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´╗┐Title: Feats on the Fiord - The third book in "The Playfellow"
Author: Martineau, Harriet, 1802-1876
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Feats on the Fiord - The third book in "The Playfellow"" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



Feats on the Fiord, by Harriet Martineau.

________________________________________________________________________
This book was first published in a collection of stories, "The
Playfellow," along with "The Crofton Boys", "The Peasant and the Prince"
and "The Settlers at Home."  However, being of a somewhat whimsical
nature, it later attracted artists and publishers with a bent in that
direction.  This is the original version, dating from the mid nineteenth
century.

________________________________________________________________________
FEATS ON THE FIORD, BY HARRIET MARTINEAU.



CHAPTER ONE.

ERLINGSEN'S "AT HOME."

Every one who has looked at the map of Norway must have been struck with
the singular character of its coast.  On the map it looks so jagged,
such a strange mixture of land and sea, that it appears as if there must
be a perpetual struggle between the two,--the sea striving to inundate
the land, and the land pushing itself out into the sea, till it ends in
their dividing the region between them.  On the spot, however, this
coast is very sublime.  The long straggling promontories are
mountainous, towering ridges of rock, springing up in precipices from
the water; while the bays between them, instead of being rounded with
shelving sandy shores, on which the sea tumbles its waves, as in bays of
our coast, are, in fact, long narrow valleys, filled with sea, instead
of being laid out in fields and meadows.  The high rocky banks shelter
these deep bays (called fiords) from almost every wind; so that their
waters are usually as still as those of a lake.  For days and weeks
together, they reflect each separate tree-top of the pine-forests which
clothe the mountain sides, the mirror being broken only by the leap of
some sportive fish, or the oars of the boatman as he goes to inspect the
sea-fowl from islet to islet of the fiord, or carries out his nets or
his rod to catch the sea-trout or char, or cod, or herrings, which
abound, in their seasons, on the coast of Norway.

It is difficult to say whether these fiords are the most beautiful in
summer or in winter.  In summer, they glitter with golden sunshine; and
purple and green shadows from the mountain and forest lie on them; and
these may be more lovely than the faint light of the winter noons of
those latitudes, and the snowy pictures of frozen peaks which then show
themselves on the surface: but before the day is half over, out come the
stars,--the glorious stars which shine like nothing that we have ever
seen.  There, the planets cast a faint shadow, as the young moon does
with us: and these planets, and the constellations of the sky, as they
silently glide over from peak to peak of these rocky passes, are imaged
on the waters so clearly that the fisherman, as he unmoors his boat for
his evening task, feels as if he were about to shoot forth his vessel
into another heaven, and to cleave his way among the stars.

Still as everything is to the eye, sometimes for a hundred miles
together along these deep sea-valleys, there is rarely silence.  The ear
is kept awake by a thousand voices.  In the summer, there are cataracts
leaping from ledge to ledge of the rocks; and there is the bleating of
the kids that browse there, and the flap of the great eagle's wings, as
it dashes abroad from its eyrie, and the cries of whole clouds of
sea-birds which inhabit the islets; and all these sounds are mingled and
multiplied by the strong echoes, till they become a din as loud as that
of a city.  Even at night, when the flocks are in the fold, and the
birds at roost, and the echoes themselves seem to be asleep, there is
occasionally a sweet music heard, too soft for even the listening ear to
catch by day.  Every breath of summer wind that steals through the
pine-forests wakes this music as it goes.  The stiff spiny leaves of the
fir and pine vibrate with the breeze, like the strings of a musical
instrument, so that every breath of the night-wind, in a Norwegian
forest, wakens a myriad of tiny harps; and this gentle and mournful
music may be heard in gushes the whole night through.  This music, of
course, ceases when each tree becomes laden with snow; but yet there is
sound, in the midst of the longest winter night.  There is the rumble of
some avalanche, as, after a drifting storm, a mass of snow, too heavy to
keep its place, slides and tumbles from the mountain peak.  There is
also, now and then, a loud crack of the ice in the nearest glacier; and,
as many declare, there is a crackling to be heard by those who listen
when the northern lights are shooting and blazing across the sky.  Nor
is this all.  Wherever there is a nook between the rocks on the shore,
where a man may build a house, and clear a field or two;--wherever there
is a platform beside the cataract where the sawyer may plant his mill,
and make a path from it to join some great road, there is a human
habitation, and the sounds that belong to it.  Thence, in winter nights,
come music and laughter, and the tread of dancers, and the hum of many
voices.  The Norwegians are a social and hospitable people; and they
hold their gay meetings, in defiance of their arctic climate, through
every season of the year.

On a January night, a hundred years ago, there was great merriment in
the house of a farmer who had fixed his abode within the arctic circle,
in Nordland, not far from the foot of Sulitelma, the highest mountain in
Norway.  This dwelling, with its few fields about it, was in a recess
between the rocks, on the shore of the fiord, about five miles from
Saltdalen, and two miles from the junction of the Salten's Elv (river)
with the fiord.  It was but little that Erlingsen's fields would
produce, though they were sheltered from the coldest winds, and the
summer sunshine was reflected from the rocks, so as to make this little
farm much more productive than any near which were in a more exposed
situation.  A patch of rye was grown, and some beans and oats; and there
was a strip of pasture, and a garden in which might be seen turnips,
radishes, potatoes, lettuce and herbs, and even some fruits,--a few
raspberries, and a great many cherries.  There were three or four horses
on the farm, five cows, and a small flock of goats.  In summer, the
cattle and flock were driven up the mountain, to feed on the pastures
there; and during the seven months of winter, they were housed and fed
on the hay grown at home, and that which was brought from the mountain,
and on a food which appears strange enough to us, but of which cows in
Norway are extremely fond:--fish-heads boiled into a thick soup with
horse-dung.  At one extremity of the little beach of white sand which
extended before the farmer's door was his boat-house; and on his boat he
and his family depended, no less than his cows, for a principal part of
their winter subsistence.  Except a kid or a calf now and then, no meat
was killed on the farm.  Cod in winter, herrings in spring, trout and
salmon in summer, and salted fish in winter, always abounded.  Reindeer
meat was regularly purchased from the Lapps who travelled round among
the settlements for orders, or drove their fattened herds from farm to
farm.  Besides this, there was the resource of game.  Erlingsen and his
housemen brought home from their sporting rambles, sometimes a young
bear, sometimes wild ducks, or the noble cock-of-the-woods, as big as a
turkey, or a string of snipes, or golden plovers, or ptarmigan.  The
eggs of sea-birds might be found in every crevice of the islets in the
fiord, in the right season; and they are excellent food.  Once a year,
too, Erlingsen wrapped himself in furs, and drove himself in his sledge,
followed by one of his housemen on another and a larger, to the great
winter fair at Tronyem, where the Lapps repaired to sell their frozen
reindeer meat, their skins, a few articles of manufacture, and where
travelling Russian merchants came with the productions of other
climates, and found eager customers in the inhabitants who thronged to
this fair to make their purchases.  Here, in exchange for the salt-fish,
feathers, and eider-down which had been prepared by the industry of his
family, Erlingsen obtained flax and wool wherewith to make clothing for
the household, and those luxuries which no Norwegian thinks of going
without,--corn-brandy, coffee, tobacco, sugar, and spices.  Large mould
candles were also sold so cheap by the Russians that it was worth while
to bring them home for the use of the whole family,--even to burn in the
stables and stalls, as the supply of bears' fat was precarious, and the
pine-tree was too precious, so far north, to be split up into torches,
while it even fell so short occasionally as to compel the family to burn
peat, which they did not like nearly so well as pine-logs.  It was
Madame Erlingsen's business to calculate how much of all these foreign
articles would be required for the use of her household for a whole
year; and, trusting to her calculations, which were never found to be
wrong, her husband came home from the winter fair heavily enough laden
with good things.

Nor was it only what was required for his own every-day household that
he brought.  The quantity of provisions, especially corn-brandy,
tobacco, coffee, and sugar, consumed in hospitality in Norway, is almost
incredible; and retired as the Erlingsens might appear to dwell, they
were as hospitable, according to their opportunities, as any inhabitant
of Bergen or Christiana.  They gave feasts at Christmas, and on every
occasion that they could devise.  The occasion, on the particular
January day mentioned above, was the betrothment of one of the
house-maidens to a young farm-servant of the establishment.  I do not
mean that this festival was anything like a marriage.  It was merely an
engagement to be married; but this engagement is a much more formal and
public affair in Norway (and indeed wherever the people belong to the
Lutheran church) than with us.  According to the rites of the Lutheran
church, there are two ceremonies,--one when a couple become engaged, and
another when they are married.  In Norway, this betrothment gives the
couple a certain dignity beyond that of the unengaged, and more liberty
of companionship, together with certain rights in law.  This makes up to
them for being obliged to wait so long as they often must before they
can marry.  In a country, scattered over with farmers, like Norway,
where there are few money transactions, because people provide for their
own wants on their own little estates, servants do not shift their
places, and go from master to master, as with us.  A young man and woman
have to wait long,--probably till some houseman dies or removes, before
they can settle; and then they are settled for life,--provided for till
death, if they choose to be commonly industrious and honest.  The story
of this betrothment at Erlingsen's will explain what I have just said.

As Madame Erlingsen had two daughters growing up, and they were no less
active than the girls of a Norwegian household usually are, she had
occasion for only two maidens to assist in the business of the dwelling
and the dairy.

Of these two, the younger, Erica, was the maiden betrothed to-day.  No
one perhaps rejoiced so much at the event as her mistress, both for
Erica's sake, and on account of her two young daughters.  Erica was not
the best companion for them; and the servants of a Norwegian farmer are
necessarily the companions of the daughters of the house.  There was
nothing wrong in Erica's conduct or temper towards the family.  She had,
when confirmed, [Note 1] borne so high a character, that many places
were offered her, and Madame Erlingsen had thought herself very
fortunate in obtaining her services.  But, since then, Erica had
sustained a shock which hurt her spirits, and increased a weakness which
she owed to her mother.  Her mother, a widow, had brought up her child
in all the superstitions of the country, some of which remain in full
strength even to this day, and were then very powerful; and the poor
woman's death at last confirmed the lessons of her life.  She had stayed
too long one autumn day at the Erlingsen's; and, being benighted on her
return, and suddenly seized and bewildered by the cold, had wandered
from the road, and was found frozen to death in a recess of the forest
which it was surprising that she should have reached.  Erica never
believed that she did reach this spot of her own accord.  Having had
some fears before of the Wood-Demon having been offended by one of the
family, Erica regarded this accident as a token of his vengeance.  She
said this when she first heard of her mother's death; and no reasonings
from the zealous pastor of the district, no soothing from her mistress,
could shake her persuasion.  She listened with submission, wiping away
her quiet tears as they discoursed; but no one could ever get her to say
that she doubted whether there was a Wood-Demon, or that she was not
afraid of what he would do if offended.

Erlingsen and his wife always treated her superstition as a weakness;
and when she was not present, they ridiculed it.  Yet they saw that it
had its effect on their daughters.  Erica most strictly obeyed their
wish that she should not talk about the spirits of the region with Orga
and Frolich; but the girls found plenty of people to tell them what they
could not learn from Erica.  Besides what everybody knows who lives in
the rural districts of Norway,--about Nipen, the spirit that is always
so busy after everybody's affairs,--about the Water-sprite, an
acquaintance of every one who lives beside a river or lake,--and about
the Mountain-Demon, familiar to all who lived so near Sulitelma; besides
these common spirits, the girls used to hear of a multitude of others
from old Peder, the blind houseman, and from all the farm-people, down
to Oddo, the herd-boy.  Their parents hoped that this taste of theirs
might die away if once Erica, with her sad, serious face and subdued
voice, were removed to a house of her own, where they would see her
supported by her husband's unfearing mind, and occupied with domestic
business more entirely than in her mistress's house.  So Madame
Erlingsen was well pleased that Erica was betrothed; and she could only
have been better satisfied if she had been married at once.

For this marrying, however, the young people must wait.  There was no
house, or houseman's place, vacant for them at present.  There was a
prospect, however.  The old houseman Peder, who had served Erlingsen's
father and Erlingsen himself for fifty-eight years, could now no longer
do the weekly work on the farm which was his rent for his house, field,
and cow.  He was blind and old.  His aged wife, Ulla, could not leave
the house; and it was the most she could do to keep the dwelling in
order, with occasional help from one and another.  Housemen who make
this sort of contract with farmers in Norway are never turned out.  They
have their dwelling and field for their own life and that of their
wives.  What they do, when disabled, is to take in a deserving young man
to do their work for the farmer, on the understanding that he succeeds
to the houseman's place on the death of the old people.  Peder and Ulla
had made this agreement with Erica's lover, Rolf; and it was understood
that his marriage with Erica should take place whenever the old people
should die.

It was impossible for Erica herself to fear that Nipen was offended, at
the outset of this festival day.  If he had chosen to send a wind, the
guests could not have come; for no human frame can endure travelling in
a wind in Nordland on a January day.  Happily, the air was so calm that
a flake of snow, or a lock of eider-down, would have fallen straight to
the ground.  At two o'clock, when the short daylight was gone, the stars
were shining so brightly, that the company who came by the fiord would
be sure to have an easy voyage.  Almost all came by the fiord, for the
only road from Erlingsen's house led to so few habitations, and was so
narrow, steep, and rocky, that an arrival by that way was a rare event.
The path was now, however, so smooth with frozen snow, that more than
one sledge attempted and performed the descent.  Erlingsen and some of
his servants went out to the porch, on hearing music from the water, and
stood with lighted pine-torches to receive their guests, when,
approaching from behind, they heard the sound of the sleigh-bells, and
found that company was arriving both by sea and land.

It was a pretty sight,--such an arrival.  In front, there was the head
of a boat driving up upon the white beach, and figure after figure
leaping out, and hastening to be welcomed in the porch; while, in the
midst of the greeting, the quick and regular beat of a horse's feet was
heard on the frozen ground, and the active little animal rushed into the
light, shaking his mane and jingling his bells, till suddenly checked by
the driver, who stood upright at the back of the sledge, while the
ladies reclined, so wrapped in furs that nothing could be seen of them
till they had entered the house, and issued forth from the room where
they threw off their pelisses and cloaks.  Glad had the visitors been,
whether they came by land or water, to arrive in sight of the lighted
dwelling, whose windows looked like rows of yellow stars, contrasting
with the blue ones overhead; and more glad still were they to be ushered
into the great room, where all was so light, so warm, so cheerful!  Warm
it was, to the farthest corner; and too warm near the roaring and
crackling fires; for the fires were of pine-wood.  Rows upon rows of
candles were fastened against the walls, above the heads of the company;
the floor was strewn with juniper twigs; and the spinning-wheels, the
carding boards, every token of household labour was removed, except a
loom, which remained in one corner.  In another corner was a welcome
sight--a platform of rough boards, two feet from the floor, and on it
two stools.  This was a token that there was to be dancing; and indeed
Oddo, the herd-boy, old Peder's grandson, was seen to have his clarionet
in his belt, as he ran in and out on the arrival of fresh parties.

Before four o'clock, the whole company, consisting of about forty, had
arrived.  They walked about the large room, sipping their strong coffee,
and helping one another to the good things on the trays which were
carried round,--the slices of bread-and-butter, with anchovies, or
shreds of reindeer ham or tongue, or thin slices of salt cheese.  When
these trays disappeared, and the young women who had served them
returned into the room, Oddo was seen to reach the platform with a hop,
skip, and jump, followed by a dull-looking young man with a violin.  The
oldest men lighted their pipes, and sat down to talk, two or three
together.  Others withdrew to a smaller room, where card-tables were set
out; while the younger men selected their partners, and handed them
forth for the gallopade.  The dance was led by the blushing Erica, whose
master was her partner.  It had never occurred to her that she was not
to take her usual place, and she was greatly embarrassed, not the less
so that she knew that her mistress was immediately behind, with Rolf for
her partner.  Erica might, however, have led the dance in any country in
Europe.  All the women in Norway dance well, being practised in it from
their infancy, as an exercise for which the leisure of their long
winter, and the roominess of their houses, afford scope.  Every woman
present danced well, but none better than Erica.

"Very well!" "very pretty!" "very good!" observed the pastor, M.
Kollsen, as he sat, with his pipe in his mouth, looking on.  M.  Kollsen
was a very young man; but the men in Norway smoke as invariably as the
women dance.  "Very pretty, indeed!  They only want double the number to
make it as pretty a dance as any in Tronyem."

"What would you have, sir?" asked old Peder, who sat smoking at his
elbow.  "Are there not eleven couple?  Oddo told me there were eleven
couple; and I think I counted so many pairs of feet as they passed."

"Let me see:--yes, you are right, Peder; there are eleven couples."

"And what would you have more, sir?  In this young man's father's
time--"

"Rolf's father's?"

"No, sir,--Erlingsen's.  Ah!  I forgot that Erlingsen may not seem to
you, or any stranger, to be young, but Ulla and I have been used to call
him so, and I fear I always shall, as I shall never see the furrows in
his face.  It will be always smooth and young to me.  My Ulla says there
is nothing to be sorry for in that, and she does not object to my
thinking so of her face.  But, as I was saying, in the elder Erlingsen's
time we thought we did well when we set up nine couples at Yule: and
since then, the Holbergs and Thores have each made out a new farm within
ten miles, and we are accustomed to be rather proud of our eleven
couples.  Indeed, I once knew it twelve, when they got me to stand up
with little Henrica,--the pretty little girl whose grave lies behind,
just under the rock.  But I suppose there is no question but there are
finer doings at Tronyem."

"Of course--of course," said the young clergyman.  "But there are many
youths in Tronyem that would be glad of so pretty a partner as M.
Erlingsen has, if she would not look so frightened."

"Pretty she is," said Peder.  "As I remember her complexion, it looks as
if it was made by the reflection of our snows in its own clearness.  And
when you do get a full look into her eyes, how like the summer sky they
are--as deep as the heavens in a midsummer noon!  Did you say she looks
frightened, sir?"

"Yes.  When does she not?  Some ghost from the grave has scared her, I
suppose; or some spirit that has no grave to lie still in, perhaps.  It
is a great fault in her that she has so little faith.  I never met with
such a case.  I hardly know how to conduct it.  I must begin with the
people about her,--abolish their superstitions,--and then there may be a
chance for her.  Meanwhile I have but a poor account to give to the
bishop [Note 2] of the religion of the district."

"Did you say, sir, that Erica wants faith?  It seems to me that I never
knew any one who had so much."

"You think so because there is no idea in this region of what faith is.
A prodigious work indeed my bishop has given me to do.  He himself
cannot be aware what it is, till I send him my report.  One might
suppose that Christianity had never been heard of here, by the absurd
credulity one meets with in the best houses,--the multitude of good and
evil spirits one hears of at every turn.  I will blow them all to the
winds presently.  I will root out every superstition in a circle of
twenty miles."

"You will, sir?"

"I will.  Such is my duty as a Christian pastor."

"Do you suppose you can, sir?"

"Certainly.  No doubt of that.  What sort of a pastor must he be who
cannot vindicate his own religion?"

"These beliefs, sir, were among us long before you were born; and I
fancy they will last till some time after you are dead.  And, what is
more, I should not wonder if your bishop was to tell you the same thing
when you send him your report of us."

"I thought you had had more faith, Peder.  I thought you had been a
better Christian."

"However that may be," said Peder, "I have some knowledge of the people
about us, having lived nearly fourscore years in the parish; and
perhaps, sir, as you are young, and from a distance, you would allow me
to say a word.  May I?"

"O, certainly."

But while M.  Kollsen gave this permission, he took his pipe from his
mouth, and beat time with it upon his knee, and with his foot upon the
ground, to carry off his impatience at being instructed.

"My advice would be, sir, with all respect to you," said Peder, "that
you should lead the people into everything that you think true and good,
and pass over quietly whatever old customs and notions you do not
understand or like.  I have so much belief in the religion you are to
teach as to feel sure that whatever will not agree with it will die out
of its way if let alone.  But if religion is brought in to hurt the
people's feelings and notions, that religion will be the thing to
suffer."

"I must judge for myself about such matters, of course," said M.
Kollsen.  He was meditating a change of place, to escape further
lecturing about his duty, when Peder saved him the trouble of leaving
his comfortable seat by rising and moving away towards the fire.
Peder's pipe was smoked out, and he was going for more tobacco to the
place where tobacco was always to be found--in a little recess above the
fireplace.  He felt his way carefully, that he might not interfere with
the dancers, or be jostled by them; but he had not far to go.  One
friend begged to be sent for anything he wanted; another, with a quicker
eye, brought him tobacco; and a third led him to his seat again.  All
looked with wonder at M.  Kollsen, surprised that he, Peder's companion
at that moment, young and blessed with eyesight, could let the blind old
man leave his seat for such a reason.  M.  Kollsen whiffed away,
however, quite unconscious of what everybody was thinking.

"This waltz," said Peder, when the dancers had begun again, "does not
seem to go easily.  There is something amiss.  I think it is in the
music that the fault lies.  My boy's clarionet goes well enough; no fear
of Oddo's being out.  Pray, sir, who plays the violin at this moment?"

"A fellow who looks as if he did not like his business.  He is frowning
with his red brows as if he would frown out the lights."

"His red brows!  O, then it is Hund.  I was thinking it would be hard
upon him, poor fellow, if he had to play to-night; yet, not so hard as
if he had to dance.  It is weary work dancing with the heels when the
heart is too heavy to move.  You may have heard, sir, for everyone knows
it, that Hund wanted to have young Rolf's place, and, some say, Erica
herself.  Is she dancing, sir, if I may ask?"

"Yes, with Rolf.  What sort of a man is Rolf--with regard to these
superstitions, I mean?  Is he as foolish as Erica--always frightened
about something?"

"No, indeed.  It is to be wished that Rolf was not so light as he is--so
inconsiderate about these matters.  Rolf has his troubles and his
faults; but they are not of that kind."

"Enough," said M.  Kollsen, with a voice of authority.  "I rejoice to
hear that he is superior to the popular delusions.  As to his troubles
and his faults, they may be left for me to discover all in good time."

"With all my heart, sir.  They are nobody's business but his own, and,
may be, Erica's.  Rolf has a good heart, and I doubt not Ulla and I
shall have great comfort in him.  He lives with us, sir, from this night
forwards.  There is no fear that he will wish us in our graves, though
we stand between him and his marriage."

"That must be rather a painful consideration to you."

"Not at all, sir, at present.  Ulla and I were all the happier, we
think, to this day, for having had four such years as these young people
have before them to know one another in, and grow suitable in notions
and habits, and study to please one another.  By the time Rolf and Erica
are what we were, one or both of us will be underground, and Rolf will
have, I am certain, the pleasant feeling of having done his duty by us.
It is all as it should be, sir; and I pray that they may live to say at
our age what Ulla and I can say at the same season of our lives."

The pastor made no answer.  He had not heard the last few words; for
what Peder said of being underground had plunged him into a reverie
about Peder's funeral sermon, which he should, of course, have to
preach.  He was pondering how he should at once do justice to Peder's
virtues and mark his own disapprobation of the countenance Peder gave to
the superstitions of the region in which he lived.  He must keep in view
the love and respect in which the old man was held by everybody, and yet
he must bear witness against the great fault above mentioned.  He
composed two or three paragraphs in his imagination which he thought
would do, and then committed them to memory.  He was roused from this
employment by a loud laugh from the man whose funeral he was meditating,
and saw that Peder was enjoying life at present as much as the youngest,
with a glass of punch in his hand, and a group of old men and women
round him recalling the jests of fifty years ago.

"How goes it, Rolf?" said his master, who, having done his duty in the
dancing-room, was now making his way to the card-tables, in another
apartment, to see how his guests there were entertained.  Thinking that
Rolf looked very absent, as he stood, in the pause of the dance, in
silence by Erica's side, Erlingsen clapped him on the shoulder, and
said, "How goes it?  Make your friends merry."

Rolf bowed and smiled, and his master passed on.

"How goes it?" repeated Rolf to Erica, as he looked earnestly into her
face.  "Is all going on well, Erica?"

"Certainly.  I suppose so.  Why not?" she replied.  "If you see anything
wrong,--anything omitted, be sure and tell me.  Madame Erlingsen would
be very sorry.  Is there anything forgotten, Rolf?"

