Part 3 out of 5
"Beautiful! There are some wonderful places. I know them all. If I only
dared I would ask you to let me row you over some time?"
This was not said in simple courtesy; it was a request. She understood it
perfectly. But she said, all the same, that she was not sure she had time;
it would be interesting, but--
"I wrote many of my poems there," continued Irgens. "I should like to show
you the place."
Aagot was silent.
"Come, please!" he exclaimed suddenly, and wanted to take her hand.
Just then Ole Henriksen appeared on the stairs and came toward them.
Irgens remained in his pleading attitude; he said with outstretched hand:
She glanced at him hurriedly.
"Yes," she whispered.
Ole joined them; he had not been able to get hold of Arendal at once; he
could not get a reply until to-morrow. Off to Sara now! He really had a
surprise for them--he carried in his pocket Ojen's latest work. They just
ought to hear it!
Quite a number of the clique were ensconced at Sara's, drinking and
gossiping. Tidemand was there, happy and contented with everything. He had
been all smiles since his success with that enormous enterprise in rye.
The grain had begun to arrive and was being stored in his warehouses,
thousands upon thousands of sacks. They grew into mountains; there was no
room for anything else; even Ole Henriksen had been obliged to let him
have space for storing. Tidemand walked around and viewed this wealth with
pride; even he had accomplished something above the ordinary. Never for an
instant did he regret that he had given such unlimited orders.
Journalist Gregersen offered Ole one finger and said: "You have something
on your conscience, Ole?"
"Oh, nothing sensational, exactly," said Ole. "I had a letter from Ojen;
he sends me his latest poem. Do you want to hear it?"
"Does he send you his--Has he sent you a manuscript?" exclaimed Milde in
astonishment. "I have never heard anything like it!"
"Now, no personalities!" warned the Journalist.
"Yes, but excuse me--why in the world did he send it to _you_, Ole?"
asks Milde again and does not give in.
Irgens glanced at Aagot. She did not appear to be listening, but was
talking eagerly with Mrs. Hanka. Irgens turned to Milde and told him
curtly that there were certain impertinences which even friends were not
supposed to submit to--was that clear enough?
Milde burst out laughing. He had never heard anything funnier. Did they
get offended? He had not meant anything of a harmful nature, nothing
offensive, mentally or physically! The idea simply had tickled his sense
of humour. But if it wasn't funny, all right....
Ole took out his manuscript.
"It is something out of the ordinary," he said. "Ojen calls it
"Let me read it," said Norem quickly. "I am, at any rate, supposed to know
a little about reading."
Ole handed him the manuscript.
"Jehovah is very busy--" began Norem. "Ojen has expressly stated in a
marginal note that it is not to be Jahve; now you know it!"
Jehovah is very busy; Jehovah has much to attend to. He was with me
one night when I wandered in the forest; He descended to me while I
lay on my face in prayer.
I lay there praying in the night, and the forest was silent.
The night oppressed me like an unbending, disjointed absurdity, and
the night was like a silence in which something breathing and mute was
Then Jehovah descended to me.
When Jehovah came the air rushed away from Him like a wake; birds were
blown away like chaff, and I clung to the sod and the trees and the
"You are calling me?" said Jehovah.
"I call out in my distress!" I answered.
And Jehovah spoke: "You want to know what to choose in life, Beauty or
Love or Truth?" And Jehovah said: "You want to know?"
And when He said: "You want to learn that?" I did not answer, but was
silent; for He knew my thoughts.
Then Jehovah touched my eyes, and I beheld:
I saw a tall woman against the skies. She wore no garments, and when
she moved her body shimmered like white silk, and she wore no
garments; for her body quivered toward me in rapture.
And she stood against the skies in a sunrise, yes, in a crimson dawn;
and the sun shone upon her, and a scarlet light streamed up through
the skies, yes, a light of blood surrounded her.
And she was tall and white, and her eyes were like two blue flowers
which brushed my soul when she looked at me; and when she spoke to me
she entreated me and urged me toward her, and her voice was like a
sweet phosphorescence with a taste of the sea.
I rose from the earth and stretched forth my arms toward her, and when
I stretched both my arms toward her she again implored me, and her
body was odorous with rapture. And I was gloriously stirred in my
inmost being, and I rose and gave her my lips in the morning glow,
and my eyes fell.
When I looked up again the woman was old. And the woman was old and
hoary with years, and her body had shrunk with age, and she had very
little life left. But when I looked up the sky was darkling toward
night, yes dark like night, and the woman was without hair. I looked
to her and knew her not and knew not the sky, and when I looked toward
the woman she was gone.
"This was Beauty!" said Jehovah. "Beauty wanes. I am Jehovah!"
And Jehovah touched my eyes again, and I beheld:
I saw a terrace, high, beneath a castle. There were two people there,
and the two people on the terrace were young and full of joy. And the
sun shone on the castle, and on the terrace, and the sun shone on the
two people and on the gravel deep, deep down the abyss, on the hard
driveway. And the people were two, a man and a woman in the springtide
of youth, and both were speaking honeyed words, and both were tender
toward each other with desire.
"See the flower on my breast!" he said; "can you hear what it is
saying?" And he leaned backward toward the railing on the terrace
and said: "This flower which you gave me stands here and murmurs
and whispers toward you, and it murmurs: 'Beloved, Queen, Alvilde,
Alvilde!' Do you hear it?"
And she smiled and looked down, and she took his hand and placed his
hand against her heart and answered: "But do you hear what my heart
says to you? My heart throbs toward you and it blushes with emotion
for your sake. And my heart babbles in joyful confusion and says:
'Beloved, I pause before you and almost perish when you look at me,
He leaned toward the terrace-railing and gloriously his breast heaved
with love. And deep, deep below was the abyss and the hard driveway.
And he pointed his finger down the depths and said: "Throw down your
fan, and I will follow it!" And when he had spoken his breast rose and
sank, and he placed his hands on the railing and made ready for the
Then I cried out and closed my eyes....
But when I looked up I saw again the two people, and they were both
older and both in their prime. And the two did not speak to each
other, but were silent with their thoughts. And when I looked up the
sky was grey, and the two walked up the white castle-stairway, and she
was full of indifference, yes full of hate in her steely eyes, and
when I looked for the third time I saw also anger and hate in his
glance, and his hair was grey like the grey skies.
And as they ascended the stairs she dropped her fan, one step down it
dropped, and she said with quivering lips and pointed downward: "I
dropped my fan--there it lies on the lower step--please hand it to me,
And he did not answer, but walked on and called a servant to pick up
"This was Love," said Jehovah. "Love perishes. I am Jehovah!"
And Jehovah touched my eyes for the last time, and I beheld:
I saw a town and a public square, and I saw a scaffold. And when I
listened I heard a seething sound of voices, and when I looked I saw
many people who talked and gritted their teeth with joy. And I saw a
man who was being bound, a malefactor who was being bound with leather
thongs, and the malefactor's countenance was haughty and proud, and
his eyes shone like stars. But his garment was torn and his feet stood
naked on the ground, and his clothes were almost gone, yes his cloak
was worn to almost nothing.
And I listened and heard a voice, and when I looked I saw that the
malefactor was speaking, and the malefactor spoke proudly and
gloriously. And they bade him be silent, but he spoke, he testified,
he shouted, and when they bade him be silent he did not cease with
fear. And when the malefactor spoke the mob ran up and silenced his
lips, and when he mutely pointed to the sky and to the sun, and when
he pointed to his heart which still beat warmly, the mob ran up and
struck him. And when the mob struck him the malefactor fell to his
knees, and he knelt and clasped his hands and testified mutely,
without words, in spite of the cruel blows.
And I looked at the malefactor and saw his eyes like stars, and I saw
the mob throw him down and hold him on the scaffold with their hands.
And when once more I looked I saw an axe-blade write in the air, and
when I listened I heard the stroke of the axe against the scaffolding
and the people joyfully shouting. And while I listened a
single-throated cry rose toward heaven from people groaning with
But the malefactor's head rolled in the dirt and the mob ran up and
seized it and lifted it high by the hair. And the malefactor's head
still spoke, and it testified with unquenchable voice and spoke loudly
all the words it uttered. And the malefactor's head was not silent
even in death.
But the mob ran up and took hold of the malefactor's head by the
tongue and lifted it high by the tongue. And the vanquished tongue was
mute, and the tongue spoke no more. But the eyes were like stars, yes,
like gleaming stars to be seen by everybody....
Then Jehovah said: "This was Truth. And Truth speaks even after its
head is severed. And with its tongue bound its eyes shine like stars.
I am Jehovah!"
When Jehovah had spoken I fell on my face and spoke not, but was
silent with much thought. And I thought that Beauty was lovely ere
it waned and Love was sweet ere it perished, and I thought that Truth
endured like stars everlasting. And tremblingly I thought of Truth.
And Jehovah said: "You wanted to know what to choose in life?" And
Jehovah said then: "Have you chosen?"
I lay on my face and answered, full of many thoughts:
"Beauty was lovely and Love was very sweet; and if I choose Truth,
it is like the stars, eternal."
And Jehovah spake once more and asked me:
"Have you chosen?"
And my thoughts were many, my thoughts warred mightily within me, and
"Beauty was like a morning glow." And when I had said this I whispered
and said: "Love was also sweet and glorious like a little star in my
But then I felt Jehovah's eye on me, and Jehovah's eye read my
thoughts. And for the third time Jehovah asked and said:
"Have you chosen?"
And when He said for the third time: "Have you chosen?" my eyes stared
with terror, yes, all my strength had left me. And when He said for
the last time: "Have you chosen?" I remembered Beauty and Love and
remembered them both, and I answered Jehovah:
"I choose Truth!"
