Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Growth of the Soil by Knut Hamsun

Part 5 out of 9

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.9 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

to do with you?"

Axel was not in the best of temper himself. "H'm. So he's been here
again today?"

"Well, what if he has? What do you want with him?"

"I want with him? It's what you want with him, I'd like to ask. You
ought to be ashamed."

"Ashamed? Huh! The least said about that, if you ask me," said Barbro.
"I'm here to sit in the house like a statue, I suppose? What have I
got to be ashamed of, anyway? If you like to go and get some one else
to look after the place, I'm ready to go. You hold your tongue, that's
all I've got to say, if it's not too much to ask. I'm going back now
to get your supper and make the coffee, and after that I can do as I

They came home with the quarrel at its height.

No, they were not always the best of friends, Axel and Barbro; there
was trouble now and again. She had been with him now for a couple of
years, and they had had words before; mostly when Barbro talked of
finding another place. He wanted her to stay there for ever, to settle
down there and share the house and life with him; he knew how hard
it would be for him if he were left without help again. And she had
promised several times--ay, in her more affectionate moments she would
not think of going away at all. But the moment they quarrelled about
anything, she invariably threatened to go. If for nothing else, she
must go to have her teeth seen to in town. Go, go away ... Axel felt
he must find a means to keep her.

Keep her? A lot Barbro cared for his trying to keep her if she didn't
want to stay.

"Ho, so you want to go away again?" said he.

"Well, and if I do?"

"_Can_ you, d'you think?"

"Well, and why not? If you think I'm afraid because the winter's
coming on ... But I can get a place in Bergen any day I like."

Then said Axel steadily enough: "It'll be some time before you can do
that, anyway. As long as you're with child."

"With child? What are you talking about?"

Axel stared. Was the girl mad? True, he himself should have been more
patient. Now that he had the means of keeping her, he had grown too
confident, and that was a mistake; there was no need to be sharp with
her and make her wild; he need not have ordered her in so many words
to help him with the potatoes that spring--he might have planted
them by himself. There would be plenty of time for him to assert his
authority after they were married; until then he ought to have had
sense enough to give way.

But--it _was_ too bad, this business with Eleseus, this clerk, who
came swaggering about with his walking-stick and all his fine talk.
For a girl to carry on like that when she was promised to another
man--and in her condition! It was beyond understanding. Up to then,
Axel had had no rival to compete with--now, it was different.

"Here's a new paper for you," he said. "And here's a bit of a thing I
got you. Don't know if you'll care about it."

Barbro was cold. They were sitting there together, drinking scalding
hot coffee from the bowl, but for all that she answered icy cold:

"I suppose that's the gold ring you've been promising me this
twelvemonth and more."

This, however, was beyond the mark, for it _was_ the ring after all.
But a gold ring it was not, and that he had never promised her--'twas
an invention of her own; silver it was, with gilt hands clasped, real
silver, with the mark on and all. But ah, that unlucky voyage of hers
to Bergen! Barbro had seen real engagement rings--no use telling her!

"That ring! Huh! You can keep it yourself."

"What's wrong with it, then?"

"Wrong with it? There's nothing wrong with it that I know," she
answered, and got up to clear the table.

"Why, you'll needs make do with it for now," he said. "Maybe I'll
manage another some day."

Barbro made no answer.

A thankless creature was Barbro this evening. A new silver ring--she
might at least have thanked him nicely for it. It must be that clerk
with the town ways that had turned her head. Axel could not help
saying: "I'd like to know what that fellow Eleseus keeps coming here
for, anyway. What does he want with you?"

"With me?"

"Ay. Is he such a greenhorn and can't see how 'tis with you now?
Hasn't he eyes in his head?"

Barbro turned on him straight at that: "Oh, so you think you've got
a hold on me because of _that_? You'll find out you're wrong, that's

"Ho!" said Axel.

"Ay, and I'll not stay here, neither."

But Axel only smiled a little at this; not broadly and laughing in
her face, no; for he did not mean to cross her. And then he spoke
soothingly, as to a child: "Be a good girl now, Barbro. 'Tis you and
me, you know."

And of course in the end Barbro gave in and was good, and even went to
sleep with the silver ring on her finger.

It would all come right in time, never fear.

For the two in the hut, yes. But what about Eleseus? 'Twas worse with
him; he found it hard to get over the shameful way Barbro had treated
him. He knew nothing of hysterics, and took it as all pure cruelty on
her part; that girl Barbro from Breidablik thought a deal too much of
herself, even though she _had_ been in Bergen....

He sent her back the photograph in a way of his own--took it down
himself one night and stuck it through the door to her in the hayloft,
where she slept. 'Twas not done in any rough unmannerly way, not at
all; he had fidgeted with the door a long time so as to wake her, and
when she rose up on her elbow and asked, "What's the matter; can't you
find your way in this evening?" he understood the question was meant
for some one else, and it went through him like a needle; like a

He walked back home--no walking-stick, no whistling. He did not care
about playing the man any longer. A stab at the heart is no light

And was that the last of it?

One Sunday he went down just to look; to peep and spy. With a sickly
and unnatural patience he lay in hiding among the bushes, staring over
at the hut. And when at last there came a sign of life and movement it
was enough to make an end of him altogether: Axel and Barbro came
out together and went across to the cowshed. They were loving and
affectionate now, ay, they had a blessed hour; they walked with their
arms round each other, and he was going to help her with the animals.
Ho, yes!

Eleseus watched the pair with a look as if he had lost all; as a
ruined man. And his thought, maybe, was like this: There she goes arm
in arm with Axel Stroem. How she could ever do it I can't think; there
was a time when she put her arms round me! And there they disappeared
into the shed.

Well, let them! Huh! Was he to lie here in the bushes and forget
himself? A nice thing for him--to lie there flat on his belly and
forget himself. Who was she, after all? But he was the man he was.
Huh! again.

He sprang to his feet and stood up. Brushed the twigs and dust from
his clothes and drew himself up and stood upright again. His rage and
desperation came out in a curious fashion now: he threw all care to
the winds, and began singing a ballad of highly frivolous import. And
there was an earnest expression on his face as he took care to sing
the worst parts loudest of all.

Chapter XIX

Isak came back from the village with a horse. Ay, it had come to that;
he had bought the horse from the Lensmand's assistant; the animal was
for sale, as Geissler had said, but it cost two hundred and forty
_Kroner_--that was sixty _Daler_. The price of horseflesh had gone up
beyond all bounds: when Isak was a boy the best horse could be bought
for fifty _Daler_.

But why had he never raised a horse himself? He had thought of it, had
imagined a nice little foal--that he had been waiting for these two
years past. That was a business for folk who could spare the time from
their land, could leave waste patches lying waste till they got a
horse to carry home the crop. The Lensmand's assistant had said: "I
don't care about paying for a horse's keep myself; I've no more hay
than my womenfolk can get it in by themselves while I'm away on duty."

The new horse was an old idea of Isak's, he had been thinking of it
for years; it was not Geissler who had put him up to it. And he had
also made preparations such as he could; a new stall, a new rope for
tethering it in the summer; as for carts, he had some already, he must
make some more for the autumn. Most important of all was the fodder,
and he had not forgotten that, of course; or why should he have
thought it so important to get that last patch broken up last year if
it hadn't been to save getting rid of one of the cows, and yet have
enough keep for a new horse? It was, sown for green fodder now; that
was for the calving cows.

Ay, he had thought it all out. Well might Inger be astonished again,
and clap her hands just as in the old days.

Isak brought news from the village; Breidablik was to be sold, there
was a notice outside the church. The bit of crop, such as it was,--hay
and potatoes,--to go with the rest. Perhaps the live stock too; a few
beasts only, nothing big.

"Is he going to sell up the home altogether and leave nothing?" cried
Inger. "And where's he going to live?"

"In the village."

It was true enough. Brede was going back to the tillage. But he had
first tried to get Axel Stroem to let him live there with Barbro.
He didn't succeed. Brede would never dream of interfering with the
relations between his daughter and Axel, so he was careful not to make
himself a nuisance, though to be sure it was a hard set-back, with all
the rest. Axel was going to get his new house built that autumn; well,
then, when he and Barbro moved in there, why couldn't Brede and his
family have a hut? No! 'Twas so with Brede, he didn't look at things
like a farmer and a settler on new land; he didn't understand that
Axel had to move out because he wanted the hut for his growing stock;
the hut was to be a new cowshed. And even when this was explained to
him, he failed to see the point of view; surely human beings should
come before animals, he said. No, a settler's way was different;
animals first; a man could always find himself a shelter for the
winter. But Barbro put in a word herself now: "Ho, so you put the
animals first and us after? 'Tis just as well I know it!" So Axel had
made enemies of a whole family because he hadn't room to house them.
But he would not give way. He was no good-natured fool, was Axel, but
on the contrary he had grown more and more careful; he knew well that
a crowd like that moving in would give him so many more mouths to
fill. Brede bade his daughter be quiet, and tried to make out that he
himself would rather move down to the village again; couldn't endure
life in the wilderness, he said--'twas only for that reason he was
selling the place.

Oh, but to tell the truth it was not so much Brede was selling the
place; 'twas the Bank and the storekeeper were selling up Breidablik,
though for the sake of appearances they let it be done in Brede's
name. That way, he thought he was saved from disgrace. And Brede was
not altogether dejected when Isak met him; he consoled himself with
the thought that he was still Inspector on the telegraph line; that
was a regular income, anyway, and in time he would be able to work up
to his old position in the place as the Lensmand's companion and this
and that. He was something affected at the change, of course; 'twas
not so easy to say good-bye to a place where one had lived and toiled
and moiled so many years, and come to care for. But Brede, good man,
was never long cast down. 'Twas his best point, the charm of him. He
had once in his life taken it into his head to be a tiller of the
soil, 'twas an inspiration had come to him. True, he had not made a
success of it, but he had taken up other plans in the same airy way
and got on better; and who could say--perhaps his samples of ore might
after all turn out something wonderful in time! And then look at
Barbro, he had got her fixed up there at Maaneland, and she'd not be
leaving Axel Stroem now, that he could swear--'twas plain indeed for
any one to see.

