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Shallow Soil by Knut Hamsun

Part 4 out of 5

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"You do not answer, Hanka?"

"Yes," she said absently, "there is something in what you say."

She got up suddenly and stood erect staring straight ahead. If she only
knew what to do now! Go home? That would probably be the best. Had she had
parents she would most likely have gone to them; however, she had never
had any parents, practically. She had better go home to Tidemand, where
she still lived....

And with a desolate smile she gave Irgens her hand and said farewell.

He felt so relieved because of her calmness that he pressed her hand
warmly. What a sensible woman she was, after all! No hysterics, no
heartrending reproaches; she said farewell with a smile! He wanted to
brace her still more and talked on in order to divert her mind; he
mentioned his work and plans; he would surely send her his next book; she
would find him again in that. And, really, she ought to get busy on that
novel.... To show her that their friendship was still unbroken he even
asked her to speak to Gregersen about that review of his book. It was most
extraordinary that his verses had attracted so little attention. If she
would only do him this favour. He himself would never be able to approach
Gregersen; he was too proud; he could never stoop to that....

She went over to the mirror and began arranging her hair. He could not
help watching her; she really surprised him a little. It was of course
admirable in her to keep her feelings in leash; still, this unruffled
composure was not altogether _au fait_. He had really credited her
with a little more depth; he had ventured to think that a settlement with
him would affect her somewhat. And there she stood tranquilly and arranged
her hair with apparent unconcern! He could not appreciate such a display
of _sang-froid_. To tell the truth, he felt snubbed; and he made the
remark that he was still present; it seemed peculiar that she had already
so completely forgotten him....

She did not answer. But when she left the mirror she paused for a moment
in the middle of the room, and with her eyes somewhere in the vicinity of
his shoes, she said wearily and indifferently:

"Don't you understand that I am entirely through with you?"

But in the street, bathed in the bright sunshine, surrounded by people and
carriages--there her strength gave way entirely and she began to sob
wildly. She covered her face with her veil, and sought the
least-frequented side-streets in order to avoid meeting anybody; she
walked hurriedly, stooping, shaken by convulsive sobs. How densely dark
the outlook whichever way she turned her eyes! She hurried on, walking in
the middle of the street, talking to herself in a choked voice. Could she
return to Andreas and the children? What if the door should be closed
against her? She had wasted two days; perhaps Andreas now had grown
impatient. Still, the door might be open if she only hurried....

Every time she took out her handkerchief she felt the crinkle of an
envelope. That was the envelope with the hundred-crown bill; she still had
that! Oh--if she only had somebody to go to now, a friend--not any of her
"friends" from the clique; she was through with them! She had been one of
them a year and a day; she had listened to their words and she had seen
their deeds. How had she been able to endure them? Thank God, she was done
with them forever. Could she go to Ole Henriksen and ask help from him?
No, no; she couldn't do that.

Andreas would probably be busy in his office. She had not seen him for two
days; very likely it was an accident, but it was so. And she had accepted
a hundred crowns from him, although he was ruined! Dear me, that she
hadn't thought of this before now! She had asked him for that money.
"Yes," he had said; "will you please come into the office? I have not so
much with me." And he had opened his safe and given her the hundred;
perhaps it was all the money he had! He had proffered the bill in such a
gentle and unobtrusive manner, although, perhaps, it was all the money he
owned! His hair had turned a little grey and he looked as if he hadn't had
much sleep lately; but he had not complained; his words were spoken in
proud and simple dignity. It had seemed as if she saw him then for the
first time.... Oh, would that she never had asked him for this money!
Perhaps he might forgive her if she brought it back. Would she bother him
very much if she stopped at his office a moment? She would not stay

Mrs. Hanka dried her eyes beneath her veil and walked on. When at last she
stood outside Tidemand's office she hesitated. Suppose he turned her out?
Perhaps he even knew where she had been?

A clerk told her that Tidemand was in.

She knocked and listened. He called: "Come in." She entered quietly. He
was standing at his desk; he put down his pen when he saw her.

"Pardon me if I disturb you," she said hurriedly.

"Not at all," he said, and waited. A pile of letters was before him; he
stood there, tall and straight; he did not look so very grey, and his eyes
were not so listless.

She took the bill out and held it toward him.

"I only wanted to return this; and please forgive me for asking for money
when I might have known that you must need it so badly. I never thought of
it until now; I am extremely sorry."

He looked at her in surprise and said:

"Not at all--you just keep that! A hundred more or less means nothing to
the business--nothing at all."

"Yes, but--please take it! I ask you to take it."

"All right, if you don't need it. I thank you, but it is not necessary."

He had thanked her! What a fortunate thing that she had the money and
could give it back to him! But she suppressed her agitation and said
"Thank you" herself as she shoved the bill over toward him. When she saw
him reach for his pen again, she said with a wan smile:

"You must not be impatient because of this long delay--I have made very
little progress in the matter of taking an apartment, but--"

She could control herself no longer; her voice broke entirely and she
turned away from him, fumbling for her handkerchief with trembling

"There is no great hurry about that," he said. "Take all the time you

"I thank you."

"You thank me? I don't quite understand. It isn't I who--I am simply
trying to make it easy for you to have your own way."

She was afraid she had irritated him, and she said hastily:

"Of course, yes! Oh, I didn't mean--Pardon me for disturbing you."

And she turned and fled out of the office.


Tidemand had not been idle a moment since the blow struck him. He was at
his desk early and late; papers, bills, notes, and certificates fluttered
around him, and his energy and skill brought order out of confusion as the
days went by. Ole Henriksen had supported him on demand; he had paid cash
for the country estate and had relieved him of several outstanding

It was made clear that the firm did not have an impregnable fortune to
throw into the breach, even though it carried on such a far-reaching
business and although its transactions were enormous. And who had even
heard of such a crazily hazardous speculation as Tidemand's fatal plunge
in rye! Everybody could see that now, and everybody pitied or scorned him
according to his individual disposition. Tidemand let them talk; he
worked, calculated, made arrangements, and kept things going. True, he
held in storage an enormous supply of rye which he had bought too high:
but rye was rye, after all; it did not deteriorate or shrink into
nothingness; he sold it steadily at prevailing prices and took his losses
like a man. His misfortunes had not broken his spirits.

He now had to weather the last turn--a demand note from the American
brokers--and for this he required Ole Henriksen's assistance; after that
he hoped to be able to manage unaided. It was his intention to simplify
his business, to reduce it to original dimensions and then gradually
extend it as it should show healthy growth. He would succeed; his head was
still full of plans and he was resourceful as ever.

Tidemand gathered his papers together and went over to Ole's office. It
was Monday. They had both finished their mail and were momentarily
disengaged, but Tidemand had to make a call at the bank; he had arranged
an appointment at five.

As soon as Ole saw him he laid down his pen and arose to meet him. They
still celebrated their meetings in the usual manner; the wine and the
cigars appeared as before; nothing had changed. Tidemand did not want to
disturb; he would rather lend a hand if he could, but Ole refused
smilingly; he had absolutely nothing to do.

Well, Tidemand had brought his usual tale of woe. He was beginning to be a
good deal of a nuisance; he simply came to see Ole whenever there was
anything the matter....

Ole interrupted him with a merry laugh.

"Whatever you do, don't forget to apologise every time!"

Ole signed the papers and said:

"How are things coming out?"

"Oh, about as usual. One day at a time, you know."

"Your wife hasn't moved as yet?"

"Not yet--no. I imagine she has a hard time finding a suitable apartment.
Well, that is her lookout. What I want to say--how is Miss Aagot?"

"All right, I guess; she is out walking. Irgens called for her."


Ole said: "You still have all your help?"

"Well, you see, I couldn't fire them all in a minute; they have to have
time to look around for something else. But they are leaving soon; I am
only going to keep one man in the office."

They discussed business matters for a while. Tidemand had ground up a
large quantity of his grain in order to accelerate the sales; he sold and
lost, but he raised money. There was no longer any danger of a
receivership. He had also a little idea, a plan which had begun to ferment
in his brain; but he would rather not mention it until it had been
developed a little more fully. One did not stand knee-deep in schemes day
in and day out without occasionally stumbling over an idea. Suddenly he

"If I could be sure of not offending you I should like to speak to you
about something that concerns yourself only--I don't want to hurt your
feelings, but I have thought a good deal about it. Hm; it is about
Irgens--You should not allow Aagot to go out so much. Miss Aagot walks a
good deal with him lately. It would be all right if you were along; of
course, it is perfectly right as it is--that she should take a walk
occasionally, but--Well, don't be angry because I mention this."

Ole looked at him with open mouth, then he burst out laughing.

"But, friend Andreas, what do you mean? Since when did _you_ begin to
look at people distrustfully?"

Tidemand interrupted him brusquely.

"I only want to tell you that I have never been in the habit of carrying

Ole looked at him steadily. What could be the matter with Tidemand? His
eyes had become cold and steely; he put down his glass hard. Gossip? Of
course not. Tidemand did not carry gossip, but his mind must have become

"Well, you may be right if you mean that this kind of thing may lead to
unpleasant comment, to gossip," Ole said finally. "I really have not given
it a thought, but now you mention it--I will give Aagot a hint the first
opportunity I have."

Nothing further was said on the subject; the conversation swung back to
Tidemand's affairs.

How was it--did he still take his meals in restaurants?