* * * * *
But I still remember....
"Well, that's all," concluded Norem.
Everybody was silent for a moment; then the Journalist said:
"I refrain from expressing an opinion; I notice Milde is going to say
And Milde did not refrain; far from it; on the contrary, he had a remark
to make. Could anybody tell him what it was all about? He admired Ojen as
much as anybody, but was there any sense to all this "Jehovah said" and
"Jehovah said"? He wanted to be enlightened.
"But why are you always so unkind to Ojen?" asked Mrs. Hanka. "Memories--
can't you understand? To me it seemed beautiful and full of feeling; don't
spoil it for me now." And she turned to Aagot and said: "Didn't you find
it so, too?"
"But, dear Mrs. Hanka," exclaimed Milde, "don't say that I am always
unkind to Ojen! Do I not wish him success with his application for the
subsidy, contrary to my own interests? But this blessed new 'intention' is
beyond me. Memories--all right. But where, in Heaven's name, is the point?
Jehovah has never visited him; it is an invention. And, furthermore, why
didn't he choose both Youth and Beauty, and Truth as well? That is what I
should have done. The point, I say!"
"But that is just it--there is no definite point," replied Ole Henriksen.
"So Ojen says in a letter to me. Its effect lies in its euphony, he says."
"He does? No, that fellow is the same wherever he goes. That is the
trouble. Not even the mountains can do anything for him. Goats' milk and
pine woods and peasant girls have not the slightest effect on him, as it
were--I am still at a loss to understand why he sent _you_ his
manuscript, Ole; but if it is an offence to ask, of course, then--"
"I really don't know why he sent it to me," said Ole quietly. "He tells me
that he wanted me to see that he was doing something and not wasting his
time altogether. He is anxious to get back, though; he cannot stand
Torahus any longer."
"I understand! He asked you for carfare!"
"I do not suppose he has much money left. That could hardly be expected,"
answered Ole, and put the manuscript in his pocket. "As for me, I think it
is a remarkable poem, irrespective of your opinion."
"Surely, old fellow; but please don't talk about poetry," interrupted
Milde. And as it dawned on him that he had been a little too rude to the
poor peddler in Aagot's presence, he added hurriedly: "I mean--Isn't it
too much of a bore to talk about poetry and poetry all the time? Give us,
for a change, a little fishery talk, a little railway politics--Isn't it a
fierce lot of rye you are storing, Tidemand?"
As Tidemand saw many eyes upon him, he could not entirely ignore the
Artist's question, and he answered:
"Yes, I have tried to strike a modest blow; I cannot deny it. It all
depends now on how things turn out in Russia. If, in spite of everything
that had been forecasted, the crops should prove even middling, it does
not look any too bright for me and my rye. Rains in Russia now would
"Rains are falling now," said Gregersen. "The English papers have been
informed of a sufficient rainfall in the larger provinces. Are you selling
your rye already?"
Of course, Tidemand had bought to sell if he could get his price.
Milde had moved over to Paulsberg, and spoke to him in a low whisper.
Ojen's prose poem had caused him some anxiety. Perhaps, after all, there
was something to this fellow, this competitor in the matter of the
subsidy. What was Paulsberg's opinion?
"You know I don't care to speak for or against in such a matter," said
Paulsberg. "But I have called at the ministry a few times and expressed my
preference. I hope it may carry some weight."
"Of course, of course, I didn't mean--Well, the Exhibition closes
to-morrow. We ought to get busy and finish that picture of yours. Can you
Paulsberg nodded and turned away.
Irgens had gradually lost his good spirits; it irritated him that no one
had mentioned his book. It was the latest event; why wasn't it even
referred to? Everybody was only too familiar with Ojen's filigree fancies.
Irgens shrugged his shoulders. Paulsberg had not indicated approval of his
book by a single word. Perhaps he was waiting to be asked? But Irgens
could get along without Paulsberg's opinion.
"Are you going?" asked Mrs. Hanka.
Irgens said good night to her and to Miss Aagot, nodded to the others, and
He had only gone a few steps when he heard somebody call him. Mrs. Hanka
was hurrying after him; she had left her wraps in the cafe and had
followed in order to say good night properly. Wasn't that nice of her? She
smiled and was very happy.
"I have hardly seen you since I got your book. How I have enjoyed every
word!" she exclaimed, and put her hand in his coat pocket in order to be
close to him. He felt that she left an envelope in his pocket. "Oh, your
verses, your verses!" she said again and again.
He could not remain impassive in the presence of this warm admiration. He
wanted to return it, to show her how fond he was of her, and while in this
mood he confided to her that he, too, had applied for the subsidy. What
did she think of that? He had really applied, briefly and without
enclosing any recommendations, simply sending his book. That ought to be
Mrs. Hanka did not answer at once.
"You have suffered, then," she said; "you have lacked--I mean, you have
had to apply like the others--"
"Well, good Lord," he answered, and laughed, "what are the subsidies for,
anyway? I have not suffered want; but why not apply when one can do it
without loss of prestige? And I did not humble myself; be sure of that. 'I
hereby apply for the subsidy and enclose my last book'--that was all.
There was no kowtowing whatever. And when I survey my fellow applicants I
hardly think I shall be entirely eclipsed. What is your opinion?"
She smiled and said:
"No, you will not be eclipsed."
He put his arm around her and said:
"Now, Hanka, you must go back--I can endure it all as long as you are in
town, but when you go away it will look very dark for me! I shan't know
what to do with myself then."
"I am only going to the country," she said.
"Isn't that enough? We shall be separated just the same, for you know I
cannot leave the city. When are you going?"
"I imagine in about a week."
"I wish you wouldn't go away, Hanka!" he exclaimed, and stood still.
Mrs. Hanka reflected.
"Would it really please you so much if I stayed?" she asked. "All right;
then I'll stay. Yes, I will. It will be hard on the children, but--Anyway,
it is enough for me that I make you glad."
They had reached Sara's once more.
"Good night," he said happily. "Thank you, Hanka! When shall I see you
again? I am longing--"
Three days later Irgens received a note from Mrs. Hanka.
He was down-town; he had met a few acquaintances; he did not say much, but
was in a satisfied frame of mind. He had taken a look at Paulsberg's great
portrait which was now exhibited in the Arrow, in the large window which
everybody had to pass; people crowded in front of it continually. The
painting was elegant and obtrusive; Paulsberg's well-groomed form looked
very distinguished in the plain cane-bottomed chair, and people wondered
if that was the chair in which he had written his books. All the
newspapers had mentioned the picture in flattering terms.
Irgens had a glass of wine in front of him and listened abstractedly to
the conversation. Tidemand was still optimistic; that bit of rain in
Russia had not depressed his hopes. The prices were not soaring as yet,
but they surely would. Suddenly Irgens pricked up his ears: Tidemand was
talking about their summer plans.
"We are not going to the country after all," he said; "Hanka thought--In
fact, I told her plainly that if she wanted to go she would have to go
alone; I was too busy to think of getting off. Hanka was very nice about
it; she agreed to stay in the city."
The door opened and Milde entered. The corpulent chap beamed happily and
shouted, full of the great sensation he was going to spring:
"Congratulate me, good people, I have won the prize! Imagine, in its
inscrutable wisdom the ministry has chosen to bestow the subsidy upon me!"
"Have _you_ received the subsidy?" asked Irgens slowly.
"Yes, can you understand it? How it happened I am at a loss to know. I got
it from under your very noses! I hear that you, too, applied, Irgens?"
Silence fell upon the crowd at the table. Nobody had expected that, and
they were all wondering what influence had been brought to bear. Milde had
got the subsidy--what next?
"Well, I congratulate you!" said Tidemand, and gave Milde his hand.
"Thank you," Milde replied. "I want you to lend me some money now, so that
I can celebrate properly; you'll get it back when I cash in."
Irgens looked at his watch as if he suddenly remembered something and got
"I, too, congratulate you," he said. "I am sorry to have to leave at once;
I have to--No; my object in applying was an entirely different one; I'll
tell you about it later," he added in order to hide his disappointment.
Irgens went home. So Milde had been chosen! That was the way Norway
rewarded her talents. Here he had hurled his inspired lyric in their
faces, and they did not even know what it was! _Whom_ had they
preferred? None other than oil-painter Milde, collector of ladies'
Of course, he knew how it had happened; Paulsberg was behind it. Paulsberg
had supported Milde's application, and Milde had painted Paulsberg's
picture. A simon-pure advertising conspiracy! And when Irgens passed the
Arrow and saw the painting he spat contemptuously on the pavement. He had
seen through this hypocritical scurviness. However, he would find means to
make himself felt.
But why in the world should Lars Paulsberg be allowed to dispose of these
subsidies? True, he had never let slip an opportunity to ingratiate
himself with the newspapers; he had his press-agents; he took good care
that his name shouldn't be forgotten. But apart from that? Alas, a few
novels in the style of the seventies, a popular and amateurish criticism
of such a moss-grown dogma as the Atonement! What did it amount to when
one looked at it critically? But the fact that he had the press behind him
made his words carry weight. Yes, he was certainly a shrewd and thrifty
soul, a real backwoods bargain-hunter. He knew what he was doing when he
even allowed his wife to accept Journalist Gregersen's beer-perfumed
attentions! Faugh, what a sordid mess!
Well, he was not going to gain success by employing such methods; he hoped
he would manage to get along without unfairness. He had one weapon--his
pen. That was the kind of man _he_ was.
He went home and locked his door. There would still be time to regain his
composure before Mrs. Hanka's arrival. He tried to write, but found it
impossible. He paced back and forth furiously, pale with anger, bitter and
vindictive because of this defeat. He would, by Heaven, avenge this wrong;
no gentle words were to flow from his pen henceforth!