No, there was nothing to fear as long as he had his health and could
work for himself and those that looked to him, said Brede Olsen. And
the children were just growing up, and big enough now to go out and
make their own way in the world, said he. Helge was gone to the
herring fisheries already, and Katrine was going to help at the
doctor's. That left only the two youngest--well, well, there was a
third on the way, true, but, anyhow ...

Isak had more news from the village: the Lensmand's lady had had a
baby. Inger suddenly interested at this: "Boy or girl?"

"Why, I didn't hear which," said Isak.

But the Lensmand's lady had had a child after all--after all the way
she'd spoken at the women's club about the increasing birth-rate among
the poor; better give women the franchise and let them have some say
in their own affairs, she said. And now she was caught. Yes, the
parson's wife had said, "She's had some say in lots of things--but
her own affairs are none the better for it, ha ha ha!" And that was a
clever saying that went the round of the village, and there were many
that understood what was meant--Inger no doubt as well; it was only
Isak who did not understand.

Isak understood his work, his calling. He was a rich man now, with a
big farm, but the heavy cash payments that had come to him by a lucky
chance he used but poorly; he put the money aside. The land saved him.
If he had lived down in the village, maybe the great world would have
affected even him; so much gaiety, so many elegant manners and ways;
he would have been buying useless trifles, and wearing a red Sunday
shirt on weekdays. Here in the wilds he was sheltered from all
immoderation; he lived in clear air, washed himself on Sunday
mornings, and took a bath when he went up to the lake. Those thousand
_Daler_--well, 'twas a gift from Heaven, to be kept intact. What else
should he do? His ordinary outgoings were more than covered by the
produce of his fields and stock.

Eleseus, of course, knew better; he had advised his father to put the
money in the Bank. Well, perhaps that was the best, but Isak had put
off doing it for the present--perhaps it would never be done at all.
Not that Isak was above taking advice from his son; Eleseus was no
fool, as he showed later on. Now, in the haymaking season, he had
tried his hand with the scythe--but he was no master hand at that, no.
He kept close to Sivert, and had to get him to use the whetstone every
time. But Eleseus had long arms and could pick up hay in first-rate
fashion. And he and Sivert and Leopoldine, and Jensine the
servant-maid, they were all busy now in the fields with the first lot
of hay that year. Eleseus did not spare himself either, but raked away
till his hands were blistered and had to be wrapped in rags. He had
lost his appetite for a week or so, but worked none the worse for
it now. Something had come over the boy; it looked perhaps as if a
certain unhappy love affair or something of the sort, a touch of
never-to-be-forgotten sorrow and distress, had done him a world of
good. And, look you, he had by now smoked the last of the tobacco
he had brought with him from town; ordinarily, that would have been
enough to make a clerk go about banging doors and expressing himself
emphatically upon many points; but no, Eleseus only grew the steadier
for it firmer and more upright; a man indeed. Even Sivert, the jester,
could not put him out of countenance. Today the pair of them were
lying out on boulders in the river to drink, and Sivert imprudently
offered to get some extra fine moss and dry it for tobacco--"unless
you'd rather smoke it raw?" he said.

"I'll give you tobacco," said Eleseus, and reaching out, ducked Sivert
head and shoulders in the water. Ho, one for him! Sivert came back
with his hair still dripping.

"Looks like Eleseus he's turning out for the good," thought Isak to
himself, watching his son at work. And to Inger he said: "H'm--wonder
if Eleseus he'll be staying home now for good?"

And she just as queerly cautious again: "'Tis more than I can say. No,
I doubt if he will."

"Ho! Have you said a word of it to himself?"

"No--well, yes, I've talked a bit with him, maybe. But that's the way
I think."

"Like to know, now--suppose he'd a bit of land of his own...."

"How do you mean?"

"If he'd work on a place of his own?"


"Well, have you said anything?"

"Said anything? Can't you see for yourself? No, I don't see anything
in him Eleseus, that way."

"Don't sit there talking ill of him," said Isak impartially. "All I
can see is, he's doing a good day's work down there."

"Ay, maybe," said Inger submissively.

"And I can't see what you've got to find fault with the lad," cried
Isak, evidently displeased. "He does his work better and better every
day, and what can you ask more?"

Inger murmured: "Ay, but he's not like he used to be. You try talking
to him about waistcoats."

"About waistcoats? What d'you mean?"

"How he used to wear white waistcoats in summer when he was in town,
so he says."

Isak pondered this a while; it was beyond him. "Well, can't he have a
white waistcoat?" he said. Isak was out of his depth here; of course
it was only women's nonsense; to his mind, the boy had a perfect right
to a white waistcoat, if it pleased him; anyhow, he couldn't see what
there was to make a fuss about, and was inclined to put the matter
aside and go on.

"Well, what do you think, if he had Brede's bit of land to work on?"

"Who?" said Inger.

"Him Eleseus."

"Breidablik? Nay, 'tis more than's worth your while."

The fact was, she had already been talking over that very plan with
Eleseus, she had heard it from Sivert, who could not keep the secret.
And indeed, why should Sivert keep the matter secret when his father
had surely told him of it on purpose to feel his way? It was not the
first time he had used Sivert as a go-between. Well, but what had
Eleseus answered? Just as before, as in his letters from town,
that no, he would not throw away all he had learned, and be an
insignificant nothing again. That was what he had said. Well, and then
his mother had brought out all her good reasons, but Eleseus had said
no to them all; he had other plans for his life. Young hearts have
their unfathomable depths, and after what had happened, likely enough
he did not care about staying on with Barbro as a neighbour. Who could
say? He had put it loftily enough in talking to his mother; he could
get a better position in town than the one he had; could go as clerk
to one of the higher officials. He must get on, he must rise in the
world. In a few years, perhaps, he might be a Lensmand, or perhaps a
lighthouse keeper, or get into the Customs. There were so many roads
open to a man with learning.

However it might be, his mother came round, was drawn over to his
point of view. Oh, she was so little sure of herself yet; the world
had not quite lost its hold on her. Last winter she had gone so far as
to read occasionally a certain excellent devotional work which she had
brought from Trondhjem, from the Institute; but now, Eleseus might be
a Lensmand one day!

"And why not?" said Eleseus. "What's Heyerdahl himself but a former
clerk in the same department?"

Splendid prospects. His mother herself advised him not to give up his
career and throw himself away. What was a man like that to do in the

But why should Eleseus then trouble to work hard and steadily as he
was doing now on his father's land? Heaven knows, he had some reason,
maybe. Something of inborn pride in him still, perhaps; he would not
be outdone by others; and besides, it would do him no harm to be in
his father's good books the day he went away. To tell the truth, he
had a number of little debts in town, and it would be a good thing to
be able to settle them at once--improve his credit a lot. And it was
not a question now of a mere hundred _Kroner_, but something worth

Eleseus was far from stupid, but on the contrary, a sly fellow in his
way. He had seen his father come home, and knew well enough he was
sitting there in the window at that moment, looking out. No harm in
putting his back into it then for a bit, working a little harder for
the moment--it would hurt no one, and might do himself good.

Eleseus was somehow changed; whatever it might be, something in him
had been warped, and quietly spoiled; he was not bad, but something
blemished. Had he lacked a guiding hand those last few years? What
could his mother do to help him now? Only stand by him and agree. She
could let herself be dazzled by her son's bright prospects for the
future, and stand between him and his father, to take his part--she
could do that.

But Isak grew impatient at last over her opposition; to his mind, the
idea about Breidablik was by no means a bad one. Only that very day,
coming up, he had stopped the horse almost without thinking, to look
out with a critical eye over the ill-tended land; ay, it could be made
a fine place in proper hands.

"Why not worth while?" he asked Inger now. "I've that much feeling for
Eleseus, anyway, that I'd help him to it."

"If you've any feeling for him, then say never a word of Breidablik
again," she answered.


"Ay, for he's greater thoughts in his head than the like of us."

Isak, too, is hardly sure of himself here, and it weakens him; but he
is by no means pleased at having shown his hand, and spoken straight
out about his plan. He is unwilling to give it up now.

"He shall do as I say," declares Isak suddenly. And he raises his
voice threateningly, in case Inger by any chance should be hard of
hearing. "Ay, you may look; I'll say no mere. It's midway up, with a
schoolhouse by, and everything; what's the greater thoughts he's got
beyond that, I'd like to know? With a son like that I might starve to
death--is that any better, d'you think? And can you tell me why my own
flesh and blood should turn and go contrary to--to my own flesh and

Isak stopped; he realized that the more he talked the worse it would
be. He was on the point of changing his clothes, getting out of his
best things he had put on to go down to the village in; but no, he
altered his mind, he would stay as he was--whatever he meant by that.
"You'd better say a word of it to Eleseus," he says then.

And Inger answers: "Best if you'd say it yourself. He won't do as I

Very well, then, Isak is head of the house, so he should think; now
see if Eleseus dares to murmur! But, whether it were because he feared
defeat, Isak draws back now, and says: "Ay, 'tis true, I might say a
word of it myself. But by reason of having so many things to do, and
busy with this and that, I've something else to think of."

"Well ...?" said Inger in surprise.