"I think you have forgotten what the day is: that is all.  Nobody that
looked at you, love, would fancy it to be your own day.  You look
anything but merry.  Hardly a smile from you to-night!  And that is a
great omission."

"O, Rolf, there is something so much better than merriment!"

"Yes, love; but where is it?  Not in your heart to-night, Erica."

"Yes, indeed, Rolf."

"You look as dull,--as sad,--you and Hund, as if--"

"Hund!" repeated Erica, glancing around the room for Hund, and not
seeing him till her lover reminded her that Hund was the musician.
"Hund does seem dull enough to be sure," said she, smiling; "I hope I do
not often look like that."

"I am more sorry for him than you are, I see," said Rolf, brightening
when he found how entirely Hund had been absent from her thoughts.  "I
am more sorry for Hund than you are: and with good reason, for I know
what the happiness is that he has missed, poor fellow!  But yet I think
you might feel a little more for him.  It would show that you know how
to value love."

"Indeed I am very sorry for him; but more for his disappointment about
the house than any other.  To-day once over, he will soon fix his love
on somebody else.  Perhaps we shall be dancing on his betrothment-day
before the year is out."

"Then I hope his girl will look merrier than you do to-night," muttered
Rolf, with a sigh.  "O, Erica!  I wish you would trust me.  I could take
care of you, and make you quite happy, if you would only believe it.
Ah!  I know what that look means.  I know you love me, and all that; but
you are always tormenting yourself--"

"I think I know one who is cleverer still at tormenting himself," said
Erica, with a smile.  "Come, Rolf, no more tormenting of ourselves or
one another!  No more of that after to-day!  What is to-day worth, if it
is not to put an end to all doubts of one another?"

"But where is the use of that, if you still will not believe that I can
keep off all trouble from you--that nothing in the universe shall touch
you to your hurt, while--"

"O, hush! hush!" said Erica, turning pale and red at the presumption of
this speech.  "See, they are waiting for us.  One more round before
supper."

And in the whirl of the waltz she tried to forget the last words Rolf
had spoken; but they rang in her ears; and before her eyes were images
of Nipen overhearing this defiance,--and the Water-sprite planning
vengeance in its palace under the ice,--and the Mountain-Demon laughing
in scorn, till the echoes shouted again,--and the Wood-Demon waiting
only for summer to see how he could beguile the rash lover.  Erica
finished her dance; but when the company and the men of the household
were seated at the supper-table, and she had to help her mistress and
the young ladies to wait upon them, she trembled so that she could
scarcely stand.  It was so very wrong of Rolf to be always defying the
spirits!

Long was the supper, and hearty was the mirth round the table.  People
in Norway have universally a hearty appetite,--such an appetite as we
English have no idea of.  Whether it is owing to the sharp climate, or
to the active life led by all,--whatever may be the cause, such is the
fact.  This night, piles of fish disappeared first; and then joint after
joint of reindeer venison.  The fine game of the country was handed
round, cut up; and little but the bones was left of a score of birds.
Then there were preserved fruits, and berries, eaten with thick cream;--
almost every dish that could be thought of made of the rich cream of the
north.  Erica recovered herself as the great business went on, and while
her proud lover watched her, forgetting his supper, he thought to
himself that no one of the fair attendants trod so lightly as Erica--no
one carved so neatly--no one handed the dishes so gracefully, or was so
quick at seeing to whom the most respect and attention were owing.
Perhaps this last thought was suggested by Rolf's perceiving that,
either by her own hand or another's, the hottest dishes and the nicest
bits were found, all supper-time, close to his elbow.  Madame Erlingsen,
he decided, with all her experience, did not do the duties of the table
so well; and the young ladies, kind and good-tempered as they were,
would never, by any experience, become so graceful as Erica.

At last appeared the final dish of the long feast--the sweet cake, with
which dinner and supper in Norway usually conclude.  While this was
sliced and handed round, Rolf observed that Erica looked anxiously
towards him.  He took no notice, hoping that she would come and speak to
him, and that he should thus be the gainer of a few of her sweet words.
She did come, and just said,

"The cake and ale are here, Rolf.  Will you carry them?"

"O, the treat for old Nipen.  Yes, I will carry them," replied Rolf,
rising from his seat.

It is the custom in the country regions of Norway to give the spirit
Nipen a share at festival times.  His Christmas cake is richer than that
prepared for the guests; and, before the feast is finished, it is laid
in some place out of doors, where, as might be expected, it is never to
be found in the morning.  Everybody knew therefore why Rolf rose from
his seat, though some were too far off to hear him say that he would
carry out the treat for old Nipen.

"Now, pray do not speak so,--do not call him those names," said Erica,
anxiously.  "It is quite as easy to speak so as not to offend him.
Pray, Rolf, to please me, do speak respectfully.  And promise me to play
no tricks, but just set the things down, and come straight in, and do
not look behind you.  Promise me, Rolf."

Rolf did promise, but he was stopped by two voices, calling upon him.
Oddo, the herd-boy, came running to claim the office of carrying out
Nipen's cake; and M.  Kollsen, from his seat, declared that he could not
countenance any superstitious observances,--would not indeed permit any
so gross as this in his presence.  He requested that the company might
have the benefit of the cake, and made a speech in ridicule of all
spirits and fairies so very bold and contemptuous, that all present who
had to go home that night looked in consternation at their host.  If
such language as M.  Kollsen's were allowed, they looked for nothing
less than to have their way beset by offended spirits; so that Erlingsen
might hear in the morning of some being frozen, some being lost in the
fiord, and others tumbled from precipices.  M.  Erlingsen made haste to
speak.  He did not use any scruples with the young clergyman.  He told
him that every one present would be happy at all times to hear him speak
on the matters belonging to his office.  He had discharged his office in
the morning, in betrothing Rolf and Erica he was now resting from his
business as a guest at that table; and he would, of course, allow that
the direction of the festivity rested with the host and hostess, whose
desire it was that everything should be done which was agreeable to the
feelings and habits of the greater number of the guests.

It was settled in a moment that Nipen should have his cake; which so
shocked and annoyed M.  Kollsen that he declared he would not remain to
sanction anything so impious, and requested that his boatmen might be
called from their suppers, and desired to have his boat ready
immediately.  No entreaties would soften him: go he would.

It appeared, however, that he could not go.  Not a man would row him,
after what he had just said of Nipen.  All were sure that a gust would
blow the boat over, the minute she was out of reach of land; or that a
rock would spring up in deep water, where no rock was before; or that
some strong hand would grasp the boat from below, and draw it down under
the waters.  A shudder went round as these things were prophesied, and,
of course, M.  Kollsen's return home that night was out of the question,
unless he would row himself.  At first, he declared he should do this;
but he was so earnestly entreated to attempt nothing so rash, that he
yielded the point, with a supercilious air which perhaps concealed more
satisfaction than he chose to avow to himself.  He insisted on retiring
immediately, however, and was shown to his chamber at once by Erlingsen
himself, who found, on his return, that the company were the better for
the pastor's absence, though unable to recover the mirth which he had
put to flight.  Erica had been shedding a few tears, in spite of strong
efforts to restrain them.  Here was a bad omen already,--on the very day
of her betrothment; and she saw that Hund thought so; for there was a
gloomy satisfaction in his eye, as he sat silently watching all that
passed.

She could not help being glad that Oddo renewed his request to be
allowed to carry out Nipen's cake and ale.  She eagerly put the ale-can
into his hand, and the cake under his arm; and Oddo was going out, when
his blind grandfather, hearing that he was to be the messenger, observed
that he should be better pleased if it _were_ somebody else; for Oddo,
though a good boy, was inquisitive, and apt to get into mischief by
looking too closely into everything,--having never a thought of fear.
Everybody knew this to be true, though Oddo himself declared that he was
as frightened as anybody sometimes.  Moreover, he asked what there was
to pry into, on the present occasion, in the middle of the night, and
appealed to the company whether Nipen was not best pleased to be served
by the youngest of a party.  This was allowed, and he was permitted to
go, when Peder's consent was obtained, his mistress going to the door
with him, and seeing him off, putting him in mind that the dancing could
not begin again till he returned to take up his clarionet.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  The rite of confirmation is thought much more of in Norway than
with us.  The preparation for it is longer and more strict; and the
destiny of young people for life depends much on how they pass through
it.  A person who has not been confirmed is looked upon as one without a
character and without knowledge; while those who pass well stand high in
credit; and if they have to earn their living, are sure of good
situations.--In the newspapers in Norway you may see among the
advertisements, "A _confirmed_ shop-boy wants a place."  "Wanted a
_confirmed_ girl, who can cook;" which means that their having been
confirmed proves that they are considered respectable, and not deficient
in capacity or knowledge.

Note 2.  A hundred years ago Nordland was included in the diocese of
Tronyem.



CHAPTER TWO.

ODDO'S WALK.

The place where Nipen liked to find his offerings was at the end of the
barn, below the gallery which ran round the outside of the building.
There, in the summer, lay a plot of green grass, and in the winter a
sheet of pure frozen snow.  Thither Oddo shuffled on, over the slippery
surface of the yard, and across the paddock, along the lane made by the
snow-plough between high banks of snow; and he took prodigious pains,
between one slip and another, not to spill the ale.  He looked more like
a prowling cub than a boy, wrapped as he was in his wolf-skin coat and
his fox-skin cap doubled down over his ears.

As may be supposed from Oddo's declaring that he was sometimes
frightened, he was a brave boy.  A cowardly boy would not have said it;
a cowardly boy would not have offered to go at all; a cowardly boy
would, if he had been sent, have wished that the house-door might be
left open, that he might see the cheerful yellow light from within;
whereas Oddo begged his mistress to shut the door, that his grandfather
might not be made to feel his rheumatism by any draught, as he sat at
table.  A cowardly boy would have run as fast as he could, perhaps
slipping or falling, and spilling the ale; and when his errand was done,
he would have fled home, without looking behind him, fancying everything
he saw and heard a spirit or a wild beast.  Oddo did very differently
from this.  As usual, he was too busy finding out how everything
happened to feel afraid, as a less inquisitive boy would.

The cake steamed up in the frosty air under his nose, so warm, and
spicy, and rich, that Oddo began to wonder what so very superior a cake
could be like.  He had never tasted any cake so rich as this, nor had
any one in the house tasted such: for Nipen would be offended if his
cake was not richer than anybody's else.  Oddo wondered more and more
how this would taste, till, before he had crossed the yard, he wondered
no longer.  He broke a piece off, and ate it; and then wondered whether
Nipen would mind his cake being just a little smaller than usual.  After
a few steps more, the wonder was how far Nipen's charity would go, for
the cake was now a great deal smaller, and Oddo next wondered whether
anybody could stop eating such a cake when it was once tasted.  He was
surprised to see, when he came out into the starlight, at the end of the
barn, how small a piece was left.  He stood listening whether Nipen was
coming in a gust of wind, and when he heard no breeze stirring, he
looked about for a cloud where Nipen might be.  There was no cloud, as
far as he could see.  The moon had set, but the stars were so bright as
to throw a faint shadow from Oddo's form upon the snow.  There was no
sign of any spirit being angry at present: but Oddo thought Nipen would
certainly be angry at finding so very small a piece of cake.  It might
be better to let the ale stand by itself, and Nipen would perhaps
suppose that Madame Erlingsen's stock of groceries had fallen short; at
least, that it was in some way inconvenient to make the cake on the
present occasion.  So, putting down his can upon the snow, and holding
the last fragment of the cake between his teeth, he seized a birch pole
which hung down from the gallery, and by its help climbed one of the
posts, and got over the rails into the gallery, whence he could watch
what would happen.  To remain on the very spot where Nipen was expected
was a little more than he was equal to; but he thought he could stand in
the gallery, in the shadow of the broad eaves of the barn, and wait for
a little while.  He was so very curious to see Nipen, and to learn how
it liked its ale!

There he stood in the shadow, hearing nothing but his own munching;
though there was not much of that: for as he came near the end, he took
only a little crumb at a time, to spin out the treat; for never was
anything so good!  Then he had nothing to do but listen: but the
waterfall was frozen up; and the mill stood as still as if it was not
made to move.  If the wheel should creak, it would be a sign that Nipen
was passing.

Presently he heard something.

"Music!" thought he.  "I never heard that it liked music; and I don't
think it can know much about music, for this is not at all sweet.  There
again!  That was a sort of screech.  O, how stupid I am!" thought he
again.  "So much for my head being full of Nipen!  It is only Hund,
tuning his violin, because they have all done supper.  They will be
waiting for me.  I wish this Nipen would make haste.  It can't be very
hungry;--that is clear."

He grew more and more impatient as the minutes passed on, and he was
aware that he was wanted in the house.  Once or twice he walked slowly
away, looking behind him, and then turned again, unwilling to miss this
opportunity of seeing Nipen.  Then he called the spirit,--actually
begged it to appear.  His first call was almost a whisper; but he called
louder and louder by degrees, till he was suddenly stopped by hearing an
answer.

The call he heard was soft and sweet.  There was nothing terrible in the
sound itself; yet Oddo grasped the rail of the gallery with all his
strength, as he heard it.  The strangest thing was, it was not a single
cry; others followed,--all soft and sweet; but Oddo thought that Nipen
must have many companions: and he had not prepared himself to see more
spirits than one.  As usual, however, his curiosity grew more intense,
from the little he had heard; and he presently called again.  Again he
was answered, by four or five voices in succession.

"Was ever anybody so stupid!" cried the boy, now stamping with vexation.
"It is the echo, after all!  As if there was not always an echo here,
opposite the rock!  It is not Nipen at all.  I will just wait another
minute, however."

He leaned in silence on his folded arms; and had not so waited for many
seconds before he saw something moving on the snow at a little distance.
It came nearer and nearer, and at last quite up to the can of ale.

"I am glad I stayed," thought Oddo.  "Now I can say I have seen Nipen.
It is much less terrible than I expected.  Grandfather told me that it
sometimes came like an enormous elephant or hippopotamus; and never
smaller than a large bear.  But this is no bigger than--let me see--I
think it is most like a fox.  I should like to make it speak to me.
They would think so much of me at home, if I had talked with Nipen."

So he began gently, "Is that Nipen?"

The thing moved its bushy tail, but did not answer.

"There is no cake for you to-night, Nipen.  I hope the ale will do.  Is
the ale good, Nipen?"

Off went the dark creature, without a word, as quick as it could go.

"Is it offended?" thought Oddo: "or is it really what it looks like,--a
fox?  If it does not come back, I will go down presently, and see
whether it has drunk the ale.  If not, I shall think it is only a fox."

He presently let himself down to the ground by the way he had come up,
and eagerly laid hold of the ale-can.  It would not stir.  It was as
fast on the ground as if it was enchanted, which Oddo did not doubt was
the case; and he started back, with more fear than he had yet had.  The
cold he felt on this exposed spot soon reminded him, however, that the
can was probably frozen to the snow,--which it might well be, after
being brought warm from the fire-side.  It was so.  The vessel had sunk
an inch into the snow, and was there fixed by the frost.

None of the ale seemed to have been drunk; and so cold was Oddo by this
time, that he longed for a sup of it.  He took first a sup, and then a
draught: and then he remembered that the rest would be entirely spoiled
by the frost if it stood another hour.  This would be a pity, he
thought; so he finished it, saying to himself that he did not believe
Nipen would come that night.

At that very moment he heard a cry so dreadful that it shot, like sudden
pain, through every nerve of his body.  It was not a shout of anger: it
was something between a shriek and a wail,--like what he fancied would
be the cry of a person in the act of being murdered.  That Nipen was
here now, he could not doubt; and at length Oddo fled.  He fled the
faster, at first, for hearing the rustle of wings; but the curiosity of
the boy even now got the better of his terror, and he looked up at the
barn where the wings were rustling.  There he saw, in the starlight, the
glitter of two enormous round eyes, shining down upon him from the ridge
of the roof.  But it struck him at once that he had seen those eyes
before.  He checked his speed, stopped, went back a little, sprang up
once more into the gallery, hissed, waved his cap, and clapped his
hands, till the echoes were all awake again; and, as he had hoped, the
great white owl spread its wings, sprang off from the ridge, and sailed
away over the fiord.

Oddo tossed up his cap, cold as the night was, so delighted was he to
have scared away the bird which had for a moment scared him.  He hushed
his mirth, however, when he perceived that lights were wandering in the
yard, and that there were voices approaching.  He saw that the household
were alarmed about him, and were coming forth to search for him.
Curious to see what they would do, Oddo crouched down in the darkest
corner of the gallery to watch and listen.

First came Rolf and his master, carrying torches, with which they
lighted up the whole expanse of snow as they came.  They looked round
them without any fear, and Oddo heard Rolf say--

"If it were not for that cry, sir, I should think nothing of it.  But my
fear is that some beast has got him."

"Search first the place where the cake and ale ought to be," said
Erlingsen.  "Till I see blood, I shall hope the best."

"You will not see that," said Hund, who followed, his gloomy countenance
now distorted by fear, looking ghastly in the yellow light of the torch
he carried.  "You will see no blood.  Nipen does not draw blood."

"Never tell me that any one that was not wounded and torn could send out
such a cry as that," said Rolf.  "Some wild brute seized him, no doubt,
at the very moment that Erica and I were standing at the door
listening."

Oddo repented his prank when he saw, in the flickering light behind the
crowd of guests, who seemed to hang together like a bunch of grapes, the
figures of his grandfather and Erica.  The old man had come out in the
cold for his sake; and Erica, who looked as white as the snow, had no
doubt come forth because the old man wanted a guide.  Oddo now wished
himself out of the scrape.  Sorry as he was, he could not help being
amused, and keeping himself hidden a little longer, when he saw Rolf
discover the round hole in the snow where the can had sunk, and heard
the different opinions of the company as to what this portended.  Most
were convinced that his curiosity had been his destruction, as they had
always prophesied.  What could be clearer by this hole than that the ale
had stood there, and been carried off with the cake, and Oddo with it,
because he chose to stay and witness what is forbidden to mortals?

"I wonder where he is now?" said a shivering youth, the gayest dancer of
the evening.

"O, there is no doubt about that; any one can tell you that," replied
the elderly and experienced M.  Holberg.  "He is chained upon a wind,
poor fellow, like all Nipen's victims.  He will have to be shut up in a
cave all the hot summer through, when it is pleasantest to be abroad;
and when the frost and snow come again, he will be driven out with a
lash of Nipen's whip, and he must go flying wherever his wind flies
without resting or stopping to warm himself at any fire in the country.
Every winter now, when Erlingsen hears a moaning above his chimney, he
may know it is poor Oddo, foolish boy!"

"Foolish boy! but one can't help pitying him," said another.  "Chained
astride upon the wind, and never to be warm again!"

Oddo had thus far kept his laughter to himself, but now he could contain
himself no longer.  He laughed aloud, and then louder and louder as he
heard the echoes all laughing with him.  The faces below, too, were so
very ridiculous--some of the people staring up in the air, and others at
the rock where the echo came from; some having their mouths wide open,
others their eyes starting, and all looking unlike themselves in the
torchlight.  His mirth was stopped by his master.

"Come down, sir," cried Erlingsen, looking up at the gallery.  "Come
down this moment.  We shall make you remember this night as well perhaps
as Nipen could do.  Come down, and bring my can and the ale and the
cake.  The more pranks you play to-night the more you will repent it."

Most of the company thought Erlingsen very bold to talk in this way; but
he was presently justified by Oddo's appearance on the balustrade.  His
master seized him as he touched the ground, while the others stood
aloof.

"Where is my ale-can?" said Erlingsen.

"Here, sir;" and Oddo held it up dangling by the handle.

"And the cake?  I bade you bring down the cake with you."

"So I did, sir."

And to his master's look of inquiry the boy answered by pointing down
his throat with one finger, and laying the other hand upon his stomach.
"It is all here, sir."

"And the ale in the same place?"

Oddo bowed, and Erlingsen turned away without speaking.  He could not
have spoken without laughing.

"Bring this gentleman home," said Erlingsen, presently to Rolf; "and do
not let him out of your hands.  Let no one ask him any questions till he
is in the house."  Rolf grasped the boy's arm, and Erlingsen went
forward to relieve Peder, though it was not very clear to him at the
moment whether such a grandchild was better safe or missing.  The old
man made no such question, but hastened back to the house with many
expressions of thanksgiving.

As the search-party crowded in among the women, and pushed all before
them into the large warm room, M.  Kollsen was seen standing on the
stair-head, wrapped in the bear-skin coverlid.

"Is the boy there?" he inquired.

Oddo showed himself.

"How much have you seen of Nipen, hey?"

"Nobody ever had a better sight of it, sir.  It was as plain as I see
you now, and no further off."

"Nonsense,--it is a lie," said M.  Kollsen.

"Do not believe a word he says," advised the pastor, speaking to the
listeners.  "There is the folly of giving such an opportunity to a child
of making himself important.  If he had had his share of the cake, with
the rest of us at table, he would have taken it quietly, and been
thankful.  As it is, it will be harder work than ever to drive out these
wicked superstitions.  Go, get along!" he cried to Oddo; "I do not want
to hear a word you have got to say."

Oddo bowed, and proceeded to the great room, where he took up his
clarionet, as if it was a matter of course that the dancing was to begin
again immediately.  He blew upon his fingers, however, observing that
they were too stiff with cold to do their duty well.  And when he turned
towards the fire, everyone made way for him, in a very different manner
from what they would have dreamed of three hours before.  Oddo had his
curiosity gratified as to how they would regard one who was believed to
have seen something supernatural.

Erlingsen saw that something must be done on the spot, to clear up the
affair.  If his guests went home without having heard the mysteries of
the night explained, the whole country would presently be filled with
wild and superstitious stories.  He requested Peder to examine the boy,
as Oddo stood more in awe of his grandfather than of anyone else; and
also because Peder was known to be so firm a believer in Nipen, that his
judgment would be more readily received than that of an unbeliever.
When seriously questioned, Oddo had no wish to say anything but the
truth; and he admitted the whole,--that he had eaten the entire cake,
drunk all the ale, seen a fox and an owl, and heard the echoes in answer
to himself.  As he finished his story, Hund, who was perhaps the most
eager listener of all, leaped thrice upon the floor, snapping his
fingers, as if in a passion of delight.  He met Erlingsen's eye full of
severity, and was quiet; but his countenance still glowed with
exultation.

The rest of the company was greatly shocked at these daring insults to
Nipen: and none more so than Peder.  The old man's features worked with
emotion, as he said in a low voice that he should be very thankful if
all the mischief that might follow upon this adventure might be borne by
the kin of him who had provoked it.  If it should fall upon those who
were innocent, never surely had boy been so miserable as his poor lad
would then be.  Oddo's eyes filled with tears, as he heard this; and he
looked up at his master and mistress, as if to ask whether they had no
word of comfort to say.

"Neighbour," said Madame Erlingsen to Peder, "is there any one here who
does not believe that God is over all, and that he protects the
innocent?"

"Is there any one who does not feel," added Erlingsen, "that the
innocent should be gay, safe as they are in the good-will of God and
man?  Come, neighbours,--to your dancing again!  You have lost too much
time already.  Now, Oddo, play your best,--and you, Hund."

"I hope," said Oddo, "that if any mischief is to come, it will fall upon
me.  We'll see how I shall bear it."

"Mischief enough will befall you, boy,--never doubt it," said his
master, "as long as you trifle with people's feelings as you have done
to-night.  Go.  Make up for it all you can."

The dancing was spiritless, and there was little more of it.  The mirth
of the meeting was destroyed.  The party broke up at three, instead of
five or six; and it might have been earlier still, but for the
unwillingness of every family present to be the first to go upon the
lake, or to try the road.  At last, all understood one another's
feelings by their own; and the whole company departed at once in two
bands,--one by water, and the other by land.  Those who went in sleighs
took care that a heavy stone was fastened by a rope to the back of each
carriage, that its bobbing and dancing on the road might keep off the
wolves.  Glad would they have been of any contrivance by which they
might as certainly distance Nipen.  Rolf then took a parting kiss from
Erica in the porch, pushed Oddo on before, and followed with Peder.
Erica watched them quite to the door of their own house, and then came
in, and busied herself in making a clearance of some of the confusion
which the guests had left behind.

"Oddo could not get a word from you, Erica," observed her mistress; "not
even a look in answer to his `good night'."

"I could not, madam," answered Erica, tears and sobs breaking forth.
"When I think of it all, I am so shocked,--so ashamed!"