At last Mrs. Hanka arrived.
No matter how often she had entered this apartment, she always felt a
certain embarrassment at first, and she usually said in order to hide it:
"Does Mr. Irgens live here?"
But she noticed at once that Irgens was not in a playful mood to-day, and
she asked what was the matter. When he had told her of the great calamity
she, too, was indignant: "How unjust! What a scandal! Had Milde been
"In payment for Paulsberg's portrait," said Irgens. "Well, it cannot be
helped; don't let it irritate you; I am reconciled."
"You take it beautifully; I don't see how you can."
"The only effect it has on me is to make me a little bitter; it does not
break my spirit."
"I simply cannot understand it; no, I can't. Did you send your book with
"Certainly--Oh, my book! I might as well not have written it; so far
nobody seems to have noticed it. There has been no review of it so far in
any of the papers." And, angry because of this newspaper neglect of his
work, he gritted his teeth and walked up and down.
She looked sadly at him.
"Now, don't allow this to embitter you," she said. "You have great
provocation, but all the same--You can live without that miserable
subsidy. You know that nobody is your equal!"
"And what good does that do me? Judge for yourself; my book has not been
mentioned in a single newspaper!"
Mrs. Hanka had for the first time--yes, for the very first time--a feeling
that her hero was not the superior being she had imagined. A shuddering
thought pierced her heart: he did not carry his disappointment with more
than ordinary pride. She looked at him a little closer. His eyes were not
so clear, his mouth was drawn and his nostrils dilated. But it was only a
Then he added: "You might do me the favour to try to interest Gregersen in
my book, and see if he won't review it in the _Gazette_." And as he
noticed that she grew more and more thoughtful, that she even looked
interrogatingly straight into his eyes, he added: "Of course, you need not
ask him directly--only give him a little hint, a reminder."
Could this be Irgens? But she remembered at once his painful position,
alone as he was, fighting a conspiracy single-handed; and she excused him.
She ought to have thought of giving Gregersen a little hint herself and
spared her Poet this humiliation. Yes, she certainly would speak to
Gregersen at once.
And Irgens thanked her; his bitterness vanished slowly. They sat silently
on the sofa some time; then she said:
"Listen! An awful thing happened with that red tie of yours--you remember
the one I took from you once? He saw it!"
"How could you be so careless? What did he say?"
"Nothing; he never says anything. It fell out as I opened my dress. Well,
don't let that worry you; it doesn't matter. When can I see you again?"
Ever, _ever_ her tenderness was the same! Irgens took her hand and
caressed it. How fortunate he was to have her! She was the only one in all
the world who understood him, who was good to him--How about that stay in
the country? Had she given it up?
Yes; she was not going. She told him frankly that she had had no trouble
changing her husband's mind; he had given in at once. But she was sorry
for the children.
"Yes," answered Irgens sympathetically. And suddenly he asked in a
"Did you lock the door as you came in?"
She glanced at him, lowered her eyes and whispered: "Yes."
On the 17th of May, [Footnote: Norway's Independence Day.] in the
morning, the birds are singing over the city.
A coal-heaver, tired from a night of toil, wanders up through the docks
with his shovel across his shoulder; he is black, weary, and athirst; he
is going home. And as he walks along, the city begins to stir; a shade is
raised here and there; flags are flung from the windows. It is the 17th of
All stores and schools are closed; the roar from the wharves and factories
is stilled. Only the winches rattle; they shatter the air with their
cheerful noise this bright morning. Departing steamers blow white clouds
of steam from their exhausts; the docks are busy, the harbour is alive.
And letter-carriers and telegraph messengers have already commenced their
rounds, bringing news, scattering information through the doors, whirling
up in the hearts of men emotions and feelings like leaves in an autumn
A stray dog with his nose on the pavement lopes through the streets, hot
on a scent and without a thought for anything else. Suddenly he stops,
jumps up and whines; he has found a little girl who is leaving on every
stoop newspapers full of 17th-of-May freedom and bold, ringing phrases.
The little girl jerks her tiny body in all directions, twitches her
shoulders, blinks and hurries from door to door. She is pale and
emaciated; she has Saint Vitus's dance.
The coal-heaver continues his walk with a heavy, long stride. He has
earned a good night's wage; these enormous English coal-steamers and the
many merchantmen from all over the world are indeed a blessing to such as
he! His shovel is shiny with wear; he shifts it to his other shoulder and
it glitters with every step he takes, signals to heaven with gleaming
flashes; it cuts the air like a weapon and shines like silver. The
coal-heaver runs foul of a gentleman coming out of a gateway; the
gentleman smells of liquor and looks a little shaky; his clothes are
silk-lined. As soon as he has lit a cigar he saunters down the street and
The gentleman's face is small and round, like a girl's; he is young and
promising; it is Ojen, leader and model for all youthful poets. He has
been in the mountains to regain his health, and since his return he has
had many glorious nights; his friends have acclaimed him without ceasing.
As he turns toward the fortress he meets a man he seems to know; they both
"Pardon me, but haven't we met before?" asks Ojen politely.
The stranger answers with a smile:
"Yes, on Torahus. We spent an evening together."
"Of course; your name is Coldevin. I thought I knew you. How are you?"
"Oh, so so--But are you abroad so early?"
"Well, to tell the truth, I haven't been to bed yet."
"Oh, I see!"
"The fact of the matter is that I have hardly been in bed a single night
since my return. I am in the hands of my friends. And that means that I am
in my element once more--It is strange, Mr. Coldevin, how I need the city;
I love it! Look at these houses, these straight, pure lines! I only feel
at home here. The mountains--Lord preserve us! And yet, I expected much
when I went there."
"How did you get on? Did you get rid of your nervousness?"
"Did I? To tell you the truth, my nervousness is part of myself; it
belongs to me, as the Doctor says; there is nothing to be done about it."
"So you have been to the mountains and substantiated the fact that your
nervousness is chronic? Poor young talent, to be afflicted with such a
Ojen looked at him in amazement. But Coldevin smiled and continued to talk
innocently. So he did not like the country? But did he not feel that his
talent had been benefited by the mountain air?
"Not at all. I have never noticed that my talent stood in need of
"Of course not."
"I have written a lengthy prose poem while I was away, so you see I have
not altogether wasted my time. Well, you will pardon me for renewing our
acquaintance so abruptly; but I must get home and get a little sleep now.
Very pleased to have met you again."
And Ojen walked off.
Coldevin shouted after him:
"But it is the 17th of May to-day!"
Ojen turned and looked surprised.
"Well, what of it?"
Coldevin shook his head and laughed shortly.
"Nothing. Nothing at all. I only wanted to see if you remembered it. And I
see that you remembered it perfectly."
"Yes," said Ojen, "one does not altogether forget the teachings of
Coldevin stood there and looked after him. _He_ was only waiting for
the processions to start. His coat was beginning to be rather shiny; it
was carefully brushed, but shabby; in the left lapel was fastened securely
a little silk bow in the Norwegian colours.
He shivered, for the air was still chilly; he walked rapidly in order to
get down to the harbour whence sounded the energetic rattle of anchor
chains. He nodded and glanced at the waving flags, counted them, and
followed their graceful billowing against the blue sky. Here and there a
few pale theatre bills were posted on pillars; he went from one to another
and read great and famous names--masterpieces from earlier periods. He
happened to think of Irgens's lyric drama, but he looked for it in vain.
And he turned his face toward the sea; the rattle of chains reached his
The ships were dressed in bunting; the entire harbour scintillated with
these bright colours against the blue. Coldevin breathed deeply and stood
still. The odour of coal and tar, of wine and fruit, of fish and oils; the
roar from engines and traffic, the shouts, the footfalls on the decks, the
song from a young sailor who was shining shoes in his shirtsleeves--it all
stirred him with a violent joy which almost made his eyes moisten. What a
power was here! What ships! The harbour gleamed; far away he saw Miss
Aagot's little yacht with the shining masthead.
He lost himself in this spectacle. Time passed; suddenly he dived into a
basement restaurant that had opened up and asked for a sandwich for
breakfast. When he emerged a little later there were many people in the
streets; it was getting along toward the time for the boys' parade to
start. He had to hurry; it would never do to miss the processions.
* * * * *
Along toward three o'clock a few members of the clique had occupied a
vantage-point at the corner, in order to see the big procession pass by
toward the Royal Castle. None of them marched in the parade. Suddenly one
of them called out:
"Look, there is Coldevin!"
They saw him march now under one, now under another banner; it was as if
he wanted to belong to them all; he was almost too enthusiastic to keep in
step. Attorney Grande crossed over and joined the procession; he caught up
with Coldevin and started a conversation.
"And where is the young Norway?" asked Coldevin, "the poets, the artists--
why aren't they marching? They ought to; it would not hurt their talent.
It might not help it much, either; I don't say that, but I am sure it
would never hurt. The trouble is, they don't care! They are indifferent;
but it is surely wrong to be so indifferent."
Coldevin had grown still more absurd, although he spoke with his usual
calm deliberation. He was obstinate; he talked about the suffrage
movement, and even hinted that it would be better if women should be a
little more anxious to make their homes attractive. It was wrong, he said,
that women should think too little of their home life and prefer a
hall-room in order to become what they called "independent." They had to
"study" until they, too, could wear glasses; they went to a business
school if they could do no better. And they did their things so
excellently that they were graduated, and if they were lucky they would
finally secure a position at twenty crowns a month. Fine! But they had to
pay twenty-seven for the hall-room and meals. Then they were
"But you cannot say that it is the fault of the women if their work is
paid so poorly," objected the Attorney, whose wife was liberal.
