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Title: The Bridal March; One Day
Author: Bjørnson, Bjørnstjerne, 1832-1910
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Bridal March; One Day" ***

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[Transcriber's note: Front matter listing the novels of BJÖRNSTJERNE
BJÖRNSON moved to end of book]



                            THE BRIDAL MARCH

                                    &

                                 ONE DAY

                                    BY

                           BJÖRNSTJERNE BJÖRNSON

                  (_Translated from the Norwegian_)



LONDON
WILLIAM HEINEMANN
1896



_BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE_


[The Bridal March _(Brude-Slaatten) was written in
Christiania in 1872. It was originally published in the second volume
of the first popular edition of Björnson's collected tales, issued in
Copenhagen in that year. In November 1873, a small edition was
published in separate form, and this was followed by an illustrated
issue, of which a second edition appeared in 1877._ The Bridal March
_was originally composed as the text to four designs by the Norwegian
painter, Tidemand. It was dedicated to Hans Christian Andersen._

One Day _(En Dag) was originally issued in the Norwegian
Magazine "Nyt Tidsscrift," late in 1893; and was republished in a
volume of short stories during the following year._

                                                             _E. G._]



THE BRIDAL MARCH


There lived last century, in one of the high-lying inland valleys of
Norway, a fiddler, who has become in some degree a legendary
personage. Of the tunes and marches ascribed to him, some are said to
have been inspired by the Trolls, one he heard from the devil himself,
another he made to save his life, &c., &c. But the most famous of all
is a Bridal March; and _its_ story does not end with the story of his
life.

Fiddler Ole Haugen was a poor cottar high among the mountains. He had
a daughter, Aslaug, who had inherited his cleverness. Though she could
not play his fiddle, there was music in everything she did--in her
talk, her singing, her walk, her dancing.

At the great farm of Tingvold, down in the valley, a young man had
come home from his travels. He was the third son of the rich peasant
owner, but his two elder brothers had been drowned in a flood, so the
farm was to come to him. He met Aslaug at a wedding and fell in love
with her. In those days it was an unheard-of thing that a well-to-do
peasant of old family should court a girl of Aslaug's class. But this
young fellow had been long away, and he let his parents know that he
had made enough out in the world to live upon, and that if he could
not have what he wanted at home, he would let the farm go. It was
prophesied that this indifference to the claims of family and property
would bring its own punishment. Some said that Ole Haugen had brought
it about, by means only darkly hinted at.

So much is certain, that while the conflict between the young man and
his parents was going on, Haugen was in the best of spirits. When the
battle was over, he said that he had already made them a Bridal March,
one that would never go out of the family of Tingvold--but woe to the
girl, he added, whom it did not play to church as happy a bride as the
cottar's daughter, Aslaug Haugen! And here again people talked of the
influence of some mysterious evil power.

So runs the story. It is a fact that to this day the people of that
mountain district have a peculiar gift of music and song, which then
must have been greater still. Such a thing is not kept up without some
one caring for and adding to the original treasure, and Ole Haugen was
the man who did it in his time.

Tradition goes on to tell that just as Ole Haugen's Bridal March was
the merriest ever heard, so the bridal pair that it played to church,
that were met by it again as they came from the altar, and that drove
home with its strain in their ears, were the happiest couple that had
ever been seen. And though the race of Tingvold had always been a
handsome race, and after this were handsomer than ever, it is
maintained that none, before or after, could equal this particular
couple.

With Ole Haugen legend ends, and now history begins. Ole's bridal
march kept its place in the house of Tingvold. It was sung, and
hummed, and whistled, and fiddled, in the house and in the stable, in
the field and on the mountain-side. The only child born of the
marriage, little Astrid, was rocked and sung to sleep with it by
mother, by father, and by servants, and it was one of the first things
she herself learned. There was music in the race, and this bright
little one had her full share of it, and soon could hum her parent's
triumphal march, the talisman of her family, in quite a masterly way.

It was hardly to be wondered at that when she grew up, she too wished
to choose her lover. Many came to woo, but at the age of twenty-three
the rich and gifted girl was still single. The reason came out at
last. In the house lived a quick-witted youth, whom Aslaug had taken
in out of pity. He went by the name of the tramp or gipsy, though he
was neither. But Aslaug was ready enough to call him so when she
heard that Astrid and he were betrothed. They had pledged faith to
each other in all secrecy out on the hill pastures, and had sung the
bridal march together, she on the height, he answering from below.

The lad was sent away at once. No one could now show more pride of
race than Aslaug, the poor cottar's daughter. Astrid's father called
to mind what was prophesied when he broke the tradition of his family.
Had it now come to a husband being taken in from the wayside? Where
would it end? And the neighbours said much the same.

"The tramp," Knut by name, soon became well known to every one, as he
took to dealing in cattle on his own account. He was the first in that
part of the country to do it to any extent, and his enterprise had
begun to benefit the whole district, raising prices, and bringing in
capital. But he was apt to bring drinking bouts, and often fighting,
in his train; and this was all that people talked of as yet; they had
not begun to understand his capabilities as a business man.

Astrid was determined, and she was twenty-three, and her parents came
to see that either the farm must go out of the family or Knut must
come into it; through their own marriage they had lost the moral
authority that might have stood them in good stead now. So Astrid had
her way. One fine day the handsome, merry Knut drove with her to
church. The strains of the family bridal march, her grandfather's
masterpiece, were wafted back over the great procession, and the two
seemed to be sitting humming it quietly, and very happy they looked.
And every one wondered how the parents looked so happy too, for they
had opposed the marriage long and obstinately.

After the wedding Knut took over the farm, and the old people retired
on their allowance. It was such a liberal one that people could not
understand how Knut and Astrid were able to afford it; for though the
farm was the largest in the district, it was not well-cultivated. But
this was not all. Three times the number of workpeople were taken on,
and everything was started in a new way, with an outlay unheard of in
these parts. Certain ruin was foretold. But "the tramp"--for his
nickname had stuck to him--was as merry as ever, and seemed to have
infected Astrid with his humour. The quiet, gentle girl became the
lively, buxom wife. Her parents were satisfied. At last people began
to understand that Knut had brought to Tingvold what no one had had
there before, working capital! And along with it he had brought the
experience gained in trading, and a gift of handling commodities and
money, and of keeping servants willing and happy.

In twelve years one would hardly have known Tingvold again. House and
outbuildings were different; there were three times as many
workpeople, they were three times as well off, and Knut himself, in
his broadcloth coat, sat in the evenings and smoked his meerschaum
pipe and drank his glass of toddy with the Captain and the Pastor and
the Bailiff. To Astrid he was the cleverest and best man in the world,
and she was fond of telling how in his young days he had fought and
drunk just to get himself talked about, and to frighten her; "for he
was so cunning!"

She followed him in everything except in leaving off peasant dress and
customs; to these she always kept. Knut did not interfere with other
people's ways, so this caused no trouble between them. He lived with
his "set," and his wife saw to their entertainment, which was,
however, modest enough, for he was too prudent a man to make
unnecessary show or outlay of any kind. Some said that he gained more
by the card-playing, and by the popularity this mode of life won for
him, than all he laid out upon it, but this was probably pure
malevolence.

They had several children, but the only one whose history concerns us
is the eldest son, Endrid, who was to inherit the farm and carry on
the honour of the house. He had all the good looks of his race, but
not much in the way of brains, as is often the case with children of
specially active-minded parents. His father soon observed this, and
tried to make up for it by giving him a very good education. A tutor
was brought into the house for the children, and when Endrid grew up
he was sent to one of the agricultural training schools that were now
beginning to flourish in Norway, and after that to finish off in town.
He came home again a quiet young fellow, with a rather over-burdened
brain and fewer town ways than his father had hoped for. But Endrid
was a slow-witted youth.

The Pastor and the Captain, both with large families of daughters, had
their eye on him. But if this was the reason of the increased
attention they paid to Knut, they made a great mistake; the idea of a
marriage between his son and a poor pastor's or captain's daughter,
with no training to fit her for a rich farmer's wife, was so
ridiculous to him that he did not even think it necessary to warn
Endrid. And indeed no warning was needed, for the lad saw as well as
his father that, though there was no need for his bringing more wealth
into the family through his marriage, it would be of advantage if he
could again connect it with one of equal birth and position. But, as
ill-luck would have it, he was but an awkward wooer. The worst of it
was that he began to get the name of being a fortune-hunter; and when
once a young man gets this reputation, the peasants fight shy of him.
Endrid soon noticed this himself; for though he was not particularly
quick, to make up for it he was very sensitive. He saw that it did not
improve his position that he was dressed like a townsman, and "had
learning," as the country people said. The boy was sound at heart, and
the result of the slights he met with was that by degrees he left off
his town dress and town speech, and began to work on his father's
great farm as a simple labourer. His father understood--he had begun
to understand before the lad did--and he told his wife to take no
notice. So they said nothing about marriage, nor about the change in
Endrid's ways; only his father was more and more friendly to him, and
consulted him in everything connected with the farm and with his
other trade, and at last gave the management of the farm altogether
into his hands. And of this they never needed to repent.

So the time passed till Endrid was thirty-one. He had been steadily
adding to his father's wealth and to his own experience and
independence; but had never made the smallest attempt at courtship;
had not looked at a girl, either in their own district or elsewhere.
And now his parents were beginning to fear that he had given up
thoughts of it altogether. But this was not the case.

On a neighbouring farm lived in good circumstances another
well-descended peasant family, that had at different times
intermarried with the race of Tingvold. A girl was growing up there
whom Endrid had been fond of since she was a little child; no doubt he
had quietly set his heart on her, for only six months after her
confirmation he spoke. She was seventeen then and he thirty-one.
Randi, that was the girl's name, did not know at first what to answer;
she consulted her parents, but they said she must decide for herself.
He was a good man, and from a worldly point of view she could not make
a better match, but the difference in their ages was great, and she
must know herself if she had the courage to undertake the new duties
and cares that would come upon her as mistress of the large farm. The
girl felt that her parents would rather have her say Yes than No, but
she was really afraid. She went to his mother, whom she had always
liked, and found to her surprise that she knew nothing. But the mother
was so delighted with the idea that with all her might she urged Randi
to accept him. "I'll help you," she said. "Father will want no
allowance from the farm. He has all he needs, and he doesn't wish his
children to be longing for his death. Things will be divided at once,
and the little that we keep to live on will be divided too when we are
gone. So you see there will be no trouble with us." Yes, Randi knew
all along that Knut and Astrid were kind and nice. "And the boy," said
Astrid, "is good and thoughtful about everything." Yes, Randi had
felt that too; she was not afraid but that she would get on with
him--if she were only capable enough herself!

A few days later everything was settled. Endrid was happy, and so were
his parents; for this was a much respected family that he was marrying
into, and the girl was both nice-looking and clever; there was not a
better match for him in the district. The parents on both sides
consulted together, and settled that the wedding should be just before
harvest, as there was nothing to wait for.

The neighbourhood generally did not look on the engagement in the same
light as the parties concerned. It was said that the pretty young girl
had "sold herself." She was so young that she hardly knew what
marriage was, and the sly Knut had pushed forward his son before any
other lovers had the chance. Something of this came to Randi's ears,
but Endrid was so loving to her, and in such a quiet, almost humble
way, that she would not break off with him; only it made her a little
cool. Both his and her parents heard what was said, but took no
notice.

Perhaps just because of this talk they determined to hold the wedding
in great style, and this, for the same reason, was not unacceptable to
Randi. Knut's friends, the Pastor, the Captain, and the Bailiff, with
their large families, were to be among the guests, and some of them
were to accompany the pair to church. On their account Knut wanted to
dispense with the fiddlers--it was too old-fashioned and peasant-like.
But Astrid insisted that they must be played to church and home again
with the Bridal March of her race. It had made her and her husband so
happy; they could not but wish to hear it again on their dear
children's great festival day. There was not much sentiment about
Knut; but he let his wife have her way. The bride's parents got a hint
that they might engage the fiddlers, who were asked to play the old
March, the family Bridal March, that had lain quiet now for a time,
because this generation had worked without song.

But alas! on the wedding day the rain poured hard. The players had to
wrap up their fiddles as soon as they had played the bridal party away
from the farm, and they did not take them out again till they came
within sound of the church-bells. Then a boy had to stand up at the
back of the cart and hold an umbrella over them, and below it they sat
huddled together and sawed away. The March did not sound like itself
in such weather, naturally enough, nor was it a very merry-looking
bridal procession that followed. The bridegroom sat with the high
bridegroom's hat between his legs and a sou'-wester on his head; he
had on a great fur coat, and he held an umbrella over the bride, who,
with one shawl on the top of another, to protect the bridal crown and
the rest of her finery, looked more like a wet hayrick than a human
being. On they came, carriage after carriage, the men dripping, the
women hidden away under their wrappings. It looked like a sort of
bewitched procession, in which one could not recognise a single face;
for there was not a face to be seen, nothing but huddled-up heaps of
wool or fur. A laugh broke out among the specially large crowd
gathered at the church on account of the great wedding. At first it
was stifled, but it grew louder with each carriage that drove up. At
the large house where the procession was to alight and the dresses
were to be arranged a little for going into church, a hay-cart had
been drawn out of the way, into the corner formed by the porch.
Mounted on it stood a pedlar, a joking fellow, Aslak by name. Just as
the bride was lifted down he called: "Devil take me if Ole Haugen's
Bridal March is any good to-day!"

He said no more, but that was plenty. The crowd laughed, and though
many of them tried not to let it be seen that they were laughing, it
was clearly felt what all were thinking and trying to hide.

When they took off the bride's shawls they saw that she was as white
as a sheet. She began to cry, tried to laugh, cried again--and then
all at once the feeling came over her that she could not go into the
church. Amidst great excitement she was laid on a bed in a quiet room,
for such a violent fit of crying had seized her that they were much
alarmed. Her good parents stood beside the bed, and when she begged
them to let her go back, they said that she might do just as she
liked. Then her eyes fell on Endrid. Any one so utterly miserable and
helpless she had never seen before; and beside him stood his mother,
silent and motionless, with the tears running down her face and her
eyes fixed on Randi's. Then Randi raised herself on her elbow and
looked straight in front of her for a little, still sobbing after the
fit of crying. "No, no,!" she said, "I'm going to church." Once more
she lay back and cried for a little, and then she got up. She said
that she would have no more music, so the fiddlers were dismissed--and
the story did not lose in their telling when they got among the crowd.

It was a mournful bridal procession that now moved on towards the
church. The rain allowed of the bride and bridegroom hiding their
faces from the curiosity of the onlookers till they got inside; but
they felt that they were running the gauntlet, and they felt too that
their own friends were annoyed at being laughed at as part of such a
foolish procession.

The grave of the famous fiddler, Ole Haugen, lay close by the
church-door. Without saying much about it, the family had always
tended it, and a new head-board had been put up when the old one had
rotted away below. The upper part of it was in the shape of a wheel,
as Ole himself had desired. The grave was in a sunny spot, and was
thickly overgrown with wild flowers. Every churchgoer that had ever
stood by it had heard from some one or other how a botanist in
government pay, making a collection of the plants and flowers of the
valley and the mountains round about, had found flowers on that grave
that did not grow anywhere else in the neighbourhood. And the
peasants, who as a rule cared little about what they called "weeds,"
took pride in these particular ones--a pride mixed with curiosity and
even awe. Some of the flowers were remarkably beautiful. But as the
bridal pair passed the grave, Endrid, who was holding Randi's hand,
felt that she shivered; immediately she began to cry again, walked
crying into the church, and was led crying to her place. No bride
within the memory of man had made such an entrance into that church.

She felt as she sat there that all this was helping to confirm the
report that she had been sold. The thought of the shame she was
bringing on her parents made her turn cold, and for a little she was
able to stop crying. But at the altar she was moved again by some word
of the priest's, and immediately the thought of all she had gone
through that day came over her; and for the moment she had the feeling
that never, no, never again, could she look people in the face, and
least of all her own father and mother.

Things got no better as the day went on. She was not able to sit with
the guests at the dinner-table; in the evening she was half coaxed,
half forced to appear at supper, but she spoiled every one's pleasure,
and had to be taken away to bed. The wedding festivities, that were to
have gone on for several days, ended that evening. It was given out
that the bride was ill.

Though neither those who said this nor those who heard it believed it,
it was only too true. She was really ill, and she did not soon
recover. One consequence of this was that their first child was
sickly. The parents were not the less devoted to it from understanding
that they themselves were to a certain extent the cause of its
suffering. They never left that child. They never went to church, for
they had got shy of people. For two years God gave them the joy of the
child, and then He took it from them.

The first thought that struck them after this blow was that they had
been too fond of their child. That was why they had lost it. So, when
another came, it seemed as if neither of them dared to show their love
for it. But this little one, though it too was sickly at first, grew
stronger, and was so sweet and bright that they could not restrain
their feelings. A new, pure happiness had come to them; they could
almost forget all that had happened. When this child was two years
old, God took it too.

Some people seem to be chosen out by sorrow. They are the very people
that seem to us to need it least, but at the same time they are those
that are best fitted to bear trials and yet to keep their faith. These
two had early sought God together; after this they lived as it were in
His presence. The life at Tingvold had long been a quiet one; now the
house was like a church before the priest comes in. The work went on
perfectly steadily, but at intervals during the day Endrid and Randi
worshipped together, communing with those "on the other side." It made
no change in their habits that Randi, soon after their last loss, had
a little daughter. The children that were dead were boys, and this
made them not care so much for a girl. Besides they did not know if
they were to be allowed to keep her. But the health and happiness
that the mother had enjoyed up to the time of the death of the last
little boy, had benefited this child, who soon showed herself to be a
bright little girl, with her mother's pretty face. The two lonely
people again felt the temptation to be hopeful and happy in their
child; but the fateful two years were not over, and they dared not. As
the time drew near, they felt as if they had only been allowed a
respite.

Knut and Astrid kept a good deal to themselves. The way in which the
young people had taken things did not allow of much sympathy or
consolation being offered them. Besides, Knut was too lively and
worldly-minded to sit long in a house of mourning or to be always
coming in upon a prayer meeting. He moved to a small farm that he had
bought and let, but now took back into his own hands. There he
arranged everything so comfortably and nicely for his dear Astrid,
that people whose intention it was to go to Tingvold, rather stayed
and laughed with him than went on to cry with his children.

One day when Astrid was in her daughter-in-law's house, she noticed
how little Mildrid went about quite alone; it seemed as if her mother
hardly dared to touch her. When the father came in, she saw the same
mournful sort of reserve towards his own, only child. She concealed
her thoughts, but when she got home to her own dear Knut, she told him
how things stood at Tingvold, and added: "Our place is there now.
Little Mildrid needs some one that dares to love her; pretty, sweet
little child that she is!" Knut was infected by her eagerness, and the
two old people packed up and went home.

Mildrid was now much with her grandparents, and they taught her
parents to love her. When she was five years old her mother had
another daughter, who was called Beret; and after this Mildrid lived
almost altogether with the old people. The anxious parents began once
more to feel as if there might yet be pleasure for them in life, and a
change in the popular feeling towards them helped them.

After the loss of the second child, though there were often the
traces of tears on their faces, no one had ever seen them weep--their
grief was silent. There was no changing of servants at Tingvold, that
was one result of the peaceful, God-fearing life there; nothing but
praise of master and mistress was ever heard. They themselves knew
this, and it gave them a feeling of comfort and security. Relations
and friends began to visit them again; and went on doing so, even
though the Tingvold people made no return.

But they had not been at church since their wedding-day! They partook
of the Communion at home, and held worship there. But when the second
girl was born, they were so desirous to be her godparents themselves
that they made up their minds to venture. They stood together at their
children's graves; they passed Ole Haugen's without word or movement;
the whole congregation showed them respect. But they continued to keep
themselves very much to themselves, and a pious peace rested over
their house.

One day in her grandmother's house little Mildrid was heard singing
the Bridal March. Old Astrid stopped her work in a fright, and asked
her where in the world she had learned that. The child answered: "From
you, grandmother." Knut, who was sitting in the house, laughed
heartily, for he knew that Astrid had a habit of humming it when she
sat at work. But they both said to little Mildrid that she must never
sing it when her parents were within hearing. Like a child, she asked
"Why?" But to this question she got no answer. One evening she heard
the new herd-boy singing it as he was cutting wood. She told her
grandmother, who had heard it too. All grandmother said was: "He'll
not grow old here!"--and sure enough he had to go next day. No reason
was given; he got his wages and was sent about his business. Mildrid
was so excited about this, that grandmother had to try to tell her the
story of the Bridal March. The little eight year old girl understood
it well enough, and what she did not understand then became clear to
her later. It had an influence on her child-life, and especially on
her conduct towards her parents, that nothing else had or could have
had.

She had always noticed that they liked quietness. It was no hardship
to her to please them in this; they were so gentle, and talked so much
and so sweetly to her of the children's great Friend in heaven, that
it cast a sort of charm over the whole house. The story of the Bridal
March affected her deeply, and gave her an understanding of all that
they had gone through. She carefully avoided recalling to them any
painful memories, and showed them the tenderest affection, sharing
with them their love of God, their truthfulness, their quietness,
their industry. And she taught Beret to do the same.

In their grandfather's house the life that had to be suppressed at
home got leave to expand. Here there was singing and dancing and play
and story-telling. So the sisters' young days passed between devotion
to their melancholy parents in the quiet house, and the glad life they
were allowed to take part in at their grandfather's. The families
lived in perfect understanding. It was the parents who told them to go
to the old people and enjoy themselves, and the old people who told
them to go back again, "and be sure to be good girls."

When a girl between the age of twelve and sixteen takes a sister
between seven and eleven into her full confidence, the confidence is
rewarded by great devotion. But the little one is apt to become too
old for her years. This happened with Beret, while Mildrid only gained
by being forbearing and kind and sympathetic--and she made her parents
and grandparents happy.

There is no more to tell till Mildrid was in her fifteenth year; then
old Knut died, suddenly and easily. There seemed almost no time
between the day when he sat joking in the chimney-corner and the day
when he lay in his coffin.

After this, grandmother's greatest pleasure was to have Mildrid
sitting on a stool at her feet, as she had done ever since she was a
little child, and to tell her stories about Knut, or else to get her
to hum the Bridal March. As Astrid sat listening to it, she saw Knut's
handsome dark head as she used to see it in her young days; she
followed him out to the mountain-side, where he blew the March on his
herd-boy's horn, she drove to church by his side--all his brightness
and cleverness lived again for her!

But in Mildrid's soul a new feeling began to stir. Whilst she sat and
sang for grandmother, she asked herself: "Will it ever be played for
me?" The thought grew upon her, the March spoke to her of such radiant
happiness. She saw a bride's crown glittering in its sunshine, and a
long, bright future beyond that. Sixteen--and she asked herself:
"Shall I, shall I ever have some one sitting beside me, with the
Bridal March shining in his eyes? Only think, if father and mother
were one day to drive with me in such a procession, with the people
greeting us on every side, on to the house where mother was jeered at
that day, past Ole Haugen's flower-covered grave, up to the altar, in
a glory of happiness! Think what it would be if I could give father
and mother that consolation!" And the child's heart swelled, imagining
all this to herself, swelled with pride and with devotion to those
dear parents who had suffered so much.

These were the first thoughts that she did not confide to Beret. Soon
there were more. Beret, who was now eleven, noticed that she was left
more to herself, but did not understand that she was being gradually
shut out from Mildrid's confidence, till she saw another taken into
her place. This was Inga, from the neighbouring farm, a girl of
eighteen, their own cousin, newly betrothed. When Mildrid and Inga
walked about in the fields, whispering and laughing, with their arms
round each other, as girls love to go, poor Beret would throw herself
down and cry with jealousy.

The time came on for Mildrid to be confirmed; she made acquaintance
with other young people of her own age, and some of them began to come
up to Tingvold on Sundays. Mildrid saw them either out of doors or in
her grandmother's room. Tingvold had always been a forbidden, and
consequently mysteriously attractive place to the young people. But
even now, only those with a certain quietness and seriousness of
disposition went there, for it could not be denied that there was
something subdued about Mildrid, that did not attract every one.

At this particular time there was a great deal of music and singing
among the youth of the district. For some reason or other there are
such periods, and these periods have their leaders. One of the leaders
now was, curiously enough, again of the race of Haugen.

Amongst a people where once on a time, even though it were hundreds of
years ago, almost every man and woman sought and found expression for
their intensest feelings and experiences in song, and were able
themselves to make the verses that gave them relief--amongst such a
people the art can never quite die out. Here and there, even though it
does not make itself heard, it must exist, ready on occasion to be
awakened to new life. But in this district songs had been made and
sung from time immemorial. It was by no mere chance that Ole Haugen
was born here, and here became what he was. Now it was his grandson in
whom the gift had reappeared.

Ole's son had been so much younger than the daughter who had married
into the Tingvold family, that the latter, already a married woman,
had stood godmother to her little brother. After a life full of
changes, this son, as an old man, had come into possession of his
father's home and little bit of land far up on the mountain-side; and,
strangely enough, not till then did he marry. He had several children,
among them a boy called Hans, who seemed to have inherited his
grandfather's gifts--not exactly in the way of fiddle-playing, though
he did play--but he sang the old songs beautifully and made new ones
himself. People's appreciation of his songs was not a little added to
by the fact that so few knew himself; there were not many that had
even seen him. His old father had been a hunter, and while the boys
were quite small, the old man took them out to the hillside and taught
them to load and aim a gun. They always remembered how pleased he was
when they were able to earn enough with their shooting to pay for
their own powder and shot. He did not live long after this, and soon
after his death their mother died too, and the children were left to
take care of themselves, which they managed to do. The boys hunted and
the girls looked after the little hill farm. People turned to look at
them when they once in a way showed themselves in the valley; they
were so seldom there. It was a long, bad road down. In winter they
occasionally came to sell or send off the produce of their hunting; in
summer they were busy with the strangers. Their little holding was the
highest lying in the district, and it became famed for having that
pure mountain air which cures people suffering from their lungs or
nerves, better than any yet discovered medicine; every year they had
as many summer visitors, from town, and even from abroad, as they
could accommodate. They added several rooms to their house, and still
it was always full. So these brothers and sisters, from being poor,
very poor, came to be quite well-to-do. Intercourse with so many
strangers had made them a little different from the other country
people--they even knew something of foreign languages. Hans was now
twenty-seven. Some years before he had bought up his brothers' and
sisters' shares, so that the whole place belonged to him.

Not one of the family had ever set foot in the house of their
relations at Tingvold. Endrid and Randi Tingvold, though they had
doubtless never put the feeling into words, could just as little bear
to hear the name of Haugen as to hear the Bridal March. These
children's poor father had been made to feel this, and in consequence,
Hans had forbidden his brothers and sisters ever to go to the house.
But the girls at Tingvold, who loved music, longed to make
acquaintance with Hans, and when they and their girl friends were
together, they talked more about the family at Haugen than about
anything else. Hans's songs and tunes were sung and danced to, and
they were for ever planning how they could manage to meet the young
farmer of Haugen.

After this happy time of young companionship came Mildrid's
confirmation. Just before it there was a quiet pause, and after it
came another. Mildrid, now about seventeen, spent the autumn almost
alone with her parents. In spring, or rather summer, she was, like all
the other girls after their confirmation, to go to the soeter in
charge of cattle. She was delighted at the thought of this, especially
as her friend Inga was to be at the next soeter.

At last her longing for the time to come grew so strong that she had
no peace at home, and Beret, who was to accompany her, grew restless
too. When they got settled in the soeter Beret was quite absorbed in
the new, strange life, but Mildrid was still restless. She had her
busy times with the cattle and the milk, but there were long idle
hours that she did not know how to dispose of. Some days she spent
them with Inga, listening to her stories of her lover, but often she
had no inclination to go there. She was glad when Inga came to her,
and affectionate, as if she wanted to make up for her faithlessness.
She seldom talked to Beret, and often when Beret talked to her,
answered nothing but Yes or No. When Inga came, Beret took herself
off, and when Mildrid went to see Inga, Beret went crying away after
the cows, and had the herd-boys for company. Mildrid felt that there
was something wrong in all this, but with the best will she could not
set it right.

She was sitting one day near the soeter, herding the goats and
sheep, because one of the herd-boys had played truant and she had to
do his work. It was a warm midday; she was sitting in the shade of a
hillock overgrown with birch and underwood; she had thrown off her
jacket and taken her knitting in her hand, and was expecting Inga.
Something rustled behind her. "There she comes," thought Mildrid, and
looked up.

But there was more noise than Inga was likely to make, and such a
breaking and cracking among the bushes. Mildrid turned pale, got up,
and saw something hairy and a pair of eyes below it--it must be a
bear's head! She wanted to scream, but no voice would come; she wanted
to run, but could not stir. The thing raised itself up--it was a tall,
broad-shouldered man with a fur cap, a gun in his hand. He stopped
short among the bushes and looked at her sharply for a second or two,
then took a step forward, a jump, and stood in the field beside her.
Something moved at her feet, and she gave a little cry; it was his
dog, that she had not seen before.

"Oh, dear!" she said; "I thought it was a bear breaking through the
bushes, and I got such a fright!" And she tried to laugh.

"Well, it might almost have been that," said he, speaking in a very
quiet voice; "Kvas and I were on the track of a bear; but now we have
lost it; and if I have a 'Vardöger,'[1] it is certainly a bear."

He smiled. She looked at him. Who can he be? Tall, broad-shouldered,
wiry; his eyes restless, so that she could not see them rightly;
besides, she was standing quite close to him, just where he had
suddenly appeared before her with his dog and his gun.

She felt the inclination to say, "Go away!" but instead she drew back
a few steps, and asked: "Who are you?" She was really frightened.

"Hans Haugen," answered the man rather absently; for he was paying
attention to the dog, which seemed to have found the track of the bear
again. He was just going to add, "Good-bye!" but when he looked at her
she was blushing; cheeks, neck, and bosom crimson.

"What's the matter?" said he, astonished.

She did not know what to do or where to go, whether to run away or to
sit down.

"Who are you?" asked Hans in his turn.

Once again she turned crimson, for to tell him her name was to tell
him everything.

"Who are you?" he repeated, as if it were the most natural question in
the world, and deserved an answer.

And she could not refuse the answer, though she felt ashamed of
herself, and ashamed of her parents, who had neglected their own
kindred. The name had to be said. "Mildrid Tingvold," she whispered,
and burst into tears.

It was true enough; the Tingvold people had given him little reason to
care for them. Of his own free will he would scarcely have spoken to
one of them. But he had never foreseen anything like this, and he
looked at the girl in amazement. He seemed to remember some story of
her mother having cried like that in church on her wedding-day.
"Perhaps it's in the family," he thought, and turned to go. "Forgive
me for having frightened you," he said, and took his way up the
hillside after his dog.

By the time she ventured to look up he had just reached the top of the
ridge, and there he turned to look at her. It was only for an instant,
for at that moment the dog barked on the other side. Hans gave a
start, held his gun in readiness, and hurried on. Mildrid was still
gazing at the place where he had stood, when a shot startled her.
Could that be the bear? Could it have been so near her?

Off she went, climbing where he had just climbed, till she stood where
he had stood, shading her eyes with her hand, and--sure enough, there
he was, half hidden by a bush, on his knees beside a huge bear! Before
she knew what she was doing, she was down beside him. He gave her a
smile of welcome, and explained to her, in his low voice, how it had
happened that they had lost the track and the dog had not scented the
animal till they were almost upon it. By this time she had forgotten
her tears and her bashfulness, and he had drawn his knife to skin the
bear on the spot. The flesh was of no value at this time; he meant to
bury the carcass and take only the skin. So she held, and he skinned;
then she ran down to the soeter for an axe and a spade; and although
she still felt afraid of the bear, and it had a bad smell, she kept on
helping him till all was finished. By this time it was long past
twelve o'clock, and he invited himself to dinner at the soeter. He
washed himself and the skin, no small piece of work, and then came in
and sat beside her while she finished preparing the food.

He chatted about one thing and another, easily and pleasantly, in the
low voice that seems to become natural to people who are much alone.
Mildrid gave the shortest answers possible, and when it came to
sitting opposite him at the table, she could neither speak nor eat,
and there was often silence between them. When she had finished he
turned round his chair and filled and lit his pipe. He too was quieter
now, and presently he got up. "I must be going," he said, holding out
his hand, "it's a long way home from here." Then added, in a still
lower voice: "Do you sit every day where you were to-day?" He held her
hand for a moment, expecting an answer; but she dared not look up,
much less speak. Then she felt him press her hand quickly. "Good-bye,
then, and thank you!" he said in a louder tone, and before she could
collect herself, she saw him, with the bearskin over his shoulder, the
gun in his hand, and the dog at his side, striding away over the
heather. There was a dip in the hills just there, and she saw him
clear against the sky; his light, firm step taking him quickly away.
She watched till he was out of sight, then came outside and sat down,
still looking in the same direction.

Not till now was she aware that her heart was beating so violently
that she had to press her hands over it. In a minute or two she lay
down on the grass, leaning her head on her arm, and began to go
carefully over every event of the day. She saw him start up among the
bushes and stand before her, strong and active, looking restlessly
round. She felt over again the bewilderment and the fright, and her
tears of shame. She saw him against the sun, on the height; she heard
the shot, and was again on her knees before him, helping him with the
skinning of the bear. She heard once more every word that he said, in
that low voice that sounded so friendly, and that touched her heart as
she thought of it; she listened to it as he sat beside the hearth
while she was cooking, and then at table with her. She felt that she
had no longer dared to look into his face, so that at last she had
made him feel awkward too; for he had grown silent. Then she heard him
speak once again, as he took her hand; and she felt his clasp--felt it
still, through her whole body. She saw him go away over the
heather--away, away!

Would he ever come back? Impossible, after the way she had behaved.
How strong, and brave, and self-reliant was everything she had seen of
him, and how stupid and miserable all that he had seen of her, from
her first scream of fright when the dog touched her, to her blush of
shame and her tears; from the clumsy help she gave him, to her
slowness in preparing the food. And to think that when he looked at
her she was not able to speak; not even to say No, when he asked her
if she sat under the hill every day--for she didn't sit there every
day! Might not her silence then have seemed like an invitation to him
to come and see? Might not her whole miserable helplessness have been
misunderstood in the same way? What shame she felt now! She was hot
all over with it, and she buried her burning face deeper and deeper in
the grass. Then she called up the whole picture once more; all his
excellences and her shortcomings; and again the shame of it all
overwhelmed her.

She was still lying there when the sound of the bells told her that
the cattle were coming home; then she jumped up and began to work.
Beret saw as soon as she came that something had happened. Mildrid
asked such stupid questions and gave such absurd answers, and
altogether behaved in such an extraordinary way, that she several
times just stopped and stared at her. When it came to supper-time, and
Mildrid, instead of taking her place at the table, went and sat down
outside, saying that she had just had dinner, Beret was as intensely
on the alert as a dog who scents game at hand. She took her supper and
went to bed. The sisters slept in the same bed, and, as Mildrid did
not come, Beret got up softly once or twice to look if her sister were
still sitting out there, and if she were alone. Yes, she was there,
and alone.

Eleven o'clock, and then twelve, and then one, and still Mildrid sat
and Beret waked. She pretended to be asleep when Mildrid came at last,
and Mildrid moved softly, so softly; but her sister heard her sobbing,
and when she had got into bed she heard her say her usual evening
prayer so sadly, heard her whisper: "O God, help me, help me!" It made
Beret so unhappy that she could not get to sleep even now. She felt
her sister restlessly changing from one position to another; she saw
her at last giving it up, throwing aside the covering, and lying
open-eyed, with her hands below her head, staring into vacancy. She
saw and heard no more, for at last she fell asleep.

When she awoke next morning Mildrid's place was empty. Beret jumped
up; the sun was high in the sky; the cattle were away long ago. She
found her breakfast set ready, took it hurriedly, and went out and saw
Mildrid at work, but looking ill. Beret said that she was going to
hurry after the cattle. Mildrid said nothing in answer, but gave her a
glance as though of thanks. The younger girl stood a minute thinking,
and then went off.

Mildrid looked round; yes, she was alone. She hastily put away the
dishes, leaving everything else as it was. Then she washed herself and
changed her dress, took her knitting, and set off up the hill.

She had not the new strength of the new day, for she had hardly slept
or eaten anything for twenty-four hours. She walked in a dream, and
knew nothing clearly till she was at the place where she had sat
yesterday.

Hardly had she seated herself when she thought: "If he were to come
and find me here, he would believe--" She started up mechanically.
There was his dog on the hillside. It stood still and looked at her,
then rushed down to her, wagging its tail. Her heart stopped beating.
There--there he stood, with his gun gleaming in the sun, just as he
had stood yesterday. To-day he had come another way. He smiled to her,
ran down, and stood before her. She had given a little scream and sunk
down on the grass again. It was more than she could do to stand up;
she let her knitting drop, and put her hands up to her face. He did
not say a word. He lay down on the grass in front of her, and looked
up at her, the dog at his side with its eyes fixed on him. She felt
that though she was turning her head away, he could see her hot blush,
her eyes, her whole face. She heard him breathing quickly; she thought
she felt his breath on her hand. She did not want him to speak, and
yet his silence was dreadful. She knew that he must understand why she
was sitting there; and greater shame than this no one had ever felt.
But it was not right of him, either, to have come, and still worse of
him to be lying there.

Then she felt him take one of her hands and hold it tight, then the
other, so that she had to turn a little that way; he drew her gently,
but strongly and firmly towards him with eye and hand, till she was at
his side, her head fallen on his shoulder. She felt him stroke her
hair with one hand, but she dared not look up. Presently she broke
into passionate weeping at the thought of her shameful behaviour.

"Yes, you may cry," said he, "but I will laugh; what has happened to
us two is matter both for laughter and for tears."

His voice shook. And now he bent over her and whispered that the
farther away he went from her yesterday the nearer he seemed to be to
her. The feeling overmastered him so, that when he reached his little
shooting cabin, where he had a German officer with him this summer,
recruiting after the war, he left the guest to take care of himself,
and wandered farther up the mountain. He spent the night on the
heights, sometimes sitting, sometimes wandering about. He went home to
breakfast, but away again immediately. He was twenty-eight now, no
longer a boy, and he felt that either this girl must be his or it
would go badly with him. He wandered to the place where they had met
yesterday; he did not expect that she would be there again; but when
he saw her, he felt that he must make the venture; and when he came to
see that she was feeling just as he was--"Why, then"--and he raised
her head gently. And she had stopped crying, and his eyes shone so
that she had to look into them, and then she turned red and put her
head down again.

He went on talking in his low, half-whispering voice. The sun shone
through the tree-tops, the birches trembled in the breeze, the birds
mingled their song with the sound of a little stream rippling over its
stony bed.

How long the two sat there together, neither of them knew. At last
the dog startled them. He had made several excursions, and each time
had come back and lain down beside them again; but now he ran barking
down the hill. They both jumped up and stood for a minute listening.
But nothing appeared. Then they looked at each other again, and Hans
lifted her up in his arms. She had not been lifted like this since she
was a child, and there was something about it that made her feel
helpless. When he looked up beaming into her face, she bent and put
her arms round his neck--he was now her strength, her future, her
happiness, her life itself--she resisted no longer.

Nothing was said. He held her tight; she clung to him. He carried her
to the place where she had sat at first, and sat down there with her
on his knee. She did not unloose her arms, she only bent her head
close down to his so as to hide her face from him. He was just going
to force her to let him look into it, when some one right in front of
them called in a voice of astonishment: "Mildrid!"

It was Inga, who had come up after the dog. Mildrid sprang to her
feet, looked at her friend for an instant, then went up to her, put
one arm round her neck, and laid her head on her shoulder. Inga put
her arm round Mildrid's waist. "Who is he?" she whispered, and Mildrid
felt her tremble, but said nothing. Inga knew who he was--knew him
quite well--but could not believe her own eyes. Then Hans came slowly
forward, "I thought you knew me," he said quietly; "I am Hans Haugen."
When she heard his voice, Mildrid lifted her head. How good and true
he looked as he stood there! He held out his hand; she went forward
and took it, and looked at her friend with a flush of mingled shame
and joy.

Then Hans took his gun and said good-bye, whispering to Mildrid: "You
may be sure I'll come soon again!"

The girls walked with him as far as the soeter, and watched him, as
Mildrid had done yesterday, striding away over the heather in the
sunlight. They stood as long as they could see him; Mildrid, who was
leaning on Inga, would not let her go; Inga felt that she did not want
her to move or speak. From time to time one or the other whispered:
"He's looking back!" When he was out of sight Mildrid turned round to
Inga and said: "Don't ask me anything. I can't tell you about it!" She
held her tight for a second, and then they walked towards the
soeter-house. Mildrid remembered now how she had left all her work
undone. Inga helped her with it. They spoke very little, and only
about the work. Just once Mildrid stopped, and whispered: "Isn't he
handsome?"

She set out some dinner, but could eat little herself, though she felt
the need both of food and sleep. Inga left as soon as she could, for
she saw that Mildrid would rather be alone. Then Mildrid lay down on
her bed. She was lying, half asleep already, thinking over the events
of the morning, and trying to remember the nicest things that Hans
had said, when it suddenly occurred to her to ask herself what she had
answered. Then it flashed upon her that during their whole meeting she
had not spoken, not said a single word!

She sat up in bed and said to herself: "He could not have gone far
till this must have struck him too--and what can he have thought? He
must take me for a creature without a will, going about in a dream.
How can he go on caring for me? Yesterday it was not till he had gone
away from me that he found out he cared for me at all--what will he
find out to-day?" she asked herself with a shiver of dread. She got
up, went out, and sat down where she had sat so long yesterday.

All her life Mildrid had been accustomed to take herself to account
for her behaviour; circumstances had obliged her to walk carefully.
Now, thinking over what had happened these last two days, it struck
her forcibly that she had behaved without tact, without thought,
almost without modesty. She had never read or heard about anything
happening like this; she looked at it from the peasant's point of
view, and none take these matters more strictly than they. It is
seemly to control one's feelings--it is honourable to be slow to show
them. She, who had done this all her life, and consequently been
respected by every one, had in one day given herself to a man she had
never seen before! Why, he himself must be the first to despise her!
It showed how bad things were, that she dared not tell what had
happened, not even to Inga!

With the first sound of the cow-bells in the distance came Beret, to
find her sister sitting on the bench in front of the soeter-house,
looking half dead. Beret stood in front of her till she was forced to
raise her head and look at her. Mildrid's eyes were red with crying,
and her whole expression was one of suffering. But it changed to
surprise when she saw Beret's face, which was scarlet with excitement.

"Whatever is the matter with you?" she exclaimed.

"Nothing!" answered Beret, standing staring fixedly at Mildrid, who
at last looked away, and got up to go and attend to the cows.

The sisters did not meet again till supper, when they sat opposite to
each other. Mildrid was not able to eat more then a few mouthfuls. She
sat and looked absently at the others, oftenest at Beret, who ate on
steadily, gulping down her food like a hungry dog.

"Have you had nothing to eat to-day?" asked Mildrid.

"No!" answered Beret, and ate on. Presently Mildrid spoke again: "Have
you not been with the herds then?"

"No!" answered her sister and both of the boys. Before them Mildrid
would not ask more, and afterwards her own morbid reflections took
possession of her again, and along with them the feeling that she was
no fit person to be in charge of Beret. This was one more added to the
reproaches she made to herself all that long summer evening and far
into the night.

There she sat, on the bench by the door, till the blood-red clouds
changed gradually to cold grey, no peace and no desire for sleep
coming to her. The poor child had never before been in real distress.
Oh, how she prayed! She stopped and she began again; she repeated
prayers that she had learned, and she made up petitions of her own. At
last, utterly exhausted, she went to bed.

There she tried once more to collect her thoughts for a final struggle
with the terrible question, Should she give him up or not? But she had
no strength left; she could only say over and over again: "Help me, O
God! help me!" She went on like this for a long time, sometimes saying
it in to herself, sometimes out loud. All at once she got such a
fright that she gave a loud scream. Beret was kneeling up in bed
looking at her; her sparkling eyes, hot face, and short breathing
showing a terrible state of excitement.

"Who is he?" she whispered, almost threateningly. Mildrid, crushed by
her self-torture, and worn out in soul and body, could not answer;
she began to cry.

"Who is he?" repeated the other, closer to her face; "you needn't try
to hide it any longer; I was watching you to-day the whole time!"

Mildrid held up her arms as if to defend herself, but Beret beat them
back, looked straight into her eyes, and again repeated, "Who is he, I
say?"

"Beret, Beret!" moaned Mildrid; "have I ever been anything but kind to
you since you were a little child. Why are you so cruel to me now that
I am in trouble?"

Then Beret, moved by her tears, let go her arms; but her short hard
breathing still betrayed her excitement. "Is it Hans Haugen?" she
whispered.

There was a moment of breathless suspense, and then Mildrid whispered
back: "Yes"--and began to cry again.

Beret drew down her arms once more; she wanted to see her face. "Why
did you not tell me about it, Mildrid?" she asked, with the same
fierce eagerness.

"Beret, I didn't know it myself. I never saw him till yesterday. And
as soon as I saw him I loved him, and let him see it, and that is what
is making me so unhappy, so unhappy that I feel as if I must die of
it!"

"You never saw him before yesterday?" screamed Beret, so astonished
that she could hardly believe it.

"Never in my life!" replied Mildrid. "Isn't it shameful, Beret?"

But Beret threw her arms round her sister's neck, and kissed her over
and over again.

"Dear, sweet Mildrid, I'm so glad!" she whispered, now radiant with
joy. "I'm so glad, so glad!" and she kissed her once more. "And you'll
see how I can keep a secret, Mildrid!" She hugged her to her breast,
but sat up again, and said sorrowfully: "And you thought I couldn't do
it; O Mildrid! not even when it was about you!"

And now it was Beret's turn to cry. "Why have you put me away? Why
have you taken Inga instead of me? You've made me so dreadfully
unhappy, Mildrid! O Mildrid, you don't know how I love you!" and she
clung to her. Then Mildrid kissed her, and told her that she had done
it without thinking what she was doing, but that now she would never
again put her aside, and would tell her everything, because she was so
good and true and faithful.

The sisters lay for a little with their arms round each other; then
Beret sat up again; she wanted to look into her sister's face in the
light of the summer night, that was gradually taking a tinge of red
from the coming dawn. Then she burst out with: "Mildrid, how handsome
he is! How did he come? How did you see him first? What did he say? Do
tell me about it!"

And Mildrid now poured out to her sister all that a few hours ago it
had seemed to her she could never tell to anybody. She was sometimes
interrupted by Beret's throwing her arms round her and hugging her,
but she went on again with all the more pleasure. It seemed to her
like a strange legend of the woods. They laughed and they cried. Sleep
had gone from them both. The sun found them still entranced by this
wonderful tale--Mildrid lying down or resting on one elbow and
talking, Beret kneeling beside her, her mouth half open, her eyes
sparkling, from time to time giving a little cry of delight.

They got up together and did their work together, and when they had
finished, and for the sake of appearances taken a little breakfast,
they prepared for the meeting with Hans. He was sure to come soon!
They dressed themselves out in their best, and went up to Mildrid's
place on the hill. Beret showed where she had lain hidden yesterday.
The dog had found her out, she said, and paid her several visits. The
weather was fine to-day too, though there were some clouds in the sky.
The girls found plenty to say to each other, till it was about the
time when Hans might be expected. Beret ran once or twice up to the
top of the hill, to see if he were in sight, but there was no sign of
him. Then they began to grow impatient, and at last Mildrid got so
excited that Beret was frightened. She tried to soothe her by
reminding her that Hans was not his own master; that he had left the
German gentleman two whole days to fish and shoot alone, and prepare
food for himself; and that he would hardly dare to leave him a third.
And Mildrid acknowledged that this might be so.

"What do you think father and mother will say to all this?" asked
Beret, just to divert Mildrid's thoughts. She repented the moment the
words were uttered. Mildrid turned pale and stared at Beret, who
stared back at her. Beret wondered if her sister had never thought of
this till now, and said so. Yes; she had thought of it, but as of
something very far off. The fear of what Hans Haugen might think of
her, the shame of her own weakness and stupidity, had so occupied her
mind that they had left no room for anything else. But now things
suddenly changed round, and she could think of nothing but her
parents.

Beret again tried to comfort her. Whenever father and mother saw
Hans, they would feel that Mildrid was right--they would never make
her unhappy who had given them their greatest happiness. Grandmother
would help her. No one could say a word against Hans Haugen, and _he_
would never give her up! Mildrid heard all this, but did not take it
in, for she was thinking of something else, and to get time to think
it out rightly, she asked Beret to go and prepare the dinner. And
Beret walked slowly away, looking back several times.

Mildrid wanted to be left alone a little to make up her mind whether
she should go at once and tell her parents. It seemed a terrible
matter to her in her excited, exhausted state. She felt now that it
would be a sin if she saw Hans again without their knowledge. She had
done very wrong in engaging herself to him without having their
consent; but she had been in a manner surprised into that; it had come
about almost without her will. Her duty now, though, was clearly to go
and tell them.

She rose to her feet, with a new light in her eyes. She would do what
was right. Before Hans stood there again, her parents should know all.
"That's it!" she said, aloud, as if some one were there, and then
hurried down to the soeter to tell Beret. But Beret was nowhere to
be seen. "Beret! Beret!" shouted Mildrid, but only the echoes gave
answer. Excited Mildrid was already, but now she got frightened too.
Beret's great eyes, as she asked: "What do you think father and mother
will say to this?" seemed to grow ever greater and more threatening.
Surely _she_ could never have gone off to tell them? Yet it would be
just like her hasty way to think she would settle the thing at once,
and bring comfort to her sister. To be sure that was it! And if Beret
reached home before her, father and mother would get a wrong idea of
everything!

Off Mildrid went, down the road that led to the valley. She walked
unconsciously faster and faster, carried away by ever-increasing
excitement; till her head began to turn and her breathing to get
oppressed. She had to sit down for a rest. Sitting did not seem to
help her, so she stretched herself out, resting her head on her arm,
and lay there, feeling forsaken, helpless, almost betrayed--by
affection it was true--but still betrayed.

In a few moments she was asleep! For two days and nights she had
hardly slept or eaten; and she had no idea of the effect this had had
on her mind and body--the child who till now had eaten and slept so
regularly and peacefully in her quiet home. How was it possible that
she could understand anything at all of what had happened to her? All
that she had been able to give to her affectionate but melancholy
parents out of her heart's rich store of love, was a kind of watchful
care; in her grandmother's brighter home longings for something more
had often come over her, but there was nothing even there to satisfy
them. So now when love's full spring burst upon her, she stood amidst
its rain of blossoms frightened and ashamed.

Tormented by her innocent conscience, the poor tired child had run a
race with herself till she fell--now she slept, caressed by the pure
mountain breeze.

Beret had not gone home, but away to fetch Hans Haugen. She had far to
go, and most of the way was unknown to her. It went first by the edge
of a wood, and then higher over bare flats, not quite safe from wild
animals, which she knew had been seen there lately. But she went on,
for Hans really must come. If he did not, she was sure things would go
badly with Mildrid; she seemed so changed to-day.

In spite of her anxiety about Mildrid, Beret's heart was light, and
she stepped merrily on, her thoughts running all the time on this
wonderful adventure. She could think of no one better or grander than
Hans Haugen, and none but the very best was good enough for Mildrid.
There was nothing whatever to be surprised at in Mildrid's giving
herself up to him at once; just as little as in his at once falling in
love with her. If father and mother could not be brought to
understand this, they must just be left to do as they chose, and the
two must fight their own battle as her great-grandparents had done,
and her grandparents too--and she began to sing the old Bridal March.
Its joyful tones sounded far over the bare heights and seemed to die
away among the clouds.

When she got right on the top of the hill she was crossing, she stood
and shouted "Hurrah!" From here she could see only the last strip of
cultivated land on the farther side of their valley; and on this side
the upper margin of the forest, above it stretches of heather, and
where she stood, nothing but boulders and flat rocks. She flew from
stone to stone in the light air. She knew that Hans's hut lay in the
direction of the snow mountain whose top stood out above all the
others, and presently she thought that she must be getting near it. To
get a better look around she climbed up on to an enormous stone, and
from the top of it she saw a mountain lake just below. Whether it was
a rock or a hut she saw by the water's edge she could not be sure; one
minute it looked like a hut, the next like a big stone. But she knew
that his cabin lay by a mountain lake. Yes, that must be it, for there
came a boat rowing round the point. Two men were in the boat--they
must be Hans and the German officer. Down she jumped and off again.
But what had looked so near was really far off, and she ran and ran,
excited by the thought of meeting Hans Haugen.

Hans sat quietly in his boat with the German, ignorant of all the
disturbance he had caused. _He_ had never known what it was to be
frightened; nor had he ever till now known the feeling of being in
love. As soon as he did feel it, it was intolerable to him until he
had settled the matter. Now it was settled, and he was sitting there
setting words to the Bridal March!

He was not much of a poet, but he made out something about their ride
to church, and the refrain of every verse told of their meeting in the
wood. He whistled and fished and felt very happy; and the German
fished away quietly and left him in peace.

A halloo sounded from the shore, and both he and the bearded German
looked up and saw a girl waving. They exchanged a few words and rowed
ashore. Hans jumped out and tied up the boat, and they lifted out the
guns, coats, fish, and fishing tackle; the German went away towards
the cabin, but Hans with his load came up to Beret, who was standing
on a stone a little way off.

"Who are you?" he asked gently.

"Beret, Mildrid's sister," she answered, blushing, and he blushed too.
But the next moment he turned pale.

"Is there anything the matter?"

"No! just that you must come. She can't bear to be left alone just
now."

He stood a minute and looked at her, then turned and went towards the
hut. The German was standing outside, hanging up his fishing tackle;
Hans hung up his, and they spoke together, and then went in. Ever
since Beret's halloo, two dogs, shut up in the cabin, had been
barking with all their might. When the men opened the door they burst
out, but were at once sternly called back. It was some time before
Hans came out again. He had changed his clothes, and had his gun and
dog with him. The German gentleman came to the door, and they shook
hands as if saying good-bye for a considerable time. Hans came up
quickly to Beret.

"Can you walk fast?" he asked.

"Of course I can."

And off they went, she running, the dog far ahead.

Beret's message had entirely changed the current of Hans's thoughts.
It had never occurred to him before that Mildrid might not have the
same happy, sure feeling about their engagement that he had. But now
he saw how natural it was that she should be uneasy about her parents;
and how natural, too, that she should feel alarmed by the hurried rush
in which everything had come about. He understood it so well now that
he was perfectly astonished at himself for not having thought of it
before--and on he strode.

Even on him the suddenness of the meeting with Mildrid, and the
violence of their feelings, had at first made a strange impression;
what must she, a child, knowing nothing but the quiet reserve of her
parents' house, have felt, thus launched suddenly on the stormy sea of
passion!--and on he strode.

While he was marching along, lost in these reflections, Beret was
trotting at his side, always, when she could, with her face turned
towards his. Now and then he had caught a glimpse of her big eyes and
flaming cheeks; but his thoughts were like a veil over his sight; he
saw her indistinctly, and then suddenly not at all. He turned round;
she was a good way behind, toiling after him as hard as she could. She
had been too proud to say that she could not keep up with him any
longer. He stood and waited till she made up to him, breathless, with
tears in her eyes. "Ah! I'm walking too fast," and he held out his
hand. She was panting so that she could not answer. "Let us sit down a
little," he said, drawing her to him; "come!" and he made her sit
close to him. If possible she got redder than before, and did not look
at him; and she drew breath so painfully that it seemed as if she were
almost choking. "I'm so thirsty!" was the first thing she managed to
say. They rose and he looked round, but there was no stream near. "We
must wait till we get a little farther on," he said; "and anyhow it
wouldn't be good for you to drink just now."

So they sat down again, she on a stone in front of him.

"I ran the whole way," she said, as if to excuse herself--and
presently added, "and I have had no dinner," and after another
pause--"and I didn't sleep last night."

Instead of expressing any sympathy with her, he asked sharply: "Then I
suppose Mildrid did not sleep last night either? And she has not
eaten, I saw that myself, not for"--he thought a little--"not for ever
so long."

He rose. "Can you go on now?"

"I think so."

He took her hand, and they set off again at a tremendous pace. Soon he
saw that she could not keep it up, so he took off his coat, gave it to
her to hold, and lifted her up and carried her. She did not want him
to do it, but he just went easily off with her, and Beret held on by
his neckerchief, for she dared not touch him. Soon she said that she
had got her breath and could run quite well again, so he put her down,
took his coat and hung it over his gun--and off they went! When they
came to a stream they stopped and rested a little before she took a
drink. As she got up he gave her a friendly smile, and said: "You're a
good little one."

Evening was coming on when they reached the soeter. They looked in
vain for Mildrid, both there and at her place on the hillside. Their
calls died away in the distance, and when Hans noticed the dog
standing snuffing at something they felt quite alarmed. They ran to
look--it was her little shawl. At once Hans set the dog to seek the
owner of the shawl. He sprang off, and they after him, across the hill
and down on the other side, towards Tingvold. Could she have gone
home? Beret told of her own thoughtless question and its consequences,
and Hans said he saw it all. Beret began to cry.

"Shall we go after her or not?" said Hans.

"Yes, yes!" urged Beret, half distracted. But first they would have to
go to the next soeter, and ask their neighbours to send some one to
attend to the cows for them. While they were still talking about this,
and at the same time following the dog, they saw him stop and look
back, wagging his tail. They ran to him, and there lay Mildrid!

She was lying with her head on her arm, her face half buried in the
heather. They stepped up gently; the dog licked her hands and cheek,
and she stretched herself and changed her position, but slept on. "Let
her sleep!" whispered Hans; "and you go and put in the cows. I hear
the bells." As Beret was running off he went after her. "Bring some
food with you when you come back," he whispered. Then he sat down a
little way from Mildrid, made the dog lie down beside him, and sat and
held him to keep him from barking.

It was a cloudy evening. The near heights and the mountain-tops were
grey; it was very quiet; there was not even a bird to be seen. He sat
or lay, with his hand on the dog. He had soon settled what to arrange
with Mildrid when she awoke. There was no cloud in their future; he
lay quietly looking up into the sky. He knew that their meeting was a
miracle. God Himself had told him that they were to go through life
together.

He fell to working away at the Bridal March again, and the words that
came to him now expressed the quiet happiness of the hour.

It was about eight o'clock when Beret came back, bringing food with
her. Mildrid was still sleeping. Beret set down what she was carrying,
looked at them both for a minute, and then went and sat down a little
way from them. Nearly an hour passed, Beret getting up from time to
time to keep herself from falling asleep. Soon after nine Mildrid
awoke. She turned several times, at last opened her eyes, saw where
she was lying, sat up, and noticed the others. She was still
bewildered with sleep, so that she did not take in rightly where she
was or what she saw, till Hans rose and came smiling towards her. Then
she held out her hands to him.

He sat down beside her:

"You've had a sleep now, Mildrid?"

"Yes, I've slept now."

"And you're hungry?"

"Yes, I'm hungry----" and Beret came forward with the food. She looked
at it and then at them. "Have I slept long?" she asked.

"Well, it's almost nine o'clock; look at the sun!"

Not till now did she begin to remember everything.

"Have you sat here long?"

"No, not very long--but you must eat!" She began to do so. "You were
on your way down to the valley?" asked Hans gently, with his head
nearer hers. She blushed and whispered, "Yes."

"To-morrow, when you've really had a good sleep and rest, we'll go
down together."

Her eyes looked into his, first in surprise, then as if she were
thanking him, but she said nothing.

After this she seemed to revive; she asked Beret where _she_ had been,
and Beret told that she had gone to fetch Hans, and he told all the
rest. Mildrid ate and listened, and yielded gradually once again to
the old fascination. She laughed when Hans told her how the dog had
found her, and had licked her face without wakening her. He was at
this moment greedily watching every bite she took, and she began to
share with him.

As soon as she had finished, they went slowly towards the soeter--and
Beret was soon in bed. The two sat on the bench outside the door.
Small rain was beginning to fall, but the broad eaves kept them from
feeling it. The mist closed round the soeter, and shut them in in
a sort of magic circle. It was neither day nor night, but dark rather
than light. Each softly spoken word brought more confidence into their
talk. Now for the first time they were really speaking to each other.
He asked her so humbly to forgive him for not having remembered that
she must feel differently from him, and that she had parents who must
be consulted. She confessed her fear, and then she told him that he
was the first real, strong, self-reliant man she had ever known, and
that this, and other things she had heard about him, had--she would
not go on.

But in their trembling happiness everything spoke, to the slightest
breath they drew. That wonderful intercourse began of soul with soul,
which in most cases precedes and prepares for the first embrace, but
with these two came after it. The first timid questions came through
the darkness, the first timid answers found their way back. The words
fell softly, like spirit sounds on the night air. At last Mildrid took
courage to ask hesitatingly if her behaviour had not sometimes struck
him as very strange. He assured her that he had never thought it so,
never once. Had he not noticed that she had not said one word all the
time they were together yesterday? No, he had not noticed that. Had he
not wondered at her going off down to her parents? No, he had thought
it only right of her. Had he not thought (for a long time she would
not say this, but at last the words came, in a whisper, with her face
turned away), had he not thought that she had let things go too
quickly? No, he had only thought how beautifully everything had
happened. But what had he thought of the way she had cried at their
first meeting? Well, at the time it had puzzled him, but now he
understood it, quite well--and he was glad she was like that.

All these answers made her so happy that she felt she wanted to be
alone. And as if he had guessed this, he got up quietly and said that
now she must go to bed. She rose. He nodded and went off slowly
towards the shed where he was to sleep; she hurried in, undressed,
and when she had got into bed she folded her hands and thanked God.
Oh, how she thanked Him! Thanked Him for Hans's love, and patience,
and kindness--she had not words enough! Thanked Him for all, all,
everything--even for the suffering of the last two days--for had it
not made the joy all the greater? Thanked Him for their having been
alone up there at this time, and prayed Him to be with her to-morrow
when she went down to her parents, then turned her thoughts again to
Hans, and gave thanks for him once more, oh, how gratefully!

When she came out of the soeter-house in the morning, Beret was
still sleeping. Hans was standing in the yard. He had been punishing
the dog for rousing a ptarmigan, and it was now lying fawning on him.
When he saw Mildrid he let the dog out of disgrace; it jumped up on
him and her, barked and caressed them, and was like a living
expression of their own bright morning happiness. Hans helped Mildrid
and the boys with the morning work. By the time they had done it all
and were ready to sit down to breakfast, Beret was up and ready too.
Every time Hans looked at her she turned red, and when Mildrid after
breakfast stood playing with his watch chain while she spoke to him,
Beret hurried out, and was hardly to be found when it was time for the
two to go.

"Mildrid," said Hans, coming close to her and walking slowly, when
they had got on a little way, "I have been thinking about something
that I didn't say to you yesterday." His voice sounded so serious that
she looked up into his face. He went on slowly, without looking at
her; "I want to ask you if--God granting that we get each other--if
you will go home with me after the wedding and live at Haugen."

She turned red, and presently answered evasively:

"What will father and mother say to that?"

He walked on without answering for a minute, and then said:

"I did not think that mattered so much, if we two were agreed about
it."

This was the first time he had said a thing that hurt her. She made
no reply. He seemed to be waiting for one, and when none came, added
gently:

"I wanted us two to be alone together, to get accustomed to each
other."

Now she began to understand him better, but she could not answer. He
walked on as before, not looking at her, and now quite silent. She
felt uneasy, stole a glance at him, and saw that he had turned quite
pale.

"Hans!" she cried, and stood still without being conscious of doing
it. Hans stopped too, looked quickly at her, and then down at his gun,
which he was resting on the ground and turning in his hand.

"Can you not go with me to my home?" His voice was very low, but all
at once he looked her straight in the face.

"Yes, I can!" she answered quickly. Her eyes looked calmly into his,
but a faint blush came over her cheeks. He changed his gun into his
left hand, and held out the right to her.

"Thank you!" he whispered, holding hers in a firm clasp; Then they
went on.

She was brooding over one thought all the time, and at last could not
keep it in: "You don't know my father and mother."

He went on a little before he answered: "No, but when you come and
live at Haugen, I'll have time then to get to know them."

"They are so good!" added Mildrid.

"So I have heard from every one." He said this decidedly, but coldly.

Before she had time to think or say anything more, he began to tell
about _his_ home, his brothers and sisters, and their industry,
affectionateness, and cheerfulness; about the poverty they had raised
themselves from; about the tourists who came and all the work they
gave; about the house, and especially about the new one he would now
build for her and himself. She was to be the mistress of the whole
place--but they would help her in everything; they would all try to
make her life happy, he not least. As he talked they walked on
faster; he spoke warmly, came closer to her, and at last they walked
hand in hand.

It could not be denied that his love for his home and his family made
a strong impression on her, and there was a great attraction in the
newness of it all; but behind this feeling lay one of wrong-doing
towards her parents, her dear, kind parents. So she began again:
"Hans! mother is getting old now, and father is older; they have had a
great deal of trouble--they need help; they've worked so hard,
and--" she either would not or could not say more.

He walked slower and looked at her, smiling. "Mildrid, you mean that
they have settled to give you the farm?"

She blushed, but did not answer.

"Well, then--we'll let that alone till the time comes. When they want
us to take their places, it's for them to ask us to do it." He said
this very gently and tenderly, but she felt what it meant. Thoughtful
of others, as she always was, and accustomed to consider their
feelings before her own, she yielded in this too. But very soon they
came to where they could see Tingvold in the valley below them. She
looked down at it, and then at him, as if it could speak for itself.

The big sunny fields on the hill slope, with the wood encircling and
sheltering them, the house and farm buildings a little in the shadow,
but big and fine--it all looked so beautiful. The valley, with its
rushing, winding river, stretched away down beyond, with farm after
farm in the bottom and on its slopes on both sides--but none, not
one to equal Tingvold--none so fertile or so pleasant to the eye, none
so snugly sheltered, and yet commanding the whole valley. When she saw
that Hans was struck by the sight, she reddened with joy.

"Yes," he said, in answer to her unspoken question--"yes, it is true;
Tingvold is a fine place; it would be hard to find its equal."

He smiled and bent down to her. "But I care more for you, Mildrid,
than for Tingvold; and perhaps--you care more for me than for
Tingvold?"

When he took it this way she could say no more. He looked so happy
too; he sat down, and she beside him.

"Now I'm going to sing something for you," he whispered.

She felt glad. "I've never heard you sing," she said.

"No, I know you have not; and though people talk about my singing, you
must not think it's anything very great. There's only this about it,
that it comes upon me sometimes, and then I _must_ sing."

He sat thinking for a good while, and then he sang her the song that
he had made for their own wedding to the tune of her race's Bridal
March. Quite softly he sang it, but with such exultation as she had
never heard in any voice before. She looked down on her home, the
house she was to drive away from on that day; followed the road with
her eyes down to the bridge across the river, and along on the other
side right up to the church, which lay on a height, among birch-trees,
with a group of houses near it. It was not a very clear day, but the
subdued light over the landscape was in sympathy with the subdued
picture in her mind. How many hundred times had she not driven that
road in fancy, only she never knew with whom! The words and the tune
entranced her; the peculiar warm, soft voice seemed to touch the very
depths of her being; her eyes were full, but she was not crying; nor
was she laughing. She was sitting with her hand on his, now looking at
him, now over the valley, when she saw smoke beginning to rise from
the chimney of her home; the fire was being lit for making the dinner.
This was an omen; she turned to Hans and pointed. He had finished his
song now, and they sat still and looked.

Very soon they were on their way down through the birch wood, and Hans
was having trouble with the dog, to make him keep quiet. Mildrid's
heart began to throb. Hans arranged with her that he would stay
behind, but near the house; it was better that she should go in first
alone. He carried her over one or two marshy places, and he felt that
her hands were cold. "Don't think of what you're to say," he
whispered; "just wait and see how things come." She gave no sound in
answer, nor did she look at him.

They came out of the wood--the last part had been big dark fir-trees,
among which they had walked slowly, he quietly telling her about her
great-grandfather's wooing of his father's sister, Aslaug; an old,
strange story, which she only half heard, but which all the same
helped her--came out of the wood into the open fields and meadows; and
he became quiet too. Now she turned to him, and her look expressed
such a great dread of what was before her that it made him feel
wretched. He found no words of encouragement; the matter concerned him
too nearly. They walked on a little farther, side by side, some bushes
between them and the house concealing them from its inhabitants. When
they got so near that he thought she must now go on alone, he
whistled softly to the dog, and she took this as the sign that they
must part. She stopped and looked utterly unhappy and forlorn; he
whispered to her: "I'll be praying for you here, Mildrid--and I'll
come when you need me." She gave him a kind of distracted look of
thanks; she was really unable either to think or to see clearly. Then
she walked on.

As soon as she came out from the bushes she saw right into the big
room of the main building--right through it--for it had windows at
both ends, one looking up towards the wood and one down the valley.
Hans had seated himself behind the nearest bush, with the dog at his
side, and he too could see everything in the room; at this moment
there was no one in it. Mildrid looked back once when she came to the
barn, and he nodded to her. Then she went round the end of the barn,
into the yard.

Everything stood in its old, accustomed order, and it was very quiet.
Some hens were walking on the barn-steps. The wooden framework for
the stacks had been brought out and set up against the storehouse wall
since she was there last; that was the only change she saw. She turned
to the right to go first into grandmother's house, her fear tempting
her to take this little respite before meeting her parents; when, just
between the two houses, at the wood-block, she came on her father,
fitting a handle to an axe. He was in his knitted jersey with the
braces over it, bareheaded, his thin long hair blowing in the breeze
that was beginning to come up from the valley. He looked well, and
almost cheerful at his work, and she took courage at the sight. He did
not notice her, she had come so quietly and cautiously over the
flagstones.

"Good morning!" she said in a low voice.

He looked at her in surprise for a moment.

"Is that you, Mildrid? Is there anything the matter?" he added
hastily, examining her face.

"No," she said, and blushed a little. But he kept his eyes on hers,
and she did not dare to look up.

Then he put down the axe, saying:

"Let us go in to mother!"

On the way he asked one or two questions about things up at the
soeter, and got satisfactory answers.

"Now Hans sees us going in," thought Mildrid, as they passed a gap
between the barn and some of the smaller outhouses.

When they got into the living-room, her father went to the door
leading into the kitchen, opened it, and called:

"Come here, mother! Mildrid has come down."

"Why, Mildrid, has anything gone wrong?" was answered from the
kitchen.

"No," replied Mildrid from behind her father, and then coming to the
door herself, she went into the kitchen and stood beside her mother,
who was sitting by the hearth paring potatoes and putting them in the
pot.

Her mother now looked as inquiringly at her as her father had done,
with the same effect. Then Randi set away the potato dish, went to
the outer door and spoke to some one there, came back again, took off
her kitchen apron and washed her hands, and they went together into
the room.

Mildrid knew her parents, and knew that these preparations meant that
they expected something unusual. She had had little courage before,
but now it grew less. Her father took his raised seat close to the
farthest away window, the one that looked down the valley. Her mother
sat on the same bench, but nearer the kitchen. Mildrid seated herself
on the opposite one, in front of the table. Hans could see her there;
and he could see her father, right in the face, but her mother he
could hardly see.

Her mother asked, as her father had done before, about things at the
soeter; got the same information and a little more; for she asked
more particularly. It was evident that both sides were making this
subject last as long as possible, but it was soon exhausted. In the
pause that came, both parents looked at Mildrid. She avoided the look,
and asked what news there was of the neighbours. This subject was
also drawn out as long as possible, but it came to an end too. The
same silence, the same expectant eyes turned on the daughter. There
was nothing left for her to ask about, and she began to rub her hand
back and forwards on the bench.

"Have you been in at grandmother's?" asked her mother, who was
beginning to get frightened.

No, she had not been there. This meant then that their daughter had
something particular to say to _them_, and it could not with any
seemliness be put off longer.

"There is something that I must tell you," she got out at last, with
changing colour and downcast eyes.

Her father and mother exchanged troubled looks. Mildrid raised her
head and looked at them with great imploring eyes.

"What is it, my child?" asked her mother anxiously.

"I am betrothed," said Mildrid; hung her head again, and burst into
tears.

No more stunning blow could have fallen on the quiet circle. The
parents sat looking at each other, pale and silent. The steady, gentle
Mildrid, for whose careful ways and whose obedience they had so often
thanked God, had, without asking their advice, without their
knowledge, taken life's most important step, a step that was also
decisive for _their_ past and future. Mildrid felt each thought along
with them, and fear stopped her crying.

Her father asked gently and slowly: "To whom, my child?"

After a silence came the whispered answer: "To Hans Haugen."

No name or event connected with Haugen had been mentioned in that room
for more than twenty years. In her parents' opinion nothing but evil
had come to Tingvold from there. Mildrid again knew their thoughts:
she sat motionless, awaiting her sentence.

Her father spoke again mildly and slowly: "We don't know the man,
neither I nor your mother--and we didn't know that you knew him."

"And I didn't know him either," said Mildrid.

The astonished parents looked at each other. "How did it happen then?"
It was her mother who asked this.

"That is what I don't know myself," said Mildrid.

"But, my child, surely you're mistress of your own actions?"

Mildrid did not answer.

"We thought," added her father gently, "that we could be quite sure of
_you_."

Mildrid did not answer.

"But how did it happen?" repeated her mother more impatiently; "you
must know that!"

"No, I don't know it--I only know that I could not help it--no, I
couldn't!" She was sitting holding on to the bench with both hands.

"God forgive and help you! Whatever came over you?"

Mildrid gave no answer.

Her father calmed their rising excitement by saying in a gentle,
friendly voice: "Why did you not speak to one of us, my child?"

And her mother controlled herself, and said quietly: "You know how
much we think of our children, we who have lived such a lonely life;
and--yes, we may say it, especially of you, Mildrid; for you have been
so much to us."

Mildrid felt as if she did not know where she was.

"Yes, we did not think you would desert us like this."

It was her father who spoke last. Though the words came gently, they
did not hurt the less.

"I will not desert you!" she stammered.

"You must not say that," he answered, more gravely than before, "for
you have done it already."

Mildrid felt that this was true, and at the same time that it was not
true, but she could not put her feeling into words.

Her mother went on: "Of what good has it all been, the love that we
have shown our children, and the fear of God that we have taught them?
In the first temptation--" for her daughter's sake she could say no
more.

But Mildrid could bear it no longer. She threw her arms over the
table, laid her head on them, her face towards her father, and sobbed.

Neither father nor mother was capable of adding by another reproachful
word to the remorse she seemed to feel. So there was silence.

It might have lasted long--but Hans Haugen saw from where he sat that
she was in need of help. His hunter's eye had caught every look, seen
the movement of their lips, seen her silent struggle; now he saw her
throw herself on the table, and he jumped up, and soon his light foot
was heard in the passage. He knocked; they all looked up, but no one
said, "Come in!" Mildrid half rose, blushing through her tears; the
door opened, and Hans with his gun and dog stood there, pale but quite
composed. He turned and shut the door, while the dog, wagging its
tail, went up to Mildrid. Hans had been too preoccupied to notice that
it had followed him in.

"Good morning!" said he. Mildrid fell back on her seat, drew a long
breath, and looked at him with relief in her eyes; her fear, her bad
conscience--all gone! _She was right, yes; she was right_--let come
now whatever it pleased God to send!

No one had answered Hans's greeting, nor had he been asked to come
forward.

"I am Hans Haugen," he said quietly; lowered his gun and stood holding
it. After the parents had exchanged looks once or twice, he went on,
but with a struggle: "I came down with Mildrid, for if she has done
wrong, it was my fault."

Something had to be said. The mother looked at the father, and at last
he said that all this had happened without their knowing anything of
it, and that Mildrid could give them no explanation of how it had come
about. Hans answered that neither could he. "I am not a boy," he said,
"for I am twenty-eight; but yet it came this way, that I, who never
cared for any one before, could think of nothing else in the world
from the time I saw her. If she had said No--well, I can't tell--but I
shouldn't have been good for much after that."

The quiet, straightforward way he said this made a good impression.
Mildrid trembled; for she felt that this gave things a different look.
Hans had his cap on, for in their district it was not the custom for a
passer-by to take off his hat when he came in; but now he took it off
unconsciously, hung it on the barrel of his gun, and crossed his hands
over it. There was something about his whole appearance and behaviour
that claimed consideration.

"Mildrid is so young," said her mother; "none of us had thought of
anything like this beginning with her already."

"That is true enough, but to make up I am so much older," he answered;
"and the housekeeping at home, in my house, is no great affair; it
will not task her too hard--and I have plenty of help."

The parents looked at each other, at Mildrid, at him. "Do you mean her
to go home with you?" the father asked incredulously, almost
ironically.

"Yes," said Hans; "it is not the farm that I am coming after." He
reddened, and so did Mildrid.

If the farm had sunk into the ground the parents could not have been
more astonished than they were at hearing it thus despised, and
Mildrid's silence showed that she agreed with Hans. There was
something in this resolution of the young people, unintentional on
their part, that, as it were, took away from the parents the right of
decision; they felt themselves humbled.

"And it was you who said that you would not forsake us," said her
mother in quiet reproach, that went to Mildrid's heart. But Hans came
to her assistance:

"Every child that marries has to leave its parents."

He smiled, and added in a friendly way: "But it's not a long journey
to Haugen from here--just a little over four miles."

Words are idle things at a time like this; thoughts take their own way
in spite of them. The parents felt themselves deserted, almost
deceived by the young ones. They knew that there was no fault to be
found with the way of living at Haugen; the tourists had given the
place a good name; from time to time it had been noticed in the
newspapers; but Haugen was Haugen, and that their dearest child should
wish to carry their race back to Haugen was more than they could bear!
In such circumstances most people would likely have been angry, but
what these two desired was to get quietly away from what pained them.
They exchanged a look of understanding, and the father said mildly:

"This is too much for us all at once; we can't well give our answer
yet."

"No," continued the mother; "we were not expecting such great
news--nor to get it like this."

Hans stood quiet for a minute before he said:

"It is true enough that Mildrid should first have asked her parents'
leave. But remember that neither of us knew what was happening till it
was too late. For that is really the truth. Then we could do no more
than come at once, both of us, and that we have done. You must not be
too hard on us."

This left really nothing more to be said about their behaviour, and
Hans's quiet manner made his words sound all the more trustworthy.
Altogether Endrid felt that he was not holding his own against him,
and the little confidence he had in himself made him the more desirous
to get away.

"We do not know you," he said, and looked at his wife. "We must be
allowed to think it over."

"Yes, that will certainly be best," went on Randi; "we ought to know
something about the man we are to give our child to."

Mildrid felt the offence there was in these words, but looked
imploringly at Hans.

"That is true," answered Hans, beginning to turn his gun under the one
hand; "although I don't believe there are many men in the district
much better known than I am. But perhaps some one has spoken ill of
me?" He looked up to them.

Mildrid sat there feeling ashamed on her parents' account, and they
themselves felt that they had perhaps awakened a false suspicion, and
this they had no desire to do. So both said at once:

"No, we have heard nothing bad of you."

And the mother hastened to add that it was really the case that they
hardly knew anything about him, for they had so seldom asked about the
Haugen people. She meant no harm at all by saying this, and not till
the words had passed her lips, did she notice that she had expressed
herself unfortunately, and she could see that both her husband and
Mildrid felt the same. It was a little time before the answer came:

"If the family of Tingvold have never asked after the Haugen people,
the fault is not ours; we have been poor people till these last
years."

In these few words lay a reproach that was felt by all three to be
deserved, and that thoroughly. But never till now had it occurred to
either husband or wife that they had been in this case neglecting a
duty; never till now had they reflected that their poor relations at
Haugen should not have been made to suffer for misfortunes of which
they had been in no way the cause. They stole an awkward glance at
each other, and sat still, feeling real shame. Hans had spoken
quietly, though Randi's words must have been very irritating to him.
This made both the old people feel that he was a fine fellow, and that
they had two wrongs to make good again. Thus it came about that Endrid
said:

"Let us take time and think things over; can't you stay here and have
dinner with us? Then we can talk a little."

And Randi added: "Come away here and sit down."

Both of them rose.

Hans set away the gun with his cap on it, and went forward to the
bench on which Mildrid was sitting, whereupon she at once got up, she
did not know why. Her mother said she had things to see to in the
kitchen, and went out. Her father was preparing to go too; but Mildrid
did not wish to be alone with Hans as long as her parents withheld
their consent, so she went towards the other door, and they presently
saw her crossing the yard to her grandmother's house. As Endrid could
not leave Hans alone, he turned and sat down again.

The two men talked together about indifferent matters--first it was
about the hunting, about the Haugen brothers' arrangements in the
little summer huts they had high up on the mountains, about the
profits they made by this sort of thing, &c. &c. From this they came
to Haugen itself, and the tourists, and the farm management; and from
all he heard Endrid got the impression of there being prosperity there
now, and plenty of life. Randi came backwards and forwards, making
preparations for the dinner, and often listened to what was being
said; and it was easy to see that the two old people, at first so shy
of Hans, became by degrees a little surer of him; for the questions
began to be more personal.

They did not fail to observe his good manners at the dinner-table. He
sat with his back to the wall, opposite Mildrid and her mother; the
father sat at the end of the table on his high seat. The farm people
had dined earlier, in the kitchen, where indeed all in the house
generally took their meals together. They were making the difference
to-day because they were unwilling that Hans should be seen. Mildrid
felt at table that her mother looked at her whenever Hans smiled. He
had one of those serious faces that grow very pleasant when they
smile. One or two such things Mildrid added together in her mind, and
brought them to the sum she wanted to arrive at. Only she did not feel
herself so sure, but that the strain in the room was too great for
her, and she was glad enough to escape from it by going after dinner
again to her grandmother's.

The men took a walk about the farm, but they neither went where the
people were working, nor where grandmother could see them. Afterwards
they came and sat in the room again, and now mother had finished her
work and could sit with them. By degrees the conversation naturally
became more confidential, and in course of time (but this was not till
towards evening) Randi ventured to ask Hans how it had all come about
between him and Mildrid; Mildrid herself had been able to give no
account of it. Possibly it was principally out of feminine curiosity
that the mother asked, but the question was a very welcome one to
Hans.

He described everything minutely, and with such evident happiness,
that the old people were almost at once carried away by his story. And
when he came to yesterday--to the forced march Beret had made in
search of him because Mildrid was plunged in anguish of mind on her
parents' account--and then came to Mildrid herself, and told of her
ever-increasing remorse because her parents knew nothing; told of her
flight down to them, and how, worn-out in soul and body, she had had
to sit down and rest and had fallen asleep, alone and unhappy--then
the old people felt that they recognised their child again. And the
mother especially began to feel that she had perhaps been too hard
with her.

While the young man was telling about Mildrid, he was telling too,
without being aware of it, about himself; for his love to Mildrid
showed clearly in every word, and made her parents glad. He felt this
himself at last, and was glad too--and the old couple, unaccustomed to
such quiet self-reliance and strength, felt real happiness. This went
on increasing, till the mother at last, without thinking, said
smilingly:

"I suppose you've arranged everything right up to the wedding, you
two--before asking either of us?"

The father laughed too, and Hans answered, just as it occurred to him
at the moment, by softly singing a single line of the Wedding March,

  "Play away! speed us on! we're in haste, I and you!"

and laughed; but was modest enough at once to turn to something else.
He happened accidentally to look at Randi, and saw that she was quite
pale. He felt in an instant that he had made a mistake in recalling
that tune to her. Endrid looked apprehensively at his wife, whose
emotion grew till it became so strong that she could not stay in the
room; she got up and went out.

"I know I have done something wrong," said Hans anxiously.

Endrid made no reply. Hans, feeling very unhappy, got up to go after
Randi and excuse himself, but sat down again, declaring that he had
meant no harm at all.

"No, you could hardly be expected to understand rightly about that,"
said Endrid.

"Can't _you_ go after her and put it right again!"

He had already such confidence in this man that he dared ask him
anything.

But Endrid said: "No; rather leave her alone just now; I know her."

Hans, who a few minutes before had felt himself at the very goal of
his desires, now felt himself cast into the depths of despair, and
would not be cheered up, though Endrid strove patiently to do it. The
dog helped by coming forward to them; for Endrid went on asking
questions about him, and afterwards told with real pleasure about a
dog he himself had had, and had taken much interest in, as is
generally the way with people leading a lonely life.

Randi had gone out and sat down on the doorstep. The thought of her
daughter's marriage and the sound of the Bridal March together had
stirred up old memories too painfully. _She_ had not, like her
daughter, given herself willingly to a man she loved! The shame of her
wedding-day had been deserved; and that shame, and the trouble, and
the loss of their children--all the suffering and struggle of years
came over her again.

And so all her Bible-reading and all her praying had been of no avail!
She sat there in the most violent agitation! Her grief that she could
thus be overcome caused her in despair to begin the bitterest
self-accusation. Again she felt the scorn of the crowd at her foolish
bridal procession; again she loathed herself for her own
weakness--that she could not stop her crying then, nor her thinking
of it now--that with her want of self-control she had cast undeserved
suspicion on her parents, destroyed her own health and through this
caused the death of the children she bore, and lastly that with all
this she had embittered the life of a loving husband, and feigned a
piety that was not real, as her present behaviour clearly showed!

How dreadful that she still felt it in this way--that she had got no
farther!

Then it burst upon her--both her crying in church and the consuming
bitterness that had spoiled the early years of her married life had
been _wounded vanity_. It was wounded vanity that was weeping now; and
that might at any moment separate her from God, her happiness in this
world and the world to come!

So worthless, so worthless did she feel herself that she dared not
look up to God; for oh! how great were her shortcomings towards Him!
But why, she began to wonder, why had she succumbed just now--at the
moment when her daughter, in all true-heartedness and overflowing
happiness, had given herself to the man she loved? Why at this moment
arouse all the ugly memories and thoughts that lay dormant in her
mind? Was she envious of Mildrid; envious of her own daughter? No,
_that_ she knew she was not--and she began to recover herself.

What a grand thought it was that her daughter was perhaps going to
atone for _her_ fault! Could children do that? Yes, as surely as they
themselves were a work of ours, they could--but we must help too, with
repentance, with gratitude! And before Randi knew what was happening,
she could pray again, bowing in deep humility and contrition before
the Lord, who had once more shown her what she was without Him. She
prayed for grace as one that prays for life; for she felt that it was
life that was coming to her again! Now her account was blotted out; it
was just the last settling of it that had unnerved her.

She rose and looked up through streaming tears; she knew that things
had come right now; there was One who had lifted the burden of pain
from her!

Had she not had the same feeling often before? No, never a feeling
like this--not till now was the victory won. And she went forward
knowing that she had gained the mastery over herself. Something was
broken that till now had bound her--she felt with every movement that
she was free both in soul and body. And if, after God, she had her
daughter to thank for this, that daughter should in return be helped
to enjoy her own happiness to the full.

By this time she was in the passage of grandmother's house; but no one
in the house recognised her step. She took hold of the latch and
opened the door like a different person. "Mildrid, come here!" she
said; and Mildrid and her grandmother looked at each other, for that
was not mother. Mildrid ran to her. What could be happening? Her
mother took her by the arm, shut the door behind her, so that they
were alone, then threw her arms round her neck, and wept and wept,
embracing her with a vehemence and happiness which Mildrid, uplifted
by her love, could return right heartily.

"God for ever bless and recompense you!" whispered the mother.

The two sitting in the other house saw them coming across the yard,
hand in hand, walking so fast that they felt sure something had
happened. The door opened and both came forward. But instead of giving
her to Hans, or saying anything to him or Endrid, the mother just put
her arms once more round her daughter, and repeated with a fresh burst
of emotion: "God for ever bless and reward you!"

Soon they were all sitting in grandmother's room. The old woman was
very happy. She knew quite well who Hans Haugen was--the young people
had often spoken about him; and she at once understood that this union
wiped out, as it were, much that was painful in the life of her son
and his wife. Besides, Hans's good looks rejoiced the cheery old
woman's heart. They all stayed with her, and the day ended with
father, after a psalm, reading from a prayer-book a portion beginning:
"The Lord has been in our house!"

       *       *       *       *       *

I shall only tell of two days in their life after this, and in each of
these days only of a few minutes.

The first is the young people's wedding-day. Inga, Mildrid's cousin,
herself a married woman now, had come to deck out the bride. This was
done in the store-house. The old chest which held the family's bridal
silver ornaments--crown, girdle, stomacher, brooches, rings--was drawn
from its place. Grandmother had the key of it, and came to open it,
Beret acting as her assistant. Mildrid had put on her wedding-dress
and all the ornaments that belonged to herself, before this grandeur
(well polished by Beret and grandmother the week before) came to
light, glittering and heavy. One after another each ornament was
tried. Beret held the mirror in front of the bride. Grandmother told
how many of her family had worn these silver things on their
wedding-day, the happiest of them all her own mother, Aslaug Haugen.

Presently they heard the Bridal March played outside; they all
stopped, listened, and then hurried to the door to see what it meant.
The first person they saw was Endrid, the bride's father. He had seen
Hans Haugen with his brothers and sisters coming driving up the road
to the farm. It was not often that any idea out of the common came to
Endrid, but on this occasion it did occur to him that these guests
ought to be received with the March of their race. He called out the
fiddlers and started them; he was standing beside them himself, and
some others had joined him, when Hans and his good brothers and
sisters, in two carriages, drove into the yard. It was easily seen
that this reception touched them.

An hour later the March of course struck up again. This was when the
bride and bridegroom, and after them the bride's parents, came out,
with the players going before them, to get into the carriages. At some
great moments in our lives all the omens are propitious; to-day the
bridal party drove away from Tingvold in glorious spring weather. The
crowd at the church was so great that no one remembered having seen
the like of it, on any occasion. And in this gathering each person
knew the story of the family, and its connection with the Bridal March
which was sounding exultantly in the sunshine over the heads of bride
and bridegroom.

And because they were all thinking of the one thing, the pastor took a
text for his address that allowed him to explain how our children are
our life's crown, bearing clear witness to our honour, our
development, our work.

On the way back from the altar Hans stopped just outside the
church-door; he said something; the bride, in her superhuman
happiness, did not hear it; but she felt what it was. He wished her to
look at Ole Haugen's grave, how richly clad in flowers it lay to-day.
She looked, and they passed out almost touching his headstone; the
parents following them.

The other incident in their life that must be recalled is the visit of
Endrid and Randi as grandparents. Hans had carried out his
determination that they were to live at Haugen, although he had to
promise that he would take Tingvold when the old people either could
or would no longer manage it, and when the old grandmother was dead.
But in their whole visit there is only one single thing that concerns
us here, and that is that Randi, after a kind reception and good
entertainment, when she was sitting with her daughter's child on her
knee, began rocking it and crooning something--and what she crooned
was the Bridal March. Her daughter clasped her hands in wonder and
delight, but controlled herself at once and kept silence; Hans offered
Endrid more to drink, which he declined; but this was on both sides
only an excuse for exchanging a look.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 1: The old superstition that every man is followed by a
"Vardöger" (an invisible animal, resembling him in character) is still
common among the peasants.]



ONE DAY


CHAPTER I

Ella was generally known as the girl with the plait. But, thick as the
plait was, if it had belonged to any one less shapely, less blonde,
less sprightly, hardly any one would have noticed it; the merry life
which it led behind her would have passed unobserved, and that,
although it was the thickest plait which any one in the little town
had ever boasted. Perhaps it looked even thicker than it really was,
because Ella herself was little. It is not necessary to give its exact
length, but it reached below her waist; a long way below it. Its
colour was doubtful but inclined a little to red, though people in the
town generally called it light, and we will accept their dictum
without going into the question of half-tones. Her face was noticeable
for its white skin, pretty shape, and classic profile; she had a
small, full mouth, and eyes of unusual frankness, a trim little
figure, but with rather short legs, so that in order to get over the
ground as fast as it was her nature to do, her feet had to move very
quickly. She was quick, indeed, in everything which she undertook, and
that no doubt was why the plait was busier than plaits are wont to be.

Her mother was the widow of a government official, had a small fortune
besides her pension, and lived in her own little house opposite the
hotel close by the market. She was an unassuming woman, whose husband
had influenced her in everything; he had been her pride, her light,
and when she lost him, the object of her life was gone; she became
absorbed in religion; but, as she was not dictatorial, she allowed her
only child--who much resembled her father--to follow her own
inclinations. The mother associated with no one except an elder
sister, who owned a large farm near the town, but Ella was allowed to
bring in her companions from school, boating, skating, and
snow-shoeing; this, however, made no difference, for there was an
instinctive prudence in her choice of friends; her liveliness was
tempered by her mother's society and the quietness of the house. So
that she was active and expeditious without being noisy, frank enough,
but with self-command and heedfulness.

All the more strange, then, was an incident which occurred when she
was between fourteen and fifteen. She had gone with a few friends to a
concert which the Choral Society of the town, and one or two amateurs,
were giving in aid of the Christmas charities. At this concert, Aksel
Aarö sang Möhring's "Sleep in Peace." As every one knows, a subdued
chorus carries the song forward; a flood of moonlight seemed to
envelop it, and through it swept Aksel Aarö's voice. His voice was a
clear, full, deep baritone, from which every one derived great
pleasure. He could have drawn it out, without break or flaw, from
here to Vienna. But within this voice Ella heard another, a
simultaneous sound of weakness or pain, which she never doubted that
everybody could hear. There was an emotion in its depths, an affecting
confidence, which went to her heart; it seemed to say, "Sorrow, sorrow
is the portion of my life; I cannot help myself, I am lost." Before
she herself knew it, she was weeping bitterly. Anything more
impressive than this voice she had never experienced. With every note
her agitation increased, and she lost all control over herself.

Aarö was of moderate height, and slender, with a fair, silky beard,
which hung down over his chest; his head was small, his eyes large and
melancholy, with something in their depths which, like the voice,
seemed to say "Sorrow, sorrow." This melancholy in the eyes she had
noticed before, but had not fully understood it until now, when she
heard his voice. Her tears would flow. But this would not do. She
glanced quickly round; no one else was crying. She set her teeth, she
pressed her arms against her sides, and her knees together till they
ached and trembled. Why in the world should this happen to her and to
no one else? She put her handkerchief to her lips, and forced herself
to think of the beam of light which she had seen flash out from the
lighthouse and disappear again, leaving the sea ghostly in the
darkness. But no! her thoughts would return; they would not be
controlled. Nothing could check the first sob, it would break out.
Before all the astonished eyes she rose, left her seat, slipped
quietly from the room and got away. No one came with her; no one dared
to be seen near her.

You who read this, do you realise how dreadful it was? Have you been
to such a--I had nearly written _silent_--concert, in a Norwegian
coast town of somewhat pietist savour? Hardly any men are present.
Either music is not to the masculine taste in the coast towns, or they
are in some other part of the club, at billiards, or cards, or in the
restaurant drinking punch, or reading the papers. Two or three perhaps
have come up for a moment, and stand near the door, stand like those
to whom the house belongs, and who wish to have a look at the
strangers; or there really are one or two men sitting on the benches,
squeezed in among the many coloured dresses, or else a few specimens
are seen round the walls, like forgotten overcoats.

No! those who gather at the concerts are from the harems of the place;
their elder inhabitants come to dream again, amidst beautiful words
and touching music, of what they once persuaded themselves that they
were, and what they had once believed was awaiting them. It is a
harmless passing amusement. In the main they are better understood up
above than here below, so that if a whiff of the kitchen or a few
household worries do find their way into the dreams, it does not
disturb them. The younger denizens of the harems dream that they _are_
what the elders once believed themselves, and that _they_ will attain
at least to something of what the eldest have never reached. _They_
had gained some information about life. In one thing old and young
resemble each other; they are practical and prosperous by descent.
They never allow their thoughts to stray very far. They know quite
well that the glow which they feel as they listen to the words and
music of great minds is not to be taken too seriously; it is only
"What one always feels, you know."

When, therefore, one among them took this really seriously and began
to cry about it, good gracious! In private it was called "foolery," in
public "scandalous."

Ella had made a spectacle of herself. Her own dismay was immeasurable.
No girl that she knew was less given to tears than herself; that she
was certain of. She had as great a dread as any one of being looked
at, or talked about. What in the world was it then? She was fond of
music, certainly; she played herself, but she did not believe that she
had any remarkable gift. Why, then, should she especially have been
overcome by his song? What must he think of the silly girl? This
thought troubled her most, and on this point she dare not confide in
any one. Most people concluded that she had been ill, and she actually
did keep indoors for a few days, and looked pale when she reappeared.
Her friends teased her about it, but she let the matter drop.

In the winter there were several children's dances, one of which was
at "Andresen's at the corner," and Ella was there. Just at the
conclusion of the second quadrille, she heard whispered "Aksel Aarö,
Aksel Aarö!" and there he stood at the door, with three other young
fellows behind him. The hostess was his elder sister. The four had
come up from a card party to look on.

Ella felt a thrill of delight, and at the same time her knees
threatened to give way under her. She could neither see, nor
understand clearly, but she felt great eyes on her. She was engrossed
in a fold of her dress which did not hang properly, when he stood
before her and said, "What a beautiful plait you have." His voice
seemed to sprinkle it with gold-dust. He put out his hand as though he
were going to touch it, but instead of doing so he stroked his beard.
When he noticed her extreme timidity, he turned away. Several times
during the evening she felt conscious of his presence; but he did not
come up to her again.

The other men took part in the dancing, but Aarö did not dance. There
was something about him which she thought specially charming; a
reserved air of distinction, a polish in his address, a deference of
that quiet kind which alone could have appealed to her. His walk gave
the impression that he kept half his strength in reserve, and this was
the same in everything. He was tall, but not broad-shouldered; the
small, somewhat narrow head, set on a rather long neck. She had never
before noticed the way in which he turned his head. She felt now that
there could be something, yes, almost musical about it.

The room, and all that passed in it, seemed to float in light, but
suddenly this light was gone. A little later she heard some one say,
"Where is Aksel Aarö? Has he left?"

Aarö was not at home for very long that winter. He had already spent
two years at Havre, from which place he had recently returned; he was
now going for a couple of years to Hull. Before this, music had been a
favourite pursuit with Ella; she had especially loved and studied
harmony, but from this time forward she devoted herself to melody. All
music had given her pleasure and she had made some progress in it; but
now it became speech to her. She herself spoke in it or another spoke
to her. Now, whoever she was with, there was always one as well, she
was never alone now, not in the street, not at home; of this the plait
was the sacred symbol.

In the course of the spring Fru Holmbo met Ella in the street as she
was coming from the pastor's house with her prayer-book in her hand.

"Are you going to be confirmed?" asked Fru Holmbo.

"Yes."

"I have a message for you; can you guess from whom?"

Now, Fru Holmbo was a friend of Aksel Aarö's sister and very intimate
with the family. Ella blushed and could not answer.

"I see that you know who it is from," said Fru Holmbo, and Ella
blushed more than ever.

With a rather superior smile--and the prettiest lady in the town had a
superabundance of them--she said, "Aksel Aarö is not fond of writing.
We have only just received his first letter since he left; but in it
he writes that when we see 'the girl with the plait,' we are to
remember him to her.' She cried at Möhring's song; other people might
have done so too,'" he wrote.

The tears sprang to Ella's eyes.

"No, no," said Fru Holmbo consolingly, "there is no harm in that."


CHAPTER II

Two years later, in the course of the winter, Ella was coming quickly
up from the ice with her skates in her hand. She wore her new
tight-fitting jacket for the first time; in fact, it was principally
this jacket which had tempted her out. The plait hung jauntily down
from under her grey cap. It was longer and thicker than ever; it
throve wonderfully.

As usual, she went round by "Andresen's at the corner." To see the
house was enough. Just as her eyes rested on it, Aksel Aarö appeared
in the doorway. He came slowly down the steps. He was at home again!
His fair beard lay on the dark fur of his coat, a fur cap covered his
low forehead and came down almost to his eyes; those large, attractive
eyes. They looked at one another; they had to meet and pass; he
smiled as he raised his cap, and she--stood still and curtseyed, like
a schoolgirl in a short frock. For two years she had not dropped a
curtsey, or done otherwise than bow like a grown-up person. Short
people are most particular about this privilege; but to him, before
whom she specially wished to appear grown-up, she had stood still and
curtseyed as when he had last seen her. Occupied by this mishap she
rushed into another. She said to herself, "Do not look round, keep
yourself stiff, do not look round; do you hear?" But at the corner,
just as she was turning away from him, she did look back for all that,
and saw him do the same. From that moment there were no other people,
no houses, no time or place. She did not know how she got home, or why
she lay crying on her bed, with her face in the pillow.

A fortnight later, there was a large party at the club, in honour of
Aksel Aarö. Every one wished to be there, every one wished to bid
their popular friend welcome home. He had been greatly missed. They
had heard from Hull how indispensable he had by degrees become in
society there. If his voice had had a greater compass--it did not
comprise a large range of notes--he would have obtained an engagement
at Her Majesty's Theatre; so it was said over there. At this ball, the
Choral Society--his old Choral Society--would again sing with him.

Ella was there; she came too early--only four people before her. She
trembled with expectancy in the empty rooms and passages, but more
especially in the hall where she had made "a spectacle of herself."
She wore a red ball-dress, without any ornaments or flowers; this was
by her mother's wish. She feared that she had betrayed herself by
coming so early, and remained alone in a side room; she did not appear
until the rooms had been fully lighted, and the perfume, the buzz of
voices, and the tuning of instruments lured her in. Ella was so short,
that when she came into the crowd, she had not seen Aksel Aarö when
she heard several whispers of "There he is," and some one added, "He
is coming towards us." It was Fru Holmbo for whom he was looking, and
to whom he bowed; but just behind her stood Ella. When she felt that
she was discovered, the bud blushed rosier than its calyx. He left Fru
Holmbo at once.

"Good evening," he said very softly, holding out his hand, which Ella
took without looking up. "Good evening," he said again, still more
softly, and drew nearer.

She was aware of a gentle pressure and had to raise her eyes. They
conveyed a bashful message half confident, half timid. It was a rapid
glance, by which no one was enlightened or scandalised. He looked down
at her, while he stroked his beard, but either because he had nothing
more to say--he was not talkative--or that he could not say what he
wished; he became absolutely silent. In the quiet way which was
peculiar to him he turned and left her. He was on at once by his
friends, and for the rest of the evening she only saw him now and
again, and always at a distance.

He did not dance, but she did. Everybody said how "sweet" she was (it
was said with all respect); and that evening she really did beam with
happiness. In whatever part of the room Aksel Aarö chanced to be, she
felt conscious of his presence, felt a secret delight in whirling past
him. His eyes followed her, his nearness made all and everything
resplendent.

Standing in the doorway was a heavy, sturdy fellow, who had
constituted himself the critic of the assemblage. He appeared to be
between thirty and forty; nearer the latter; he had a weather-beaten,
coarsely-moulded, but spirited face, black hair, and hazel eyes; his
figure approached the gigantic. Every one in the room knew him;
Hjalmar Olsen, the fearless commander of one of the largest steamers.

He scanned the dancers as they passed him, but gave the palm to the
little one in the red dress; she was the pleasantest to look at: not
only was she a fine girl, but her buoyant happiness seemed to infect
him. When Aksel Aarö approached, Hjalmar Olsen received a share of the
love glances which streamed from her eyes. She danced every dance.
Hjalmar Olsen was tall enough to catch glimpses of her in all parts of
the room. She also noticed him; he soon became a lighthouse in her
voyage, but a lighthouse which interested itself in the ships. Thus he
now felt that she was in danger so near to Peter Klausson's waistcoat.
He knew Peter Klausson.

Her tiny feet tripped a waltz, while the plait kept up an accompanying
polka. Certainly Peter Klausson did press her too close to his
waistcoat!

Olsen therefore sought her out as soon as the waltz was over, but it
was not so easy to secure a dance; a waltz was the first one for which
she was free, and she gave him that. Just as this was arranged, every
one pressed towards the platform, on which the Choral Society now
appeared. Ella felt herself hopelessly little when they all rushed
forward and packed themselves together. Hjalmar Olsen, who saw her
vain attempts to obtain a peep, offered to lift her up on to the bench
which ran along the wall, by which they were standing. She dare not
agree to this, but he saw that others were mounting the bench, and
before she could prevent it, she was up there too. Almost at the same
moment Aksel Aarö came in among his companions and was received with
the most energetic hand-clapping by all his friends--men as well as
women. He bowed politely though somewhat coldly, but the expressions
of welcome did not cease until his companions drew back a little,
while he came forward. First of all, the Society gave one of its older
songs. He kept his voice on a level with the others, which was
considered in very good taste. After this the conductor took his seat
at the piano, to accompany a song which Aarö wished to give alone. The
song was a composition of Selmer and much in fashion at the capital.
It could be sung by men as well as women, only in the last verse _her_
had to be substituted for _his_. Here it had never been heard before.

During the first song Aarö had searched the room with his eyes, and,
from the moment when he discovered where Ella stood, he had kept them
fixed there. Now he placed himself near the piano, and during the song
he continued to look in her direction. As he sang, his melancholy eyes
lighted up; his figure grew plastic.

  I sing to one, to only one
    Of all the listening throng;
  To one alone is fully known
    The meaning of my song.
  Lend power, ye listeners, to each word.
    But for that only one
  Who in me woke sweet music's chord
    My song had ne'er been sung.

  Though deviously the path may run,
    Passing through all hearts here,
  Yet still is it the only one
    Which to one heart is near.
  Strengthen, oh, loving hearts, my song,
    So that it still may swell
  Through all love's choir; the only one
    That in her heart may dwell.

His voice was captivating; no one had ever listened to such a
love-message. This time many beside Ella had tears in their eyes.
When the song ended, they all remained waiting for some moments, as
though expecting another verse; and there was a short silence, but
then applause broke forth such as had never been heard. They wanted to
have the song again, but no one had yet known Aksel Aarö to sing
anything twice running; so they relinquished the idea.

Ella had never heard the song; neither words nor music. When, with his
eyes turned in her direction, he had begun to sing, she felt as though
she should fall; such unheard-of boldness she had never imagined. That
he, otherwise so considerate, should sing this across to her, so that
all could hear! White as the wall against which she leaned for
support, she suffered such anguish of mind, that she looked round for
help. Immediately behind her, on the same bench, stood Fru Holmbo,
magnetised, beautiful as a statue. She no more saw Ella's distress
than she did the clock in the market-place. This absolute indifference
calmed her, she recovered her self-possession. The neighbourhood of
the others, which had been so terrible to her, was of no consequence,
so long as they did not perceive anything. She could listen now
without distress. More covertly, more charmingly, he could not have
spoken, notwithstanding that every one heard it. If only he had not
looked at her! If only she had been able to hide herself!

As soon as the last notes ceased, she jumped down from the bench.
Among all the shoulders her shyness returned--her happy dream, her
secret in its bridal attire. What was it that had happened? What would
happen next? All round her were sparkling eyes, applauding voices,
clapping hands--was it not as though they lighted torches in his
honour, paid him homage--was not all this in her honour as well?

Dancing began again at once, and off she went. Off as though all were
done for her, or as though she were the "only one!" Her partners
tried, one after another, to talk to her, but in vain. She only
laughed, laughed in their faces, as though they were mad, and she
alone understood the state of the case.

She danced, beamed, laughed, from one partner to another. So when
Olsen got his waltz it was as though he were received with a score of
fresh bouquets and a "Long live Hjalmar Olsen!" He was more than
flattered. When she laid her white arm on his black coat he felt that
at the bottom he was as unworthy as Peter Klausson. He certainly would
not sully her, he held her punctiliously away from him. When he
fancied that she was laughing, and wished to see the little creature's
merry face, down there near his waistcoat, and in the endeavour to do
so, thought that he had been indiscreet, Hjalmar Olsen felt ashamed of
himself, and danced on with his eyes staring straight before him, like
a sleep-walker. He danced on in a dream of self-satisfaction and
transport. Ella tried now and then to touch the floor; she wished to
have at least some certainty that she was keeping time. Impossible! He
took charge at once, of himself, her dance and his, her time and his,
she never got near the floor without an effort, all the rest was an
aerial flight. He could hear her laughing and was pleased that she
was enjoying it, but he did not look at her. Those with whom he came
into collision were less pleased, which was _their_ affair. He was
greatly put out when the music ceased; they were only just getting
into swing, but he was obliged to put her down at the compulsory
stopping-place.

Shortly afterwards there was some more singing, first by the Society
alone, then they and Aarö together sang Grieg's "Landfall." Finally,
Aarö sang to a piano accompaniment. This time Ella had hidden herself
among those at the back, but as they constantly pressed forward she
remained standing alone. This exactly suited her; she saw him, but he
did not see her, nor even look towards the place where she was
standing.

She had never heard this song, did not even know that it existed,
although when the first words were heard it was evident that it was
known to the others. Of course she knew that each word and note were
his, but as he had before chosen a story which would only reach the
one to whom he wished to sing, she did not doubt that it was the same
now. The first words, "My young love's veiled," could there be a truer
picture of concealed love? Once more it was for her! That the veil
should be lifted but for him and dropped as soon as any one else could
see. Was not that as it must be between them? That love's secrecy is
like a sacred place, that in it is hidden earth's highest happiness.
She trembled as she recognised it. The music swept the words over her
like ice-cold water, this perfect comprehension made her shiver, with
fear and joy at the same time. No one saw her, that was her safeguard.
She dreaded every fresh word before it came, and each one again made
her shiver. With her arms pressed against her breast, her head bowed
over her hands, she stood and trembled as though waves surged over
her. And when the second verse came with the line, "The greatest joy
this world can give," and especially when it was repeated, her tears
would well forth, as they had done once before. She checked them with
all her might, but remembering how little it had helped her then, her
powers of resistance gave way, she was almost sobbing when the very
word was used in the song. The coincidence was too superb, it swept
all emotion aside, she could have laughed aloud instead. She was sure
of everything, everything now. It thus happened that the last line in
its literal sense, in its jubilant sympathy, came to her like a flash
of lightning, like the stab of a knife. The song ran thus:

  My young love's veiled to all but me,
  No eyes save mine those eyes may see,
    Which, while to others all unknown,
    Command, melt, beam for me alone.
  Down falls the veil, would others see.

  In every good, where two are one,
  A twofold holiness doth reign;
    The greatest joy this world can give
    Is when earth's long desires shall live,
  When two as soul to soul are born again.

  Why must my love then veiled be?
  Why sobs she piteous, silently,
    As though her heart must break for love?
    Because that veil from pain is wove,
  And all our joy in yearning need we see.

Startling, deafening applause! They must, they would have the song
again, this time Aarö's haughty opposition should be useless; but he
would not give way, and at last some of the audience gave up the
attempt, though others continued insistent.

During this interval several ladies escaped out of the crowd: they
passed near Ella.

"Did you see Fru Holmbo, how she hid herself and cried?"

"Yes, but did you see her during the first song? Up on the bench? It
was to her that he was singing the whole time."

Not long afterwards--it might have been about two in the morning--a
little cloaked figure flew along the streets. By her hood and wraps
the watchman judged that she must be one of the ladies from the ball.
They generally had some one with them, but the ball was not over yet.
Something had evidently happened; she was going so quickly too.

It was Ella. She passed near the deserted Town Hall, which was now
used as a warehouse. The outer walls still remained, but the beautiful
interior wood-work had been sold and removed. That is how it is with
me, thought Ella. She flew along as fast as she could, onward to
sleepless nights and joyless days.

In the course of the morning Aksel Aarö was carried home by his
companions, dead drunk. By some it was maintained that he had
swallowed a tumbler of whisky in the belief that it was beer; others
said that he was a "bout drinker." He had long been so but had
concealed it. Those are called "bout-drinkers" who at long intervals
seem impelled to drink. His father had been so before him.

A few days later Aksel Aarö went quietly off to America.


CHAPTER III

Another of those who had been at the ball, steamed about the same time
across the Atlantic. This was Hjalmar Olsen.

His ship experienced a continuous northwesterly gale, and the harder
it blew, the more grog he drank; but as he did so he was astonished to
find that a memory of the ball constantly rose before him--the little
rosy red one; the girl with the plait. Hjalmar Olsen was of opinion
that he had conducted himself in a very gentleman-like manner towards
her. At first this did not very much occupy his thoughts; he had been
twice engaged already, and each time it had been broken off. If he
engaged himself a third time he must marry at once. He had formed this
determination often before, but he did not really think very
seriously about it.

A steamer is not many days between ports, and at each there is plenty
of amusement. He went to New York, from there to New Orleans, thence
to Brazil and back, once again to Brazil, finally returning direct to
England and Norway. But often during the voyage, and especially over a
glass of punch, he recalled the girl with the plait. How she had
looked at him. It did him good only to think of it. He was not very
fond of letter-writing, or perhaps he would have written to her. But
when he arrived at Christiania, and heard from a friend that her
mother was dying, he thought at once: "I shall certainly go and see
her; she will think it very good of me, if I do so just now."

Two days later he was sitting before her in the parlour of the little
house near the hotel and market-place. His large hands, black with
hair and sunburn, stroked his knees as he stooped smilingly forward
and asked if she would have him.

She sat lower than he did; her full figure and plump arms were set
off by a brown dress, which he stared down on when he did not look
into her pale face. She felt each movement of his eyes. She had come
from the other room, and from thoughts of death; she heard a little
cuckoo clock upstairs announce that it was seven o'clock, and the
little thing reminded her of all that was now past. One thing with
another made her turn from him with tears in her eyes as she said, "I
cannot possibly think of such things how." She rose and walked towards
her flowers in the window.

He was obliged to rise also. "Perhaps she will answer me presently,"
he thought; and this belief gave him words, awkward perhaps, but
fairly plain.

She only shook her head and did not look up.

He walked off in a rage, and when he turned and looked at the house
again--the little doll's house--he longed to throw it bodily into the
sea.

He spent the evening, while waiting for the steamer to Christiania,
with Peter Klausson and a few friends, and it was not long before
they discovered on what errand he had been, and how he had sped. They
knew, too, how he had fared on former occasions. The amount which
Hjalmar Olsen drank was in proportion to his chagrin; and the next
morning he awoke on board the steamer in a deplorable condition.

Not long afterwards Ella received a well-written letter of excuse, in
which he explained that his coming at that time had been well meant,
and that it was only when he was there that he realised how foolish it
had been. She must not be vexed with him for it. In the course of a
month she again received a letter. He hoped that she had forgiven him;
he for his part could not forget her. There was nothing more added.
Ella was pleased with both the letters. They were well expressed and
they showed constancy; but it never occurred to her for a moment that
this indirect offer could be received in any other way than before.

She had gone to Christiania in order to perfect herself in the piano
and in book-keeping. She added the latter because she had always had a
turn for arithmetic. She felt altogether unsettled. Her mother was
dead; she had inherited the house and a small fortune, and she wanted
to try and help herself. She did not associate with any one in the
strange town. She was used to dreaming and making plans without a
confidant.

From Aksel Aarö came wonderful tidings. After he had sung before a
large party in New York a wealthy old man had invited him to come and
see him, and since then they had lived together like father and son.
So the story ran in the town long before there came a letter from Aarö
himself; but when it arrived, it entirely confirmed the rumour. It was
after this that Ella received a third letter from Hjalmar Olsen. He
asked in respectful terms if she would take it amiss if he were to pay
her a visit when he came home: he knew where she was living. Before
she had arrived at a conclusion as to how she should answer, a
paragraph appeared in all the Norwegian papers, copied from the
American ones, giving an account of how Hjalmar Olsen, in the teeth of
a gale, and at the risk of his own ship, had saved the passengers and
crew of an ocean steamer, the propeller of which had been injured off
the American coast. Two steamers had passed without daring to render
assistance, the weather was so terrific. Olsen had remained by the
vessel for twenty-four hours. It was a wonderful deed which he had
done. In New York, and subsequently when he arrived in Liverpool, he
had been fêted at the Sailors' Clubs, and been presented with medals
and addresses. When he arrived in Christiania, he was received with
the highest honours. Big and burly as he was, he easily obtained the
homage of the populace: they always love large print.

In the midst of all this he sought out Ella. She had hidden herself
away; she had but a poor opinion of herself since her discomfiture. In
her imagination he had assumed almost unnatural proportions, and when
he came and took her out with him, she felt as though she had once
more exchanged the close atmosphere of the house for free air and
sunshine. She even felt something of her old self-confidence. His
feelings for her were the same; that she noticed at once, as she
studied him. He knew the forms of society, and could pay attention and
render homage with dignity; he refrained from any premature speech.
She had heard that he was prone to take a glass too much, but she saw
nothing in that. A handsome fellow, a man such as one seldom sees, a
little weather-beaten perhaps, but most sailors are the same.
Something undefined in his eyes frightened her, as did his greediness
at table. Sometimes she was startled at the vehemence of his opinions.
If only she had been at home, and could have made inquiries
beforehand! But he was to leave very soon, and had said jestingly that
the next time that he proposed, he would be betrothed and married all
at once. This plain-speaking and precipitation pleased her, not less
than his energy and authoritative manner, although she felt
frightened--frightened, and at the same time flattered, that so much
energy and authoritativeness should bow before her, and that at a time
when all paid court to him.

Then an idea, which she thought very sensible, occurred to her. She
would, in the event of an offer, impose two conditions: she must
retain the control of her own property, and never be forced to
accompany him on his voyages. In case his energy and tone of authority
should chance to become intractable a limit was thus set, and she
would, from the outset, make him comprehend that, little as she was,
she knew how to protect both herself and her possessions.

When the offer came--it was made in a box at the theatre--she had not
courage sufficient to make her stipulation. His expression filled her
with horror--for the first time. She often thought of it afterwards.
Instead of acting upon this intuitive perception, she began to
speculate on what would happen if she were again to say No! She had
accepted his friendship although she knew what was coming. The
conditions, the conditions--they should settle it! If he accepted
them, it should be as he wished, and then there could be no possible
danger. So she wrote and propounded them.

He came the next day and asked for the necessary papers, so that he
could himself arrange both about the property and the contract. He
evidently looked upon it as a matter of business, and seemed
thoroughly pleased.

Three days later they were married. It was an imposing ceremony, and
there was a large concourse; it had been announced in all the papers.

Demonstrations of admiration and respect followed, much parade and
many speeches, mingled with witticisms over his size and her
smallness. This lasted from five in the evening till after midnight,
in rather mixed company. As time wore on, and the champagne
continually flowed, many of the guests became boisterous and somewhat
intrusive, and among them the bridegroom.

The next morning, at seven o'clock, Ella sat dressed and alone, in a
room next to their bedroom, the door of which stood open. From it she
could hear her husband's snores. She sat there still and deadly pale,
without tears and without feeling. She divided the occurrences into
two--what had happened and what had been said; what had been said and
what had happened: she did not know which was the worst. This man's
longing had been inflamed by deadly hate. From the time that she had
said No! he had made it the object of his life to force her to say
Yes! He told her that she should pay for having nearly made him
ridiculous a third time. She should pay for it all--she, who had dared
to make insulting conditions. He would break the neck of her
conditions like a shrimp. Let her try to refuse to go on board with
him, or attempt to control anything herself.

Then that which had happened. A fly caught in a spider's web, that was
what she thought of.

But had she not experienced such a feeling once before? O God, the
night of the ball! She had a vague feeling that that night had
fore-doomed her to this; but she could not make it clear to herself.
On the other hand, she asked herself if what we fail in has not a
greater influence on our lives than that which we succeed in.

Three or four hours after this, Hjalmar Olsen sat at the
breakfast-table; he was dull and silent, but perfectly polite, as
though nothing had happened. Perhaps he had been too drunk to be quite
accountable, or it might be that his politeness was calculated with
the hope of inducing her to come with him and visit his ship. He asked
her to do so, as he left the table, but neither promises nor threats
could induce her to go on board even for the shortest time. Her terror
saved her.

Some months later an announcement appeared in the papers that she
wished to take pupils both for the piano and book-keeping. She was
once more living in her own little house in her native town. She was
at this time enciente.

One day an old friend of Aksel Aarö's came to see her; he was to
remember Aarö very kindly to her, and to congratulate her on her
marriage. She controlled her rising emotion, and asked quietly how he
was getting on. Most wonderfully; he was still living with the same
old man, to whom, by degrees, he had entirely devoted himself. This
was the very thing for Aarö: it suited him to devote himself
completely to one person. He had gone through a course of treatment
for his inherited failing and believed himself to be cured.

"And how is Fru Holmbo?" asked Ella. She was frightened when she had
said it, but she felt an intense bitterness which would break out. She
had noticed how thin and pale Fru Holmbo looked--she evidently missed
Aarö, and that was too much!

The friend smiled: "Oh! have you heard that silly rumour? No, Aksel
Aarö was only the medium between her and the man to whom she was
secretly attached. The two friends had lived together abroad. Some
months ago there had been a talk about a business journey to
Copenhagen, and Fru Holmbo went there also. But there had undoubtedly
been something between them for a long time."

That night Ella wept for a long time before she fell asleep. She lay
and stroked her plait, which she had drawn on to her bosom. She had
often thought of cutting it off, but it was still there.


CHAPTER IV

In the course of the two first years of her marriage she had two
children. Whenever she was alone, she divided her time between them
and her teaching. Her husband hardly contributed anything to the
household, except during the brief periods that he passed at home, and
then the money was squandered in the extravagant life which he led
with his companions. During these visits the "young ones" were sent
off to their aunt. "One could not take four steps without going
through the walls of this wretched little house," he said. At these
times she also gave up the lessons; she had no time for anything
except to wait on him.

Every one realised that she could not be happy, but no one suspected
that her whole life was one of dread--dread of the telegram which
would announce his coming, if only for a few days, dread of what might
happen when he came. When he was there she never attempted to oppose
him, but displayed to him, and every one else, those frank eyes and
quick, but quiet, ways which enabled her to come and go without being
noticed. When he was gone, she would suddenly collapse, and, worn out
with the strain of days and nights, be obliged to take to her bed.

Each time that he came home he kept less guard over himself, and was
more careless as regarded others. Had she known that men who have
expended their strength as he had done are as a rule worn out at
forty--and many such are to be found in the coast-towns--she would
have understood that these very things were signs of failure. He had
advanced far along the road. To her he only appeared more and more
disgusting. He was but little at home, which helped her. She had
determined that she and her boys should live in the best manner, and
this again was a help to her; but more than all was her constant
employment and the regard which every one felt for her. After five
years of marriage she looked as charming as ever, and appeared as
cheerful and lively; she was accustomed to conceal her feelings.

Her children were now--the elder four, the second three years old.
They were rarely seen anywhere but in the market-place, on the
snow-heaps in winter and on the sand-heaps in summer, or else they
were in the country with their aunt whom they had adopted as
"grandmother."

Next to the care of the little boys, flowers were Ella's greatest
delight. She had a great many, which made the house appear smaller
than it really was. She could play with the boys, but she could share
her thoughts with the flowers. When she watered them, she felt acutely
how much she suffered. When she dried their leaves, she longed for
pleasant words and kindly eyes. When she removed dead twigs and
superfluous shoots, when she re-potted them, she often cried with
longing; the thought that there was no one to care for her overcame
her.

Five years were gone, then, when one day it was reported through the
whole town that Aksel Aarö had become a rich man. His old friend was
dead and had left him a large annuity. It was also said that he had
been a second time treated for dypsomania. The previous treatment had
not been successful, but he was now cured. One could see how popular
Aarö was, for there was hardly anybody who was not pleased.

On Wednesday the 16th of March, 1892, at four o'clock in the
afternoon, Ella sat at work near her flowers; from there she could see
the hotel. At the corner window in the second story stood the man of
whom she was thinking--stood and looked down at her.

She got up and he bowed twice. She remained standing as he crossed the
market-place. He wore a dark fur cap, and his fair beard hung down
over his black silk waistcoat. His face was rather pale, but there was
a brighter expression in his eyes. He knocked, she could not speak or
move, but when he opened the door and came into the room, she sank
into a chair and wept. He came slowly forward, took a chair and sat
down near her. "You must not be frightened because I came straight to
you, it is such a pleasure to see you again." Ah! how they sounded in
this house, those few words full of consideration and confidence. He
had acquired a foreign accent, but the voice, the voice! And he did
not misconstrue her weakness, but tried to help her. By degrees she
became her old self, confiding, bright, timid.

"It was so entirely unexpected," she said.

"All that has occurred in the meantime rushes in on one," he added
courteously.

Not much more was said. He was preparing to leave, when his
brother-in-law entered. Aarö looked at her boys out on the snow-heap,
he looked at her flowers, her piano, her music, then asked if he might
come again. He had been there hardly five minutes, but an impression
rested on her mind somewhat as the magnificent fair beard rested on
the silk waistcoat. The room was hallowed, the piano, the music, the
chair on which he had sat, even the carpet on which he had walked--in
his very walk there was consideration for her. She felt that all that
he had said and done showed sympathy for her fate. She could do
nothing more that day, she hardly slept during the night, but the
change which had taken place in her was nothing less than the bringing
of something into the daylight again from five years ago, from six
years indeed, as one brings flowers out of the cellar, where they have
been put for their winter sleep, up into the spring-time again. As
this thought passed through her mind, she made the same gesture at
least twenty times, she laid both hands on her breast, one over the
other, as though to control it: it must not speak too loudly.

The next day their conversation flowed more freely. The children were
called in. After looking at them for a while, he said: "You have
something real there."

In a little time they were such good friends, he and the boys, that he
was down on all-fours playing horses with them, and did some quite
new tricks which they thought extremely amusing; he then invited them
to come for a drive the next day. After a thaw, there had been an
unusually heavy fall of snow; the town was white and the state of the
roads perfect.

Before he left Ella offered to brush him; the carpet had not been as
well swept as it should have been. He took the clothes-brush from her
and used it himself, but he had unfortunately lain on his back as
well, so she was obliged to help him. She brushed his coat lightly and
deftly, but she was never satisfied, nor was he yet properly brushed
in front. He had to do it over again: she stood and looked on. When he
had finished she took the brush into the kitchen.

"How funny that you should still wear your plait," said he, as she
went out. She remained away for some time, and came in again by
another door. He had gone. The children said that some one had come
across for him.

The next morning the little boys had their drive. They did not return
until late in the afternoon. They had been to Baadshaug, a
watering-place with an hotel and an excellent restaurant, to which
people were very fond of making excursions during the winter. His
sister's youngest boy was with them, and while all three went back
with the horses to "Andresen's at the corner," Aarö remained standing
in the passage. Never had Ella seen him so cheerful. His eyes
sparkled, and he talked from the time he came to the time he left. He
talked about the Norwegian winter which he had never realised before;
how could that have been? For many years he had had in his
_répertoire_ a song in praise of winter, the old winter song which she
knew as well: "Summer sleeps in winter's arms"--yes, she knew it--and
he only now realised how true it was. The influence of winter on
people's lives must be immense; why it was nearly half their lives;
what health and beauty and what power of imagination it must give. He
began to describe what he had seen in the woods that day. He did not
use many words, but he gave a clear picture; he talked till he became
quite excited, and looked at her the whole time with a rapturous
expression.

It was but for a few moments. He stood there muffled in furs: but when
he had gone it seemed to her that she had never truly seen him before.
He was an enthusiast then--an enthusiast whose depths never revealed
themselves. Was his singing a message from this enthusiasm? Was this
why his voice carried everybody away with it into another region? That
melancholy father of his, when a craving for drink seized him, would
shut himself up with his violin, and play and play till he became
helpless. Had the son, too, this dislike of companionship, this
delight in his own enthusiasm? God be praised, Aksel Aarö was saved!
Was it not from the depths of his enthusiasm that he had looked at
her? This forced itself upon her for the first time; she had been
occupied before by the change in him, but now it forced itself upon
her--hotly, with a thrill of fear and joy. A message of gladness
which still quivered with doubt. Was the decisive moment of her life
approaching? She felt that she coloured. She could not remain quiet;
she went to the window to look for him; then paced the room, trying to
discover what she might believe. All his words, his looks, his
gestures, since he had first come there, rose before her. But he had
been reserved, almost niggardly, with them. But that was just their
charm. His eyes had now interpreted them, and those eyes enveloped
her; she gave herself absolutely up to them.

Her servant brought in a letter; it was a Christmas card, in an
envelope without a direction, from Aksel Aarö--one of the usual
Christmas cards, representing a number of young people in snow-shoes.
Below was printed:

  Winter white,
  Has roses red.

On the other side, in a clear round hand, "In the woods to-day I could
not but think of you. A. A.." That was all.

"That is like him, he says nothing more. When he passes a shop-window
in which he sees such a card, he thinks of me; and not only does he
think of me but he sends me his thoughts." Or was she mistaken. Ella
was diffident; surely this could not be misconstrued. The Christmas
card--was it not a harbinger? The two young couples on it and the
words--surely he meant something by that. His enraptured eyes again
rose before her; they seemed not only to envelop her, but to caress
her. She thought neither of past nor future; she lived only in the
present. She lay wide awake that night looking at the moonlight. Now,
now, now, was whispered. Had she but clung to the dream of her life,
even when the reality had seemed so cruel, she would have held her
own; because she had been uncertain about it, all had become
uncertain. But the greater the suffering had been, the greater,
perhaps, would be the bliss. She fell asleep in the soft white light,
which she took with her into her dreams. She woke among light, bright
clouds, which gathered round the glittering thought of what might be
awaiting her to-day. He had not said a word. This bashfulness was what
she loved the best of anything in him. It was just that which was the
surest pledge. It would be to-day.


CHAPTER V

She took a long time over her bath, an almost longer time in doing her
hair; out of the chest of drawers, which she had used as a child, and
which still stood in its old place--out of its lowest drawer she took
her finest underlinen. She had never worn it but once--on her
wedding-day--before the desecration, never since. But to-day--Now,
now, now! Not one garment which she put on had ever been touched by
any one but herself. She wished to be what she had been in her dreams.

She went to the children, who were awake but not dressed.

"Listen, boys! To-day Tea shall take you to see grandmother."

Great delight, shared by Tea, for this meant a holiday.

"Mamma, mamma!" she heard behind her, as she ran down to the kitchen
to get a cup of coffee, and then she was off. First she must get some
flowers, then put off her lessons. For now, now, now!

Out in the street she remembered that it was too early to get
anything, so she went for a walk, beyond the town, the freshest, the
brightest, that she had ever taken. She came back again just as Fru
Holmbo was opening her shop. As Ella entered the "flower-woman" was
holding an expensive bouquet in her hand, ready to be sent out.

"I will have that!" cried Ella, shutting the door behind her.

"You!" said Fru Holmbo a little doubtfully; the bouquet was a very
expensive one.

"Yes, I must have it;" Ella's little green purse was ready. The
bouquet had been ordered for the best house in the town, and Fru
Holmbo said so.

"That does not matter," answered Ella. Such genuine admiration of a
bouquet had never been seen--and Ella got it.

From there she went to "Andresen's at the corner." One of the shopmen
took lessons in book-keeping from her. She wished to put him off, and
asked him to tell the whole of the large class. She asked him this
with kindling eyes, and he gladly promised to do so. The daintiest red
shawl was hanging just before her. She must have it to wear over her
head to-day when she drove out; for that she would drive to-day there
was no doubt. Andresen himself came up, just as she was asking about
the shawl. He caught a glimpse of her bouquet, under the paper. "Those
are lovely roses," he said. She took one out at once, and gave it to
him. From the rose he looked at her; she laughed and asked if he would
take a little off the price of the shawl; she had not quite enough
money left.

"How much have you?" he asked.

"Just half a krone too little," she replied.

He himself wrapped up the shawl for her. In the street she met
Cecilie Monrad, whose sister studied music with Ella; she was thus
saved a walk to the other end of the town to put her off. "Everything
favours me to-day," she thought.

"Did you see about those two who committed suicide together at
Copenhagen?" asked Cecilie.

"Yes, she had." Fröken Monrad thought that it was horrible.

"Why?"

"Why the man was married!"

"True enough," answered Ella, "but they loved each other." Her eyes
glowed; Cecilie lowered hers and blushed. Ella took her hand and
pressed it. "I tumbled into a love-story there," she thought, and
flew, rather than walked, up to the villas, where most of her pupils
lived. On a roof she saw two starlings; the first that year. The thaw
of a few days back had deceived them. Not that the starlings were
dispirited. No, they loved! "Mamma, mamma," she seemed to hear at the
same moment. It was certainly her boys; she had thought of them when
she saw the starlings. She was so occupied with this that she walked
right across to the side of the road and trod on a piece of board,
which tilted up and nearly threw her down; but under the board Spring
reigned. They had come with the thaw, they were certainly dandelions!
However ugly they may be in the summer, the first ones are always
welcome. She stooped down and gathered the flowers; she put them with
the roses. The dandelions looked very shabby there, but they were the
first this year, and found to-day!

After this she was absolutely boisterous. She skipped down the hills
when her errand was finished. She greeted friends and mere
acquaintance alike, and when she again saw Cecilie she put down the
flowers, made a snowball, and threw it at her back.

When she got home she wrapped the children well up and put them into
the sledge with Tea. "Mamma, mamma!" they shouted and pointed up
towards the hotel. There stood Aksel Aarö. He bowed to her.

Soon afterwards he came across. "You are quite alone," he said as he
entered.

"Yes." She was arranging the flowers and did not look up for she was
trembling.

"Is it a birthday to-day?" he asked.

"Do you mean because of the flowers?"

"Yes. What lovely roses, and those in the glass--dandelions?"

"The first this year," she answered.

He did not look at them. He stood and fidgeted, as though he were
thinking of something.

"May I sing to you?" He said at last.

"Yes, indeed." She left the flowers, in order to open the piano and
screw down the music-stool, and then drew quietly back.

After a long and subdued prelude, he began with the "Sunset Song," by
Ole Olsen, very softly, as he had spoken and moved ever since he came
in. Never had he sung more beautifully; he had greatly improved, but
the voice was the same, nay, there was even more despair and
suffering in it than when she had heard it for the first time.
"Sorrow, sorrow, oh, I am lost!" She heard it again plainly. At the
end of the first verse, she sat bending forward, and weeping bitterly.
She had not even tried to control herself. He heard her and turned
round, a moment afterwards she felt him approach her, it even seemed
to her that he kissed her plait, certainly he had bent down over her,
for she could feel his breath. But she did not raise her head, she
dare not.

He walked across the room, returned and then walked back again. Her
agitation subsided, she sat immovable and waited.

"May I be allowed to take you for a drive to-day?" she heard him say.

She had known the whole morning that they would go for a drive
together, so she was not surprised. Just as _that_ had now been
fulfilled, so would the other be--everything. She looked up through
her tears and smiled. He smiled too.

"I will go and see about the horses," he said, and as she did not
answer he left her.

She went back to the flowers. So she had not been able to give them to
him. She would throw away the dandelions. As she took them out of the
glass, she recalled the words, "You have something real there." They
had certainly not been said about the dandelions, but they had often
since recurred to her. Was it strange that they should do so now? She
let the dandelions remain.

Aarö stayed away a long time, more than an hour, but when he returned
he was very cheerful. He was in a smart ladies' sledge, in the
handsome furs which he had worn the day before; the most valuable ones
that she had ever seen. He saluted with his whip, and talked and
laughed with every one, old and young, who gathered round him while
Ella put on her things. That was soon done; she had not many wraps,
nor did she need them.

He got down when she appeared, came forward, muffled her up and drove
off at a trot. As they went he stooped over her and whispered, "How
good of you to come with me." His voice was very genial, but there was
something quite different about his breath. As soon as the handsome
horses had slackened speed, he stooped forward again.

"I have telephoned to Baadshaug to order lunch, it will be ready when
we get there; you do not mind?"

She turned, so as to raise her head towards him, their faces almost
met.

"I forgot to thank you for the card yesterday."

He coloured. "I repented afterwards," he said, "but at the moment, I
could not but think of you; how you suit it out here." Now _she_
coloured and drew back. Then she heard close by her: "You must not be
angry, it always happens that when we wish to repair a blunder, we
make another."

She would have liked to have seen his eyes, as he said this, but she
dare not look at him. At all events it was more than he had said up to
the present time. His words fell softly on her ears. Before to-day
she had almost misinterpreted his reserve, but how beautiful it made
everything. She worshipped it.

"In a little time we shall come to the woods, then we will stop and
look round us," he said.

"_There_," she thought.

He drove on at a quick trot. How happy she was! The sunlight sparkled
on the snow, the air was warm, she had to loosen the shawl over her
head, and he helped her to do so. Again she became aware of his
breath, there was something, not tobacco, more delicate, pleasanter,
but what was it? It seemed to harmonise with him. She felt very happy,
with an overflow of joy in the scene through which they were driving
and which continually increased in beauty.

On one side of the road were the mountains, the white mountains, which
took a warm tint from the sunlight. In front of the mountains were
lower hills, partly covered by woods, and among these lay scattered
farms. The farms were soon passed and then came woods, nothing but
woods. On the other side of the road they had the sea for the whole
way, but between them and it were flat expanses, probably marshes. The
sea looked steel-grey against the snow. It spoke of another part of
life, of eternal unrest; protest after protest against the snow idyl.

During the thaw, tree-trunks, branches, and fences had become wet. The
first snow which fell, being itself wet, had stuck to them. But when
all this froze together, and there was another overwhelming fall,
outlines were formed over the frozen surface, such as one rarely sees
the like of. The weight of the first soft snow had caused it to slip
down, but it had been arrested here and there by each inequality, and
there it had collected, or else it had slid under the branches, or
down on both sides of the fences; when this had been augmented both by
drift and fall, the most whimsical animal forms were produced--white
cats, white hares clawed the tree-trunks with bent backs and heads
and fore-quarters outstretched, or sat under the branches, or on the
hedges. White beasts were there, some appeared the size of martens,
but occasionally they seemed as large as lynxes or even tigers;
besides these there were numberless small animals, white mice, and
squirrels, here, there, and everywhere. Again there were, besides, all
sorts of oddities, mountebanks who hung by their heels, clowns and
goblins on the tops of the fences, dwarfs with big sacks on their
backs; an old hat or a nightcap: an animal without a head, another
with a neck of preposterous length, an enormous mitten, an overturned
water-can. In some places the blackened foliage remained uncovered,
and formed arabesques against the drifts; in others, masses of snow
lay on the branches of the fir-trees with green above and beneath,
forming wonderful contrasts of colour. Aarö drew up and they both got
out of the sledge.

Now they gained a whole series of fresh impressions. Right in front of
them stood an old pine-tree, half prostrated in the struggle of life;
but was he not dreaming, here in the winter, the loveliest of all
dreams, that he was young again? In the joyous growth of this
snow-white glory he had forgotten all pain and decay, forgotten the
moss on his bark, the rottenness of his roots was concealed. A rickety
gate had been taken from its place and was propped against the fence,
broken and useless. The artist hand of winter had sought it out too,
and glorified it, and it was now an architectural masterpiece. The
slanting black gate-posts were a couple of young dandies, with hats on
one side and jaunty air. The old, grey, mossy rails--one could not
imagine Paradise within a more beautiful enclosure. Their blemishes
had in this resurrection become their greatest beauty. Their knots and
crannies were the chief building ground for the snow, each hole filled
up by a donation of heavenly crystals from the clouds. Their
disfiguring splinters were now covered and kissed, shrouded and
decorated; all blemishes were obliterated in the universal whiteness.
A tumbledown moss-grown hut by the roadside--now more extravagantly
adorned than the richest bride in the world, covered over from
heaven's own lap in such abundance that the white snow wreaths hung
half a yard beyond the roof; in some places folded back with
consummate art. The grey-black wall under the snow wreaths looked like
an old Persian fabric. It seemed ready to appear in a Shakespearean
drama. The background of mountains and hills gleamed in the sunlight.

In the midst of all this Ella seemed to hear two little cries of
"Mamma, mamma!" When she looked round for her companion he was sitting
on the sledge, quite overcome, while tears flowed down his cheeks.

They drove on again, but slowly. "I remember this muddy road," said
he; his voice sounded very sad. "The trees shaded it so that it was
hardly ever dry, but now it is beautiful."

She turned and raised her head towards him. "Ah! sing a little," she
said.

He did not answer at once, and she regretted that she had asked him;
at length he said:

"I was thinking of it, but I became so agitated; do not speak for a
moment and then perhaps I can--the old winter song, that is to say."

She understood that he could not do so until he completely realised
it. These silent enthusiasts were indeed fastidious about what was
genuine. Most things were not genuine enough for them. That is why
they are so prone to intoxicate themselves; they wish to get away, to
form a world for themselves. Yes, now he sang:

  In winter's arms doth summer sleep
    By winter covered calm she lay,
    "Still!" he cried to the river's play,
  To farm, and field and mountain steep.
    Silence reigns o'er hill and dale,
    No sound at home save ringing flail.

  All that summer loved to see
    Till she returns sleeps safely on.
    In needed rest, the summer gone,
  Sleep water, meadow-grass and tree,
    Hid like the kernel in the nut
    The earth lies crumbling round each root.

  All the ills which summer knew,
    Pest and blight for life and fruit
    Winter's hosts have put to rout.
  In peace she shall awake again
    Purified by winds and snows,
    Peace shall greet her as she goes.

  A lovely dream has winter strown
    On the sleeping mountain height;
    Star high, pale in northern light,
  From sight to sight it bears her on
    Through the long, long hours of night,
    Till she wakes shall be her flight.

  He who we say brings naught but pain
    Lives but for that he ne'er shall see.
    He who is called a murderer, he
  Preserves each year our land again,
    Then hides himself by crag and hill
    Till evening's breeze again blows chill.

All the little sleigh-bells accompanied the song, like the twitter of
sparrows. His voice echoed through the trees, the religious service of
a human soul in the white halls.

One day, felt Ella, paid for a thousand. One day may do what the
winter song relates. It may rock a weary summer, destroy its germs of
ill, renew the earth, make the nerves strong, and the darkest time
bright. In it are collected all our long dreams. What might she not
have become, poor little thing that she was, if she had had many such
days? What would she not then have become, for her children.

They now drew near to a long building with two wings; the whole built
of wood. In the courtyard a number of sledges were standing. There
were a great many people here then! A stableman took their horses; the
waiter who was to attend to them, a German, was quickly at hand, and a
bareheaded jovial man joined them as well--it was Peter Klausson. He
seemed to have been expecting them, and wished to relieve Ella of her
wraps, but he smelt of cognac or something of the sort, and to get rid
of him she inquired for the room in which they were to lunch. They
were shown into a warm cosy apartment where the table was laid. Aarö
helped her off with her things.

"I could not endure Peter Klausson's breath," she said, at which Aarö
smiled.

"In America we have a remedy for that."

"What do you mean?"

"One takes something which scents the breath."

A moment later he asked her to excuse him. He had to arrange a few
things. She was thus alone until some one knocked at the door. It was
Peter Klausson again. He saw her astonishment and smiled.

"We are to lunch together," he said.

"Are we?" she replied.

She looked at the table; it was laid for five.

"Have you heard lately from your husband?"

"No."

A long pause. Was Peter Klausson fit company for Aksel Aarö? Her
husband's boon companion! Aarö, who will have nothing but what is
genuine. But as she thought this, she had to admit that Peter
Klausson's impulsive nature was perfectly truthful, which indeed it
was. The waiter came in with a basket of wine, but did not shut the
door after him until he had lifted in some more from outside:
champagne in ice.

"Shall we want so much wine?" asked Ella.

"Oh, it's all right," answered Peter Klausson, evidently delighted.

"But Aarö does not drink wine!"

"Aarö? When he asked me to come here to-day--I chanced to look in on
him--we had some first-rate cognac together."

Ella turned to the window, for she felt that she had grown pale.

Very soon Aarö came in, so courteous and stately that Peter Klausson
felt compelled to take his hands out of his pockets. He hardly dared
to speak. Aarö said that he had invited the Holmbos, but they had just
sent an excuse. They three must make the best of each other's society.
He led Ella to the table.

It was soon evident that Aarö was the most delightful and accomplished
of hosts. He spoke English to the waiter, and directed him by frequent
signs, covered his blunders, and smoothed away every little
difficulty, in such a way that it was hardly noticed. All the time he
kept up a constant flow of conversation, narrating small anecdotes
from his experiences of society, but he never poured out wine for
himself, and when he raised his glass his hand shook. Ella had fancied
before that this was the case--it was torture to her now.

Oysters were served for the first course; she relished them
thoroughly, for she was very hungry; but as the meal proceeded, she
became each moment less able to enjoy it. At last her throat seemed to
contract, she felt more inclined to cry than to eat and drink.

At first the reason was not clear to her. She only felt that this was
absolutely different from what she had dreamed of. This glorious day
was to be a disappointment. At first she thought--this will end some
time, and we shall go comfortably home again. But by degrees, as his
spirits rose, she became merely the guest of a society man. As such
she was shown all imaginable attention--indeed, the two gentlemen
joined in making much of her, till she could have cried.

After luncheon she was ceremoniously conducted on Aarö's arm into
another room which was also in readiness for them; comfortable, well
furnished, and with a piano.

Coffee was served at once with liqueur, and not long afterwards the
two men asked to be excused; they wanted to smoke, they would not be
long. They went, and left her alone. This was scarcely polite, and now
she first realised that it was not the day only, but Aarö, who had
become different from what she had believed him. The great darkness
which had overwhelmed her on the night of the ball again menaced her;
she fought against it; she got up and paced the room; she longed to be
out of doors, as though she could find him again there, such as she
had imagined him. She looked for the luncheon-room, put on her red
shawl, and had just come out on to the broad space before the
building, when the waiter came up to her and said something in English
which she could not at first understand. Indeed, she was too much
occupied with her own thoughts to be able suddenly to change
languages.

The waiter told her that one of her companions was ill, and the other
not to be found. Even when she understood the words, she did not
realise what was the matter, but followed mechanically. As she went
she remembered that Aarö's tongue had not been quite obedient when,
after the liqueur, he had asked permission to go and smoke; surely he
had not had a stroke.

They passed the smoking-room, which seemed to be full--at all events
of smoke and laughter. The door of a little room by the side of it was
opened; there lay Aksel Aarö on a bed. He must have slunk in there
alone, perhaps to drink more; indeed, he had taken a short thick
bottle in with him, which still stood on a table by the bed, on which
he lay fully dressed with closed eyes and without sense or feeling.

"Tip, tip, Peté!" he said to her, and repeated it with outstretched
finger, "Tip, tip, Peté!" He spoke in a falsetto voice. Did he mean
Peter? Did he take her for a man? Behind him on a pillow lay something
hairy; it was a _toupet_; she now saw that he was bald on the crown.
"Tip, tip, Peté!" she heard as she rushed out.

Few people have felt smaller than Ella as she trudged along the
country road, back to the town as fast as her short legs could carry
her, in thin shoes and winter attire. The heavy cloak which she had
worn for driving was unfastened, she carried the shawl in her hand,
but still the perspiration streamed off her; the idea was upon her
that it was her dreams which were falling from her.

At first she only thought of Aksel Aarö, the unhappy lost one!
To-morrow or the next day he would leave the country; she knew this
from past experience, and this time it would be for ever.

But as she thought how terrible it was, the _toupet_ on the pillow
seemed to ask: "Was Aksel Aarö so very genuine?" "Yes, yes, how could
he help it if he became bald so early." "H'm," answered the _toupet_;
"he could have confessed to it."

She struggled on; luckily she did not meet any one, nor was she
overtaken by any of those who had been at Baadshaug. She must look
very comical, perspiring and tearful, with unfastened cloak, in thin
shoes and with a shawl in her hand. Several times she slackened her
pace, but the disturbance of her feelings was too great, and it was
her nature to struggle forward.

But through all her feverish haste the great question forced itself
upon her: "Would you not wish now, Ella, to relinquish all your
dreams, since time after time things go so badly?" She sobbed
violently and answered: "Not for worlds. No! for these dreams are the
best things that I have. They have given me the power to measure
others so that I can never exalt anything which is base. No! I have
woven them round my children as well, so that I have a thousand times
more pleasure in them. They and the flowers are all that I have." And
she sobbed and pressed on.

"But now you will have no dream, Ella!"

At first she did not know what to reply to this, it seemed but too
true, too terribly true, and the _toupet_ showed itself again.

It was here that Aarö had sung the old winter song, and as the tinkle
of the sledge-bells had accompanied it, so now her tears were
unceasingly accompanied by two little voices: "Mamma, mamma!" It was
not strange, for it was towards the children that she was hurrying,
but now they seemed to demand that she should dream about them. No,
no! "You have something real there," Aarö's voice seemed to say. She
remembered his saying it, she remembered his sadness as he did so. Had
he really thought of himself and her, or of the children and her? Had
he compared his own weakness with their health, with their future? Her
thoughts wandered far away from the boys, and she was once more
immersed in all his words and looks, trying by them to solve this
enigma. But these, with the yearning and pain, came back as they had
never done before. Her whole life was over; her dream was of too long
standing, too strong, too clear, the roots could not be pulled up; it
was impossible. Were they not round everything which, next day, she
should see, or touch, or use? As a last stroke she remembered that
the boys were not at home; she would come to an empty house.

But she resisted still; for when she got home and had bathed and gone
to bed, and again the moonlight shone in on her and reminded her of
her thoughts the night before, she turned away and cried aloud like a
child. None could enter, none could hear her; her heart was young, as
though she were but seventeen; it could not, it would not give up!

What was it, in fact, that she had wished for to-day? She did not
know--no, she did not! She only knew that her happiness was
_there_--and so she had let it remain. Now she was disappointed and
deluded in a way that certainly few had been.

She could not bear to desecrate him further. Then the winter song
swept past in his voice, sweet, full, sorrowful, as if it wished to
make all clear to her; and, tractable as a child, she composed herself
and listened. What did it say? That her dreams united two summers,
the one which had been and the one which was slowly struggling up
anew. Thanks be to the dreams which had awakened it. It said, too,
that the dreams were something in themselves often of greater truth
than reality itself. She had felt this when she was tending her
flowers.

In her uneasy tossing in her bed, her plait had come close to her
hand. Sadly she drew it forward; he had kissed it again to-day. And so
she lay on her side, and took it between her hands, and cried.

"Mamma, mamma!" she heard whispered, and thus she slept.



  _THE NOVELS OF BJÖRNSTJERNE BJÖRNSON_

  _Edited by EDMUND GOSSE_

  _Fcap. 8vo, cloth, 3s. net_

  _Synnövé Solbakken_
  _Arne_
  _A Happy Boy_
  _The Fisher Lass_
  _The Bridal March, & One Day_
  _Magnhild, & Dust_
  _Captain Mansana, & Mother's Hands_
  _Absalom's Hair, & A Painful Memory_

_LONDON_

_WILLIAM HEINEMANN_

_21 Bedford Street, W. C._



_Printed by_ Ballantyne, Hanson & Co. _London and Edinburgh_





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