It was precisely in this direction that they were invincible! In the
course of time they had learned to suffer--they had learned nothing more
thoroughly; and this came to their help now. They had an inexhaustible
fund to draw upon, from which they could derive their strength to
resist; they were not to be defeated. Weren't they nearly ready to
surrender? Very well--another thousand workers on the streets! But the
distress, to all appearance, became no greater than before; they had
learned to endure their privations in decency--that was their share in
the increasing culture. One saw no obtrusive signs of want; they
compromised with it in secret, and appeared full of courage. This
weakened the faith of their opponents in the infallible nature of their
They even adopted hunger as their own weapon, boycotting the employers
and their dependents, striking the enemy a blow they were familiar with!
Many a great employer's door was marked with a cross, and all behind it
were doomed to ruin.
It was as though the courage of the people increased in proportion as
famine threatened them more closely. No one could tell how long this
would last; but they would make hay as long as the sun shone! Their
clothes were still tidy, and in the early spring there were many
excursions; the people went forth singing, with banners at their head,
and singing they came home.
This was the first time they had ever enjoyed their freedom, although
there was work enough to be done--it was their first holiday! As they
held the whip hand through their purchasing capacity, they boycotted all
the business concerns of their own quarter which did not array
themselves on the side of the workers. Their hatred was aroused; it was
"for us or against us"; all must declare themselves by taking sides. The
small shopkeepers concealed their convictions--if they had any--and
rivalled one another in friendliness toward the workers. On their
counters lay books of coupons for those who would contribute to the
funds, and some of them gave a percentage of their own takings. There
was plenty of time to keep a strict eye on such; the people's hatred was
aroused at last, and it grew more and more bitter.
The leaders held back and counselled prudence. But there was something
intoxicating in this battle for bare life--and for happiness! Something
that went to the head and tempted them to hazard all on the cast of the
dice. The leaders had given great attention to the problem of
restricting the number of idle hands--it was difficult for them to
procure sufficient funds. But those workers who still had work to do
forsook it, in order to join themselves, in blind solidarity, to their
locked-out comrades. They thought it was required of them!
One day the masons made an unexpected demand that an hour should be
struck off the day's work. They received a refusal. But that evening
they knocked off at six instead of seven. The men were unreasonable: to
demand shorter hours in the slack season following on a hard winter!
This move took the leaders by surprise. They feared that it might
diminish the general sympathy for the workers. It surprised them
particularly that the prudent and experienced Stolpe had not opposed
this demand. As president of the organization for many years, he had
great influence over the men; he must try to persuade them to go to work
again. Pelle opened negotiations with him.
"That is not my business," Stolpe replied. "I did not propose the
cessation of work, but at the general meeting the majority was in favor
of it--and with that there's no more to be said. I don't oppose my
"But that's perverse of you," said Pelle. "You are the responsible
person, and your trade has the most favorable conditions of labor--and
you ought to remember the conflict in which we are engaged."
"Yes, the conflict! Of course we thought of it. And you are right, I
have a good and comfortable home, because my craft is in a good
position; and we masons have obtained good conditions, and we earn good
money. But are we to enjoy ourselves and look on while the others are
fighting for dry bread? No, we are with them when it comes to a fight!"
"But the support you were giving--it was ten thousand kroner a week, and
now we shall have to do without it! Your action may have incalculable
consequences for us. You must put an end to this, father-in-law! You
must see that the majority doesn't have its way."
"That would be diplomatic, wouldn't it? But you seem anxious to side
with our opponents! We hold the suffrage in honor, and it is the
suffrage that is to reform society. If once one begins to meddle with
"But that isn't necessary in the least! The people aren't really clear
as to what they are doing--you can't expect any quickness of perception
from them! You could demand a fresh vote--if I could first have a talk
with them about the campaign!"
"So you think we couldn't see what we were doing!" replied Stolpe, much
offended. "But we can accept the consequences--we can do that! And you
want to get up on the platform and talk them silly, and then they are to
vote the other way round! No, no nonsense here! They voted according to
their convictions--and with that the matter's settled, whether it's
right or wrong! It won't be altered!"
Pelle had to give in; the old man was not to be moved from his point of
view. The masons increased the unemployed by a few thousand men.
The employers profited by this aggression, which represented them to the
public in a favorable aspect, in order to strike a decisive blow. The
universal lock-out was declared.
At home matters were going badly with Pelle. They had not yet recovered
from the winter when he was drawn into the conflict; and the
preparations for his new position had plunged them into debt. Pelle
received the same relief as the other locked-out workers--ten to twelve
kroner a week--and out of this Ellen had to provide them with food and
firing. She thought he ought, as leader, to receive more than the
others, but Pelle did not wish to enjoy other conditions than those
allotted to the rest.
When he came home, thoroughly exhausted after his strenuous day, he was
met by Ellen's questioning eyes. She said nothing, but her eyes
obstinately repeated the same question day after day. It was as though
they asked him: "Well, have you found employment?" This irritated him,
for she knew perfectly well that he was not looking for work, that there
was none to look for. She knew what the situation was as well as he did,
but she persistently behaved as though she knew nothing of all that he
and his comrades were endeavoring to achieve, and when he turned the
conversation on to that subject she preserved a stubborn silence; she
did not wish to hear anything about it.
When the heat of battle rose to Pelle's head, there was no one with whom
he would rather have shared his opinions and his plans of campaign. In
other directions she had urged him on, and he had felt this as a
confirmation and augmentation of his own being; but now she was silent.
She had him and her home and the children, and all else besides was
nothing to her. She had shared the privations of the winter with him and
had done so cheerfully; they were undeserved. But now he could get work
whenever he wished. She had resumed her dumb opposition, and this had an
oppressive effect upon him; it took something from the joy of battle.
When he reached home and related what had been said and done during the
day, he addressed himself to Lasse. She moved about the home immersed in
her own cares, as though she were dumb; and she would suddenly interrupt
his conversation with the statement that this or that was lacking. So he
weaned himself from his communicative habits, and carried on all his
work away from home. If there was writing to be done, or if he had
negotiations to accomplish, he selected some tavern where he would be
free of her constraining presence. He avoided telling her of his post of
confidence, and although she could not help hearing about it when away
from home she behaved as if she knew nothing. For her he was still
merely Pelle the working-man, who shirked supporting his wife and
children. This obstinate attitude pained him; and the bitterness of his
home life made him throw himself with greater energy into the struggle.
He became a hard and dangerous opponent.
Lasse used to gaze at them unhappily. He would willingly have
intervened, but he did not know how to set about it; and he felt himself
superfluous. Every day he donned his old clothes and went out in order
to offer his services as casual laborer, but there were plenty of idle
hands younger than his. And he was afraid of obtaining employment that
might take the bread out of other folks' mouths. He could not understand
the campaign, and he found it difficult to understand what was forbidden
ground; but for Pelle he felt an unconditional respect. If the lad said
this or the other, then it was right; even if one had to go hungry for
it--the lad was appointed to some special end.
One day he silently left the house; Pelle scarcely noticed it, so
absorbed was he. "He must have gone back to the old clothes woman at the
'Ark,'" he thought; "it's by no means amusing here."
Pelle had charge of the external part of the campaign; he knew nothing
of bookkeeping or administration, but simply threw himself into the
fight. Even as a child of eight he had been faced with the problem of
mastering life by his own means, and he had accomplished it, and this he
profited by now. He enjoyed the confidence of the masses; his speech
sounded natural to them, so that they believed in him even when they did
not understand him. If there was any one who did not wish to follow
where Pelle led, he had to go just the same; there was no time just now
for lengthy argument; where civil words didn't answer he took more
The campaign consisted in the first place of the federation of the
masses, and Pelle was continually away from home; wherever anything was
afoot, there he put in an appearance. He had inaugurated a huge parade,
every morning all the locked-out workers reported themselves at various
stations in the city, and there the roll was called, every worker being
entered according to his Union. By means of this vast daily roll-call of
nearly forty thousand men it was possible to discover which of them had
deserted in order to act as strike-breakers. A few were always absent,
and those who had a good excuse had to establish it in order to draw
their strike-pay. Pelle was now here, now there, and always unexpected,
acting on impulse as he did. "Lightning Pelle," they called him, on
account of the suddenness of his movements. His actions were not based
upon long deliberations; nevertheless, he had a radical comprehension of
the entire movement; one thing grew out of another, naturally, until the
whole was more than any conscious intelligence could comprehend. And
Pelle grew with it, and by virtue of his impulsiveness was a summary of
There was plenty to be done; at the roll-call all those who failed to
attend had to be entered, and those who knew anything about them must
give information. This man had gone abroad; that one had gone into the
country, to look for work; so far, so good. If any fell away and acted
as strike-breaker, instructions were immediately given for his
punishment. In this way Pelle kept the ranks closed. There were many
weak elements among them--degenerate, ignorant fellows who didn't
understand the importance of the movement, but a strong controlling hand
and unfailing justice made it a serious matter for them to break away.