He did for the present. What else could he do? He would have to stick to
the restaurants for a while, otherwise the gossips would finish poor Hanka
altogether. People would simply say that she was to blame if he hadn't
kept house the last few years; no sooner had she departed than Tidemand
again went to housekeeping and stayed at home. Nobody knew what
construction might be put on such things; Hanka did not have too many
friends. Tidemand laughed at the thought that he was fooling the
slanderous tongues so capitally. "She came to see me a couple of days ago;
I was in my office. I thought at first it was some bill-collector, some
dun or other, who knocked at my door; but it was Hanka. Can you guess what
she wanted? She came to give me a hundred crowns! She had probably saved
the money. Of course, you might say that it really was my own money; you
_might_ say that. Still, she could have kept it; but she knew I was a
little pinched--She hasn't gone out at all the last few days; I am at a
loss to know how she is keeping alive. I don't see her, but the maid says
she eats in her room sometimes. She is working, too; she is busy all the

"It wouldn't surprise me at all to see her stay with you. Things may turn
out all right yet."

Tidemand glanced at his friend sharply.

"You believe that? Wasn't it you who once said that I was no glove to be
picked up or thrown away according to some one's fancy? Well, she has
probably no more thought of coming back than I have of accepting her."

And Tidemand rose quickly and said good-bye; he was going to the bank and
had to hurry.

Ole remained lost in contemplation; Tidemand's fate had made him
thoughtful. What had become of Aagot? She had promised to be back in an
hour, and it was much more than two hours since she had left. Of course,
it was all right to take a walk, but.... Tidemand was right. Tidemand had
his own thoughts, he had said; what could he have meant? Suddenly a
thought struck Ole--perhaps Irgens was the destroyer of Tidemand's home,
the slayer of his happiness? A red tie? Didn't Irgens use a red tie once?

Suddenly Ole understood Tidemand's previous significant remark about the
danger of boat-rides in May. Well, well! Come to think of it, Aagot
_had_ really seemed to lose the desire to be with him in the office
early and late; instead, she took a good many walks in good company; she
wanted to view things and places in this good company.... Hadn't she once
expressed a regret that he was not a poet? Still, she had apologised for
that remark with such sweet and regretful eagerness; it was a thoughtless
jest. No; Aagot was innocent as a child; still, for his sake, she might
refuse an occasional invitation from Irgens....

Another long hour went by before Aagot returned. Her face was fresh and
rosy, her eyes sparkling. She threw her arms around Ole's neck; she always
did that when she had been with Irgens. Ole's misgivings dissolved and
vanished in this warm embrace; how could he reproach her now? He only
asked her to stay around the house a little more--for his sake. It was
simply unbearable to be without her so long; he could do nothing but think
of her all the time.

Aagot listened quietly to him; he was perfectly right; she would remember.

"And perhaps I might as well ask another favour of you: please try to
avoid Irgens's company a little more, just a little more. I don't mean
anything, you know; but it would be better not to give people the least
cause for talk. Irgens is my friend, and I am his, but--Now, don't mind
what I have said--"

She took his head in both her hands and turned his face toward her. She
looked straight into his eyes and said:

"Do you doubt that I love you, Ole?"

He grew confused; he was too close to her. He stammered and took a step

"Love me? Ha, ha, you silly girl! Did you think I was chiding you? You
misunderstood me; I thought only of what people might say; I want to
protect you from gossip. But it is silly of me; I should have said
nothing--you might even take it into your head to avoid going out with
Irgens in the future! And that would never do; then people would surely
begin to wonder. No; forget this and act as if nothing had been said;
really, Irgens is a rare and a remarkable man."

However, she felt the need of explaining matters: she went just as gladly
with anybody else as with Irgens; it had only happened that he had asked
her. She admired him; she would not deny that, and she was not alone in
that; she pitied him a little, too; imagine, he had applied for a subsidy
and had been refused! She felt sorry for him, but that was all....

"Say no more about it!" cried Ole. "Let everything remain as it is--" It
was high time to think a little of the wedding; it was not too early to
make definite arrangements. As soon as he returned from that trip to
England he would be ready. And he thought it would be best for her to go
home to Torahus while he was away; when everything was in order he would
come up for her. Their wedding trip would have to be postponed until
spring; he would be too busy until then.

Aagot smiled happily and agreed to everything. A vague, inexplicable wish
had sprung up within her: she would have liked to remain in the city until
he should return from England; then they could have gone to Torahus
together. She did not know when or where this strange desire had been born
in her, and it was, for that matter, not sufficiently clear or definite to
be put in words; she would do as Ole wished. She told Ole to make haste
and return; her eyes were open and candid; she spoke to him with one arm
on his shoulder and the other resting on the desk.

And he had presumed to give _her_ a hint!


Over a week went by before Irgens turned up again. Had he become
suspicious? Or had he simply tired of Aagot? However, he entered Ole's
office one afternoon; the weather was clear and sunny, but it was blowing
hard and the dust whirled through the streets in clouds and eddies. He was
in doubt whether Miss Aagot would want to go out on such a day, and for
this reason he said at once:

"It is a gloriously windy day, Miss Aagot; I should like to take you up on
the hills, up to the high places! You have never seen anything like it;
the town is shrouded in dust and smoke."

At any other time Ole would have said no; it was neither healthy nor
enjoyable to be blown full of dust. But now he wanted to show Aagot that
he was not thinking of their recent conversation.... Certainly; run
along! Really, she ought to take this walk.

And Aagot went.

"It is an age since I have seen you," said Irgens.

"Yes," she said, "I am busy nowadays. I am going home soon."

"You are?" he asked quickly and stopped.

"Yes. I am coming back, though."

Irgens had become thoughtful.

"I am afraid it is blowing a little too hard, after all," he said. "We can
hardly hear ourselves think. Suppose we go to the Castle Park? I know a
certain place--"

"As you like," she said.

They found the place; it was sheltered and isolated. Irgens said:

"To be entirely candid, it was not my intention to drag you up into the
hills to-day. The truth of the matter is that I was afraid you would not
care to come; that is the reason I said what I said. For I _had_ to
see you once more."


"Really--I have ceased to wonder at anything you say."

"But think--it is ten days since I have seen you! That is a long, a very
long time."

"Well--that is not altogether my fault--But don't let us talk about it any
more," she added quickly. "Rather tell me--why do you still act toward me
in this manner? It is wrong of you. I have told you that before. I should
like to be friends with you, but--"

"But no more. I understand. However, that is hardly sufficient for one who
is distracted with suffering, you know. No, you do not know; you have
never known. Ever and ever one must circle around the forbidden; it
becomes a necessity continually to face one's fate. If, for instance, I
had to pay for a moment like this with age-long wreck and ruin, why, I
would gladly pay the price. I would rather be with you here one brief
moment, Miss Aagot, than live on for years without you."

"Oh, but--It is too late now, you know. Why talk about it, then? You only
make it so much harder for us both."

He said, slowly and emphatically:

"No, it is not too late."

She looked at him steadily and rose to her feet; he, too, got up; they
walked on. Immersed in their own thoughts, without conscious realisation
of what they were doing, walking slowly, they made the circuit of the park
and returned to their sheltered nook. They sat down on the same bench.

"We are walking in a circle," he said. "That is the way I am circling
around you."

"Listen," she said, and her eyes were moist, "this is the last time I
shall be with you, probably. Won't you be nice? I am going home, you know,
very soon now."

But just as he was preparing to answer her out of the fullness of his
heart somebody had to pass their seat. It was a lady. In one hand she
carried a twig with which she struck her skirt smartly for every step she
took. She approached them slowly; they saw that she was young. Irgens knew
her; he got up from his seat, took off his hat, and bowed deeply.

And the lady passed blushingly by.

Aagot asked:

"Who was that?"

"Only my landlady's daughter," he said. "You told me to be nice. Yes,

But Aagot wanted further information concerning this lady. So they lived
in the same house? What was she doing? What kind of a person was his

And Irgens answered her fully. Just as if she were a child whose curiosity
had been aroused by the merest chance occurrence, Aagot made him tell her
everything he knew concerning these strange people in Thranes Road No. 5.
She wondered why the lady had blushed; why Irgens had greeted her so
obsequiously. She did not know that this was the way Irgens always paid
his rent--by being particularly gracious to his landlady's family on the

The young lady was good-looking, although she had a few freckles. She was
really pretty when she blushed; didn't he think so?

And Irgens agreed; she was pretty. But she didn't have one only dimple;
there was only one who had that....

Aagot glanced at him quickly; his voice thrilled her; she closed her eyes.
The next instant she felt that she was bending toward him, that he kissed
her. Neither spoke; all her fears were lulled; she ceased to struggle and
rested deliciously in his arms.

And nobody disturbed them. The wind soughed through the trees; it hushed
and soothed.... Somebody came along; they rushed apart and kept their eyes
on the gravelled walk while he passed. Aagot was quite equal to the
occasion; she did not show the slightest trace of confusion. She got up
and began to walk away. And now she began to think; the tears were
dripping from her long lashes, and she whispered, dully, despairingly:

"God forgive me! What have I done?"

Irgens wanted to speak, to say something that would soften her despair. It
had happened because it had to happen. He was so unspeakably fond of her;
she surely knew he was in earnest.... And he really looked as if he were
greatly in earnest.

But Aagot heard nothing; she walked on, repeating these desperate words.
Instinctively she took the way down toward the city. It seemed as if she
were hurrying home.

"Dearest Aagot, listen a moment--"

She interrupted violently:

"Be quiet, will you!"

And he was silent.

Just as they emerged from the park a violent gust tore her hat from her
hair. She made an effort to recover it, but too late; it was blown back
into the park. Irgens caught up with it as it was flattened against a

She stood still for a moment; then she, too, began to run in pursuit, and
when at last they met by the tree her despair was less poignant. Irgens
handed her the hat, and she thanked him. She looked embarrassed.

As they were walking down the sloping driveway toward the street the wind
made Aagot turn and walk backward a few steps. Suddenly she stopped. She
had discovered Coldevin; he was walking through the park in the direction
of Tivoli. He walked hurriedly, furtively, and as if he did not want to be
seen. So he was still in the city!

