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Shallow Soil by Knut Hamsun

Part 5 out of 5

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away; she stood there and looked at me with real shining eyes; you know
how she is. And as the train went off she took out her handkerchief and
waved to me--waved so sweetly, just because I had come with her. You ought
to have seen her; she was lovely."

"Well, I am not engaged any more," said Ole in a hollow voice.

* * * * *

Ole went into his office. It was late at night. He had walked with
Tidemand a long time and told him everything. He was going to write a
letter to Aagot's parents, respectful and dignified, without reproaches.
He felt he ought to do that.

When he had finished this letter he read Aagot's once more. He wanted to
tear it to pieces and burn it up, but he paused and placed it in front of
him on the desk. It was at least a letter from her, the last. She had sat
there and written to him and thought of him while she wrote. She had held
the paper with her tiny hands, and there her pen had scratched. She had
probably wiped it on something and dipped it and written on. That letter
was for him, for no one else. Everybody had probably been in bed while she

He took the ring out of its wrapping and looked at it for a long time. He
was sorry that he had lost his temper and said words which he now
regretted. He took them back, every one. Good-bye, then, Aagot....

And he placed Aagot's last letter with the others.


Ole began to work hard again; he spent practically all his time in his
office. He lost flesh; he did not get out enough; his eyes became absent
and flickering. He was hardly off the wharves or outside the warehouses
for several weeks. Nobody should say that he pined and drooped because his
engagement was cancelled! He worked and minded his own business and was
getting on nicely.

He was getting thin; that was simply because he worked too hard. He hoped
nobody would think it might be due to other causes. There were so many
things to be done since his return from England; he had explained it all
to Tidemand. But he was going to take it a little easier now. He wanted to
get out a little, observe what was doing, amuse himself.

And he dragged Tidemand to theatres and to Tivoli. They took long walks in
the evenings. They arranged to start the tannery and the tar works this
coming spring. Ole was even more enthusiastic than Tidemand; he threw
himself so eagerly into the project that nobody could for a moment harbour
any mistaken notions about his being grief-stricken. He never mentioned
Aagot; she was dead and forgotten.

And Tidemand, too, was getting along comfortably. He had lately re-engaged
his old cook and he took his meals at home now. It was a little lonely.
The dining-room was too large, and there was an empty chair; but the
children carried on and made the most glorious noise throughout the house;
he heard them sometimes clear down in his office. They disturbed him
often, took him away from his work at times; for whenever he heard their
little feet patter on the floors up-stairs and their merry shouts echo
through the rooms he simply had to put down his pen and run up for a
moment. In a few minutes he would come back and throw himself into his
work like an energetic youth.... Yes, Tidemand was getting along famously;
he couldn't deny it. Everything had begun to turn out well for him.

On his way home one evening Tidemand happened to drop in at a grocery
store he supplied with goods. It was entirely by accident. He entered the
store and walked over to the owner who stood behind the counter. Suddenly
he saw his wife at the counter; in front of her he noticed some parcels.

Tidemand had not seen her since that evening outside his office. He had
fortunately caught sight of her ring in a jewellery window as he passed by
one day and had immediately bought it and sent it to her. On a card she
had written a few words of thanks. She had not missed the ring, but it was
another matter now; she would keep it always.

She stood there at the counter in a black dress; it was a little
threadbare. For a moment he wondered if perhaps she was in need, if he did
not give her enough money? Why did she wear such old dresses? But he had
sent her a good deal of money. Thank God, he was able to do that. In the
beginning, when he was still struggling, he hadn't sent her such large
amounts, it was true. He had grieved over it and written to her not to be
impatient; it would be better soon. And she had thanked him and answered
that he was sending her altogether too much; how was she going to use it
all? She had lots and lots of money left.

But why did she dress so shabbily, then?

She had turned around; she recognised his voice when he spoke to the
owner. He grew confused; he bowed smilingly to her as he had to the
grocer, and she blushed deeply as she returned his bow.