"How ashamed?"

"Nipen has been so favourable to us to-day, madam! not a breath of wind
stirring all the morning, so that nobody was disappointed of coming!
And then to serve it in this way!  To rob it, and mock it, and brave it
as we have done!--So ungrateful!--so very wrong!"

"We are very sorry for Oddo's trick,--your master and I," said Madame
Erlingsen; "but we are not in the least afraid of any further harm
happening.  You know we do not believe that God permits his children to
be at the mercy of evil or capricious spirits.  Indeed, Erica, we could
not love God as we should wish to love Him, if we could not trust in Him
as a just and kind protector.  Go to rest now, Erica.  You have done
quite enough since you left your bed.  Go to rest now.  Rest your heart
upon Him who has blessed you exceedingly this day.  Whatever others do,
do not you be ungrateful to Him.  Good sleep to you, Erica!  Sleep off
your troubles, that Rolf may see nothing of them in the morning."

Erica smiled; and when Orga and Frolich saw the effect of what their
mother had said, they too went to rest without trembling at every one of
the noises with which a house built of wood is always resounding.



CHAPTER THREE.

OLAF AND HIS NEWS.

When M.  Kollsen appeared the next morning, the household had so much of
its usual air that no stranger would have imagined how it had been
occupied the day before.  The large room was fresh strewn with evergreen
sprigs; the breakfast-table stood at one end, where each took breakfast,
standing, immediately on coming downstairs.  At the bottom of the room
was a busy group.  The shoemaker, who travelled this way twice a year,
had appeared this morning, and was already engaged upon the skins which
had been tanned on the farm, and kept in readiness for him.  He was
instructing Oddo in the making of the tall boots of the country; and
Oddo was so eager to have a pair in which he might walk knee-deep in the
snow when the frosts should be over, that he gave all his attention to
the work.  Peder was twisting strips of leather, thin and narrow, into
whips.  Rolf and Hund were silently intent upon a sort of work which the
Norwegian peasant delights in,--carving wood.  They spoke only to answer
Peder's questions about the progress of the work.  Peder loved to hear
about their carving, and to feel it; for he had been remarkable for his
skill in the art, as long as his sight lasted.

Erlingsen was reading the newspaper, which must go away in the pastor's
pocket.  Madame was spinning; and her daughters sat busily plying their
needles with Erica, in a corner of the apartment.  The three were
putting the last stitches to the piece of work which the pastor was also
to carry away with him, as his fee for his services of yesterday.  It
was an eider-down coverlid, of which Rolf had procured the down, from
the islets in the fiord frequented by the eider-duck, and Erica had
woven the cover and quilted it, with the assistance of her young ladies,
in an elegant pattern.  The other house-maiden was in the chambers,
hanging out the bedding in an upper gallery to air, as she did on all
days of fair weather.

The whole party rose when M.  Kollsen entered the room, but presently
resumed their employments, except Madame Erlingsen, who conducted the
pastor to the breakfast-table, and helped him plentifully to reindeer
ham, bread-and-butter, and corn-brandy,--the usual breakfast.  M.
Kollsen carried his plate and ate, as he went round to converse with
each group.  First, he talked politics a little with his host, by the
fire-side; in the midst of which conversation Erlingsen managed to
intimate that nothing would be heard of Nipen to-day, if the subject was
let alone by themselves: a hint which the clergyman was willing to take,
as he supposed it meant in deference to his views.  Then he complimented
Madame Erlingsen on the excellence of her ham, and helped himself again;
and next drew near the girls.

Erica blushed, and was thinking how she should explain that she wished
his acceptance of her work, when Frolich saved her the awkwardness by
saying--

"We hope you will like this coverlid, for we have made an entirely new
pattern on purpose for it.  Orga, you have the pattern.  Do show M.
Kollsen how pretty it looks on paper."

M.  Kollsen did not know much about such things; but he admired as much
as he could.

"That lily of the valley, see, is mamma's idea; and the barberry,
answering to it, is mine.  That tree in the middle is all Erica's work--
entirely; but the squirrel upon it, we never should have thought of.  It
was papa who put that in our heads; and it is the most original thing in
the whole pattern.  Erica has worked it beautifully, to be sure."

"I think we have said quite enough about it," observed Erica, smiling
and blushing.  "I hope M.  Kollsen will accept it.  The down is Rolfs
present."

Rolf rose, and made his bow, and said he had had pleasure in preparing
his small offering.

"And I think," said Erlingsen, "it is pretty plain that my little girls
have had pleasure in their part of the work.  It is my belief that they
are sorry it is so nearly done."

M.  Kollsen graciously accepted the gift,--took up the coverlid and
weighed it in his hand, in order to admire its lightness, compared with
its handsome size; and then bent over the carvers, to see what work was
under their hands.

"A bell-collar, sir," said Hund, showing his piece of wood.  "I am
making a complete set for our cows, against they go to the mountain,
come summer."

"A pulpit, sir," explained Rolf, showing his work in his turn.

"A pulpit!  Really!  And who is to preach in it?"

"You, sir, of course," replied Erlingsen.  "Long before you came,--from
the time the new church was begun, we meant it should have a handsome
pulpit.  Six of us, within a round of twenty miles, undertook the six
sides; and Rolf has great hopes of having the basement allotted to him
afterwards.  The best workman is to do the basement, and I think Rolf
bids fair to be the one.  This is good work, sir."

"Exquisite," said the pastor.  "I question whether our native carvers
may not be found to be equal to any whose works we hear so much of in
Popish churches, in other countries.  And there is no doubt of the
superiority of their subjects.  Look at these elegant twining flowers,
and that fine brooding eagle!  How much better to copy the beautiful
works of God that are before our eyes, than to make durable pictures of
the Popish idolatries and superstitions, which should all have been
forgotten as soon as possible!  I hope that none of the impious
idolatries which, I am ashamed to say, still linger among us, will find
their way into the arts by which future generations will judge us."

The pastor stopped, on seeing that his hearers looked at one another, as
if conscious.  A few words, he judged, would be better than more; and he
went on to Peder, passing by Oddo without a word of notice.  The party
had indeed glanced consciously at each other; for it so happened that
the very prettiest piece Rolf had ever carved was a bowl on which he had
shown the water-sprite's hand (and never was hand so delicate as the
water-sprite's) beckoning the heron to come and fish when the river
begins to flow.

When Erica heard M.  Kollsen inquiring of Peder about his old wife, she
started up from her work, and said she must run and prepare Ulla for the
pastor's visit.  Poor Ulla would think herself forgotten this morning,
it was growing so late, and nobody had been over to see her.

Ulla, however, was far from having any such thoughts.  There sat the old
woman, propped up in bed, knitting as fast as fingers could move, and
singing, with her soul in her song, though her voice was weak and
unsteady.  She was covered with an eider-down quilt, like the first lady
in the land; but this luxury was a consequence of her being old and ill,
and having friends who cared for her infirmities.  There was no other
luxury.  Her window was glazed with thick flaky glass, through which
nothing could be seen distinctly.  The shelf, the table, the
clothes-chest, were all of rough fir-wood; and the walls of the house
were of logs, well stuffed with moss in all the crevices, to keep out
the cold.  There are no dwellings so warm in winter and cool in summer
as well-built log-houses; and this house had everything essential to
health and comfort: but there was nothing more, unless it was the green
sprinkling of the floor, and the clean appearance of everything the room
contained, from Ulla's cap to the wooden platters on the shelf.

"I thought you would come," said Ulla.  "I knew you would come, and take
my blessing on your betrothment, and my wishes that you may soon be seen
with the golden crown [Note 1].  I must not say that I hope to see you
crowned, for we all know,--and nobody so well as I,--that it is I that
stand between you and your crown.  I often think of it, my dear--"

"Then I wish you would not, Ulla: you know that."

"I do know it, my dear, and I would not be for hastening God's
appointments.  Let all be in His own time.  And I know, by myself, how
happy you may be,--you and Rolf,--while Peder and I are failing and
dying.  I only say that none wish for your crowning more than we.  O,
Erica! you have a fine lot in having Rolf."

"Indeed, I know it, Ulla."

"Do but look about you, dear, and see how he keeps the house.  And if
you were to see him give me my cup of coffee, and watch over Peder, you
would consider what he is likely to be to a pretty young thing like you,
when he is what he is to two worn-out old creatures like us."

Erica did not need convincing about these things, but she liked to hear
them.

"Where is he now?" asked Ulla.  "I always ask where everybody is, at
this season; people go about staring at the snow, as if they had no eyes
to lose.  That is the way my husband did.  Do make Rolf take care of his
precious eyes, Erica.  Is he abroad to-day, my dear?"

"By this time he is," replied Erica, "I left him at work at the
pulpit--"

"Ay! trying his eyes with fine carving, as Peder did!"

"But," continued Erica, "there was news this morning of a lodgment of
logs at the top of the foss [Note 2]; and they were all going, except
Peder, to slide them down the gully to the fiord.  The gully is frozen
so slippery, that the work will not take long.  They will make a raft of
the logs in the fiord, and either Rolf or Hund will carry them out to
the islands when the tide ebbs."

"Will it be Rolf, do you think, or Hund, dear?"

"I wish it may be Hund.  If it be Rolf, I shall go with him.  O, Ulla!
I cannot lose sight of him, after what happened last night.  Did you
hear?  I do wish Oddo would grow wiser."

Ulla shook her head, and then nodded, to intimate that they would not
talk of Nipen; and she began to speak of something else.

"How did Hund conduct himself yesterday?  I heard my husband's account:
but you know Peder could say nothing of his looks.  Did you mark his
countenance, dear?"

"Indeed, there was no helping it, any more than one can help watching a
storm-cloud as it comes up."

"So it was dark and wrathful, was it,--that ugly face of his?  Well it
might be, dear; well it might be!"

"The worst was,--worse than all his dark looks together,--O, Ulla! the
worst was his leap and cry of joy when he heard what Oddo had done, and
that Nipen was made our enemy.  He looked like an evil spirit when he
fixed his eyes on me, and snapped his fingers."

Ulla shook her head mournfully, and then asked Erica to put another peat
on the fire.

"I really should like to know," said Erica, in a low voice, when she
resumed her seat on the bed, "I am sure you can tell me if you would,
what is the real truth about Hund, what it is that weighs upon his
heart."

"I will tell you," replied Ulla.  "You are not one that will go babbling
it, so that Hund shall meet with taunts, and have his sore heart made
sorer.  I will tell you, my dear, though there is no one else but our
mistress that I would tell, and she, no doubt, knows it already.  Hund
was born and reared a good way to the south, not far from Bergen.  In
mid-winter four years since, his master sent him on an errand of twenty
miles, to carry some provisions to a village in the upper country.  He
did his errand, and so far all was well.  The village people asked him
for charity to carry three orphan children on his sledge some miles on
the way to Bergen, and to leave them at a house he had to pass on his
road, where they would be taken care of till they could be fetched from
Bergen.  Hund was an obliging young fellow then, and he made no
objection.  He took the little things, and saw that the two elder were
well wrapped up from the cold.  The third he took within his arms and on
his knee as he drove, clasping it warm against his breast.  So those say
who saw them set off; and it is confirmed by one who met the sledge on
the road, and heard the children prattling to Hund, and Hund laughing
merrily at their little talk.  Before they had got half-way, however, a
pack of hungry wolves burst out upon them from a hollow to the right of
the road.  The brutes followed close at the back of the sledge, and--"

"O, stop!" cried Erica; "I know that story.  Is it possible that Hund is
the man?  No need to go on, Ulla."

But Ulla thought there was always need to finish a story that she had
begun, and she proceeded.

"Closer and closer the wolves pressed, and it is thought Hund saw one
about to spring at his throat.  It was impossible for the horse to go
faster than it did, for it went like the wind; but so did the beasts.
Hund snatched up one of the children behind him, and threw it over the
back of the sledge, and this stopped the pack for a little.  On galloped
the horse, but the wolves were soon crowding round again, with the blood
freezing on their muzzles.  It was easier to throw the second child than
the first, and Hund did it.  It was harder to give up the third--the
dumb infant that nestled to his breast, but Hund was in mortal terror;
and a man beside himself with terror has all the cruelty of a pack of
wolves.  Hund flung away the infant, and just saved himself.  Nobody at
home questioned him, for nobody knew about the orphans, and he did not
tell.  But he was unsettled and looked wild; and his talk, whenever he
did speak, night or day, was of wolves, for the three days that he
remained after his return.  Then there was a questioning along the road
about the orphan children; and Hund heard of it, and started off into
the woods.  By putting things together--what Hund had dropped in his
agony of mind, and what had been seen and heard on the road, the whole
was made out, and the country rose to find Hund.  He was hunted like a
bear in the forest and on the mountain; but he had got to the coast in
time, and was taken in a boat, it is thought, to Hammerfest.  At any
rate, he came here as from the north, and wishes to pass for a northern
man."

"And does Erlingsen know all this?"

"Yes.  The same person who told me told him.  Erlingsen thinks he must
meet with mercy, for that none need mercy so much as the weak; and
Hund's act was an act of weakness."

"Weakness!" cried Erica, with disgust.

"He is a coward, my dear; and death stared him in the face."

"I have often wondered," said Erica, "where on the face of the earth
that wretch was wandering: and it is Hund!  And he wanted to live in
this very house," she continued, looking round the room.

"And to marry you, dear.  Erlingsen would never have allowed that.  But
the thought has plunged the poor fellow deeper, instead of saving him,
as he hoped.  He now has envy and jealousy at his heart, besides the
remorse which he will carry to his grave."

"And revenge!" said Erica, shuddering.  "I tell you he leaped for joy
that Nipen was offended.  Here is some one coming," she exclaimed,
starting from her seat, as a shadow flitted over the thick window-pane,
and a hasty knock was heard at the door.

"You are a coward, if ever there was one," said Ulla, smiling.  "Hund
never comes here, so you need not look so frightened.  What is to be
done if you look so at dinner, or the next time you meet him?  It will
be the ruin of some of us.  Go,--open the door, and do not keep the
pastor waiting."

There was another knock before Erica could reach the door, and Frolich
burst in.

"Such news!" she cried; "you never heard such news."

"I wish there never was any news," exclaimed Erica, almost pettishly.

"Good or bad?" inquired Ulla.

"O, bad,--very bad," declared Frolich, who yet looked as if she would
rather have it than none.  "Here is company.  Olaf, the drug-merchant,
is come.  Father did not expect him these three weeks."

"This is not bad news, but good," said Ulla.  "Who knows but he may
bring me a cure?"

"We will all beg him to cure you, dear Ulla," said Frolich, stroking the
old woman's white hair smooth upon her forehead.  "But he tells us
shocking things.  There is a pirate-vessel among the islands.  She was
seen off Soroe, some time ago; but she is much nearer to us now.  There
was a farm-house seen burning on Alten fiord, last week; and as the
family are all gone, and nothing but ruins left, there is little doubt
the pirates lit the torch that did it.  And the cod has been carried off
from the beach, in the few places where any has been caught yet."

"They have not found out our fiord yet?" inquired Ulla.

"O, dear!  I hope not.  But they may, any day.  And father says, the
coast must be raised, from Hammerfest to Tronyem, and a watch set till
this wicked vessel can be taken or driven away.  He was going to send a
running message both ways; but here is something else to be done first."

"Another misfortune?" asked Erica, faintly.

"No: they say it is a piece of very good fortune;--at least, for those
who like bears' feet for dinner.  Somebody or other has lighted upon the
great bear that got away in the summer, and poked her out of her den, on
the fjelde.  She is certainly abroad, with her two last year's cubs; and
their traces have been found just above, near the foss.  Olaf had heard
of her being roused; and Rolf and Hund have found her traces.  Oddo has
come running home to tell us: and father says he must get up a hunt
before more snow falls, and we lose the tracks, or the family may
establish themselves among us, and make away with our first calves."

"Does he expect to kill them all?"

"I tell you, we are all to grow stout on bears' feet.  For my part, I
like bears' feet best on the other side of Tronyem."

"You will change your mind, Miss Frolich, when you see them on the
table," observed Ulla.

"That is just what father said.  And he asked how I thought Erica and
Stiorna would like to have a den in their neighbourhood when they go up
to the mountain for the summer.  O, it will be all right when the hunt
is well over, and all the bears dead.  Meantime, I thought they were at
my heels as I crossed the yard."

"And that made you burst in as you did.  Did Olaf say anything about
coming to see me?  Has he plenty of medicines with him?"

"O, certainly.  That was the thing I came to say.  He is laying out his
medicines, while he warms himself; and then he is coming over, to see
what he can do for your poor head.  He asked about you, directly; and he
is frowning over his drugs, as if he meant to let them know that they
must not trifle with you."

Ulla was highly pleased, and gave her directions very briskly about the
arrangement of the room.  If it had been the grandest apartment of a
palace, she could not have been more particular as to where everything
should stand.  When all was to her mind, she begged Erica to step over,
and inform Olaf that she was ready.

When Erica opened the door, she instantly drew back, and shut it again.

"What now?" asked Frolich.  "Are all the bears in the porch?"

"Olaf is there," replied Erica, in a whisper, "talking with Hund."

"Hund wants a cure for the head-ache," Frolich whispered in return; "or
a charm to make some girl betroth herself to him;--a thing which no girl
will do, but under a charm: for I don't believe Stiorna would when it
came to the point, though she likes to be attended to."

When Olaf entered, and Hund walked away, Frolich ran home, and Erica
stood by the window, ready to receive the travelling doctor's opinion
and directions if he should vouchsafe any.

"So I am not the first to consult you to-day," said Ulla.  "It is rather
hard that I should not have the best chance of luck, having been so long
ill."

Olaf assured her that he would hear no complaints from another till he
had given her the first-fruits of his wisdom in this district of his
rounds.  Hund was only inquiring of him where the pirate-schooner was,
having slid down from the height, as fast as his snow-skaits would carry
him, on hearing the news from Oddo.  He was also eager to know whence
these pirates came,--what nation they were of, or whether a crew
gathered from many nations.  Olaf had advised Hund to go and ask the
pirates themselves all that he wanted to know; for there was no one else
who could satisfy him.  Whereupon Hund had smiled grimly, and gone back
to his work.

Erica observed that she had heard her master say that it was foolish to
boast that Norway need not mind when Denmark went to war, because it
would be carried on far out of sight and hearing.  So far from this,
Erlingsen had said, that Denmark never went to war but pirates came to
ravage the coast, from the North Cape to the Naze.  Was not this the
case now?  Denmark had gone to war; and here were the pirates come to
make her poor partner suffer.

Olaf said this explained the matter: and he feared the business of the
coast would suffer till a time of peace.  Meanwhile, he must mind his
business.  When he had heard all Ulla's complaints, and ordered exactly
what she wished--large doses of camphor and corn-brandy to keep off the
night-fever and daily cough, he was ready to hear whatever else Erica
had to ask, for Ulla had hinted that Erica wanted advice.

"I do not mind Ulla hearing my words," said Erica.  "She knows my
trouble."

"It is of the mind," observed Olaf, solemnly, on discovering that Erica
did not desire to have her pulse felt.

"Yesterday was--I was--" Erica began.

"She was betrothed yesterday," said Ulla, "to the man of her heart.
Rolf is such a young man--"

"Olaf knows Rolf," observed Erica.  "An unfortunate thing happened at
the end of the day, Olaf.  Nipen was insulted."  And she told the story
of Oddo's prank, and implored the doctor to say if anything could be
done to avert bad consequences.

"No doubt," replied Olaf.  "Look here!  This will preserve you from any
particular evil that you dread."  And he took from the box he carried
under his arm a round piece of white paper, with a hole in the middle,
through which a string was to be passed, to tie the charm round the
neck.  Erica shook her head.  Such a charm would be of no use, as she
did not know under what particular shape of misfortune Nipen's
displeasure would show itself.  Besides, she was certain that nothing
would make Rolf wear a charm; and she disdained to use any security
which he might not share.  Olaf could not help her in any other way; but
inquired with sympathy when the next festival would take place.  Then,
all might be repaired by handsome treatment of Nipen.  Till then, he
advised Erica to wear his charm, as her lover could not be the worse for
her being so far safe.  Erica blushed: she knew, but did not say, that
harm would be done which no charm could repair if her lover saw her
trying to save herself from dangers to which he remained exposed: and
she did not know what their betrothment was worth, if it did not give
them the privilege of suffering together.  So she put back the charm
into its place in the box, and, with a sigh, rose to return to the
house.

In the porch she found Oddo, eating something which caused him to make
faces.  Though it was in the open air, there was a strong smell of
camphor, and of something else less pleasant.

"What are you doing, Oddo?" asked Erica: the question which Oddo was
asked every day of his life.

Oddo had observed Olaf's practice among his patients of the household,
and perceived that, for all complaints, of body or mind, he gave the two
things camphor and asafoetida,--sometimes together, and sometimes
separately; and always in corn-brandy.  Oddo could not refrain from
trying what these drugs were like; so he helped himself to some of each;
and, as he could get no corn-brandy till dinner-time, he was eating the
medicines without.  Such was the cause of his wry faces.  If he had been
anything but a Norway boy, he would have been the invalid of the house
to-day, from the quantity of rich cake he had eaten: but Oddo seemed to
share the privilege, common to Norwegians, of being able to eat
anything, in any quantity, without injury.  His wry faces were from no
indigestion, but from the savour of asafoetida, unrelieved by brandy.

Wooden dwellings resound so much as to be inconvenient for those who
have secrets to tell.  In the porch of Peder's house, Oddo had heard all
that passed within.  It was good for him to have done so.  He became
more sensible of the pain he had given, and more anxious to repair it.
"Dear Erica," said he, "I want you to do a very kind thing for me.  Do
get leave for me to go with Rolf after the bears.  If I get one stroke
at them,--if I can but wound one of them, I shall have a paw for my
share; and I will lay it out for Nipen.  You will, will you not?"

"It must be as Erlingsen chooses, Oddo: but I fancy you will not be
allowed to go just now.  The bears will think the doctor's physic-sledge
is coming through the woods, and they will be shy.  Do stand a little
further off.  I cannot think how it is that you are not choked."

"Suppose you go for an airing," said the doctor, who now joined them.
"If you must not go in the way of the bears, there is a reindeer,--"

"O, where?" cried Oddo.

"I saw one,--all alone,--on the Salten heights.  If you run that way,
with the wind behind you, the deer will give you a good run;--up
Sulitelma, if you like, and you will have got rid of the camphor before
you come back.  And be sure you bring me some Iceland moss, to pay me
for what you have been helping yourself to."

When Oddo had convinced himself that Olaf really had seen a reindeer on
the heights, three miles off, he said to himself, that if deer do not
like camphor, they are fond of salt; and he was presently at the
salt-box, and then quickly on his way to the hills with his bait.  He
considered his chance of training home the deer much more probable than
that Erlingsen and his grandfather would allow him to hunt the bears:
And he doubtless judged rightly.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  Peasant brides in Norway wear, on their wedding-day, a coronet
of pasteboard, covered with gilt paper.

Note 2.  Waterfall.  Pine-trunks felled in the forest are drawn over the
frozen snow to the banks of a river, or to the top of a waterfall,
whence they may be either slid down over the ice, or left to be carried
down by the floods, at the melting of the snows in the spring.



CHAPTER FOUR.

ROVING HERE AND ROVING THERE.

The establishment was now in a great hurry and bustle for an hour, after
which time it promised to be unusually quiet.

M.  Kollsen began to be anxious to be on the other side of the fiord.
It was rather inconvenient, as the two men were wanted to go in
different directions, while their master took a third, to rouse the
farmers for the bear-hunt.  The hunters were all to arrive before night
within a certain distance of the thickets where the bears were now
believed to be.  On calm nights it was no great hardship to spend the
dark hours in the bivouac of the country.  Each party was to shelter
itself under a bank of snow, or in a pit dug out of it, an enormous fire
blazing in the midst, and brandy and tobacco being plentifully
distributed on such occasions.  Early in the morning the director of the
hunt was to go his rounds, and arrange the hunters in a ring enclosing
the hiding-place of the bears, so that all might be prepared, and no
waste made of the few hours of daylight which the season afforded.  As
soon as it was light enough to see distinctly among the trees, or
bushes, or holes of the rocks where the bears might be couched, they
were to be driven from their retreat, and disposed of as quickly as
possible.  Such was the plan, well understood, in such cases throughout
the country.  On the present occasion it might be expected that the
peasantry would be ready at the first summons, as Olaf had told his
story of the bears all along the road.  Yet, the more messengers and
helpers the better; and Erlingsen was rather vexed to see Hund go with
alacrity to unmoor the boat, and offer officiously to row the pastor
across the fiord.  His daughters knew what he was thinking about, and
after a moment's consultation, Frolich asked whether she and the maid
Stiorna might not be the rowers.