At the outset he had organized with Stolpe's assistance a large body of
the best workers as pickets or watchmen. These were zealous, fanatical
members of the various trades, who had taken part in the organization of
their own professional organization, and knew every individual member
thereof. They stationed themselves early in the morning in the
neighborhood of the various places of employment, marking those who went
to work there and doing their best to prevent them. They were in
constant conflict with the police, who put every possible obstacle in
Morten he met repeatedly. Privation had called him out of his
retirement. He did not believe that the campaign would lead to better
conditions, and on that account he took no part in it. But want he knew
as did no other; his insight in that direction was mysteriously keen.
The distribution of relief in the form of provisions could not have been
entrusted to better hands. He superintended the whole business of
distribution, but what he liked best was to stand, knife in hand,
cutting up pork for the families of locked-out workers. The portions
were strictly weighed; none the less, the women always thronged about
him. There was a blessing in that faint smile of his--they felt sure
his portions were the biggest!
Morten and Pelle were in disagreement on almost every point. Even now,
when everything depended on a strict cohesion, Morten could never be
trusted to behave with severity. "Remember, they aren't of age yet," he
would say continually. And it could not be gainsaid that there were many
to whom the conflict was unintelligible--they understood nothing of it,
although otherwise they were thoughtful and intelligent enough. These
were mostly people who had come in from the provinces at a somewhat
advanced age; indeed some had been small employers there. For them
trades unionism was a sort of lynch law, and they profited by the strike
in all simplicity in order to obtain well-paid employment. When they
were reviled as strikebreakers or "gentlemen," they laughed like little
children who are threatened with a revolver. Slow-witted as they were,
in this respect, they took the consequences to heart, although they
could not see the reason for them. These must be compelled to obey.
The iron industry was doing its utmost to keep going, as a trade which
must fulfill its contracted engagements, under penalty of seeing the
business fall into foreign hands. This industry had if possible to be
disabled. The pickets were at work, and _The Working Man_ published
the names and addresses of the strike-breakers. When these left the
factory they encountered a crowd of people who treated them with scorn
and contempt; they had to be escorted by the police. But the resentment
aroused by their treachery followed them home even to the barracks they
lived in. The wives and children of the locked-out workers resumed the
battle and carried on hostilities against the families of the strike-
breakers, so that they had to move. One saw them of a night, with all
their possessions on a handcart, trudging away to seek a new home under
cover of the darkness. But the day revealed them, and again they were
fugitives, until the police took them in hand and found lodging for
One day a large factory by the North Bridge resumed operations with the
help of foreign labor and strike-breakers. Pelle set to work to prepare
a warm reception for the workers when they went homeward, but in the
course of the day a policeman who was friendly to the workers tipped him
the wink that two hundred police would be concealed in a neighboring
school, ready for the workers' departure.
In the afternoon people began to collect--unemployed workers, poor
women, and children. They came early, for it well might be that the
workers would be released an hour before their time, in order to avoid a
clash, and they were missing nothing by waiting there. Finally several
thousand people stood before the gates of the factory, and the police
were moving to and fro through the crowd, which stood many men deep, but
they had to give up the effort to drive them asunder. The street urchins
began to make an uproar, and to egg the watchers on. They felt the need
of warming themselves a little, so they gradually began to bait the
"Hullo, there!" suddenly shouted a mighty voice. "In the school over
there are two hundred police, waiting for us to make a disturbance, so
that they can come and use their truncheons on us. Hadn't we better
leave them where they are? I think it's quite as well they should go
back to school for a time!" "Hurrah!" they cried. "Hurrah! Long live
'Lightning'!" A movement went through the crowd. "That's Pelle!" The
whisper passed from mouth to mouth, and the women stood on tiptoe to see
Pelle and Stolpe were standing against a wall, surrounded by a few dozen
pickets. The police went up to them and reprimanded them. They had
orders to hinder the picketing, but they had no desire to meddle with
Pelle. They lived in the workers' quarter, were at home there, and a
word from him would make the city impossible for them.
The usual time for stopping work came round, but the workers were not
released from the factory. The crowd used its wits to keep itself warm;
punning remarks concerning strike-breakers and capitalists buzzed
through the air. But suddenly an alarm ran through the crowd. The street
urchins, who are always the first to know everything, were whistling
between their fingers and running down the side streets. Then the crowd
began to move, and the police followed at a quick march, keeping to the
middle of the street. The factory had discharged the workers by a back
door. They were moving down Guldberg Street by now, disheartened and
with never a glance behind them, while a whole escort of police
accompanied them. They were soon overtaken and brought home to the
accompaniment of a sinister concert, which now and again was interrupted
by cries of, "Three cheers for the gentlemen!"
The pickets walked in a long file, close to the procession, zealously
occupied in noting each individual worker, while Pelle moved in the
midst of the crowd, endeavoring to prevent over-hasty action. There was
need to be careful. Several men were still in prison because during the
winter they had come to blows with the strike-breakers, and the police
had received stringent orders from the authorities. The press of the
propertied classes was daily calling for stricter measures, demanding
that every meeting in the streets, and especially before the gates of a
factory, should be broken up by the police.
Now and then a strike-breaker parted from the squad and ran into the
door of his dwelling, followed by a long whistle.
Among the workers was a solitary, elderly man, still powerful, whom
Pelle recognized. He kept at the extreme edge of the police, walking
heavily, with bowed head, along the pavement close to the houses. His
hair was quite gray, and his gait was almost crippled. This was Mason
Hansen, Stolpe's old comrade and fellow-unionist, whom Pelle had
interviewed in the winter, in the hope of persuading him to refrain from
"It's going badly with him," thought Pelle, involuntarily keeping his
eyes on him. The results of strike-breaking had dealt hardly with him.
By St. Hans Street he turned the corner, winking at the policeman who
was about to follow him, and went down the street alone, looking neither
to right nor left, embarrassed, and with hanging head. Every time a
child cried aloud, he started. Then he stood as though riveted to the
ground, for in front of his door a heap of poverty-stricken household
goods lay in the gutter. A crowd of gaping children stood round the
heap, and in the midst of the group stood a youngish woman, with four
children, who were keeping tearful watch over the heap of trash. The man
pressed through the crowd and exchanged a few words with the woman, then
clenched his fists and shook them threateningly at the tenement house.
Pelle went up to him. "Things aren't going well with you, comrade," he
said, laying his hand on the other's shoulder. "And you are much too
good for what you are doing. You had better come with me and re-enter
The man slowly turned his head. "Oh, it's you!" he said, shaking Pelle's
hand away with a jerk. "And you seem as cool and impudent as ever.
Poverty hasn't dealt hardly with you! It's not at all a bad business,
growing fat on the pence of the workers, eh?"
Pelle grew crimson with anger, but he controlled himself. "Your insults
don't hurt me," he said. "I have gone hungry for the Cause while you
have been playing the turncoat. But that will be forgotten if you'll
come with me."
The man laughed bitterly, pointing at the tenement-house. "You'd better
go and give them a medal. Three months now they've tormented me and made
hell hot for my wife and children, in order to drive us away. And as
that didn't answer, they went to the landlord and forced him to give me
notice. But Hansen is obstinate--he wouldn't be shown the door. So now
they've got the bailiffs to turn me out, see?" He gave a hollow laugh.
"But these few sticks, why, we can soon carry them up again, damn it
all! Shall we begin, mother?"
"I'll willingly speak to the landlord. Remember, you are an old
"An old--yes, I was in it from the very beginning." The man drew himself
proudly erect. "But for all that I don't let my wife and children
starve. So you want to go begging favors for me, eh? You be gone--at
once, will you? Be off, to the devil, or I'll beat you to a jelly with
this!" He seized a table-leg; his eyes were quite blood-shot. His young
wife went up to him and took his hand. "Hansen!" she said quietly. He
let his weapon fall. Pelle felt the woman's pleading eyes upon him, and
When Pelle, tired to death, made his way homeward in the evening, he
had lost the feeling of invincibility and his thoughts turned to Ellen.