"Never mind about the rest," she said to the clerk in a low voice. "I'll
get that some other time." And she paid hurriedly and gathered up her
bundles. Tidemand followed her with his eyes. She stooped as she walked
and looked abashed until she disappeared.


And the days passed by. The town was quiet; everything was quiet.

Irgens was still capable of surprising people and attracting everybody's
attention. He had looked a little careworn and depressed for some time;
his debts bothered him; he earned no money and nobody gave him any. Fall
and winter were coming; it did not look any too bright for him. He had
even been obliged to make use of a couple of last year's suits.

Then all of a sudden he amazed everybody by appearing on the promenade,
rehabilitated from top to toe in an elegant fall suit, with tan gloves and
money in his pockets, distinguished and elegant as the old and only
Irgens. People looked at him admiringly. Devil of a chap--he was unique!
What kind of a diamond mine had he discovered? Oh, there was a head on
these shoulders, a superior talent! He had been obliged to move from his
former apartments on Thranes Road. Certainly; but what of it? He had taken
other apartments in the residential district--elegant apartments, fine
view, furniture upholstered in leather! He simply couldn't have stood it
much longer in the old lodgings; his best moods were constantly being
spoiled; he suffered. It was necessary to pay a little attention to one's
surroundings if one cared to produce good work. Miss Lynum had come to
town a week ago and was going to remain awhile; she made him feel like a
new man. How the whole town burst into bloom and colour when Aagot

It had all been decided: they were going to get married next spring and
pin their faith to next year's subsidy. It would seem that he must be
recognised sometime, especially now when he was going to found a family
and was publishing a new collection of poems. They couldn't starve him to
death entirely; hardly that! And Irgens had approached Attorney Grande,
who had approached the Minister personally in regard to next year's
subsidy. "You know my circumstances," he had said to Grande. "I am not
well off, but if you will speak to the Minister I shall be much obliged to
you. Personally, I will do nothing. I cannot stoop to that!" Grande was a
man whom Irgens otherwise honoured with his contempt. But it could not be
helped; this brainless Attorney began to have influence; he had been
appointed on a royal commission and had even been interviewed by the

When Tidemand told Ole that he had seen Aagot on the street it gave him a
fearful shock. But he recovered himself quickly and said with a smile:

"Well, how does that concern me? Let her be here as much as she likes; I
have no objections. I have other things to worry about." He forced himself
to renewed interest in the conversation, talked about Tidemand's new
orders for tar, and said repeatedly: "Be sure to have the cargo well
insured; it never hurts!" He was a little nervous but otherwise normal.

They drank a glass of wine as of old. A couple of hours went by while they
chatted cosily, and when Tidemand left Ole said, full of gratitude:

"I am awfully glad that you came to see me. I know you have enough to do
besides this--Listen," he continued; "let us go to the farewell
performance of the opera this evening; I want you to come!" And the
serious young man with the hollow eyes looked as if he were exceedingly
anxious to attend that performance. He even said he had looked forward to
it for several days.

Tidemand promised to come; Ole said that he would get the tickets.

No sooner had Tidemand left the office than Ole telephoned for the tickets
he wanted--three tickets together, 11, 12, and 13. He was going to take
No. 12 to Mrs. Hanka, to her room near the Fortress. She would surely want
to come, for nobody could be fonder of the opera than she used to be. He
rubbed his hands in satisfaction as he walked along--No. 12; she should
sit between them. He would keep No. 13 for himself; that was a proper
number for him, a most unlucky number.

He walked faster and faster and forgot his own misery. He was done and
through with it all; his sufferings lay behind; he had recovered fully.
Had he been so very much shaken because Aagot had come to town? Not at
all; it had not affected him in the least.

And Ole walked on. He knew Mrs. Hanka's address well; more than once had
he taken her home when she had called on him secretly, asking for news
about the children. And had he not found Tidemand outside her windows that
night he returned from England? How their thoughts were ever busy with
each other! With him it was different; he had forgotten his experience and
did not think of such things any more.