Nobody would have objected if Hund had not.  The girls could row, though
they could not hunt bears; and the weather was fair enough; but Hund
shook his head, and went on preparing the boat.  His master spoke to
him, but Hund was not remarkable for giving up his own way.  He would
only say that there would be plenty of time for both affairs, and that
he could follow the hunt when he returned, and across the lake he went.

Erlingsen and Rolf presently departed, accompanied by Olaf, who was glad
of an escort for a few miles, though nothing was further from his
intention than going near the bears.  The women and Peder were thus left
behind.

They occupied themselves to keep away anxious thoughts.  One began some
new nets, for the approaching fishing season; another sat in the loom,
and the girls appealed to their mother very frequently, about the
beauties of a new quilting pattern they were drawing.  Old Peder sang to
them too; but Peder's songs were rather melancholy, and they had not the
effect of cheering the party.  Hour after hour they looked for Hund.
His news of his voyage, and the sending him after his master, would be
something to do and to think of; but Hund did not come.  Stiorna at last
let fall that she did not think he would come yet, for that he meant to
catch some cod before his return; he had taken tackle with him for that
purpose, she knew, and she should not wonder if he did not appear till
the morning.

Every one was surprised, and Madame Erlingsen highly displeased.  At the
time when her husband would be wanting every strong arm that could be
mustered, his servant chose to be out fishing, instead of obeying
orders.  The girls pronounced him a coward, and Peder observed that to a
coward, as well as a sluggard, there was ever a lion in the path.  Erica
doubted whether this act of disobedience arose from cowardice, for there
were dangers in the fiord, for such as went out as far as the cod.  She
supposed Hund had heard--

She stopped short, as a sudden flash of suspicion crossed her mind.  She
had seen Hund inquiring of Olaf about the pirates, and his strange
obstinacy about this day's boating looked much as if he meant to learn
more.

"Danger in the fiord!" repeated Orga.  "O, you mean the pirates; they
are far enough from our fiord, I suppose.  If ever they do come, I wish
they would catch Hund, and carry him off.  I am sure we could spare them
nothing they would be so welcome to."

Madame Erlingsen saw that Erica was turning red and white, and resolved
to ask, on the first good opportunity, what was in her mind about Hund,
for no one was more disposed to distrust and watch him than the lady
herself.

The first piece of amusement that occurred was the return of Oddo, who
passed the windows, followed at a short distance by a wistful-looking
deer, which seemed afraid to come quite up to him, but kept its branched
head outstretched towards the salt which Oddo displayed, dropping a few
grains from time to time.  At the sight all crowded to the windows but
Frolich, who left the room on the instant.  Before the animal had passed
the servants' house (a separate dwelling in the yard), she appeared in
the gallery which ran round the outside of it, and showed to Oddo a cord
which she held; he nodded, and threw down some salt on the snow
immediately below where she stood.  The reindeer stooped its head,
instead of looking out for enemies above, and thus gave Frolich a good
opportunity to throw her cord over its antlers.  She had previously
wound one end round the balustrade of the gallery, so that she had not
with her single strength to sustain the animal's struggles.

The poor animal struggled violently when it found its head no longer at
liberty, and, by throwing out its legs, gave Oddo an opportunity to
catch and fasten it by the hind leg, so as to decide its fate
completely.  It could now only start from side to side, and threaten
with its head when the household gathered round to congratulate Oddo and
Frolich on the success of their hunting.  The women durst only hastily
stroke the palpitating sides of the poor beast; but, Peder, who had
handled many scores in his lifetime, boldly seized its head, and felt
its horns and the bones from whence they grew, to ascertain its age.

"Do you fancy you have made a prize of a wild deer, boy?" he asked of
his grandson.

"To be sure," said Oddo.

"I thought you had had more curiosity than to take such a thing for
granted, Oddo.  See here!  Is not this ear slit?"

"Why, yes," Oddo admitted; "but it is not a slit of this year or last.
It may have belonged to the Lapps once upon a time; but it has been wild
for so long that it is all the same as if it had never been in a fold.
It will never be claimed."

"I am of your opinion there, boy.  I wish you joy of your sport."

"You may: for I doubt whether anybody will do better to-day.  Hund will
not, for one, if it is he who has gone out with the boat; and I think I
cannot be mistaken in the handling of his oar."

"Have you seen him?  Where?  What is he doing?" asked one and another.

Before Oddo could answer, Madame Erlingsen desired that he would go home
with his grandfather, and tell Ulla about the deer, while he warmed
himself.  She did not wish her daughters to hear what he might have to
tell of Hund.  Stiorna too was better out of the way.  Oddo had not half
told the story of the deer to his grandmother, when his mistress and
Erica entered.

"Did you not see M.  Kollsen in the boat with Hund?" she inquired.

"No.  Hund was quite alone, pulling with all his might down the fiord.
The tide was with him, so that he shot along like a fish."

"How do you know that it was Hund you saw?"

"Don't I know our boat?  And don't I know his pull?  It is no more like
Rolf's than Rolf's is like master's."

"Perhaps he was making for the best fishing-ground as fast as he could."

"We shall see that by the fish he brings home."

"True.  By supper-time we shall know."

"Hund will not be home by supper-time," said Oddo, decidedly.

"Why not?  Come, say out what you mean."

"Well, I will tell you what I saw.  I watched him rowing as fast as his
arm and the tide would carry him.  It was so plain that there was a plan
in his head, that I forgot the deer in watching him; and I followed on
from point to point, catching a sight now and then, till I had gone a
good stretch beyond Salten heights.  I was just going to turn back when
I took one more look, and he was then pulling in for the land."

"On the north shore or south?" asked Peder.

"The north--just at the narrow part of the fiord, where one can see into
the holes of the rocks opposite."

"The fiord takes a wide sweep below there," observed Peder.

"Yes; and that was why he landed," replied Oddo.  "He was then but a
little way from the fishing-ground, if he had wanted fish.  But he drove
up the boat into a little cove, a narrow dark creek, where it will lie
safe enough, I have no doubt, till he comes back: if he means to come
back."

"Why, where should he go?  What should he do but come back?" asked
Madame Erlingsen.

"He is now gone over the ridge to the north.  I saw him moor the boat,
and begin to climb; and I watched his dark figure on the white snow,
higher and higher, till it was a speck, and I could not make it out."

"That is the way you will lose your eyes," exclaimed Ulla.  "How often
have I warned you,--and many others as giddy as you!  When you have lost
your eyes, you will think you had better have minded my advice, and not
have stared at the snow after a runaway that is better there than here."

"What do you think of this story, Peder?" asked his mistress.

"I think Hund has taken the short cut over the promontory, on business
of his own at the islands.  He is not on any business of yours, depend
upon it, madam."

"And what business can he have among the islands?"

"I could say that with more certainty if I knew exactly where the
pirate-vessel is."

"That is your idea, Erica," said her mistress.  "I saw what your
thoughts were, an hour ago, before we knew all this."

"I was thinking then, madam, that if Hund was gone to join the pirates,
Nipen would be very ready to give them a wind just now.  A baffling wind
would be our only defence; and we cannot expect that much from Nipen
to-day."

"I will do anything in the world," cried Oddo, eagerly.  "Send me
anywhere.  Do think of something that I can do."

"What must be done, Peder?" asked his mistress.  "There is quite enough
to fear, Erica, without a word of Nipen.  Pirates on the coast, and one
farm-house seen burning already!"

"I will tell you what you must let me do, madam," said Erica.  "Indeed
you must not oppose me.  My mind is quite set upon going for the boat,--
immediately--this very minute.  That will give us time--it will give us
safety for this night.  Hund might bring seven or eight men upon us over
the promontory: but if they find no boat, I think they can hardly work
up the windings of the fiord in their own vessel to-night;--unless,
indeed," she added, with a sigh, "they have a most favourable wind."

"All this is true enough," said her mistress; "but how will you go?
Will you swim?"

"The raft, madam."

"And there is the old skiff on Thor islet," said Oddo.  "It is a rickety
little thing, hardly big enough for two; but it will carry down Erica
and me, if we go before the tide turns."

"But how will you get to Thor islet?" inquired Madame Erlingsen.  "I
wish the scheme were not such a wild one."

"A wild one must serve at such a time, madam," replied Erica.  "Rolf had
lashed several logs before he went.  I am sure we can get over to the
islet.  See, madam, the fiord is as smooth as a pond."

"Let her go," said Peder.  "She will never repent."

"Then come back, I charge you, if you find the least danger," said her
mistress.  "No one is safer at the oar than you; but if there is a
ripple in the water, or a gust on the heights, or a cloud in the sky,
come back.  Such is my command, Erica."

"Wife," said Peder, "give her your pelisse; that will save her seeing
the girls before she goes.  And she shall have my cap, and then there is
not an eye along the fiord that can tell whether she is man or woman."

Ulla lent her deerskin pelisse willingly enough; but she entreated that
Oddo might be kept at home.  She folded her arms about the boy with
tears; but Peder decided the matter with the words, "Let him go; it is
the least he can do to make up for last night.  Equip, Oddo."

Oddo equipped willingly enough.  In two minutes he and his companion
looked like two walking bundles of fur.  Oddo carried a frail-basket,
containing rye-bread, salt-fish, and a flask of corn-brandy; for in
Norway no one goes on the shortest expedition without carrying
provisions.

"Surely it must be dusk by this time," said Peder.

It was dusk; and this was well, as the pair could steal down to the
shore without being perceived from the house.  Madame Erlingsen gave
them her blessing, saying that if the enterprise saved them from nothing
worse than Hund's company this night, it would be a great good.  There
could be no more comfort in having Hund for an inmate; for some improper
secret he certainly had.  Her hope was that, finding the boat gone, he
would never show himself again.

"One would think," continued the lady, when she returned from watching
Erica and Oddo disappear in the dusk--"one would think Erica had never
known fear.  Her step is as firm and her eye as clear as if she had
never trembled in the course of her life."

"She knows how to act to-night," said Peder; "and she is going into
danger for her lover, instead of waiting at home while her lover goes
into danger for her.  A hundred pirates in the fiord would not make her
tremble as she trembled last night.  Rather a hundred pirates than Nipen
angry, she would say."

"There is her weakness," observed her mistress.

"Can we speak of weakness after what we have just seen--if I may say so,
madam?"

"I think so," replied Madame Erlingsen.  "I think it a weakness in those
who believe that a just and tender Providence watches over us all, to
fear what any power in the universe can do to them."

"M.  Kollsen does not make progress in teaching the people what you say,
madam.  He only gets distrusted by it."

"When M.  Kollsen has had more experience, he will find that this is not
a matter for displeasure.  He will not succeed while he is displeased at
what his people think sacred.  When he is an older man, he will pity the
innocent for what they suffer from superstition; and this pity will
teach him how to speak of Providence to such as our Erica.  But here are
my girls coming to seek me.  I must meet them, to prevent their missing
Erica."

"Get them to rest early, madam."

"Certainly; and you will watch in this house, Peder, and I at home."

"Trust me for hearing the oar at a furlong off, madam."

"That is more than I can promise," said the lady; "but the owl shall not
be more awake than I."



CHAPTER FIVE.

THE WATER-SPRITES' DOINGS.

Erica now profited by her lover's industry in the morning.  He had so
far advanced with the raft that, though no one would have thought of
taking it in its present state to the mouth of the fiord for shipment,
it would serve as a conveyance in still water for a short distance
safely enough.

And still, indeed, the waters were.  As Erica and Oddo were busily and
silently employed in tying moss round their oars to muffle their sound,
the ripple of the tide upon the white sand could scarcely be heard, and
it appeared to the eye as if the lingering remains of the daylight
brooded on the fiord, unwilling to depart.  The stars had, however, been
showing themselves for some time; and they might now be seen twinkling
below almost as clearly and steadily as overhead.  As Erica and Oddo put
their little raft off from the shore, and then waited, with their oars
suspended, to observe whether the tide carried them towards the islet
they must reach, it seemed as if some invisible hand was pushing them
forth to shiver the bright pavement of constellations as it lay.  Star
after star was shivered, and its bright fragments danced in their wake;
and those fragments reunited and became a star again as the waters
closed over the path of the raft, and subsided into perfect stillness.

The tide favoured Erica's object.  A few strokes of the oar brought the
raft to the right point for landing on the islet.  They stepped ashore,
and towed the raft along till they came to the skiff, and then they
fastened the raft with the boat-hook which had been fixed there for the
skiff.  This done, Oddo ran to turn over the little boat, and examine
its condition: but he found he could not move it.  It was frozen fast to
the ground.  It was scarcely possible to get a firm hold of it, it was
so slippery with ice; and all pulling and pushing of the two together
was in vain, though the boat was so light that either of them could have
lifted and carried it in a time of thaw.

This circumstance caused a good deal of delay: and, what was worse, it
obliged them to make some noise.  They struck at the ice with sharp
stones; but it was long before they could make any visible impression;
and Erica proposed, again and again, that they should proceed on the
raft.  Oddo was unwilling.  The skiff would go so incomparably faster,
that it was worth spending some time upon it: and the fears he had had
of its leaking were removed, now that he found what a sheet of ice it
was covered with,--ice which would not melt to admit a drop of water
while they were in it.  So he knocked and knocked away, wishing that the
echoes would be quiet for once, and then laughing as he imagined the
ghost-stories that would spring up all round the fiord to-morrow, from
the noise he was then making.

Erica worked hard too; and one advantage of their labour was that they
were well warmed before they put off again.  The boat's icy fastenings
were all broken at last: and it was launched: but all was not ready yet.
The skiff had lain in a direction east and west; and its north side had
so much thicker a coating of ice than the other, that its balance was
destroyed.  It hung so low on one side as to promise to upset with a
touch.

"We must clear off more of the ice," said Erica.  "But how late it is
growing!"

"No more knocking, I say," replied Oddo.  "There is a quieter way of
trimming the boat."

He fastened a few stones to the gunwale on the lighter side, and took in
a few more for the purpose of shifting the weight, if necessary, while
they were on their way.

They did not leave quiet behind them, when they departed.  They had
roused the multitude of eider-ducks, and other sea-fowl, which thronged
the islet, and which now, being roused, began their night-feeding and
flying, though at an earlier hour than usual.  When their discordant
cries were left so far behind as to be softened by distance, the
flapping of wings and swash of water, as the fowl plunged in, still made
the air busy all round.

The rowers were so occupied with the management of their dangerous
craft, that they had not spoken since they left the islet.  The skiff
would have been unmanageable by any maiden and boy in our country; but,
on the coast of Norway, it is as natural to persons of all ages and
degrees to guide a boat as to walk.  Swiftly but cautiously they shot
through the water, till, at length, Oddo uttered a most hideous croak.

"What do you mean?" asked Erica, hastily glancing round her.

Oddo laughed, and looked upwards as he croaked again.  He was answered
by a similar croak, and a large raven was seen flying homewards over the
fiord for the night.  Then the echoes all croaked, till the whole region
seemed to be full of ravens.

"Are you sure you know the cove?" asked Erica, who wished to put an end
to this sound, unwelcome to the superstitious.  "Do not make that bird
croak so; it will be quiet if you let it alone.  Are you sure you can
find the cove again?"

"Quite sure.  I wish I was as sure that Hund would not find it again
before me.  Pull away."

"How much farther is it?"

"Farther than I like to think of.  I doubt your arm holding out.  I wish
Rolf was here."

Erica did not wish the same thing.  She thought that Rolf was, on the
whole, safer waging war with bears than with pirates; especially if Hund
was among them.  She pulled her oar cheerfully, observing that there was
no fatigue at present; and that when they were once afloat in the
heavier boat, and had cleared the cove, there need be no hurry,--unless,
indeed, they should see something of the pirate-schooner on the way: and
of this she had no expectation, as the booty that might be had where the
fishery was beginning was worth more than anything that could be found
higher up the fiords:--to say nothing of the danger of running up into
the country, so far as that getting away again depended upon one
particular wind.

Yet Erica looked behind her after every few strokes of her oar; and
once, when she saw something, her start was felt like a start of the
skiff itself.  There was a fire glancing and gleaming and quivering over
the water, some way down the fiord.

"Some people night-fishing," observed Oddo.  "What sport they will have!
I wish I was with them.  How fast we go!  How you can row when you
choose!  I can see the man that is holding the torch.  Cannot you see
his black figure?  And the spearman,--see how he stands at the bow,--now
going to cast his spear!  I wish I was there."

"We must get farther away,--into the shadow somewhere,--or wait,"
observed Erica.  "I had rather not wait,--it is growing so late.  We
might creep along under that promontory, in the shadow, if you would be
quiet.  I wonder whether you can be silent in the sight of
night-fishing."

"To be sure," said Oddo, disposed to be angry, and only kept from it by
the thought of last night.  He helped to bring the skiff into the shadow
of the overhanging rocks, and only spoke once more, to whisper that the
fishing-boat was drifting down with the tide, and that he thought their
cove lay between them and the fishing-party.

It was so.  As the skiff rounded the point of the promontory, Oddo
pointed out what appeared like a mere dark chasm in the high
perpendicular wall of rock that bounded the waters.  This chasm still
looked so narrow, on approaching it, that Erica hesitated to push her
skiff into it, till certain that there was no one there.  Oddo, however,
was so clear, that she might safely do this, so noiseless was their
rowing, and it was so plain that there was no footing on the rocks by
which he might enter to explore, that in a sort of desperation, and
seeing nothing else to be done, Erica agreed.  She wished it had been
summer, when either of them might have learned what they wanted by
swimming.  This was now out of the question; and stealthily therefore
she pulled her little craft into the deepest shadow, and crept into the
cove.

At a little distance from the entrance it widened; but it was a wonder
to Erica that even Oddo's eyes should have seen Hund moor his boat here
from the other side of the fiord; though the fiord was not more than a
gunshot over in this part.  Oddo himself wondered, till he recalled how
the sun was shining down into the chasm at the time.  By starlight the
outline of all that the cove contained might be seen; the outline of the
boat, among other things.  There she lay!  But there was something about
her which was unpleasant enough.  There were three men in her.

What was to be done bow?  Here was the very worst danger that Erica had
feared--worse than finding the boat gone--worse than meeting it in the
wide fiord.  What was to be done?

There was nothing for it but to do nothing--to lie perfectly still in
the shadow, ready, however, to push out on the first movement of the
boat to leave the cove; for, though the canoe might remain unnoticed at
present, it was impossible that anybody could pass out of the cove
without seeing her.  In such a case, there would be nothing for it but a
race--a race for which Erica and Oddo held themselves prepared, without
any mutual explanation; for they dared not speak.  The faintest whisper
would have crept over the smooth water to the ears in the larger boat.

One thing was certain--that something must happen presently.  It is
impossible for the hardiest men to sit inactive in a boat for any length
of time in a January night in Norway.  In the calmest nights the cold is
only to be sustained by means of the glow from strong exercise.  It was
certain that these three men could not have been long in their places,
and that they would not sit many moments more without some change in
their arrangements.

They did not seem to be talking; for Oddo, who was the best listener in
the world, could not discover that a sound issued from their boat.  He
fancied they were drowsy; and, being aware what were the consequences of
yielding to drowsiness in severe cold, the boy began to entertain high
hopes of taking these three men prisoners.  The whole country would ring
with such a feat, performed by Erica and himself.

The men were, however, too much awake to be made prisoners of at
present.  One was seen to drink from a flask, and the hoarse voice of
another was heard grumbling, as far as the listeners could make out, at
being kept waiting.  The third then rose to look about him, and Erica
trembled from head to foot.  He only looked upon the land, however,
declared he saw nothing of those he was expecting, and began to warm
himself as he stood, by repeatedly clapping his arms across his breast,
in the way that hackney-coachmen and porters do in England.  This was
Hund.  He could not have been known by his figure, for all persons look
alike in wolf-skin pelisses; but the voice and the action were his.
Oddo saw how Erica shuddered.  He put his finger on his lips, but Erica
needed no reminding of the necessity of quietness.

The other two men then rose; and, after a consultation, the words of
which could not be heard, all stepped ashore one after another, and
climbed a rocky pathway.

"Now, now!" whispered Erica.  "Now we can get away!"

"Not without the boat," said Oddo.  "You would not leave them the boat!"

"No--not if--but they will be back in a moment.  They are only gone to
hasten their companions."

"I know it," said Oddo.  "Now two strokes forward."

While she gave these two strokes, which brought the skiff to the stern
of the boat, Erica saw that Oddo had taken out a knife, which gleamed in
the starlight.  It was for cutting the thong by which the boat was
fastened to a birch pole, the other end of which was hooked on shore.
This was to save his going ashore to unhook the pole.  It was well for
him that boat-chains were not in use, owing to the scarcity of metal in
that region.  The clink of a chain would certainly have been heard.

Quickly and silently he entered the boat and tied the skiff to its
stern, and he and Erica took their places where the men had sat one
minute before.  They used their own muffled oars to turn the boat round,
till Oddo observed that the boat oars were muffled too.  Then voices
were heard again.  The men were returning.  Strongly did the two
companions draw their strokes till a good breadth of water lay between
them and the shore, and then till they had again entered the deep shadow
which shrouded the mouth of the cove.  There they paused.

"In with you!" some loud voice said, as man after man was seen in
outline coming down the pathway; "in with you!  We have lost time enough
already."

"Where is she?  I can't see the boat," answered the foremost man.

"You can't miss her," said one behind, "unless the brandy has got into
your eyes."

"So I should have said; but I do miss her.  It is very incomprehensible
to me."

Oddo shook with stifled laughter as he partly saw and partly overheard
the perplexity of these men.  At last one gave a deep groan, and another
declared that the spirits of the fiord were against them, and there was
no doubt that their boat was now lying twenty fathoms deep at the bottom
of the creek, drawn down by the strong hand of an angry water-spirit.
Oddo squeezed Erica's little hand as he heard this.  If it had been
light enough, he would have seen that even she was smiling.

One of the men mourned their having no other boat, so that they must
give up their plan.  Another said that if they had a dozen boats, he
would not set foot in one after what had happened.  He should go
straight back, the way he came, to their own vessel.  Another said he
would not go till he had looked abroad over the fiord for some chance of
seeing the boat.  This he persisted in, though told by the rest that it
was absurd to suppose that the boat had loosed itself, and gone out into
the fiord, in the course of the two minutes that they had been absent.
He showed the fragment of the cut thong in proof of the boat not having
loosed itself, and set off for a point on the heights which he said
overlooked the fiord.  One or two went with him, the rest returning up
the narrow pathway at some speed--such speed that Erica thought they
were afraid of the hindmost being caught by the same enemy that had
taken their boat.  Oddo observed this too, and he quickened their pace
by setting up very loud the mournful cry with which he was accustomed to
call out the plovers on the mountain side on sporting days.  No sound
can be more melancholy; and now, as it rang from the rocks, it was so
unsuitable to the place, and so terrible to the already frightened men,
that they ran on as fast as the slipperiness of the rocks would allow,
till they were all out of sight over the ridge.

"Now for it, before the other two come out above us there!" said Oddo;
and in another minute they were again in the fiord, keeping as much in
the shadow as they could, however, till they must strike over to the
islet.

"Thank God that we came!" exclaimed Erica.  "We shall never forget what
we owe you, Oddo.  You shall see, by the care we take of your
grandfather and Ulla, that we do not forget what you have done this
night.  If Nipen will only forgive, for the sake of this--"

"We were just in the nick of time," observed Oddo.  "It was better than
if we had been earlier."

"I do not know," said Erica.  "Here are their brandy-bottles, and many
things besides.  I had rather not have had to bring these away."

"But if we had been earlier, they would not have had their fright.  That
is the best part of it.  Depend upon it, some that have not said their
prayers for long will say them to-night."

"That will be good.  But I do not like carrying home these things that
are not ours.  If they are seen at Erlingsen's, they may bring the
pirates down upon us.  I would leave them on the islet, but that the
skiff has to be left there too, and that would explain our trick."