In the daytime he felt neither hesitation nor certainty. When he set to
work it was always with thousands behind him. He felt the great body of
workers at his back, whether he was fighting in the open or waiting with
close-buttoned coat to deal with the leaders of the opposing camp. But
when he went home to Ellen he had only himself to rely on for support.
And he could not get near her. Strongly as he was drawn by the life away
from home, she still held the secret of his life in her hands. She was
strong and would not be swept aside. He was forced to ponder over her
nature and to search for a solution.
Pelle had to deal with countless numbers of families, and what he saw
was not always edifying. Home was a conception which was only now
forcing its way downward from the middle classes. Even in periods of
normal employment the workers earned little enough when it came to
providing a decent family life, and the women knew nothing of making a
comfortable home. The man might be tidy and well-dressed when one met
him out of doors, but if you went to his home it was always the same
thing; a dark, grimy den and a worn-out wife, who moved about scolding
amidst a swarm of children. Wages were enough for one only to live in
comfort. The man represented the household out of doors. He must take
sandwiches to his work, and he must have something decent too when he
got home. The others managed with a little bread and coffee; it was of
no use to talk of regular family meals. And the man must have clothes;
he was the visible portion of the household, and he supported it. It was
of no use to look for anything further in the way of ideas from these
women; they saw nothing but unemployment and the want at home, and when
the husband showed himself they drove him out of the house with their
scolding ways. "You go out and meddle with everything you can think of
that doesn't concern us--politics and big talk--instead of doing your
work properly and leaving the fools to squabble among themselves!" The
result was that they did their work for the organization in the taverns.
Many of them held positions of confidence, and Pelle went to the taverns
to confer with them. They were dejected, when they arrived, and had
before all else to be thawed out.
There Pelle came to them, with his brilliant hopes. When they lamented
in their dejection, he promised great things of the future. "Our wives
will soon see that we are in the right. The day will soon come when we
shall be able to go home with a proper week's wages, that will be enough
for the whole family."
"And suppose it doesn't come off?" they would say.
"It will come off--if only we hold out!" he cried, smiting the table.
Yes, he might well see the bright side of things. He had a wife who came
from a long-established home, who kept things clean and tidy for him,
and knew how to make much do the work of little; the daughter of an old
unionist who had grown up in the midst of the movement--a wife who saw
her husband's doings with understanding eyes; yes, he might well smile!
As to the last, Pelle was silent.
In this particular she had accepted neither inheritance nor teaching;
she was as she was, and she would never be different, whatever might
pass over her head. Pelle was sacrificing wife and children to a fixed
idea, in order not to leave a few indifferent comrades in the lurch!
That, and the strike, and the severe condemnation of those who would not
keep step, was, and remained, for her, so much tavern nonsense. It was
something the workers had got into their heads as a result of talking
when they were not precisely sober.
That was what it was, and it filled her heart with pain and
mortification that she and hers should be set aside for people who were
nothing to them. And this pain made her beautiful, and justified her in
her own eyes.
She did not complain in words, and she was always careful to set before
Pelle whatever the house could provide. He always found everything in
order, and he understood what efforts it must cost her--considering the
smallness of the means which she had at her disposal. There was no weak
point in her defences; and this made the position still more oppressive;
he could not evoke an explosion, a ventilation of her grievances; it was
impossible to quarrel with her and make friends again.
Often he wished that Ellen would become neglectful, like so many others.
But she was always attentive; the more the circumstances enabled her to
condemn him, the more correctly did she behave.
If only he could have explained her lack of comprehension by supposing
that her mind was barren and self-seeking! But in his eyes she had
always been quite simple and single-minded, and yet her nature was to
him a continual enigma! It was true she was not excessively benevolent
or sympathetic where others were concerned; but on the other hand she
asked nothing for herself--her thoughts were all for him and the
children. He must admit that she had, without a thought, sacrificed
everything to him--her home, her whole world--and that she had a right
to ask something in return.
And she was still unchangeably the same. She was indifferent where she
herself was concerned, if only Pelle and the children had something she
was contented; she herself needed so little, yet she seemed to take
enough when he watched her eating. Pelle often wondered that she
retained her healthy appearance, although the food she ate was so
inferior. Perhaps she helped herself in secret--but he drove the thought
away, and was ashamed. She was always completely indifferent as to what
she ate; she did not notice what it was, but served him and the children
with the best of it--especially himself--yet she seemed to thrive. Yes,
even now she gave the best to him. It was as though she was fulfilling
some deep-rooted law of her nature, which was independent of their
relations to one another. In this nothing could alter her habits. She
might have been compared to a great beautiful bitch that lies
attentively marking the appetite of her young, although none can tell,
from her deliberate quiet, that her own bowels are twisted with hunger.
If they left anything, she noticed it. "I have eaten," she would say, so
quietly that she succeeded as a rule in deceiving them. Yes, it made him
feel desperate to think about it; the more he thought of it the more
unendurable it was. She was sacrificing herself for him, yet she must
condemn all his doings! She knew how to defy starvation far better than
he--and she did not understand why they must go hungry!
But from all these painful deliberations she emerged always more
prominently capable, incomprehensible, and beautiful in all her
strangeness! And he would hurry home, full of burning longing and
devotion, continually hoping that this time she would come to him
glowing with love, to hide her eyes, full of confusion, on his shoulder.
The disappointment only flung him yet more violently into the struggle;
the longing of his heart for a tender, careless hand made his own hard.
* * * * *
He was always exerting himself to find some means of making money. At
first, of course, there was no way, and he became so completely absorbed
in the conflict that finally the question no longer occupied his mind.
It lurked in his consciousness, like a voluptuous wish that merely
tinged his daily existence; it was as though something within his mind
had taken possession of his talent for design, and was always designing
beautiful paper money and displaying it to his imagination.
One day when he reached home he found Widow Rasmussen tending the
children and working on a pair of canvas shoes. Drunken Valde had left
her again--had flown out into the spring! Ellen had gone out to work. A
sudden pain shot through him. Her way of doing this, without saying a
word to him, was like a blow in the face, and at first he was angry. But
disloyalty was foreign to his nature. He had to admit that she was
within her rights; and with that his anger evaporated, leaving him
bewildered; something within him seemed tottering; surely this was a
topsy-turvy world! "I might as well stay at home and look after the
children," he thought bitterly.
"I'll stay with the children now, Madam Rasmussen!" he said. The woman
put her work together.
"Yes, they've got a lot to go through," she said, standing in the
doorway. "I don't myself understand what it's all about, but one must
always do something! That's my motto. For things can't be worse than
they are. 'Widow'! Pooh! They won't let us behave ourselves! A man can
scarcely look after himself, let alone a family, in this accursed world
--and one needn't call one's self Madam to get children! Here have I been
knocking about all my life, ruining my health and happiness, and have I
earned as much from all my blackguards as would pay for the rags I've
worn? No; I've had to beg them nicely of the fine folks for whom I do
washing! Yes, they are ready to skin one alive--Madam Rasmussen has
proved that. So I say, one must always try something! To-day the boy
comes home and says, 'Mother, they've put up the price of firewood
again--an ore the two dozen!' 'What does that matter to us, boy? Can we
buy two dozen at once?' I say. 'Yes, mother, but then the one dozen will
cost an ore more.' And eggs, they cost one krone twenty a score where
the rich folks buy them--but here! 'No, my dear madam, if you take two
eggs you must pay fifteen ore!' That makes eight ore for an egg, for if
one takes the smallest quantity the profits aren't in proportion. It's
hard to be poor. If it's never going to be better, may the devil take
him that's made it all! That was a fine swear!"
Pelle sat playing with Young Lasse. Madam Rasmussen's words had aroused
something in him. That was the eternal complaint, the old, old cry!
Whenever he heard it, the world of the poor man became even more plainly
visible for what it was--and he ought to know it! It was a frightful
abyss that he looked down into; it was bottomless; and it seemed forever
to reveal fresh depths. And he was right--he was right.
He sat carelessly drawing something for the child on a scrap of paper,
thinking of things quite different; but involuntarily the drawing took
shape from within his hand. "That's money, that's money!" cried Young
Lasse, clapping his hands. Pelle waked up and examined his drawing; sure
enough, there was a rough sketch of a ten-kroner note! It flattered his
father's heart that the child had recognized it; and he was seized by
the desire to see how like it was. But where in all the world was he to
get a "blue"? Pelle, who at this time superintended the collection and
distributing of millions, did not possess ten kroner! The pipe! The
pipe! That was what the boy got his idea from! His old Christmas
present, queerly enough, had a ten-kroner note on the bowl--and that
gave him an idea! He got it out and compared it; it was a long time
since he had smoked the pipe--he couldn't afford it. He began eagerly to
fill in the drawing while Young Lasse stood by, amusing himself by
watching the rapid movements of the pencil. "Father is clever--Father
draw!" he said, and wanted to wake his sister so that she could take
part in the game.
No, the result was not good! The design would have to be cut in wood and
printed in color for the appearance really to be similar. But then Ellen
came home, and he hid it away. "Won't you give up going out to work?"
he said. "I'll provide what is absolutely necessary."
"Why?" she retorted resolutely. "I'm not too good to do anything!" There
was no tone in her voice from which he could elicit anything; so he got
ready to go to the meeting.
Now, when Ellen went out to work, he ran home as often as he had time in
order to look after the children. He had obtained a piece of hard wood
and a ten-kroner note. With great care he transferred the design onto
the wood, and began to engrave it while he sat there chattering to the
children. This task occupied unused faculties; it engrossed him as an
artistic exercise, which lingered at the back of his mind and
automatically continued to carry itself out, even when he was away from
home. This work filled his mind with a peculiar beauty so long as he was
engaged on it. A warm, blissful world was evoked by the sight of this
ten-kroner note, which shone ever more plainly out of the darkness and
swept all privations aside. When Pelle sat at this work his mind soared
above all oppression as though intoxicated; unhappy things no longer
existed for him. He became an optimist and mentally made Ellen all sorts
of costly presents.
It was all fundamentally so simple--it was only a misunderstanding--
nothing more! He must speak to her, and she would see at once what a
happy life they were going to live--if only they held out. Silence had
filled her with resentment. Fortune! Fortune! It was nearer than ever
now, greater and more splendid than on that other occasion when it had
knocked at their door! Why, he did not know--that did not seem very
But when he heard her step on the stairs his dream was shattered. He was
awake. He concealed his work, ashamed to think that she should come home
from work and find him at play.
At times he was oppressed by a feeling of the unattainable in his
relations with Ellen. Even to himself he could not explain the
contradiction between the constant longing for more ample and stable
conditions, for triumph and victory, and his impotency at home, where
his fortunes were declining. He wearied himself in trying to puzzle it
out, and he was seized by a desire that he might become indifferent to
the whole matter. He felt no inclination to drink, but none the less
something was working convulsively within him; a certain indifference as
to his own welfare, causing him to run risks, not caring whether he
might not commit some stupidity that would do him harm. And at such
times a voice cried loudly within him, especially when he was confronted
by the bitter utterances of want. "That is my old complaint," he
thought, and he became observant. In his childhood it had been a sort of
seizure; now it had become a voice.
Early one morning Pelle wandered into the city. He had risen before
Ellen, in order to avoid the painfulness of sitting down to breakfast
with her. Ellen tried all sorts of ruses in order to give him a proper
breakfast, and it was not difficult to persuade his stomach; but
afterward he felt ashamed that he should have been cared for at the cost
of others; and cunning though he was too, he could not get the better of
her save by slipping away while she was still asleep.
His fasting condition endowed the city, and the whole of life, with a
curiously unsubstantial aspect. Before him lay a long day full of
terrific labors, and behind him was the fresh triumph of the day before.
As matters now stood, the employers in the iron industry had conceived
the cunning idea of founding a blackleg Union for smiths and mechanics,
and of giving it a name closely resembling that of the genuine Union.
Then they sent circulars to the men, stating that work would be resumed
on the following day. Many of the men were not accustomed to read, and
regarded the circular as an order from their own Union, while others
were enticed by the high wages offered by the new society. There was
great confusion among the workers of these trades. As soon as the trick
was exposed every respectable man drew back; but there was a great deal
of disappointment, and they felt horribly ashamed before their comrades.
Pelle was furious at this trick, which affected him more especially, as
the leader in open battle; he had suffered a defeat, and he meditated
revenge. In spite of all the efforts of the pickets, it was not possible
to procure a full list of the strikebreakers; his chagrin on this
account burned in his heart, like a shameful sense of impotency;
hitherto he had been noted for getting to the bottom of anything he
undertook! He resolved then and there to meet ruse with ruse. He set a
trap for his opponents, so that they themselves should deliver the
strikebreakers into his hands. One morning he published his list in
_The Working Man_ with the proud remark, "Look, the enemy has no
more!" Did the employers really fall into the trap, or was the fate of
the strike-breakers really indifferent to them? Next morning their organ
protested, and gave the number of the black-legs and their names into
This was a smack! A good one this; it brought a light to the thin,
impassive faces. There was an answer to the trick of the other day! This
Pelle was a deuce of a fellow! Three cheers for "Lightning Pelle!" Hip,
Pelle was the deuce of a fellow as he strode along ruddy and full of
pugnacity, with the echoes from the side-streets and the tenement-houses
mingled with his own vigorous footsteps. Streets and houses were white
with the night's hoar frost, and overhead the air was full of a peculiar
glow that came from the city--a light flowing from hidden sources. He
had left all his cares at home; on every hand working-folk were greeting
him, and his greeting in return was like an inspiriting song. He did not
know them, but they knew him! The feeling that his work--however deep
the scars it might leave--was arousing gratitude, had an uplifting
effect upon him.
The city was in its morning mood. The lock-out lay like a paralyzing
hand upon everything; business was slack, and the middle classes were
complaining, but there was no prospect of peace; both sides were
irreconcilable. The workers had lost nothing through the rash cessation
of the masons. Sympathy for the lower classes had become a political
principle; and contributions were still pouring in from the country.
Considerable sums came from abroad. The campaign was now costing the
workers half a million kroner a week; and the help from outside was like
a drop in the ocean. But it had the effect of a moral support, and it
stimulated the self-taxation to which all were subject. The hundred
thousand households of the poor parted with their last possessions in
order to continue the struggle; they meant to force a decision that
should affect their whole future. The employers tried to hinder the
great National Federation by calling the attention of the authorities
to an ancient statute concerning mendicancy; but that merely aroused
merriment. A little laughter over such expedients was permissible.
The workers had become accustomed to starvation. They went no more into
the forest, but strolled thoughtfully through the streets like people
who have too much time on their hands, so that the city's face wore a
peculiar stamp of meditative poverty. Their loitering steps aroused no
echo, and in the houses the quietness gave one food for reflection. The
noisy, ever-hungry children were scattered over the face of the country
--they at least had plenty to eat. But the place was empty for the lack
Pelle met several squads of workers; they were on the way to the various
roll-calls. They raised their heads as he passed; his footsteps echoed
loudly enough for all! It was the hope and the will of forty thousand
men that passed there--Pelle was the expression of them all. They stared
at his indomitable figure, and drew themselves up. "A devil of a chap!"
they told one another joyfully; "he looks as if he could trample 'em all
underfoot! Look at him--he scarcely makes way for that great loaded
wagon! Long live Pelle, boys!"
The tavern-keepers stood on their cellar stairs gaping up at the morning
sky--this was a time of famine for them! In the tavern windows hung
cards with the inscription: "Contributions received here for the locked-
On the Queen Luise Bridge Pelle encountered a pale, fat little man in a
shabby coat. He had flabby features and a great red nose. "Good morning,
General!" cried Pelle gaily; the man made a condescending movement with
his hand. This was _The Working Man's_ man of straw; a sometime
capitalist, who for a small weekly wage was, as far as the public was
concerned, the responsible editor of the paper. He served various terms
of imprisonment for the paper, and for a further payment of five kroner
a week he also worked out in prison the fines inflicted on the paper.
When he was not in jail he kept himself alive by drinking. He suffered
from megalomania, and considered that he led the whole labor movement;
for which reason he could not bear Pelle.
In the great court-yard of _The Working Man_ building the dockers
were assembled to answer the roll. The president of their Union met
Pelle in the doorway; he was the very man whom Pelle and Howling Peter
had rescued down by the harbor--now he was working for the new ideas!
"Well, how goes it?" asked Pelle, shaking his hand.
"Splendid! A thousand men all but seven!"
"But where's the joyful Jacob? Is he ill?"
"He's in jail," replied the other gloomily. "He couldn't bear to see his
old folks starving--so he broke into a grocery, he and his brother--and
now they're both in prison."
For a moment the lines on Pelle's forehead were terribly deep and
gloomy; he stood gazing blindly into space; the radiant expression left
his countenance, which was filled with a pitying gravity. The docker
stared at him--was he going to sleep on his feet? But then he pulled
"Well, comrades, are you finding the days too long?" he cried gaily.
"Ach, as for that! It's the first time one's had the time to get to know
one's own wife and children properly!" they replied. "But for all that
it would be fine to get busy again!"