But when he inquired for Mrs. Hanka he was told that she had gone away for
a couple of days; she had gone to the country house. She would be back

He listened and did not understand at once. The country house? Which
country house?

Of course, yes; Tidemand's country house. Ole glanced at his watch. No; it
was too late to try and get Mrs. Hanka back to-day. What reason could he
have given, anyway? He had wanted to surprise them both with his little
scheme, but now it had become impossible. Alas, how everything turned out
badly for him of late!

Ole turned back.

To the country house! How she haunted the old places! She had been unable
to resist; she had to see once more that house and these grounds, although
the leaves were almost gone and the garden was desolate. Oh! Aagot had
intended to spend the summer there if everything had turned out all right.
Well, that was another matter, something that did not concern him in the

Ole was weary and disappointed. He decided to go to Tidemand at once and
tell him everything. He had meant it for the best.

"We shall have to go alone after all," he said. "I really have a ticket
for your wife, though."

Tidemand changed colour.

"You have?" he simply said.

"Yes, I had planned to have her sit between us; perhaps I ought to have
told you beforehand; but any way, she has gone away and won't be back till

"Is that so?" said Tidemand as before.

"Listen, you mustn't be angry with me because of this! If you only knew--
Your wife has called on me quite frequently of late; she asks about you
and the children--"

"That is all right."


"I say, that is all right. But why do you tell me this?"

Then Ole's anger blazed forth; he stuck his face close up to Tidemand's
and shouted furiously, in a shrill voice:

"I want to tell you something, damn you--you don't understand your own
welfare! You are a fool, you are killing her--that will be the end of it.
And you are doing your very best to go the same way yourself--don't you
think I see it? 'That is all right'--so it is all right for her to steal
down to me when darkness falls and ask about you and the children with the
tears dripping from her eyes? Do you for a moment imagine it is for
_your_ sake I have been inquiring about your health these last
months? Why should I ask if not for her? You personally can go to the
devil as far as I am concerned. You say nothing; you cannot understand
that she is wearing her heart away for you. I saw her outside your office
once at midnight, saying good night to you and to the children. She wept
and blew kisses to Johanna and Ida; she tiptoed up-stairs and caressed the
door-knob because your hand had held it a moment before. I have seen this
several times from the corner. I suppose you will say that 'that is all
right,' too; for your heart must be petrified--Well, perhaps I shouldn't
say that your heart is exactly petrified," added Ole repentantly when at
last he noticed Tidemand's terrible face. "But you need not expect any
apology from me, either. You are hardened; that's what you are! I tell
you, Hanka wants to come back!"


"I wish to God she wanted to come back--I mean--Back, you say? But how?
Do you know what has happened? I do. I have wanted to go to Hanka and beg
her to come back--beg her on my knees, if necessary; but how would she
come back--how would she come back? She told me herself--Of course, it is
nothing much; you mustn't think it is anything bad, anything very bad;
don't think that of Hanka. But, anyway, I am not so sure that she wants to
come back. From where have you got that idea?"

"Well, perhaps I ought not to have tried to interfere," said Ole. "But
think of it anyway, Andreas; and pardon my violence; I take it all back. I
don't know how it is; I am getting to be so hot-tempered lately. But think
it over. And let us be ready in an hour or so."

"So she still asks for the children," said Tidemand. "Think of that!"


Ole Henriksen stood in his office a few days later. It was in the
afternoon, about three; the weather was clear and calm; the docks were
busy as ever.

Ole walked over to the window and looked out. An enormous coal-steamer was
gliding in from the fiord; masts and rigging pointed skyward everywhere;
cargoes were being unloaded along the wharves. Suddenly he started; the
yacht was gone! He opened his eyes wide. Among all the hundreds of
mastheads none were golden.

He wanted to go out and look into this, but paused at the door. He went
back to his desk again, leaned his head on his hands, and reflected. In
reality the yacht did not belong to him any more; it was hers, Miss
Lynum's; he had given it to her, and the papers were in her keeping. She
had not returned these papers together with the ring; she might have
forgotten it--how could he know? Anyway, the yacht was hers; he had
nothing to do with it. But if it had been stolen? Well, even that was no
affair of his.