And Aagot thought in sudden terror: What if he has seen us! As in a flash
she understood. He was coming from the park; he had wanted to wait until
they should have had time to reach the street; then the accident with her
hat had spoiled his calculations and made him show himself too soon. How
he stooped and squirmed! But he could find no hiding-place on this open

Aagot called to him, but the wind drowned her voice. She waved her hand,
but he pretended not to see it; he did not bow. And without another word
to Irgens she ran after him, down the slope. The wind blew her skirts to
her knees; she grabbed her hat with one hand and ran. She caught up with
him by the first cross-street.

He stopped and greeted her as usual--awkwardly, with an expression of
melancholy gladness, moved in every fibre of his being. He was miserably

"You--You must not come here and spy on me," she said hoarsely, all out of
breath. She stood before him, breathing hard, angry, with flashing eyes.

His lips parted but he could not speak; he did not know which way to turn.

"Do you hear me?"

"Yes--Have you been sick, perhaps? You haven't been out for two weeks now;
of course, I don't _know_ that you haven't, but--"

His helpless words, his wretched embarrassment, moved her; her anger died
down, she was again on the verge of tears, and, deeply humiliated, she

"Dear Coldevin, forgive me!"

She asked him to forgive her! He did not know what to say to this, but
answered abstractedly:

"Forgive you? We won't speak about that--But why are you crying? I wish I
hadn't met you--"

"But I am glad I met you," she said. "I wanted to meet you; I think of you
always, but I never see you--I long for you often."

"Well, we won't speak about that, Miss Aagot. You know we have settled our
affair. I can only wish you every happiness, every possible happiness."

Coldevin had apparently regained his self-control; he commenced even to
speak about indifferent matters: Was not this a fearful storm? God knew
how the ships on the high seas were faring!

She listened and answered. His composure had its effect on her, and she
said quietly:

"So you are still in the city. I shall not ask you to come and see me;
that would be useless. Ole and I both wanted to ask you to come with us on
a little excursion, but you could not be found."

"I have seen Mr. Henriksen since then. I explained that I was engaged that
Sunday anyway. I was at a party, a little dinner--So everything is well
with you?"

"Yes, thanks."

Again she was seized with fear. What if he had been in the park and seen
everything? She said as indifferently as she could: "See how the trees are
swaying in the park! I suppose, though, there must be sheltered places

"In the park? I don't know. I haven't been there--But your escort is
waiting for you; isn't it Irgens?"

Thank God, she was saved! He had not been in the park. She heard nothing
else. Irgens was getting tired of this waiting, but she did not care. She
turned again to Coldevin.

"So you have seen Ole since the excursion? I wonder why he hasn't
mentioned it to me."

"Oh, he cannot remember everything. He has a lot to think of, Miss Aagot;
a great deal. He is at the head of a big business; I was really surprised
when I saw how big it is. Wonderful! A man like him must be excused if he
forgets a little thing like that. If you would permit me to say a word, he
loves you better than anybody else! He--Please remember that! I wanted so
much to say this to you!"

These few words flew straight to her heart. In a flash she saw the image
of Ole, and she exclaimed joyously:

"Yes, it is true! Oh, when I think of everything--I am coming!" she called
to Irgens and waved her hand at him.

She said good-bye to Coldevin and left him.

She seemed to be in a great hurry; she asked Irgens to pardon her for
having kept him waiting, but she walked on rapidly.

"Why this sudden haste?" he asked.

"Oh, I must get home. What a nasty wind!"


She shot him a swift glance; his voice had trembled; she felt a warm glow
throughout her being. No, she couldn't make herself colder than she was;
her eyes drooped again and she leaned toward him; her arm brushed his

He spoke her name again with infinite tenderness, and she yielded.

"Give me a little time, please! Whatever shall I do? I will love you if
you will only let me alone now."

He was silent.

Finally they reached the last crossing. Ole Henriksen's house could be
seen in the distance. The sight of that house seemed to bring her to her
senses. Whatever could she have said? Had she promised anything? No, no,
nothing! And she said with averted eyes:

"That which has happened to-day--your having kissed me--I regret it; God
knows I do! I grieve over it--"

"Then pronounce the sentence!" he answered briskly.

"No, I cannot punish you, but I give you my hand in promise that I will
tell Ole if you ever dare do that again."

And she gave him her hand.

He took it, pressed it; he bent over it, and kissed it repeatedly,
defiantly, right below her own windows. Covered with confusion, she
finally succeeded in opening the door and escaping up the stairs.


Ole Henriksen received a telegram which hastened his departure for London.
For twenty-four hours he worked like a slave to get through--wrote and
arranged, called at the banks, instructed his clerks, gave orders to his
chief assistant, who was to be in charge during his absence. The Hull
steamer was loading; it was to sail in a couple of hours. Ole Henriksen
did not have any too much time.

Aagot went with him from place to place, sad and faithful. She was
labouring under suppressed emotion. She did not say a word so as not to
disturb him, but she looked at him all the time with moist eyes. They had
arranged that she should go home the next morning on the first train.

Old Henriksen shuffled back and forth, quiet and silent; he knew that his
son needed to hurry. Every once in a while a man would come up from the
dock with reports from the steamer; now there was only a shipment of
whale-oil to load, then she would start. It would take about
three-quarters of an hour. At last Ole was ready to say farewell. Aagot
only had to put on her wraps; she would stay with him to the last.

"What are you thinking of, Aagot?"

"Oh, nothing. But I wish you were well back again, Ole."

"Silly little girl! I am only going to London," he said, forcing a gaiety
he did not feel. "Don't you worry! I shall be back in no time." He put his
arm around her waist and caressed her; he gave her the usual pet names:
Little Mistress, dear little Mistress! A whistle sounded; Ole glanced at
his watch; he had fifteen minutes left. He had to see Tidemand a moment.

As soon as he entered Tidemand's office he said: "I am going to London. I
want you to come over occasionally and give the old man a lift. Won't

"Certainly," said Tidemand. "Are you not going to sit down, Miss Aagot?
For you are not departing, I hope?"

"Yes, to-morrow," answered Aagot.

Ole happened to think of the last quotations. Rye was going up again. He
congratulated his friend warmly.

Yes, prices were better; the Russian crops hadn't quite come up to
expectations; the rise was not large, but it meant a great deal to
Tidemand with his enormous stores.

"Yes, I am keeping afloat," he said happily, "and I can thank you for
that. Yes, I can--" And he told them that he was busy with a turn in tar.
He had contracts from a house in Bilbao. "But we will talk about this when
you get back. _Bon voyage_!"

"If anything happens, wire me," said Ole.

Tidemand followed the couple to his door. Both Ole and Aagot were moved.
He went to the window and waved to them as they passed; then he went back
to his desk and worked away with books and papers. A quarter of an hour
passed. He saw Aagot return alone; Ole had gone.

Tidemand paced back and forth, mumbling, figuring, calculating every
contingency regarding this business in tar. He happened to see a long
entry in the ledger which was lying open on his desk. It was Irgens's
account. Tidemand glanced at it indifferently; old loans, bad debts, wine
and loans, wine and cash. The entries were dated several years back; there
were none during the last year. Irgens had never made any payments; the
credit column was clean. Tidemand still remembered how Irgens used to joke
about his debts. He did not conceal that he owed his twenty thousand; he
admitted it with open and smiling face. What could he do? He had to live.
It was deplorable that circumstances forced him into such a position. He
wished it were different and he would have been sincerely grateful if
anybody had come along and paid his debts, but so far nobody had offered
to do that. Well, he would say, that could not be helped; he would have to
carry his own burdens. Fortunately, most of his creditors were people with
sufficient culture and delicacy to appreciate his position; they did not
like to dun him; they respected his talent. But occasionally it would
happen that a tailor or a wine-dealer would send him a bill and as like as
not spoil an exquisite mood. He simply must open his door whenever anybody
knocked, even if he were just composing some rare poem. He had to answer,
to expostulate: What, another bill? Well, put it there, and I will look at
it some time when I need a piece of paper. Oh, it is receipted? Well, then
I will have to refuse to accept it; I never have receipted bills lying
round. Take it back with my compliments....

Tidemand walked back and forth. An association of ideas made him think of
Hanka and the divorce. God knows what she was waiting for; she kept to
herself and spent all her time with the children, sewing slips and dresses
all day long. He had met her on the stairs once; she was carrying some
groceries in a bundle; she had stepped aside and muttered an excuse. They
had not spoken to each other.

What could she be thinking of? He did not want to drive her away, but this
could not continue. He was at a loss to understand why she took her meals
at home; she never went to a restaurant. Dear me, perhaps she had no more
money! He had sent the maid to her once with a couple of hundred crowns--
they could not last for ever! He glanced in his calendar and noticed that
it was nearly a month since he had had that settlement with Hanka; her
money must have been used up long ago. She had probably even bought things
for the children with that money.

Tidemand grew hot all of a sudden. At least _she_ should never lack
anything; thank God, one wasn't a pauper exactly! He took out all the
money he could spare, left the office, and went up-stairs. The maid told
him that Hanka was in her own little room, the middle room facing the
street. It was four o'clock.

He knocked and entered.

Hanka sat at the table, eating. She rose quickly.

"Oh--I thought it was the maid," she stammered. Her face coloured and she
glanced uneasily at the table. She began to clear away, to place napkins
over the dishes. She moved the chairs and said again and again: "I did not
know--everything is so upset--"

But he asked her to excuse his abrupt entrance. He only wanted to--she
must have been in need of money, of course she must; it couldn't be
otherwise; he wouldn't hear any more about it. Here--he had brought a
little for her present needs. And he placed the envelope on the table.