And Isak goes off again--not very far, only to the farther fields, but
still, he goes off. He is full of mysteries, and must hide himself out
of the way. The fact is this: he had brought back a third piece of
news from the village today, and that was something more than the
rest, something enormous; and he had hidden it at the edge of the
wood. There it stands, wrapped up in sacking and paper; he uncovers
it, and lo, a huge machine. Look! red and blue, wonderful to see, with
a heap of teeth and a heap of knives, with joints and arms and screws
and wheels--a mowing-machine. No, Isak would not have gone down today
for the new horse if it hadn't been for that machine.

He stands with a marvellously keen expression, going over in his mind
from beginning to end the instructions for use that the storekeeper
had read out; he sets a spring here, and shifts a bolt there, then he
oils every hole and every crevice, then he looks over the whole thing
once more. Isak had never known such an hour in his life. To pick up a
pen and write one's mark on a paper, a document--ay, 'twas a perilous
great thing that, no doubt. Likewise in the matter of a new harrow he
had once brought up--there were many curiously twisted parts in that
to be considered. Not to speak of the great circular saw that had to
be set in its course to the nicety of a pencil line, never
swaying east nor west, lest it should fly asunder. But this--this
mowing-machine of his--'twas a crawling nest of steel springs and
hooks and apparatus, and hundreds of screws--Inger's sewing-machine
was a bookmarker compared with this!

Isak harnessed himself to the shafts and tried the thing. Here was the
wonderful moment. And that was why he kept out of sight and was his
own horse.

For--what if the machine had been wrongly put together and did not do
its work, but went to pieces with a crash! No such calamity happened,
however; the machine could cut grass. And so indeed it ought, after
Isak had stood there, deep in study, for hours. The sun had gone down.
Again he harnesses himself and tries it; ay, the thing cuts grass. And
so indeed it ought!

When the dew began to fall close after the heat of the day, and the
boys came out, each with his scythe to mow in readiness for next day,
Isak came in sight close to the house and said:

"Put away scythes for tonight. Get out the new horse, you can, and
bring him down to the edge of the wood."

And on that, instead of going indoors to his supper as the others had
done already, he turned where he stood and went back the way he had

"D'you want the cart, then?" Sivert called after him.

"No," said his father, and walked on.

Swelling with mystery, full of pride; with a little lift and throw
from the knee at every step, so emphatically did he walk. So a brave
man might walk to death and destruction, carrying no weapon in his

The boys came up with the horse, saw the machine, and stopped dead.
It was the first mowing-machine in the wilds, the first in the
village--red and blue, a thing of splendour to man's eyes. And the
father, head of them all, called out, oh, in a careless tone, as if it
were nothing uncommon: "Harness up to this machine here."

And they drove it; the father drove. Brrr! said the thing, and felled
the grass in swathes. The boys walked behind, nothing in their hands,
doing no work, smiling. The father stopped and looked back. H'm, not
as clear as it might be. He screws up a nut here and there to bring
the knives closer to the ground, and tries again. No, not right yet,
all uneven; the frame with the cutters seems to be hopping a little.
Father and sons discuss what it can be. Eleseus has found the
instructions and is reading them. "Here, it says to sit up on the seat
when you drive--then it runs steadier," he says.

"Ho!" says his father. "Ay, 'tis so, I know," he answers. "I've
studied it all through." He gets up into the seat and starts off
again; it goes steadily now. Suddenly the machine stops working--the
knives are not cutting at all. "_Ptro_! What's wrong now?" Father down
from his seat, no longer swelling with pride, but bending an anxious,
questioning face down over the machine. Father and sons all stare at
it; something must be wrong. Eleseus stands holding the instructions.

"Here's a bolt or something," says Sivert, picking up a thing from the

"Ho, that's all right, then," says his father, as if that was all that
was needed to set everything in order. "I was just looking for that
bolt." But now they could not find the hole for it to fit in--where
in the name of wonder could the hole be, now?

And it was now that Eleseus could begin to feel himself a person
of importance; he was the man to make out a printed paper of
instructions. What would they do without him? He pointed unnecessarily
long to the hole and explained: "According to the illustration, the
bolt should fit in there."

"Ay, that's where she goes," said his father. "'Twas there I had it
before." And, by way of regaining lost prestige, he ordered Sivert
to set about looking for more bolts in the grass. "There ought to be
another," he said, looking very important, as if he carried the whole
thing in his head. "Can't you find another? Well, well, it'll be in
its hole then, all right."

Father starts off again.

"Wait a minute--this is wrong," cried Eleseus. Ho, Eleseus standing
there with the drawing in his hand, with the Law in his hand; no
getting away from him! "That spring there goes outside," he says to
his father.

"Ay, what then?"

"Why, you've got it in under, you've set it wrong. It's a steel
spring, and you have to fix it outside, else the bolt jars out again
and stops the knives. You can see in the picture here."

"I've left my spectacles behind, and can't see it quite," says his
father, something meekly. "You can see better--you set it as it should
go. I don't want to go up to the house for my spectacles now."

All in order now, and Isak gets up. Eleseus calls after him: "You must
drive pretty fast, it cuts better that way--it says so here."

Isak drives and drives, and everything goes well, and Brrr! says the
machine. There is a broad track of cut grass in his wake, neatly in
line, ready to take up. Now they can see him from the house, and all
the womenfolk come out; Inger carries little Rebecca on her arm,
though little Rebecca has learned to walk by herself long since.
But there they come--four womenfolk, big and small--hurrying with
straining eyes down towards the miracle, flocking down to see. Oh, but
now is Isak's hour. Now he is truly proud, a mighty man, sitting high
aloft dressed in holiday clothes, in all his finery; in jacket and
hat, though the sweat is pouring off him. He swings round in four big
angles, goes over a good bit of ground, swings round, drives, cuts
grass, passes along by where the women are standing; they are
dumbfounded, it is all beyond them, and Brrr! says the machine.

Then Isak stops and gets down. Longing, no doubt, to hear what these
folk on earth down there will say; what they will find to say about it
all. He hears smothered cries; they fear to disturb him, these beings
on earth, in his lordly work, but they turn to one another with awed
questionings, and he hears what they say. And now, that he may be a
kind and fatherly lord and ruler to them all, to encourage them, he
says: "There, I'll just do this bit, and you can spread it tomorrow."

"Haven't you time to come in and have a bite of food?" says Inger, all

"Nay, I've other things to do," he answers.

Then he oils the machine again; gives them to understand that he is
occupied with scientific work. Drives off again, cutting more grass.
And, at long last, the womenfolk go back home.

Happy Isak--happy folk at Sellanraa!

Very soon the neighbours from below will be coming up. Axel Stroem
is interested in things, he may be up tomorrow. But Brede from
Breidablik, he might be here that very evening. Isak would not be loth
to show them his machine, explain it to them, tell them how it works,
and all about it. He can point out how that no man with a scythe could
ever cut so fine and clean. But it costs money, of course--oh, a
red-and-blue machine like that is a terribly costly thing!

Happy Isak!

But as he stops for oil the third time, there! his spectacles fall
from his pocket. And, worst of all, the two boys saw it. Was there
a higher power behind that little happening--a warning against
overweening pride? He had put on those spectacles time and again that
day to study the instructions, without making out a word; Eleseus had
to help him with that. Eyah, _Herregud_, 'twas a good thing, no doubt,
to be book-learned. And, by way of humbling himself, Isak determines
to give up his plan of making Eleseus a tiller of soil in the wilds;
he will never say a word of it again.

Not that the boys made any great business about that matter of the
spectacles; far from it. Sivert, the jester, had to say something, of
course; it was too much for him. He plucked Eleseus by the sleeve and
said: "Here, come along, we'll go back home and throw those scythes on
the fire. Father's going to do all the mowing now with his machine!"
And that was a jest indeed.

Book Two

Chapter I

Sellanraa is no longer a desolate spot in in the waste; human beings
live here--seven of them, counting great and small. But in the little
time the haymaking lasted there came a stranger or so, folk wanting
to see the mowing-machine. Brede Olsen was first, of course, but Axel
Stroem came, too, and other neighbours from lower down--ay, from
right down in the village. And from across the hills came Oline, the
imperishable Oline.

This time, too, she brought news with her from her own village; 'twas
not Oline's way to come empty of gossip. Old Sivert's affairs had been
gone into, his accounts reckoned up, and the fortune remaining after
him come to nothing. Nothing!

Here Oline pressed her lips together and looked from one to another.
Well, was there not a sigh--would not the roof fall down? Eleseus was
the first to smile.

"Let's see--you're called after your Uncle Sivert, aren't you?" he
asked softly.

And little Sivert answered as softly again:

"That's so. But I made you a present of all that might come to me
after him."

"And how much was it?"

"Between five and ten thousand."

"_Daler_?" cried Eleseus suddenly, mimicking his brother.

Oline, no doubt, thought this ill-timed jesting. Oh, she had herself
been cheated of her due; for all that she had managed to squeeze out
something like real tears over old Sivert's grave. Eleseus should know
best what he himself had written--so-and-so much to Oline, to be
a comfort and support in her declining years. And where was that
support? Oh, a broken reed!