Ole took up his pen again, but only for a few moments. Dear me, she used
to sit there on the sofa and sew so busily on the little cushions! They
had been so cute and tiny that it was almost absurd. There she used to
sit; he could see her still....

And Ole wrote again.

Then he opened the door and called out to the clerks that the yacht had
disappeared; what had happened?

One of the clerks informed him that the yacht had been removed this
morning by two men from a lawyer's office; she was anchored outside the
Fortress now.

"Which lawyer?" asked Ole.

The clerk didn't know.

Ole grew curious. The yacht was not his any more, of course; but Miss
Lynum had no business with a lawyer either; there must be a
misunderstanding somewhere. And straightway he went down to the Fortress
landing and made inquiries for a couple of hours. Finally he learned the
name of the lawyer and went to his office.

He saw a man of his own age and asked a few guarded questions.

Yes, it was quite true; he had orders to sell the yacht; as a matter of
fact, he had already advanced a thousand crowns on it. Here were the
papers; Irgens had left them with him, the poet Irgens. He hoped there
were no objections?

None at all.

The lawyer grew more and more polite and cordial; he probably knew
everything about the whole matter, but he did not betray his knowledge.
How much was the yacht worth, did Mr. Henriksen think? Irgens had come to
him with a request that he take charge of this transaction; he had said
that he needed some money at once, and of course one had to stretch a
point where a man like Irgens was concerned. Unfortunately, our men of
talent were not rewarded any too liberally, as a rule; but if there was
the least objection to this sale he would try his best to arrange
everything satisfactorily.

And Ole said again that there was none; he had simply missed the yacht and
wondered what had become of it. And he left.

Now it had become clear why Irgens suddenly had blossomed forth in gay
plumage, rejuvenated from top to toe! The whole town was talking about it;
however, nobody knew the real source of his affluence. That _she_
should do such a thing! Didn't she understand that this was dishonourable,
disgraceful? On the other hand, why was it so disgraceful? Her possessions
were his; they shared lovingly; there was nothing to say to that. In God's
name, let her act as she thought right and proper. She was in town now;
she was going to take a course in the School of Industries. It was quite
natural that she should realise on that bit of a yacht. Could anybody
blame her because she helped her fiance? On the contrary, it reflected
credit on her.... But she might not even know that the yacht had been put
on the market. Perhaps she had forgotten both yacht and documents and did
not care what became of them. At any rate, she had not wanted to sell the
yacht simply to raise money on her own account--never; he knew her too
well. She had done it for somebody else's sake; that was she. And that was
the important point.

He remembered her so distinctly: her fair curls, her nose, her dimple; she
would be nineteen on the seventh of December. Never mind the yacht; that
didn't matter. He might have wished to save the cushions, but it would
probably be too late for that.

He returned to his office, but could only concentrate his attention on
what was absolutely necessary. He paused frequently and gazed straight
ahead, lost in reflection. What if he should buy back the yacht? Would she
mind, perhaps? God knows; she might think it was done spitefully, with
malice aforethought. It might be better to remain neutral. Yes, that would
be best; what was the use of making a fool of himself?--Miss Lynum and he
were through with each other for ever. Nobody should say that he collected
souvenirs of her.

He closed the office as usual and went out. The street lamps were burning
brightly; the evening was calm. He saw a light in Tidemand's office and
started to go in; but he paused on the stairs and reflected. Tidemand
might be busy; he had better go on.

Hour after hour passed by; he wandered around as in a stupor. How tired
and weary he was! His eyes were half-closed. He found himself in the
vicinity of the park. He turned and strode toward the hills behind the
city. He sat down on a stoop to rest. By and by he looked at his watch; it
was half past eleven. And he sauntered down toward the city again. His
mind was almost a blank.

He turned aside and passed by Tivoli and Sara. What a walk this had been!
To-night he was going to sleep--at last! Outside Sara he stopped abruptly.
He drew back in the shadows slowly, four, six steps; his eyes were staring
fixedly toward the entrance to the cafe. A cab was standing outside.