She refused to accept it. She had plenty of money left. She took out the
last two hundred crowns he had sent her and showed him the bills. She even
wanted to return them.

He looked at her in amazement. He noticed that her left hand was without
the ring. He frowned and asked:

"What has become of your ring, Hanka?"

"It isn't the one you gave me," she answered quickly. "It is the other
one. That doesn't matter."

"I did not know you had been obliged to do that, or I would long ago--"

"But I was not obliged to do it; I wanted to. You see I have plenty of
money. But it does not matter in the least, for I still have _your_

"Well, whether it is my ring or not, you have not done me a favour by
this. I want you to keep your things. I am not so altogether down and out,
even if I have had to let some of my help go."

She bowed her head. He walked over to the window; when he turned back he
noticed that she was looking at him; her eyes were candid and open. He
grew confused and turned his back to her again. No, he could not speak to
her of moving now; let her stay on awhile if she wanted to. But he would
at least try to persuade her to cease this strange manner of living; there
was no sense in that; besides, she was getting thin and pale.

"Don't be offended, but ought you not--Not for my sake, of course, but for
your own--"

"Yes, I know," she interrupted, afraid of letting him finish; "time
passes, and I haven't moved yet."

He forgot what he intended to say about her housekeeping eccentricities;
he caught only her last words.

"I cannot understand you. You have had your way; nothing binds you any
more. You can be Hanka Lange now as much as you like; you surely know that
I am not holding you back."

"No," she answered. She rose and took a step toward him. She held out her
hand to him in a meaningless way, and when he did not take it, she dropped
it to her side limply, with burning cheeks. She sank into her chair again.

"No, you are not holding me back--I wanted to ask you--Of course, I have
no right to expect that you will let me, but if you would--if I could
remain here awhile yet? I would not be as I was before--I have changed a
good deal, and so have you. I cannot say what I want to--"

His eyes blurred suddenly. What did she mean? For a moment he faltered;
then he buttoned his coat and straightened his shoulders. Had he, then,
suffered in vain during all these weary days and nights? Hardly! He would
prove it now. Hanka was sitting there, but evidently she was beside
herself; he had excited her by calling on her so "unexpectedly.

"Don't excite yourself, Hanka. Perhaps you are saying what you do not

A bright, irrepressible hope flamed up within her.

"Yes," she exclaimed, "I mean every word! Oh, if you could forget what I
have been, Andreas? If you would only have pity on me! Take me back; be
merciful! I have wanted to come back for more than a month now, come back
to you and to the children; I have stood here behind the curtains and
watched you when you went out! The first time I really saw you was that
night on the yacht--do you remember? I had never seen you until then. You
stood by the tiller. I saw you against the sky; your hair was a little
grey around the temples. I was so surprised when I saw you. I asked you if
you were cold. I did it so you would speak to me! I know--time passed, but
during all these weeks I have seen nobody but you--nobody! I am four and
twenty years old, and have never felt like this before. Everything you do,
everything you say--And everything the little ones do and say. We play and
laugh, they cling to my neck.... I follow you with my eyes. See, I have
cut a little hole in the curtain so that I can see you better. I can see
you all the way to the end of the street. I can tell your steps whenever
you walk down-stairs. Punish me, make me suffer, but do not cast me off!
Simply to be here gives me a thousand joys, and I am altogether different

She could hardly stop; she continued to speak hysterically; at times her
voice was choked with emotion. She rose from the chair. She smiled while
the tears rained down her face. Her voice trailed off into inarticulate

"For Heaven's sake, be calm!" he exclaimed abruptly, and his own tears
were falling as he spoke. His face twitched. He was furious because he
could not control himself better. He stood there and snapped out his
words. He could not find the ones he sought. "You could always make me do
whatever you wanted. I am not very clever when it comes to bandying words,
no, indeed! The clique knows how to talk, but I haven't learned the art--
Forgive me, I did not mean to hurt you. But if you mean that you want me
to take somebody else's place now--If you want me as a successor--Of
course, I do not know, but I ask. You say you want to come back now. But
_how_ do you come back? Oh, I don't want to know; go in God's name!"

"No, you are right. I simply wanted to ask you--I had to. I have been
unfaithful to you, yes. I have done everything I shouldn't do,

"Well, let us end this scene. You need rest more than anything else."

Tidemand walked to the door. She followed him with wide-open eyes.

"Punish me!" she cried. "I ask you to--have pity! I should be grateful to
you. Don't leave me, I cannot bear to have you go! Do not cast me off; I
have been unfaithful and--But try me once more; try me only a little! Do
you think I might remain here? I don't know--"

He opened the door. She stood still, her eyes dilated. From them shone the
great question.

"Why do you look at me like that? What do you want me to do?" he asked.
"Come to your senses. Do not brood over the past. I will do all I can for
the children. I think that is all you can reasonably ask."

Then she gave up. She stretched her arms out after him as the door closed.
She heard his steps down the stairs. He paused a moment as if uncertain
which way to take. Hanka ran to the window, but she heard his office door
open. Then all was quiet.

Too late! How could she have expected otherwise? Good God, how could she
have expected otherwise! How she had nourished that vain hope night and
day for a whole month! He had gone; he said no, and he went away. Most
likely he even objected to her staying with the children!

Mrs. Hanka moved the following day. She took a room she saw advertised in
the paper, the first room she came across; it was near the Fortress. She
left home in the morning while Tidemand was out. She kissed the children
and wept. She put her keys in an envelope and wrote a line to her husband.
Tidemand found it upon his return; found the keys and this farewell, which
was only a line or two.

Tidemand went out again. He sauntered through the streets, down toward the
harbour. He followed the docks far out. A couple of hours went by, then he
returned the same way. He looked at his watch; it was one o'clock.
Suddenly he ran across Coldevin.

Coldevin stood immovable behind a corner and showed only his head. When he
saw Tidemand coming straight toward him he stepped out in the street and

Tidemand looked up abstractedly.

And Coldevin asked:

"Pardon me, isn't this Mr. Irgens I see down there--that gentleman in

"Where? Oh, yes, it looks like him," answered Tidemand indifferently.

"And the lady who is with him, isn't that Miss Lynum?"

"Perhaps it is. Yes, I fancy that is she."

"But wasn't she going away to-day? It seems to me I heard--Perhaps she has
changed her mind?"

"I suppose she has."

Coldevin glanced swiftly at him. Tidemand looked as if he did not want to
be disturbed. He excused himself politely and walked off, lost in thought.


No, Aagot did not go away as had been arranged. It occurred to her that
she ought to buy a few things for her smaller sisters and brothers. It was
quite amusing to go around and look at the store windows all alone; she
did that all the afternoon, and it was six when at last she was through
and happened to meet Irgens on the street. He relieved her of her parcels
and went with her. Finally they hailed a carriage and took a ride out in
the country. It was a mild and quiet evening.

No, she must not go away to-morrow. What good would that do? One day more
or less didn't matter. And Irgens confessed frankly that he was not very
flush at present, or he would have accompanied her.... If not in the same
compartment, at least on the same train. He wanted to be near her to the
very last. But he was too poor, alas!

Wasn't it a crying shame that a man like him should be so hard up? Not
that she would have allowed him to come, but.... How it impressed her that
he so frankly told her of his poverty!

"Besides, I am not sure that my life is safe here any more," he said
smilingly. "Did you tell my friend Ole how I acted?"

"It is never too late to do that," she said.

They told the driver to stop. They walked ahead, talking gaily and
happily. He asked her to forgive him his rashness--not that he wanted her
to think that he had forgotten her, or could forget her.

"I love you," he confessed, "but I know it is useless. I have now one
thing left--my pen. I may write a verse or two to you; you must not be
angry if I do. Well, time will tell. In a hundred years everything will be

"I am powerless to change anything," she said.

"No, you are not. It depends, of course--At least, there is nobody else
who can." And he added quickly: "You told me to give you a little time,
you asked me to wait--what did you mean by that?"

"Nothing," she answered.

They walked on. They came into a field. Irgens spoke entertainingly about
the far, blue, pine-clad ridges, about a tethered horse, a workingman who
was making a fence. Aagot was grateful; she knew he did this in order to
maintain his self-control; she appreciated it. He even said with a shy
smile that if she would not think him affected he would like to jot down a
couple of stanzas which just now occurred to him. And he jotted down the
couple of stanzas.

She wanted to see what he wrote. She bent toward him and asked him
laughingly to let her see.

If she really wanted to! It was nothing much, though.

"Do you know," he said, "when you bent toward me and your head was so
close to me, I prayed in my heart that you would remain like that! That is
the reason I first refused to let you see what I had written."

"Irgens," she said suddenly, in a tender voice, "what would happen if I
said yes to you?"

Pause. They looked at each other.

"Then it would happen, of course, that--that you would say no to another."

"Yes--but it is too late now, too late! It is not to be considered--But
if it is any comfort to you to know it, then I can say that you are not
the only one to grieve--"

He took this beautifully. He seized her hand and pressed it silently, with
a happy glance, and he let it go at once.

They walked along the road. They had never been closer to each other. When
they reached the new fence the workman took off his cap. They stopped
before a gate; they looked at each other a moment and turned back. They
did not speak.

They came back to the carriage. During the drive Irgens held all Aagot's
bundles in his arms. He did not move and was not in the least insistent.

She was really touched by his tactful behaviour, and when he finally asked
her to stay another day she consented.

But when the carriage had to be paid for he searched his pockets in vain;
at last he had to ask her to pay the driver herself. She was pleased to be
able to do that; she only wished she had thought of it at once. He had
looked quite crestfallen.