Poor Oline; they might have left her something--single golden gleam
in her life! Oline was not over-blessed with this world's goods.
Practised in evil--ay, well used to edging her way by tricks and
little meannesses from day to day; strong only as a scandalmonger, as
one whose tongue was to be feared; ay, so. But nothing could have made
her worse than before; least of all a pittance left her by the dead.
She had toiled all her life, had borne children, and taught them her
own few arts; begged for them, maybe stolen for them, but always
managing for them somehow--a mother in her poor way. Her powers were
not less than those of other politicians; she acted for herself and
those belonging to her, set her speech according to the moment, and
gained her end, earning a cheese or a handful of wool each time; she
also could live and die in commonplace insincerity and readiness of
wit. Oline--maybe old Sivert had for a moment thought of her as young,
pretty, and rosy-cheeked, but now she is old, deformed, a picture of
decay; she ought to have been dead. Where is she to be buried? She
has no family vault of her own; nay, she will be lowered down in a
graveyard to lie among the bones of strangers and unknown; ay, to that
she comes at last--Oline, born and died. She had been young once. A
pittance left to her now, at the eleventh hour? Ay, a single golden
gleam, and this slave-woman's hands would have been folded for a
moment. Justice would have overtaken her with its late reward; for
that she had begged for her children, maybe stolen for them, but
always managed for them some way. A moment--and the darkness would
reign in her as before; her eyes glower, her fingers feel out
graspingly--how much? she would say. What, no more? she would say.
She would be right again. A mother many times, realizing life--it was
worthy of a great reward.

But all went otherwise. Old Sivert's accounts had appeared more or
less in order after Eleseus had been through them; but the farm and
the cow, the fishery and nets were barely enough to cover the deficit.
And it was due in some measure to Oline that things had turned out no
worse; so earnest was she in trying to secure a small remainder for
herself that she dragged to light forgotten items that she, as gossip
and newsmonger for years, remembered still, or matters outstanding
which others would have passed over on purpose, to avoid causing
unpleasantness to respectable fellow-citizens. Oh, that Oline! And she
did not even say a word against old Sivert now; he had made his will
in kindness of heart, and there would have been a plenty after him,
but that the two men sent by the Department to arrange things had
cheated her. But one day all would come to the ears of the Almighty,
said Oline threateningly.

Strange, she found nothing ridiculous in the fact that she was
mentioned in the will; after all, it was an honour of a sort; none of
her likes were named there with her!

The Sellanraa folk took the blow with patience; they were not
altogether unprepared. True, Inger could not understand it--Uncle
Sivert that had always been so rich....

"He might have stood forth an upright man and a wealthy before the
Lamb and before the Throne," said Oline, "if they hadn't robbed him."

Isak was standing ready to go out to his fields, and Oline said: "Pity
you've got to go now, Isak; then I shan't see the new machine, after
all. You've got a new machine, they say?"


"Ay, there's talk of it about, and how it cuts quicker than a hundred
scythes. And what haven't you got, Isak, with all your means and
riches! Priest, our way, he's got a new plough with two handles; but
what's he, compared with you, and I'd tell him so to his face."

"Sivert here'll show you the machine; he's better at working her than
his father," said Isak, and went out.

Isak went out. There is an auction to be held at Breidablik that noon,
and he is going; there's but just time to get there now. Not that Isak
any longer thinks of buying the place, but the auction--it is the
first auction held there in the wilds, and it would be strange not to

He gets down as far as Maaneland and sees Barbro, and would pass by
with only a greeting, but Barbro calls to him and asks if he is going
down. "Ay," said Isak, making to go on again. It is her home that is
being sold, and that is why he answers shortly.

"You going to the sale?" she asks.

"To the sale? Well, I was only going down a bit. What you've done with

"Axel? Nay, I don't know. He's gone down to sale. Doubt he'll be
seeing his chance to pick up something for nothing, like the rest."

Heavy to look at was Barbro now--ay, and sharp and bitter-tongued!

The auction has begun; Isak hears the Lensmand calling out, and sees a
crowd of people. Coming nearer, he does not know them all; there are
some from other villages, but Brede is fussing about, in his best
finery, and chattering in his old way. "_Goddag_, Isak. So you're
doing me the honour to come and see my auction sale. Thanks, thanks.
Ay, we've been neighbours and friends these many years now, and never
an ill word between us." Brede grows pathetic. "Ay, 'tis strange to
think of leaving a place where you've lived and toiled and grown fond
of. But what's a man to do when it's fated so to be?"

"Maybe 'twill be better for you after," says Isak comfortingly.

"Why," says Brede, grasping at it himself, "to tell the truth, I think
it will. I'm not regretting it, not a bit. I won't say I've made a
fortune on the place here, but that's to come, maybe; and the young
ones getting older and leaving the nest--ay, 'tis true the wife's got
another on the way; but for all that...." And suddenly Brede tells his
news straight out: "I've given up the telegraph business."

"What?" asks Isak.

"I've given up that telegraph."

"Given up the telegraph?"

"Ay, from new year to be. What was the good of it, anyway? And
supposing I was out on business, or driving for the Lensmand or the
doctor, then to have to look after the telegraph first of all--no,
there's no sense nor meaning in it that way. Well enough for them
that's time to spare. But running over hill and dale after a telegraph
wire for next to nothing wages, 'tis no job that for Brede. And then,
besides, I've had words with the people from the telegraph office
about it--they've been making a fuss again."

The Lensmand keeps repeating the bids for the farm; they have got up
to the few hundred _Kroner_ the place is judged to be worth, and the
bidding goes slowly, now, with but five or ten _Kroner_ more each

"Why, surely--'tis Axel there's bidding," cries Brede suddenly, and
hurries eagerly across. "What, you going to take over my place too?
Haven't you enough to look after?"

"I'm bidding for another man," says Axel evasively.

"Well, well, 'tis no harm to me, 'twasn't that I meant."

The Lensmand raises his hammer, a new bid is made, a whole hundred
_Kroner_ at once; no one bids higher, the Lensmand repeats the figure
again and again, waits for a moment with his hammer raised, and then

Whose bid?

Axel Stroem--on behalf of another.

The Lensmand notes it down: Axel Stroem as agent.

"Who's that you buying for?" asks Brede. "Not that it's any business
of mine, of course, but...."

But now some men at the Lensmand's table are putting their heads
together; there is a representative from the Bank, the storekeeper has
sent his assistant; there is something the matter; the creditors
are not satisfied. Brede is called up, and Brede, careless and
light-hearted, only nods and is agreed--"but who'd ever have thought
it didn't come up to more?" says he. And suddenly he raises his voice
and declares to all present:

"Seeing as we've an auction holding anyhow, and I've troubled the
Lensmand all this way, I'm willing to sell what I've got here on the
place: the cart, live stock, a pitchfork, a grindstone. I've no use
for the things now; we'll sell the lot!"

Small bidding now. Brede's wife, careless and light-hearted as
himself, for all the fulness of her in front, has begun selling coffee
at a table. She finds it amusing to play at shop, and smiles; and when
Brede himself comes up for some coffee, she tells him jestingly that
he must pay for it like the rest. And Brede actually takes out his
lean purse and pays. "There's a wife for you," he says to the others.
"Thrifty, what?"

The cart is not worth much--it has stood too long uncovered in the
open; but Axel bids a full five _Kroner_ more at last, and gets the
cart as well. After that Axel buys no more, but all are astonished to
see that cautious man buying so much as he has.

Then came the animals. They had been kept in their shed today, so as
to be there in readiness. What did Brede want with live stock when he
had no farm to keep them on? He had no cows; he had started farming
with two goats, and had now four. Besides these, there were six sheep.
No horse.

Isak bought a certain sheep with flat ears. When Brede's children led
it out from the shed, he started bidding at once, and people looked at
him. Isak from Sellanraa was a rich man, in a good position, with no
need of more sheep than he had. Brede's wife stops selling coffee for
a moment, and says: "Ay, you may buy her, Isak; she's old, 'tis true,
but she's two and three lambs every blessed year, and that's the

"I know it," said Isak, looking straight at her. "I've seen that sheep

He walks up with Axel Stroem on the way back, leading his sheep on a
string. Axel is taciturn, seemingly anxious about something, whatever
it might be. There's nothing he need be troubled about that one can
see, thinks Isak; his crops are looking well, most of his fodder is
housed already, and he has begun timbering his house. All as it should
be with Axel Stroem; a thought slowly, but sure in the end. And now he
had got a horse.

"So you've bought Brede's place?" said Isak. "Going to work it

"No, not for myself. I bought it for another man."


"What d'you think; was it too much I gave for it?"

"Why, no. Tis good land for a man that'll work it as it should."

"I bought it for a brother of mine up in Helgeland."


"Then I thought perhaps I'd half a mind to change with him, too."

"Change with him--would you?"

"And perhaps how Barbro she'd like it better that way."

"Ay, maybe," said Isak.

They walk on for a good way in silence. Then says Axel:

"They've been after me to take over that telegraph business."

"The telegraph? H'm. Ay, I heard that Brede he's given it up."

"H'm," says Axel, smiling. "'Tis not so much that way of it, but Brede
that's been turned off."

"Ay, so," says Isak, and trying to find some excuse for Brede. "It
takes a deal of time to look after, no doubt."

"They gave him notice to the new year, if he didn't do better."


"You don't think it'd be worth my while to take it?"

Isak thought for a long while, and answered: "Ay, there's the money,
true, but still...."

"They've offered me more."

"How much?"


"Double? Why, then, I'd say you should think it over."

"But they've made the line a bit longer now. No, I don't know what's
best to do--there's not so much timber to sell here as you've got on
yours, and I've need to buy more things for the work that I've got
now. And buying things needs money in 'cash, and I've not so much out
of the land and stock that there's much over to sell. Seems to me I'll
have to try a year at the telegraph to begin with...."

It did not occur to either of them that Brede might "do better" and
keep the post himself.

When they reached Maaneland, Oline was there already, on her way down.
Ay, a strange creature, Oline, crawling about fat and round as a
maggot, and over seventy years and all, but still getting about. She
sits drinking coffee in the hut, but seeing the men come up, all must
give way to that, and she comes out.