He had heard Aagot's voice; she came out with Irgens. Irgens appeared
first. Aagot had been delayed by something on the stairs.

"Hurry up, now!" called Irgens.

"Just a moment, Mr. Irgens," said the driver; "the lady is not quite

"Do you know me?" asked Irgens in surprise.

"I certainly do," said the cabman.

"He knows you! he knows you!" cried Aagot as she stumbled down the steps.
She had not put on her wrap yet; it was dragging after her and she tripped
in it. Her eyes were expressionless and staring. Suddenly she laughed.
"That nasty fellow, Gregersen; he was kicking me on the leg all the time!
I am sure I am black and blue! Imagine, Irgens, the cabby knows you!"

"You are drunk," said Irgens brutally, and helped her into the carriage.

Her hat was awry, she tried to get into her coat and she babbled

"No, I am not drunk; I am only a little cheerful--Won't you see if my leg
is bruised? I am sure I am dripping blood! It hurts, too; but that doesn't
matter; nothing matters now. Drunk, you say? What if I am? It is your
fault. I do everything for your sake--do it gladly--Ha, ha, ha! I have to
laugh when I think of that wretched Gregersen. He told me he would write
the most beautiful article about me if I would only let him see where he
had kicked me. It is different if you see it--That was an awful strong
wine; it makes my head swim--And all those cigarettes!"

"Drive on, damn you!" cried Irgens.

And the carriage rolled off.

Ole stood there and stared after the carriage; his knees shook under him.
He fumbled convulsively with his hands up and down his clothes, around his
chest. So that was Aagot! How they had corrupted her! how they had spoiled
her! Aagot--his Aagot....

Ole sat down on a stoop. A long time passed by.

The lamps outside Sara were extinguished; it grew very dark. An officer
tapped him on the shoulder and said that he could not sit there and sleep.
Ole looked up bewildered. Of course not; he was going now. Thanks! And he
swayed down the street as if he were intoxicated.

He reached home about two o'clock and entered his office. He lit the lamp
and hung his hat mechanically on the rack; his face was drawn and void of
expression. A long hour went by while he strode up and down. Then he
walked over to his desk and commenced to write--letters, documents, brief
lines on various papers which he sealed and filed away. He looked at his
watch; it was half past three. He wound it up mechanically while he held
it. He went out and mailed a letter to Tidemand which he had just written.
Upon his return he took Aagot's letters from the safe and loosened the
string that bound them together.

He did not read any of these letters; he carried them over to the
fireplace and burned them one by one. The last, the very last one, he
pulled halfway-out of its envelope and looked at it a moment; then he
burned also that, without taking out the ring.

The little clock on the wall struck four. A steamer's whistle sounded. Ole
went away from the fireplace. His face was full of anguish; every feature
was distorted; the veins around his temples were swollen. And slowly he
pulled out a little drawer in his desk.

* * * * *

They found Ole Henriksen dead in the morning; he had shot himself. The
lamp was burning on the desk; a few sealed letters were lying on the
blotter; he himself lay stretched on the floor.

In the letter to Tidemand he had asked to be forgiven because he could not
come for the last time and thank him for his friendship. He had to finish
it all now; he could not live another day; he was sick unto death. The
country house he gave to Tidemand in memory of everything. "It will
probably bring you more pleasure than it brought me," he wrote; "it is
yours, my friend; accept it from me. Mrs. Hanka will be glad to have it;
remember me to her. And if you ever should find Miss Lynum in need of
help, be good to her; I saw her this evening, but she did not see me. I
cannot collect my thoughts and write to you as I would like to. One thing
only is clear to me, and that thing I will have to do in half an hour."

A picture of Aagot was still in his pocketbook; he had probably forgotten
to burn it. He had also forgotten to send the two or three telegrams he
had carried in his pocket since the previous afternoon; they were found on
him. He had spoken truly: to him only one thing was clear!