Certainly, these arguments were familiar; they were old and tried. They
had been answered, but.... In fact, they had been riddled several thousand
times. But the worst of it was that the home was simply destroyed by the
corroding influence of these ideas. Coldevin accentuated this. He had
noticed that a great many people here in the city mainly lived in the
restaurants. He had looked for acquaintances in their homes, but in vain;
however, he met them when he occasionally went to a cafe. He did not want
to speak about artists and authors; they simply did not have nor did they
want any other home than the cafes, and he did not understand how they
could accomplish anything under these circumstances. But women nowadays
were lacking in ambition and heart; they were satisfied with the mixed
company they found in these hang-outs. They did not extend themselves in
any one direction; they were not occupied with any single idea; they
became simply roundheaded. God, how rarely one nowadays saw real race!
Somebody in the procession called for cheers and was answered with
scattering hurrahs. Coldevin cheered enthusiastically, although he did not
hear what the cheers were for. He looked resentfully down the ranks and
swung his hat, urging the marchers to shout still louder.
"These people don't know how to cheer!" he said. "They shout in a whisper;
nobody can hear them. Help me, Mr. Attorney, and we'll liven them up!"
The Attorney thought it fun and shouted with him until they succeeded in
stirring up the dying hurrahs.
"Once again!" shouted Coldevin.
And again the cheers rolled down the ranks.
The Attorney said smilingly:
"That you should _care_ to do this!"
Coldevin looked at him. He said seriously:
"You should not say that. We should all care to do this; it would not hurt
us. Of course, this parading has not in itself great significance; but
there will be opportunities to cheer for Norway, for the flag, and then we
ought to be present. Who knows--these booming cheers may have their effect
on Parliament; it may be reminded of a few things it has begun to forget--
a little loyalty, a little steadfastness. People should not be so
unconcerned; now is the time for the young to step forward. Perhaps, if
the youth of the country had shown up occasionally and met together and
hurrahed at times, Parliament might have settled a few things differently
lately. And, if you had cared to take a walk along the docks to-day and
witnessed the nation's life throb so mightily, then, by Heaven, you would
have felt that the country is worth our cheers--"
The Attorney spied Ojen on the sidewalk; he excused himself and stepped
out of the procession. He looked back a moment later and saw that Coldevin
had changed places again; he was marching under the business-men's banner,
erect, grey-bearded, and shabby, with the glint of the Norwegian colours
on his lapel.
Aagot was dressed for the excursion; she pulled on her gloves and was
It had not been at all difficult to arrange this little trip; Ole had only
requested that she be careful and dress warmly; it was only May.
And they started.
It was calm, warm, and bright; not a cloud in the skies. Irgens had the
boat ready; they had only to go aboard. He spoke intentionally about
indifferent matters; he wanted to make her forget that she had originally
agreed to this island trip with a whispered yes, a sudden submission right
before Ole's very eyes. She was reassured. Irgens had not invested her
sudden consent with a deeper significance than she had intended; he walked
along as unconcernedly as possible and talked about the weather and almost
had to be hurried along. Just as they were on the verge of starting she
caught a glimpse of Coldevin, who stood on the dock half hidden behind a
pile of boxes. She jumped out of the boat and called:
"Coldevin! I want to see you!"
It was impossible to avoid her; he stepped forward and took off his hat.
She gave him her hand. Where in the world had he kept himself all this
time? Dear me, why was he never to be seen? It began to look a little
strange--really it did.
He stammered an excuse, spoke about library work, a translation from a
book, an absolutely necessary bit of work....
But she interrupted and asked where he lived now. She had looked for him
at the hotel but was told that he had left; nobody knew where he had gone.
She had also had a glimpse of him on the seventeenth; she was in the Grand
and saw him march by in the parade.
He repeated his excuses and trotted out the old joke about the impropriety
of disturbing sweethearts too much. He smiled good-naturedly as he spoke.
She observed him carefully. His clothes were threadbare, his face had
become thinner, and she wondered suddenly if he were in want. Why had he
left the hotel, and where did he live? He said something about a friend, a
college chum--honest, a teacher, a splendid fellow.
Aagot asked when he was going back to Torahus, but he did not know
exactly; he was unable to say. As long as he had this library work and was
Well, he simply must promise to come before he went away; she insisted.
And she asked suddenly: "When I saw you on the seventeenth, didn't you
have a bow in your buttonhole?"
Certainly, he had a bow; one had to show the colours on such a day! Didn't
she remember that she had given it to him herself? She had wanted him to
be decorated last year, when he was going to speak to the peasants at
Torahus, and she had given him the bow. Didn't she remember?
Aagot recalled it. She asked:
"Was it really the same bow?"
"Yes; isn't it strange? I happened to come across it; I must have brought
it along with some clothes; I found it by accident."
"Imagine! I thought at once it was my bow. It made me glad; I don't know
why," she said and bowed her head.
Irgens shouted and asked her if she were coming.
"No!" she called bluntly and without thinking. She did not even turn her
head. But when she realised how she had answered she grew confused and
cried to Irgens: "Pardon me just a moment!" And she turned to Coldevin
again: "I would have loved to stay and talk with you, but I have no time;
I am going to the island." She offered Coldevin her hand and said:
"Anyway, I hope everything will turn out for the best; don't you think it
will, too? I am sorry to have to hurry off. So long; be sure and come up
She skipped down the steps and into the boat. Again she apologised for
keeping Irgens waiting.
And Irgens rowed out. They talked about the sea, the far journeys, the
strange countries; he had been abroad only in his dreams, and he supposed
that would be the extent of his travellings. He looked sad and listless.
Suddenly he said:
"I hear you are not going to the country after all."
"No. The Tidemands have changed their plans."
"So I am told. It is a pity; I am sorry for your sake, in a way." And,
resting on his oars, he added bluntly: "But I am glad for my own sake; I
admit it frankly."
Aagot skipped up the stone jetty when they landed. The trees delighted
her; it was ages since she had seen a real forest--such great big trees,
just like home. She sniffed the pungent, pine-laden air, she looked at
stones and flowers with a feeling of recognition; memories from home
surged through her, and she was for an instant on the verge of tears.
"But here are other people!" she exclaimed suddenly.
Irgens laughed: "What did you expect? This is not a jungle, exactly."
They explored the island thoroughly, saw the changing views, and had
refreshments. Aagot beamed. The walk in the bracing air had flushed her
cheeks, her lips, her ears, even her nose; her eyes were sparkling gaily.
She suddenly remembered that she had almost pouted in disappointment when
she saw other people; what must Irgens have thought?
"I was at first a little surprised to find so many people here," she said.
"The reason was that you told me you had written some of your poems here,
and I did not think you could have done that unless you had been entirely
How she remembered! He gazed at her exultantly and answered that he had
his own restful nook where nobody ever came. It was on the other side;
should they go over?
They went. It was certainly a restful place, a regular wilderness of rocks
and heather and junipers, enclosed on two sides. Far in the distance could
be seen a little glade. They sat down.
"So this is where you sit and write!" she exclaimed. "It is strange to
think of. Were you sitting here?"
"About here. Do you know, it is refreshing to meet such a spontaneous
interest as yours?"
"Tell me, how do you write your things? Do the thoughts come to you
without conscious effort?"
"Yes, in a way. Things affect one pleasantly or otherwise, and the mood is
there. But the trouble then is to make the words reflect the love or hate
one's heart feels at the moment. Often it is useless even to try; one can
never find words adequately to express that languid gesture of your hand,
to define that evanescent thrill your laughter sends through one--"
Slowly the sun sank; a tremor quivered through the trees, and all was
"Listen," he said, "do you hear the noise boiling away yonder in the
He noted how her dress tightened across her knee; he followed the curving
outline of her figure, saw how her bosom rose and sank, observed her face
with the darling dimple and the somewhat irregular nose; his blood stirred
and he moved closer to her. He spoke in fumbling, broken sentences:
"This is now the Isle of the Blest, and its name is Evenrest. The sun is
sinking; we are here--the world far off; it is exactly my dream of dreams.
Tell me, does my voice disturb you? You seem so far away--Miss Lynum, it
is useless to continue the struggle; I surrender to you. I lie at your
feet and tell you this, although I have not moved--"
The swift change in his expression, the low, vibrant, fervent voice, his
nearness--for a moment she was completely, stupidly stunned. She looked at
him for an instant without answering. Then her cheeks began to flame; she
started to get up and said quickly:
"But isn't it time to go?"
"No!" he exclaimed. "No, don't go!" He took hold of her dress, flung his
arm around her, and held her back. She struggled with face aglow, laughing
uncertainly, making vain efforts to free herself.
"You must be crazy," she said again and again; "have you completely
"Please, let me at least tell you something!"
"Well, what is it?" she asked and sat still; she turned her face away, but
And he began speaking rapidly and incoherently; his heart-beats trembled
in his voice, which was persuasive and full of tenderness. She could see
that all he wanted was to make her understand how unspeakably he loved
her; how he had been conquered, subdued as never before. She must believe
him; it had lain dormant and grown in his heart since the very first time
he met her. He had fought and struggled to keep his feelings within
bounds; but it was true--such a struggle was not very effective. It was
too sweet to yield, and so one yielded. One fought on with a steadily
slipping grip. And now the end had come; he could not fight any more, he
was entirely disarmed.... "I believe my breast will burst asunder."...