They met each other early the next day. They walked along the docks,
talking together in low voices, trembling with suppressed feeling. Their
eyes were full of caresses; they walked close to each other. When,
finally, Irgens caught sight of Coldevin standing half hidden behind a
corner, he did not mention his discovery with a single syllable in order
not to distress her. He said simply:

"What a pity you and I are not ordinary working people now! We seem to
attract attention; people are for ever staring at us. It would be
preferable to be less prominent."

They spoke about seeing each other at the Grand in the evening. It was
quite a while since she had been there; she had really had few pleasures
of late. Suddenly he said:

"Come and go up to my place. There we can sit and talk in peace and

"But would that do?"

Why not? In broad daylight? There was absolutely no reason why she
shouldn't. And he would always, always have the memory of her visit to

And she went with him, timid, fearful, but happy.



Milde and Gregersen walked down the street together. They talked about
Milde's portrait of Paulsberg which had been bought by the National
Galleries; about the Actor Norem, who, together with a comrade, had been
found drunk in a gutter and had been arrested; about Mrs. Hanka, who was
said at last to have left her husband. Was anything else to be expected?
Hadn't she endured it for four long years down in that shop? They asked
each other for her address; they wanted to congratulate her; she must know
that they fully sympathised with her. But none of them knew her address.

They were deeply interested in the situation. It had come to this that
Parliament had been dissolved without having said the deciding word,
without having said anything, in fact. The _Gazette_ had advised
against radical action at the last moment. The paper had talked about the
seriousness of assuming responsibilities, about the unwisdom of a
straightforward challenge.

"What the devil can we do--with our army and navy?" said Gregersen with
deep conviction. "We shall simply have to wait."

They went into the Grand. Ojen was there with his two close-cropped poets.
He was speaking about his latest prose poems: "A Sleeping City,"
"Poppies," "The Tower of Babel." Imagine the Tower of Babel--its
architecture! And with a nervous gesture he drew a spiral in the air.

Paulsberg and his wife arrived; they moved the tables together and formed
a circle. Milde stood treat; he still had money left from the first half
of the subsidy. Paulsberg attacked Gregersen at once because of the
_Gazette's_ change of front. Hadn't he himself, a short time ago,
written a rather pointed article in the paper? Had they entirely forgotten
that? How could he reconcile this with their present attitude? It would
soon be a disgrace for an honest man to see his name in that sheet.
Paulsberg was indignant and said so without mincing words.

Gregersen had no defence. He simply answered that the _Gazette_ had
fully explained its position, had given reasons....

"What kind of reasons?" Paulsberg would show them how shallow they were.
"Waiter, the _Gazette_ for to-day!"

While they waited for the paper even Milde ventured to say that the
reasons were anything but convincing. They consisted of vague vapourings
about the easterly boundary, the unpreparedness of the army, even
mentioning foreign intervention....

"And fifteen minutes ago you yourself agreed with the _Gazette_
unqualifiedly," said Gregersen.

Paulsberg commenced reading from the _Gazette_, paragraph after
paragraph. He laughed maliciously. Wasn't it great to hear a paper like
the _Gazette_ mention the word responsibility? And Paulsberg threw
the paper aside in disgust. No; there ought to be at least a trace of
honesty in our national life! This sacrifice of principle for the sake of
expediency was degrading, to say the least.

Grande and Norem entered, with Coldevin between them. Coldevin was
talking. He nodded to the others and finished what he was saying before he
paused. The Attorney, this peculiar nonentity, who neither said nor did
anything himself, took a wicked pleasure in listening to this uncouth
person from the backwoods. He had happened upon Coldevin far up in Thranes
Road; he had spoken to him, and Coldevin had said that he was going away
soon, perhaps to-morrow. He was going back to Torahus; he was mainly going
in order to resign his position; he had accepted a situation farther
north. But in that case Grande had insisted that they empty a glass
together, and Coldevin had finally come along. They had met Norem outside.

Coldevin, too, spoke about the situation; he accused the young because
they had remained silent and accepted this last indignity without a
protest. God help us, what kind of a youth was that? Was our youth, then,
_entirely_ decadent?

"It looks bad for us again," said Milde in a stage whisper.

Paulsberg smiled.

"You will have to grin and bear it--Let us get toward home, Nikoline. I am
not equal to this."

And Paulsberg and his wife left.


Coldevin looked very shabby indeed. He was in the same suit he wore when
he came to town; his hair and beard were shaggy and unkempt.

The Journalist brought him over to the table. What did he want? Only a
glass of beer?

Coldevin glanced around him indifferently. It would seem that he had had a
hard time. He was thin to emaciation and his eyes shone through dark,
shadowy rings. He drank his beer greedily. He even said it was a long time
since a glass of beer had tasted better. Perhaps he was hungry, too.

"To return to the matter under discussion," said the Attorney. "One cannot
affirm offhand that we are floating on the battered hull. One must not
forget to take the young Norway into consideration."

"No," answered Coldevin, "one should never affirm anything offhand. One
must try to reach the basic reason for every condition. And this basic
reason might just be--as I have said--our superstitious faith in a power
which we do not possess. We have grown so terribly modest in our demands;
why is it? Might this not lie at the very root of our predicament? Our
power is theoretical; we talk, we intoxicate ourselves in words, but we do
not act. The fancy of our youth turns to literature and clothes; its
ambition goes no further, and it is not interested in other things. It
might, for instance, profitably take an interest in our business life."

"Dear me, how you know everything!" sneered the Journalist.

But Milde nudged him secretly and whispered: "Leave him alone! Let him
talk. He, he! He really believes what he says; he trembles with eagerness
and conviction. He is a sight in our day and generation!"

The Attorney asked him:

"Have you read Irgens's latest book?"

"Yes, I have read it. Why do you ask?"

"Oh, simply because I am at a loss to understand how you can have such a
poor opinion of our youth when you know its production. We have writers of

"Yes--but, on the other hand, there is in your circle a young man who has
lost heavily in rye," answered Coldevin. "I am more interested in him. Do
you know what this man is doing? He is not crushed or broken by his loss.
He is just now creating a new article of export; he has undertaken to
supply a foreign enterprise with tar, Norwegian tar. But you do not
mention his name."

"No; I must confess that my knowledge of Norwegian tar is limited, but--"

"There may be nothing lacking in your knowledge, Mr. Attorney, but you
have possibly too little sympathy for commerce and the creation of values.
On the other hand, you are thoroughly up to date as far as the aesthetic
occurrences are concerned; you have heard the latest prose poem. We have
so many young writers; we have Ojen, and we have Irgens, and we have
Paulsberg, and we have many more. That is the young Norway. I see them on
the streets occasionally. They stalk past me as poets should stalk past
ordinary people. They are brimful of new intentions, new fashions. They
are fragrant with perfume--in brief, there is nothing lacking. When they
show up everybody else is mute: 'Silence! The poet speaks.' The papers are
able to inform their readers that Paulsberg is on a trip to Honefos. In a

But this was too much for Gregersen. He himself had written the news notes
about Paulsberg's trip to Honefos. He shouted:

"But you have the most infernal way of saying insolent things! You look as
if you were saying nothing of consequence--"

"I simply cannot understand why you lose your temper," said Milde
tranquilly, "when Paulsberg himself told us to grin and bear it!"


"In a word," resumed Coldevin, "the people do their duty, the papers do
their duty. Our authors are not ordinary, readable talents; no, they are
flaming pillars of fire; they are being translated into German! They
assume dimensions. This, of course, can be repeated so often that people
at last believe it; but such a self-delusion is very harmful. It makes us
complacent, it perpetuates our insignificance."

Gregersen plays a trump card:

"But tell me, you--I don't remember your name:--do you know the story of
Vinje and the potato? I always think of that when I hear you speak. You
are so immensely unsophisticated; you are from the country, and you think
you can amaze us. You have not the slightest suspicion that your opinions
are somewhat antiquated. Your opinions are those of the self-taught man.
Once Vinje began to ponder over the ring in a newly cut, raw potato; being
from the country, you, at least, must know that there in springtime,
often, is a purple figure in a potato. And Vinje was so interested in this
purple outline that he sat down and wrote a mathematical thesis about it.
He took this to Fearnley in the fond belief that he had made a great
discovery. 'This is very fine,' said Fearnley; 'it is perfectly correct.
You have solved the problem. But the Egyptians knew this two thousand
years ago--' They knew it ages ago, ha, ha, ha! And I am always reminded
of this story when I hear you speak! Don't be offended, now!"


"No, I am not offended in the least," said Coldevin. "But if I understand
you correctly, then we agree. I am only saying what you already know?"

But Gregersen shook his head in despair and turned to Milde.

"He is impossible," he said. He emptied his glass and spoke again to
Coldevin, spoke in a louder voice than necessary; he bent toward him and
shouted: "For Heaven's sake, man, don't you understand that your opinions
are too absurd--the opinions of the self-taught man? You think that what
you say is news to us. We have heard it for ages; we know it, and we think
it ridiculous. Isch! I don't want to talk to you!"

And Gregersen got up and walked unsteadily away. It was six o'clock. The
three men who remained at the table sat silently a few moments. At last
Coldevin said:

"There goes Journalist Gregersen. That man has my unqualified pity and

"He would hardly accept it," said Milde with a laugh.

"But he cannot avoid it. I think often of these writers for the daily
press, these faithful workers who accomplish more in a month than the
poets wring from themselves during a year. They are often married men in
poor circumstances; their fate is not too pleasant at best. They have
probably dreamed about a freer and richer life than this slavery in an
office where their best efforts are swallowed up in anonymity, and where
they often have to repress themselves and their convictions in order to
keep their jobs. It might be well if these men were given the approbation
they deserved; it might even be profitable; it might bear fruit in a free
and honest newspaper literature. What have we at present? An irresponsible
press, lacking convictions and clearly defined principles, its policy
dictated by personal preferences--by even worse motives. No; a truly great
journalist ranks far higher than a poet."