Part of September had passed; the weather was cool, the sky clear and
high; the city was free from dust and dirt; the city was beautiful. As yet
no snow had fallen on the mountains.

Event had followed event; Ole Henriksen's suicide had only caused a
passing sensation. The shot down there in the young business man's office
had not been followed by a very loud or reverberating echo; days and weeks
had come and gone, and nobody mentioned it any more. Only Tidemand could
not forget.

Tidemand was busier than ever. He had to assist Ole's father for a while;
the old man did not want to retire, but he made the chief assistant his
partner and carried on the business as before; he did not allow his sorrow
to break him down. Old man Henriksen proved that he was not too old to
work when circumstances required it.

And Tidemand was unceasing in his efforts. His rye was at last dwindling;
he sold heavily at advancing prices now winter was approaching; his losses
were diminishing. He had to take back still more of his old employees; he
was shipping tar; to-morrow a new cargo was to sail.

He had finished the preparations, made out the papers, taken out his
insurance; it was all done. Before he turned to something else he lit a
cigar and reflected. It was about four in the afternoon. He went over to
the window and looked out. While he stood there a gentle knock was heard;
his wife entered. She asked if she disturbed him; it was only a small
matter of business....

She wore a heavy veil.

Tidemand threw away his cigar. He had not seen her for weeks, long, weary
weeks; one evening he had thought he recognised her in a lady whose walk
was somewhat similar to hers; he had followed this lady a long time before
he discovered that he was mistaken. He had never objected to her coming,
and she knew it; still, she did not come. She had probably forgotten both
him and the children; it looked that way. And, although he had strolled
around the streets near the Fortress many a night when it was too lonely
at home and at times seen a light in her window, her he had never seen.
What could she be doing? He had sent her money occasionally in order to
hear from her.

Now she stood there before him, only a few steps away.

"So you have come?" he said at last.

"Yes, I have come," she answered. "I had--I wanted to--" And suddenly she
commenced to fumble with her hand-bag; she brought forth a package of
money which she placed before him on the desk. Her hands trembled so
violently that she disarranged the bills, she even dropped a few; she
stooped down and picked them up and stammered: "Take it, please; don't say
no! It is money which I have used for--which I have put to unworthy uses.
Spare me from saying what I have used it for; it is too degrading. There
ought to be much more, but I couldn't delay any longer; there ought to be
twice as much, but I was too impatient to wait until I could bring it all.
Take it, please! I shall bring you the rest later; but I simply had to
come to-day!"

He interrupted her, much annoyed:

"But will you never understand? You bring up this subject of money for
ever! Why are you saving money for me? I have all I need; the business is
very profitable, increasingly so; I don't need it, I tell you--"

"But this money is altogether a different matter," she said timidly. "It
is for my own sake I give it to you. If I hadn't been able to think that I
might repay it I never could have endured life. I have counted and counted
every day and waited until I should have enough. I was wrong in saying
that it was only half; it is at least three-fourths--Oh, how I have
suffered under the disgrace--"

And suddenly he understood why she had wanted to bring him this money. He
took it and thanked her. He did not know what to say except that it was a
lot of money, quite a lot. But could she spare it? Surely? For he really
would be glad if she would let him have it for the present; he could use
it in the business. As a matter of fact, it was most fortunate that she
had come just now; he needed some money, he was not ashamed to confess

He watched her closely and saw the joy well up in her; her eyes sparkled
beneath her veil, and she said:

"God, how happy I am that I came to-day, after all!"

This voice! Oh, this voice! He remembered it so well from their first
delightful days. He had walked around the edge of the desk; now he stepped
back again, bewildered by her proximity, her lovely form, her radiant eyes
beneath the veil. He dropped his own.

"And how are you?" she asked, "and the children?"

"Fine, thank you. The children are growing out of their clothes. We are
all well. And you?"

"I have heard nothing from you for so long. I had intended to wait until I
could bring it all to you, but it was beyond my strength. While Ole lived
he told me about you; but since I cannot go to him any more I have been
very impatient. I was here yesterday, but I didn't come in; I turned

Should he ask her to go up to the children a moment?