Still leaning away from him, she had turned her face and was gazing at him
while he spoke. Her hands had ceased their ineffectual efforts and were
now resting on his, tightly clasped around her waist; she saw the blood
leap through the veins along his throat. She straightened up and sat
erect; his hands were still around her, but she did not seem to notice it
now. She seized her gloves and said with quivering lips:
"But, Irgens, you should not say such things to me. You know you
shouldn't. It is sad, but I cannot help it now."
"No, you are right; I don't suppose I ought to have said it, but--" He
gazed at her; his lips were trembling too. "But, Miss Aagot, what would
_you_ do if your love made you weak and powerless; if it robbed you
of your senses and blinded you to everything else? I mean--"
"Yes, but say nothing more!" she interrupted. "I understand you in a way,
but--You know, I cannot listen to this." She looked at the arms around
her waist, and with a sudden jerk she moved away and got up.
She was still so confused that she remained standing immobile; she did not
even brush the heather from her dress. And when he got up she made no
effort to go, but remained where she was.
"Listen, I want you to promise not to tell this to anybody. I am afraid--
And you must not think of me any more. I had no idea that you really
cared; of course, I thought that you liked me very much--I had begun to
think that; but I never thought--'How could _he_ care for
_me?_' I always thought. If you want me to I will go back to Torahus
and stay there awhile."
He was deeply moved; he swallowed hard and his eyes grew moist. This
delicious simplicity, these candid words, her very attitude, which was
free from fear and entirely unaffected--his feelings flared up in him like
a consuming flame: No, no, not to Torahus--only stay! He would control
himself, would show her that he could control himself; she must not go
away. Even should he lose his mind and perish altogether--rather that, if
she would only stay!
He continued talking while he was brushing off her dress. She must pardon
him; he was not like everybody else, he was a poet; when it came over him
he must yield. But he would give her no further cause for complaint if she
would only stay.... Wouldn't she mind going away the least little bit,
though? No, of course, he had no false illusions.
Pause. He was waiting for her to answer, to contradict him; perhaps she
would go to Torahus a little regretfully after all? But she remained
silent. Did she, then, hold him in so slight regard? Impossible! Still,
the thought began to worry him; he felt aggrieved, hurt, almost slighted.
He repeated his question: Did all his love for her not call forth the
tiniest responsive spark in her heart?
She answered gently and sorrowfully:
"Please do not ask. What do you think Ole would say if he heard you?"
Ole? He had not given him a thought. Did he really play the role of
competitor to Ole Henriksen? It was too ridiculous. He could not believe
that she meant what she had said. Ole might be all right as far as that
went; he bought and sold, went his peddler rounds through life, paid his
bills and added dollars to his hoard. That was all. Did money really
matter so much to her? God knows, perhaps even this girlish little head
had its concealed nook where thoughts were figuring in crowns and pennies!
Irgens was silent for an instant; he felt the pangs of jealousy. Ole might
be able to hold her; he was tall and blue-eyed--perhaps she even preferred
"Ole?" he said. "I do not care in the least what he would say. Ole does
not exist for me; it is you I love."
She seemed startled for the first time; she frowned a little and began to
"This is too contemptible!" she said. "I wish you hadn't said that. So it
is me you love? Well, don't tell me any more about it."
"Miss Aagot--one word only. Don't you care the least little bit for me?"
He had seized her arm; she had to look at him. He was too violent; he did
not control himself as he had promised; he was not very handsome now.
She answered: "I love Ole; I hope you understand that."
The sun sank deeper. People had left the island; only an occasional late
straggler was still seen walking along the road toward the city. Irgens
did not ask questions any more; he spoke only when necessary. Aagot tried
in vain to start a conversation; she had all she could do to keep her
heart under control.
When they were in the boat again he said: "Perhaps you would have
preferred to drive back alone? I may be able to find a hackman for you, if
"Now don't be angry any more!" she said.
She could hardly keep her eyes from brimming over; she forced herself to
think of indifferent matters in order to regain control over herself; she
gazed back toward the island, followed the flight of a bird that sailed
gracefully above the water. She asked:
"Is that water over there?"
"No," he answered; "it is a meadow; the dew makes it look dark."
"Imagine! To me it looked like water." But as it was impossible to talk
further about this green meadow they were both silent.
He was rowing hard; they approached the docks. He landed and jumped out to
help her ashore. Neither of them had gloves on; her warm hand rested in
his, and she took the opportunity of thanking him for the trip.
"I want to ask you to forget that I have bothered you with my heart
troubles," he said.
And he lifted his hat, without waiting for an answer, jumped into the
boat, and pushed off.
She had stopped at the head of the steps. She saw that he went back into
the boat, and wanted to call to him and ask where he was going; but she
gave it up. He saw her fair form disappear across the jetty.
He had in reality not intended to do this; he acted on the spur of the
moment, embarrassed as he was, hardly knowing what he was doing. He seized
the oars and rowed out again, towards the island. The evening was
wondrously calm. Now, when he was alone, he realised how deep was his
despair; another disappointment, another fall, the very worst! And not a
star in the murky night! He suddenly remembered Hanka, who probably had
looked for him to-day; who perhaps was seeking him even now. No; Hanka was
not fair; Hanka was dark; she did not radiate, but she allured. But how
was it--didn't she walk a little peculiarly? No, Hanka did not have
Aagot's carriage. And why was it her laugh no longer made his blood
He rested on the oars and let the boat drift. It grew darker. Fragmentary
thoughts drifted through his brain: a rudderless ship on the buffeting
waves, an emperor in defeat, King Lear, thoughts and thoughts. He went aft
and began to write on the back of some envelopes, verse upon verse. Thank
God, nothing could rob him of his talent! And this thought sent a thrill
of warm happiness coursing through his veins.
Tidemand was still optimistic; his ice business in England was very
profitable. He did not place much faith in the reports that extensive
rains throughout Russia had greatly improved the prospects for a normal
harvest. It had rained, of course, but the fact remained that Russia was
still closed; not a sack of grain could be smuggled out if one were to
offer for it its weight in gold. Tidemand stuck to his price; occasionally
he would sell small quantities throughout the country, but his enormous
stores were hardly affected by this; he needed a panic, a famine, before
he could unload. But there was no hurry; only wait until winter!
As usual, Tidemand was eagerly sought by business solicitors of every
description; subscription lists and all kinds of propositions were placed
before him; his name was in demand everywhere. Nothing could be started
without the support of the business element; and it was especially the
younger business men, the energetic and self-made men who conducted the
large enterprises, who commanded money and credit and knew and recognised
opportunities, whose interest had to be enlisted. There was the electric
street-car proposition, the new theatre, the proposed pulp-mills in
Vardal, the whale-oil factories in Henningsvaer--everything had to have
the business men's stamp of approval. Both Tidemand and Ole Henriksen
became share-owners in everything as a matter of course.
"My father should have known this!" Tidemand would often say when he gave
his signature. His father had a reputation for miserly thrift which had
survived him; he was one of the old-fashioned tradesmen, who went around
in his shirt-sleeves and apron, and weighed out soap and flour by the
pound. He had no time to dress decently; his shoes were still a byword;
the toes were sticking out, and when he walked it looked as if his toes
were searching for pennies on the flagstones. The son did not resemble the
father much; for him the old horizons had been broken, cracked wide, and
opened large views; his optimistic business courage was recognised.
Ole Henriksen had just dropped in on him in his office and was talking
about the projected tannery for which an ideal site had been found near
Torahus. This enterprise was bound to amount to something in the near
future; the great forests were being cut rapidly; the lumber was sold here
and abroad. But two and three inch cuttings and the tops were left and
went to waste. What a lack of foresight! Pine bark contained nearly twenty
per cent tannin; why not utilise it and make money out of it?
"We will see what can be done next spring."
Ole Henriksen looked a little overworked. He had not sufficient help; when
he went to England that autumn he would have to give his head assistant
power of attorney and leave everything to him. Since Aagot came Ole's work
had been only fun; but now she was a little indisposed and had kept
up-stairs for a couple of days. Ole missed her. She must have been
careless on this excursion day before yesterday and have caught a cold. He
had wanted to take her out in the little yacht, but this had now been
postponed until Sunday. He asked Tidemand to come along; there would be a
few more; they would sail out to some reef and have coffee.
"Are you sure Miss Aagot will be well by Sunday?" asked Tidemand. "These
boat-rides are dangerous so early in the year. What I was going to say
was: Won't you please ask Hanka yourself? I am not sure I can make her
come--In regard to this tannery proposition, I think I shall have to hold
the matter in abeyance for the present. It will also depend on the lumber
quotations to some extent."
Ole returned after he had looked up Hanka and invited her. He wondered a
little over Tidemand's remark about boat-rides being dangerous; Tidemand
had given the remark a subtle meaning, and Ole had looked at him
Ole found Aagot in her own room; she was reading. When he entered she
threw down her book and ran to him. She was well again, entirely well--
just feel the pulse, not a trace of fever! How she looked forward to
Sunday! Ole warned her again about being careful; she would have to dress
properly. Even Tidemand had spoken about these risky boat-rides so early
in the season.
"And you are going to be the hostess!" he chaffed her. "What a darling
little mistress! By the way, what are you reading?"
"Oh, that is only Irgens's poems," she answered.
"Don't say 'only' Irgens's poems," he chided her playfully. "By the way, I
ran across Coldevin a moment ago; he said he was looking for somebody. I
couldn't get him to come up--he simply wouldn't."
"Did you invite him to our excursion?" asked Aagot quickly. She seemed
very much disappointed because Ole had forgotten to ask him. He had to
promise her to try his best to find Coldevin before Sunday.
* * * * *
Tidemand rang Henriksen's bell late Saturday evening and asked for Ole. He
did not want to come in; it was only a small matter, he would keep Ole
only a minute.