Just then the door opened and Irgens and Miss Aagot entered. They stopped
by the door and looked around; Aagot showed no sign of embarrassment, but
when she caught sight of Coldevin, she stepped forward quickly, with a
smile on lips that were already opened as if to speak. Suddenly she
stopped. Coldevin stared at her and fumbled mechanically at his buttons.

This lasted a few moments. Irgens and Aagot went over to the table, shook
hands, and sat down. Aagot gave Coldevin her hand. Milde wanted to know
what they would have. He happened to be flush. "Order anything you like--"

"You come too late," he said smilingly. "Coldevin has entertained us

Irgens looked up. He shot a swift glance at Coldevin and said, while he
lit a cigar:

"I have enjoyed Mr. Coldevin's entertainment once before in Tivoli, I
believe. This will have to satisfy me for the present."

It was only with difficulty that Irgens succeeded in hiding his
displeasure. This was the second time to-day he had seen Coldevin; he had
observed him outside his lodgings in Thranes Road No. 5. He had not been
able to get Aagot out until this infernal fellow had disappeared. By a
happy chance Grande had passed by; otherwise he would probably have been
there still. And how had he acted? He had stood like a guard, immovable;
Irgens had been furious. He had had the greatest difficulty in keeping
Aagot from the windows. If she had happened to glance out she must have
discovered him. He had made no effort to conceal himself. One would think
he had stood there with the avowed intention of being seen, in order to
keep the couple in a state of siege.

Now he appeared slightly embarrassed. He fingered his glass nervously and
looked down. But suddenly it seemed as if Irgens's insolence had roused
him; he said bluntly and without connection with what had been discussed

"Tell me one thing--Or, let me rather say it myself: These poets are
turning everything upside down; nobody dares to grumble. An author might
owe in unsecured debts his twenty thousand--what of it? He is unable to
pay, that is all. What if a business man should act in this manner? What
if he were to obtain wine or clothes on false promises of payment? He
would simply be arrested for fraud and declared bankrupt. But the authors,
the artists, these talented superbeings who suck the country's blood like
vampires to the nation's acclaim--who would dare take such measures with
them? People simply discuss the scandal privately and laugh and think it
infernally smart that a man can owe his twenty thousand--"

Milde put his glass down hard and said:

"My good man, this has gone far enough!"

That splendid fellow Milde seemed all at once to have lost his patience.
While he was sitting alone with the Attorney and the Actor he had found
the miserable Tutor's bitter sarcasms amusing, but no sooner had one of
the Authors appeared than he felt outraged and struck his fist on the
table. It was Milde's excellent habit always to await reinforcements.

Coldevin looked at him.

"Do you think so?" he said.

"I'll be damned if I don't."

Coldevin had undoubtedly spoken intentionally. He had even addressed his
remarks very plainly. Irgens bit his moustache occasionally.

But now Norem woke up. He understood that something was happening before
his dull eyes, and he began to mix in, to declaim about business morals.
It was the rottenest morality on earth, usury--a morality for Jews! Was it
right to demand usurious interest? Don't argue with him. He knew what he
was talking about. Ho! business morals! The rottenest morals on earth....

Meanwhile the Attorney was talking across the table to Irgens and Miss
Aagot. He told them how he had come across Coldevin.

"I ran across him a moment ago up your way, Irgens, in Thranes Road, right
below your windows. I brought him along. I couldn't let the fellow stand
there alone--"

Aagot asked quickly, with big, bewildered eyes:

"Thranes Road, did you say? Irgens, he was standing below your windows!"

Her heart was fluttering with fear. Coldevin observed her fixedly; he made
sure that she should notice he was staring straight at her.

Meanwhile Norem continued his impossible tirade. So it was charged that
the people as a whole was corrupt, that its men and women were debased
because they honoured literature and art. "Ho! you leave art alone, my
good man, and don't you bother about that! Men and women corrupt!--"

Coldevin seized this chance remark by the hair and replied. He did not
address Norem; he looked away from him. He spoke about something that
evidently was vitally important in his eyes. He addressed himself to
nobody in particular, and yet his words were meant for some one. It was
hardly correct to say that men and women were corrupt; they had simply
reached a certain degree of hollowness; they had degenerated and grown
small. Shallow soil, anaemic soil, without growth, without fertility! The
women carried on their surface existence. They were not tired of life, but
they did not venture much either. How could they put up any stakes? They
had none to put up. They darted around like blue, heatless flames; they
nibbled at everything, joys and sorrows, and they did not realise that
they had grown insignificant. Their ambitions did not soar; their hearts
did not suffer greatly; they beat quite regularly, but they did not swell
more for one thing than for another, more for one person than for another.
What had our young women done with their proud eyes? Nowadays they looked
on mediocrity as willingly as on superiority. They lost themselves in
admiration over rather every-day poetry, over common fiction. Some time
ago greater and prouder things were needed to conquer them. There was a
page here and there in Norway's history to prove that. Our young women had
modified their demands considerably; they couldn't help it; their pride
was gone, their strength sapped. The young woman had lost her power, her
glorious and priceless simplicity, her unbridled passion, her brand of
breed. She had lost her pride in the only man, her hero, her god. She had
acquired a sweet tooth. She sniffed at everything and gave everybody the
willing glance. Love to her was simply the name for an extinct feeling;
she had read about it and at times she had been entertained by it, but it
had never sweetly overpowered her and forced her to her knees; it had
simply fluttered past her like an outworn sound. "But the young woman of
our day does not pretend to all this; alas, no! She is honestly shorn.
There is nothing to do about it; the only thing is to keep the loss within
limits. In a few generations we shall probably experience a renaissance;
everything comes in cycles. But for the present we are sadly denuded. Only
our business life beats with a healthy, strong pulse. Only our commerce
lives its deed-filled life. Let us place our faith in that! From it will
the newer Norway spring!"

These last words seemed to irritate Milde; he took out of his pocketbook a
ten-crown bill which he threw across the table to Coldevin. He said

"There--take your money! I had almost forgotten that I owed you this
money, but I trust you understand that you can go now!"

Coldevin coloured deeply. He took the bill slowly.

"You do not thank me very politely for the loan," he said.

"And who has told you that I am a polite man? The main thing is that you
have got your money and that we hope now to be rid of you."

"Well, I thank you; I need it," said Coldevin. The very way in which he
picked up the bill showed plainly that he was not used to handling money.
Suddenly he looked straight at Milde and added:

"I must confess I had not expected you ever to repay this loan."

Milde blazed up, but only for a moment. Even this direct insult did not
make him lose his temper. He swallowed it, mumbled a reply, said finally
that he had not intended to be rude; he would apologise....

But Norem, who sat there drunk and dull, could no longer repress his
amusement. He only saw the comical side of the incident and cried

"Have you touched this fellow, too, Milde? So help me, you can borrow
money from anybody! You are inimitable. Ha, ha! from him, too!"

Coldevin rose.

Aagot got up simultaneously and ran over to him. She took his hand, a prey
to the greatest excitement. She began whispering to him. She led him over
to a window and continued speaking earnestly, in a low voice. They sat
down. There was nobody else around, and she said:

"Yes, yes, you are right; it is true. You were speaking to me; I
understood it only too well; you are right, right, right! Oh, but it is
going to be different! You said that I couldn't, that it was not within my
power; but I can; I will show you! I understand it all now; you have
opened my eyes. Dear, do not be angry with me. I have done a great wrong,

She wept with dry eyes. She swallowed hard. She sat on the very edge of
the chair in her excitement. He injected a word now and then, nodded,
shook his head when she appeared too disconsolate, and in his confusion he
called her "Aagot, dearest Aagot." She must not apply everything he had
said to herself, not at all. Of course, he had thought of her, too, that
was true; but then he had been mistaken--thank God for that! He had simply
wanted to warn her. She was so young; he, who was older, knew better from
where danger threatened. But now she must forget it and be cheerful.

They continued to speak. Irgens grew impatient and rose. He stretched
himself and yawned as if to indicate that he was going. Suddenly he
remembered something he had forgotten. He walked quickly over to the bar
and got some roasted coffee which he put in his vest pocket.

Milde settled the checks. He flung money around with the greatest
unconcern; then he said good-bye and left. A moment afterward they saw him
bow to a lady outside. He spoke a few words and they walked away through a
side-street. The lady wore a long boa which billowed behind her in the

And still Aagot and Coldevin sat there.

"Won't you take me home? Excuse me a moment, I want to--"

She ran over to Irgens's table and took her coat from the chair.

"Are you going?" he asked her in amazement.

"Yes. Ugh--I won't do this any more. Goodbye!"

"What won't you do any more? Don't you want me to take you home?"

"No. And not later either; not to-morrow. No, I am through for good." She
gave Irgens her hand and said good-bye quickly. All the time she looked at
Coldevin and seemed impatient to be off.

"Remember our engagement for to-morrow," Irgens said.


Aagot and Coldevin walked together down the street. He said nothing about
his going away, and she didn't know of his intention. She was happy to be
with Coldevin, this phenomenon who irritated everybody with his impossible
harangues. She walked close beside him; her heart was fluttering.

"Forgive me!" she pleaded. "Yes, you must forgive me everything, both that
which has happened before and to-day. A while ago I should have been
afraid to ask you, but no sooner am I with you than I become bold again.
You never reprove me, never. But I haven't done anything wrong to-day--I
mean to-day when I was far up-town; you understand what I mean." And she
looked at him with an open, straightforward glance.

"Are you going back home soon, Miss Aagot?"