"Perhaps you would like to go up-stairs a moment?" he asked. "The children
will be delighted. I don't know how the house looks, but if you don't

"I thank you!"

He saw how deeply she was moved, although she said nothing more. She gave
him her hand in farewell. "I hope they will know me," she said.

"I'll be up in a moment," he remarked. "I haven't much to do just now.
Perhaps you would like to stay awhile? Here is the key; you need not ring.
But be careful of their shoes if you take them on your lap. Well, don't
laugh; God knows if their shoes aren't muddy!"

Hanka went. He opened the door for her and followed her to the foot of the
stairs; then he returned to his office.

He walked over to the desk, but he did not work. There she had stood! She
wore her black velvet dress to-day; she was up-stairs. Could he go up now?
He did not hear the children; they were probably in her lap. He hoped they
had on their red dresses.

He walked up-stairs, a prey to the strangest emotions. He knocked on the
door as if it were somebody else's home he was entering. Hanka got up at
once when she saw him.

She had taken off her veil; she flushed deeply. He could see now why she
used a veil. The joyless days in her solitary room had not left her
unmarked; her face spoke plainly of her sufferings. Johanna and Ida stood
beside her and clung to her dress; they did not remember her clearly; they
looked at her questioningly and were silent.

"They don't know me," said Mrs. Hanka, and sat down again. "I have asked

"Yes, I know you," said Johanna, and crawled up into her lap. Ida did the

Tidemand looked at them unsteadily.

"You mustn't crawl all over mamma, children," he said. "Don't bother mamma

They didn't hear him; they wanted to bother mamma. She had rings on her
fingers and she had the strangest buttons on her dress; that was something
to interest them! They began to chatter about these buttons; they caught
sight of the mother's brooch and had many remarks to make about that.

"Put them down when you are tired of them," said Tidemand.

Tired? She? Let them be, let them be!

They spoke about Ole; they mentioned Aagot. Tidemand wanted to look her up
some day. Ole had asked him to do it; he felt, in a way, responsible for
her. But the nurse came and wanted to put the children to bed.

However, the children had no idea of going to bed; they refused
pointblank. And Hanka had to come along, follow them into their bed-room,
and get them settled for the night. She looked around. Everything was as
it used to be. There were the two little beds, the coverlets, the tiny
pillows, the picture-books, the toys. And when they were in bed she had to
sing to them; they simply wouldn't keep still but crawled out of bed
continually and chattered on.

Tidemand watched this awhile with blinking eyes; then he turned quickly
away and went out.

In half an hour or so Hanka came back.

"They are asleep now," she said.

"I was wondering if I might ask you to stay," said Tidemand. "We live
rather informally here; we keep house in a way, but nothing seems to go
right for us. If you would like to have dinner with us--I don't know what
they are going to give us to eat, but if you will take things as they

She looked at him shyly, like a young girl; she said: "Thank you."

After dinner, when they had returned to the drawing-room, Hanka said

"Andreas, you mustn't think I came here to-day thinking that everything
could be well again with us. Don't think that. I simply came because I
couldn't wait any longer; I had to see you again."

"I have not thought of that at all," he said. "But it seems the children
don't want to let you go."

"I have no thought of asking you again what I asked you for once," she
said. "That would be impossible; I know it too well. But perhaps you would
allow me to come and visit you at times?"

Tidemand bowed his head. She had no thought of coming back; it was all

"Come whenever you like; come every day," he said. "You are not coming to
see me."

"Oh, yes, to see you also. I think of you with every breath. Ever since
that sail last summer; it began then. You have changed and so have I. But
that is neither here nor there. I have seen you on the streets oftener
than you know; I have followed you at times."

He rose and went in his confusion over to the barometer on the wall; he
examined it carefully and tapped the tube.

"But in that case--I don't understand why it is necessary to live apart. I
mean--Things are in a sad state of disorder here; and then there are the

"I didn't come for that!" she exclaimed. "Yes, I did, in a way; of course
I did; but--I am afraid you will never be able to forget--Oh, no. I cannot
expect that--"

She took her wraps.