"_Goddag_, Axel, and welcome back from the sale. You'll not mind me
looking in to see how you and Barbro's getting on? And you're getting
on finely, to see, and building a new house and getting richer and
richer! And you been buying sheep, Isak?"

"Ay," said Isak. "You know her, maybe?"

"If I know her? Nay...."

"With these flat ears, you can see."

"Flat ears? How d'you mean now? And what then? What I was going to
say: Who bought Brede's place, after all? I was just saying to Barbro
here, who'd be your neighbours that way now? said I. And Barbro,
poor thing, she sits crying, as natural enough, to be sure; but the
Almighty that's decreed her a new home here at Maaneland ... Flat
ears? I've seen a deal of sheep in my day with flat ears and all. And
I'll tell you, Isak, that machine of yours, 'twas almost more than my
old eyes could see nor understand. And what she'll have cost you I
won't even ask for I never could count so far. Axel, if you've seen
it, you know what I mean; 'twas all as it might be Elijah and his
chariot of fire, and Heaven forgive me that I say it...."

When the hay was all in, Eleseus began making preparations for his
return to town. He had written to the engineer to say he was coming,
but received the extraordinary reply that times were bad, and they
would have to economize; the office would have to dispense with
Eleseus' services, and the chief would do the work himself.

The deuce and all! But after all, what did a district surveyor want
with an office staff? When he had taken Eleseus on as a youngster, he
had done so, no doubt, only to show himself as a great man to these
folks in the wilds; and if he had given him clothes and board till
his confirmation, he had got some return for it in the way of writing
work, that was true. Now the boy was grown up, and that made all the

"But," said the engineer, "if you do come back I will do all I can to
get you a place somewhere else, though it may be a difficult matter,
as there are more young men than are wanted looking out for the same
thing. With kind regards...."

Eleseus would go back to town, of course, there could be no question
about that. Was he to throw himself away? He wanted to get on in the
world. And he said nothing to those at home as to the altered state of
affairs; it would be no use, and, to tell the truth, he felt a little
out of humour with the whole thing.

Anyhow, he said nothing. The life at Sellanraa was having its effect
on him again; it was an inglorious, commonplace life, but quiet and
dulling to the sense, a dreamy life; there was nothing for him to show
off about, a looking-glass was a thing he had no use for. His town
life had wrought a schism in himself, and made him finer than the
others, made him weaker; he began indeed to feel that he must be
homeless anywhere. He had come to like the smell of tansy again--let
that pass. But there was no sense at all in a peasant lad's standing
listening in the morning to the girls milking the cows and thinking
thus: they're milking, listen now; 'tis almost by way of something
wonderful to hear, a kind of song in nothing but little streams,
different from the brass bands in the town and the Salvation Army and
the steamer sirens. Music streaming into a pail....

It was not the way at Sellanraa to show one's feelings overmuch, and
Eleseus dreaded the moment when he would have to say good-bye. He was
well equipped now; again his mother had given him a stock of woven
stuff for underclothes, and his father had commissioned some one to
hand him money as he went out of the door. Money--could Isak really
spare such a thing as money? But it was so, and no otherwise. Inger
hinted that it would doubtless be the last time; for was not Eleseus
going to get on and rise in the world by himself?

"H'm," said Isak.

There was an atmosphere of solemnity, of stillness in the home; they
had each had a boiled egg at the last meal, and Sivert stood outside
all ready to go down with his brother and carry his things. It was for
Eleseus to begin.

He began with Leopoldine. Well and good, she said good-bye in return,
and managed it very well. Likewise Jensine the servant-maid, she sat
carding wool and answered good-bye--but both girls stared at him,
confound them! and all because he might perhaps be the least bit red
about the eyes. He shook hands with his mother, and she cried of
course quite openly, never caring to remember how he hated crying."
Goo--ood-bye and bl--bless you!" she sobbed out. It was worst with his
father; worst of all with him. Oh, in every way; he was so toil-worn
and so utterly faithful; he had carried the children in his arms, had
told them of the seagulls and other birds and beasts, and the wonders
of the field; it was not so long ago, a few years.... Father stands by
the glass window, then suddenly he turns round, grasps his son's hand,
and says quickly and peevishly: "Well, good-bye. There's the new horse
getting loose," and he swings out of the door and hurries away. Oh,
but he had himself taken care to let the new horse loose a while ago,
and Sivert, the rascal, knew it too, as he stood outside watching his
father, and smiling to himself. And, anyway, the horse was only in the

Eleseus had got it over at last.

And then his mother must needs come out on the door-slab and hiccup
again and say, "God bless you!" and give him something. "Take
this--and you're not to thank him, he says you're not to. And don't
forget to write; write often."

Two hundred _Kroner_.

Eleseus looked down the field: his father was furiously at work
driving a tethering-peg into the ground; he seemed to find it a
difficult matter, for all that the ground was soft enough.

The brothers set off down the road; they came to Maaneland, and there
stood Barbro in the doorway and called to them to come up.

"You going away again, Eleseus? Nay, then, you must come in and take a
cup of coffee at least."

They go into the hut, and Eleseus is no longer a prey to the pangs
of love, nor wishful to jump out of windows and take poison; nay, he
spreads his light spring overcoat across his knees, taking care to lay
it so the silver plate is to be seen; then he wipes his hair with
his handkerchief, and observes delicately: "Beautiful day, isn't
it--simply classic!"

Barbro too is self-possessed enough; she plays with a silver ring on
one hand and a gold ring on the other--ay, true enough, if she hasn't
got a gold ring too--and she wears an apron reaching from neck to
feet, as if to say she is not spoiled as to her figure, whoever else
may be that way. And when the coffee is ready and her guests are
drinking, she sews a little to begin with on a white cloth, and then
does a little crochet-work with a collar of some sort, and so with all
manner of maidenly tasks. Barbro is not put out by their visit, and
all the better; they can talk naturally, and Eleseus can be all on the
surface again, young and witty as he pleases.

"What have you done with Axel?" asks Sivert.

"Oh, he's about the place somewhere," she answers, pulling herself up.
"And so we'll not be seeing you this way any more, I doubt?" she asks

"It's hardly probable," says he.

"Ay, 'tis no place for one as is used to the town. I only wish I could
go along with you."

"You don't mean that, I know."

"Don't mean it? Oh, I've known what it is to live in town, and what
it's like here; and I've been in a bigger town than you, for that
matter--and shouldn't I miss it?"

"I didn't mean that way," says Eleseus hastily. "After you being in
Bergen itself and all." Strange, how impatient she was, after all!

"I only know that if it wasn't for having the papers to read, I'd not
stay here another day," says she.

"But what about Axel, then, and all the rest?--'twas that I was

"As for Axel, 'tis no business of mine. And what about yourself--I
doubt there'll be some one waiting for you in town?"

And at that, Eleseus couldn't help showing off a little and closing
his eyes and turning over the morsel on his tongue: perhaps true
enough there was some one waiting for him in town. Oh, but he could
have managed this ever so differently, snapped at the chance, if it
hadn't been for Sivert sitting there! As it was, he could only say:
"Don't talk such nonsense!"

"Ho," said she--and indeed she was shamefully ill-humoured
today--"nonsense, indeed! Well, what can you expect of folk at
Maaneland? we're not so great and fine as you--no."

Oh, she could go to the devil, what did Eleseus care; her face was
visibly dirty, and her condition plain enough now even to his innocent

"Can't you play a bit on the guitar?" he asked.

"No," answered Barbro shortly. "What I was going to say: Sivert,
couldn't you come and help Axel a bit with the new house a day or
so? If you could begin tomorrow, say, when you come back from the

Sivert thought for a moment. "Ay, maybe. But I've no clothes."

"I could run up and fetch your working clothes this evening, so
they'll be here when you get back."

"Ay," said Sivert, "if you could."

And Barbro unnecessarily eager now: "Oh, if only you would come!
Here's summer nearly gone already, and the house that should be up and
roofed before the autumn rains. Axel, he's been going to ask you a
many times before, but he couldn't, somehow. Oh, you'd be helping us
no end!"

"I'll help as well as I can," said Sivert.

And that was settled.

But now it was Eleseus' turn to be offended. He can see well enough
that it's clever of Barbro and all that, to look out and manage to her
own advantage and Axel's too, and get help for the building and save
the house, but the whole thing is a little too plain; after all, she
is not mistress of the place as yet, and it's not so long since he
himself had kissed her--the creature! Was there never an atom of shame
in her at all?

"Ay," said Eleseus, then suddenly: "I'll come back again in time and
be a godfather when you're ready."

She sent him a glance, and answered in great offence: "Godfather,
indeed! And who's talking nonsense now, I'd like to know? 'Twill be
time enough for you when I send word I'm looking out for godfathers."
And what could Eleseus do then but laugh foolishly and wish himself
out of the place!

"Here's thanks!" says Sivert, and gets up from his seat to go.

"Here's thanks!" says Eleseus also; but he did not rise nor bow as a
man should do in saying thanks for a cup of coffee; not he, indeed--he
would see her at the devil for a bitter-tongued lump of ugliness.

"Let me look," said Barbro. "Oh yes; the young men I stayed with in
town, they had silver plates on their overcoats too, much bigger than
this," said she. "Well, then, you'll come in on your way back, Sivert,
and stay the night? I'll get your clothes all right."

And that was good-bye to Barbro.