"Yes, I am going back at once--Forgive me, Coldevin, and believe me,
believe me--I have done nothing wrong to-day; but I am so sorry, I repent
everything--Blue, heatless flames, without much pride--I am not so stupid
that I do not know whom you had in mind when you said this."

"But, dearest Aagot," he exclaimed in his perplexity, "it was not meant
for you--I didn't mean it at all! And besides, I was mistaken, greatly
mistaken; thank God, _you_ are entirely different. But promise me one
thing, Aagot; promise that you will be a little careful, do! It is none of
my business, of course; but you have fallen in with a crowd--believe me,
they are not your kind of people. Mrs. Tidemand has gained bitter
experience through them."

She glanced at him inquiringly.

"I thought it best to tell you. Mrs. Tidemand, one of the few sterling
personalities in the clique, even she! One from that crowd has destroyed
her, too."

"Is that true?" said Aagot. "Well, I don't care in the least for them;
alas, no! I don't want to remember any of them." And she seized Coldevin's
arm and pressed close to him as if in fear.

This embarrassed him still more. He slowed up a little, and she said with
a smile as she let go his arm:

"I suppose I mustn't do that?"

"H'm. What are you going to do when you get back home? By the way, have
you heard from your fiance?"

"No, not yet. But I suppose it is too early. Are you afraid of anything
happening to him? Dear me, tell me if you are!"

"No; don't worry! He will get back safe enough."

They stopped at her door and said good-bye. She ascended the few steps
hesitatingly, without even lifting her dress; suddenly she turned, ran
downstairs again, and seized Coldevin's hand.

Without another word she hurried up-stairs and through the door.

He stood still a moment. He heard her steps from inside, then they died
down. And he turned and drifted down the street. He saw and heard nothing
of what happened around him.

Instinctively he walked toward the basement restaurant where he usually
took his meals. He went down and ordered something. Hurriedly he ate
everything that was placed before him; apparently he had not eaten for a
long while. And when he was through he took out the ten-crown bill and
paid his check from that. At the same time he felt in his waistcoat pocket
for a little package, a few crowns in silver--the small amount he had put
aside for his railway ticket, and which he had not dared to touch.

* * * * *

The following day, around five, Aagot was walking down toward the docks,
toward the same place where she had walked the day before. Irgens was
already waiting for her.

She hurried toward him and said:

"I came after all, but only to tell you--I won't meet you any more. I
haven't time to talk to you now, but I did not want you to come here and
wait for me."

"Listen, Miss Aagot," he said boldly, "you can't back out now, you know."

"I am not going home with you any more, never. I have learned something.
Why don't you get Mrs. Tidemand to go with you? Why don't you?" Aagot was
pale and excited.

"Mrs. Tidemand?" he asked, startled.

"Yes, I know everything. I have asked questions--Yes, I have thought of it
all night long. Go to Mrs. Tidemand, why don't you?"

He stepped close to her.

"Mrs. Tidemand has not existed for me since I saw you. I haven't seen her
for weeks. I don't even know where she lives."

"Well, it doesn't matter," she said. "I suppose you can look her up. I
won't go home with you, but I can walk with you a few moments."

They walked on. Aagot was quiet now.

"I said I have thought of it all night," she continued. "Of course, not
all night. All day, I meant. Not all the time, I mean--You ought to be
ashamed of yourself! Married ladies! You don't defend yourself very
warmly, Irgens."

"What is the use?"

"No, I suppose you love her." And when he was silent she grew violently
jealous. "You might at least tell me if you love her!"

"I love you," he answered, "I do not lie; it is you and nobody else I
love, Aagot. You can do with me what you like, but it is you." He did not
look at her. He gazed down on the pavement and he wrung his hands

She felt that his emotion was genuine and she said gently:

"All right, Irgens, I'll believe you. But I won't go home with you."


"What has made you so hostile toward me all of a sudden?" he asked. "Is it
this--? He has been your tutor, but I must frankly say that he disgusts
me, dirty and unkempt as he is."

"You will be good enough to speak civilly of Coldevin," she said coldly.

"Well, he is going away to-night, so we shall be rid of him," he said.

She stopped.

"Is he going this evening?"

"So I heard. On the night train."

Was he going? He hadn't mentioned that to her. Irgens had to tell her how
he knew. She was so taken up with this news about Coldevin that she forgot
everything else; perhaps she even felt a sense of relief at the thought
that henceforth she would be free from his espionage. When Irgens touched
her arm lightly she walked mechanically ahead. They went straight to his
rooms. When they stood by the entrance she suddenly recoiled. She said
"No!" repeatedly while she looked at him with staring, bewildered eyes.
But he pleaded with her. Finally he took her arm and led her firmly

The door slammed behind them....

On the corner Coldevin stood and watched. When the couple disappeared he
stepped forward and walked over to the entrance. He stood there awhile. He
bent forward stiffly as if he were listening. He was much changed. His
face was fearfully drawn and his lips were frozen in a ghastly smile. Then
he sat down on the steps, close by the wall, waiting.

An hour passed by. A tower-clock boomed. His train was not due to leave
for another hour. Half an hour went by. He heard somebody on the stairs.
Irgens came first. Coldevin did not stir; he sat motionless with his back
to the door. Then Aagot appeared. Suddenly she cried out loudly. Coldevin
arose and walked away. He had not looked at her nor had he said a word; he
had simply shown himself--he had been on the spot. He swayed like a man in
a stupor. He turned the very first corner, the frozen smile still on his

Coldevin walked straight down to the railway station. He bought his ticket
and was ready. The doors were thrown open. He walked out to the
train-shed; a porter came after him with his trunk. His trunk? All right;
he had almost forgotten it. Put it in there, in this empty compartment! He
entered after it had been stowed away; then he collapsed utterly. He sat
in the corner; his gaunt, emaciated body shivered convulsively. In a few
moments he took from his pocketbook a tiny silken bow in the Norwegian
colours and began to tear it to pieces. He sat there quietly and plucked
the threads apart. When he had finished he stared at the shreds with a
fixed, vacant stare. The engine gave a hoarse blast; the train started.
Coldevin opened the window slowly and emptied his hand. And the tiny bits
of red and blue whirled away behind the train, fluttered and sank to the
gravel, to be ground in the dust beneath every man's foot.


It was several days later before Aagot went home. Irgens had not persisted
in vain. He had succeeded, and now he reaped the reward of all his labour.
Aagot was with him continually. She was as much in love with him as she
could be. She clung to his neck.

The days passed by.

Finally a telegram arrived from Ole, and Aagot woke from her trance. The
wire had been sent to Torahus. It reached her after much delay. Ole was in

Well, what was to be done? Ole was in London, but he was not here yet. She
did not remember clearly how he looked. Dark, with blue eyes; tall, with a
stray wisp of hair which always fell across his forehead. Whenever she
thought of him he seemed to belong to an age long past. How long, long it
was since he went away!

The telegram stirred to life again her dormant feelings for the absent
one. She trembled with the old sense of possession. She whispered his name
and blessed him for his goodness. She called him to her, blushing
breathlessly. No, nobody was like him! He did not wrong anybody. He walked
his straightforward way, guileless and upright. How he loved her! Little
mistress, little mistress! His breast was so warm! She grew warm herself
when she nestled close to him. How he could look up from a row of figures
and smile!... Oh, she had not forgotten!...

She packed her belongings resolutely and wanted to go home in spite of
everything. The evening before she left she said good-bye to Irgens, a
protracted good-bye which rent her heart. She was his now, and Ole would
probably get over it. She made up her mind. She would go home and she
would cancel her engagement as soon as Ole returned. What would he say
when he read her letter with the ring enclosed? She writhed at the thought
that she wouldn't be near him to comfort him. She had to strike him from
afar! And thus it had to end!

Irgens was full of tenderness and cheered her as much as he could. They
should not be separated for long. If nothing else turned up he would walk
up to her on his feet! Besides, she could get back to town; she wasn't a
pauper exactly; she even owned a yacht, a real yacht--what more did she
want? And Aagot smiled at this jest and felt relieved.

The door was locked; they were alone. Everything was quiet; they heard
their hearts beat. And they said farewell to each other.

Irgens would not take her to the train. It might give rise to too much
gossip; the town was so small and he was, unfortunately, so well known.
But they would write, write every day; otherwise she would never be able
to endure the separation....

Tidemand was the only one who knew of Aagot's departure and who followed
her to the train. He was paying his usual call to Henriksen's office
during the afternoon and was having his daily chat with the old man. As he
left he met Aagot outside: she was ready to go. Tidemand accompanied her
and carried her valise; her trunk had been sent ahead.

It had rained and the streets were muddy. Aagot said several times:

"What a disagreeable, mournful day!"

They hardly spoke. Aagot simply said:

"It was very kind of you to come with me; otherwise I should have been
altogether alone." And Tidemand noticed that she tried to appear
unconcerned. She smiled, but her eyes were moist.

He, too, smiled and said comfortingly that he was glad she was going to
leave all this mud and filth; now she was going to the country, to cleaner
roads, to purer air. These few words were all they spoke. They stood in
the train-shed beneath the glass vault. It had begun to rain, and they
heard the drops beating on the roof while the engine stood wheezing on the
track. Aagot entered her compartment and gave Tidemand her hand. And in a
sudden desire to be forgiven, to be judged charitably, she said to this
stranger, whom she knew so slightly:

"Good-bye--And do not judge me too harshly!" and she coloured deeply.

"But, child!" he said amazed. He had no time to say more.

She put her fair little face out of the window and nodded as the train
moved along. Her eyes were wet, and she struggled not to break down. She
looked at Tidemand as long as she could see him, then she waved a tiny

The strange girl! Her unaffected simplicity moved him. He did not stop
waving until the train was out of sight. Not judge her too harshly? He
certainly wouldn't! And if he ever had been tempted to, he would know
better in the future. She had waved to him--almost a stranger! He would be
sure and tell Ole--how that would please him!...