When Ole came out he saw at once that something serious had happened. He
asked whether they should go down to the office or take a walk; Tidemand
did not care which. They went downstairs to the office.
Tidemand took out a telegram and said:
"I fancy my rye speculation isn't going to turn out very well. The prices
are normal at present; Russia has lifted the ban."
It was true that Russia had recalled her decree against rye exportations.
The favourable prospects had not proved disappointing, and this, in
connection with large amounts of grain stored in the elevators from
previous years, had made further restrictions superfluous. The famine
ghost had been laid; Russian and Finnish harbours were once more open.
Such was the purport of the telegraphic message.
Ole sat there silent. This was an awful blow! His brain was awhirl with
thoughts: could the telegram be a hoax, a piece of speculative trickery, a
bribed betrayal? He glanced at the signature; no, it was out of the
question to suspect this reliable agent. But had anything like that ever
happened before? A world-power had fooled itself and taken
self-destructive measures for no apparent reason! It was even worse than
in fifty-nine when a similar edict had been lifted and had caused the
world-markets wreck and ruin. But there had been war then.
The clock on the wall ticked and ticked in the unbroken silence.
Finally Ole asked: "Are you sure the wire is authentic?"
"It is authentic enough, I fancy," said Tidemand. "My agent wired me twice
yesterday to sell, and I sold what I could, sold even below the day's
quotations; but what did that amount to? I lost heavily yesterday, I tell
"Well, don't do anything hastily now; let us consider this carefully. But
why did you not come to me yesterday? I had a right to expect that from
"I ought hardly to have brought you such a piece of news this evening,
"Once and for all," Ole interrupted him, "understand that I will help you
all I possibly can. With everything I have, you understand. And that is
not so very little, either."
"I thank you, Ole--for everything. I knew I shouldn't go to you in vain.
You could help me a good deal if you would take over some of my
obligations--I mean those that are non-speculative, of course."
"Nonsense--anybody will take such things! I am taking rye. We will date
the papers day before yesterday--for the sake of the old man."
Tidemand shook his head.
"I am not going to pull you under, too."
Ole looked at him; the veins in his temples were swelling. "You are a damn
fool!" he exclaimed angrily.
"Do you for a moment think you can so easily pull me under?" And Ole
swore, with blazing eyes, right into Tidemand's face: "By God, I'll show
you how easily you can pull _me_ under!"
But Tidemand was immovable; not even Ole's anger made him yield. He
understood Ole; his means were perhaps not so insignificant, but it was no
use making out that he could do everything. Ole boasted only because he
wanted to help him, that was all. But from to-morrow on the bottom would
simply drop out of the market; it wasn't right to sell rye even to one's
enemies at yesterday's prices.
"But what are you going to do? Are you going into a receiver's hands?"
asked Ole in a temper.
"No," answered Tidemand, "I think I can skin through without that. The ice
in England and Australia is quite a help now; not much, but crowns are
money to me now. I shall have to retrench, to sell what I can in order to
raise cash. I thought that perhaps you would care to buy--you might use it
when you are going to marry, you know, and we don't need it at all; we are
never there any more--"
"What are you talking about?"
"Well, I thought that you might want to buy my country estate now--You are
going to be married soon, so--" "Your country house? Are you going to
"What good is it to us?"
Pause. Ole noticed that Tidemand's composure began to fail him.
"All right. I'll take it. And whenever you want it back it will be for
sale. I have a premonition that it will not be mine so very long."
"Well, God only knows. Anyway, I am doing what I can and should. I am glad
the place will be yours. It is beautiful; it is not my fault we have not
been there this summer. Well, this will help some; as for the rest, we'll
see. I trust I can manage without closing up; that would be hard indeed.
And worst for the sake of the children!"
Again Ole offered his assistance.
"I appreciate your help, and I will avail myself of it within reasonable
limits. But a loss is a loss, and even if I weather the storm without
going into bankruptcy I shall be a poor man all the same. I don't know
whether I own a penny now or not--I am only glad that you didn't join me
in that unhappy speculation, Ole; that is a blessing, anyway. Well, we'll
"Does your wife know about this?"
"No; I'll tell her after the trip to-morrow."
"The trip? I'll cancel that, of course."
"No," said Tidemand, "I will ask you not to do that. Hanka is looking
forward to it; she has spoken of it a good deal. No, I would rather ask
you to act as if nothing has happened; be as cheerful as you can. I really
would appreciate it. Don't mention my misfortune at all, please."
And Tidemand put the fatal wire back in his pocket.
"I am sorry I had to come and bother you with this. But I go home with a
lighter heart, now I know you will take the country house."
A party of ladies and gentlemen had gathered on the jetty on the day of
the excursion. They were waiting for the Paulsbergs, who were late. Irgens
was growing impatient and sarcastic: Would it not be better to send the
yacht up for them? When finally Paulsberg and his wife arrived, they all
went aboard and were soon tacking out the fiord.
Tidemand held the tiller. A couple of warehousemen from Henriksen's wharf
were along as crew. Ole had arranged the trip carefully and had brought
along a choice supply of provisions; he had even remembered roasted coffee
for Irgens. But he had failed to find Coldevin, and he had purposely
avoided asking Gregersen; the Journalist might have heard the news from
Russia, and might inadvertently have betrayed the fatal tidings.
Tidemand looked as if he had spent a sleepless night. To Ole's whispered
inquiry, he answered smilingly that things might be worse. But he asked to
be allowed to keep his place at the tiller.
And the yacht tacked out toward the reefs.
Mrs. Hanka had chosen a place far forward; her face was fresh, and she had
thrown her fur coat around her shoulders; Milde said she looked
picturesque. He added loudly and gaily:
"And furthermore I wish it were drink time!"
Ole brought out bottles and glasses. He went around and wrapped the ladies
in shawls and blankets. Nothing to laugh about; true, the day was bright
and warm, but the sea air was treacherous. He repeatedly offered to
relieve Tidemand at the tiller, but was not permitted to. No, this was the
place for Tidemand; here he would not have to be entertaining, and he was
not in a mood for social amenities.
"Don't lose your nerve whatever happens! Have you heard anything further?"
"Only a confirmation. We shall get it officially to-morrow, I guess. But
don't worry; I have laid my lines now and shall manage to pull through
somehow. I imagine I shall save the ship."
Forward the spirits of the company rose rapidly. Ojen began to get a
little seasick, and drank steadily in order to subdue his qualms.
"It seems good to see you again," said Mrs. Hanka, prompted by a desire to
enliven him. "You still have your delicate face, but it is not quite as
pale as before you went away."
"But what is the matter with your eyes?" cried Mrs. Paulsberg mercilessly.
"I have never seen him as pallid as at this very moment."
This reference to his seasickness caused general merriment. Mrs. Hanka
continued to speak: She had heard his latest poem, that exquisite gem,
"Memories." His excursion had certainly been fruitful in results.
"You haven't heard my very latest poem, though," said Ojen in a weak
voice; "it has an Egyptian subject; the action takes place in an ancient
tomb--" And, sick and miserable as he was, he looked through all his
pockets for this poem. What could have become of it? He had taken it out
that morning with the intention of bringing it along; he had thought that
perhaps somebody would care to listen to it. He was not afraid of saying
that it really was a little out of the ordinary. He sincerely hoped he
hadn't lost it; in that case the trip would have proved most unfortunate
for him. Never had he produced anything so remarkable; it was only a
couple of pages, but....
"No," said Mrs. Hanka, "you must surely have left it behind." And she did
her best to make the poor poet forget his groundless fears. She had been
told that he preferred the city to the country?
He did, most assuredly. No sooner had his eyes beheld the straight lines
of streets and houses than his brain was aquiver, and he had conceived
that Egyptian prose poem. If that had been lost, now....
Milde had lately begun to appreciate Ojen; at last his eyes had been
opened to his poetry's delicate uniqueness. Irgens, who sat close enough
to hear this unusual praise, leaned over to Mrs. Hanka and said in a low
"You understand? Milde knows he has nothing to fear from his competitor
any more--hence his change of attitude." And Irgens pressed his lips
together and smiled venomously.
Mrs. Hanka glanced at him. How he persisted in his bitterness; how
unbecoming it was in him! He did not realise it, or he would not have thus
compressed his lips and continually shot baleful glances at his fellow
applicants. Otherwise Irgens was silent; he ignored Aagot entirely. She
thought: What have I done to him? Could I possibly have acted in any other
The coffee was made on board, but out of regard for Ojen, who still felt
badly, it was decided to drink it on the very first reef they should
reach. They camped on the rocks, flung themselves on the ground, and threw
dignity to the winds. It was great fun; Ojen looked with big, astonished
eyes at everything--the sea, the waves which filled the air with a
continuous roar, the barren reef where not a tree grew and where the grass
was yellow from sun and spray. Aagot skipped round with cups and glasses;
she walked in a constant fear of dropping anything and stuck the tip of
her tongue out like a rope-walker.
Milde proposed that they drink her health. "Haven't you got champagne,
Ole?" he asked.
The champagne was produced, the glasses filled, and the toast drunk amid
cheers. Milde was in high spirits; he proposed that they throw the bottle
in the sea with a note enclosed which they all were to sign.
They all put their names down except Paulsberg, who curtly refused. A man
who wrote as much as he did could not sign his name to nonsensical notes,
he said. And he rose and walked away in dignified aloofness.
"Then I'll sign for him," said Milde, and seized a pencil.
But Mrs. Paulsberg cried indignantly:
"You will do nothing of the kind! Paulsberg has said that he does not want
his name on the note, and that ought to be sufficient for all of us." She
looked quite offended as she crossed her legs and held her cup in her
usual masculine fashion.