The brothers went on again. Eleseus was not distressed in any way in
the matter of Barbro; she could go to the devil--and, besides, he had
two big bank-notes in his pocket! The brothers took care not to touch
on any mournful things, such as the strange way father had said
good-bye, or how mother had cried. They went a long way round to avoid
being stopped at Breidablik, and made a jest of that little ruse.
But when they came down in sight of the village, and it was time for
Sivert to turn homeward again, they both behaved in somewhat unmanly
fashion. Sivert, for instance, was weak enough to say: "I doubt it'll
be a bit lonely, maybe, when you're gone."

And at that Eleseus must fall to whistling, and looking to his shoes,
and finding a splinter in his finger, and searching after something in
his pockets; some papers, he said, couldn't make out ... Oh, 'twould
have gone ill with them if Sivert had not saved things at the last.
"Touch!" he cried suddenly, and touched his brother on the shoulder
and sprang away. It was better after that; they shouted a word of
farewell or so from a distance, and went each on his own way.

Fate or chance--whatever it might be. Eleseus went back, after all,
to the town, to a post that was no longer open for him, but that same
occasion led to Axel Stroem's getting a man to work for him.

They began work on the house the 21st of August, and ten days later
the place was roofed in. Oh, 'twas no great house to see, and nothing
much in the way of height; the best that could be said of it was that
it was a wooden house and no turf hut. But, at least, it meant that
the animals would have a splendid shelter for the winter in what had
been a house for human beings up to then.

Chapter II

On the 3rd of September Barbro was not to be found. 'Twas not that she
was altogether lost, but she was not up at the house.

Axel was doing carpenter's work the best he could; he was trying hard
to get a glass window and a door set in the new house, and it was
taking all his time to do it. But being long past noon, and no word
said about coming in to dinner, he went in himself into the hut. No
one there. He got himself some food, and looked about while he was
eating. All Barbro's clothes were hanging there; she must be out
somewhere, that was all. He went back to his work on the new building,
and kept at it for a while, then he looked in at the hut again--no,
nobody there. She must be lying down somewhere. He sets out to find

"Barbro!" he calls. No. He looks all round the houses, goes across
to some bushes on the edge of his land, searches about a long while,
maybe an hour, calls out--no. He comes on her a long way off, lying on
the ground, hidden by some bushes; the stream flows by at her feet,
she is barefoot and bareheaded, and wet all up the back as well.

"You lying here?" says he. "Why didn't you answer?"

"I couldn't," she answers, and her voice so hoarse he can scarcely

"What--you been in the water?"

"Yes. Slipped down--oh!"

"Is it hurting you now?"

"Ay--it's over now."

"Is it over?" says he.

"Yes. Help me to get home."

"Where's ...?"


"Wasn't it--the child?"

"No. Twas dead."

"Was it dead?"


Axel is slow of mind, and slow to act. He stands there still. "Where
is it, then?" he asks.

"You've no call to know," says she. "Help me back home. Twas dead. I
can walk if you hold my arm a bit."

Axel carries her back home and sets her in a chair, the water dripping
off her. "Was it dead?" he asks.

"I told you 'twas so," she answers.

"What have you done with it, then?"

"D'you want to smell it? D'you get anything to eat while I was away?"

"But what did you want down by the water?"

"By the water? I was looking for juniper twigs."

"Juniper twigs? What for?"

"For cleaning the buckets."

"There's none that way," says he.

"You get on with your work," says she hoarsely, and all impatient.
"What was I doing by the water? I wanted twigs for a broom. Have you
had anything to eat, d'you hear?"

"Eat?" says he. "How d'you feel now?"

"Tis well enough."

"I doubt I'd better fetch the doctor up."

"You'd better try!" says she, getting up and looking about for dry
clothes to put on. "As if you'd no better to do with your money!"

Axel goes back to his work, and 'tis but little he gets done, but
makes a bit of noise with planing and hammering, so she can hear. At
last he gets the window wedged in, and stops the frame all round with

That evening Barbro seems not to care for her food, but goes about,
all the same, busy with this and that--goes to the cowshed at
milking-time, only stepping a thought more carefully over the
door-sill. She went to bed in the hayshed as usual. Axel went in twice
to look at her, and she was sleeping soundly. She had a good night.

Next morning she was almost as usual, only so hoarse she could hardly
speak at all, and with a long stocking wound round her throat. They
could not talk together. Days passed, and the matter was no longer
new; other things cropped up, and it slipped aside. The new house
ought by rights to have been left a while for the timber to work
together and make it tight and sound, but there was no time for that
now; they had to get it into use at once, and the new cowshed ready.
When it was done, and they had moved in, they took up the potatoes,
and after that there was the corn to get in. Life was the same as

But there were signs enough, great or small, that things were
different now at Maaneland. Barbro felt herself no more at home there
now than any other serving-maid; no more bound to the place. Axel
could see that his hold on her had loosened with the death of the
child. He had thought to himself so confidently: wait till the child
comes! But the child had come and gone. And at last Barbro even took
off the rings from her fingers, and wore neither.

"What's that mean?" he asked.

"What's it mean?" she said, tossing her head.

But it could hardly mean anything else than faithlessness and
desertion on her part.

And he had found the little body by the stream. Not that he had made
any search for it, to speak of; he knew pretty closely where it must
be, but he had left the matter idly as it was. Then chance willed it
so that he should not forget it altogether; birds began to hover above
the spot, shrieking grouse and crows, and then, later on, a pair of
eagles at a giddy height above. To begin with, only a single bird had
seen something buried there, and, being unable to keep a secret like a
human being, had shouted it abroad. Then Axel roused himself from his
apathy, and waited for an opportunity to steal out to the spot. He
found the thing under a heap of moss and twigs, kept down by flat
stones, and wrapped in a cloth, in a piece of rag. With a feeling of
curiosity and horror he drew the cloth a little aside--eyes closed,
dark hair, a boy, and the legs crossed--that was all he saw. The
cloth had been wet, but was drying now; the whole thing looked like a
half-wrung bundle of washing.

He could not leave it there in the light of day, and in his heart,
perhaps, he feared some ill to himself or to the place. He ran home
for a spade and dug the grave deeper; but, being so near the stream,
the water came in, and he had to shift it farther up the bank. As he
worked, his fear lest Barbro should come and find him disappeared; he
grew defiant and thoroughly bitter. Let her come, and he would make
her wrap up the body neatly and decently after her, stillborn or no!
He saw well enough all he had lost by the death of the child; how he
was faced now with the prospect of being left without help again on
the place--and that, moreover, with three times the stock to care for
he had had at first. Let her come--he did not care! But Barbro--it
might be she had some inkling of what he was at; anyway, she did not
come, and Axel had to wrap up the body himself as best he could and
move it to the new grave. He laid down the turf again on top, just as
before, hiding it all. When he had done, there was nothing to be seen
but a little green mound among the bushes.

He found Barbro outside the house as he came home.

"Where you been?" she asked.

The bitterness must have left him, for he only said: "Nowhere.
Where've you been?"

Oh, but the look on his face must have warned her; she said no more,
but went into the house.

He followed her.

"Look here," he said, and asked her straight out, "What d'you mean by
taking off those rings?"

Barbro, maybe, found it best to give way a little; she laughed, and
answered: "Well, you are serious today--I can't help laughing! But if
you want me to put on the rings and wear them out weekdays, why, I
will!" And she got out the rings and put them on.

But seeing him look all foolish and content at that, she grew bolder.
"Is there anything else I've done, I'd like to know?"

"I'm not complaining," answered he. "And you've only to be as you were
before, all the time before, when you first came. That's all I mean."

'Tis not so easy to be always together and always agree.

Axel went on: "When I bought that place after your father, 'twas
thinking maybe you'd like better to be there, and so we could shift.
What d'you think?"

Ho, there he gave himself away; he was afraid of losing her and being
left without help, with none to look to the place and the animals
again--she knew! "Ay, you've said that before," she answered coldly.

"Ay, so I have; but I've got no answer."

"Answer?" said she. "Oh, I'm sick of hearing it."

Axel might fairly consider he had been lenient; he had let Brede and
his family stay on at Breidablik, and for all that he had bought the
good crop with the place, he had carted home no more than a few loads
of hay, and left the potatoes to them. It was all unreasonable of
Barbro to be contrary now; but she paid no heed to that, and asked
indignantly: "So you'd have us move down to Breidablik now, and turn
out a whole family to be homeless?"

Had he heard aright? He sat for a moment staring and gaping, cleared
his throat as if to answer thoroughly, but it came to nothing; he only
asked: "Aren't they going to the village, then?"

"Don't ask me," said Barbro. "Or perhaps you've got a place for them
to be there?"

Axel was still loth to quarrel with her, but he could not help letting
her see he was surprised at her, just a little surprised. "You're
getting more and more cross and hard," said he, "though you don't mean
any harm, belike."

"I mean every word I say," she answered. "And why couldn't you have
let my folks come up here?--answer me that! Then I'd have had mother
to help me a bit. But you think, perhaps, I've so little to do, I've
no need of help?"

There was some sense in this, of course, but also much that was
unreasonable altogether. If Bredes had come, they would have had to
live in the hut, and Axel would have had no place for his beasts--as
badly off as before. What was the woman getting at?--had she neither
sense nor wit in her head?

"Look here," said he, "you'd better have a servant-girl to help."

"Now--with the winter coming on and less to do than ever? No, you
should have thought of that when I needed it."

Here, again, she was right in a way; when she had been heavy and
ailing--that was the time to talk of help. But then Barbro herself had
done her work all the time as if nothing were the matter; she had been
quick and clever as usual, did all that had to be done, and had never
spoken a word about getting help.

"Well, I can't make it out, anyway," said he hopelessly.


Barbro asked: "What's this about you taking over the telegraph after

"What? Who said a word about that?"