"Don't go!" he called. "You have never been out of my thoughts, either. As
far as that goes, I am as much to blame as you, and it is true that I have
changed. I am, perhaps, a little different now. But here is your room just
as before. Come and see! We haven't touched a single thing. And if you
would stay--By the way, I am afraid I shall have to stay in the office
all night. I am almost sure there is a lot of mail to attend to. But your
room is just as when you left it. Come and see!"

He had opened the door. She came over and peeped in. The lamp was lit. She
looked at everything and entered. He really wanted to, after all, after
all! She could stay; he had said so; he took her back! She stood there
timidly and said nothing; then their eyes met. He flung his arms around
her and kissed her, as he had kissed her the first time, all these many
years ago. Her eyes closed and he felt suddenly the pressure of her arms
around his neck.


And morning came.

The city woke up and the hammers danced their ringing dance along the
shipyards. Through the streets the farmers' wagons rolled in a slow
procession. It is the same story. The squares are filling with people and
supplies, stores are opened, the roar increases, and up and down the
stairs skips a slip of a girl with her papers and her dog.

It is the same story.

It is twelve before people begin to group themselves on the "corner,"
young and carefree gentlemen who can afford to sleep late and do what they
feel like. There are a few from the well-known clique, Milde and Norem and
Ojen. It is cold, and they are shivering. The conversation is not very
lively. Even when Irgens appears, in high spirits and elegant attire, as
befits the best-dressed man in town, nobody grows very enthusiastic. It is
too early and too chilly; in a few hours it will be different. Ojen had
said something about his latest prose poem; he had half-finished it last
night. It was called "A Sleeping City." He had begun to write on coloured
paper; he had found this very soothing. Imagine, he says, the heavy,
ponderous quiet over a city asleep; only its breathing is heard like an
open sluice miles away. It takes time; hours elapse, a seeming eternity;
then the brute begins to stir, to wake up. Wasn't this rather promising?

And Milde thinks it very promising; he has made his peace with Ojen long
ago. Milde is busy on his caricatures to "Norway's Dawn." He had really
drawn a few very funny caricatures and made ruinous fun of the impossible

Norem said nothing.

Suddenly Lars Paulsberg bobs up; with him is Gregersen. The group is
growing; everybody takes notice; so much is gathered here in a very small
space. Literature is in the ascendant; literature dominates the entire
sidewalk. People turn back in order to get a good look at these six
gentlemen in ulsters and great-coats. Milde also attracts attention; he
has been able to afford an entirely new outfit. He says nothing about
Australia now.

At two the life and traffic has risen to its high-water mark; movement
everywhere, people promenade, drive in carriages, gossip; engines are
breathing stertorously in the far distance. A steamer whistles in the
harbour, another steamer answers with a hoarse blast; flags flutter,
barges swim back and forth; sails rattle aloft and sails are furled. Here
and there an anchor splashes; the anchor-chains tear out of the
hawse-holes in a cloud of rust. The sounds mingle in a ponderous harmony
which rolls in over the city like a jubilant chorus.

Tidemand's tar steamer was ready to weigh anchor. He had come down himself
to see it off. Hanka was with him; they stood there quietly arm in arm.
They glanced at each other every few moments with eyes that were filled
with youth and happiness; the harbour saluted them with a swirl of flags.
When the steamer at last was under way, Tidemand swung his hat in the air
and Hanka waved with her handkerchief. Somebody on the ship waved back a
greeting. The steamer slid quietly out into the fiord.

"Shall we go?" he asked.

And she clung to him closer, and said: "As you will."

Just then another steamer entered the harbour, an enormous leviathan from
whose funnels smoke poured in billowy masses. Tidemand had goods aboard;
he had been waiting for this steamer the last two days, and he said in
great good humour:

"She is also bringing us goods!"

"Yes?" she answered quietly. But he felt, as she looked into his face,
that a quivering joy shot through her being; her arm trembled in his.

And they went home.

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