* * * * *

Tidemand walked toward his own wharf. He was very busy. He was altogether
taken up with his affairs. His business was steadily growing. He had been
forced to take on several of his old employees. At present he was shipping

When he had given his orders in the warehouse, he walked over to the
restaurant where he usually took his meals. It was late. He ate hurriedly
and spoke to no one. He was engrossed in thought about a new enterprise he
had in mind. His tar was going to Spain. The rye held firm, with good
prices; he sold steadily, his business began to stretch forth new arms.
There was that new tannery near Torahus. How would it do if one gave a
little thought to a tar-manufacturing plant alongside? He really was going
to speak to Ole about that. He had had it in mind several weeks. He had
even consulted an engineer about it. There were the cuttings and the tops.
If the tannery took the bark, why shouldn't the tar plant take the wood?

Tidemand walked home. It rained steadily.

A few steps from his office entrance he stopped abruptly; then he sidled
quietly into an area-way. He stared straight ahead. His wife was standing
out there in the rain, outside his office. She was gazing, now at his
office windows, now up to the second story. There she stood. He could not
be mistaken, and his breath came in gasps. Once before he had seen her
there. She had circled around in the shadows beneath the street lamps,
just as now. He had called her name in a low voice, and she had
immediately hurried around the street corner without looking back. This
happened a Sunday evening three weeks ago. And now she was here again.

He wanted to step forward. He made a movement and his raincoat rustled.
She glanced around quickly and hurried away. He stood immovable where he
was until she had disappeared.


Ole Henriksen returned a week later. He had become uneasy. He had
telegraphed to Aagot again and again, but could get no reply. He finished
up his business in a hurry and returned. But so far was he from suspecting
the true condition of affairs that on the very last afternoon in London he
bought her a little present, a carriage for her fiord pony on Torahus.

And on his desk he found Aagot's letter with her ring enclosed.

Ole Henriksen read the letter almost without grasping its meaning. His
hands commenced to tremble, and his eyes were staring. He went over and
locked the office door, and read the letter once more. It was brief and to
the point; it could not be misunderstood; she gave him back his "freedom."
And there was the ring, wrapped in tissue-paper. No, he could hardly be
uncertain as to the meaning of that letter.

And Ole Henriksen drifted back and forth in his office for several hours.
He placed the letter on his desk and walked with hands tightly clasped
behind him. He took the letter again and read it once more. He was "free"!

He must not think that she did not love him, she had written. She thought
of him as much as ever; yes, more even. She begged his forgiveness a
hundred times every day. But what good was it if she thought of him ever
so much? she continued. She was his no more, it had come to that. But she
had not surrendered at once, nor without a struggle; God knows that she
had loved him so dearly, and that she did not want to belong to anybody
but to him. However, it had gone entirely too far now; she would only ask
him to judge her kindly, though she did not deserve it, and not to grieve
over her.

The letter was dated twice. She had not noticed that. It was written in
Aagot's large, childish hand, and was touching in its simplicity; she had
made several corrections.

Yes, he had understood it clearly; and, besides, there was the ring. After
all, what did _he_ amount to? He was no prominent man, known all over
the country; he was no genius who could interest a girl greatly; he was
just an ordinary toiler, a business man--that was all. He should have
known better than imagine he would be allowed to keep Aagot's heart for
himself. Just see how he had fooled himself! Of course, he attended to his
business and worked conscientiously early and late, but that could not
make people fond of him. There was nothing to say to that. Anyhow, he knew
now why his telegrams had remained unanswered. He ought to have understood
it at once, but he hadn't.... She had gone entirely too far. She said
goodbye and loved somebody else. Nothing could be done about that. If she
loved somebody else, then.... It was probably Irgens--he would get her
after all. Tidemand had been right. It was dangerous with these many
boat-rides and walks; Tidemand had had experience. Well, it was too late
to think of that now. However, one's love could not have been so very
firmly rooted if a walk or two had been enough to break it down....

And suddenly the anger blazed up in the poor fellow. He walked more
rapidly and his forehead flamed. She had gone entirely too far. That was
his reward for the love he had lavished on her! He had knelt before a
hussy. He had let that miserable lover of hers cheat him openly for years!
He could prove it by the ledger--look here--now Aagot's fine friend had
been hard up for ten, now for fifty crowns! And he, Ole Henriksen, had
even been afraid that Aagot some day might chance to see the poet's
account in his books. He had finally put away the ledger, entirely out of
regard for the great man's feelings. It was a most suitable partnership;
they were worthy of each other. The poet had something to write about now,
a splendid subject! Ha, he must not grieve too much over her; she could
not stand that; she might even lose sleep over it! Think of that! But who
had said that he would grieve? She was mistaken. He might have knelt
before her, but he hadn't licked her boots; no, he would hardly be
compelled to take to his bed on account of this. She need not worry; she
need not weep scalding tears on his account. So she had jilted him; she
returned his ring. What of it? But why had she dragged the ring all the
way up to Torahus? Why hadn't she simply left it on his desk and saved the
postage? Good-bye; good riddance! Go to the devil with your silk-lined
deceiver, and never let me hear of you again!...

He wrung his hands in anguish and paced back and forth with long, furious
strides. He would take it like a man. He would fling his own ring in her
face and end the comedy quickly. He stopped at the desk and tore the ring
off his finger, wrapped it up, and put it in an envelope. He wrote the
address in large, brutal letters; his hand trembled violently. Somebody
knocked. He flung the letter into a drawer and closed it hastily.

It was one of his clerks who came to remind him that it was late. Should
he close up?

"Yes, close up. But wait; I am through now; I am going, too. Bring me the

Nobody should be able to say that he broke down because of a shabby trick
like this. He would show people that he could keep his composure. He might
go to the Grand and celebrate his return with a plain glass of beer! That
would be just the thing. He had no intention of avoiding people. He had a
revolver lying in a desk drawer; but had he wanted to use that, even for
the briefest moment? Had he _thought_ of it even? Not at all. It just
occurred to him now that it might be getting rusty. No, thank God! one was
not exactly weary of life....

Ole Henriksen went to the Grand.

He sat down at a table and ordered his glass of beer. A moment later he
felt somebody slap him on the shoulder. He looked up; it was Milde.

"Good old boy!" shouted Milde. "Are you sitting here without saying a
word? Welcome back! Come over to the window; you will find a couple of the
fellows there."

Ole went over to the window. There were Ojen, Norem, and Gregersen, all of
them with half-empty wine-glasses in front of them. Ojen jumped up and
said pleasantly:

"Welcome home, old man! I am glad to see you again. I have missed you a
good deal. I am coming down to-morrow to see you. There is something I
want to see you about."

Gregersen gave him a finger. Ole took it, sat down, and told the waiter to
bring him his beer.

"What! are you drinking beer? No, beer will never do on this occasion; it
must be wine!"

"Well, drink what you want to. I am drinking beer."

Just then Irgens arrived, and Milde called to him: "Ole is drinking beer,
but we are not going to do that. What do you say?"

Irgens did not show the least sign of embarrassment when he faced Ole; he
barely nodded and said indifferently: "Welcome home!" And Ole looked at
him and noticed that his cuffs were not entirely clean; as a matter of
fact, his dress was not quite up to his usual standard.

But Milde repeated his question: wasn't it a little too commonplace to
drink beer at a double celebration?

"A double celebration?" asked Gregersen.

"Exactly--yes. In the first place, Ole has returned, and that is of the
greatest importance to us at present; I frankly admit that. But I have, in
the second place, just been dispossessed from my studio, and that has also
a certain solemn significance. What do you think? The landlady came and
wanted money. 'Money?' I asked in amazement, and so on and so on. But the
outcome was that I was put out, without notice--only a couple of hours'.
Ha, ha! I have never heard of such a notice. Of course, she had already
given me her ultimatum a month ago; still--I had to leave a couple of
finished canvases. But I think this ought to be celebrated in wine, for
Ole does not care what we drink."

"Of course not; why should I care?" asked Ole.

And the gentlemen drank industriously. They grew well disposed and
cheerful before they took their departure. Irgens was first to leave; then
Ojen followed. Ole remained until they had all gone, all except Norem, who
sat there as usual and slumbered. He had listened to the talk.
Occasionally he had injected a word. He had grown weary and subdued; a
bitter disgust had taken possession of him and made him dully indifferent
to everything.

At last he got up and paid his check.

The waiter halted him.

"Pardon me," he said, "but the wine--"

"The wine?" asked Ole. "I have only had a couple of glasses of beer."

"Yes, but the wine isn't paid for."

So the gentlemen hadn't paid their checks? For a moment the hot anger
blazed up in him again; he was on the point of saying that if they would
send the bill to Torahus it would be paid instantly. But he said: "All
right; I can pay it, I suppose."

But what should he do at home? Go to bed and sleep? If he only could! He
turned into the darkest streets in order to be alone. He was going
homeward, but he swung aside and walked toward the Fortress.

Here he suddenly came across Tidemand. He was standing in front of a dark
gateway gazing at the house opposite. What could Tidemand be doing there?

Ole walked over to him. They looked at each other in surprise.

"I am taking a walk, a little walk," said Tidemand somewhat sheepishly. "I
came by here by accident--Thank goodness, you are back, Ole! Welcome home!
Let us get away from here!"

Tidemand could not get over his surprise. He had not known that Ole was
back. Everything was all right at the office; he had called on the old man
regularly, as he had promised.

"And your sweetheart has gone away," he continued. "I went with her to the
train. She is a darling girl! She was a little upset because she was going

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