Milde apologised instantly; his proposition was meant as a harmless joke;
however, after considering the matter he admitted that perhaps it was a
little foolish and that it would not do for Paulsberg to have anything to
do with it. Perhaps they had better drop the whole thing; what did they
think? If Paulsberg wasn't going to be in it, then....
Irgens could not control himself any longer; he sneered openly and almost
"Mr. Subsidist! You are divine!"
That subsidy was never out of his thoughts.
"And as for you," answered Milde scathingly, glaring at him with angry
eyes, "it is getting so that it is impossible to be near you."
Irgens feigned surprise.
"What is that? It would appear from your tone that I have offended you."
Mrs. Hanka had to intervene. Couldn't they stop quarrelling even on a
pleasure trip? They ought to be ducked if they couldn't behave!
And Irgens was silent at once; he did not even mumble maliciously between
his teeth. Mrs. Hanka grew thoughtful. How her poet and hero had changed
in a few brief weeks! What had really happened? How dull and lustreless
his dark eyes had become! Even his moustache seemed to be drooping; he had
lost his fresh immaculateness; he was not nearly as alluring as before.
But then she reminded herself of his disappointments, of that miserable
subsidy, and of his book, his beautiful lyric creation which they were
conspiring to kill by their studied silence. She leaned toward Aagot and
"It is sad to observe how bitter Irgens has grown; have you noticed it? I
hope he will get over it soon." And Mrs. Hanka, who wanted to save him
from making too unfavourable an impression, added in the goodness of her
heart what she had heard Irgens himself say so often: It was not so
strange, after all; bitterness of that character could only arouse
respect. Here he had toiled and worked for years, had given freely of his
treasures, and the country, the government, had refused to offer him a
"Can you understand it?" said Aagot also. And she realised instantly that
she had not treated this man with the consideration due him; she had been
tactless; she had rebuffed him with unnecessary harshness. She wished her
conduct had been different; however, it was too late now.
Paulsberg returned from his solitary walk and suggested that it was time
to think of the return. The clouds held a menace of rain, he said; the sun
was sinking and it was blowing up a little.
Aagot went around again and poured coffee. She bent over Irgens, bent
deeper than necessary, and said:
"May I pour you some, Mr. Irgens?"
The almost supplicating note in her voice made him glance at her in
surprise. He did not want any coffee, thanks; but he smiled at her. She
was happy at once; she hardly knew what she was carrying, but she
"Just a little, please."
He looked at her again and said: "No, thanks."
On the return trip Irgens seemed a different person. He chatted,
entertained the ladies, helped even poor Ojen, who suffered greatly. Milde
had captured a bottle on the pretext that it was drink time again, and
Irgens drank with him simply to be accommodating. Mrs. Hanka's spirits
also rose; she was lively and cheerful, and a strange association of ideas
made her suddenly decide to ask her husband for a couple of hundred crowns
this very evening.
Tidemand was at the tiller and could not be dislodged; he sailed the boat
and did not utter a syllable. He looked well as he stood high in the
stern, rising and falling against the blue background of sea and sky. His
wife called to him once and asked him if he were cold, an attention he
could hardly believe and therefore pretended not to hear.
"He is deaf," she said smilingly. "Are you cold Andreas?"
"Cold? Not at all," he called back.
And by and by the party reached the jetty.
Hardly had Ojen stepped ashore before he called a cab. He was in a hurry
to get home and find his manuscript or learn the worst. He could not rest
until he knew his fate. But perhaps he would meet the company later on.
Would they be at Sara's?
They looked at each other uncertainly and did not know what to say. But
Ole Henriksen declared that he was going home; he was thinking of
Tidemand, who was in need of rest and quiet. They parted outside
Mrs. Hanka asked abruptly, before even the door was opened:
"Will you please let me have a hundred or so?"
"A hundred? Hm. Certainly. But you will have to come with me to the
office; I haven't got the money here."
In the office he handed her the bill; his hand was trembling violently.
"Here is the money," he said.
"Thanks--Why are you trembling?" she asked.
"Oh--I suppose because I have held the tiller so long--Hm. Listen, Hanka,
I have a pleasant surprise for you! You have asked me a number of times to
consent to a divorce; I have decided in God's name to do what you ask--You
understand, I am not going to oppose you any more."
She could hardly believe her ears. Did he agree to a divorce? She gazed at
him; he was deathly pale, his eyes were lowered. They were standing
opposite each other, the large desk between them.
"Circumstances are different now--My big speculation has failed; even if
I am not a bankrupt this moment, I am a poor man. I may avoid closing up
shop, but that will be all. Anyway, I shall not be able to keep up this
mode of life. And, this being so, I feel that I have no right to interfere
with your plans and desires any longer."
His words reached her as from afar. For a moment she felt a vague
sensation of happiness--she was free; she would escape the yoke that had
become oppressive; she would be a girl once more! Hanka Lange--imagine,
only Hanka Lange! And when she realised that her husband was almost a
bankrupt it did not greatly upset her; he had said he might not be forced
to shut down. Of course, he was not wealthy, but neither was he a beggar;
it might have been a great deal worse.
"Is that so?" she said simply; "is that so?"
Pause. Tidemand had regained his composure; he stood again as he had stood
aboard the yacht; one could almost see the tiller in his hand. His eyes
were on her. She had not said no; her intentions were evidently not
shaken. Well, he had hardly expected that they would be.
"Well, that was all I wanted to tell you."
His voice was remarkably even, almost commanding; she thought: "He has not
spoken to me like that in three years." His strength was marvellous to
"Well, do you really want to?" she asked. "You think, then, that we ought
to separate? Of course, but--I hope you have thought it over--that you are
not doing this simply to please me?"
"It goes without saying that I do it to please you," he answered. "You
have requested it often enough, and I sincerely regret that I have opposed
you until now." And he added without a trace of malice: "You must forgive
me for having interfered with your wishes so long."
She grew attentive at once.
"I don't know what you mean," she said a trifle haughtily.
He did not care about that and did not answer. Hadn't she spoken about a
divorce time and time again? Hadn't he put her off? Perfectly composed, he
opened his coat and took out his pocket calendar, in which he proceeded to
make an entry.
She could not help being impressed by this quiet superiority, which she
never before had noticed in him; she happened to say:
"I think you have changed greatly."
"Oh, well, one gets a little grey, but--"
"No, you misunderstand me!" she interrupted.
Tidemand said slowly and looked straight into her eyes:
"I wish to God you had understood me as well as I have you, Hanka!
Perhaps, then, this would not have become necessary." He buttoned his coat
as if preparing to leave, and added: "Now, in regard to the money--"
"Yes, dear, here is the money!" she said, and wanted to give him back the
For the first time since their interview he tossed his head impatiently
"I am not talking about _that_ money now! Kindly make at least an
effort to understand me--Whatever money you need shall be sent you as
soon as you inform me where to send it."
"But, dear me," she said in confusion, "do I have to go away? I thought I
could stay in the city. What do you want me to do?"
"Whatever is agreeable to you. You will let the children remain here,
won't you? I shall take good care of them; you need not worry about that.
As for yourself, I suppose you will want to take an apartment somewhere.
You know it takes three years, don't you?"
She was standing with the bill in her hand, gazing at it abstractedly. She
was unable to think clearly; her mind was whirling; but deep down she had
a vague feeling of relief--she was free at last! She said nothing; he felt
his self-control give way and wanted to get it over with quickly so as not
to break down.
"Good-bye, then--" He could say no more, but offered her his hand; she
took it. "I hope we shall see each other occasionally; but I want to thank
you now for everything; this may be the last chance I shall have--I shall
send you the money every month." And he put on his hat and went to the
She followed him with her eyes. Was this Andreas?
"Well, I suppose you want to go," she said, bewildered, "and I am standing
here delaying you. I suppose we shall have to do as you say--I don't know
what I am saying--" Her voice broke suddenly.
Tidemand opened the door with trembling hands and let her out. At the foot
of the stairs she stopped and let him walk ahead. When he reached the
landing he waited for her; then he opened the door with his key and held
it for her. When she was inside he said:
"Good night, then!"
And again Tidemand walked down-stairs, down to his office, where he shut
himself in. He went over to the window and stood there, his hands clasped
behind him, staring out into the street with unseeing eyes. No, she had
not changed her mind in the least, that was not to be expected. She had
not hesitated. There she had stood, with her elbow on the desk; she had
heard what he said and she had replied; "Well, I suppose we shall have to
do as you say." There had been no hesitation, no, none at all.... But she
had not exulted, either; she had spared him from witnessing any outburst
of joy. She had been considerate--he had to admit that. Oh, Hanka was
always considerate; God bless her wherever she went! She had stood there.
Hanka, Hanka!... But probably she was rejoicing now; why shouldn't she
be? She had had her way.... And the children were asleep now, both Ida and
Johanna. Poor little things; they did not even reach up to their pillows!
Well, they would be provided for. One might be getting a little grey, but
there was still a fight or two left....
And Tidemand went back to his desk. He worked over his books and papers
Mrs. Hanka looked in vain for Irgens for several days. She had hurried to
him to bring him the joyful news; she was free at last! But he was never
at home. His door was locked, and it was not opened when she knocked;
consequently he must be out. She did not meet him in his usual haunts,
either. Finally she had to write to him and make an appointment; she wrote
that she had excellent news for him.
But during these two days, these long hours of waiting in which she could
do nothing, it seemed as if her joy over the coming divorce had begun to
wane. She had dwelt on her happiness so long that she had grown accustomed
to it; it did not make her heart beat faster any more. She was going to be
free from her husband--true, but she had not been so entirely shackled
before. The difference was not so pronounced that she could steadily
continue to revel in it.