"Well, they say it's to be."

"Why," said Axel, "it may come to something; I'll not say no."


But why d'you ask?"

"Nothing," said Barbro; "only that you've turned my father out of
house and home, and now you're taking the bread out of his mouth."


Oh, but that was the end of Axel's patience. "I'll tell you this," he
cried, "you're not worth all I've done for you and yours!"

"Ho!" said Barbro.

"No!" said he, striking his fist on the table. And then he got up.

"You can't frighten me, so don't think," whimpered Barbro, and moved
over nearer the wall.

"Frighten you?" he said again, and sniffed scornfully. "I'm going to
speak out now in earnest. What about that child? Did you drown it?"

"Drown it?"

"Ay. It's been in the water."

"Ho, so you've seen it? You've been--" "sniffing at it," she was going
to say, but dared not; Axel was not to be played with just then, by
his looks. "You've been and found it?"

"I saw it had been in the water."

"Ay," said she, "and well it might. 'Twas born in the water; I slipped
in and couldn't get up again."

"Slipped, did you?"

"Yes, and the child came before I could get out."

"H'm," said he. "But you took the bit of wrapping with you before you
went out--was that in case you should happen to fall in?"

"Wrapping?" said she again.

"A bit of white rag--one of my shirts you'd cut half across."

"Ay," said Barbro, "'twas a bit of rag I took with me to carry back
juniper twigs in."

"Juniper twigs?"

"Yes. Didn't I tell you that was what I'd been for?"

"Ay, so you said. Or else it was twigs for a broom."

"Well, no matter what it was...."

It was an open quarrel between them this time. But even that died
away after a time, and all was well again. That is to say, not well
exactly--no, but passable. Barbro was careful and more submissive; she
knew there was danger. But that way, life at Maaneland grew even more
forced and intolerable--no frankness, no joy between them, always on
guard. It could not last long, but as long as it lasted at all, Axel
was forced to be content. He had got this girl on the place, and had
wanted her for himself and had her, tied his life to her; it was not
an easy matter to alter all that. Barbro knew everything about the
place: where pots and vessels stood, when cows and goats were to bear,
if the winter feed would be short or plenty, how much milk was for
cheese and how much for food--a stranger would know nothing of it all,
and even so, a stranger was perhaps not to be had.

Oh, but Axel had thought many a time of getting rid of Barbro and
taking another girl to help; she was a wicked thing at times, and he
was almost afraid of her. Even when he had the misfortune to get on
well with her he drew back at times in fear of her strange cruelty
and brutal ways; but she was pretty to look at, and could be sweet at
times, and bury him deep in her arms. So it had been--but that was
over now. No, thank you--Barbro was not going to have all that
miserable business over again. But it was not so easy to change....
"Let's get married at once, then," said Axel, urging her.

"At once?" said she. "Nay; I must go into town first about my teeth,
they're all but gone as it is."

So there was nothing to do but go on as before. And Barbro had no real
wages now, but far beyond what her wages would have been; and every
time she asked for money and he gave it, she thanked him as for
a gift. But for all that Axel could not make out where the money
went--what could she want money for out in the wilds? Was she hoarding
for herself? But what on earth was there to save and save for, all the
year round?

There was much that Axel could not make out. Hadn't he given her a
ring--ay, a real gold ring? And they had got on well together, too,
after that last gift; but it could not last for ever, far from it; and
he could not go on buying rings to give her. In a word--did she mean
to throw him over? Women were strange creatures! Was there a man
with a good farm and a well-stocked place of his own waiting for her
somewhere else? Axel could at times go so far as to strike his fist on
the table in his impatience with women and their foolish humours.

A strange thing, Barbro seemed to have nothing really in her head but
the thought of Bergen and town life. Well and good. But if so, why had
she come back at all, confound her! A telegram from her father would
never have moved her a step in itself; she must have had some other
reason. And now here she was, eternally discontented from morning to
night, year after year. All these wooden buckets, instead of proper
iron pails; cooking-pots instead of saucepans; the everlasting milking
instead of a little walk round to the dairy; heavy boots, yellow soap,
a pillow stuffed with hay; no military bands, no people. Living like

They had many little bouts after the one big quarrel. Ho, time and
again they were at it! "You say no more about it, if you're wise,"
said Barbro. "And not to speak of what you've done about father and

Said Axel: "Well, what have I done?"

"Oh, you know well enough," said she. "But for all that you'll not be
Inspector, anyway."


"No, that you won't. I'll believe it when I see it."

"Meaning I'm not good enough, perhaps?"

"Oh, good enough and good enough.... Anyway, you can't read nor write,
and never so much as take a newspaper to look at."

"As to that," said he, "I can read and write all I've any need for.
But as for you, with all your gabble and talk ... I'm sick of it."

"Well, then, here's that to begin with," said she, and threw down the
silver ring on the table.

"Ho!" said he, after a while. "And what about the other?"

"Oh, if you want your rings back that you gave me, you can have them,"
said she, trying to pull off the gold one.

"You can be as nasty as you please," said he. "If you think I
care...." And he went out.

And naturally enough, soon after, Barbro was wearing both her rings

In time, too, she ceased to care at all for what he said about the
death of the child. She simply sniffed and tossed her head. Not that
she ever confessed anything, but only said: "Well, and suppose I had
drowned it? You live here in the wilds and what do you know of things
elsewhere?" Once when they were talking of this, she seemed to be
trying to get him to see he was taking it all too seriously; she
herself thought no more of getting rid of a child than the matter was
worth. She knew two girls in Bergen who had done it; but one of them
had got two months' imprisonment because she had been a fool and
hadn't killed it, but only left it out to freeze to death; and the
other had been acquitted. "No," said Barbro, "the law's not so cruel
hard now as it used to be. And besides, it's not always it gets found
out." There was a girl in Bergen at the hotel who had killed two
children; she was from Christiania, and wore a hat--a hat with
feathers in. They had given her three months for the second one, but
the first was never discovered, said Barbro.

Axel listened to all this and grew more than ever afraid of her. He
tried to understand, to make out things a little in the darkness, but
she was right after all; he took these things too seriously in his
way. With all her vulgar depravity, Barbro was not worth a single
earnest thought. Infanticide meant nothing to her, there was nothing
extraordinary in the killing of a child; she thought of it only
with the looseness and moral nastiness that was to be expected of a
servant-girl. It was plain, too, in the days that followed; never an
hour did she give herself up to thought; she was easy and natural as
ever, unalterably shallow and foolish, unalterably a servant-girl. "I
must go and have my teeth seen to," she said. "And I want one of those
new cloaks." There was a new kind of half-length coat that had been
fashionable for some years past, and Barbro must have one.

And when she took it all so naturally, what could Axel do but give
way? And it was not always that he had any real suspicion of her; she
herself had never confessed, had indeed denied time and again,
but without indignation, without insistence, as a trifle, as a
servant-girl would have denied having broken a dish, whether she had
done so or not. But after a couple of weeks, Axel could stand it no
longer; he stopped dead one day in the middle of the room and saw it
all as by a revelation. Great Heaven! every one must have seen how
it was with her, heavy with child and plain to see--and now with her
figure as before--but where was the child? Suppose others came to look
for it? They would be asking about it sooner or later. And if there
had been nothing wrong, it would have been far better to have had the
child buried decently in the churchyard. Not there in the bushes,
there on his land....

"No. 'Twould only have made a fuss," said Barbro. "They'd have cut it
open and had an inquest, and all that. I didn't want to be bothered."

"If only it mayn't come to worse later on," said he.

Barbro asked easily: "What's there to worry about? Let it lie where it
is." Ay, she smiled, and asked: "Are you afraid it'll come after you?
Leave all that nonsense, and say no more about it."

"Ay, well...."

"Did I drown the child? I've told you it drowned itself in the water
when I slipped in. I never heard such things as you get in your head.
And, anyway, it would never be found out," said she.

"'Twas found out all the same with Inger at Sellanraa," said Axel.

Barbro thought for a moment. "Well, I don't care," said she. "The
law's all different now, and if you read the papers you'd know.
There's heaps that have done it, and don't get anything to speak of."
Barbro sets out to explain it, to teach him, as it were--getting him
to take a broad view of things. It was not for nothing she herself had
been out in the world and seen and heard and learned so much; now she
could sit here and be more than a match for him. She had three main
arguments which she was continually advancing: In the first place,
she had not done it. In the second, it was not such a terrible thing,
after all, if she had done it. But in the third place, it would never
be found out.

"Everything gets found out, seems to me," he objected.

"Not by a long way," she answered. And whether to astonish him or to
encourage him, or perhaps from sheer vanity and as something to boast
of, all of a sudden she threw a bombshell. Thus: "I've done something
myself that never got found out."

"You?" said he, all unbelieving. "What have you done?"

"What have I done? Killed something."

She had not meant, perhaps, to go so far, but she had to go on now;
there he was, staring at her. Oh, and it was not grand, indomitable
boldness even; it was mere bravado, vulgar showing off; she wanted to
look big herself, and silence him. "You don't believe me?" she cried.
"D'you remember that in the paper about the body of a child found in
the harbour? 'Twas me that did it."

"What?" said he.

"Body of a child. You never remember anything. We read about it in the
paper you brought up."

After a moment he burst out: "You must be out of your senses!"

But his confusion seemed to incite her more, to give her a sort of
artificial strength; she could even give the details. "I had it in my
box--it was dead then, of course--I did that as soon as it was born.
And when we got out into the harbour, I threw it overboard."