It was obvious that idleness was at last beginning to depress them;
there was a peculiar pondering expression on their impassive features,
and their eyes turned to him with a persistent questioning. They asked
that this undertaking of his should be settled one way or the other.
They were not weakening; they always voted for the continuance of the
campaign, for that which they sought depended thereon; but they gazed
into his face for a look that might promise success.
He had to answer many singular questions; privation engendered in the
most fantastic ideas, which revealed the fact that their quiet,
controlled bearing was the product of the observation and the energy of
"Shall we deprive the rich of all their wealth and power?" asked one
man, after long pondering and gazing at Pelle. The struggle seemed to
have dealt hardly with him; but it had lit a spark in his eyes.
"Yes, we are going now to take our rights as men, and we shall demand
that the worker shall be respected," Pelle replied. "Then there'll be no
more talk of poor man and gentleman!"
"But suppose they try to get on top of us again? We must make short work
of them, so that they can't clamber on our backs and ride us again."
"Do you want to drive them all onto the Common and shoot them? That's
not necessary," said his neighbor. "When this is settled no one will
dare to take the food out of our mouths again."
"Won't there be any more poverty then?" asked the first speaker, turning
"No, once we get our affairs properly in going order; then there will be
comfort in every home. Don't you read your paper?"
Yes, he read it, but there was no harm in hearing the great news
confirmed by Pelle himself. And Pelle could confirm it, because he never
harbored a doubt. It had been difficult to get the masses to grasp the
new conception of things--as difficult as to move the earth! Something
big must happen in return!
A few of the men had brought out sandwiches and began to eat them as
they debated. "Good digestion!" said Pelle, nodding farewell to them.
His mouth was watering, and he remembered that he had had nothing to eat
or drink. But he had no time to think about it; he must go to Stolpe to
arrange about the posting of the pickets.
Over the way stood Marie in a white cap, with a basket over her arm; she
nodded to him, with rosy cheeks. Transplantation had made her grow;
every time he saw her she was more erect and prettier.
At his parents'-in-law the strictest economy prevailed. All sorts of
things--household possessions--had disappeared from that once so
comfortable home; but there was no lack of good spirits. Stolpe was
pottering about waiting for his breakfast; he had been at work early
"What's the girl doing?" he asked. "We never see her now."
"She has such a lot to do," said Pelle apologetically. "And now she's
going out to work as well."
"Well, well, with things as they are she's not too fine to lend a hand.
But we don't really know what's amiss with her--she's a rebellious
nature! Thank God she's not a man--she would have brought dissolution
into the ranks!"
Breakfast consisted of a portion of coffee and bread-and-butter and
porridge. Madam Stolpe could not find her fine new silver coffee-
service, which her children had given her on her silver-wedding day. "I
must have put it away," she said.
"Well, well, that'll soon be found again, mother!" said Stolpe. "Now we
shall soon have better times; many fine things will make their
appearance again then, we shall see!"
"Have you been to the machine-works this morning, father-in-law?" asked
"Yes, I've been there. But there is nothing more for the pickets to do.
The employers have quartered all the men in the factory; they get full
board and all there. There must be a crowd of foreign strike-breakers
there--the work's in full swing."
This was an overwhelming piece of news! The iron-masters had won the
first victory! This would quickly have a most depressing effect on the
workers, when they saw that their trade could be kept going without
"We must put a bridle on them," said Pelle, "or they'll get off the
course and the whole organization will fall to pieces. As for those
fellows in there, we must get a louse under their shirts somehow."
"How can we do that when they are locked in, and the police are
patrolling day and night in front of the gates? We can't even speak to
them." Stolpe laughed despairingly.
"Then some one must slink in and pretend he's in want of employment!"
Stolpe started. "As a strike-breaker? You'll never in this life get a
respectable man to do that, even if it's only in jest! I wouldn't do it
myself! A strike-breaker is a strike-breaker, turn and twist it how you
"A strike-breaker, I suppose, is one who does his comrades harm. The man
who risks his skin in this way deserves another name."
"I won't admit that," said Stolpe. "That's a little too abstract for me;
anyhow, I'm not going to argue with you. But in my catechism it says
that he is a strike-breaker who accepts employment where assistance is
forbidden--and that I stick to!"
Pelle might talk as much as he liked; the old man would not budge an
inch. "But it would be another matter if you wanted to do it yourself,"
said Stolpe. "You don't have to account to any one for what you do--you
just do what comes into your head."
"I have to account to the Cause for my doings," said Pelle sharply, "and
for that very reason I want to do it myself!"
Stolpe contracted his arms and stretched them out again. "Ah, it would
be good to have work again!" he cried suddenly. "Idleness eats into
one's limbs like the gout. And now there's the rent, mother--where the
devil are we to get that? It must be paid on the nail on Saturday,
otherwise out we go--so the landlord says."
"We'll soon find that, father!" said Madam Stolpe. "Don't you lose
Stolpe looked round the room. "Yes, there's still a bit to take, as
Hunger said when he began on the bowels. But listen, Pelle--do you know
what? I'm your father-in-law-to be sure--but you haven't a wife like
"I'm contented with Ellen as she is," said Pelle.
There was a knock; it was Stolpe's brother, the carpenter. He looked
exhausted; he was thin and poorly dressed; his eyes were surrounded by
red patches. He did not look at those whose hands he took.
"Sit down, brother," said Stolpe, pushing a chair toward him.
"Thanks--I must go on again directly. It was--I only wanted to tell you
--well...." He stared out of the window.
"Is anything wrong at home?"
"No, no, not that exactly. I just wanted to say--I want to give notice
that I'm deserting!" he cried suddenly.
Stolpe sprang to his feet; he was as white as chalk. "You think what you
are doing!" he cried threateningly.
"I've had time enough to think. They are starving, I tell you--and
there's got to be an end of it. I only wanted to tell you beforehand so
that you shouldn't hear it from others--after all, you're my brother."
"Your brother--I'm your brother no longer! You do this and we've done
with one another!" roared Stolpe, striking the table. "But you won't do
it, you shan't do it! God damn me, I couldn't live through the shame of
seeing the comrades condemning my own brother in the open street! And I
shall be with them! I shall be the first to give you a kick, if you are
my brother!" He was quite beside himself.
"Well, well, we can still talk it over," said the carpenter quietly.
"But now you know--I didn't want to do anything behind your back." And
then he went.
Stolpe paced up and down the room, moving from one object to another. He
picked them up and put them down again, quite unthinkingly. His hands
were trembling violently; and finally he went to the other room and shut
himself in. After a time his wife entered the room. "You had better go,
Pelle! I don't think father is fit for company to-day. He's lying there
quite gray in the face--if he could only cry even! Oh, those two
brothers have always been so much to each other till now! They wore so
united in everything!"
Pelle went; he was thinking earnestly. He could see that Stolpe, in his
integrity, would consider it his duty to treat his brother more harshly
than others, dearly as he loved him; perhaps he himself would undertake
the picketing of the place where his brother went to work.
Out by the lakes he met a squad of pickets who were on their way out of
the city; he accompanied them for some distance, in order to make
certain arrangements. Across the road a young fellow came out of a
doorway and slunk round the corner. "You there, stop!" cried one of the
comrades. "There he is--the toff!" A few pickets followed him down
Castle Street and came back leading him among them. A crowd began to
form round the whole party, women and children speedily joining it.
"You are not to do anything to him," said Pelle decisively.
"God knows no one wants to touch him!" they retorted. For a while they
stood silently gazing at him, as though weighing him in their minds;
then one after another spat at him, and they went their way. The fellow
went silently into a doorway and stood there wiping the spittle from his
face with his sleeve. Pelle followed him in order to say a kind word to
him and lead him back into the organization. The lad pulled himself up
hastily as Pelle approached.
"Are you coming to spit at me?" he said contemptuously. "You forgot it
before--why didn't you do it then?"
"I don't spit at people," said Pelle, "but your comrades are right to
despise you. You have left them in the lurch. Come with me, and I'll
enter you in the organization again, and no one shall molest you."
"I am to go about as a culprit and be taunted--no, thanks!"
"Do you prefer to injure your own comrades?"
"I ask for permission to look after my old mother. The rest of you can
go to the devil. My mother isn't going to hang about courtyards singing,
and picking over the dustbins, while her son plays the great man! I
leave that to certain other people!"
Pelle turned crimson. He knew this allusion was meant for Father Lasse;
the desperate condition of the old man was lurking somewhere in his mind
like an ingrowing grief, and now it came to the surface. "Dare you
repeat what you said?" he growled, pressing close up to the other.
"And if I were married I shouldn't let my wife earn my daily bread for
me--I should leave that to the pimps!"
Oho! That was like the tattlers, to blacken a man from behind! Evidently
they were spreading all sorts of lying rumors about him, while he had
placed all that he possessed at their disposal. Now Pelle was furious;
the leader could go to hell! He gave the fellow a few sound boxes on the
ear, and asked him which he would rather do--hold his mouth or take some
Morten appeared in the doorway--this had happened in the doorway of the
house in which he worked. "This won't do!" he whispered, and he drew
Pelle away with him. Pelle could make no reply; he threw himself on
Morten's bed. His eyes were still blazing with anger at the insult, and
he needed air.
"Things are going badly here now," said Morten, looking at him with a
"Yes, I know very well you can't stand it--all the same, they must hold
"And supposing they don't get better conditions?"
"Then they must accept the consequences. That's better than the whole
Cause should go to the wall!"
"Are those the new ideas? I think the ignorant have always had to take
the consequences! And there has never been lacking some one to spit on
them!" said Morten sadly.
"But, listen!" cried Pelle, springing to his feet. "You'll please not
blame me for spitting at anybody--the others did that!" He was very near
losing his temper again, but Morten's quiet manner mastered him.
"The others--that was nothing at all! But it was you who spat seven
times over into the poor devil's face--I was standing in the shop, and
Pelle stared at him, speechless. Was this the truth-loving Morten who
stood there lying?
"You say you saw me spit at him?"
Morten nodded. "Do you want to accept the applause and the honor, and
sneak out of the beastliness and the destruction? You have taken a great
responsibility on yourself, Pelle. Look, how blindly they follow you--at
the sight of your bare face, I'm tempted to say. For I'm not myself
quite sure that you give enough of yourself. There is blood on your
hands--but is any of it your own blood?"
Pelle sat there heavily pondering; Morten's words always forced his
thoughts to follow paths they had never before known. But now he
understood him; and a dark shadow passed over his face, which left its
traces behind it. "This business has cost me my home," he said quietly.
"Ellen cares nothing for me now, and my children are being neglected,
and are drifting away from me. I have given up splendid prospects for
the future; I go hungry every day, and I have to see my old father in
want and wretchedness! I believe no one can feel as homeless and lonely
and forsaken as I do! So it has cost me something--you force me to say
it myself." He smiled at Morten, but there were tears in his eyes.
"Forgive me, my dear friend!" said Morten. "I was afraid you didn't
really know what you were doing. Already there are many left on the
field of battle, and it's grievous to see them--especially if it should
all lead to nothing."
"Do you condemn the Movement, then? According to you, I can never do
"Not if it leads to an end! I myself have dreamed of leading them on to
fortune--in my own way; but it isn't a way after their own heart. You
have power over them--they follow you blindly--lead them on, then! But
every wound they receive in battle should be yours as well--otherwise
you are not the right man for the place. And are you certain of the
Yes, Pelle was certain of that. "And we are reaching it!" he cried,
suddenly inspired. "See how cheerfully they approve of everything, and
just go forward!"
"But, Pelle!" said Morten, with a meaning smile, laying his hand on his
shoulder, "a leader is not Judge Lynch. Otherwise the parties would
fight it out with clubs!"
"Ah, you are thinking of what happened just now!" said Pelle. "That had
nothing to do with the Movement! He said my father was going about the
backyards fishing things out of dustbins--so I gave him a few on the
jaw. I have the same right as any one else to revenge an insult." He did
not mention the evil words concerning Ellen; he could not bring himself
to do so.
"But that is true," said Morten quietly.
"Then why didn't you tell me?" asked Pelle.
"I thought you knew it. And you have enough to struggle against as it
is--you've nothing to reproach yourself with."
"Perhaps you can tell me where he could be found?" said Pelle, in a low
"He is usually to be found in this quarter."
Pelle went. His mind was oppressed; all that day fresh responsibilities
had heaped themselves upon him; a burden heavy for one man to bear. Was
he to accept the responsibility for all that the Movement destroyed as
it progressed, simply because he had placed all his energies and his
whole fortune at its disposal? And now Father Lasse was going about as a
scavenger. He blushed for shame--yet how could he have prevented it? Was
he to be made responsible for the situation? And now they were spitting
upon Ellen--that was the thanks he got!
He did not know where to begin his search, so he went into the courts
and backyards and asked at random. People were crowding into a courtyard
in Blaagaard Street, so Pelle entered it. There was a missionary there
who spoke with the sing-song accent of the Bornholmer, in whose eyes was
the peculiar expression which Pelle remembered as that of the "saints"
of his childhood. He was preaching and singing alternately. Pelle gazed
at him with eyes full of reminiscence, and in his despairing mood he was
near losing control of himself and bellowing aloud as in his childish
years when anything touched him deeply. This was the very lad who had
said something rude about Father Lasse, and whom he--young as he was--
had kicked so that he became ruptured. He was able to protect his father
in those days, at all events!
He went up to the preacher and held out his hand. "It's Peter Kune! So
you are here?"
The man looked at him with a gaze that seemed to belong to another
world. "Yes, I had to come over here, Pelle!" he said significantly. "I
saw the poor wandering hither from the town and farther away, so I
followed them, so that no harm should come to them. For you poor are the
chosen people of God, who must wander and wander until they come into
the Kingdom. Now the sea has stayed you here, and you can go no farther;
so you think the Kingdom must lie here. God has sent me to tell you that
you are mistaken. And you, Pelle, will you join us now? God is waiting
and longing for you; he wants to use you for the good of all these
little ones." And he held Pelle's hand in his, gazing at him
compellingly; perhaps he thought Pelle had come in order to seek the
shelter of his "Kingdom."
Here was another who had the intention of leading the poor to the land
of fortune! But Pelle had his own poor. "I have done what I could for
them," he said self-consciously.
"Yes, I know that well; but that is not the right way, the way you are
following! You do not give them the bread of life!"
"I think they have more need of black bread. Look at them--d'you think
they get too much to eat?"
"And can you give them food, then? I can give them the joy of God, so
that they forget their hunger for a while. Can you do more than make
them feel their hunger even more keenly?"
"Perhaps I can. But I've got no time to talk it over now; I came to look
for my old father."
"Your father, I have met in the streets lately, with a sack on his back
--he did not look very cheerful. And I met him once over yonder with Sort
the shoemaker; he wanted to come over here and spend his old age with
Pelle said nothing, but ran off. He clenched his fists in impotent wrath
as he rushed out of the place. People went about jeering at him, one
more eagerly than the other, and the naked truth was that he--young and
strong and capable as he was in his calling--could not look after his
wife and children and his old father, even when he had regular work.
Yes, so damnable were the conditions that a man in the prime of his
youth could not follow the bidding of nature and found a family without
plunging those that were dependent on him into want and misery! Curse it
all, the entire system ought to be smashed! If he had power over it he
would want to make the best use of it!
In Stone Street he heard a hoarse, quavering voice singing in the
central courtyard of one of the houses. It was Father Lasse. The rag-bag
lay near him, with the hook stuck into it. He was clasping the book with
one hand, while with the other he gesticulated toward the windows as he
sang. The song made the people smile, and he tried to make it still more
amusing by violent gestures which ill-suited his pitiful appearance.
It cut Pelle to the heart to see his wretched condition. He stepped into
a doorway and waited until his father should have finished his song. At
certain points in the course of the song Lasse took off his cap and
smacked it against his head while he raised one leg in the air. He very
nearly lost his equilibrium when he did this, and the street urchins who
surrounded him pulled at his ragged coat-tails and pushed one another
against him. Then he stood still, spoke to them in his quavering voice,
and took up his song again.
"O listen to my song, a tale of woe:
I came into the world as do so many:
My mother bore me in the street below,
And as for father, why, I hadn't any!
Till now I've faithfully her shame concealed:
I tell it now to make my song complete.
O drop a shilling down that I may eat,
For eat I must, or soon to Death I yield.
"Into this world without deceit I came,
That's why you see me wear no stockings now.
A poor old man who drudges anyhow,
I have a wealthy brother, more's the shame.
But he and I are opposites in all;
While I rake muck he rakes his money up:
Much gold is his and many a jewelled cup,
And all he fancies, that is his at call.
"My brother, he has built a palace splendid,
And silver harness all his horses bear.
Full twenty crowns an hour he gets, I hear,
By twiddling thumbs and wishing day were ended!
Gold comes to him as dirt to Lasse, blast him!
And everywhere he turns there money lies.
'Twill all be mine when once my brother dies--
If I but live--so help me to outlast him!
"Luck tried to help me once, but not again!
Weary with toiling I was like to swoon.
When God let fall milk-porridge 'stead of rain!
And I, poor donkey, hadn't brought a spoon!
Yes, Heaven had meant to help me, me accurst!
I saw my luck but couldn't by it profit!
Quickly my brother made a banquet of it--
Ate my milk-porridge till he nearly burst!
"Want bears the sceptre here on earth below,
And life is always grievous to the poor.
But God, who rules the world, and ought to know,
Says all will get their rights when life is o'er.
Therefore, good people, hear me for His sake--
A trifle for the poor man's coffin give,
Wherein his final journey he must take;
Have mercy on my end while yet I live!
"Yet one thing God has given me--my boy.
And children are the poor man's wealth, I know.
O does he think of me, my only joy,
Who have no other treasure here below?
Long time have we been parted by mishap:
I'm tired of picking rags and sick of song;
God who sees all reward you all ere long:
O drop a trifle in poor Lasse's cap!"
When Lasse had finished his song the people clapped and threw down coins
wrapped in paper, and he went round picking them up. Then he took his
sack on his back and stumped away, bent almost double, through the
"Father!" cried Pelle desperately. "Father!"
Lasse stood up with a jerk and peered through the gateway with his
feeble eyes. "Is that you, lad? Ach, it sounded like your voice when you
were a child, when any one was going to hurt you and you came to me for
help." The old man was trembling from head to foot. "And now I suppose
you've heard the whole thing and are ashamed of your old father?" He
dared not look at his son.
"Father, you must come home with me now--do you hear?" said Pelle, as
they entered the street together.
"No, that I can't do! There's not enough even for your own mouths--no,
you must let me go my own way. I must look after myself--and I'm doing
"You are to come home with me--the children miss you, and Ellen asks
after you day after day."
"Yes, that would be very welcome.... But I know what folks would think
if I were to take the food out of your children's mouths! Besides--I'm a
rag-picker now! No, you mustn't lead me into temptation."
"You are to come with me now--never mind about anything else. I can't
bear this, father!"
"Well, then, in God's name, I must publish my shame before you, lad--if
you won't let me be! See now, I'm living with some one--with a woman. I
met her out on the refuse-heaps, where she was collecting rubbish, just
as I was. I had arranged a corner for myself out there--for the night,
until I could find a lodging--and then she said I was to go home with
her--it wouldn't be so cold if there were two of us. Won't you come home
with me, so that you can see where we've both got to? Then you can see
the whole thing and judge for yourself. We live quite close."
They turned into a narrow lane and entered a gateway. In the backyard,
in a shed, which looked like the remains of an old farm cottage, was
Lasse's home. It looked as though it had once been used as a fuel-shed;
the floor was of beaten earth and the roof consisted of loose boards.
Under the roof cords were stretched, on which rags, paper, and other
articles from the dustbins were hung to dry. In one corner was a mean-
looking iron stove, on which a coffee-pot was singing, mingling its
pleasant fragrance with the musty stench of the rubbish. Lasse stretched
himself to ease his limbs.
"Ach, I'm quite stiff!" he said, "and a little chilled. Well, here you
see my little mother--and this is my son, Pelle, my boy." He contentedly
stroked the cheeks of his new life's partner.
This was an old, bent, withered woman, grimy and ragged; her face was
covered with a red eruption which she had probably contracted on the
refuse-heaps. But a pair of kind eyes looked out of it, which made up
for everything else.
"So that is Pelle!" she said, looking at him. "So that's what he is
like! Yes, one has heard his name; he's one of those who will astonish
the world, although he hasn't red hair."
Pelle had to drink a cup of coffee. "You can only have bread-and-butter
with it; we old folks can't manage anything else for supper," said
Lasse. "We go to bed early, both of us, and one sleeps badly with an
"Well, now, what do you think of our home?" said Father Lasse, looking
proudly about him. "We pay only four kroner a month for it, and all the
furniture we get for nothing--mother and I have brought it all here
from the refuse-heaps, every stick of it, even the stove. Just look at
this straw mattress, now--it's really not bad, but the rich folks threw
it away! And the iron bedstead--we found that there; I've tied a leg to
it. And yesterday mother came in carrying those curtains, and hung them
up. A good thing there are people who have so much that they have to
throw it on the dust-heap!"
Lasse was quite cheerful; things seemed to be going well with him; and
the old woman looked after him as if he had been the love of her youth.
She helped him off with his boots and on with his list slippers, then
she brought a long pipe out of the corner, which she placed between his
lips; he smiled, and settled down to enjoy himself.
"Do you see this pipe, Pelle? Mother saved up for this, without my
knowing anything about it--she has got such a long one I can't light it
myself! She says I look like a regular pope!" Lasse had to lean back in
his chair while she lit the pipe.
When Pelle left, Lasse accompanied him across the yard. "Well, what do
you think of it?" he said.
"I am glad to see things are going so well with you," said Pelle humbly.
Lasse pressed his hand. "Thanks for that! I was afraid you would be
strict about it. As quite a little boy, you used to be deucedly strict
in that direction. And see now, of course, we could marry--there is no
impediment in either case. But that costs money--and the times are hard.
As for children coming, and asking to be brought into the world
respectably, there's no danger of that."
Pelle could not help smiling; the old man was so much in earnest.
"Look in on us again soon--you are always welcome," said Lasse. "But you
needn't say anything of this to Ellen--she is so peculiar in that
No, Pelle never told Ellen anything now. She had frozen his speech. She
was like the winter sun; the side that was turned away from her received
no share of her warmth. Pelle made no claims on her now; he had long ago
satisfied himself that she could not respond to the strongest side of
his nature, and he had accustomed himself to the idea of waging his
fight alone. This had made him harder, but also more of a man.
At home the children were ailing--they did not receive proper care, and
the little girl was restless, especially during the night. The
complaining and coughing of the children made the home uncomfortable.
Ellen was dumb; like an avenging fate she went about her business and
cared for the children. Her expressive glance never encountered his;
although he often felt that her eyes were resting on him. She had grown
thin of late, which lent her beauty, a fanatical glow, and a touch of
malice. There were times when he would have given his life for an
honest, burning kiss as a token of this woman's love.
He understood her less and less, and was often filled with inexplicable
anxiety concerning her. She suffered terribly through the condition of
the children; and when she quieted them, with a bleeding heart, her
voice had a fateful sound that made him shudder. Sometimes he was driven
home by the idea that she might have made away with herself and the
One day, when he had hurried home with this impression in his mind, she
met him smiling and laid on the table five and twenty kroner.
"What's that?" asked Pelle, in amazement.
"I've won that in the lottery!" she said.
So that was why her behavior had been so peculiarly mysterious during
the last few days--as though there had been something which he must not
on any account get to know. She had ventured her last shilling and was
afraid he would find it out!
"But where did you get the money?" he asked.
"I borrowed it from my old friend, Anna--we went in for it together. Now
we can have the doctor and medicine for the children, and we ourselves
can have anything we want," she said.
This money worked a transformation in Ellen, and their relations were
once more warmly affectionate. Ellen was more lovingly tender in her
behavior than ever before, and was continually spoiling him. Something
had come over her that was quite new; her manner showed a sort of
contrition, which made her gentle and loving, and bound Pelle to his
home with the bonds of ardent desire. Now once more he hurried home. He
took her manner to be an apology for her harsh judgment of him; for
here, too, she was different, and began to interest herself in his work
for the Cause, inciting him, by all sorts of allusions, to continue it.
It was evident that in spite of her apparent coldness she had kept
herself well informed concerning it. Her manner underwent a most
extraordinary transformation. She, the hard, confident Ellen, became
mild and uncertain in her manner. She no longer kept sourly out of
things, and had learned to bow her head good-naturedly. She was no
longer so self-righteous.
One day, toward evening, Pelle was sitting at home before the looking-
glass, and shaving himself; he had cut off the whole of his fine big
moustache and was now shaving off the last traces of it. Ellen was
amused to see how his face was altered. "I can scarcely recognize you!"
she said. He had thought she would have opposed its removal, and have
put his moustache before the Cause; but she was pleasant about the whole
matter. He could not at all understand this alteration in her.
When he had finished he stood up and went over to Young Lasse, but the
child cried out in terror. Then he put on his old working-clothes, made
his face and head black, and made his way to the machine-works.
The factory was in full swing now; they were working alternate shifts,
day and night, with the help of interned strike-breakers, the "locked-
in" workers, as the popular wit called them.
The iron-masters had followed up their victory and had managed to set
yet another industry in motion again. If this sort of thing went much
further the entire iron industry would one day be operated without the
locked-out workers, who could stand outside and look on. But now a blow
was about to be struck! Pelle's heart was full of warmth and joy as he
left home, and he felt equal for anything.
He slipped through the pickets unnoticed, and succeeded in reaching the
door of the factory. "They're asleep--the devils!" he thought angrily,
and was very near spoiling the whole thing by administering a reprimand.
He knocked softly on the door and was admitted. The doorkeeper took him
to the foreman, who was fortunately a German.
Pelle was given employment in the foundry, with very good wages. He was
also promised that he should receive a bonus of twenty-five kroner when
he had been there a certain time. "That's the Judas money," said the
foreman, grinning. "And then as soon as the lock-out is over you'll of
course be placed in the forefront of the workers. Now you are quite
clear about this--that you can't get out of here until then. If you want
to send something to your wife, we'll see to that."
He was shown to a corner where a sack full of straw lay on the floor;
this was his dwelling-place and his refuge for the night.
In the factory the work went on as best it might. The men rushed at
their work as in a frolic, drifted away again, lounged about the works,
or stood here and there in groups, doing as they chose. The foremen did
not dare to speak to them; if they made a friendly remark they were met
with insults. The workers were taking advantage of the fact that they
were indispensable; their behavior was sheer tyranny, and they were
continually harping on the fact that they would just as soon go as stay.
These words made them the masters of the situation.
They were paid big wages and received abundance to eat and to drink. And
the working day or shift was shorter than usual. They did not understand
the real significance of this change of life, but went about playing the
bally. But there was a peculiar hesitation visible in their faces, as
though they were not quite sure of one another. The native workers, who
were in the minority, kept to themselves--as though they felt an inward
contempt for those fellows who had travelled so far to fish in the
troubled waters of their distress.
They were working three shifts, each of eight hours' duration.
"Oho!" thought Pelle, "why, this, good God, is the eight-hours' day!
This is surely the State of the future!" At the very moment of his
arrival one shift was completed, and the men immediately proceeded to
make the most infernal uproar, hammering on metal and shouting for food
and brandy. A huge cauldron full of beef and potatoes was dragged in.
Pelle was told off to join a mess of ten men.
"Eat, matey!" they said. "Hungry, ain't you? How long had you been out
of work before you gave in?"
"Three months," said Pelle.
"Then you must be peckish. Here with the beef! More beef here!" they
cried, to the cook's mate. "You can keep the potatoes and welcome! We've
eaten enough potatoes all our lives!"--"This is Tom Tiddler's land, with
butter sauce into the bargain! This is how we've always said it ought to
be--good wages and little to do, lots to eat and brandy to drink! Now
you can see it was a good thing we held out till it came to this--now we
get our reward! Your health! Here, damme, what's your name, you there?"
"Karlsen," said Pelle.
"Here's to you, Karlsen! Well, and how are things looking outside? Have
you seen my wife lately? She's easy to recognize--she's a woman with
seven children with nothing inside their ribs! Well, how goes it with
After eating they sat about playing cards, and drinking, or they loafed
about and began to quarrel; they were a sharp-tongued crew; they went
about actuated by a malicious longing to sting one another. "Come and
have a game with us, mate--and have a drink!" they cried to Pelle. "Damn
it all, how else should a man kill the time in this infernal place?
Sixteen hours' sleep a day--no, that's more than a chap can do with!"
There was a deafening uproar, as though the place had been a vast
tavern, with men shouting and abusing one another; each contributed to
the din as though he wanted to drown it by his own voice. They were able
to buy drink in the factory, and they drank what they earned. "That's
their conscience," thought Pelle. "At heart they are good comrades."
There seemed to be some hope of success for his audacious maneuver. A
group of Germans took no part in the orgy, but had set up a separate
colony in the remotest corner of the hall. They were there to make
In one of the groups a dispute broke out between the players; they were
reviling one another in no measured language, and their terms of abuse
culminated in the term "strike-breaker." This made them perfectly
furious. It was as though an abscess had broken; all their bottled-up
shame and anger concerning their infamous position burst forth. They
began to use knives and tools on one another. The police, who kept watch
on the factory day and night, were called in, and restored tranquillity.
A wounded smith was bandaged in the office, but no arrest was made. Then
a sudden slackness overcame them.
They constantly crowded round Pelle. He was a new man; he came from
outside. "How are things going out there?" was the constant question.
"Things are going very well out there. It's a worse lookout for us in
here," said Pelle.
"Going very well, are they? We've been told they are near giving in."
"Who told you that?"
"The bosses of the factory here."
"Then they were fooling you, in order to keep you here."
"That's a lie! And what d'you mean by saying it's a worse look-out for
us? Out with it, now!"
"We shall never get regular work again. The comrades are winning--and
when they begin work again they'll demand that we others shall be locked
"The devil--and they've promised us the best positions!" cried a great
smith. "But you're a liar! That you are! And why did you come here if
they are nearly winning outside? Answer me, damn it all! A man doesn't
come slinking into this hell unless he's compelled!"
"To leave his comrades in the lurch, you might add," replied Pelle
harshly. "I wanted to see how it feels to strike the bread away from the
mouths of the starving."
"That's a lie! No one would be so wicked! You are making fools of us,
"Give him a thrashing," said another. "He's playing a crooked game. Are
you a spy, or what do you want here? Do you belong to those idiots
It had been Pelle's plan to put a good face on a crooked job, and
cautiously to feel his way; but now he grew angry.
"You had better think what you're doing before you call honorable men
idiots," he retorted violently. "Do you know what you are? Swine! You
lie there eating your fill and pouring the drink down your throats and
living easy on the need of your comrades! Swine, that you are--Judases,
who have sold a good cause for dirty money! How much did you get? Five
and twenty kroner, eh? And out there they are loyally starving, so that
all of us--yes, you too--can live a little more like human beings in the
"You hold your jaw!" said the big smith. "You've no wife and children--
you can easily talk!"
"Aren't you the fellow who lives in Jaegersborg Street?" Pelle demanded.
"Perhaps you are sending what you earn to your wife and children? Then
why are they in want? Yesterday they were turned out of doors; the
organization took them in and found a roof to go over their heads--
although they were a strike-breaker's family!" Pelle himself had made
"Send--damn and blast it all--I'll send them something! But if one lives
this hell of a life in here the bit of money one earns all goes in rot-
gut! And now you're going to get a thrashing!" The smith turned up his
shirt-sleeves so that his mighty muscles were revealed. He was no longer
reasonable, but glared at Pelle like an angry bull.
"Wait a bit," said an older man, stepping up to Pelle. "I think I've
seen you before. What is your real name, if I may make bold to ask?"
"My name? You are welcome to know it. I am Pelle."
This name produced an effect like that of an explosion. They were
dazzled. The smith's arms fell slack; he turned his head aside in shame.
Pelle was among them! They had left him in the lurch, had turned their
backs on him, and now he stood there laughing at them, not the least bit
angry with them. What was more, he had called them comrades; so he did
not despise them! "Pelle is here!" they said quietly; further and
further spread the news, and their tongues dwelt curiously on his name.
A murmur ran through the shops. "What the devil--has Pelle come?" they
cried, stumbling to their legs. Pelle had leaped onto a great anvil.
"Silence!" he cried, in a voice of thunder; "silence!" And there was
silence in the great building. The men could hear their own deep
The foremen came rushing up and attempted to drag him down. "You can't
make speeches here!" they cried.
"Let him speak!" said the big smith threateningly. "You aren't big
enough to stop his mouth, not by a long chalk!" He seized a hammer and
stationed himself at the foot of the anvil.
"Comrades!" Pelle began, in an easy tone, "I have been sent here to you
with greetings from those outside there--from the comrades who used to
stand next to you at work, from your friends and fellow-unionists. Where
are our old comrades?--they are asking. We have fought so many battles
by their side, we have shared good and evil with them--are we to enter
into the new conditions without them? And your wives and children are
asking after you! Outside there it is the spring! They don't understand
why they can't pack the picnic basket and go out into the forest with
"No, there's no picnic basket!" said a heavy voice.
"There are fifty thousand men accepting the situation without
grumbling," Pelle earnestly replied. "And they are asking after you--
they don't understand why you demand more than they do. Have you done
more for the movement than they have?--they ask. Or are you a lot of
dukes, that you can't quietly stand by the rank and file? And now it's
the spring out there!" he cried once more. "The poor man's winter is