And to this was added an indefinable fear, now when the irrevocable
separation confronted her; the thought that she was to leave her home was
tinged with a vague sense of regretfulness, of impalpable foreboding.
Sometimes a quivering pang would pierce her heart when the children put
out their little arms to her; why that pain? She had got out of her bed
last night and looked at them in their sleep. There they were lying, each
in her little bed; they had kicked the blankets off and were uncovered up
to their very arms, but they slept soundly and moved, now and then, a rosy
finger or a dimpled toe in their sleep. Such children! To lie there
unblushingly naked, with arms and legs pointing in all directions! She
tucked them carefully in and left them with bowed head, her shoulders
shaken by inaudible sobs.
How was she going to arrange her future? She was free, but in reality she
was married still; for three years she would have to live somewhere, pay
rent, keep house for herself. She had worried and fretted about this for
two long days without anyone to help her; what could have happened to
Irgens? God only knew where he kept himself. She had not once seen her
She started for Irgens's rooms. Surely he would help her find a place and
get settled! Oh, it was fine to have an end to this daily galling
restraint; here she had been tortured by dissatisfaction and restlessness
for months and years, ever since she had been introduced to the clique and
had acquired a taste for their irresponsible mode of living. She was free,
free and young! She would overwhelm Irgens with this joyful news, he who
had so often sighed for that divorce during their most intimate hours--
Irgens was at home at last.
She told him the great news at once. She recounted how it had happened,
repeated Tidemand's words, and praised his superiority. She gazed into
Irgens's eyes; her own were sparkling. Irgens, however, did not show any
great exultation; he smiled, said yes and no, asked her if she were
satisfied now. So she was really going to get a divorce? He was glad to
hear it; it was foolish to go through life in this heart-breaking
manner.... But he sat there very quietly and discussed the great news in
an every-day voice.
Gradually, very gradually, she came to earth; her heart began to flutter
"It seems as if the news does not make you so very happy, Irgens," she
"Happy? Of course I am. Why shouldn't I be happy? You have sighed for this
for a long time; why shouldn't I rejoice with you now? I do, most
Words only, without fire, without warmth even! What could have happened?
Did he not love her any more? She sat there, her heart heavy within her;
she wanted to gain time, to hush the wakening terror in her breast. She
"But, dear, where have you been all this time? I have called on you three
times without finding you in."
He answered, choosing his words carefully, that she must have missed him
because of an unfortunate series of accidents. He went out occasionally,
of course; but he spent most of his time at home. Where in the world could
he go? He went nowhere.
Pause. Finally she yielded abjectly to her fears and stammered:
"Well, Irgens, I am yours now, entirely yours! I am going to leave the
house--You will thank me, won't you? It will take three years, of course,
She stopped suddenly; she felt that he was squirming, that he was bracing
himself against the inevitable; her terror increased as he remained
silent. A few anguished moments went by.
"Well, Hanka, this is rather unfortunate, in a way," he began finally.
"You have evidently understood me to mean that when you got your divorce--
that if you only were free--Of course, I may have said something to that
effect; I admit that if you have interpreted my words literally such a
supposition is probably justified. I have most likely said things more
"Yes, of course," she interrupted; "we have never meant anything else,
have we? For you love me, don't you? What is the matter? You are so
"I am awfully sorry, but really--things are not as they used to be." He
looked away sadly and searched for words. "I cannot lie to you, Hanka, and
the plain truth is that I am not enraptured by you as much as I used to
be. It would hardly be right to deceive you; anyway, I couldn't do it--it
is beyond me."
At last she understood; these were plain words. And quietly bending her
head, yielding to the inevitable, letting go of the last lingering hope,
she whispered in a dull and broken voice:
"Couldn't do it; no--It is all over, irrevocably over--"
He sat there silent.
Suddenly she turned and looked at him. Her white teeth showed beneath the
slightly raised upper lip as she endeavoured to force a smile. She said
"But surely it cannot all be over, Irgens? Remember, I have sacrificed a
But he shook his head.
"Yes, I am awfully sorry, but--Do you know what I was thinking of just now
when I didn't answer you? You said 'irrevocably over.' I was wondering if
that was proper grammar, if it sounded right. That shows how little this
scene really affects me; you can see for yourself that I am not beside
myself with grief--not even deeply stirred. That ought to show you--" And
as if he wanted to utilise the opportunity to the utmost and leave no room
for doubt, he continued: "Did you say that you have been here three times,
looking for me? I know that you have been here twice. I think I ought to
tell you, so that you can see how impossible it is for me to pretend: I
sat here and heard you knock, but I didn't open. That surely proves the
matter is serious--Dearest Hanka, I cannot help it; really, you mustn't
be unhappy. But you surely will admit that our relationship must have been
a little galling, a little humiliating, to me as well? It is true; it has
not been easy for me to accept money from you continually; I have said to
myself: 'This degrades you!' You understand, don't you--a man with a
nature like mine; unhappily, I am proud, whether it is a virtue or a vice
"All right," she said mechanically, "all right." And she rose in order to
go. Her eyes were wide and staring, but she saw nothing.
However, he wanted to explain himself thoroughly; she must not leave with
a wrong impression of him. He called her back; he wanted to prove why it
could not have been otherwise, why his conduct was beyond reproach. He
spoke at length and cleared up the matter perfectly; it seemed as if he
had expected this and had prepared himself thoroughly. There were a number
of bagatelles; but it was just the little things that counted with a man
like him, and these little things had gradually made it so clear to him
that they were not compatible. Of course, she was fond of him, a great
deal more so than he deserved; but all the same he was not sure that she
understood and appreciated him fully. This was not said reproachfully,
but--She had said that she was proud of him, and that she enjoyed seeing
the ladies turn and look after him when they walked down the street
together. All right! But that did not prove that she valued his
individuality. She took no pride in the fact that he was, above all, a
somewhat different individuality. Of course, he did not blame her; but,
unfortunately, it proved that her understanding of him was not deep
enough. She was not proud of him for what he had thought or written; not
primarily, at any rate; she loved to see the ladies look after him on the
street. But ladies might turn and look after anybody, even after an
officer or a tradesman. She had once given him a cane so that he might
look well on the street....
"No, Irgens, I had no such thought, not at all," she interrupted.
All right, he might have been mistaken; if she said so, of course....
Nevertheless, he had the impression that such was her reason. He had
thought that if he couldn't pass muster without a cane, then.... For even
those two sheared sheep of Ojen's used a cane. In brief, he gave the cane
away to the first comer.... But there were other little things, other
bagatelles: She liked to go to the opera; he didn't. She went without him,
and he was very much pleased, of course; still.... She wore a light
woollen dress, and when he was with her his clothes got full of fuzz from
her dress, but she never noticed it. He had to brush and pick fuzz
unceasingly to avoid looking as if he had been in bed fully dressed; but
did she notice? Never. And in this manner one thing after another had come
between them and had affected his feelings for her. There were hundreds of
little things! A little while ago her lips had been so badly cracked that
she couldn't even smile naturally; and just think, an insignificant thing
like that had repulsed him, absolutely spoiled her for him! Dear me, she
must not think that he found fault with her because of a cracked lip; he
knew very well that she could not help such a thing; he was not
stupid.... But the truth of the matter was that it had reached a point
where he was beginning to dread her visits. He had to admit it; he had sat
on this very chair and suffered, suffered tortures, when he heard her
knock on the door. However, no sooner had she gone away than he felt
relieved; he got ready and went out, too. He went to some restaurant and
dined, dined unfeelingly and with a good appetite, not at all deploring
what he had done. He wanted her to know these things so that she would
understand him.... "But, dearest Hanka, I have told you all this and
perhaps added to your sorrow instead of alleviating it. I wanted you to
see how necessary has become our parting--that there are deep and weighty
reasons for it--that it is not merely a whim. Unfortunately, these things
are deeply rooted in my nature--But don't take it so to heart! You know I
am fond of you and appreciate all you have done for me; and I shall never
be able to forget you; I feel that only too well. Tell me that you will
take it calmly--that is all I ask--"
She sat there, dull and immobile. Her premonition had not deceived her; it
was all over. There he sat; he had spoken about this and that and
remembered this and that--everything that could possibly explain and
justify his actions. He had said a great deal, he had even bared himself
in spots; yes, how penuriously hadn't he scraped up the least little thing
that might vindicate him in the slightest degree! How could she ask him to
advise her? He would simply refer her to the newspaper advertisements:
"Flats and Apartments to Let." How insignificant he suddenly appeared!
Slowly he blurred before her eyes; he was blotted out; he became lost in
the dim distance; she saw him as through a haze; she barely discerned his
mother-of-pearl buttons and his sleek and shiny hair. She realised how her
eyes had been opened during his long speech; there he sat.... She felt
languidly that she ought to go, but she lacked the energy to get up. She
felt hollow and empty; the last little illusion to which she had clung so
tenaciously had collapsed miserably. Somebody's step sounded on the
stairs; she did not remember whether or no the door was locked, but she
did not go and make sure. The steps died down again; nobody knocked.
"Dearest Hanka," he said in an effort to console her as best he might,
"you ought to start in in earnest and write that novel we have talked
about. I am sure you could do it, and I will gladly go over the manuscript
for you. The effort, the concentration would do you good; you know I want
to see you content and satisfied."
Yes, once upon a time, she had really thought she would write a novel. Why
not? _Here_ one miss bobbed up, and _there_ another madam bobbed
up, and they all did write so cutely! Yes, she had really thought that it
was her turn next. And how they all had encouraged her! Thank God, she had
forgotten about it until now!