Axel sat dark and silent, but she went on. It was a long time back
now, many years, the time she had first come to Maaneland. So, there,
he could see 'twas not everything was found out, not by a long way!
What would things be like if everything folk did got out? What about
all the married people in the towns and the things they did? They
killed their children before they were born--there were doctors who
managed that. They didn't want more than one, or at most two children,
and so they'd get in a doctor to get rid of it before it come. Ho,
Axel need not think that was such a great affair out in the world!

"Ho!" said Axel. "Then I suppose you did get rid of the last one too,
that way?"

"No, I didn't," she answered carelessly as could be, "for I dropped
it," she said. But even then she must go on again about it being
nothing so terrible if she had. She was plainly accustomed to think of
the thing as natural and easy; it did not affect her now. The first
time, perhaps, it might have been a little uncomfortable, something of
an awkward feeling about it, to kill the child; but the second? She
could think of it now with a sort of historic sense: as a thing that
had been done, and could be done.

Axel went out of the house heavy in mind. He was not so much concerned
over the fact that Barbro had killed her first child--that was nothing
to do with himself. That she had had a child at all before she came
to him was nothing much either; she was no innocent, and had never
pretended to be so, far from it. She had made no secret of her
knowledge, and had taught him many things in the dark. Well and good.
But this last child--he would not willingly have lost it; a tiny boy,
a little white creature wrapped up in a rag. If she were guilty of
that child's death, then she had injured him, Axel--broken a tie that
he prized, and that could not be replaced. But it might be that
he wronged her, after all: that she _had_ slipped in the water by
accident. But then the wrapping--the bit of shirt she had taken with

Meantime, the hours passed; dinner-time came, and evening. And when
Axel had gone to bed, and had lain staring into the dark long enough,
he fell asleep at last, and slept till morning. And then came a new
day, and after that day other days....

Barbro was the same as ever. She knew so much of the world, and could
take lightly many little trifles that were terrible and serious things
for folk in the wilds. It was well in a way; she was clever enough for
both of them, careless enough for both. And she did not go about like
a terrible creature herself. Barbro a monster? Not in the least. She
was a pretty girl, with blue eyes, a slightly turned-up nose, and
quick-handed at her work. She was utterly sick and tired of the farm
and the wooden vessels, that took such a lot of cleaning; sick and
tired, perhaps, of Axel and all, of the out-of-the-way life she led.
But she never killed any of the cattle, and Axel never found her
standing over him with uplifted knife in the middle of the night.

Only once it happened that they came to talk again of the body in the
wood. Axel still insisted that it ought to have been buried in the
churchyard, in consecrated ground; but she maintained as before that
her way was good enough. And then she said something which showed that
she was reasoned after her fashion--ho, was sharp enough, could see
beyond the tip of her nose; could think, with the pitiful little brain
of a savage.

"If it gets found out I'll go and talk to the Lensmand; I've been in
service with him. And Fru Heyerdahl, she'll put in a word for me, I
know. It's not every one that can get folk to help them like that, and
they get off all the same. And then, besides, there's father, that
knows all the great folks, and been assistant himself, and all the

But Axel only shook his head.

"Well, what's wrong with that?"

"D'you think your father'd ever be able to do anything?"

"A lot you know about it!" she cried angrily. "After you've ruined him
and all, taking his farm and the bread out of his mouth."

She seemed to have a sort of idea herself that her father's reputation
had suffered of late, and that she might lose by it. And what could
Axel say to that? Nothing. He was a man of peace, a worker.

Chapter III

That winter, Axel was left to himself again at Maaneland. Barbro was
gone. Ay, that was the end of it.

Her journey to town would not take long, she said; 'twas not like
going to Bergen; but she wasn't going to stay on here losing one tooth
after another, till she'd a mouth like a calf. "What'll it cost?" said

"How do I know?" said she. "But, anyway, it won't cost you anything.
I'll earn the money myself."

She had explained, too, why it was best for her to go just then; there
were but two cows to milk, and in the spring there would be two more,
besides all the goats with kids, and the busy season, and work enough
right on till June.

"Do as you please," said Axel.

It was not going to cost him anything, not at all. But she must have
some money to start with, just a little; there was the journey, and
the dentist to pay, and besides, she must have one of the new cloaks
and some other little things. But, of course, if he didn't care to....

"You've had money enough up to now," said he.

"H'm," said she. "Anyway, it's all gone."

"Haven't you put by anything?"

"Put by anything? You can look in my box it you like. I never put by
anything in Bergen, and. I got more wages then."

"I've no money to give you," said he.

He had but little faith in her ever coming back at all, and she had
plagued him so much with her humours this way and that; he had grown
indifferent at last. And though he gave her money in the end, it was
nothing to speak of; but he took no notice when she packed away
an enormous hoard of food to take with her, and he drove her down
himself, with her box, to the village to meet the steamer.

And that was done.

He could have managed alone on the place, he had learned to do so
before, but it was awkward with the cattle; if ever he had to leave
home, there was none to look to them. The storekeeper in the village
had urged him to get Oline to come for the winter, she had been at
Sellanraa for years before; she was old now, of course, but fit and
able to work. And Axel did send for Oline, but she had not come, and
sent no word.

Meantime, he worked in the forest, threshed out his little crop of
corn, and tended his cattle. It was a quiet and lonely life. Now and
again Sivert from Sellanraa would drive past on his way to and from
the village, taking down loads of wood, or hides, or farm produce, but
rarely bringing anything up home; there was little they needed to buy
now at Sellanraa.

Now and again, too, Brede Olsen would come trudging along, more
frequently of late--whatever he might be after. It looked as if he
were trying to make himself indispensable to the telegraph people in
the little time that remained, so as to keep his job. He never came in
to see Axel now that Barbro was gone, but went straight by--a piece of
high-and-mightiness ill fitted to his state, seeing that he was still
living on at Breidablik and had not moved. One day, when he was
passing without so much as a word of greeting, Axel stopped him, and
asked when he had thought of getting out of the place.

"What about Barbro, and the way she left you?" asked Brede in return.
And one word led to another: "You sent her off with neither help nor
means, 'twas a near thing but she never got to Bergen at all."

"Ho! So she's in Bergen, is she?"

"Ay, got there at last, so she writes, but little thanks to you."

"I'll have you out of Breidablik, and that sharp," said Axel.

"Ay, if you'd be so kind," said the other, with a sneer. "But we'll be
going of ourselves at the new year," he said, and went on his way.

So Barbro was gone to Bergen--ay, 'twas as Axel had thought. He did
not take it to heart. Take it to heart? No, indeed; he was well rid of
her. But for all that, he had hoped a little until then that she might
come back. 'Twas all unreasonable, but somehow he had come to care
overmuch for the girl--ay, for that devil of a girl. She had her sweet
moments, unforgettable moments, and it was on purpose to hinder her
from running off to Bergen that he had given her so little money
for the journey. And now she had gone there after all. A few of her
clothes still hung in the house, and there was a straw hat with birds'
wings on, wrapped up in a paper, in the loft, but she did not come to
fetch them. Eyah, maybe he took it to heart a little, only a little.
And as if to jeer at him, as a mighty jest in his trouble, came the
paper he had ordered for her every week, and it would not stop now
till the new year.

Well, well, there were other things to think about. He must be a man.

Next spring he would have to put up a shed against the north wall of
the house; the timber would have to be felled that winter, and the
planks cut. Axel had no timber to speak of, not growing close, but
there were some heavy firs scattered about here and there on the
outskirts of his land, and he marked out those on the side toward
Sellanraa, to have the shortest way to cart his timber up to the

And so one morning he gives the beasts an extra feed, to last them
till the evening, shuts all doors behind him, and goes out felling
trees. Besides his ax and a basket of food, he carried a rake to clear
the snow away. The weather was mild, there had been a heavy snowstorm
the day before, but now it had stopped. He follows the telegraph line
all the way to the spot, then pulls off his jacket and falls to work.
As the trees are felled, he strips off the branches, leaving the clean
trunks, and piles up the small wood in heaps.

Brede Olsen comes by on his way up--trouble on the line, no doubt,
after yesterday's storm. Or maybe Brede was out on no particular
errand, but simply from pure zeal--ho, he was mighty keen on his duty
of late, was Brede! The two men did not speak, did not so much as lift
a hand in greeting.

The weather is changing again, the wind is getting up. Axel marks it,
but goes on with his work. It is long past noon, and he has not yet
eaten. Then, felling a big fir, he manages to get in the way of its
fall, and is thrown to the ground. He hardly knew how it happened--but
there it was. A big fir swaying from the root: a man will have it fall
one way, the storm says another--and the storm it is that wins. He
might have got clear after all, but the lie of the ground was hidden
by snow. Axel made a false step, lost his footing, and came down in a
cleft of rock, astride of a boulder, pinned down by the weight of a

Well, and what then? He might still have got clear, but, as it
chanced, he had fallen awkwardly as could be--no bones broken, as far
as he could tell, but twisted somehow, and unable to drag himself out.
After a while he gets one hand free, supporting himself on the other,
but the ax is beyond his reach. He looks round, takes thought, as any
other beast in a trap would do; looks round and takes thought and
tries to work his way out from under the tree. Brede must be coming by
on his way down before long, he thinks to himself, and gives himself a

He does not let it trouble him much at first, it was only annoying to
lose time at his work; there is no thought in his mind of being in
danger, let alone in peril of his life. True, he can feel the hand
that supports him growing numbed and dead, his foot in the cleft
growing cold and helpless too; but no matter, Brede must be here soon.

Brede did not come.

The storm increased, Axel felt the snow driving full in his face.
Ho, 'tis coming down in earnest now, says he to himself, still never
troubling much about it all--ay, 'tis as if he blinks at himself
through the snow, to look out, for now things are beginning in

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest