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Title: Norse Tales and Sketches
Author: Kielland, Alexander Lange, 1849-1906
Language: English
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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 "Norse Tales and Sketches" ***

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NORSE TALES AND SKETCHES

by

ALEXANDER L. KIELLAND

Translated by R. L. Cassie

London

1896



INTRODUCTION


Encouraged by the great and growing popularity of Scandinavian
literature in this country, I venture to submit to public judgment this
humble essay towards an English presentment of some of the charming
novelettes of Alexander L. Kielland, a writer who takes rank among the
foremost exponents of modern Norse thought. Although these short stories
do not represent the full fruition of the author's genius, they yet
convey a fairly accurate conception of his literary personality, and of
the bold realistic tendency which is so strikingly developed in his
longer novels.

Kielland's style is polished, lucid, and incisive. He does not waste
words or revel in bombastic diffuseness. Every phrase of his narrative
is a definite contribution towards the vivification of his realistic
effects. His concise, laconic periods are pregnant with deep meaning,
and instinct with that indefinable Norse essence which almost eludes the
translator--that vague something which specially lends itself to the
treatment of weird or pathetic situations.

In his pre-eminence as a satirist, Kielland resembles Thackeray. His
satire, although keen, is always wholesome, genial, and good-humoured.

Kielland's longer novels are masterly delineations of Norwegian
provincial life and character, and his vivid individualization of his
native town of Stavanger finds few parallels in fiction.

In conclusion, the writer hopes that this modest publication may help to
draw the attention of the cultured British public to another of the
great literary figures of the North.


R.L.C.



CONTENTS.

   A SIESTA

   A MONKEY

   A TALE OF THE SEA

   A DINNER

   TROFAST

   KAREN

   MY SISTER'S JOURNEY TO MODUM

   LETTERS FROM MASTER-PILOT SEEHUS

   OLD DANCES

   AUTUMN



A SIESTA.


In an elegant suite of chambers in the Rue Castiglione sat a merry party
at dessert.

Senhor José Francisco de Silvis was a short-legged, dark-complexioned
Portuguese, one of those who usually come from Brazil with incredible
wealth, live incredible lives in Paris, and, above all, become notorious
by making the most incredible acquaintances.

In that little company scarcely anybody, except those who had come in
pairs, knew his neighbour. And the host himself knew his guests only
through casual meetings at balls, _tables d' hôte_, or in the street.

Senhor de Silvis laughed much, and talked loudly of his success in life,
as is the habit of rich foreigners; and as he could not reach up to the
level of the Jockey Club, he gathered the best company he could find.
When he met anyone, he immediately asked for the address, and sent next
day an invitation to a little dinner. He spoke all languages, even
German, and one could see by his face that he was not a little proud
when he called over the table: Mein lieber Herr Doctor! Wie geht's
Ihnen?'

There was actually a live German doctor among this merry party. He had
an overgrown light-red beard, and that Sedan smile which invariably
accompanies the Germans in Paris.

The temperature of the conversation rose with the champagne; the sounds
of fluent and broken French were mingled with those of Spanish and
Portuguese. The ladies lay back in their chairs and laughed. The guests
already knew each other well enough not to be reserved or constrained.
Jokes and _bons-mots_ passed over the table, and from mouth to mouth.
'Der liebe Doctor' alone engaged in a serious discussion with the
gentleman next to him--a French journalist with a red ribbon in his
buttonhole.

And there was one more who was not drawn into the general merriment. He
sat on the right of Mademoiselle Adèle, while on the left was her new
lover, the corpulent Anatole, who had surfeited himself on truffles.

During dinner Mademoiselle Adèle had endeavoured, by many innocent
little arts, to infuse some life into her right-hand neighbour. However,
he remained very quiet, answering her courteously, but briefly, and in
an undertone.

At first she thought he was a Pole--one of those very tiresome specimens
who wander about and pretend to be outlaws. However, she soon perceived
that she had made a mistake, and this piqued Mademoiselle Adèle. For one
of her many specialties was the ability to immediately 'assort' all the
foreigners with whom she mingled, and she used to declare that she could
guess a man's nationality as soon as she had spoken ten words with him.

But this taciturn stranger caused her much perplexed cogitation. If he
had only been fair-haired, she would at once have set him down as an
Englishman, for he talked like one. But he had dark hair, a thick black
moustache, and a nice little figure. His fingers were remarkably long,
and he had a peculiar way of trifling with his bread and playing with
his dessert-fork.

'He is a musician,' whispered Mademoiselle Adèle to her stout friend.

'Ah!' replied Monsieur Anatole. 'I am afraid I have eaten too many
truffles.'

Mademoiselle Adèle whispered in his ear some words of good counsel, upon
which he laughed and looked very affectionate.

However, she could not relinquish her hold of the interesting foreigner.
After she had coaxed him to drink several glasses of champagne, he
became livelier, and talked more.

'Ah!' cried she suddenly; 'I hear it in your speech. You are an
Englishman!'

The stranger grew quite red in the face, and answered quickly, 'No,
madame.'

Mademoiselle Adèle laughed. 'I beg your pardon. I know that Americans
feel angry when they are taken for Englishmen.'

'Neither am I an American,' replied the stranger.

This was too much for Mademoiselle Adèle. She bent over her plate and
looked sulky, for she saw that Mademoiselle Louison opposite was
enjoying her defeat.

The foreign gentleman understood the situation, and added, half aloud:
'I am an Irishman, madame.'

'Ah!' said Mademoiselle Adèle, with a grateful smile, for she was easily
reconciled.

'Anatole! Irishman--what is that?' she asked in a whisper.

'The poor of England,' he whispered back.

'Indeed!'

Adèle elevated her eyebrows, and cast a shrinking, timid glance at the
stranger. She had suddenly lost much of her interest in him.

De Silvis's dinners were excellent. The party had sat long at table, and
when Monsieur Anatole thought of the oysters with which the feast had
begun, they appeared to him like a beautiful dream. On the contrary, he
had a somewhat too lively recollection of the truffles.

Dinner was over; hands were reaching out for glasses, or trifling with
fruit or biscuits.

That sentimental blonde, Mademoiselle Louison, fell into meditation over
a grape that she had dropped in her champagne glass. Tiny bright
air-bubbles gathered all round the coating of the fruit, and when it was
quite covered with these shining white pearls, they lifted the heavy
grape up through the wine to the surface.

'Look!' said Mademoiselle Louison, turning her large, swimming eyes upon
the journalist, 'look, white angels are bearing a sinner to heaven!'

'Ah! _charmant_, mademoiselle! What a sublime thought!' exclaimed the
journalist, enraptured.

Mademoiselle Louison's sublime thought passed round the table, and was
much admired. Only the frivolous Adèle whispered to her obese admirer,
'It would take a good many angels to bear you, Anatole.'

Meanwhile the journalist seized the opportunity; he knew how to rivet
the general attention. Besides, he was glad to escape from a tiresome
political controversy with the German; and, as he wore a red ribbon and
affected the superior journalistic tone, everybody listened to him.

He explained how small forces, when united, can lift great burdens; and
then he entered upon the topic of the day--the magnificent collections
made by the press for the sufferers by the floods in Spain, and for the
poor of Paris. Concerning this he had much to relate, and every moment
he said 'we,' alluding to the press. He talked himself quite warm about
'these millions, that we, with such great self-sacrifice, have raised.'

But each of the others had his own story to tell. Numberless little
touches of nobility--all savouring of self-denial--came to light from
amidst these days of luxury and pleasure.

Mademoiselle Louison's best friend--an insignificant little lady who sat
at the foot of the table--told, in spite, of Louison's protest, how the
latter had taken three poor seamstresses up to her own rooms, and had
them sew the whole of the night before the _fête_ in the hippodrome. She
had given the poor girls coffee and food, besides payment.

Mademoiselle Louison suddenly became an important personage at table,
and the journalist began to show her marked attention.

The many pretty instances of philanthropy, and Louison's swimming eyes,
put the whole company into a quiet, tranquil, benevolent frame of mind,
eminently in keeping with the weariness induced by the exertions of the
feast. And this comfortable feeling rose yet a few degrees higher after
the guests were settled in soft easy-chairs in the cool drawing-room.

There was no other light than the fire in the grate. Its red glimmer
crept over the English carpet and up the gold borders in the tapestry;
it shone upon a gilt picture-frame, on the piano that stood opposite,
and, here and there, on a face further away in the gloom. Nothing else
was visible except the red ends of cigars and cigarettes.

The conversation died away. The silence was broken only by an occasional
whisper or the sound of a coffee-cup being put aside; each seemed
disposed to enjoy, undisturbed, his genial mood and the quiet gladness
of digestion. Even Monsieur Anatole forgot his truffles, as he reclined
in a low chair close to the sofa, on which Mademoiselle Adèle had taken
her seat.

'Is there no one who will give us a little music?' asked Senhor de
Silvis from his chair. 'You are always so kind, Mademoiselle Adèle.'

'Oh no, no!' cried Mademoiselle; 'I am too tired.'

But the foreigner--the Irishman--rose from his corner and walked towards
the instrument.

'Ah, you will play for us! A thousand thanks, Monsieur--.' Senhor de
Silvis had forgotten the name--a thing that often happened to him with
his guests.

'He is a musician,' said Mademoiselle Adèle to her friend. Anatole
grunted admiringly.

Indeed, all were similarly impressed by the mere way in which he sat
down and, without any preparation, struck a few chords here and there,
as if to wake the instrument.

Then he began to play--lightly, sportively, frivolously, as befitted the
situation. The melodies of the day were intermingled with fragments of
waltzes and ballads; all the ephemeral trifles that Paris hums over for
eight days he blended together with brilliantly fluent execution.

The ladies uttered exclamations of admiration, and sang a few bars,
keeping time with their feet. The whole party followed the music with
intense interest; the strange artist had hit their mood, and drawn them
all with him from the beginning. 'Der liebe Doctor' alone listened with
the Sedan smile on his face; the pieces were too easy for him.

But soon there came something for the German too; he nodded now and then
with a sort of appreciation.

It was a strange situation: the piquant fragrance that filled the air,
the pleasure-loving women--these people, so free and unconstrained, all
strangers to one another, hidden in the elegant, half-dark salon, each
following his most secret thoughts--thoughts born of the mysterious,
muffled music; whilst the firelight rose and fell, and made everything
that was golden glimmer in the darkness.

And there constantly came more for the doctor. From time to time he
turned and signed to De Silvis, as he heard the loved notes of 'unser
Schumann,' 'unser Beethoven,' or even of 'unser famoser Richard.'

Meanwhile the stranger played on, steadily and without apparent effort,
slightly inclined to the left, so as to give power to the bass. It
sounded as if he had twenty fingers, all of steel; he knew how to unite
the multitudinous notes in a single powerful clang. Without any pause to
mark the transition from one melody to another, he riveted the interest
of the company by constant new surprises, graceful allusions, and genial
combinations, so that even the least musical among them were constrained
to listen with eager attention.

But the character of the music imperceptibly changed. The artist bent
constantly over the instrument, inclining more to the left, and there
was a strange unrest in the bass notes. The Baptists from 'The Prophet'
came with heavy step; a rider from 'Damnation de Faust' dashed up from
far below, in a desperate, hobbling hell-gallop.

The rumbling grew stronger and stronger down in the depths, and Monsieur
Anatole again began to feel the effects of the truffles. Mademoiselle
Adèle half rose; the music would not let her lie in peace.

Here and there the firelight shone on a pair of black eyes staring at
the artist. He had lured them with him, and now they could not break
loose; downward, ever downward, he led them--downward, where was a dull
and muffled murmur as of threatenings and plaints.

'Er führt eine famose linke Hand,' said the doctor. But De Silvis did
not hear him; he sat, like the others, in breathless expectancy.

A dark, sickening dread went out from the music and spread itself over
them all. The artist's left hand seemed to be tying a knot that would
never be loosened, while his right made light little runs, like flames,
up and down in the treble. It sounded as if there was something uncanny
brewing down in the cellar, whilst those above burnt torches and made
merry.

A sigh was heard, a half-scream from one of the ladies, who felt ill;
but no one heeded it. The artist had now got quite down into the bass,
and his tireless fingers whirled the notes together, so that a cold
shudder crept down the backs of all.

But into that threatening, growling sound far below there began to come
an upward movement. The notes ran into, over, past each other--upward,
always upward, but without making any way. There was a wild struggle to
get up, as it were a multitude of small, dark figures scratching and
tearing; a mad eagerness, a feverish haste; a scrambling, a seizing with
hands and teeth; kicks, curses, shrieks, prayers--and all the while the
artist's hands glided upward so slowly, so painfully slowly.

'Anatole,' whispered Adèle, pale as death, 'he is playing Poverty.'

'Oh, these truffles!' groaned Anatole, holding his stomach.

All at once the room was lit up. Two servants with lamps and candelabra
appeared in the _portière_; and at the same moment the stranger finished
by bringing down his fingers of steel with all his might in a
dissonance, so startling, so unearthly, that the whole party sprang up.

'Out with the lamps!' shouted De Silvis.

'No, no!' shrieked Adèle; 'I dare not be in the dark. Oh, that dreadful
man!'

Who was it? Yes, who was it? They involuntarily crowded round the host,
and no one noticed the stranger slip out behind the servants.

De Silvis tried to laugh. 'I think it was the devil himself. Come, let
us go to the opera.'

'To the opera! Not at any price!' exclaimed Louison. 'I will hear no
music for a fortnight.'

'Oh, those truffles!' moaned Anatole.

The party broke up. They had all suddenly realized that they were
strangers in a strange place, and each one wished to slip quietly home.

As the journalist conducted Mademoiselle Louison to her carriage, he
said: 'Yes, this is the consequence of letting one's self be persuaded
to dine with these semi-savages. One is never sure of the company he
will meet.'

'Ah, how true! He quite spoiled my good spirits,' said Louison
mournfully, turning her swimming eyes upon her companion. 'Will you
accompany me to La Trinité? There is a low mass at twelve o'clock.'

The journalist bowed, and got into the carriage with her.

But as Mademoiselle Adèle and Monsieur Anatole drove past the English
dispensary in the Rue de la Paix, he stopped the driver, and said
pleadingly to his fair companion: 'I really think I must get out and get
something for those truffles. You will excuse me, won't you? That music,
you know.'

'Don't mind me, my friend. Speaking candidly, I don't think either of us
is specially lively this evening. Good-night.'

She leant back in the carriage, relieved at finding herself alone; and
this light, frivolous creature cried as if she had been whipped whilst
she drove homeward.

Anatole was undoubtedly suffering from the truffles, but yet he thought
he came to himself as the carriage rolled away. Never in their whole
acquaintance had they been so well pleased with each other as at this
moment of parting.

'Der liebe Doctor' had come best through the experience, because, being
a German, he was hardened in music. All the same, he resolved to take a
walk as far as Müller's _brasserie_ in the Rue Richelieu to get a decent
glass of German beer, and perhaps a little bacon, on the top of it all.



A MONKEY.


Yes, it was really a monkey that had nearly procured me 'Laudabilis'
[Footnote: A second-class pass.] in my final law examination. As it
was, I only got 'Haud'; [Footnote: A third-class pass.] but, after
all, this was pretty creditable.

But my friend the advocate, who had daily, with mingled feelings, to
read the drafts of my work, found my process-paper so good that he hoped
it might raise me into the 'Laud' list. And he did not wish me to suffer
the injury and annoyance of being plucked in the _vivâ voce_
examination, for he knew me and was my friend.

But the monkey was really a coffee-stain on the margin of page 496 of
Schweigaard's Process, which I had borrowed from my friend Cucumis.

Going up to a law examination in slush and semi-darkness in mid-winter
is one of the saddest experiences that a man can have. It may, indeed,
be even worse in summer; but this I have not tried.

One rushes through these eleven papers (or is it thirteen?--it is
certainly the most infamous number that the college authorities have
been able to devise)--like an unhappy _débutant_ in a circus. He stands
on the back of a galloping horse, with his life in his hands and a silly
circus smile on his lips; and so he must leap eleven (or is it
thirteen?) times through one of these confounded paper-covered hoops.

The unhappy mortal who passes--or tries to pass--his law examination,
finds himself in precisely the same situation, only he does not gallop
round a ring, under brilliant gaslight, to the music of a full band. He
sits upon a hard chair in semi-darkness with his face to the wall, and
the only sound he hears is the creaking of the inspectors' boots. For in
all the wide, wide world there are no such creaky boots as those of law
examination inspectors.

And so comes the dreadful moment when the black-robed tormentor from the
Collegium Juridicum brings in the examination-paper. He plants himself
in the doorway, and reads. Coldly, impassively, with a cruel mockery of
the horror of the situation, he raises aloft this fateful document--this
wretched paper-covered hoop, through which we must all spring, or
dismount and wend our way back--on foot!

The candidates settle themselves in the saddle. Some seem quite unable
to get firmly seated; they rock uneasily hither and thither, and one
rider dismounts. He is followed to the door by all eyes, and a sigh runs
through the assembled students. 'You to-day; I to-morrow.'

Meanwhile one begins to hear a light trotting over the paper; they are
leaping.

Some few individuals sit firmly and gracefully through it all, and come
out on the other side 'standing for Laud.' Others think that leaping
straight is too easy; therefore, they turn in the air and alight with
backs first. These also get through, but backwards; and it is said that
their agility does not win from the judges its deserved meed of
appreciation.

Again, others leap, but miss the hoop. They spring underneath, to one
side--some even high over the top, alighting safe and sound on the other
side. These latter generally find the paper extremely simple, and
continue the wild ride quite unconcernedly.

But if one is not fond of riding, and has had no practice in leaping, he
is much to be pitied--unless, indeed, he has a monkey on page 496.

I do not know how many hoops I had passed when I found myself face to
face with the process-paper.

It was an unhealthy life that we then led: leaping by day and reading by
night. I sat at midnight half-way through Schweigaard's Process,
alternately putting my head out of the window and into the washhand
basin, and, between whiles, rushing like a whirlwind through the
withered leaves of the musty volume.

However, even the most violent wind must eventually fall; and, indeed,
this was my heartfelt wish. But the juridical momentum was strong
within me. I sat stiffly, peering and reading for the eleventh time:
'One might thus certainly assume'--'One--might--thus--certainly,'--
combine the useful with the agreeable--and lean back--a little in the
chair. I can read just as well; the lamp doesn't bother me in the least.
'One--might--thus--'

But all manner of non-juridical images rose up from the book, entwined
themselves about the lamp, and threatened to completely overshadow my
clear legal brain. I could yet dimly see the white paper. 'One--might--
thus--'. The rest disappeared in a myriad of small dark characters that
flowed down the closely-printed pages; in dull despair my eyes followed
the stream, and then I saw, towards the bottom of the right-hand page, a
face.

It was a monkey that was drawn on the margin. It was excellently drawn,
I thought, the brown colouring of the face being especially remarkable.
I am ashamed to say that my interest in this work of art proved stronger
than Schweigaard himself. I roused myself a little, and leant forward
in order to see better.

By turning the leaf, I discovered that the remarkable brown colouring of
the face was due to the fact that the whole monkey, after all, was only
a coffee-stain. The artist had merely added a pair of eyes and a little
hair; the genial expression of the picture was really to be credited to
the individual who had spilt the coffee.

'Cucumis couldn't draw,' thought I; that I knew. 'But, by Jove! he
_could_ do his process!'

And now I came to think of Cucumis, of his handsome degree, of his
triumphant home-coming, and of how much he must have read in order to
become so learned. And, while I thought of all this, my consciousness
awoke little by little, until my own ignorance suddenly stood clearly
before me in all its horrible nakedness.

I pictured to myself the shame of having to 'dismount,' or, still worse,
of being that one unfortunate of whom it is invariably said with
sinister anonymity, 'One of the candidates received _non contemnendus_'.
And as it sometimes happens that people lose their reason through much
learning, so I grew half crazy with terror at my ignorance.

Up I jumped, and dipped my head in the wash-basin. Scarcely taking time
to dry myself, I began to read with an energy that fixed every word in
my memory.

Down the left page I hurried, with unabated vigour down the right; I
reached the monkey, rushed past him, turned the leaf, and read bravely
on.

I was not conscious of the fact that my strength was now completely
exhausted. Although I caught a glimpse of a new section (usually so
strong an incentive to increased effort), I could not help getting
entangled in one of those artful propositions that one reads over and
over again in illusory profundity.

I groped about for a way of escape, but there was none. Incoherent
thoughts began to whirl through my brain. 'Where is the monkey?--a spot
of coffee--one cannot be genial on both sides--everything in life has a
right and a wrong side--for example, the university clock--but if I
cannot swim, let me come out--I am going to the circus--I know very well
that you are standing there grinning at me, Cucumis--but I can leap
through the hoop, I can--and if that professor who is standing smoking
at my paraffin lamp had only conscientiously referred to _corpus juris_,
I should not now be lying here--in my night-shirt in the middle of Karl
Johan's Gade [Footnote: A principal street of Christiania.]--but--' Then
I sank into that deep, dreamless slumber which only falls to the lot of
an evil conscience when one is very young.

I was in the saddle early next morning.

I don't know if the devil ever had shoes on, but I must suppose he had,
for his inspectors were in their boots, and they creaked past me, where
I sat in my misery with my face to the wall.

A professor walked round the rooms and looked at the victims.
Occasionally he nodded and smiled encouragingly, as his eye fell on one
of those miserable lick-spittles who frequent the lectures; but when he
discovered me, the smile vanished, and his ice-cold stare seemed to
write upon the wall over my head: 'Mene, mene! [Footnote: Dan. v. 25.]
Wretch, I know thee not!'

A pair of inspectors walked creakily up to the professor and fawned upon
him; I heard them whispering behind my chair. I ground my teeth in
silent wrath at the thought that these contemptible creatures were paid
for--yes, actually made their living by torturing me and some of my best
friends.

The door opened; a glimmering yellow light fell upon the white faces; it
called to mind 'The Victims of Terrorism' in Luxembourg. Then all again
became dark, and the black-robed emissary of the College flitted through
the room like a bat, with the famous white document in his claws.

He began to read.

Never in my life had I been less inclined for leaping; and yet I started
violently at the first words. 'The monkey!' I had almost shouted; for he
it was--it was evidently the coffee-stain on page 496. The paper bore
precisely upon what I had read with so much energy the preceding night.

And I began to write. After a short, but superior and assured preamble,
I introduced the high-sounding words of Schweigaard, 'One might thus
certainly assume,' etc., and hurried down the left page, with unabated
vigour down the right, reached the monkey, dashed past him, began to
grope and fumble, and then I found I could not write a word more.

I felt that something was wanting, but I knew that it was useless to
speculate; what a man can't do, he can't. I therefore made a full stop,
and went away long before any of the others were half finished.

He has dismounted, thought my fellow-sufferers, or he may have leaped
wide of the hoop. For it was a difficult paper.

       *       *       *       *       *

'Why,' said the advocate, as he read, 'you are better than I thought.
This is pure Schweigaard. You have left out the last point, but that
doesn't matter very much; one can see that you are well up in these
things. But why, then, were you so pitiably afraid of the process
yesterday?'

'I didn't know a thing.'

He laughed. 'Was it last night, then, that you learned your process?'

'Yes.'

'Did anyone help you?'

'Yes.'

'He must be a devil of a crammer who could put so much law into your
head in one night. May I ask what wizard it was?'

'A monkey!' I replied.



A TALE OF THE SEA.


Once there lay in a certain haven a large number of vessels. They had
lain there very long, not exactly on account of storm, but rather
because of a dead calm; and at last they had lain there until they no
longer heeded the weather.

All the captains had gradually become good friends; they visited from
ship to ship, and called one another 'Cousin.'

They were in no hurry to depart. Now and then a youthful steersman might
chance to let fall a word about a good wind and a smooth sea. But such
remarks were not tolerated; order had to be maintained on a ship. Those,
therefore, who could not hold their tongues were set ashore.

Matters could not, however, go on thus for ever. Men are not so good as
they ought to be, and all do not thrive under law and order.

The crews at length began to murmur a little; they were weary of
painting and polishing the cabins, and of rowing the captains to and
from the toddy suppers. It was rumoured that individual ships were
getting ready for sailing. The sails of some were set one by one in all
silence, the anchors were weighed without song, and the ships glided
quietly out of the harbour; others sailed while their captains slept.
Fighting and mutiny were also heard of; but then there came help from
the neighbour captains, the malcontents were punished and put ashore,
and all moorings were carefully examined and strengthened.

Nevertheless, all the ships, except one, at last left the harbour. They
did not all sail with like fortune; one and another even came in again
for a time, damaged. Others were little heard of. The captain of one
ship, it was said, was thrown overboard by his men; another sailed with
half the crew in irons, none knew where. But yet they were all in
motion, each striving after its own fashion, now in storm, now in calm,
towards its goal.

As stated, only one ship remained in the harbour, and it lay safe and
sound, with two anchors at the bottom and three great cables attached to
the quay.

It was a strange little craft. The hull was old, but it had been newly
repaired, and they had given it a smart little modern figurehead, which
contrasted strangely with the smooth sides and the heavy stern. One
could see that the rigging had originally belonged to a large vessel,
but had been very hastily adapted to the smaller hull, and this still
further increased the want of proportion in the brig's whole appearance.
Then it was painted with large portholes for guns, like a man-of-war,
and always carried its flag at the main-mast.

The skipper was no common man. He himself had painted the sketch of the
brig that hung in the cabin, and, besides, he could sing--both psalms
and songs. Indeed, there were those who maintained that he composed the
songs himself; but this was most probably a lie. And it was certainly a
lie that they whispered in the forecastle: that the skipper had not
quite got his sea-legs. Young men always tell such stories to
cabin-boys, in order to appear manly. And, besides, there was a
steersman on the brig, who could, on a pinch, easily round the headlands
alone.

He had sailed as steersman for many years of our Lord, ever since the
time of the skipper's late father. He had become as if glued to the
tiller, and many could scarcely imagine the old brig with a new
steersman.

He had certainly never voyaged in distant waters; but as his trade had
always been the same, and as he had invariably been in the company of
others, the brig had sailed pretty fortunately, without special damage
and without special merit.

Therefore, both he and the skipper had arrived at the conviction that
none could sail better than they, and hence they cared little what the
others did. They looked up at the sky and shook their heads.

The men felt quite comfortable, for they were not used to better things.
Most of them could not understand why the crews of the other ships were
in such a hurry to be off; the month went round all the same, whether
one lay in port or sailed, and then it was better to avoid work. So long
as the skipper made no sign of preparation for sailing, the men might
keep their minds easy, for he must surely have the most interest in
getting away. And besides, they all knew what sort of fellow the
steersman was, and if such a capable and experienced man lay still, they
might be quite sure that he had good and powerful reasons.

But a little party among the crew--some quite youthful persons--thought
it was a shame to let themselves be thus left astern by everybody. They
had, indeed, no special advantage or profit to expect from the voyage,
but at last the inaction became intolerable, and they conceived the
daring resolve of sending a youth aft to beg the captain to fix a date
for sailing.

The more judicious among the crew crossed themselves, and humbly
entreated the young man to keep quiet; but the latter was a rash
greenhorn, who had sailed in foreign service, and therefore imagined
himself to be a 'regular devil of a fellow.' He went right aft and down
into the cabin, where the skipper and the steersman sat with their
whisky before them, playing cards.

'We would ask if the skipper would kindly set sail next week, for now we
are all so weary of lying here,' said the young man, looking the skipper
straight in the eyes without winking.

The latter's face first turned pale blue, and then assumed a deep violet
tint; but he restrained himself, and said, as was his invariable custom:

'What think you, steersman?'

'H'm,' replied the steersman slowly. More he never used to say at first,
when he was questioned, for he did not like to answer promptly. But when
he got an opportunity of speaking alone, without being interrupted, he
could utter the longest sentences and the very hardest words. And then
the skipper was especially proud of him.

However short the steersman's reply might seem, the skipper at once
understood its meaning. He turned towards the youth--gravely, but
gracefully, for he was an exceedingly well-bred man.

'You cursed young fool! don't you think I understand these things better
than you? I, who have thought of nothing but being a skipper since I was
knee-high! But I know well enough what you and the like of you are
thinking about. You don't care a d---- about the craft, and if you could
only get the power from us old ones, you would run her on the first
islet you came to, so that you might plunder her of the whisky. But
there will be none of that, my young whelp! Here we shall lie, as long
as I choose.'

When this decision reached the forecastle, it awoke great indignation
among the young and immature, which, indeed, was only to be expected.
But even the skipper's friends and admirers shook their heads, and
opined that it was a nasty answer; after all, it was only a civil
question, which ought not to compromise anybody.

There now arose a growing ill-humour--something quite unheard-of among
these peaceable fellows. Even the skipper, who was not usually quick to
understand or remark anything, thought he saw many sullen faces, and he
was no longer so well pleased with the bearing of the crew when he
stepped out upon deck with his genial 'Good-morning, you rogues.'

But the steersman had long scented something, for he had a fine nose and
long ears. Therefore, a couple of evenings after the young man's
unfortunate visit, it was remarked that something extraordinary was
brewing aft.

The cabin-boy had to make three journeys with the toddy-kettle, and the
report he gave in the forecastle after his last trip was indeed
disquieting.

The steersman seemed to have talked without intermission for two hours;
before them on the table lay barometer, chronometer, sextant, journal,
and half the ship's library. This consisted of Kingo's hymn-book and an
old Dutch 'Kaart-Boikje'; [Footnote: Chart-book.] for the skipper could
do just as little with the new hymns as the steersman with the new
charts.

The skipper now sat prodding the chart with a large pair of compasses,
while the steersman talked, using all his longest and hardest words.
There was one word in particular that was often repeated, and this the
boy learned by heart. He said it over and over again to himself as he
went up the cabin stairs and passed along the deck to the forecastle,
and the moment he opened the door he shouted:

'Initiative! Mind that word, boys! Write it down--initiative!'

_In-i-ti-a-tive_ was with much difficulty spelt out and written with
chalk on the table. And during the boy's long statement all these men
sat staring, uneasily and with anxious expectancy, at this long, mystic
word.

'And then,' concluded the cabin-boy at last--'then says the steersman:
"But we ourselves shall take the--" what is written on the table.'

All exclaimed simultaneously, 'Initiative.'

'Yes, that was it. And every time he said it, they both struck the table
and looked at me as if they would eat me. I now think, therefore, that
it is a new kind of revolver they intend to use upon us.'

But none of the others thought so; it was surely not so bad as that. But
something was impending, that was clear. And the relieved watchman went
to his berth with gloomy forebodings, and the middle watch did not get a
wink of sleep that night.

At seven o'clock next morning both skipper and steersman were up on
deck. No man could remember ever having seen them before so early in the
day. But there was no time to stand in amazement, for now followed, in
quick succession, orders for sailing.

'Heave up the anchors! Let two men go ashore and slip the cables!'

There was gladness and bustle among the crew, and the preparations
proceeded so rapidly that in less than an hour the brig was under
canvas.

The skipper looked at the steersman and shook his head, muttering, 'This
is the devil's own haste.'

After a few little turns in the spacious harbour, the brig passed the
headland and stood out to sea. A fresh breeze was blowing, and the waves
ran rather high.

The steersman, with a prodigious twist in his mouth, stood astride the
tiller, for such a piece of devil's trumpery as a wheel should never
come on board as long as _he_ had anything to say in the matter.

The skipper stood on the cabin stairs, with his head above the
companion. His face was of a somewhat greenish hue, and he frequently
ran down into the cabin. The old boatswain believed that he went to look
at the chart, the young man thought he drank whisky, but the cabin-boy
swore that he went below to vomit.

The men were in excellent spirits; it was so refreshing to breathe the
sea air, and to feel the ship once again moving under their feet.
Indeed, the old brig herself seemed to be in a good humour; she dived as
deep down between the seas as she could, and raised much more foam than
was necessary.

The young sailors looked out for heavy seas. 'Here comes a whopper,'
they shouted; 'if it would only hit us straight!' And it did.

It was a substantial sea, larger than the others. It approached
deliberately, and seemed to lie down and take aim. It then rose
suddenly, and gave the brig, which was chubby as a cherub, such a
mighty slap on the port cheek that she quivered in every timber. And
high over the railing, far in upon the deck, dashed the cold salt spray;
the captain had scarcely time to duck his head below the companion.

Ah, how refreshing it was! It exhilarated both old and young; they had
not had a taste of the cold sea-water for a long time, and with one
voice the whole crew broke into a lusty 'Hurrah!'

But at this moment the steerman's stentorian voice rang out: 'Hard to
leeward!' The brig luffed up close to the wind, the sails flapped so
violently that the rigging shook, and now followed in rapid succession,
even quicker than before, orders to anchor. 'Let fall the port anchor!
Let go the starboard one too!'

Plump--fell the one; plump--went the other. The old chains rattled out,
and a little red cloud of rust rose up on either side of the bowsprit.

The men, accustomed to obey, worked rapidly without thinking why, and
the brig soon rode pretty quietly at her two anchors.

But now, after the work was finished, no one could conceal his
astonishment at this sudden anchoring, just off the coast, among islets
and skerries. And still more extraordinary seemed the behaviour of those
in command. For they both stood right forward, with their backs to the
weather, leaning over the railing and staring at the port bow. Some had
even thought they had heard the captain cry, 'To the pumps, men,' but
this point was never cleared up.

'What the devil can they be doing forward?' said the rash young man.

'They think she struck on a reef when we shipped the big sea,' whispered
the cabin-boy.

'Hold your jaw, boy!' said the boatswain.

All the same, the cabin-boy's words passed from mouth to mouth; a little
chuckle was heard here and there; the men's faces became more and more
ludicrously uneasy, and their suppressed laughter was on the point of
bursting forth. Then the steersman was seen to nudge the skipper in the
side.

'Yes; but then you must whisper to me,' said the latter.

The steersman nodded, and then the skipper turned to the crew and
solemnly spoke as follows:

'Yes, this time, fortunately, everything went well; but now I hope that
each of you will have learnt how dangerous it is to lend an ear to these
juvenile agitators, who can never be quiet and let evolution, as the
steersman says, pursue its natural course. I yielded to your wishes this
time, it is true, but not because I approved of your insane rashness; it
was simply that I might convince you by--by the logic of events. And
see--how did things go? Certainly we have, as by a miracle, been spared
the worst; but now we lie here, outside our safe haven, our old
anchorage, which we have forsaken to be tossed about on the turbulent
waters of the unknown and the untried. But, believe me, henceforth you
will find both our excellent steersman and your captain at our post,
guarding against such crude, immature projects. And if things go badly
with us in days to come, you must all remember that it is entirely your
own fault; we wash our hands of the matter.'

Thereupon he strode through the men, who respectfully fell back to let
him pass. The steersman, who had really whispered, dried his eyes and
followed. They both disappeared in the cabin.

       *       *       *       *       *

There was much strife in the forecastle that day, and it grew worse
after.

The brig's happy days were all over. Dissension and discontent,
suspicion and obstinacy, converted the narrow limits of the forecastle
into a veritable hell.

Only skipper and steersman seemed to thrive well under all this. The
general dissatisfaction did not affect them; for they, of course, were
not to blame.

None thought of any change. The crew had done what they could, and the
skipper, on his part, had also been accommodating.

Now they might keep their minds at rest. The brig lay in a dangerous
place, but now she would have to lie--and there she lies to this day.



A DINNER.


There was a large dinner-party at the merchant's. The judge had made a
speech in honour of the home-coming of the student, the eldest son of
the house, and the merchant had replied with another in honour of the
judge; so far all was well and good. And yet one could see that the host
was disquieted about something. He answered inconsequentially, decanted
Rhine wine into port, and betrayed absence of mind in all manner of
ways.

He was meditating upon a speech--a speech beyond the scope of the
regulation after-dinner orations. This was something very remarkable;
for the merchant was no speaker, and--what was still more remarkable--he
knew it himself.

When, therefore, well on in the dinner, he hammered upon the table for
silence, and said that he must give expression to a sentiment that lay
at his heart, everybody instantly felt that something unusual was
impending.

There fell such a sudden stillness upon the table, that one could hear
the lively chatter of the ladies, who, in accordance with Norse custom,
were dining in the adjoining rooms.

At length the silence reached even them, and they crowded in the doorway
to listen. Only the hostess held back, sending her husband an anxious
look. 'Ah, dear me!' she sighed, half aloud, 'he is sure to make a
muddle of it. He has already made all his speeches; what would he be at
now?'

And he certainly did not begin well. He stammered, cleared his throat,
got entangled among the usual toast expressions, such as 'I will not
fail to--ahem--I am impelled to express my, my--that is, I would beg
you, gentlemen, to assist me in--'

The gentlemen sat and stared down into their glasses, ready to empty
them upon the least hint of a conclusion. But none came. On the
contrary, the speaker recovered himself.

For something really lay at his heart. His joy and pride over his son,
who had come home sound and well after having passed a respectable
examination, the judge's flattering speech, the good cheer, the wine,
the festive mood--all this put words into his mouth. And when he got
over the fatal introductory phrases, the words came more and more
fluently.

It was the toast of 'The Young.' The speaker dwelt upon our
responsibility towards children, and the many sorrows--but also the many
joys--that the parents have in them.

He was from time to time compelled to talk quickly to hide his emotion,
for he felt what he said.

And when he came to the grown-up children, when he imagined his dear son
a partner in his business, and spoke of grandchildren and so on, his
words acquired a ring of eloquence which astonished all his hearers, and
his peroration was greeted with hearty applause.

'For, gentlemen, it is in these children that we, as it were, continue
our existence. We leave them not only our name, but also our work. And
we leave them this, not that they may idly enjoy its fruits, but that
they may continue it, extend it--yes, do it much better than their
fathers were able to. For it is our hope that the rising generation may
appropriate the fruits of the work of the age, that they may be freed
from the prejudices that have darkened the past and partially darken the
present; and, in drinking the health of the young, let us wish that,
steadily progressing, they may become worthy of their sires--yes, let us
say it--outgrow them.

'And only when we know that we leave the work of our generation in abler
hands, can we calmly look forward to the time when we shall bid adieu to
our daily task, and then we may confidently reckon upon a bright and
glorious future for our dear Fatherland. A health to the Young!'

The hostess, who had ventured nearer when she heard that the speech was
going on well, was proud of her husband; the whole company was in an
exhilarated humour, but the gladdest of all was the student.

He had stood a little in awe of his father, whose severely patriarchal
principles he well knew. He now heard that the old man was extremely
liberal-minded towards youth, and he was very glad to be enabled to
discourse with him upon serious matters.

But, for the moment, it was only a question of jesting; _à propos_ of
the toast, there ensued one of those interesting table-talks, about who
was really young and who old. After the company had arrived at this
witty result, that the eldest were in reality the youngest, they
adjourned to the dessert-table, which was laid in the ladies' room.

But, no matter how gallant the gentlemen--especially those of the old
school--may be towards the fair sex, neither feminine amiability nor the
most _recherché_ dessert has power to stop them for long on their way to
the smoking-room. And soon the first faint aroma of cigars, so great a
luxury to smokers, announced the beginning of that process which has
obtained for our ladies the fame of being quite smoke-dried.

The student and a few other young gentlemen remained for a time with
the young ladies--under the strict surveillance of the elder ones. But
little by little they also were swallowed up in the gray cloud which
indicated the way that their fathers had taken.

In the smoking-room they were carrying on a very animated conversation
upon some matter of social politics. The host, who was speaking,
supported his view with a number of 'historical facts,' which, however,
were entirely unreliable.

His opponent, a solicitor of the High Court, was sitting chuckling
inwardly at the prospect of refuting these inaccurate statements, when
the student entered the room.

He came just in time to hear his father's blundering, and, in his jovial
humour, in his delight over the new conception of his father that he had
acquired after the toast, he said, with a cheery bluntness:

'Excuse me, father, you are mistaken there. The circumstances are not at
all as you state. On the contrary--'

He got no further: the father laughingly slapped him on the shoulder,
and said:

'There, there! are you, too, trifling with newspapers! But really, you
must not disturb us; we are in the middle of a serious discussion.'

The son heard an irritating sniff from the gray cloud; he was provoked
at the scorn implied in his interposition being regarded as disturbing a
serious conversation.

He therefore replied somewhat sharply.

The father, who instantly remarked the tone, suddenly changed his own
manner.

'Are you serious in coming here and saying that your father is talking
nonsense?'

'I did not say that; I only said that you were mistaken.'

'The words are of little moment, but the meaning was there,' said the
merchant, who was beginning to get angry. For he heard a gentleman say
to his neighbour:

'If this had only happened in my father's time!'

One word now drew forth another, and the situation became extremely
painful.

The hostess, who had always an attentive ear for the gentlemen's
conversation, as she knew her husband's hasty temper, immediately came
and looked in at the door.

'What is it, Adjunct [Footnote: Assistant-teacher.] Hansen?'

'Ah,' replied Hansen, 'your son has forgotten himself a little.'

'To his own father! He must have had too much to drink. Dear Hansen, try
and get him out.'

The Adjunct, who was more well-meaning than diplomatic, and who, besides
(a rarer thing with old teachers than is generally supposed) was
esteemed by his former pupils, went and took the student without
ceremony by the arm, saying: 'Come, shall we two take a turn in the
garden?'

The young man turned round violently, but when he saw that it was the
old teacher, and received, at the same time, a troubled, imploring
glance from his mother, he passively allowed himself to be led away.

While in the doorway, he heard the lawyer, whom he had never been able
to endure, say something about the egg that would teach the hen to lay,
which witticism was received with uproarious laughter. A thrill passed
through him; but the Adjunct held him firmly, and out they went.

It was long before the old teacher could get him sufficiently quieted to
become susceptible to reason. The disappointment, the bitter sense of
being at variance with his father, and, not least, the affront of being
treated as a boy in the presence of so many--all this had to pour out
for awhile.

But at last he became calm, and sat down with his old friend, who now
pointed out to him that it must be very painful to an elderly man to be
corrected by a mere youth.

'Yes, but I was right,' said the student, certainly for the twentieth
time.

'Good, good! but yet you must not put on an air of wanting to be wiser
than your own father.'

'Why, my father himself said that he would have it so.'

'What? When did your father say that?' The teacher almost began to
believe that the wine had gone to the young gentleman's head.

'At the table--in his speech.'

'At the table--yes! In his speech--yes! But, don't you see, that is
quite another matter. People allow themselves to say such things,
especially in speeches; but it is by no means intended that these
theories should be translated into practice. No, believe me, my dear
boy, I am old, and I know humanity. The world must wag like this; we are
not made otherwise. In youth one has his own peculiar view of life, but,
young man, it is not the right one. Only when one has arrived at the
calm restfulness of an advanced age does one see circumstances in the
true light. And now I will tell you something, upon the truth of which
you may confidently rely. When you come to your father's years and
position, your opinions will be quite the same as his now are, and, like
him, you will strive to maintain them and impress them upon your
children.'

'No, never! I swear it,' cried the young man, springing to his feet. And
now he spoke in glowing terms, to the effect that for him right would
always be right, that he would respect the truth, no matter whence it
came, that he would respect the young, and so on. In short, he talked as
hopeful youths are wont to talk after a good dinner and violent mental
disturbance.

He was beautiful, as he stood there with the evening sun shining upon
his blonde hair, and his enthusiastic countenance turned upward.

There was in his whole personality and in his words something
transporting and convincing, something that could not fail to work an
impression--that is to say, if anybody but the teacher had seen and
heard him.

For upon the teacher it made no impression whatever; he was old, of
course.

The drama of which he had that day been a witness he had seen many
times. He himself had successively played both the principal _rôles_; he
had seen many _débutants_ like the student and many old players like the
merchant.

Therefore he shook his venerable head, and said to himself:

'Yes, yes; it is all well enough. But just see if I am not right; he
will become precisely the same as the rest of us.'

And the teacher was right.



TROFAST. [Footnote: Faithful.]

     I.


Miss Thyra went and called into the speaking-tube:

'Will Trofast's cutlets be ready soon?'

The maid's voice came up from the kitchen: 'They are on the window-sill
cooling; as soon as they are all right, Stine shall bring them up.'

Trofast, who had heard this, went and laid himself quietly down upon the
hearthrug.

He understood much better than a human being, the merchant used to say.

Besides the people of the house, there sat at the breakfast-table an
old enemy of Trofast's--the only one he had. But be it said that Cand.
jur. [Footnote: Graduate in law.] Viggo Hansen was the enemy of a
great deal in this world, and his snappish tongue was well known all
over Copenhagen. Having been a friend of the family for many years, he
affected an especial frankness in this house, and when he was in a
querulous mood (which was always the case) he wreaked his bitterness
unsparingly upon anything or anybody.

In particular, he was always attacking Trofast.

'That big yellow beast,' he used to say, 'is being petted and pampered
and stuffed with steak and cutlets, while many a human child must bite
its fingers after a piece of dry bread.'

This, however, was a tender point, of which Dr. Hansen had to be rather
careful.

Whenever anyone mentioned Trofast in words that were not full of
admiration, he received a simultaneous look from the whole family, and
the merchant had even said point-blank to Dr. Hansen that he might one
day get seriously angry if the other would not refer to Trofast in a
becoming manner.

But Miss Thyra positively hated Dr. Hansen for this; and although
Waldemar was now grown up--a student, at any rate--he took a special
pleasure in stealing the gloves out of the doctor's back pocket, and
delivering them to Trofast to tear.

Yes, the good-wife herself, although as mild and sweet as tea, was
sometimes compelled to take the doctor to task, and seriously
remonstrate with him for daring to speak so ill of the dear animal.

All this Trofast understood very well; but he despised Dr. Hansen, and
took no notice of him. He condescended to tear the gloves, because it
pleased his friend Waldemar, but otherwise he did not seem to see the
doctor.

When the cutlets came, Trofast ate them quietly and discreetly. He did
not crunch the bones, but picked them quite clean, and licked the
platter.

Thereupon he went up to the merchant, and laid his right fore-paw upon
his knee.

'Welcome, welcome, old boy!' cried the merchant with emotion. He was
moved in like manner every morning, when this little scene was
re-enacted.

'Why, you can't call Trofast old, father,' said Waldemar, with a little
tone of superiority.

'Indeed! Do you know that he will soon be eight?'

'Yes, my little man,' said the good wife gently; 'but a dog of eight is
not an old dog.'

'No, mother,' exclaimed Waldemar eagerly. 'You side with me, don't you?
A dog of eight is not an old dog.'

And in an instant the whole family was divided into two parties--two
very ardent parties, who, with an unceasing flow of words, set to
debating the momentous question:--whether one can call a dog of eight
years an old dog or not. Both sides became warm, and, although each one
kept on repeating his unalterable opinion into his opponent's face, it
did not seem likely that they would ever arrive at unanimity--not even
when old grandmother hurriedly rose from her chair, and positively
insisted upon telling some story about the Queen-Dowager's lap-dog,
which she had had the honour of knowing from the street.

But in the midst of the irresistible whirl of words there came a pause.
Some one looked at his watch and said: 'The steamboat.' They all rose;
the gentlemen, who had to go to town, rushed off; the whole company was
scattered to the four winds, and the problem--whether one can call a dog
of eight an old dog or not--floated away in the air, unsolved.

Trofast alone did not stir. He was accustomed to this domestic din, and
these unsolved problems did not interest him. He ran his wise eyes over
the deserted breakfast-table, dropped his black nose upon his powerful
fore-paws, and closed his eyes for a little morning nap. As long as they
were staying out in the country, there was nothing much for him to do,
except eat and sleep.

Trofast was one of the pure Danish hounds from the Zoological Gardens.
The King had even bought his brother, which fact was expressly
communicated to all who came to the house.

All the same, he had had a pretty hard upbringing, for he was originally
designated to be watch-dog at the merchant's large coalstore out at
Kristianshavn.

Out there, Trofast's behaviour was exemplary. Savage and furious as a
tiger at night, in the daytime he was so quiet, kindly, and even humble,
that the merchant took notice of him, and promoted him to the position
of house-dog.

And it was really from this moment that the noble animal began to
develop all his excellent qualities.

From the very beginning he had a peculiar, modest way of standing at the
drawing-room door, and looking so humbly at anybody who entered that it
was quite impossible to avoid letting him into the room. And there he
soon made himself at home--under the sofa at first, but afterwards upon
the soft carpet in front of the fire.

And as the other members of the family learned to appreciate his rare
gifts, Trofast gradually advanced in importance, until Dr. Hansen
maintained that he was the real master of the house.

Certain it is that there came a something into Trofast's whole demeanour
which distinctly indicated that he was well aware of the position he
occupied. He no longer stood humbly at the door, but entered first
himself as soon as it was opened. And if the door was not opened for him
instantly when he scratched at it, the powerful animal would raise
himself upon his hind-legs, lay his fore-paws upon the latch, and open
it for himself.

The first time that he performed this feat the good-wife delightedly
exclaimed:

'Isn't he charming? He's just like a human being, only so much better
and more faithful!'

The rest of the family were also of opinion that Trofast was better than
a human being. Each one seemed, as it were, to get quit of a few of his
own sins and infirmities through this admiring worship of the noble
animal; and whenever anybody was displeased with himself or others,
Trofast received the most confidential communications, and solemn
assurances that he was really the only friend upon whom one could rely.

When Miss Thyra came home disappointed from a ball, or when her best
friend had faithlessly betrayed a frightfully great secret, she would
throw herself, weeping, upon Trofast's neck, and say: 'Now, Trofast, I
have only you left. There is nobody--nobody--nobody on the earth who
likes me but you! Now we two are quite alone in the wide, wide world;
but you will not betray your poor little Thyra--you must promise me
that, Trofast.' And so she would weep on, until her tears trickled down
Trofast's black nose.

No wonder, therefore, that Trofast comported himself with a certain
dignity at home in the house. But in the street also it was evident that
he felt self-confident, and that he was proud of being a dog in a town
where dogs are in power.

When they were staying in the country in summer, Trofast went to town
only once a week or so, to scent out old acquaintances. Out in the
country, he lived exclusively for the sake of his health; he bathed,
rolled in the flower-beds, and then went into the parlour to rub himself
dry upon the furniture, the ladies, and finally upon the hearthrug.

But for the remainder of the year the whole of Copenhagen was at his
disposal, and he availed himself of his privileges with much assurance.


What a treat it was, early in the spring, when the fine grass began to
shoot upon the public lawns, which no human foot must tread, to run up
and down and round in a ring with a few friends, scattering the tufts of
grass in the air!

Or when the gardener's people had gone home to dinner, after having
pottered and trimmed all the forenoon among the fine flowers and bushes,
what fun it was to pretend to dig for moles; thrust his nose down into
the earth in the centre of the flower-bed, snort and blow, then begin
scraping up the earth with his fore-feet, stop for a little, thrust his
muzzle down again, blow, and then fall to digging up earth with all his
might, until the hole was so deep that a single vigorous kick from his
hind-legs could throw a whole rose-bush, roots and all, high in the air!

When Trofast, after such an escapade, lay quietly in the middle of the
lawn, in the warm spring sunshine, and saw the humans trudge wearily
past outside, in dust or mud, he would silently and self-complacently
wag his tail.

Then there were the great fights in Grönningen, or round the horse in
Kongens Nytorv. [Footnote: King's Square.] From thence, wet and
bedraggled, he would dash up Östergade [Footnote: East Street.] among
people's legs, rubbing against ladies' dresses and gentlemen's
trousers, overthrowing old women and children, exercising an unlimited
right-of-way on both sides of the pavement, now rushing into a backyard
and up the kitchen stairs after a cat, now scattering terror and
confusion by flying right at the throat of an old enemy. Or Trofast
would sometimes amuse himself by stopping in front of a little girl who
might be going an errand for her mother, thrusting his black nose up
into her face, and growling, with gaping jaws, 'Bow, wow, wow!'

If you could see the little thing! She becomes blue in the face, her
arms hang rigidly by her sides, her feet keep tripping up and down; she
tries to scream, but cannot utter a sound.

But the grown ladies in the street cry shame upon her, and say:

'What a little fool! How _can_ you be afraid of such a dear, nice dog?
Why, he only wants to play with you! See what a great big, fine fellow
he is. Won't you pat him?'

But this the little one will not do upon any account; and, when she goes
home to her mother, the sobs are still rising in her throat. Neither her
mother nor the doctor can understand, afterwards, why the healthy,
lively child becomes rigid and blue in the face at the least fright, and
loses the power to scream.

But all these diversions were colourless and tame in comparison with
_les grands cavalcades d'amour_, in which Trofast was always one of the
foremost. Six, eight, ten, or twelve large yellow, black, and red dogs,
with a long following of smaller and quite small ones, so bitten and
mud-bespattered that one could scarcely see what they were made of, but
yet very courageous, tails in the air and panting with ardour, although
they stood no chance at all, except of getting mauled again and rolled
in the mud. And so off in a wild gallop through streets, squares,
gardens, and flower-beds, fighting and howling, covered with blood and
dirt, tongues lolling from mouths. Out of the way with humans and
baby-carriages, room for canine warfare and love! And thus they would
rush on like Aasgaard's demon riders through the unhappy town.
[Footnote: Aasgaard was the 'garth' or home of the gods. After the
advent of Christianity, the Norse gods became demons, and it was the
popular belief that they rode across the sky at night, foreboding evil.]

Trofast heeded none of the people on the street except the policemen.
For, with his keen understanding, he had long ago discerned that the
police were there to protect him and his kind against the manifold
encroachments of humanity. Therefore he obligingly stopped whenever he
met a policeman, and allowed himself to be scratched behind the ear. In
particular, he had a good, stout friend, whom he often met up in
Aabenraa, where he (Trofast) had a _liaison_ of many years' standing.

When Policeman Frode Hansen was seen coming upstairs from a cellar--a
thing that often happened, for he was a jolly fellow, and it was a
pleasure to offer him a half of lager-beer--his face bore a great
likeness to the rising sun. It was round and red, warm and beaming.

But when he appeared in full view upon the pavement, casting a severe
glance up and down the street, in order to ascertain whether any
evil-disposed person had seen where he came from, there would arise a
faint reminiscence of something that we, as young men, had read about in
physics, and which, I believe, we called the co-efficient of expansion.

For, when we looked at the deep incision made by his strong belt,
before, behind and at the sides, we involuntarily received the
impression that such a co-efficient, with an extraordinarily strong
tendency to expand, was present in Frode Hansen's stomach.

And people who met him, especially when he heaved one of his deep, beery
sighs, nervously stepped to one side. For if the co-efficient in there
should ever happen to get the better of the strong belt, the pieces, and
particularly the front buckle, would fly around with a force sufficient
to break plate-glass windows.

In other respects, Frode Hansen was not very dangerous of approach. He
was even looked upon as one of the most harmless of police-constables;
he very rarely reported a case of any kind. All the same, he stood well
with his superiors, for when anything was reported by others, no matter
what, if they only asked Frode Hansen, he could always make some
interesting disclosure or other about it.

In this way the world went well with him; he was almost esteemed in
Aabenraa and down Vognmagergade. Yes, even Mam Hansen sometimes found
means to stand him a half of lager beer.

And she had certainly little to give away. Poverty-stricken and
besotted, she had enough to do to struggle along with her two children.

Not that Mam Hansen worked or tried to work herself forward or upward;
if she could only manage to pay her rent and have a little left over for
coffee and brandy, she was content. Beyond this she had no illusions.

In reality, the general opinion--even in Aabenraa--was that Mam Hansen
was a beast; and, when she was asked if she were a widow, she would
answer: 'Well, you see, that's not so easy to know.'

The daughter was about fifteen and the son a couple of years younger.
About these, too, the public opinion of Aabenraa and district had it
that a worse pair of youngsters had seldom grown up in those parts.

Waldemar was a little, pale, dark-eyed fellow, slippery as an eel, full
of mischief and cunning, with a face of indiarubber, which in one second
could change its expression from the boldest effrontery to the most
sheepish innocence.

Nor was there anything good to say about Thyra, except that she gave
promise of becoming a pretty girl. But all sorts of ugly stories were
already told about her, and she gadded round the town upon very various
errands.

Mam Hansen would never listen to these stories; she merely waved them
off. She paid just as little attention to the advice of her female
friends and neighbours, when they said:

'Let the children shift for themselves--really, they're quite brazen
enough to do it--and take in a couple of paying lodgers.'

'No, no,' Mam Hansen would reply; 'as long as they have some kind of a
home with me, the police will not get a firm grip of them, and they will
not quite flow over.'

This idea, that the bairns should not quite 'flow over,' had grown and
grown in her puny brain, until it had become the last point, around
which gathered everything motherly that could be left, after a life like
hers.

And therefore she slaved on, scolded and slapped the children when they
came late home, made their bed, gave them a little food, and so held
them to her, in some kind of fashion.

Mam Hansen had tried many things in the course of her life, and
everything had brought her gradually downward, from servant-girl to
waitress, down past washerwoman to what she now was.

Early in the mornings, before it was light, she would come over
Knippelsbro [Footnote: Bro, a bridge.] into the town, with a heavy
basket upon each arm. Out of the baskets stuck cabbage-leaves and
carrot-tops, so that one would suppose that she made a business of
buying vegetables from the peasants out at Amager, in order to sell them
in Aabenraa and the surrounding quarters.

All the same, it was not a greengrocery business that she carried on,
but, on the contrary, a little coal business: she sold coals
clandestinely and in small portions to poor folk like herself.

This evident incongruity was not noticed in Aabenraa; not even Policeman
Frode Hansen seemed to find anything remarkable about Mam Hansen's
business. When he met her in the mornings, toiling along with the heavy
baskets, he usually asked quite genially: 'Well, my little Mam Hansen,
were the roots cheap to-day?'

And, if his greeting were less friendly than usual, he was treated to a
half of lager later in the day.

This was a standing outlay of Madam Hansen's, and she had one besides.
Every evening she bought a large piece of sugared Vienna bread. She did
not eat it herself; neither was it for the children; no one knew what
she did with it, nor did anybody particularly care.

       *       *       *       *       *

When there was no prospect of halves of lager, Policeman Frode Hansen
promenaded his co-efficient with dignity up and down the street.

If he then happened to meet Trofast or any other of his canine friends,
he always made a long halt, for the purpose of scratching him behind the
ear. And when he observed the great _nonchalance_ with which the dogs
comported themselves in the street, it was a real pleasure to him to
sternly pounce upon some unhappy man and note down his full name and
address, because he had taken the liberty of throwing an envelope into
the gutter.


     II.

It was late in the autumn. There was a dinner-party at the merchant's;
the family had been back from the country for some time.

The conversation flowed on languidly and intermittently, until the
flood-gates were suddenly lifted, and it became a wild _fos_
[Footnote: Waterfall, cataract.] For down at the hostess's end of the
table this question had cropped up: 'Can one call a lady a fine
lady--a real fine lady--if it be known that on a steam-boat she has
put her feet up on a stool, and disclosed small shoes and embroidered
stockings?' And, strangely enough, as if each individual in the
company had spent half his life in considering and weighing this
question, all cast their matured, decided, unalterable opinions upon
the table. The opposing parties were formed in an instant; the
unalterable opinions collided with each other, fell down, were caught
up again, and thrown with ever-increasing ardour.

Up at the other end of the table they took no part in this animated
conversation. Near the host there sat mostly elderly gentlemen, and
however ardently their wives might have desired to solve the problem
once for all by expressing their unalterable opinion, they were
compelled to give up the idea, as the focus of the animated conversation
was among some young students right down beside the hostess, and the
distance was too great.

'I don't think I see the big yellow beast to-day,' said Dr. Viggo Hansen
in his querulous tone.

'Unfortunately not. Trofast is not here to-day. Poor fellow! I have been
obliged to request him to do me a disagreeable service.'

The merchant always talked about Trofast as if he were an esteemed
business friend.

'You make me quite curious. Where _is_ the dear animal?'

'Ah, my dear madam, it is indeed a tiresome story. For, you know, there
has been stealing going on out at our coal warehouse at Kristianshavn.'

'Oh, good gracious! Stealing?'

'The thefts have evidently been practised systematically for a long
time.'

'Have you noticed the stock getting less, then?'

But now the merchant had to laugh, which he seldom did.

'No, no, my dear doctor, excuse my laughing, but you are really too
naive. Why, there are now about ten thousand tons of coal out there, so
you will see that it wants some--'

'They would have to steal from evening till morning with a pair of
horses,' interjected a young business man, who was witty.

When the merchant had finished his laugh, he continued:

'No; the theft was discovered by means of a little snow that fell
yesterday.'

'What! Snow yesterday? I don't know anything about that.'

'It was not at the time of day when we are awake, madam, it is true; but
yet, very early yesterday morning there fell a little snow, and when my
folks arrived at the coal store, they discovered the footprints of the
thief or thieves. It was then found that a couple of boards in the wall
were loose, but they had been so skilfully put in place that nobody
would ever notice anything wrong. And the thief crawls through the
opening night after night; is it not outrageous?'

'But don't you keep a watch-dog?'

'Certainly I do; but he is a young animal (of excellent breed, by the
way, half a bloodhound), and, whatever way these wretches go about
their work, it is evident that they must be on friendly terms with the
beast, for the dog's footprints were found among those of the thieves.'

'That was indeed remarkable. And now Trofast is to try what he can do, I
presume?'

'Yes, you are quite right. I have sent Trofast out there to-day; he will
catch the villains for me.'

'Could you not nail the loose boards securely in position?'

'Of course we could, Dr. Hansen; but I must get hold of the fellows.
They shall have their well-merited punishment. My sense of right is most
deeply wounded.'

'It is really delightful to have such a faithful animal.'

'Yes, isn't it, madam? We men must confess to our shame that in many
respects we are far behind the dumb animals.'

'Yes, Trofast is really a pearl, sir. He is, beyond comparison, the
prettiest dog in all--'

'Constantinople,' interrupted Dr. Hansen.

'That is an old joke of Hansen's,' explained the merchant. 'He has
re-christened the Northern Athens the Northern Constantinople, because
he thinks there are too many dogs.'

'It is good for the dog-tax,' said some one.

'Yes, if the dog-tax were not so inequitably fixed,' snapped Dr. Hansen.
'There is really no sense in a respectable old lady, who keeps a dog in
a hand-bag, having to pay as much as a man who takes pleasure in
annoying his fellow-creatures by owning a half-wild animal as big as a
little lion.'

'May I ask how you would have the dog-tax reckoned, Dr. Hansen?'

'According to weight, of course,' replied Dr. Viggo Hansen without
hesitation.

The old merchants and councillors laughed so heartily at this idea of
weighing the dogs, that the disputants at the lower end of the table,
who were still vigorously bombarding each other with unalterable
opinions, became attentive and dropped their opinions, in order to
listen to the discussion on dogs. And the question, 'Can one call a lady
a fine lady--a really fine lady--if it be known that on a steamboat she
has put her feet up on a stool, and disclosed small shoes and
embroidered stockings?' also floated away in the air, unsolved.

'You seem to be a downright hater of dogs, Dr. Hansen!' said the lady
next to him, still laughing.

'I must tell you, madam,' cried a gentleman across the table, 'that he
is terribly afraid of dogs.'

'But one thing,' continued the lady--'one thing you must admit, and that
is, that the dog has always been the faithful companion of man.'

'Yes, that is true, madam, and I could tell you what the dog has learned
from man, and man from the dog.'

'Tell us; do tell us!' was simultaneously exclaimed from several
quarters.

'With pleasure. In the first place, man has taught the dog to fawn.'

'What a very queer thing to say!' cried old grandmother.

'Next, the dog has acquired all the qualities that make man base and
unreliable: cringing flattery upward, and rudeness and contempt
downward; the narrowest adhesion to his own, and distrust and hatred of
all else. Indeed, the noble animal has proved such an apt pupil that he
even understands the purely human art of judging people by their
clothes. He lets well-dressed folks alone, but snaps at the legs of the
ragged.'

Here the doctor was interrupted by a general chorus of disapproval, and
Miss Thyra bitterly gripped the fruit-knife in her little hand.

But there were some who wanted to hear what mankind had learned from the
dog, and Dr. Hansen proceeded, with steadily-growing passion and
bitterness:

'Man has learned from the dog to set a high price upon this grovelling,
unmerited worship. When neither injustice nor ill-treatment has ever met
anything but this perpetually wagging tail, stomach upon earth, and
licking tongue, the final result is that the master fancies himself a
splendid fellow, to whom all this devotion belongs as a right. And,
transferring his experience of the dog into his human intercourse, he
puts little restraint upon himself, expecting to meet wagging tails and
licking tongues. And if he be disappointed, then he despises mankind
and turns, with loud-mouthed eulogies, to the dog.'

He was once more interrupted; some laughed, but the greater number were
offended. By this time Viggo Hansen had warmed to his subject; his
little, sharp voice pierced through the chorus of objections, and he
proceeded as follows:

'And, while we are speaking of the dog, may I be allowed to present an
extraordinarily profound hypothesis of my own? Is there not something
highly characteristic of our national character in the fact that it is
we who have produced this noble breed of dogs--the celebrated, pure
Danish hounds? This strong, broad-chested animal with the heavy paws,
the black throat, and the frightful teeth, but so good-natured,
harmless, and amiable withal--does he not remind you of the renowned,
indestructible Danish loyalty, which has never met injustice or
ill-treatment with anything but perpetually wagging tail, stomach upon
earth, and licking tongue? And when we admire this animal, formed in our
own image, is it not with a kind of melancholy self-praise that we pat
him upon the head, and say: "You are indeed a great, good, faithful
creature!"'

'Do you hear, Dr. Hansen? I must point out to you that in my house there
are certain matters which--'

The host was angry, but a good-natured relation of the family hastened
to interrupt him, saying: 'I am a countryman, and you will surely admit,
Dr. Hansen, that a good farm watch-dog is an absolute necessity for
_us_. Eh?'

'Oh yes, a little cur that can yelp, so as to awake the master.'

'No, thank you. We must have a decent dog, that can lay the rascals by
the heels. I have now a magnificent bloodhound.'

'And if an honest fellow comes running up to tell you that your
outbuildings are burning, and your magnificent bloodhound flies at his
throat--what then?'

'Why, that would be awkward,' laughed the countryman. And the others
laughed too.

Dr. Hansen was now so busily engaged in replying to all sides, employing
the most extravagant paradoxes, that the young folks in particular were
extremely amused, without specially noting the increasing bitterness of
his tone.

'But our watch-dogs, our watch-dogs! You will surely let us keep them,
doctor?' exclaimed a coal-merchant laughingly.

'Not at all. Nothing is more unreasonable than that a poor man, who
comes to fill his bag from a coal mountain, should be torn to pieces by
wild beasts. There is absolutely no reasonable relation between such a
trifling misdemeanour and so dreadful a punishment.'

'May we ask how you would protect your coal mountain, if you had one?'

'I should erect a substantial fence of boards, and if I were very
anxious, I should keep a watchman, who would say politely, but firmly,
to those who came with bags: "Excuse me, but my master is very
particular about that. You must not fill your bag; you must take
yourself off at once."'

Through the general laughter which followed this last paradox, a
clerical gentleman spoke from the ladies' end of the table:

'It appears to me that there is something lacking in this
discussion--something that I would call the ethical aspect of the
question. Is it not a fact that in the hearts of all who sit here there
is a clear, definite sense of the revolting nature of the crime we call
theft?'

These words were received with general and hearty applause.

'And I think it does very great violence to our feelings to hear Dr.
Hansen minimising a crime that is distinctly mentioned in Divine and
human law as one of the worst--to hear him reduce it to the size of a
trifling and insignificant misdemeanour. Is not this highly demoralizing
and dangerous to Society?'

'Permit me, too,' promptly replied the indefatigable Hansen, 'to present
an ethical aspect of the question. Is it not a fact that in the hearts
of innumerable persons who do not sit here there is a clear, definite
sense of the revolting nature of the crime they call wealth? And must it
not greatly outrage the feelings of those who do not themselves possess
any coal except an empty bag, to see a man who permits himself to own
two or three hundred thousand sacks letting wild beasts loose to guard
his coal mountain, and then going to bed after having written on the
gate: "Watch-dogs unfastened at dusk"? Is not that very provoking and
very dangerous to Society?'

'Oh, good God and Father! He is a regular _sans-culotte_!' cried old
grandmother.

The majority gave vent to mutterings of displeasure; he was going too
far; it was no longer amusing. Only a few still laughingly exclaimed:
'He does not mean a word of what he says; it is only his way. Good
health, Hansen!'

But the host took the matter more seriously. He thought of himself, and
he thought of Trofast. With ominous politeness, he began:

'May I venture to ask what you understand by a reasonable relation
between a crime and its punishment?'

'For example,' replied Dr. Viggo Hansen, who was now thoroughly roused,
'if I heard that a merchant possessing two or three hundred thousand
sacks of coal had refused to allow a poor creature to fill his bag, and
that this same merchant, as a punishment, had been torn to pieces by
wild beasts, then that would be something that I could very easily
understand, for between such heartlessness and so horrible a punishment
there is a reasonable relation.'

'Ladies and gentlemen, my wife and I beg you to make yourselves at home,
and welcome.'

There was a secret whispering and muttering, and a depressed feeling
among the guests, as they dispersed themselves through the salons.

The host walked about with a forced smile on his lips, and, as soon as
he had welcomed every one individually, he went in search of Hansen, in
order to definitely show him the door once for all.

But this was not necessary. Dr. Viggo Hansen had already found it.


     III.

There had really been some snow, as the merchant had stated. Although it
was so early in the winter, a little wet snow fell towards morning for
several days in succession, but it turned into fine rain when the sun
rose.

This was almost the only sign that the sun had risen, for it did not get
much lighter or warmer all day. The air was thick with fog--not the
whitish-gray sea mist, but brown-gray, close, dead Russian fog, which
had not become lighter in passing over Sweden; and the east wind came
with it and packed it well and securely down among the houses of
Copenhagen.

Under the trees along Kastelgraven and in Grönningen the ground was
quite black after the dripping from the branches. But along the middle
of the streets and on the roofs there was a thin white layer of snow.

All was yet quite still over at Burmeister and Wain's; the black morning
smoke curled up from the chimneys, and the east wind dashed it down upon
the white roofs. Then it became still blacker, and spread over the
harbour among the rigging of the ships, which lay sad and dark in the
gray morning light, with white streaks of snow along their sides. At the
Custom House the bloodhounds would soon be shut in, and the iron gates
opened.

The east wind was strong, rolling the waves in upon Langelinie, and
breaking them in grayish-green foam among the slimy stones, whilst long
swelling billows dashed into the harbour, broke under the Custom House,
and rolled great names and gloomy memories over the stocks round the
fleet's anchorage, where lay the old dismantled wooden frigates in all
their imposing uselessness.

The harbour was still full of ships, and goods were piled high in the
warehouses and upon the quays.

Nobody could know what kind of winter they were to have--whether they
would be cut off for months from the world, or if it would go by with
fogs and snow-slush.

Therefore there lay row upon row of petroleum casks, which, together
with the enormous coal mountains, awaited a severe winter, and there lay
pipes and hogsheads of wine and cognac, patiently waiting for new
adulterations; oil and tallow and cork and iron--all lay and waited,
each its own destiny.

Everywhere lay work waiting--heavy work, coarse work, and fine work,
from the holds of the massive English coal-steamers, right up to the
three gilded cupolas on the Emperor of Russia's new church in Bredgade.

But as yet there was no one to put a hand to all this work. The town
slept heavily, the air was thick, winter hung over the city, and it was
so still in the streets that one could hear the water from the melting
snow on the roofs fall down into the spouts with a deep gurgling, as if
even the great stone houses yet sobbed in semi-slumber.

A little sleepy morning clock chimed over upon Holmen; here and there a
door was opened, and a dog came out to howl; curtains were rolled up and
windows were opened; the servant-girls went about in the houses, and did
their cleaning by a naked light which stood and flickered; at a window
in the palace sat a gilded lacquey and rubbed his nose in that early
morning hour.

The fog lay thick over the harbour, and hung in the rigging of the great
ships as if in a forest; rain and flakes of wet snow made it still
thicker, but the east wind pressed it down between the houses, and
completely filled Amalieplads, so that Frederick V. sat as if in the
clouds, and turned his proud nose unconcernedly towards his
half-finished church.

Some more sleepy clocks now began to chime; a steam-whistle joined in
with a diabolical shriek. In the taverns which 'open before the clock
strikes' they were already serving early refections of hot coffee and
schnapps; girls with hair hanging down their backs, after a wild night,
came out of the sailors' houses by Nyhavn, and sleepily began to clean
windows.

It was bitterly cold and raw, and those who had to cross Kongens Nytorv
hurried past Öhlenschläger, whom they had set outside the theatre,
bare-headed, with his collar full of snow, which melted and ran down
into his open shirt-front.

Now came the long, relentless blasts of steam-whistles from the
factories all round the town, and the little steamers in the harbour
whistled for no reason at all.

The work, which everywhere lay waiting, began to swallow up the many
small dark figures, who, sleepy and freezingly cold, appeared and
disappeared all round the town. And there was almost a quiet bustle in
the streets; some ran, others walked--both those who had to go down into
the coal steamers, and those who must up and gild the Emperor of
Russia's cupolas, and thousands of others who were being swallowed by
all kinds of work.

And waggons began to rumble, criers to shout, engines raised their
polished, oily shoulders, and turned their buzzing wheels; and little by
little the heavy, thick atmosphere was filled with a muffled murmur from
the collective work of thousands. The day was begun; joyous Copenhagen
was awake.

Policeman Frode Hansen froze even to his innermost co-efficient. It had
been an unusually bitter watch, and he walked impatiently up and down in
Aabenraa, and waited for Mam Hansen. She was in the habit of coming at
this time, or even earlier, and to-day he had almost resolved to carry
matters as far as a half lager or a cup of warm coffee.

But Mam Hansen came not, and he began to wonder whether it was not
really his duty to report her. She was carrying the thing too far; it
would not do at all any longer, this humbug with these cabbage-leaves
and that coal business.

Thyra and Waldemar had also several times peeped out into the little
kitchen, to see if their mother had come and had put the coffee-pot on
the fire. But it was black under the kettle, and the air was so dark and
the room so cold that they jumped into bed again.

       *       *       *       *       *

When they opened the great gates of merchant Hansen's coalstore at
Kristianshavn, Trofast sat there and shamefacedly looked askance; it was
really a loathsome piece of work that they had set him to do.

In a corner, between two empty baskets, they found a bundle of rags,
from which there came a faint moaning. There were a few drops of blood
upon the snow, and close by there lay, untouched, a piece of sugared
Vienna bread.

When the foreman understood the situation, he turned to Trofast to
praise him. But Trofast had already gone home; the position was quite
too uncomfortable for _him_.

They gathered her up, such as she was, wet and loathsome, and the
foreman decided that she should be placed upon the first coal-cart going
into town, and that they could stop at the hospital, so that the
professor himself might see whether she was worth repairing.

       *       *       *       *       *

About ten o'clock the merchant's family began to assemble at the
breakfast-table. Thyra came first. She hurried up to Trofast, patted and
kissed him, and overwhelmed him with words of endearment.

But Trofast did not move his tail, and scarcely raised his eyes. He kept
on licking his fore-paws, which were a little black after the coal.

'Good gracious, my dear mother!' cried Miss Thyra; 'Trofast is
undoubtedly ill. Of course he has caught cold in the night; it was
really horrid of father.'

But when Waldemar came in, he declared, with a knowing air, that Trofast
was affronted.

All three now fell upon him with entreaties and excuses and kind words,
but Trofast coldly looked from one to the other. It was clear that
Waldemar was right.

Thyra then ran out for her father, and the merchant came in
serious--somewhat solemn. They had just told him by telephone from the
office how well Trofast had acquitted himself of his task, and, kneeling
down on the hearthrug before Trofast, he thanked him warmly for the
great service.

This mollified Trofast a good deal.

Still kneeling, with Trofast's paw in his hand, the merchant now told
his family what had occurred during the night. That the thief was a
hardened old woman, one of the very worst kind, who had even--just
imagine it!--driven a pretty considerable trade in the stolen coal. She
had been cunning enough to bribe the young watch-dog with a dainty piece
of bread; but, of course, that was no use with Trofast.

'And that brings me to think how often a certain person, whom I do not
wish to name, would rant about it being a shame that a beast should
refuse bread, for which many a human being would be thankful. Do we not
now see the good of that? Through that--ahem!--that peculiarity, Trofast
was enabled to reveal an abominable crime; to contribute to the just
punishment of evildoers, and thus benefit both us and society.'

'But, father,' exclaimed Miss Thyra, 'will you not promise me one
thing?'

'What is that, my child?'

'That you will never again require such a service of Trofast. Rather let
them steal a little.'

'That I promise you, Thyra; and you, too, my brave Trofast,' said the
merchant, rising with dignity.

'Trofast is hungry,' said Waldemar, with his knowing air.

'Goodness, Thyra! fetch his cutlets!'

Thyra was about to rush down into the kitchen, but at that moment Stine
came puffing upstairs with them.

       *       *       *       *       *

Presumably, the professor did not find Mam Hansen worth repairing. At
any rate, she was never seen again, and the children 'flowed quite
over.' I do not know what became of them.



KAREN. [Footnote: The scene of this tale is laid in Denmark.]


There was once in Krarup Kro [Footnote: Kro, a country inn.] a girl
named Karen. She had to wait upon all the guests, for the innkeeper's
wife almost always went about looking for her keys. And there came
many to Krarup Kro--folk from the surrounding district, who gathered
in the autumn gloamings, and sat in the inn parlour drinking
coffee-punches, usually without any definite object; and also
travellers and wayfarers, who tramped in, blue and weather-beaten, to
get something hot to carry them on to the next inn.

But Karen could manage everything all the same, although she walked
about so quietly, and never seemed in a hurry.

She was small and slim, quite young, grave and silent, so that with her
there was no amusement for the commercial travellers. But decent folks
who went into the tavern in earnest, and who set store on their coffee
being served promptly and scalding hot, thought a great deal of Karen.
And when she slipped quietly forward among the guests with her tray, the
unwieldy frieze-clad figures fell back with unaccustomed celerity to
make way for her, and the conversation stopped for a moment. All had to
look after her, she was so charming.

Karen's eyes were of that large gray sort which seem at once to look at
one and to look far, far beyond, and her eyebrows were loftily arched,
as if in wonder.

Therefore strangers thought she did not rightly understand what they
asked for. But she understood very well, and made no mistakes. There was
only something strange about her, as if she were looking for something
far away, or listening, or waiting, or dreaming.

The wind came from the west over the low plains. It had rolled long,
heavy billows across the Western Sea; [Footnote: German Ocean.] salt
and wet with spray and foam, it had dashed in upon the coast. But on
the high downs with the tall wrack-grass it had become dry and full of
sand and somewhat tired, so that when it came to Krarup Kro it had
quite enough to do to open the stable-doors.

But open they flew, and the wind filled the spacious building, and
forced its way in at the kitchen-door, which stood ajar. And at last
there was such a pressure of air that the doors in the other end of the
stable also burst open; and now the west wind rushed triumphantly right
through the building, swinging the lantern that hung from the roof,
whisking the ostler's cap out into the darkness, blowing the rugs over
the horses' heads, and sweeping a white hen off the roost into the
watering-trough. And the cock raised a frightful screech, and the ostler
swore, and the hens cackled, and in the kitchen they were nearly
smothered with smoke, and the horses grew restless, and struck sparks
from the stones. Even the ducks, which had huddled themselves together
near the mangers, so as to be first at the spilt corn, began quacking;
and the wind howled through the stable with a hellish din, until a
couple of men came out from the inn parlour, set their broad backs
against the doors and pressed them to again, while the sparks from their
great tobacco-pipes flew about their beards.

After these achievements the wind plunged down into the heather, ran
along the deep ditches, and took a substantial grip of the mail-coach,
which it met half a mile from the town.

'He is always in a devil of a hurry to get to Krarup Kro!' growled
Anders, the postboy, cracking his whip over the perspiring horses.

For this was certainly the twentieth time that the guard had lowered the
window to shout something or other up to Anders. First it was a friendly
invitation to a coffee-punch in the inn; but each time the friendliness
became scantier, until at last the window was let down with a bang, and
out sped some brief but expressive remarks about both driver and horses,
which Anders, at all events, could not have cared to hear.

Meanwhile the wind swept low along the ground, and sighed long and
strangely in the dry clusters of heather. The moon was full, but so
densely beclouded that only a pale hazy shimmer hovered over the night.

Behind Krarup Kro lay a peat moss, dark with black turf-stacks and
dangerous deep pits. And among the heathery mounds there wound a strip
of grass that looked like a path; but it was no path, for it stopped on
the very brink of a turf-pit that was larger than the others, and deeper
also.

In this grassy strip the fox lay and lurked, quite flat, and the hare
bounded lightly over the heather.

It was easy for the fox to calculate that the hare would not describe a
wide circle so late in the evening. It cautiously raised its pointed
nose and made an estimate; and as it sneaked back before the wind, to
find a good place from which it could see where the hare would finish
its circuit and lie down, it self-complacently thought that the foxes
were always getting wiser and wiser, and the hares more foolish than
ever.

In the inn they were unusually busy, for a couple of commercial
travellers had ordered roast hare; besides, the landlord was at an
auction in Thisted, and Madame had never been in the habit of seeing to
anything but the kitchen. But now it unfortunately chanced that the
lawyer wanted to get hold of the landlord, and, as he was not at home,
Madame had to receive a lengthy message and an extremely important
letter, which utterly bewildered her.

By the stove stood a strange man in oilskins, waiting for a bottle of
soda-water; two fish-buyers had three times demanded cognac for their
coffee; the stableman stood with an empty lantern waiting for a light,
and a tall, hard-featured countryman followed Karen anxiously with his
eyes; he had to get sixty-three öre change out of a krone. [Footnote:
A krone contains 100 öre, and is equal to 1 S. 1-½ d.]

But Karen went to and fro without hurrying herself, and without getting
confused. One could scarcely understand how she kept account of all
this. The large eyes and the wondering eyebrows were strained as if in
expectation. She held her fine little head erect and steady, as if not
to be distracted from all she had to think of. Her simple dress of blue
serge had become too tight for her, so that the collar cut slightly into
her neck, forming a little fold in the skin below the hair.

'These country girls are very white-skinned,' said one of the
fish-buyers to the other. They were young men, and talked about Karen as
connoisseurs.

At the window was a man who looked at the clock and said: 'The post
comes early to-night.'

There was a rumbling of wheels on the paving-stones without, the
stable-door was flung open, and the wind again rattled all the doors and
drove smoke out of the stove.

Karen slipped out into the kitchen the moment the door of the parlour
was opened. The mail-guard entered, and said 'good-evening' to the
company.

He was a tall, handsome man, with dark eyes, black curly hair and beard,
and a small, well-shaped head. The long rich cloak of King of Denmark's
magnificent red cloth was adorned with a broad collar of curled dogskin
that drooped over his shoulders.

All the dim, sickly light from the two paraffin lamps that hung over
the table seemed to fall affectionately upon the red colour, which
contrasted so strikingly with the sober black and gray tints of all else
in the room. And the tall figure with the small curly head, the broad
collar, and the long purple folds, became, as he walked through the
low-roofed, smoky room, a marvel of beauty and magnificence.

Karen came hurriedly in from the kitchen with her tray. She bent her
head, so that one could not see her face, as she hastened from guest to
guest.

She placed the roast hare right in front of the two fish-buyers,
whereupon she took a bottle of soda-water to the two commercial
travellers, who sat in the inner room. Then she gave the anxious
countryman a tallow candle, and, as she slipped out again, she put
sixty-three öre into the hand of the stranger by the stove.

The innkeeper's wife was in utter despair. She had, indeed, quite
unexpectedly found her keys, but lost the lawyer's letter immediately
after, and now the whole inn was in the most frightful commotion. None
had got what they wanted--all were shouting together. The commercial
men kept continuously ringing the table bell; the fish-buyers went into
fits of laughter over the roast hare, which lay straddling on the dish
before them. But the anxious countryman tapped Madame on the shoulder
with his tallow candle; he trembled for his sixty-three öre. And, amid
all this hopeless confusion, Karen had disappeared without leaving a
trace.

Anders the post-boy sat on the box; the innkeeper's boy stood ready to
open the gates; the two passengers inside the coach became impatient, as
did also the horses--although they had nothing to look forward to--and
the wind rustled and whistled through the stable.

At length came the guard, whom they awaited. He carried his large cloak
over his arm, as he walked up to the coach and made a little excuse for
having kept the party waiting. The light of the lantern shone upon his
face; he looked very warm, and smilingly said as much, as he drew on his
cloak and climbed up beside the driver.

The gates were opened, and the coach rumbled away. Anders let the horses
go gently, for now there was no hurry. Now and then he stole a glance at
the guard by his side; he was still sitting smiling to himself, and
letting the wind ruffle his hair.

Anders the post-boy also smiled in his peculiar way. He began to
understand.

The wind followed the coach until the road turned; thereupon it again
swept over the plain, and whistled and sighed long and strangely among
the dry clusters of heather. The fox lay at his post; everything was
calculated to a nicety; the hare must soon be there.

In the inn Karen had at last reappeared, and the confusion had gradually
subsided. The anxious countryman had got quit of his candle and received
his sixty-three öre, and the commercial gentlemen had set to work upon
the roast hare.

Madame whined a little, but she never scolded Karen; there was not a
person in the world who could scold Karen.

Quietly and without haste Karen again walked to and fro, and the air of
peaceful comfort that always followed her once more overspread the snug,
half-dark parlour. But the two fish-buyers, who had had both one and two
cognacs with their coffee, were quite taken up with her. She had got
some colour in her cheeks, and wore a little half-hidden gleam of a
smile, and when she once happened to raise her eyes, a thrill shot
through their whole frames.

But when she felt their eyes following her, she went into the room where
the commercial men sat dining, and began to polish some teaspoons at the
sideboard.

'Did you notice the mail-guard?' asked one of the travellers.

'No, not particularly; I only got a glimpse of him. I think he went out
again directly,' replied the other, with his mouth full of food.

'He's a devilish fine fellow! Why, I danced at his wedding.'

'Indeed. So he is married?'

'Yes; his wife lives in Lemvig; they have at least two children. She was
a daughter of the innkeeper of Ulstrop, and I arrived there on the very
evening of the wedding. It was a jolly night, you may be sure.'

Karen dropped the teaspoons and went out. She did not hear them calling
to her from the parlour. She walked across the courtyard to her chamber,
closed the door, and began half-unconsciously to arrange the bedclothes.
Her eyes stood rigid in the darkness; she pressed her hands to her head,
to her breast; she moaned; she did not understand--she did not
understand--

But when she heard Madame calling so piteously, 'Karen, Karen!' she
sprang up, rushed out of the yard, round the back of the house, out--out
upon the heath.

In the twilight the little grassy strip wound in and out among the
heather, as if it were a path; but it was no path--no one must believe
it to be a path--for it led to the very brink of the great turf-pit.

The hare started up; it had heard a splash. It dashed off with long
leaps, as if mad; now contracted, with legs under body and back arched,
now drawn out to an incredible length, like a flying accordion, it
bounded away over the heather.

The fox put up its pointed nose, and stared in amazement after the hare.
It had not heard any splash. For, according to all the rules of art, it
had come creeping along the bottom of a deep ditch; and, as it was not
conscious of having made any mistake, it could not understand the
strange conduct of the hare.

Long it stood, with its head up, its hindquarters lowered, and its great
bushy tail hidden in the heather; and it began to wonder whether the
hares were getting wiser or the foxes getting more foolish.

But when the west wind had travelled a long way it became a north wind,
then an east wind, then a south wind, and at last it again came over the
sea as a west wind, dashed in upon the downs, and sighed long and
strangely among the dry clusters of heather. But then a pair of
wondering gray eyes were lacking in Krarup Kro, and a blue serge dress
that had grown too tight. And the innkeeper's wife whined and whimpered
more than ever. She could not understand it--nobody could understand
it--except Anders the post-boy--and one beside.

But when old folks wished to give the young a really serious admonition,
they used to begin thus: 'There was once in Krarup Kro a girl named
Karen--



MY SISTER'S JOURNEY TO MODUM.


My sister was going to Modum. It was before the opening of the Drammen
Railway, and it was a dreadfully long carriole drive from Christiania to
Drammen.

But everything depended upon getting off--hyp--getting to Drammen--hyp,
hyp--in time to catch the train which left for Modum at two o'clock.
Hyp--oh, dear, if the train should be gone--to wait until next
day--alone--in Drammen!

My sister stimulated the post-boys with drink-money, and the horses with
small pokes of her umbrella; but both horses and post-boys were numerous
upon this route, and much time was lost at the stopping-places.

First, the luggage had to be transferred to the new carriole. There
were the big trunk and the little one, and the plaids with loosened
strap, the umbrella, the _en-tout-cas_, the bouquet, and the book.

Then there was paying, and reckoning, and changing; and the purse was
crammed so extraordinarily full that it would shower three-skilling
pieces, [Footnote: Skilling, a halfpenny.] or a shining half-dollar
would swing itself over the side, make a graceful curve, like a
skater, round the floor, and disappear behind the stove. It had to be
got out before it could be changed, and that nobody could do.

As soon as the fresh horses appeared in the yard, my sister would spring
resolutely out, and swing herself into the carriole.

'Thanks; I am ready now. Let us be off. Good-bye.'

Yes, then they would all come running after her--the umbrella, the
_en-tout-cas_, the plaids with loosened strap, the bouquet, and the
book, everything would be thrown into her lap, and she would hold on to
them until the next station was reached, while the station-master's
honest wife stood and feebly waved the young lady's pocket-handkerchief,
in a manner which could not possibly attract her attention.

Although she thus lost no time, the drive was, nevertheless, extremely
trying, and it was a great relief to my sister when she at length
rattled down the hill from Gjelleboek, and saw Drammen extended below
her. There were not many minutes left.

At last she was down in the town. 'In Drammen, in Drammen!' muttered my
sister, beginning to triumph. Like a fire-engine she dashed along the
streets to the station. Everything was paid. She had only to jump out of
the carriole; but when she looked up at the station clock, the
minute-hand was just passing the number twelve.

Undismayed, my sister collected her knick-knacks and rushed into the
waiting-room, which was quite empty. But the young man who had sold the
tickets, and who was in the act of drawing down the panel, caught a
glimpse of this belated lady, and was good-natured enough to wait.

'A ticket--for Heaven's sake! A ticket for Drammen! What does it cost?'

'Where are you going, miss?' asked the good-natured young man.

'To Drammen--do you hear? But do make haste. I am sure the train will be
gone.'

'But, miss,' said the young man, with a modest smile, 'you _are_ in
Drammen.'

'Ah! I beg your pardon. Yes, so I am; it is to Modum, to Modum that I
want to go.'

She received her ticket, filled her lap with her things, and, purse in
mouth, hurried out upon the platform.

She was instantly seized by powerful hands, lifted off the ground, and
tenderly deposited in a _coupé_.

'Puff,' said the locomotive impatiently, beginning to strain at the
carriages.

My sister leant back on the velvet sofa, happy and triumphant; she had
been in time. Before her, upon the other sofa, she had all her dear
little things, which seemed to lie and smile at her--the bouquet and the
book, the _en-tout-cas_ and the umbrella, and the very plaids, with the
strap completely unfastened.

Then, as the train slowly began to glide out of the station, she heard
the footstep of a man--rap, rap--of a man running--rap, rap,
rap--running on the platform alongside the train; and although, of
course, it did not concern her, still she would see what he was running
for.

But no sooner did my sister's head become visible than the running man
waved his arms and cried:

'There she is, there she is--the young lady who came last! Where shall
we send your luggage?'

Then my sister cried in a loud and firm voice:

'To Drammen!'

And with these words she was whirled away.



LETTERS FROM MASTER-PILOT SEEHUS.


KRYDSVIG FARM,                              January 1, 1889.

MR. EDITOR,

Referring to our talk of last December, when I said I was not unwilling
to send you occasional letters, if anything important should happen, I
do not know of anything that I could think worthy of being published or
made public in your paper except the weather, which always and ever
gives cause for alternate praise and blame, when one is living, so to
speak, out among the sea's breakers, where there is no quietness to
expect on a winter's day, but storms and rough weather as we had in the
last Yule-nights, with a violent storm from the east and with such
tremendous gusts of wind that the pots and pans flew about like birds.
And there is much damage done by the east wind and nothing gained,
because it only drives wreckage out to sea. But it was not quite so bad
as it was in the great storms in the last days of November, which
culminated or reached their highest point on Monday, the 26th November,
when it was rougher than old folk can remember it to have ever been,
with such a tremendous sea that it seemed as if it would reach the
fields that we here at Krydsvig have owned from old times; it almost
touched the cowhouses. After that time we had light frosts with
changeable weather and a smoother sea, which was not covered, but richly
sown, with many sad relics of the storm, mostly deck cargo, which is not
so great a loss, as it is always lying, so to speak, upon expectancy or
adventure; and when it goes, it is a relief to the ship and a great and
especial blessing to these treeless coasts, particularly when it comes
ashore well split up and distributed, a few planks at each place, so
that the Lensmand [Footnote: Sheriff's officer.] cannot see any greater
accumulation at any one place than that he can, with a good conscience,
abandon an auction and let the folk keep what they have been lucky
enough to find or diligent enough to garner in from the sea in their
boats; but this time it did not repay the trouble, because of frost and
an easterly land-wind, which kept the wreck from land for some time. But
now the most of it has come in that is to come at this time, and it may
be long to another time, as we must hope, for the seaman's sake,
although I, for my part, have never been able to join with any
particular devotion in prayers and supplications that we may be free
from storms and foul weather; for our Lord has made the sea thus and not
otherwise, so that there must come storms and tumults in the atmosphere
of the air, and, as a consequence, towering billows. And it seems to me,
further, that we cannot decently turn to the Lord and ask Him to do
something over again or in a different way; but we can well wish each
other God's help and all good luck in danger, and especially good gear
for our own ones, who sail with wit and canniness, while the Englishman
is mostly a demon to sail and go with full steam on in fogs and driving
rain-storms, of which we can expect enough in Januarius month at the
beginning of the new year, which I hope may be a good year for these
coasts, with decent weather, as it may fall out, and something
respectable in the way of wreckage.

Yours very truly,
LAURITZ BOLDEMANN SEEHUS,
Late Master-Pilot.



KRYDSVIG,                                  January 22, 1889.

MR. EDITOR,

I take up my pen to-day to inform you that I, the undersigned, address
you for the last time, as I will not write more because of my sore eyes,
which are not to be wondered at, after all that they have seen in bitter
weather and in a long life of trouble and hardship from my youth up,
mostly at sea in spray and driving snow-storms at the fishing, which is
all over and past, as everything old is past. But things new are coming
to the front, and here I sit alone like Job, though he, to be sure, had
some friends, but loneliness is a sore thing for old folk, and idleness
which they are not used to, so that the Sheriff might as well have given
me back my post as master-pilot on my return from America. But he would
not do it, because I was not cunning enough to agree with him, when he
did not understand anybody, but it is given out officially that I am too
old, and thus I sit here without having shaved for a week, because I am
angry and my hand trembles, but not owing to old age. And I don't think,
either, that anybody is much to be envied for having friends like Job's,
and I am not stricken with boils and sitting among potsherds, but am
quite hale and strong, if I am rather dried-up and stiff, but I would
undertake to dance a reel and a Hamburg schottische if I could only get
a girl with a fairly round waist to take hold of, but it seems to me
that they are shrinking in and becoming flatter than they were in my
young days; but then I think that it is surely the sore eyes that are
cheating me, for I have always held this belief, that girls are girls in
all times, but old folks should be quiet and mind what they understand,
which is nothing that relates to the young. But a man should not get
sour _in finem_, for all that, and I have found that it is a dangerous
thing to grow old, for this reason, that one becomes so surly before
one's time, and that is against my inner construction, and I have now
sat here awhile and gazed out on the sea through rain and mist, and then
I straightened my old back and spat out my quid, which in all truth
smacked more of the brass box than of tobacco, because it had been
chewed several times, but I have cut myself a new one with my knife, as
I can no longer bite it off, for the reason that there are hardly any
teeth, but I have still a few front ones, and I have one good tooth,
which is hidden and is no ornament, but it is useful when I eat tough
things like dried ham. And I take up the pen again because I want to let
you know that I am not so ill but that I may hold out for a while yet;
and, if I keep my health, you shall hear from me soon, but I have
nothing to say about the weather, because we have not had any weather
for a long time, and I am wondering whether this winter will come to
anything, or if it will pass over in damp and wet and loose wind.

Yours very truly,
LAURITZ BOLDEMANN SEEHUS,
Late Master-Pilot.



KRYDSVIG,                                   April 13, 1889.

MR. EDITOR,

About the rotten feet on the sheep, which animal I by nature despise, on
account of its cowardice and a tremendous silliness, the one running
after the other, but if a man _will_ plague himself with farming who has
been a sailor from his mother's apron-string, he must keep these beasts
and others like his neighbours, although he understands nothing, or very
little, about the whole tribe. So I have upon my small patch of ground
two good ewes, with little wit, but wool, and I sent them long before
Yule to a ram at Börevig, one of the fine kind from Scotland, as folk
bothered me that I must do it, because of the breed and the wool and
many things, but not a rotten foot did I hear of until after much
jangling among folk and a great to-do among the learned and such like,
which is nothing new to me in that kind of folk, who always and always
stand behind each other's backs, crying with a loud cry, 'It was not my
fault,' but, faith, it was. So I say to myself, 'What shall I do with
these rotten feet from Scotland, if I get the disease ingrafted, and
likewise upon the innocent offspring,' who are already toddling about
all three, because there were two in the one ewe. But foreign sickness
is not a thing to be afflicted with, at a time when we have scab among
our sheep and much else, and more than I know of, and thus I turned my
look again and again to that Government, to see if it will ever gather
sense. But yet the Government had not so very rotten feet in that other
important matter of a Sheriff, whom we got with unexpected smartness and
promptness, much to our gain and the reverse, when we think of what the
man now is, but there must be a skipper all the same. And now it is
growing light all over the world; that is, in our hemisphere, for spring
has come upon us with extraordinary quickness, and the ice, it went with
Peder-Varmestol, [Footnote: February 22nd.] and the lapwing, she came
one morning with her back shining as if she had been polished out of
bronze, with her crest erect, and throwing herself about in the air like
a dolphin in the sea, with her head down and her tail up, crying and
screaming. But the lark is really the silliest creature, to sing on
without ceasing the livelong day, and the sea-pie has come, and stands
bobbing upon the same stone as last year, and the wild-goose and the
water-wagtail. So we are all cheered up again, all the men of Jæderen,
and the cod bites, too, for those who have time, but folk are mostly
carting sea-weed, and ploughing and sowing, not without grumbling in
some places, but the work must be done.

Yours very truly,
L.B. SEEHUS.



KRYDSVIG,                                          July 1, 1889.

MR. EDITOR,

Your letter of the 20th ult. received, and contents noted, and I now beg
to reply that it is not very convenient, for the reason that old folk's
talk is mostly about winter storms and seldom about summer, when the sun
shines, and the lambs frisk and throw their tails high in the air. But,
you see, they were tups all three, which was not unlooked-for after such
a ram, and consequently no letter can be expected from me before autumn,
when the sea gets some life in it and a grown man's voice, so to speak,
for now it lies--God bless me--like a basin of milk, to the inward
vexation of folk who know what the sea should be in Nature's household
with ships and storms and wreckage, and a decent number of wrecks at
those places where the structure of the coast permits the rescue of men
and a distribution of the wreck if it be of wood, but some trash are now
of iron. And I am now as parched in the hide as I was that time in
Naples when the helmsman sailed the brig on to the pier-head because a
hurricane had risen, and Skipper Worse and I stood on the quay and
cried, though he swore mostly, and I had a basket on my arm with
something that they called bananas, which they fry in butter. And it is
not very nice nowadays, when the sun rises and sets in nothing but blue
sky, and not a cloud to be seen, as if it were the Mediterranean of my
young days, and I smell the bananas, but we here have no other stinking
stuff, that I know, than ware and cods' heads. But, Mr. Editor, the
young are dull and heavy with the sunshine; I myself went about singing,
and wanted to show the flabby wenches of Varhaug how one once danced a
real _molinask_, as it was Sunday and the young folk hung round the
walls like half-dead flies in the heat. But there had been grease burnt,
which made it more slippery than soft soap on the deck, and there lay
the whole master-pilot in the middle of the _molinask_, and bit off the
stalk of his clay pipe, but he kept his tooth, which has already been
spoken about, and to his shame had to be lifted by four firm-handed
fellows with much laughing, wherefore I have sat myself down in my chair
to wait for the autumn, because I cannot speak or write about the
drought, but only get angry and unreasonable.

Yours very truly,
LAURITZ BOLDEMANN SEEHUS.



KRYDSVIG,                                   October 20, 1889.

MR. EDITOR,

I could have continued my silence a very long time yet, for it has not
been a great autumn either on land or sea, but little summer storms, as
if for frolic, with small seas and loose wreckage, but unusually far
out, about three miles from land. But the long, dark lamp-lit evenings
are come, and this shoal of fish which I must write to you about and ask
what the end is going to be; for now we almost think that the sea up
north Stavanger way must be choke-full, as it was of herrings in the
good old days that are no more, but it is now big with coal-fish, mostly
north by the Reef, they say, but the undersigned and old Velas, who is a
still older man, got about four boxes of right nice coal-fish yesterday,
a little to the south-east. But half Jæren [Footnote: Jæderen, the coast
district near Stavanger.] was on the sea, boat upon boat, for the double
reason of the coal-fish and that they had not an earthly thing to do
upon the land, for this year the earth has yielded us everything well
and very early, but the straw is short, which, if the truth must be
told, is the only thing to complain of. But the farmers are making wry
faces, like the merchants in Östersöen when they complain of the
herrings, for they must always complain, except about the sheep, which
are going off very well to the Englishman, and I can't conceive what
there will be left of this kind of beast in Jæren, but it is all the
same to me, seeing that I have never liked the sheep at all until last
year, when he paid taxes for all Jæren, which was more than was expected
of him. And it would be well if any one were able to put bounds upon
this burning of sea-ware, which the devil or somebody has invented for
use as a medicine in Bergen--they say, but I do not believe it, because
it has a stink that goes into the innermost part of your nostrils and
into your tobacco besides. But then the east wind is good for something,
at least, for it sends the heaps of ware out to sea, and I can imagine
how it will surprise the Queen of England when she knows how we stink.
And I have a grievance of my own, viz., boys shooting with blunderbusses
and powder, and with so little wit that my eyes flash with anger every
time I see them creeping on their stomachs towards a starling or a
couple of lean ring-plovers, and I shout and cast stones to warn the
innocent creatures, since the farmer of Jæren is, as it were, his
thrall's thrall, and lets the servant-boys make a fool of him and play
the concertina all night, which might be put up with, but no powder and
shooting should be allowed, so that Jæren may not become a desert for
bird-life, and only concertinas left and rascals of boys on their
stomachs as above.

Yours very truly,
LAURITZ BOLDEMANN SEEHUS.



KRYDSVIG,                                 December 25, 1889.

MR. EDITOR,

After having, in the course of a long and very stormy life, given heed
to the clouds of the sky and the various aspects of the sea, which can
change before your eyes as you look, like a woman who discovers another
whom she likes better, and you stand forsaken and rejected, because a
girl's mind is like the ocean above-mentioned, and full of storms as the
Spanish Sea, and I early received my shock of that kind for life, of
which I do not intend to speak, but the weather is of a nature that I
have never before observed in this country, with small seas, rare and
moderate storms, and on this first Yule-day a peace on the earth and
such a complacent calm on the sea that you might row out in a trough.
The wreckage that came in on the 8th and 9th December last was the only
extravagance, so to speak, of the sea this year, for there was too much
in some places, and this will probably give the Lensmand a pretext for
holding an auction, to the great ruination of the people, for the planks
were rare ones, both long and good-hearted timber. But at an auction
half the pleasure is lost, besides more that is very various in
kind--for instance, brandy: and the town gentlemen who sell such liquor
to the farmer must answer to their consciences what substances and
ingredients such a drink is cooked out of, as it brings on mental
weakness and bodily torment, proof of which I have seen numberless times
in strong and well-fabricated persons, especially during the Yule-days.
But this is not my friendship's time, for they say at the farm that the
Oldermand [Footnote: Master-pilot] is haughty, and will not swallow
their devil's drink at any price. But I sit alone before a bottle of old
Jamaica, which is part of what Jacob Worse brought home from the West
Indies in 1825, and I think of him and Randulf and the old ones, and the
smell of the liquor seems to call up living conversations, which you can
hear, and you must laugh, although you are alone, and you have such a
desire to write everything down as it happened; but no more to the
newspapers for this reason, that they have been after me with false
teeth and a nice, neat widow, of whom nothing more will be said. And
this extraordinarily mild winter has in some way kept the rheumatism out
of my limbs; besides, I am strong by nature and no age to speak of; but,
of course, it must be admitted that youth is better and more lively, of
which, as above, nothing more will be said.

As the years go on, Mr. Editor, disappointments bite fast into us, like
barnacles and mussels under ships; but we ourselves do not feel that our
speed is decreasing, and that we are dropping astern, and, as already
hinted, old age does not protect us against folly.

Yours very truly,
LAURITZ BOLDEMANN SEEHUS.



OLD DANCES.


We really strove honestly, swung ourselves and swung our ladies,
although many were stiff enough to get round. We were not invited to a
ball; this dance was merely a surprise frolic.

We had dined in all good faith--at least, the stranger cousin had; and
while I stood thinking of coffee, and dreading no danger, the house
began to swarm with young folks who had dined upstairs or downstairs, or
at home, or not at all, or God knows where. The dining-room doors were
thrown open again, the floor was cleared as if by magic, partners caught
hold of each other, two rushed to the piano, and--one, two, three, they
were in the middle of a galop before I could recover my wits.

They immediately forsook me again, when I received a frightful blow in
the region of the heart. It was Uncle Ivar himself, who shouted:

'Come, boy; inside with you, and move your legs. Don't stand there like
a snivelling chamberlain, but show what kind of fellow you are with
those long pipe-stalks that our Lord has sent you out upon.'

Thus the dance began; and although I did not at all like uncle's way of
arranging matters, I good-naturedly set to work, and we strove honestly,
that I can say, with the cousins as well as the lighter of the aunts.

By degrees we even became lively; and everything might have passed off
in peace and joy if uncle had not taken it into his head that we were
not doing our utmost in the dance, especially we gentlemen.

'What kind of dancing is that to show to people?' he exclaimed
contemptuously. 'There they go, mincing and tripping, as spindle-shanked
as pencils and parasols. No, there was another kind of legs in my time!
Pooh, boys, that was dancing, that was!'

We held up our heads and footed it until our ears tingled. But every
time that Uncle Ivar passed the ball-room door, his jeers became more
aggravating, until we were almost exhausted, each one trying to be
nimbler than another.

But what was the use? Every time uncle came back from his round through
the smoking-room, where he cooled his head in an enormous ale-bowl, he
was bolder and bolder, and at last he had aled so long in the cooling
bowl that his boldness was not to be repressed.

'Out of the way with these long-shanked flamingoes!' he cried. 'Now,
boys, you are going to see a real national dance. Come, Aunt Knoph, we
two old ones will make these miserable youngsters of nowadays think
shame.'

'Oh, no, my dear, do let me alone,' begged respectable Mrs. Knoph;
'remember, we are both old.'

'The devil is old,' laughed uncle merrily; 'you were the smartest of the
lasses, and I was not the greatest lout among the boys, that I know. So
come along, old girl!'

'Oh no, my dear Ivaren; won't you excuse me?' pleaded Mrs. Knoph. But
what was the use? The hall was cleared, room had to be made, and we
miserable flamingoes were squeezed up against the walls, so that we
might be out of the way, at all events.

All the young ladies were annoyed at the interruption, and we gentlemen
were more or less sulky over all the affronts that we had endured. But
the lady who had to play was quite in despair. She had merely received
orders to play something purely national; and no matter how often she
asked what dance it was to be, uncle would only stare politely at her
over his spectacles, and swear that this would be another kind of dance.

As far as Uncle Ivar was concerned, 'Sons of Norway' was no doubt good
enough for any or every dance; and as to the dance itself, the music was
really not so very important; for, you see, it happened in this way:

Uncle Ivar came swinging in with one arm by his side, and tall,
respectable Mrs. Knoph on the other. He placed her with a chivalrous
sweep in the middle of the floor, bowed in the fashion of elderly
gallants, with head down between his legs and arms hanging in front, but
quickly straightened himself up again and looked about with a provoking
smile.

Uncle Ivar, without a coat and with vest unbuttoned, was a sight to see
in a ball-room. A flaming red poll, one of the points of his collar up
and one down, his false shirtfront thrust under a pair of home-made
braces, which were green, two white bands of tape hanging down, a tuft
of woollen shirt visible here and there.

But one began to respect the braces when one saw what they carried--a
trousers-button as big as a square-sail, and another behind--I am sure
that one could have written 'Constantinople' in full across it in a
large hand.

'Tush, boys!' cried uncle, clapping his hands, 'now, by Jove, you shall
see a dance worth looking at!' And then it began--at least, I _think_
that it began here, but, as will presently appear, this is not quite
certain. It happened in this way:

The pianist struck up some national tune or other; uncle swung his arms
and shuffled a little with his feet, amorously ogling old Mrs. Knoph
over his spectacles.

All attention was now concentrated upon Uncle Ivar's legs; it was clear
that after the little preliminary steps he would let himself go! I stood
and wondered whether he would spring into the air clear over Mrs. Knoph,
or only kick the cap off her head.

That would have been quite like him, and it is not at all certain
whether he himself did not think of performing some such feat, for, as
will presently appear, we cannot know; it happened, you see, in this
way:

As Uncle Ivar, after some little pattering, collected his energies for
the decisive _coup_, he violently stamped his feet upon the floor.

But, as if he had trodden upon soft soap, like lightning his heels
glided forward from under him. The whole of Uncle Ivar fell backward
upon Constantinople, his legs beat the air, and the crown of his head
struck the floor with a boom that resounded through the whole house.

Yes, there he lay stretched in all his _rondeur_, with the square-sail
just in front of the feet of respectable Mrs. Knoph, who resembled a
deserted tower in the desert.

I was irreverent enough to let the others gather him up. Of course he
would not fall to pieces; I knew the Constantinople architecture. I
slipped out into the corridor and laughed until I was quite exhausted.

But since then I have often wondered what kind of dance it could have
been.



AUTUMN.


AARRE,                                        October 7, 1890.

I had intended to send a few observations upon the wild-goose to
_Nature_, but since they have extended to quite a long letter, they go
to _Dagbladet_. It is not because I believe that they represent anything
new that no one has observed before; but I know how thoughtlessly most
of us let the sun shine, and the birds fly, without any idea of what a
refreshment it is for a man's soul to understand what he sees in Nature,
and how interesting animal life becomes when we have once learned that
there is a method and a thought in every single thing that the animal
undertakes, and what a pleasure it is to discover this thought, and
trace the beautiful reasoning power which is Nature's essence.

And thus most of us go through life, and down into a hole in the ground
like moles, without having taken any notice of the bird that flew or the
bill that sang. We believe that the small birds are sparrows, the larger
probably crows; barndoor fowls are the only ones we know definitely.

I met a lady the other day who was extremely indignant about this. She
had asked the man at whose house she was staying--a very intelligent
peasant--what kind of bird it was that she had seen in the fields. It
was evident that it was a thrush--merely a common thrush--and she
described the bird to him: it was about half as large as a pigeon, gray
and speckled with yellow; it hopped in the fields, and so on.

'Would it be the bird they call a swallow?' suggested the man.

'Not at all,' replied the lady angrily. 'I rather think it was a kind of
thrush.'

'Oh! then you had better ask my wife.'

'So she understands birds, does she?' exclaimed the lady, much
mollified.

'Yes, she is mad with them, they do so much mischief among the
cherries.'

With this my lady had to go. But the story is not yet finished; the
worst is to come.

For when, indignant at the countryman's ignorance of the bird-world, she
told all this in town, there was one very solemn gentleman who said:

'Are you sure that it was not a gull?'

This went beyond all bounds, thought my lady, and she came and
complained bitterly to me.

When wild-geese fly in good order, as they do when in the air for days
and nights together, the lines generally form the well-known plough,
with one bird at the point, and the two next ones on either side of him
a little way behind.

Hitherto I have always been content with the explanation that we
received and gave one another as boys, viz., that the birds chose this
formation in order to cleave the air, like a snow-plough clearing a way.

But it suddenly occurred to me the other day that this was pure
nonsense--an association of ideas called forth by the resemblance to a
plough, which moves in earth or snow, but which has no meaning up in the
air.

What _is_ cloven air? And who gets any benefit by it?

Yes, if the geese flew as they walk--one directly behind the
other--there might perhaps, in a contrary wind, be some little shelter
and relief for the very last ones. But they fly nearly side by side in
such a manner that each one, from first to last, receives completely
'uncloven' air right in the breast; there can be no suggestion that it
is easier for the last than for the first bird to cut a way.

The peculiar order of flight has quite another meaning, viz., to keep
the flock together on the long and fatiguing journey; and if we start
from this basis, the reasoning thought becomes also evident in the
arrangement itself.

Out here by the broad Aarre Water there pass great flights of
wild-geese; and in bad weather it may happen that they sit in thousands
on the water, resting and waiting.

But even if the flock flies past, there is always uneasiness and noise
when they come over Aarre Water. The ranks break, for a time the whole
becomes a confused mass, while they all scream and quack at the same
time.

Only slowly do they form again and fly southward in long lines, until
they shrink to thinner and thinner threads in the gray autumn sky, and
their last sound follows them upon the north wind.

Then I always believe that there has been a debate as to whether they
should take a little rest down on Aarre Water. There are certainly many
old ones who know the place again, and plenty of the young are
tender-winged, and would fain sit on the water and dawdle away a
half-day's time.

But when it is eventually resolved to fly on without stopping, and the
lines again begin to arrange themselves, it has become clear to me that
each seeks his own place in the ranks slanting outwards behind the
leaders, so that by this means he may be conducted along with the train
without being under the necessity of troubling about the way.

If these large, heavy birds were to fly in a cluster for weeks, day and
night, separation and confusion would be inevitable. They would get in
each other's way every minute with their heavy wings, there would be
such a noise that the leader's voice could not be distinguished, and it
would be impossible to keep an eye upon him after dark. Besides, over
half the number are young birds, who are undertaking this tremendous
journey for the first time, and who naturally, at Aarre Water, begin to
ask if it be the Nile that they see. Time would be lost, the flock would
be broken up, and all the young would perish on the journey, if there
were not, in the very disposition of the ranks, something of the
beautiful reasoning thought binding them together.

Let us now consider the first bird, who leads the flock--presumably an
old experienced gander. He feels an impulse towards the south, but he
undoubtedly bends his neck and looks down for known marks in the
landscape. That is why the great flocks of geese follow our coast-line
southward until the land is lost to view.

But the birds do not look straight forward in the direction of their
bills: they look to both sides. Therefore, the bird next to the leader
does not follow right behind him in the 'cloven' air, but flies nearly
alongside, so that it has the leader in a direct line with its right or
left eye at a distance of about two wing-flaps.

And the next bird does the same, and the next; each keeps at the same
distance from its fore-bird.

And what each bird sees of its fore-bird are the very whitest feathers
of the whole goose, under the wings and towards the tail, and this, in
dark nights, is of great assistance to the tired, half-sleeping
creatures.

Thus each, except the pilot himself, has a fore-bird's white body in a
line with one eye, and more they do not need to trouble about. They can
put all their strength into the monotonous work of wing-flapping, as
long as they merely keep the one eye half open and see that they have
the fore-bird in his place. Thus they know that all is in order, that
they are in connection with the train, and with him at the head who
knows the way.

If from any cause a disturbance arises, it is soon arranged upon this
principle; and when the geese have flown a day or two from the
starting-point, such rearrangement is doubtless effected more rapidly
and more easily. For I am convinced that they soon come to know one
another personally so well that each at once finds his comrade in
flight, whom he is accustomed to have before his eye, and therefore they
are able to take their fixed places in the ranks as surely and
accurately as trained soldiers.

We can all the more readily imagine such a personal acquaintance among
animals, as we know that even men learn with comparative ease to
distinguish individuals in flocks of the same species of beasts. If we
townspeople see a flock of sheep, it presents to us the same ovine
face--only with some difference between old and young. But a
peasant-woman can at once take out her two or three ewes from the big
flock that stands staring by the door--indeed, she can even recognise
very young lambs by their faces.

Thus I believe I understand the reason for the wild-goose's order of
flight better than when I thought of a plough that 'clove' the air; and,
as already stated, it may well be that many have been just as wise long
ago. But I venture to wager that the great majority of people have never
thought of the matter at all, and I fear that multitudes will think of
it somewhat in this fashion: 'What is it to me how those silly geese
fly?'

I often revert to the strangely thoughtless manner in which knowledge of
animal life is skipped over in the teaching of the young. The rude and
wild conception of animals which the clergy teach from the Old Testament
seems to cause only deep indifference on the part of the girls, and, in
the boys, an unholy desire to ramble about and blaze away with a gun.

Here there has been a shooting as on a drill-ground all the summer,
until now only the necessary domestic animals are left. Among the cows,
the starlings were shot into tatters, so that they crawled wingless,
legless, maimed, into holes in the stone fences to die. If a respectable
curlew sat by the water's edge mirroring his long bill, a rascal of a
hunter lay behind a stone and sighted; and was there a water-puddle with
rushes that could conceal a young duck, there immediately came a
fully-armed hero with raised gun. Even English have been here! They had
some new kind of guns--people said--that shot as far as you pleased, and
round corners and behind knolls. They murdered, I assure you; they laid
the district bare as pest and pox! I must stop, for I am growing so
angry.

I have had thoughts of applying for a post as inspector of birds in the
Westland. I should travel round and teach people about the birds,
exhibit the common ones, so that all might have the pleasure of
recognising them in Nature; accustom people to listen to their song and
cry, and to take an interest in their life, their nests, eggs, and
young.

Then I should inflame the peasants against the armed farm-boys,
day-labourers, and poachers, and against the sportsmen from town, who
stroll around without permission and crack away where they please. It
only wants a beginning and a little combination, for the peasant, in his
heart, is furious at this senseless shooting.

Perhaps some day, when not a single bird is left, my idea of an
inspector may come to be honoured and valued. Would that a godly
Storthing [Footnote: Parliament.] may then succeed in finding a pious
and well-recommended man, who can instruct the people in a moral manner
as to where the humid Noah accommodated the ostriches in the ark, or
what he managed to teach the parrots during the prolonged rainy weather.

We, too, have recently had a deluge. The lakes and the river have risen
to the highest winter-marks. But the soil of this blessed place is so
sandy that roads and fields remain firm and dry, the water running off
and disappearing in a moment.

It has also blown from all quarters, with varying force, for three
weeks. We press onward over the plain, and stagger about among the
houses, where the gusts of wind rush in quite unexpectedly with loud
claps. The fishing-rod has had to be carried against the wind, and the
water of the river has risen in the air like smoke.

And the sea, white with wrath, begins to form great heavy breakers far
out in many fathoms of water, rolls them in upon the strand, inundates
large tracts, and carries away the young wrack-grass and what we call
'strandkaal' [Footnote: Sea-kale.]--all that has grown in summer and
gathered a little flying sand around it as tiny fortifications; the
sea has washed the beach quite bare again, and fixed its old limits
high up among the sand-heaps, where they are strong enough to hold out
for the winter.

I have now been here four months to a day, and have seen the corn since
it was light-green shoots until now, when it is well secured in the
barns,--where there was room. For the crop has been so heavy--not in the
memory of man has there been such a year on this coast--that rich stacks
of corn are standing on many farms, and the lofts are crammed to the
roof-trees.

Inland there is corn yet standing out; it is yellowing on the fields,
which are here green and fresh as in the middle of spring.

We have had many fine days; but autumn is the time when Jæderen is seen
at its best.

As the landscape nowhere rises to any great height, we always see much
sky; and, although we do not really know it, we look quite as much at
the magnificent, changeful clouds as at the fine scenery, which recedes
far into the distance and is never strikingly prominent.

And all day long, in storm and violent showers, the autumn sky changes,
as if in a passionate uproar of wrath and threatenings, alternating with
reconciliation and promise, with dark brewing storm-clouds, gleams of
sunshine and rainbows, until the evening, when all is gathered together
out on the sea to the west.

Then cloud chases cloud, with deep openings between, which shine with a
lurid yellow. The great bubbling storm-clouds form a framework around
the western sky, while everywhere shoot yellow streaks and red beams,
which die away and disappear and are pressed down into the sea, until we
see only one sickly yellow stripe of light, far out upon the wave.

Then darkness rolls up from the sea in the west and glides down from the
fjelds in the east, lays itself to rest upon the black wastes of
heather, and spreads an uncanny covering over the troubled Aarre Waters,
which groan and sob and sigh among rushes and stones. A stupendous
melancholy rises up from the sea and overflows all things, while the
wakeful breakers, ever faithful, murmur their watchman-song the livelong
night.





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