Erica would not consent to throw the property overboard.  This would be
robbing those who had not actually injured her, whatever their
intentions might have been.  She thought that if the goods were left
upon some barren, uninhabited part of the shore, the pirates would
probably be the first to find them; and that, if not, the rumour of such
an extraordinary fact, spread by the simple country-people, would be
sure to reach them.  So Oddo carried on shore, at the first stretch of
white beach they came to, the brandy-flasks, the bearskins, the
tobacco-pouch, the muskets and powder-horns, and the tinder-box.  He
scattered these about just above high-water mark, laughing to think how
report would tell of the sprite's care in placing all these articles out
of reach of injury from the water.

Oddo did not want for light while doing this.  When he returned, he
found Erica gazing up over the towering precipices, at the Northern
lights, which had now unfurled their broad yellow blaze.  She was glad
that they had not appeared sooner, to spoil the adventure of the night;
but she was thankful to have the way home thus illumined, now that the
business was done.  She answered with so much alacrity to Oddo's
question whether she was not very weary, that he ventured to say two
things which had before been upon his tongue, without his having courage
to utter them.

"You will not be so afraid of Nipen any more," observed he, glancing at
her face, of which he could see every feature by the quivering light.
"You see how well everything has turned out."

"O, hush!  It is too soon yet to speak so.  It is never right to speak
so.  There is no knowing till next Christmas, nor even then, that Nipen
forgives; and the first twenty-four hours are not over yet.  Pray do not
speak any more, Oddo."

"Well, not about that.  But what was it exactly that you thought Hund
would do with this boat and those people?  Did you think," he continued,
after a short pause, "that they would come up to Erlingsen's to rob the
place?"

"Not for the object of robbing the place, because there is very little
that is worth their taking, far less than at the fishing-grounds; not
but they might have robbed us, if they took a fancy to anything we have.
No!  I thought, and I still think, that they would have carried off
Rolf, led on by Hund--"

"O, ho! carried off Rolf!  So here is the secret of your wonderful
courage to-night--you who durst not look round at your own shadow last
night!  This is the secret of your not being tired--you who are out of
breath with rowing a mile sometimes!"

"That is in summer," pleaded Erica; "however, you have my secret, as you
say, a thing which is no secret at home.  We all think that Hund bears
such a grudge against Rolf, for having got the houseman's place--"

"And for nothing else?"

"That," continued Erica, "he would be glad to--to--"

"To get rid of Rolf, and be a houseman, and get betrothed instead of
him.  Well: Hund is balked for this time.  Rolf must look to himself
after to-day."

Erica sighed deeply.  She did not believe that Rolf would attend to his
own safety, and the future looked very dark,--all shrouded by her fears.

By the time the skiff was deposited where it had been found, both the
rowers were so weary that they gave up the idea of taking the raft in
tow, as for full security they ought to do.  They doubted whether they
could get home, if they had more weight to draw than their own boat.  It
was well that they left this incumbrance behind, for there was quite
peril and difficulty enough without it, and Erica's strength and spirits
failed the more the further the enemy was left behind.

A breath of wind seemed to bring a sudden darkening of the friendly
lights which had blazed up higher and brighter, from their first
appearance till now.  Both rowers looked down the fiord, and uttered an
exclamation at the same moment.

"See the fog!" cried Oddo, putting fresh strength into his oar.

"O Nipen!  Nipen!" mournfully exclaimed Erica.  "Here it is, Oddo,--the
west wind!"

The west wind is, in winter, the great foe of the fishermen of the
fiords: it brings in the fog from the sea, and the fogs of the Arctic
Circle are no trifling enemy.  If Nipen really had the charge of the
winds, he could not more emphatically show his displeasure towards any
unhappy boatman than by overtaking him with the west wind and fog.

"The wind must have just changed," said Oddo, pulling exhausting
strokes, as the fog marched towards them over the water, like a solid
and immeasurably lofty wall.  "The wind must have gone right round in a
minute."

"To be sure,--since you said what you did of Nipen," replied Erica,
bitterly.

Oddo made no answer, but he did what he could.  Erica had to tell him
not to wear himself out too quickly, as there was no saying how long
they should be on the water.

How long they had been on the water, how far they had deviated from
their right course, they could not at all tell, when, at last, more by
accident than skill, they touched the shore near home, and heard
friendly voices, and saw the light of torches through the thick air.
The fog had wrapped them round so that they could not even see the
water, or each other.  They had rowed mechanically, sometimes touching
the rock, sometimes grazing upon the sand, but never knowing where they
were till the ringing of a bell, which they recognised as the farm bell,
roused hope in their hearts, and strengthened them to throw off the
fatal drowsiness caused by cold and fatigue.  They made towards the
bell, and then heard Peder's shouts, and next saw the dull light of two
torches which looked as if they could not burn in the fog.  The old man
lent a strong hand to pull up the boat upon the beach, and to lift out
the benumbed rowers, and they were presently revived by having their
limbs chafed, and by a strong dose of the universal medicine--
corn-brandy and camphor--which in Norway, neither man nor woman, young
nor old, sick nor well, thinks of refusing upon occasion.

When Erica was in bed, warm beneath an eider-down coverlid, her mistress
bent over her and whispered, "You saw and heard Hund himself?"

"Hund himself, madame."

"What shall we do if he comes back before my husband is home from the
bear-hunt?"

"If he comes, it will be in fear and penitence, thinking that all the
powers are against him.  But O, madame, let him never know how it really
was!"

"He must not know.  Leave that to me, and go to sleep now, Erica.  You
ought to rest well, for there is no saying what you and Oddo have saved
us from.  I could not have asked such a service.  My husband and I must
see how we can reward it."  And her kind and grateful mistress kissed
Erica's cheek, though Erica tried to explain that she was thinking most
of some one else, when she undertook this expedition.

"Then let him thank you in his own way," replied Madame Erlingsen.
"Meantime, why should not I thank you in mine?"

Stiorna here opened her eyes for an instant.  When she next did so, her
mistress was gone; and she told in the morning what an odd dream she had
had of her mistress being in her room, and kissing Erica.  It was so
distinct a dream that, if the thing had not been so ridiculous, she
could almost have declared that she had seen it.



CHAPTER SIX.

SPRING.

Great was Stiorna's consternation at Hund's non-appearance the next day,
seeing as she did, with her own eyes, that the boat was safe in its
proper place.  She had provided salt for his cod, and a welcome for
himself; and she watched in vain for either.  She saw, too, that no one
wished him back.  He was rarely spoken of; and then it was with dislike
or fear: and when she wept over the idea of his being drowned, or
carried off by hostile spirits, the only comfort offered her was that
she need not fear his being dead, or that he could not come back if he
chose.  She was, indeed, obliged to suppose, at last, that it was his
choice to keep away; for amidst the flying rumours that amused the
inhabitants of the district for the rest of the winter,--rumours of the
movements of the pirate-vessel, and of the pranks of the spirits of the
region, there were some such clear notices of the appearance of Hund,--
so many eyes had seen him in one place or another, by land and water, by
day and night, that Stiorna could not doubt of his being alive, and free
to come home or stay away as he pleased.  She could not conceal from
herself that he had probably joined the pirates; and heartily as these
pirates were feared throughout the Nordland coasts, they were not more
heartily hated by any than by the jealous Stiorna.

Her salt was wanted as much as if Hund had brought home a boatful of
cod; and she might have given her welcome to the hunting-party.
Erlingsen and Rolf came home sooner than might reasonably have been
expected, and well laden with bear's flesh.  The whole family of bears
had been found and shot.  The flesh of the cubs had been divided among
the hunters; and Erlingsen was complimented with the feet of the old
bear, as it was he who had roused the neighbours, and led the hunt.
Busy was every farm-house (and none so busy as Erlingsen's) in salting
some of the meat, freezing some, and cooking a part for a feast on the
occasion.

Erlingsen kept a keen and constant look-out upon the fiord, in the midst
of all the occupations and gaieties of the rest of the winter.  His
wife's account of the adventures of the day of his absence made him
anxious; and he never went a mile out of sight of home, so vivid in his
imagination was the vision of his house burning, and his family at the
mercy of pirates.  Nothing happened, however, to confirm his fears.  The
enemy were never heard of in the fiord; and the cod-fishers who came up,
before the softening of the snow, to sell some of their produce in the
interior of the country, gave such accounts as seemed to show that the
fishing-grounds were the object of the foreign thieves; for foreign they
were declared to be: some said Russian; and others, a mixture from
hostile nations.  This last information gave more impulse to the love of
country for which the Norwegians are remarkable, than all that had been
reported from the seat of war.  The Nordlanders always drank success to
their country's arms, in the first glass of corn-brandy at dinner.  They
paid their taxes cheerfully; and any newspaper that the clergyman put in
circulation was read till it fell to pieces; but, the neighbourhood of
foreign pirates proved a more powerful stimulant still.  The standing
toast, _Gamle Norge_ (Old Norway), was drunk with such enthusiasm, that
the little children shouted and defied the enemy; and the baby in its
mother's lap clapped its hands when every voice joined in the national
song, _For Norge_.  Hitherto the war had gone forward upon the soil of
another kingdom; it seemed now as if a sprinkling of it--a little of its
excitement and danger--was brought to their own doors; and vehement was
the spirit that it roused; though some thefts of cod, brandy, and a
little money, were all that had really happened yet.

The interval of security gave Rolf a good opportunity to ridicule and
complain of Erica's fears.  He laughed at the danger of an attack from
Hund and his comrades, as that danger was averted.  He laughed at the
west wind and fog sent by Nipen's wrath, as Erica had reached home in
spite of it.  He contended that, so far from Nipen being offended, there
was either no Nipen, or it was not angry, or it was powerless; for
everything had gone well; and he always ended with pointing to the
_deer_--a good thing led to the very door--and to the result of the
bear-hunt--a great event always in a Nordlander's life, and, in this
instance, one of most fortunate issue.  There was no saying how many of
the young of the farm-yard would live and flourish, this summer, on
account of the timely destruction of this family of bears.  So Rolf
worked away, with a cheerful heart, as the days grew longer,--now
mending the boat,--now fishing,--now ploughing, and then rolling logs
into the melting-streams, to be carried down into the river, or into the
fiord, when the rush of waters should come from the heights of
Sulitelma.

Hard as Rolf worked, he did not toil like Oddo.  Between them, they had
to supply Hund's place,--to do his work.  Nobody desired to see Hund
back again; and Erlingsen would willingly have taken another in his
stead, to make his return impossible; but there was no one to be had.
It was useless to inquire till the fishing season should be over: and
when that was over, the hay and harvest season would follow so quickly,
that it was scarcely likely that any youth would offer himself till the
first frosts set in.  It was Oddo's desire that the place should remain
vacant till he could show that he, young as he was, was worth as much as
Hund.  If any one was hired, he wished that it might be a herd-boy,
under him; and strenuously did he toil, this spring, to show that he was
now beyond a mere herd-boy's place.  It was he who first fattened, and
then killed and skinned the reindeer,--a more than ordinary feat, as it
was full two months past the regular season.  It was he who watched the
making of the first eider-duck's nest, and brought home the first down.
All the month of April, he never failed in the double work of the
farm-yard and islet.  He tended the cattle in the morning, and turned
out the goats, when the first patches of green appeared from beneath the
snow: and then he was off to the islet, or to some one of the breeding
stations among the rocks, punctually stripping the nests of the down, as
the poor ducks renewed the supply from their breasts; and as carefully
staying his hand, when he saw, by the yellow tinge of the down, that the
duck had no more to give, and the drake had now supplied what was
necessary for hatching the eggs.  Then he watched for the eggs; and
never had Madame Erlingsen had such a quantity brought home; though Oddo
assured her that he had left enough in the nests for every duck to have
her brood.  Then he was ready to bring home the goats again, long before
sunset,--for, by this time, the sun set late,--and to take his turn at
mending any fence that might have been injured by the spring-floods; and
then he never forgot to wash and dress himself, and go in for his
grandmother's blessing; and after all, he was not too tired to sit up as
late as if he were a man,--even till past nine sometimes,--spending the
last hour of the evening in working at the bell-collars which Hund had
left half done, and which must be finished before the cattle went to the
mountain: or, if the young ladies were disposed to dance, he was never
too tired to play the clarionet, though it now and then happened that
the tune went rather oddly; and when Orga and Frolich looked at him, to
see what he was about, his eyes were shut, and his fingers looked as if
they were moving of their own accord.  If this happened, the young
ladies would finish their waltz at once, and thank him, and his mistress
would wish him good night; and when he was gone, his master would tell
old Peder that that grandson of his was a promising lad, and very
diligent; and Peder would make a low bow, and say it was greatly owing
to Rolf's good example; and then Erica would blush, and be kinder than
ever to Oddo the next day.

So came on and passed away the spring of this year at Erlingsen's farm.
It soon passed; for spring in Nordland lasts only a month.  In that
short time had the snow first become soft, and then dingy, and then
vanished, except on the heights, and in places where it had drifted.
The streams had broken their long pause of silence, and now leaped and
rushed along, till every rock overhanging both sides of the fiord was
musical with falling waters, and glittering with silver threads,--for
the cataracts looked no more than this in so vast a scene.  Every mill
was going, after the long idleness of winter; and about the bridges
which spanned the falls were little groups of the peasants gathered,
mending such as had burst with the floods, or strengthening such as did
not seem secure enough for the passage of the herds to the mountain.

Busy as the maidens were with the cows that were calving, and with the
care of the young kids, they found leisure to pry into the promise of
the spring.  In certain warm nooks, where the sunshine was reflected
from the surrounding rocks, they daily watched for what else might
appear, when once the grass, of brilliant green, had shown itself from
beneath the snow.  There they found the strawberry and the wild
raspberry promising to carpet the ground with their white blossoms;
while in one corner the lily of the valley began to push up its pairs of
leaves; and from the crevices of the rock, the barberry and the dwarf
birch grew, every twig showing swelling buds, or an early sprout.

While these cheerful pursuits went on out of doors during the one busy
month of spring, a slight shade of sadness was thrown over the household
within by the decline of old Ulla.  It was hardly sadness; it was little
more than gravity; for Ulla herself was glad to go; Peder knew that he
should soon follow; and every one else was reconciled to one who had
suffered so long going to her rest.

"The winter and I are going together, my dear," said she one day, when
Erica placed on her pillow a green shoot of birch which she had taken
from out of the very mouth of a goat.  "The hoary winter and hoary I
have lived out our time, and we are departing together.  I shall make
way for you young people, and give you your turn, as he is giving way to
spring; and let nobody pretend to be sorry for it.  Who pretends to be
sorry when winter is gone?"

"But winter will come again, so soon and so certainly, Ulla," said
Erica, mournfully: "and when it is come again, we shall still miss you."

"Well, my dear, I will say nothing against that.  It is good for the
living to miss the dead, as long as they do not wish them back.  As for
me, Erica, I feel as if I could not but miss you, go where I may."

"O, do not say that, Ulla."

"Why not say it if I feel it?  Who could be displeased with me for
grasping still at the hand that has smoothed my bed so long, when I am
going to some place that will be very good, no doubt, but where
everything must be strange at first?  He who gave you to me, to be my
nurse, will not think the worse of me for missing you, wherever I may
be."

"There will be little Henrica," observed Erica.  "Ah yes! there is
nothing I think of more than that.  That dear child died on my shoulder.
Fain would her mother have had her in her arms at the last; but she was
in such extremity that to move her would have been to end all at once;
and so she died away, with her head on my shoulder.  I thought then it
was a sign that I should be the first to meet her again.  But I shall
take care and not stand in the way of her mother's rights."

Here Ulla grew so earnest in imagining her meeting with Henrica, still
fancying her the dependent little creature she had been on earth, that
she was impatient to be gone.  Erica's idea was that this child might
now have become so wise and so mighty in the wisdom of a better world,
as to be no such plaything as Ulla supposed; but she said nothing to
spoil the old woman's pleasure.

When Peder came in, to sit beside his old companion's bed, and sing her
to sleep, she told him that she hoped to be by when he opened his now
dark eyes upon the sweet light of a heavenly day; and, if she might, she
would meantime make up his dreams for him, and make him believe that he
saw the most glorious sights of old Norway,--more glorious than are to
be seen in any other part of this lower world.  There should be no end
to the gleaming lakes, and dim forests, and bright green valleys, and
silvery waterfalls that he should see in his dreams, if she might have
the making of them.  There was no end to the delightful things Ulla
looked forward to, and the kind things she hoped to be able to do for
those she left behind, when once she should have quitted her present
helpless state: and she thought so much of these things, that when M.
Kollsen arrived, he found that, instead of her needing to be reconciled
to death, she was impatient to be gone.  The first thing he heard her
say, when all was so dim before her dying eyes, and so confused to her
failing ears, that she did not know the pastor had arrived, was that she
was less uneasy now about Nipen's displeasure against the young people.
Perhaps she might be able to explain and prevent mischief: and if not,
the young people's marriage would soon be taking place now, and then
they might show such attention to Nipen as would make the spirit forgive
and forget.

"Hush, now, dear Ulla!" said Erica.  "Here is the pastor."

"Do not say `Hush'!" said M.  Kollsen, sternly.  "Whatever is said of
this kind I ought to hear, that I may meet the delusion.  I must have
conversation with this poor woman, to prevent her very last breath being
poisoned with superstition.  You are a member of the Lutheran Church,
Ulla?"

With humble pleasure, Ulla told of the satisfaction which the Bishop of
Tronyem, of seventy years ago, had expressed at her confirmation.  It
was this which obtained her a good place, and Peder's regard, and all
the good that had happened in her long life since.  Yes: she was indeed
a member of the Lutheran Church, she thanked God.

"And in what part of the Scriptures of our church do you find mention
of--of--(I hate the very names of these pretended spirits).  Where in
the Scriptures are you bidden or permitted to believe in spirits and
demons of the wood and the mountain?"

Ulla declared that her learning in the Scriptures was but small.  She
knew only what she had been taught, and a little that she had picked up:
but she remembered that the former Bishop of Tronyem himself had hung up
an axe in the forest, on Midsummer Eve, for the wood-demon's use, if it
pleased.

Peder observed that we all believe so many things that are not found
mentioned in the Scriptures, that perhaps it would be wisest and
kindest, by a dying bed, where moments were precious, to speak of those
high things which the Scriptures discourse of, and which all Christians
believe.  These were the subjects for Ulla now: the others might be
reasoned of when she was in her grave.

The pastor was not quite satisfied with this way of attending the dying;
but there was something in the aged man's voice and manner quite
irresistible, as he sat calmly awaiting the departure of the last
companion of his own generation.  M.  Kollsen took out his Bible, and
read what Ulla gladly heard, till her husband knew by the slackened
clasp of her hand that she heard no longer.  She had become insensible,
and before sunset had departed.

Rolf had continued his kind offices to the old couple with the utmost
respect and propriety, to the end refusing to go out of call during the
last few days of Ulla's decline: but he had observed, with some anxiety,
that there was certainly a shoal of herrings in the fiord, and that it
was high time he was making use of the sunny days for his fishing.  In
order to go about this duty without any delay, when again at liberty, he
had brought the skiff up to the beach for repair, and had it nearly
ready for use by the day of the funeral.  The family boat was too large
for his occasions, now that Hund was not here to take an oar: and he
expected to do great things alone in the little manageable skiff.

When he had assisted Peder to lay Ulla's head in the grave, and guided
him back to the house, Rolf drew Erica's arm within his own, and led her
away, as if for a walk.  No one interfered with them; for the family
knew that their hearts must be very full, and that they must have much
to say to each other, now that the event had happened which was to cause
their marriage very soon.  They would now wait no longer than to pay
proper respect to Ulla's memory, and to improve the house and its
furniture a little, so as to make it fit for the bride.

Rolf would have led Erica to the beach; but she begged to go first to
see the grave again, while they knew that no one was there.  The grave
was dug close by the little mound beneath which Henrica lay.  Henrica's
was railed round, with a paling which had been fresh painted--a task
which Erlingsen performed with his own hands every spring.  The
forget-me-not, which the Nordlanders plant upon the graves of those they
love, overran the hillock, and the white blossoms of the wild strawberry
peeped out from under the thick grass; so that this grave looked a
perfect contrast to that of Ulla, newly-made and bare.  The lovers
looked at this last with dissatisfaction.

"It shall be completely railed in before to-morrow night," said Rolf.

"But cannot we dress it a little now?  I could transplant some
flower-roots presently, and some forget-me-not from Henrica's hillock,
if we had sods for the rest.  Never mind spoiling any other nook.  The
grass will soon grow again."

Rolf's spade was busy presently; and Erica planted and watered till the
new grave, if it did not compare with the child's, showed tokens of
care, and promise of beauty.

"Now," said Rolf, when they had done, and put away their tools, and sat
down on the pine log from which the pales were to be made, so that their
lengthening shadows fell across the new grave,--"now, Erica, you know
what she who lies there would like us to be settling.  She herself said
her burial day would soon be over; and then would come our wedding-day."

"When everything is ready," replied Erica, "we will fix; but not now.
There is much to be done;--there are many uncertainties."

"Uncertainties!  What uncertainties?  I know of none--except indeed as
to--"

Rolf stopped to peel off, and pull to pieces, some of the bark of the
pine trunk on which he was sitting.  Erica looked wistfully at him; he
saw it, and went on.

"It is often an uncertainty to me, Erica, after all that has happened,
whether you mean to marry me at all.  There are so many doubts, and so
many considerations, and so many fears!--I often think we shall never be
any nearer than we are."

"That is your sort of doubt and fear," said Erica, smiling.  "Who is
there that entertains a worse?"

"I do not want any rallying or joking, Erica.  I am quite serious."

"Seriously then--are we not nearer than we were a year ago?  We are
betrothed; and I have shown you that I do believe we are to be married,
if--"

"Ay, there.  `If' again."

"If it shall please the Powers above us not to separate us, by death or
otherwise."

"Death! at our age!  And separation! when we have lived on the same farm
for years!  What have we to do with death and separation?"

Erica pointed to the child's grave, in rebuke of his rash words.  She
then quietly observed that they had enemies,--one deadly enemy not very
far off, if nothing were to be said of any but human foes.  Rolf
declared that he had rather have Hund for a declared enemy than for a
companion.  Erica understood this very well; but she could not forget
that Hund wanted to be houseman in Rolfs stead, and that he desired to
prevent their marriage.

"That is the very reason," said Rolf, "why we should marry as soon as we
can.  Why not fix the day, and engage the pastor while he is here?"

"Because it would hurt Peder's feelings.  There will be no difficulty in
sending for the pastor when everything is ready.  But now, Rolf, that
all may go well, do promise not to run into needless danger."

"According to you," said Rolf, smiling, "one can never get out of
danger.  Where is the use of taking care, if all the powers of earth and
air are against us?  You think me as helpless, under Nipen's breath, as
the poor infant that put out into the fiord the other day in a tub."

"I am not speaking of Nipen now,--(not because I do not think of it;)--I
am speaking of Hund.  Do promise me not to go more than four miles down
the fiord.  After that, there is a long stretch of precipices, without a
single dwelling.  There is not a boat that could put off,--there is not
an eye or an ear that could bear witness what had become of you, if you
and Hund should meet there."

"If Hund and I should meet there, I would bring him home, to settle what
should become of him."

"And all the pirates?  You would bring them all in your right hand, and
row home with your left!  For shame, Rolf, to be such a boaster!
Promise me not to go beyond the four miles."

"Indeed I can only promise to go where the shoal is.  Four miles!
Suppose you say four furlongs, love."

"I will engage to catch herrings within four furlongs."

"Pray take me with you; and then I will carry you four times four miles
down, and show you what a shoal is.  Really, love, I should like to
prove to you how safe the fiord is to one who knows every nook and
hiding-place from the entrance up.  If fighting would not do, I could
always hide."

"And would not Hund know where to look for you?"

"Not he.  He was not brought up on the fiord, to know its ways, and its
holes and corners: and I told him neither that, nor anything else that I
could keep from him; for I always mistrusted Hund.--Now, I will tell
you, love.  I will promise you something, because I do not wish to hurt
you, as you sometimes hurt me with disregarding what I say,--with being
afraid, in spite of all I can do to make you easy.  I will promise you
not to go further down, while alone, than Vogel islet, unless it is
quite certain that Hund and the pirates are far enough off in another
direction.  I partly think, as you do, and as Erlingsen does, that they
meant to come for me the night you carried off their boat: so I will be
on the watch, and go no further than where they cannot hurt me."

"Then why say Vogel islet?  It is out of all reasonable distance."

"Not to those who know the fiord as I do.  I have my reasons, Erica, for
fixing that distance and no other; and that far I intend to go, whether
my friends think me able to take care of myself or not."

"At least," pleaded Erica, "let me go with you."

"Not for the world, my love."  And Erica saw, by his look of horror at
the idea of her going, that he felt anything but secure from the
pirates.  He took her hand, and kissed it again and again, as he said
that there was plenty for that little hand to do at home, instead of
pulling the oar in the hot sun.  "I shall think of you all while I am
fishing," he went on.  "I shall fancy you making ready for the seater.
[Note 1.] As you go towards Sulitelma any day now, you may hear the
voices of a thousand waterfalls, calling upon the herdmen and maidens to
come to the fresh pastures.  How happy we shall be, Erica, when we once
get to the seater!"

Erica sighed, and pressed her lover's hand as he held hers.

"While I am fishing," he went on, "I shall fancy our young mistresses,
and Stiorna and you, washing all your bowls in juniper-water, ready for
your dairy.  I know how the young ladies will contrive that all of my
carving shall come under your hand.  And I shall be back with my fish
before you are gone, that I may walk beside your cart.  I know just how
far you will ride.  When we get the first sight of the grass waving, as
the wind sweeps over it on the mountain side, you will spring from the
cart, and walk with me all the rest of the way."

"All this would be well," said Erica, "if it were not for--"

"For what, love?  For Nipen, again!  If you will not mind what I say
about your silly fears, you shall hear from the pastor how wicked they
are.  I see him yonder, in the garden.  I will call him--"

"No, no!  I know all he has to say," declared Erica.

But Rolf carried the case before M.  Kollsen: and M.  Kollsen, glad of
every opportunity of discoursing on this subject, came and took Rolfs
seat, and said all he could think of in contempt of the spirits of the
region, till Erica's blood ran cold to hear him.  It was not kind of
Rolf to expose her to this: but Rolf had no fears himself, and was not
aware how much she suffered under what the clergyman said.  The lover
stood by watching, and was so charmed with her gentle and submissive
countenance and manner, while she could not own herself convinced, that
he almost admired her superstition, and forgave her doubts of his being
able to take care of himself, while his deadly enemy on earth might
possibly be assisted by the offended powers of the air.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  Each Norway farm which is situated within a certain distance of
the mountains has a mountain pasture, to which the herds and flocks are
driven in early summer, and where they feed till the first frosts come
on.  The herdmen and dairy-women live on the mountain, beside their
cattle, during this season, and enjoy the mode of life extremely.  The
mountain pasture belonging to a farm is called the Seater.  The
procession of herds and flocks, and herdmen and dairy-women with their
utensils, all winding up the mountain--"going to the seater," is a
pretty sight on an early summer's day.



CHAPTER SEVEN.

VOGEL ISLET.

Who was ever happier than Rolf, when abroad in his skiff, on one of the
most glorious days of the year?  He found his angling tolerably
successful near home; but the further he went, the more the herrings
abounded; and he therefore dropped down the fiord with tide, fishing as
he receded, till all home objects had disappeared.  First, the
farm-house, with its surrounding buildings, its green paddock, and
shining white beach, was hidden behind the projecting rocks.  Then Thor
islet appeared to join with the nearest shore, from which its bushes of
stunted birch seemed to spring.  Then, as the skiff dropped lower and
lower down, the interior mountains appeared to rise above the rocks
which closed in the head of the fiord, and the snowy peak of Sulitelma
stood up clear amidst the pale blue sky; the glaciers on its sides
catching the sunlight on different points, and glittering so that the
eye could scarcely endure to rest upon the mountain.  When he came to
the narrow part of the fiord, near the creek which had been the scene of
Erica's exploit, Rolf laid aside his rod, with the bright hook that
herrings so much admire, to guide his canoe through the currents caused
by the approach of the rocks, and contraction of the passage; and he
then wished he had brought Erica with him, so lovely was the scene.
Every crevice of the rocks, even where there seemed to be no soil, was
tufted with bushes, every twig of which was bursting into the greenest
leaf, while, here and there, a clump of dark pines overhung some busy
cataract, which, itself over-shadowed, sent forth its little clouds of
spray, dancing and glittering in the sunlight.  A pair of fishing eagles
were perched on a high ledge of rock, screaming to the echoes, so that
the dash of the currents was lost in the din.  Rolf did wish that Erica
was here when he thought how the colour would have mounted into her
cheek, and how her eye would have sparkled at such a scene.

Lower down, it was scarcely less beautiful.  The waters spread out again
to a double width.  The rocks were, or appeared to be lower; and now and
then, in some space between rock and rock, a strip of brilliant green
meadow lay open to the sunshine; and there were large flocks of
fieldfares, flying round and round, to exercise the newly-fledged young.
There were a few habitations scattered along the margin of the fiord;
and two or three boats might be seen far off, with diminutive figures of
men drawing their nets.

"I am glad I brought my net too," thought Rolf.  "My rod had done good
duty; but if I am coming upon a shoal, I will cast my net, and be home,
laden with fish, before they think of looking for me."

Happy would it have been if Rolf had cast his net where others were
content to fish, and had given up all idea of going further than was
necessary: but his boat was still dropping down towards the islet which
he had fixed in his own mind as the limit of his trip; and the long
solitary reach of the fiord which now lay between him and it was
tempting both to the eye and the mind.  It is difficult to turn back
from the first summer-day trip, in countries where summer is less
beautiful than in Nordland; and on went Rolf, beyond the bounds of
prudence, as many have done before him.  He soon found himself in a
still and somewhat dreary region, where there was no motion but of the
sea-birds which were leading their broods down the shores of the fiords,
and of the air which appeared to quiver before the eye, from the
evaporation caused by the heat of the sun.  More slowly went the canoe
here, as if to suit the quietness of the scene, and leisurely and softly
did Rolf cast his net: and then steadily did he draw it in, so rich in
fish that when they lay in the bottom of the boat, they at once sank it
deeper in the water, and checked its speed by their weight.

Rolf then rested awhile, and looked ahead for Vogel islet, thinking that
he could not now be very far from it.  There it lay looming in the
heated atmosphere, spreading as if in the air, just above the surface of
the water, to which it appeared joined in the middle by a dark stem, as
if it grew like a huge sea-flower.  There is no end to the strange
appearances presented in northern climates by an atmosphere so different
from our own.  Rolf gazed and gazed as the island grew more like itself
on his approach; and he was so occupied with it as not to look about him
as he ought to have done at such a distance from home.  He was roused at
length by a shout, and looked towards the point from which it came; and
there, in a little harbour of the fiord, a recess which now actually lay
behind him--between him and home--lay a vessel; and that vessel, he knew
by a second glance, was the pirate-schooner.

Of the schooner itself he had no fear, for there was so little wind that
it could not have come out in time to annoy him; but there was the
schooner's boat, with five men in it--four rowing and one steering--
already in full pursuit of him.  He knew, by the general air and native
dress of the man at the helm, that it was Hund; and he fancied he heard
Hund's malicious voice in the shout which came rushing over the water
from their boat to his.  How fast they seemed to be coming!  How the
spray from their oars glittered in the sun, and how their wake
lengthened with every stroke!  No spectator from the shore (if there had
been any) could have doubted that the boat was in pursuit of the skiff,
and would snap it up presently.  Rolf saw that he had five determined
foes gaining upon him every instant; and yet he was not alarmed.  He had
had his reasons for thinking himself safe near Vogel islet; and
calculating for a moment the time of the tide, he was quite at his ease.
As he took his oars he smiled at the hot haste of his pursuers, and at
the thought of the amazement they would feel when he slipped through
their fingers; and then he began to row.

Rolf did not overheat himself with too much exertion.  He permitted his
foes to gain a little upon him, though he might have preserved the
distance for as long as his strength could have held out against that of
the four in the other boat.  They ceased their shouting when they saw
how quietly he took his danger.  They really believed that he was not
aware of being their object, and hoped to seize him suddenly, before he
had time to resist.

When very near the islet, however, Rolf became more active, and his
skiff disappeared behind its southern point while the enemy's boat was
still two furlongs off.  The steersman looked for the reappearance of
the canoe beyond the islet; but he looked in vain.  He thought, and his
companions agreed with him, that it was foolish of Rolf to land upon the
islet, where they could lay hands on him in a moment; but they could
only suppose he had done this, and prepared to do the same.  They rowed
quite round the islet; but, to their amazement, they could not only
perceive no place to land at, but there was no trace of the canoe.  It
seemed to them as if those calm and clear waters had swallowed up the
skiff and Rolf in the few minutes after they had lost sight of him.
Hund thought the case was accounted for when he recalled Nipen's
displeasure.  A thrill ran through him as he said to himself that the
spirits of the region had joined with him against Rolf, and swallowed
up, almost before his eyes, the man he hated.  He put his hands before
his face for a moment, while his comrades stared at him; then, thinking
he must be under a delusion, he gazed earnestly over the waters as far
as he could see.  They lay calm and bright, and there was certainly no
kind of vessel on their surface for miles round.

The rowers wondered, questioned, uttered shouts, spoke altogether, and
then looked at Hund in silence, struck by his countenance, and finished
by rowing two or three times round the islet, slowly, and looking up its
bare rocky sides, which rose like walls from the water; but nothing
could they see or hear.  When tired of their fruitless search they
returned to the schooner, ready to report to the master that the fiord
was enchanted.

Meantime, Rolf had heard every plash of their oars, and every tone of
their voices, as they rowed round his place of refuge.  He was not on
the islet, but in it.  This was such an island as Swein, the sea-king of
former days, took refuge in; and Rolf was only following his example.
Long before, he had discovered a curious cleft in the rock, very narrow,
and all but invisible at high-water, even if a bush of dwarf-ash and
birch had not hung down over it.  At high-water, nothing larger than a
bird could go in and out beneath the low arch; but there was a cavern
within, whose sandy floor sloped up to some distance above high-water
mark.  In this cavern was Rolf.  He had thrust his little skiff between
the walls of rock, crushing in its sides as he did so.  The bushes
drooped behind him, hanging naturally over the entrance as before.  Rolf
pulled up his broken vessel upon the little sandy beach, within the
cave, saved a pile of his fish, and returned a good many to the water,
and then sat down upon the sea-weeds to listen.  There was no light but
a little which found its way through the bushy screen and up from the
green water; and the sounds--the tones of the pirates' voices, and the
splash of the waters against the rocky walls of his singular prison--
came deadened and changed to his ear; yet he heard enough to be aware
how long his enemies remained, and when they were really gone.

It was a prison indeed, as Rolf reflected when he looked upon his broken
skiff.  He could not imagine how he was to get away; for his friends
would certainly never think of coming to look for him here: but he put
off the consideration of this point for the present, and turned away
from the image of Erica's distress when he should fail to return.  He
amused himself now with imagining Hund's disappointment, and the reports
which would arise from it; and he found this so very entertaining that
he laughed aloud; and then the echo of his laughter sounded so very
merry that it set him laughing again.  This, in its turn, seemed to
rouse the eider-ducks that thronged the island; and their clatter and
commotion was so great overhead that any spectator might have been
excused for believing that Vogel islet was indeed bewitched.



CHAPTER EIGHT.

A SUMMER APARTMENT.

"Humph!  How little did the rare old sea-king think," said Rolf to
himself, as he surveyed his cave--"how little did Swein think, when he
played this very trick, six hundred years ago, that it would save a poor
farm-servant from being murdered, so many centuries after!  Many thanks
to my good grandmother for being so fond of that story!  She taught it
thoroughly to me before she died; and that is the reason of my being
safe at this moment.  I wish I had told the people at home of my having
found this cave; for, as it is, they cannot but think me lost; and how
Erica will bear it, I don't know.  And yet, if I had told them, Hund
would have heard it; or, at least, Stiorna, and she would have managed
to let him know.  Perhaps it is best as it is, if only I can get back in
time to save Erica's heart from breaking.  But for her, I should not
mind the rest being in a fright for a day or two.  They are a little apt
to fancy that the affairs of the farm go by nature--that the fields and
the cattle take care of themselves.  They treat me liberally enough; but
they are not fully aware of the value of a man like me; and now they
will learn.  They will hardly know how to make enough of me when I go
back.  Oddo will be the first to see me.  I think, however, I should let
them hear my best song from a distance.  Let me see--which song shall it
be?  It must be one which will strike Peder; for he will be the first to
hear, as Oddo always is to see.  Some of them will think it is a spirit
mocking, and some that it is my ghost; and my master and madame will
take it to be nothing but my own self.  And then, in the doubt among all
these, my poor Erica will faint away; and while they are throwing water
upon her face, and putting some camphorated brandy into her mouth, I
shall quietly step in among them, and grasp Peder's arm, and pull Oddo's
hair, to show that it is I myself; and when Erica opens her eyes, she
shall see my face at its very merriest; so that she cannot possibly take
me for a sad and solemn ghost.  And the next thing will be--"

He stopped with a start, as his eye fell upon his crushed boat, lying on
its side, half in the water and half out.

"Ah!" thought he, in a changed mood, "this is all very fine--this
planning how one pleasant thing will follow upon another; but I forgot
the first thing of all.  I must learn first how I am to get out."

He turned his boat about and about, and shook his head over every
bruise, hole, or crack that he found, till he finished with a nod of
decision that nothing could be done with it.  He was a good swimmer; but
the nearest point of the shore was so far off that it would be all he
could do to reach it when the waters were in their most favourable
state.  At present, they were so chilled with the melted snows that were
pouring down from every steep along the fiord, that he doubted the
safety of attempting to swim at all.  What chance of release had he
then?

If he could by any means climb upon the rocks in whose recesses he was
now hidden, he might possibly fall in with some fishing-boat which would
fetch him off; but, besides that the pirates were more likely to see him
than anybody else, he believed there was no way by which he could climb
upon the islet.  It had always been considered the exclusive property of
the aquatic birds with which it swarmed, because its sides rose so
abruptly from the water, so like the smooth stone walls of a lofty
building, that there was no hold for foot or hand, and the summit seemed
unattainable by anything that had not wings.  Rolf remembered, however,
having heard Peder say that when he was young there might be seen
hanging down one part of the precipice the remains of a birchen ladder,
which must have been made and placed there by human hands.  Rolf
determined that he would try the point.  He would wait till the tide was
flowing in, as the waters from the open sea were somewhat less chilled
than when returning from the head of the fiord; he would take the waters
at their warmest, and try and try again to make a footing upon the
islet.  Meantime he would not trouble himself with thoughts of being a
prisoner.

His cave was really a very pretty place.  As its opening fronted the
west, he found that even here there might be sunshine.  The golden light
which blesses the high and low places of the earth did not disdain to
cheer and adorn even this humble chamber, which, at the bidding of
nature, the waters had patiently scooped out of the hard rock.  Some
hours after darkness had settled down on the lands of the tropics, and
long after the stars had come out in the skies over English heads, this
cave was at its brightest.  As the sun drew to its setting, near the
middle of the Nordland summer night, it levelled its golden rays through
the cleft, and made the place far more brilliant than at noon.  The
projections of the rough rock caught the beam, during the few minutes
that it stayed, and shone with a bright orange tint.  The beach suddenly
appeared of a more dazzling white, and the waters of a deeper green,
while, by their motion, they cast quivering circles of reflected light
upon the roof, which had before been invisible.  Rolf took this brief
opportunity to survey his abode carefully.  He had supposed, from the
pleasant freshness of the air, that the cave was lofty; and he now saw
that the roof did indeed spring up to a vast height.  He saw also that
there was a great deal of drift-wood accumulated; and some of it thrown
into such distant corners as to prove that the waves could dash up to a
much higher waterline, in stormy weather, than he had supposed.  No
matter!  He hoped to be gone before there were any more storms.  Tired
and sleepy as he was, so near midnight, he made an exertion, while there
was plenty of light, to clear away the sea-weeds from a space on the
sand where he must to-morrow make his fire, and broil his fish.  The
smell of the smallest quantity of burnt weed would be intolerable in so
confined a place: so he cleared away every sprout of it, and laid some
of the drift-wood on a spot above high-water mark, picking out the
driest pieces of fire-wood he could find for kindling a flame.

When this was done, he could have found in his heart to pick up shells,
so various and beautiful were those which strewed the floor of his cave:
but the sunbeam was rapidly climbing the wall, and would presently be
gone, so he let the shells lie till the next night (if he should still
be here), and made haste to heap up a bed of fine dry sand in a corner;
and here he lay down as the twilight darkened, and thought he had never
rested on so soft a bed.  He knew it was near high-water, and he tried
to keep awake, to ascertain how nearly the tide filled up the entrance;
but he was too weary, and his couch was too comfortable for this.  His
eyes closed in spite of him, and he dreamed that he was broad awake
watching the height of the tide.  For this one night, he could rest
without any very painful thoughts of poor Erica, for she was prepared
for his remaining out till the middle of the next day, at least.

When he awoke in the morning, the scene was marvellously changed from
that on which he had closed his eyes.  His cave was so dim that he could
scarcely distinguish its white floor from its rocky sides.  The water
was low, and the cleft therefore enlarged, so that he saw at once that
now was the time for making his fire--now when there was the freest
access for the air.  Yet he could not help pausing to admire what he
saw.  He could see now a long strip of the fiord,--a perspective of
waters and of shores, ending in a lofty peak still capped with snow, and
glittering in the sunlight.  The whole landscape was bathed in light, as
warm as noon; for, though it was only six in the morning, the sun had
been up for several hours.  As Rolf gazed, and reckoned up the sum of
what he saw,--the many miles of water, and the long range of rocks, he
felt, for a moment, as if not yet secure from Hund,--as if he must be
easily visible while he saw so much.  But it was not so, and Rolf smiled
at his own momentary fear, when he remembered how, as a child, he had
tried to count the stars he could see at once through a hole pricked by
a needle in a piece of paper, and how, for that matter, all that we ever
see is through the little circle of the pupil of the eye.  He smiled
when he considered that while, from his recess, he could see the united
navy of Norway and Denmark, if anchored in the fiord, his enemy could
not see even his habitation, otherwise than by peeping under the bushes
which overhung the cleft--and this only at low-water; so he began to
sing, while rubbing together, with all his might, the dry sticks of fir
with which his fire was to be kindled.  First they smoked, and then, by
a skilful breath of air, they blazed, and set fire to the heap; and by
the time the herrings were ready for broiling, the cave was so filled
with smoke that Rolf's singing was turned to coughing.

Some of the smoke hung in soot on the roof and walls of the cave,
curling up so well at first, that Rolf almost thought there must be some
opening in the lofty roof which served as a chimney; but there was not,
and some of the smoke came down again, issuing at last from the mouth of
the cave.  Rolf observed this, and, seeing the danger of his place of
retreat being thus discovered, he made haste to finish his cookery,
resolving that, if he had to remain here for any length of time, he
would always make his fire in the night.  He presently threw water over
his burning brands, and hoped that nothing had been seen of the process
of preparing his breakfast.

The smoke had been seen, however, and by several people, but in such a
way as to lead to no discovery of the cave.  From the schooner, Hund
kept his eyes fixed on the islet, at every moment he had to spare.
Either he was the murderer of his fellow-servant, or the islet was
bewitched; and if Rolf was under the protection and favour of the powers
of the region, he, Hund, was out of favour, and might expect bad
consequences.  Whichever might be the case, Hund was very uneasy; and he
could think of nothing but the islet, and look no other way.  His
companions had at first joked him about his luck in getting rid of his
enemies, but, being themselves superstitious, they caught the infection
of his gravity, and watched the spot almost as carefully as he.

As their vessel lay higher up in the fiord than the islet, they were on
the opposite side from the crevice, and could not see from whence the
smoke issued.  But they saw it in the form of a light cloud hanging over
the place.  Hund's eyes were fixed upon it, when one of his comrades
touched him on the shoulder.  Hund started.

"You see there," said the man, pointing.

"To be sure I do; what else was I looking at?"

"Well, what is it?" inquired the man.  "Has your friend got a visitor,--
come a great way this morning?  They say the mountain-sprite travels in
mist; if so, it is now going; see, there it sails off,--melts away.  It
is as like common smoke as anything that ever I saw.  What say you to
taking the boat, and trying again whether there is no place where your
friend might not land, and be now making a fire among the birds' nests?"

"Nonsense!" cried Hund.  "What became of the skiff, then?"

"True," said the man; and, shaking his head, he passed on, and spoke to
the master.

In his own secret mind, the master of the schooner did not quite like
his present situation.  The little harbour was well sheltered and hidden
from the observation of the inhabitants of the upper part of the fiord:
but, after hearing the words dropped by his crew, the master did not
relish being stationed between the bewitched islet and the head of the
fiord, where all the residents were, of course, enemies.  He thought
that it would be wiser to have a foe only on the one hand, and the open
sea on the other, even at the sacrifice of the best anchorage.  As there
was now a light wind, enough to take his vessel down, he gave orders
accordingly.

Slowly, and at some distance, the schooner passed the islet, and all on
board crowded together to see what they could see.  None,--not even the
master with his glass,--saw anything remarkable: but all heard
something.  There was a faint muffled sound of knocks,--blows such as
were never heard in a mere haunt of sea-birds.  It was evident that the
birds were disturbed by it; they rose and fell, made short flights and
came back again, fluttered, and sometimes screamed so as to overpower
all other sounds.  But if they were quiet for a minute, the knock,
knock, was heard again, with great regularity, and every knock went to
Hund's heart.

The fact was, that after breakfast, Rolf soon became tired of having
nothing to do.  The water was so very cold, that he deferred till noon
the attempt to swim round the islet.  He once more examined his boat,
and though the injuries done seemed irreparable, he thought he had
better try to mend his little craft than do nothing.  After collecting
from the wood in the cave all the nails that happened to be sticking in
it, and all the pieces that were sound enough to patch a boat with, he
made a stone serve him for a hammer, straightened his nails upon another
stone, and tried to fasten on a piece of wood over a hole.  It was
discouraging work enough, but it helped to pass the hours till the
restless waters should have reached their highest mark in the cave, when
he would know that it was noon, and time for his little expedition.

He sighed as he threw down his awkward new tools and pulled off his
jacket, for his heart now began to grow very heavy.  It was about the
time when Erica would be beginning to look for his return, and when or
how he was ever to return he became less able to imagine, the more he
thought about it.  As he fancied Erica gazing down the fiord from the
gallery, or stealing out, hour after hour, to look forth from the beach,
and only to be disappointed every time, till she would be obliged to
give him quite up, and yield to despair, Rolf shed tears.  It was the
first time for some years,--the first time since he had been a man, and
when he saw his own tears fall upon the sand, he was ashamed.  He
blushed, as if he had not been all alone, dashed away the drops, and
threw himself into the water.

It was too cold by far for safe swimming.  All the snows of Sulitelma
could hardly have made the waters more chilly to the swimmer than they
felt at the first plunge; but Rolf would not retreat for this reason.
He thought of the sunshine outside, and of the free open view he should
enjoy, dived beneath the almost closed entrance, and came up on the
other side.  The first thing he saw was the schooner, now lying below
his island; and the next thing was a small boat between him and it,
evidently making towards him.  When convinced that Hund was one of the
three men in it, he saw that he must go back, or make haste to finish
his expedition.  He made haste, swam round so close as to touch the warm
rock in many places, and could not discover, any more than before, any
trace of a footing by which a man might climb to the summit.  There was
a crevice or two, however, from which vegetation hung, still left
unsearched.  He could not search them now, for he must make haste home.

The boat was indeed so near when he had reached the point he set out
from, that he used every effort to conceal himself; and it seemed that
he could only have escaped by the eyes of his enemies being fixed on the
summit of the rock.  When once more in the cave, he rather enjoyed
hearing them come nearer and nearer, so that the bushes which hung down
between him and them shook with the wind of their oars, and dipped into
the waves.  He laughed silently when he heard one of them swear that he
would not leave the spot till he had seen something, upon which another
rebuked his presumption.  Presently, a voice, which he knew to be
Hund's, called upon his name, at first gently, and then more and more
loudly, as if taking courage at not being answered.

"I will wait till he rounds the point," thought Rolf, "and then give him
such an answer as may send a guilty man away quicker than he came."

He waited till they were on the opposite side, so that his voice might
appear to come from the summit of the islet, and then began with the
melancholy sound used to lure the plover on the moors.  The men in the
boat instantly observed that this was the same sound used when
Erlingsen's boat was spirited away from them.  It was rather singular
that Rolf and Oddo should have used the same sound, but they probably
chose it as the most mournful they knew.  Rolf, however, did not stop
there; he moaned louder and louder, till the sound resembled the
bellowing of a tormented spirit enclosed in the rock; and the
consequence was, as he had said, that his enemies retreated faster than
they came.  Never had they rowed more vigorously than now, fetching a
large circuit, to keep at a safe distance from the spot, as they passed
westward.

For the next few days Rolf kept a close watch upon the proceedings of
the pirates, and saw enough of their thievery to be able to lay
informations against them, if ever he should again make his way to a
town or village, and see the face of a magistrate.  He was glad of the
interest and occupation thus afforded him,--of even this slight hope of
being useful; for he saw no more probability than on the first day, of
release from his prison.  The worst of it was that the season for
boating was nearly at an end.  The inhabitants were day by day driving
their cattle up the mountains, there to remain for the summer; and the
heads of families remained in the farm-houses, almost alone, and little
likely to put out so far into the fiord as to pass near him.  So poor
Rolf could only catch fish for his support, swim round and round his
prison, and venture a little further, on days when the water felt rather
less cold than usual.  To drive off thoughts of his poor distressed
Erica, he sometimes hammered a little at his skiff; but it was too plain
that no botching that he could perform in the cave would render the
broken craft safe to float in.

One sunny day, when the tide was flowing in warmer than usual, Rolf
amused himself with more evolutions in bathing than he had hitherto
indulged in.  He forgot his troubles and his foes in diving, floating,
and swimming.  As he dashed round a point of the rock, he saw something,
and was certain he was seen.  Hund appeared at least as much bewitched
as the island itself, for he could not keep away from it.  He seemed
irresistibly drawn to the scene of his guilt and terror.  Here he was
now, with one other man, in the schooner's smallest boat.  Rolf had to
determine in an instant what to do, for they were within a hundred
yards, and Hund's starting eyes showed that he saw what he took for the
ghost of his fellow-servant.  Rolf raised himself as high as he could
out of the water, throwing his arms up above his head, fixed his eyes on
Hund, uttered a shrill cry, and dived, hoping to rise to the surface at
some point out of sight.  Hund looked no more.  After one shriek of
terror and remorse had burst from his white lips, he sank his head upon
his knees, and let his comrade take all the trouble of rowing home
again.

This vision decided Hund's proceedings.  Half-crazed with remorse, he
left the pirates that night.  After long consideration where to go, he
decided upon returning to Erlingsen's.  He did not know to what extent
they suspected him; he was pretty sure that they held no proofs against
him.  Nowhere else could he be sure of honest work,--the first object
with him now, in the midst of his remorse.  He felt irresistibly drawn
towards poor Erica, now that no rival was there; and if, mixed with all
these considerations, there were some thoughts of the situation of
houseman being vacant, and needing much to be filled up, it is no wonder
that such a mingling of motives took place in a mind so selfish as
Hund's.



CHAPTER NINE.

HUND'S REPORT.

Hund performed his journey by night,--a journey perfectly unlike any
that was ever performed by night in England.  He did not for a moment
think of going by the fiord, short and easy as it would have been in
comparison with the land road.  He would rather have mounted all the
steeps, and crossed the snows of Sulitelma itself, many times over, than
have put himself in the way a second time of such a vision as he had
seen.  Laboriously and diligently, therefore, he overcame the
difficulties of the path, crossing ravines, wading through swamps,
scaling rocks, leaping across water-courses, and only now and then
throwing himself down on some tempting slope of grass, to wipe his
brows, and, where opportunity offered, to moisten his parched throat
with the wild strawberries which were fast ripening in the sheltered
nooks of the hills.  It was now so near midsummer, and the nights were
so fast melting into the days, that Hund could at the latest scarcely
see a star, though there was not a fleece of cloud in the whole circle
of the heavens.  While yet the sun was sparkling on the fiord, and
glittering on every farm-house window that fronted the west, all around
was as still as if the deepest darkness had settled down.  The eagles
were at rest on their rocky ledge, a thousand feet above the waters.
The herons had left their stand on the several promontories of the
fiord, and the flapping of their wings overhead was no more heard.  The
raven was gone home; the cattle were all far away on the mountain
pastures; the goats were hidden in the woods which yielded the tender
shoots on which they subsisted.  The round eyes of a white owl stared
out upon him here and there, from under the eaves of a farm-house; and
these seemed to be the only eyes besides his own that were open.  Hund
knew as he passed one dwelling after another,--knew as well as if he had
looked in at the windows,--that the inhabitants were all asleep, even
with the sunshine lying across their very faces.

Every few minutes he observed how his shadow lengthened, and he longed
for the brief twilight which would now soon be coming on.  Now, his
shadow stretched quite across a narrow valley, as he took breath on a
ridge crossed by the soft breeze.  Then, the shadow stood up against a
precipice, taller than the tallest pine upon the steep.  Then the yellow
gleam grew fainter, the sparkles on the water went out, and he saw the
large pale circle of the sun sink and sink into the waves, where the
fiord spread out wide to the south-west.  Even the weary spirit of this
unhappy man seemed now to be pervaded with some of the repose which
appeared to be shed down for the benefit of all that lived.  He walked
on and on; but he felt the grass softer under his feet,--the air cooler
upon his brow; and he began to comfort himself with thinking that he had
not murdered Rolf.  He said to himself that he had not laid a finger on
him, and that the skiff might have sunk exactly as it did, if he had
been sitting at home, carving a bell-collar.  There could be no doubt
that the skiff had been pulled down fathoms deep by a strong hand from
below; and if the spirits were angry with Rolf, that was no concern of
Rolf's human enemies.--Thus Hund strove to comfort himself; but it would
not do.  The more he tried to put away the thought, the more obstinately
it returned, that he had been speeding on his way to injure Rolf when
the strange disappearance took place; and that he had long hated and
envied his fellow-servant, however marvellously he had been prevented
from capturing or slaying him.  These thoughts had no comfort in them;
but better came after a time.

He had to pass very near M.  Kollsen's abode; and it crossed his mind
that it would be a great relief to open his heart to a clergyman.  He
halted for a minute, in sight of the house, but presently went on,
saying to himself that he could not say all to M.  Kollsen, and would
therefore say nothing.  He should get a lecture against superstition,
and hear hard words of the powers he dreaded; and there would be no
consolation in this.  It was said that the Bishop of Tronyem was coming
round this way soon, in his regular progress through his diocese, and
everybody bore testimony to his gentleness and mercy.  It would be best
to wait for his coming.  Then Hund began to calculate how soon he would
come; for aching hearts are impatient for relief; and the thought how
near midsummer was, made him look up into the sky,--that beautiful index
of the seasons in a northern climate.  There were a few extremely faint
stars--a very few,--for only the brightest could now show themselves in
the sky where daylight lingered so as never quite to depart.  A
pale-green hue remained where the sun had disappeared, and a deep-red
glow was even now beginning to kindle where he was soon to rise.  Just
here, Hund's ear caught some tones of the soft harp music which the
winds make in their passage through a wood of pines; and there was a
fragrance in the air from a new thatch of birch-bark just laid upon a
neighbouring roof.  This fragrance, that faint vibrating music, and the
soft veiled light were soothing; and when, besides, Hund pictured to
himself his mind relieved by a confession to the good bishop--perhaps
cheered by words of pardon and of promise, the tears burst from his
eyes, and the fever of his spirit was allayed.

Then up came the sun again, and the new thatch reeked in his beams, and
the birds shook off sleep, and plumed themselves, and the peak of
Sulitelma blushed with the softest rose-colour, and the silvery fish
leaped out of the water, and the blossoms in the gardens opened, though
it was only an hour after midnight.  Every creature except man seemed
eager to make the most of the short summer season,--to waste none of its
bright hours, which would be gone too soon;--every creature except man;
but man must have rest, be the sun high or sunk beneath the horizon: so
that Hund saw no face, and heard no human voice, before he found himself
standing at the top of the steep rocky pathway, which led down to
Erlingsen's abode.

Hund might have known that he should find everything in a different
state from that in which he had left the place; but yet he was rather
surprised at the aspect of the farm.  The stable-doors stood wide; and
there was no trace of milk-pails.  The hurdles of the fold were piled
upon one another in a corner of the yard.  It was plain that herd,
flock, and dairy-women were gone to the mountain: and, though Hund
dreaded meeting Erica, it struck upon his heart, to think that she was
not here.  He felt now how much it was for her sake that he had come
back.

He half resolved to go away again: but from the gallery of the house
some snow-white sheets were hanging to dry; and this showed that some
neat and busy female hands were still here.  Next, his eye fell upon the
boat which lay gently rocking with the receding tide in its tiny cove;
and he resolved to lie down in it and rest, while considering what to do
next.  He went down, stepping gently over the pebbles of the beach, lest
his tread should reach and waken any ear through the open windows, lay
down at the bottom of the boat, and, as might have been expected, fell
asleep as readily as an infant in a cradle.

Of course he was discovered; and, of course, Oddo was the discoverer.
Oddo was the first to come forth, to water the one horse that remained
at the farm, and to give a turn and a shake to the two or three little
cocks of hay which had been mown behind the house.  His quick eye noted
the deep marks of a man's feet in the sand and pebbles, below high-water
mark, proving that some one had been on the premises during the night.
He followed these marks to the boat, where he was amazed to find the
enemy (as he called Hund) fast asleep.  Oddo was in a great hurry to
tell his grandfather (Erlingsen being on the mountain); but he thought
it only proper caution to secure his prize from escaping in his absence.

He summoned his companion, the dog which had warned him of many dangers
abroad, and helped him faithfully with his work at home; and nothing
could be clearer to Skorro than that he was to crouch on the thwarts of
the boat, with his nose close to Hund's face, and not to let Hund stir
till Oddo came back.  Then Oddo ran, and wakened his grandfather, who
made all haste to rise and dress.  Erica now lived in Peder's house.
She had taken her lover's place there, since his disappearance; as the
old man must be taken care of, and the house kept; and her mistress
thought the interest and occupation good for her.  Hearing Oddo's story,
she rushed out, and her voice was soon heard in passionate entreaty,
above the bark of the dog, which was trying to prevent the prisoner from
rising.

"Only tell me," Erica was heard to say, "only tell me where and how he
died.  I know he is dead,--I knew he would die; from that terrible night
when we were betrothed.  Tell me who did it,--for I am sure you know.
Was it Nipen?--Yes, it was Nipen, whether it was done by wind or water,
or human hands.  But speak, and tell me where he is.  O, Hund, speak!
Say only where his body is, and I will try--I will try never to speak to
you again--never to--"

Hund looked miserable; he moved his lips; but no sound was heard
mingling with Erica's rapid speech.

Madame Erlingsen, who, with Orga, had by this time reached the spot,
laid her hand on Erica's arm, to beg for a moment's silence, made Oddo
call his dog out of the boat, and then spoke, in a severe tone, to Hund.

"Why do you shake your head, Hund, and speak no word?  Say what you
know, for the sake of those whom, we grievously suspect, you have deeply
injured.  Say what you know, Hund."

"What I say is, that I do not know," replied Hund, in a hoarse and
agitated voice.  "I only know that we live in an enchanted place, here
by this fiord, and that the spirits try to make us answer for their
doings.  The very first night after I went forth, this very boat was
spirited away from me, so that I could not come home.  Nipen had a spite
against me there, to make you all suspect me.  I declare to you that the
boat was gone, in a twinkling, by magic, and I heard the cry of the
spirit that took it."

"What was the cry like?" asked Oddo, gravely.

"Where were you that you were not spirited away with the boat?" asked
his mistress.

"I was tumbled out upon the shore, I don't know how," declared
Hund:--"found myself sprawling on a rock, while the creature's cries
brought my heart into my mouth as I lay."

"Alone?--were you alone?" asked his mistress.

"I had landed the pastor some hours before, madame; and I took nobody
else with me, as Stiorna can tell; for she saw me go."

"Stiorna is at the mountain," observed madame, coolly.

"But, Hund," said Oddo, "how did Nipen take hold of you when it laid you
sprawling on the rock?  Neck and heels?  Or, did it bid you go and
harken whether the pirates were coming, and whip away the boat before
you came back?  Are you quite sure that you sprawled on the rock at all
before you ran away from the horrible cry you speak of?  Our rocks are
very slippery, when Nipen is at one's heels."

Hund stared at Oddo, and his voice was yet hoarser when he said that he
had long thought that boy was a favourite with Nipen; and he was sure of
it now.

Erica had thrown herself down on the sand, hiding her face on her hands,
on the edge of the boat, as if in despair of her misery being attended
to,--her questions answered.  Old Peder stood beside her, stroking her
hair tenderly; and he now spoke the things she could not say.

"Attend to me, Hund," said Peder, in the grave, quiet tone which every
one regarded.  "Hear my words, and, for your own sake, answer them.  We
suspect you of being in communication with the pirates yonder: we
suspect that you went to meet them when you refused to go hunting the
bears.  We know that you have long felt ill-will towards Rolf,--envy of
him,--jealousy of him;--and--"

Here Erica looked up, pale as ashes, and said, "Do not question him
further.  There is no truth in his answers.  He spoke falsehood even
now."

Peder saw how Hund shrank under this, and thought the present the moment
to get truth out of him, if he ever could speak it.  He therefore went
on to say--

"We suspect you of having done something to keep your rival out of the
way, in order that you might obtain the house and situation,--and
perhaps something else that you wish."

"Have you killed him?" asked Erica, abruptly, looking full in his face.

"No," returned Hund, firmly.  From his manner everybody believed this
much.

"Do you know that anybody else has killed him?"

"No."

"Do you know whether he is alive or dead?"

To this Hund could, in the confusion of his ideas about Rolf's fate and
condition, fairly say "No:" as also to the question, "Do you know where
he is?"

Then they all cried out, "Tell us what you do know about him."

"Ay, there you come," said Hund, resuming some courage, and putting on
the appearance of more than he had.  "You load me with foul accusations;
and when you find yourselves all in the wrong, you alter your tone, and
put yourselves under obligation to me for what I will tell.  I will
treat you better than you treat me; and I will tell you plainly why.  I
repent of my feelings towards my fellow-servant, now that evil has
befallen him--"

"What?  O what?" cried Erica.

"He was seen fishing on the fiord, in that poor little worn-out skiff.
I myself saw him.  And when I looked next for the skiff, it was gone,--
it had disappeared."

"And where were you?"

"Never mind where I was.  I was not with him, but about my own business.
And I tell you, I no more laid a finger on him or his skiff than any
one of you."

"Where was it?"

"Close by Vogel islet!"

Erica started, and, in one moment's flush of hope, told that Rolf had
said, he should be safe at any time near Vogel islet.  Hund caught at
her words so eagerly as to make a favourable impression on all, who saw,
what was indeed the truth, that he would have been glad to know that
Rolf was alive.  Their manner so changed towards Hund, that if Stiorna
had been there, she would have triumphed.  But the more they considered
the case, the more improbable it seemed that Rolf should have escaped
drowning.

"Mother, what do you think?" whispered the gentle Orga.

"I think, my dear, that we shall never forgive ourselves for letting
Rolf go out in that old skiff."

"Then you think,--you feel quite sure,--mother, that Nipen had nothing
to do with it."

"I feel confident, my dear, that there is no such being as Nipen."

"Even after all that has happened?--after this, following upon Oddo's
prank that night?"

"Even so, Orga.  We suffer by our own carelessness and folly, my love:
and it makes us neither wiser nor better to charge the consequence upon
evil spirits;--to charge our good God with permitting revengeful beings
to torment us, instead of learning from his chastisements to sin in the
same way no more."

"But, mother, if you are right, how very far wrong all these others
are!"

"It is but little, my child, that the wisest of us knows: but there is a
whole eternity before us, every one, to grow wise in.  Some," and she
looked towards Oddo, "may outgrow their mistakes here; and others,"
looking at old Peder, "are travelling fast towards a place where
everybody is wiser than years or education can make us here.  Your
father and I do wish, for Frolich and you, that you should rest your
reverence, your hopes and fears, on none but the good God.  Do we not
know that not even a sparrow falleth to the ground without his will?"

"Poor Erica would be less miserable if she could think so," sighed Orga.
"She will die soon, if she goes on to suffer as she does.  I wish the
good bishop would come: for I do not think M.  Kollsen gives her any
comfort.  Look now! what can she have to say to Hund?"

What Erica had to say to Hund was, "I believe some of the things you
have told.  I believe that you did not lay hands on Rolf."

"Bless you!  Bless you for that!" interrupted Hund, almost forgetting
how far he really was guilty in the satisfaction of hearing these words
from the lips that spoke them.

"Tell me, then," proceeded Erica, "how you believe he really perished.--
Do you fully believe he perished?"

"I believe," whispered Hund, "that the strong hand pulled him down--down
to the bottom."

"I knew it," said Erica, turning away.

"Erica,--one word," exclaimed Hund.  "I must stay here--I am very
miserable, and I must stay here, and work and work till I get some
comfort.  But you must tell me how you think of me--you must say that
you do not hate me."

"I do hate you," said Erica, with disgust, as her suspicions of his
wanting to fill Rolf's place were renewed.  "I mistrust you, Hund, more
deeply than I can tell."

"Will no penitence change your feelings, Erica?  I tell you I am as
miserable as you."

"That is false, like everything else that you say," cried Erica.  "I
wish you would go,--go and seek Rolf under the waters--"

Hund shuddered at the thought, as it recalled what he had seen and heard
at the islet.  Erica saw this, and sternly repeated, "Go and bring back
Rolf from the deeps; and then I will cease to hate you.  Ah!  I see the
despair in your face.  Such despair never came from any woman's words
where there was not a bad conscience to back them."

Hund felt that this was true, and made no reply.

As Erica slowly returned into Peder's house, Oddo ran past, and was
there before her.  He closed the door when she had entered, put his hand
within hers, and said, "Did Rolf really tell you that he should be safe
anywhere near Vogel islet?"

"Yes," sighed Erica,--"safe from the pirates.  That was his answer when
I begged him not to go so far down the fiord: but Rolf always had an
answer when one asked him not to go into danger.  You see how it
ended;--and he never would believe in _that_ danger."

"I shall never be happy again, if this is Nipen's doing," said Oddo.
"But, Erica, you went one trip with me, and I know you are brave.  Will
you go another?  Will you go to the islet, and see what Rolf could have
meant about being safe there?"

Erica brightened for a moment; and perhaps would have agreed to go: but
Peder came in; and Peder said he knew the islet well, and that it was
universally considered that it was now inaccessible to human foot, and
that that was the reason why the fowl flourished there as they did in no
other place.  Erica must not be permitted to go so far down among the
haunts of the pirates.  Instead of this, her mistress had just decided
that, as there were no present means of getting rid of Hund,--as indeed
his depressed state of spirits seemed to give him some title to be
received again,--and as Erica could not be expected to remain just now
in his presence, she should set off immediately for the mountain, and
request Erlingsen to come home.  This was only hastening her departure
by two or three days.  At the seater she would find less to try her
spirits than here: and when Erlingsen came he would, if he thought
proper, have Hund carried before a magistrate; and would, at least, set
such inquiries afloat through the whole region as would bring to light
anything that might chance to be known of Rolf's fate.

Erica could not deny that this was the best plan that could be pursued,
though she had no heart for going to the seater, any more than for doing
anything else.  Under Peder's urgency, however, she made up her bundle
of clothes, took in her hand her lure [Note 1], with which to call home
the cattle in the evenings, bade her mistress farewell privately, and
stole away without Hund's knowledge, while Oddo was giving him meat and
drink within the house.  Old Peder listened to her parting footsteps;
and her mistress watched her up the first hill, thinking to herself how
unlike this was to the usual cheerful departure to the mountain dairies.
Never, indeed, had a heavier heart burdened the footsteps of the
wayfarer, about to climb the slopes of Sulitelma.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  The Lure is a wooden trumpet, nearly five feet long, made of
two hollow pieces of birch-wood, bound together, throughout the whole
length, with slips of willow.  It is used to call the cattle together on
a wide pasture; and is also carried by travelling parties, to save the
risk of any one being lost in the wilds.  Its notes, which may be heard
to a great distance, are extremely harsh and discordant; having none of
the musical tone of the Alp-horn,--(the cow-horn used by the Swiss for
the same purpose,)--which sounds well at a distance.



CHAPTER TEN.

SEEKING THE UPLANDS.

Now that the great occasion was come,--that brightest day of the year,--
the day of going to the seater, how unlike was it to all that the lovers
had imagined and planned!  How unlike was the situation of the two!
There was Rolf, cooped up in a dim cave, his heart growing heavy as his
ear grew weary of the incessant dash and echo of the waters!  And here
was Erica on the free mountain side, where all was silent, except the
occasional rattle of a brook over the stones, and the hum of a cloud of
summer flies.  The lovers were alike in their unhappiness only: and
hardly in this, so much the most wretched of the two was Erica.

The sun was hot; and her path occasionally lay under rocks which
reflected the heat upon the passenger.  She did not heed this, for the
aching of her heart.  Then she had to pass through a swamp, whence
issued a host of mosquitoes, to annoy any who intruded upon their
domain.  It just occurred to Erica that Rolf made her pass this place on
horseback last year, well veiled, and completely defended from these
stinging tormentors: but she did not heed them now.  When, somewhat
higher up, she saw in the lofty distance a sunny slope of long grass
undulating in the wind, like the surface of a lake, tears sprang into
her eyes; for Rolf had said that when they came in sight of the waving
pasture, she would alight, and walk the rest of the way with him.
Instead of this, and instead of the gay procession from the farm,
musical with the singing of boys and girls, the lowing of the cows, and
the bleating of the kids, all rejoicing together at going to the
mountain, here she was alone, carrying a widowed heart, and wandering
with unwilling steps further and further from the spot where she had
last seen Rolf!

She dashed the tears from her eyes, and looked behind her, at the
entrance of a ravine which would hide her from the fiord and the
dwelling she had left.  Thor islet lay like a fragment of the leafy
forest cast into the blue waters; but Vogel islet could not be seen.  It
was not too far down to be seen from an elevation like this; but it was
hidden behind the promontories by which the fiord was contracted.  Erica
could see what she next looked for,--knowing, as she did, precisely
where to look.  She could see the two graves belonging to the
household,--the two hillocks which were railed in behind the house: but
she turned away sickening at the thought that Rolf could not even have a
grave; that that poor consolation was denied her.  She looked behind her
no more; but made her way rapidly through the ravine,--the more rapidly
because she had seen a man ascending by the same path at no great
distance, and she had little inclination to be joined by a party of
wandering Laplanders, seeking a fresh pasture for their reindeer; still
less by any neighbour from the fiord, who might think civility required
that he should escort her to the seater.  This wayfarer was walking at a
pace so much faster than hers, that he would soon pass; and she would
hide among the rocks beside the tarn [small lake upon a mountain] at the
head of the ravine till he had gone by.

It was refreshing to come out of the hot, steep ravine upon the grass at
the upper end of it.  Such grass!  A line of pathway was trodden in it
straight upwards, by those who had before ascended the mountain; but
Erica left this path, and turned to the right, to seek the tarn which
there lay hidden among the rocks.  The herbage was knee-deep, and gay
with flowers,--with wild geranium, pansies, and especially with the
yellow blossoms which give its peculiar hue and flavour to the Gammel
cheese, and to the butter made in the mountain dairies of Norway.
Through this rich pasture Erica waded till she reached the tarn which
fed the stream that gambolled down the ravine.  The death-cold
unfathomed waters lay calm and still under the shelter of the rocks
which nearly surrounded them.  Even where crags did not rise abruptly
from the water, huge blocks were scattered; masses which seemed to have
lain so long as to have seen the springing herbage of a thousand
summers.

In the shadow of one of these blocks, Erica sank down into the grass.
There she, and her bundle, and her long lure were half-buried; and this,
at last, felt something like rest.  Here she would remain long enough to
let the other wayfarer have a good start up the mountain; and by that
time she should be cool and tranquillised:--yes, tranquillised; for here
she could seek that peace which never failed when she sought it as
Christians may.  She hid her face in the fragrant grass, and did not
look up again till the grief of her soul was stilled.--Then her eye and
her heart were open to the beauty of the place which she had made her
temple of worship; and she gazed around till she saw something that
surprised her.  A reindeer stood on the ridge, his whole form, from his
branching head to his slender legs, being clearly marked against the
bright sky.  He was not alone.  He was the sentinel, set to watch on
behalf of several companions,--two or three being perched on ledges of
the rock, browsing,--one standing half-buried in the herbage of the
pasture, and one on the margin of the water, drinking as it would not
have dreamed of doing if the wind had not been in the wrong quarter for
letting him know how near the hidden Erica was.

This pretty sight was soon over.  In a few moments the whole company
appeared to take flight at once, without her having stirred a muscle.
Away they went, with such speed and noiselessness that they appeared not
to touch the ground.  From point to point of the rock they sprang, and
the last branchy head disappeared over the ridge, almost before Erica
could stand upright, to see all she could of them.

She soon discovered the cause of their alarm.  She thought it could not
have been herself; and it was not.  The traveller, who she had hoped was
now some way up the mountain, was standing on the margin of the tarn,
immediately opposite to her, so that the wind had carried the scent to
the herd.  The traveller saw her at the same moment that she perceived
him; but Erica did not discover this, and sank down again into the
grass, hoping so to remain undisturbed.  She could not thus observe what
his proceedings were; but her ear soon informed her that he was close
by.  His feet were rustling in the grass.

She sat up, and took her bundle and lure, believing now that she must
accept the unwelcome civility of an escort for the whole of the rest of
the way, and thinking that she might as well make haste, and get it
over.  The man, however, seemed in no hurry.  Before she could rise, he
took his seat on the huge stone beside her, crossed his arms, made no
greeting, but looked her full in the face.

She did not know the face, nor was it like any that she had ever seen.
There was such long hair, and so much beard, that the eyes seemed the
only feature which made any distinct impression.  Erica's heart now
began to beat violently.  Though wishing to be alone, she had not
dreamed of being afraid till now: but now it occurred to her that she
was seeing the rarest of sights--one not seen twice in a century; no
other than the mountain-demon.  Sulitelma, as the highest mountain in
Norway, was thought to be his favourite haunt; and considering his
strange appearance, and his silence, it could hardly be other than
himself.

The test would be whether he would speak first; a test which she
resolved to try, though it was rather difficult to meet and return the
stare of such a neighbour without speaking.  She could not keep this up
for more than a minute: so she sprang to her feet, rested her lure upon
her shoulder, took her bundle in her hand, and began to wade back
through the high grass to the pathway, almost expecting, when she
thought of her mother's fate, to be seized by a strong hand, and cast
into the unfathomable tarn, whose waters were said to well up from the
centre of the earth.  Her companion, however, merely walked by her side.
As he did not offer to carry her bundle, he could be no countryman of
hers.  There was not a peasant in Nordland who would not have had more
courtesy.

They walked quietly on till the tarn was left some way behind.  Erica
found she was not to die that way.  Presently after, they came in sight
of a settlement of Lapps,--a cluster of low and dirty tents, round which
some tame reindeer were feeding.  Erica was not sorry to see these;
though no one knew better than she the helpless cowardice of these
people; and it was not easy to say what assistance they could afford
against the mountain-demon.  Yet they were human beings, and would
appear in answer to a cry.  She involuntarily shifted her lure, to be
ready to utter a call.  The stranger stopped to look at the distant
tents, and Erica went on, at the same pace.  He presently overtook her,
and pointed towards the Lapps with an inquiring look.  Erica only
nodded.

"Why you no speak?" growled the stranger, in broken language.

"Because I have nothing to say," declared Erica, in the sudden vivacity
inspired by the discovery that this was probably no demon.  Her doubts
were renewed, however, by the next question.

"Is the bishop coming?"

Now, none were supposed to have a deeper interest in the holy bishop's
travels than the evil spirits of any region through which he was to
pass.

"Yes, he is coming," replied Erica.  "Are you afraid of him?"

The stranger burst into a loud laugh at her question: and very like a
mocking fiend he looked, as his thick beard parted to show his wide
mouth, with its two ranges of teeth.  When he finished laughing, he
said, "No, no--we no fear bishop."

"`We!'" repeated Erica to herself.  "He speaks for his tribe, as well as
himself."

"We no fear bishop," said the stranger, still laughing.  "You no
fear--?" and he pointed to the long stretch of path--the prodigious
ascent before them.

Erica said there was nothing to fear on the mountain for those who did
their duty to the powers, as it was her intention to do.  Her first
Gammel cheese was to be for him whose due it was; and it should be the
best she could make.

This speech she thought would suit, whatever might be the nature of her
companion.  If it was the demon, she could do no more to please him than
promise him his cheese.

Her companion seemed not to understand or attend to what she said.  He
again asked if she was not afraid to travel alone in so dreary a place,
adding, that if his countrywomen were to be overtaken by a stranger like
him, on the wilds of a mountain, they would scream and fly; all which he
acted very vividly, by way of making out his imperfect speech, and
trying her courage at the same time.

When Erica saw that she had no demon for a companion, but only a
foreigner, she was so much relieved as not to be afraid at all.  She
said that nobody thought of being frightened in summer time in her
country.  Winter was the time for that.  When the days were long, so
that travellers knew their way, and when everybody was abroad, so that
you could not go far without meeting a friend, there was nothing to
fear.

"You go abroad to meet friends, and leave your enemy behind."

At the moment, he turned to look back.  Erica could not now help
watching him, and she cast a glance homewards too.  They were so high up
the mountain that the fiord and its shores were in full view; and
more;--for the river was seen in its windings from the very skirts of
the mountain to the fiord, and the town of Saltdalen standing on its
banks.  In short, the whole landscape to the west lay before them, from
Sulitelma to the point of the horizon where the islands and rocks melted
into the sea.

The stranger had picked up an eagle's feather in his walk; and he now
pointed with it to the tiny cove in which Erlingsen's farm might be
seen, looking no bigger than an infant's toy, and said, "Do you leave an
enemy there, or is Hund now your friend?"

"Hund is nobody's friend, unless he happens to be yours," Erica replied,
perceiving at once that her companion belonged to the pirates.  "Hund is
everybody's enemy; and, above all, he is an enemy to himself.  He is a
wretched man."

"The bishop will cure that," said the stranger.  "He is coward enough to
call in the bishop to cure all.  When comes the bishop?"

"Next week."

"What day, and what hour?"

Erica did not choose to gratify so close a curiosity as this.  She did
not reply; and while silent, was not sorry to hear the distant sound of
cattle-bells, and Erlingsen's cattle-bells too.  The stranger did not
seem to notice the sound, even though quickening his pace to suit
Erica's, who pressed on faster when she believed protection was at hand.
And yet the next thing the stranger said brought her to a full stop.--
He said he thought a part of Hund's business with the bishop would be to
get him to disenchant the fiord, so that boats might not be spirited
away almost before men's eyes; and that a rower and his skiff might not
sink like lead one day, and the man be heard the second day, and seen
the third, so that there was no satisfactory knowledge as to whether he
was really dead.  Erica stopped, and her eager looks made the inquiry
which her lips could not speak.  Her eagerness put her companion on his
guard, and he would explain no further than by saying that the fiord was
certainly enchanted, and that strange tales were circulating all round
its shores--very striking to a stranger;--a stranger had nothing more to
do with the wonders of a country than to listen to them.  He wanted to
turn the conversation back to Hund.  Having found out that he was at
Erlingsen's, he next tried to discover what he had said and done since
his arrival.  Erica told the little there was to tell--that he seemed
full of sorrow and remorse.  She told this in hope of a further
explanation about drowned men being seen alive; but the stranger stopped
when the bells were heard again, and a woman's voice singing, nearer
still.  He complimented Erica on her courage, and turned to go back the
way he came.

"Stay," said Erica.  "Do come to the dairy, now you are so near."

The man walked away rapidly.

"My master is here close at hand; he will be glad to see a stranger,"
she said, following him, with the feeling that her only chance of
hearing something of Rolf was departing.  The stranger did not turn, but
only walked faster and with longer strides down the slope.

The only thing now to be done was to run forwards, and send a messenger
after him.  Erica forgot heat, weariness, and the safety of her
property, and ran on towards the singing voice.  In five minutes she
found the singer, Frolich, lying along the ground and picking
cloud-berries with which she was filling her basket for supper.

"Where is Erlingsen?--quick--quick!" cried Erica.

"My father?  You may just see him with your good eyes,--up there."

And Frolich pointed to a patch of verdure on a slope high up the
mountain, where the gazer might just discern that there were haycocks
standing, and two or three moving figures beside them.

"Stiorna is there to-day, besides Jan.  They hope to finish this
evening," said Frolich; "and so here I am, all alone: and I am glad you
have come to help me to have a good supper ready for them.  Their hunger
will beat all my berry-gathering."

"You are alone?" said Erica, discovering that it was well that the
pirate had turned back when he did.  "You alone, and gathering berries,
instead of having an eye on the cattle!  Who has an eye on the cattle!"
[Note 1.]

"Why, no one," answered Frolich.  "Come now, do not tease me with
bidding me remember the Bishop of Tronyem's cattle.  The underground
people have something to do elsewhere to-day; they give no heed to us."

"We must give heed to them, however," said Erica.  "Show me where the
cattle are, and I will collect them, and have an eye on them till supper
is ready."

"You shall do no such thing, Erica.  You shall lie down here and pick
berries with me, and tell me the news.  That will rest you and me at the
same time; for I am as tired of being alone as you can be of climbing
the mountain.--But why are your hands empty?  Who is to lend you
clothes?  And what will the cows say to your leaving your lure behind,
when you know they like it so much better than Stiorna's?"

Erica explained that her bundle and lure were lying on the grass, a
little way below; and Frolich sprang to her feet, saying that she would
fetch them presently.  Erica stopped her, and told her she must not go:
nobody should go but herself.  She could not answer to Erlingsen for
letting one of his children follow the steps of a pirate, who might
return at any moment.

Frolich had no longer any wish to go.  She started off towards the
sleeping-shed, and never stopped till she had entered it, and driven a
provision-chest against the door, leaving Erica far behind.

Erica, indeed, was in no hurry to follow.  She returned for her bundle
and lure: and then, uneasy about the cattle being left without an eye
upon them, and thus confided to the negligence of the underground
people, she proceeded to an eminence where two or three of her cows were
grazing, and there sounded her lure.  She put her whole strength to it,
in hope that others, besides the cattle, might appear in answer; for she
was really anxious to see her master.

The peculiar and far from musical sounds did spread wide over the
pastures, and up the slopes, and through the distant woods, so that the
cattle of another seater stood to listen, and her own cows began to
move,--leaving the sweetest tufts of grass, and rising up from their
couches in the richest herbage, to converge towards the point whence she
called.  The far-off herdsman observed to his fellow that there was a
new call among the pastures; and Erlingsen, on the upland, desired Jan
and Stiorna to finish cocking the hay, and began his descent to his
seater, to learn whether Erica had brought any news from home.

Long before he could appear, Frolich stole out trembling, and looking
round her at every step.  When she saw Erica, she flew over the grass,
and threw herself down in it at Erica's feet.

"Where is he?" she whispered.  "Has he come back?"

"I have not seen him.  I dare say he is as far off by this time as the
Black Tarn, where I met with him."

"The Black Tarn!  And do you mean that--no, you cannot mean that you
came all the way together from the Black Tarn hither.  Did you run?  Did
you fly?  Did you shriek?  Oh, what did you do?--with a pirate at your
heels!"

"By my side," said Erica.  "We walked and talked."

"With a pirate!  But how did you know it was a pirate?  Did he tell you
so?"

"No: and at first I thought,"--and she sank her voice into a reverential
whisper,--"I thought for some time it was the demon of this place.  When
I found it was only a pirate, I did not mind."

"Only a pirate!  Did not mind!" exclaimed Frolich.  "You are the
strangest girl!  You are the most perverse creature!  You think nothing
of a pirate walking at your elbow for miles, and you would make a slave
of yourself and me about these underground people, that my father laughs
at, and that nobody ever saw.--Ah! you say nothing aloud; but I know you
are saying in your own mind, `Remember the Bishop of Tronyem's cattle.'"

"You want news," said Erica, avoiding, as usual, all conversation about
her superstitions.  "How will it please you that the bishop is coming?"

"Very much, if we had any chance of seeing him.  Very much, whether we
see him or not, if he can give any help,--any advice...  My poor Erica,
I do not like to ask, but you have had no good news, I fear."

Erica shook her head.

"I saw that in your face, in a moment.  Do not speak about it till you
tell my father; he may help you--I cannot; so do not tell me anything."

Erica was glad to take her at her word.  She kissed Frolich's hand,
which lay on her knee, in token of thanks, and then inquired whether any
Gammel cheese was made yet.

"No," said Frolich, inwardly sighing for news.  "We have the whey, but
not sweet cream enough till after this evening's milking; so you are
just in time."

Erica was glad, as she could not otherwise have been sure of the demon
having his due.

"There is your father," said Erica.  "Now do go and gather more berries,
Frolich; there are not half enough, and you cannot be afraid of the
pirate, with your father within call.  Now do go."

"You want me not to hear what you have to tell my father," said Frolich,
unwilling to depart.

"That is very true.  I shall tell him nothing till you are out of
hearing; he can repeat to you what he pleases afterwards, and he will
indulge you all the more for your giving him a good supper."

"So he will, and I will fill his cup myself," observed Frolich.  "He
says the corn-brandy is uncommonly good, and I will fill his cup till it
will not hold another drop."

"You will not reach his heart that way, Frolich.  He knows to a drop
what his quantity is, and there he stops."

"I know where there are some manyberries [Note 2] ripe," said Frolich,
"and he likes them above all berries.  They lie this way, at the edge of
the swamp, where the pirate will never think of coming."

And off she went, as Erica rose from the grass to curtsey to Erlingsen
on his approach.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  It is a popular belief in Norway that there is a race of
fairies or magicians living underground, who are very covetous of
cattle; and that, to gratify their taste for large herds and flocks,
they help themselves with such as graze on the mountains; making dwarfs
of them to enable them to enter crevices of the ground, in order to
descend to the subterranean pastures.  This practice may be defeated, as
the Norwegian herdsman believes, by keeping his eye constantly on the
cattle.

A certain Bishop of Tronyem lost his cattle by the herdsmen having
looked away from them, beguiled by a spirit in the shape of a noble elk.
The herdsmen, looking towards their charge again, saw them reduced to
the size of mice, just vanishing through a crevice in the hill-side.
Hence the Norwegian proverb used to warn any one to look after his
property, "Remember the Bishop of Tronyem's cattle."

Note 2.  The Molteboeer, or Manyberries, so called from its clustered
appearance.  It is a delicious fruit, amber-coloured when ripe, and
growing in marshy ground.



CHAPTER ELEVEN.

DAIRY-MAIDS' TALK.

It may be supposed that Erlingsen was anxious to be at home, when he had
heard Erica's story.  He was not to be detained by any promise of
berries and cream for supper.  He put away the thought even of his hay,
yet unfinished on the upland, and would not hear nothing that Frolich
had to say of his fatigue at the end of a long working day.  He took
some provision with him, drank off a glass of corn-brandy, kissed
Frolich, promised to send news, and, if possible, more helping hands,
and set off, at a good pace, down the mountain.

The party he left behind was a dull one.  When Jan came in to supper he
became angry that he was left to get in the hay alone; even Stiorna
could not help him to-morrow, for the cheese-making had already been put
off too long while waiting for Erica's arrival, and it must now be
delayed no longer.  It was true some one was to be sent from below, but
such an one could not arrive before the next evening, and Jan would
meanwhile have a long day alone, instead of having, as hitherto, his
master for a comrade.  Stiorna, for her part, was offended at the wish,
openly expressed by all, that Hund might not be the person sent; she was
sure he was the only proper person, but she saw that he would meet with
no welcome, except from her.

Scarcely a word was spoken till Erica and Frolich were about their
cheese-making the next morning.  Erica had rather have kept the cattle,
but Frolich so earnestly begged that she would let Stiorna do that, as
she could not destroy the cattle in her ill-humour, while she might
easily spoil the cheese, that Erica put away her knitting, tied on her
apron, tucked up her sleeves, and prepared for the great work.

"There! let her go!" cried Frolich, looking after Stiorna, as she walked
away slowly, trailing her lure after her.  "She may knit all her
ill-humour into her stocking, if she likes, as Hund is to wear it, and
that is better than putting it into our cheese.  Erica," said the
kind-hearted girl.  "You are worth a hundred of her.  What has she to
disturb her, in comparison with you?--and yet you do just what I ask
you, and work at our business as if nothing was the matter.  If you
chose to cry all day on the two graves down there at home, nobody could
think it unreasonable."

Erica was washing the bowls and cheese-moulds in juniper-water at this
moment; and her tears streamed down upon them at Frolich's kind words.

"We had better not talk about such things, dear," said she, as soon as
she could speak.

"Nay, now, I think it is the best thing we can do, Erica.  Here, pour me
this cream into the pan over the fire, and I will stir, while you strain
some more whey.  My back is towards you, and I cannot see you; and you
can cry as you like, while I tell you all I think."

Erica found that this free leave to cry unseen was a great help towards
stopping her tears; and she ceased weeping entirely while listening to
all that Frolich had to say in favour of Rolf being still alive and
safe.  It was no great deal that could be said; only that Hund's news
was more likely to be false than true, and that there was no other
evidence of any accident having happened.

"My dear!" exclaimed Erica; "where is he now, then?--why is he not here?
O, Frolich!  I can hardly wonder that we are punished when I think of
our presumption.  When we were talking beside those graves on the day of
Ulla's funeral, he laughed at me for even speaking of death and
separation.  `What! at our age!' he said.  `Death at our age,--and
separation!'--and that with Henrica's grave before our eyes!"

"Then, perhaps, this will prove to be a short and gentle separation, to
teach him to speak more humbly.  There is no being in the universe that
would send death to punish light gay words, spoken from a joyful heart.
If there were, I and many others should have been in our graves long
since.  Why, Erica! this is even a worse reason than Hund's word.  Now,
just tell me, Erica, would you believe anything else that Hund said?"

"In a common way, perhaps not: but you cannot think what a changed man
he is, Frolich.  He is so humbled, so melancholy, so awe-struck, that he
is not like the same man."

"He may not be the better for that.  He was more frightened than anybody
at the moment the owl cried, on your betrothment night, when you fancied
that Nipen had carried off Oddo.  Yet never did I see Hund more
malicious than he was half an hour afterwards.  I doubt whether any such
fright would make a liar into a truthful man, in a moment."

Erica now remembered and told the falsehood of Hund about what he was
doing when the boat was spirited away:--a falsehood told in the very
midst of the humiliation and remorse she had described.

"Why there now!" exclaimed Frolich, ceasing her stirring for a moment to
look round; "what a capital story that is! and how few people know it!
and how neatly you catch him in his fib!  And why should not something
like it be happening now with Rolf?  Rolf knows all the ins and outs of
the fiord: and if he has been playing bo-peep with his enemies among the
islands, and frightening Hund, is it not the most natural thing in the
world that Hund should come scampering home, and get his place, and say
that he is lost, while waiting to see whether he is or not!--O dear!"
she exclaimed after a pause, during which Erica did not attempt to
speak, "I know what I wish."

"You wish something kind, dear, I am sure," said Erica, with a deep
sigh.

"We have so many,--so very many nice, useful things,--we can go up the
mountains and sail away over the seas,--and look far abroad into the
sky.  I only wish we could do one little thing more.  I really think,
having so many things, we might have had just one little thing more
given us;--and that is wings.  I grudge them to yonder screaming eagles,
when I want them so much."

"My dear child, what strange things you say?"

"I do so very much want to fly abroad, just for once, over the fiord.
If I could but look down into every nook and cove between Thor Islet and
the sea, I would not be long in bringing you news.  If I did not see
Rolf, I would tell you plainly.  Really, at such times it seems very odd
that we have not wings."

"Perhaps the time may come, dear."

"I can never want them so much again."

"My dear, you cannot want them as I do, if I dared to say such bold
things as you do.  You are not weary of the world, Frolich."

"What! this beautiful world?  Are you weary of it all, Erica?"

"Yes, dear."

"What! of the airy mountains, and the silent forests, and the lonely
lakes, and the blue glaciers, with flowers fringing them?  Are you quite
weary of all these?"

"O that I had wings like a dove!  Then would I flee away, and be at
rest."  Erica hardly murmured these words; but Frolich caught them.

"Do you know," said she, softly, after a pause, "I doubt whether we can
find rest by going to any place, in this world or out of it, unless--
if--The truth is, Erica, I know my father and mother think that people
who are afraid of selfish and revengeful spirits, such as demons and
Nipen, can never have any peace of mind.  Really religious people have
their way straight before them;--they have only to do right, and God is
their friend, and they can bear everything, and fear nothing.  But the
people about us are always in a fright about some selfish being or
another not being properly humoured, and so being displeased.  I would
not be in such bondage, Erica,--no, not for the wings I was longing for
just now.  I should be freer if I were rooted like a tree, and without
superstition, than if I had the wings of an eagle, with a belief in
selfish demons."

"Let us talk of something else," said Erica, who was at the very moment
considering where the mountain-demon would best like to have his Gammel
cheese laid.  "What is the quality of the cream, Frolich?  Is it as good
as it ought to be?"

"Stiorna would say that the demon will smack his lips over it.  Come and
taste."

"Do not speak so, dear."

"I was only quoting Stiorna--"

"What are you saying about me?" inquired Stiorna, appearing at the door.
"Only talking about the cream and the cheese?  Are you sure of that?
Bless me! what a smell of the yellow flowers!  It will be a prime
cheese."

"How can you leave the cattle, Stiorna?" cried Erica.  "If they are all
gone when you get back--"

"Well, come, then, and see the sight.  I get scolded either way, always.
You would have scolded me finely to-night if I had not called you to
see the sight--"

"What sight?"

"Why there is such a procession of boats on the fiord, that you would
suppose there were three weddings happening at once."

"What can we do?" exclaimed Frolich, dolefully looking at the cream,
which had reached such a point as that the stirring could not cease for
a minute without risk of spoiling the cheese.

Erica took the long wooden spoon from Frolich's hand, and bade her run
and see where the bishop was going to land.  The cream should not spoil
while she was absent.

Frolich bounded away over the grass, declaring that if it was the
bishop, going to her father's, she could not possibly stay on the
mountain for all the cheeses in Nordland.--Erica remained alone,
patiently stirring the cream, and hardly heeding the heat of the fire,
while planning how the bishop would be told her story, and how he would
examine Hund, and perhaps be able to give some news of the pirates, and
certainly be ready with his advice.  Some degree of hope arose within
her as she thought of the esteem in which all Norway held the wisdom and
kindness of the bishop of Tronyem: and then again she felt it hard to be
absent during the visit of the only person to whom she looked for
comfort.

Frolich returned after a long while, to defer her hopes a little.  The
boats had all drawn to shore on the northern side of the fiord, where,
no doubt, the bishop had a visit to pay before proceeding to
Erlingsen's.  The cheese-making might yet be done in time, even if
Frolich should be sent for home, to see and be seen by the good bishop.



CHAPTER TWELVE.

PEDER ABROAD.

The day after Erica's departure to the dairy, Peder was sitting alone in
his house, weaving a frail-basket.  Sometimes he sighed to think how
empty and silent the house appeared to what he had ever known it before.
Ulla's wheel stood in the corner, and was now never to be heard, any
more than her feeble, aged voice, which had sung ballads to the last.
Erica's light, active step was gone for the present, and would it ever
again be as light and active as it had been?  Rolf's hearty laugh was
silent; perhaps for ever.  Oddo was an inmate still, but Oddo was much
altered of late, and who could wonder?  Though the boy was strangely
unbelieving about some things, he could not but feel how wonders and
misfortunes had crowded upon one another since the night of his defiance
of Nipen.

From the hour of Hund's return, the boy had hardly been heard to speak.
All these thoughts were too melancholy for old Peder, and, to break the
silence, he began to sing as he wove his basket.

He had nearly got through a ballad of a hundred and five stanzas, when
he heard a footstep on the floor.

"Oddo, my boy," said he, "surely you are in early.  Can it be
dinner-time yet?"

"No, not this hour," replied Oddo, in a low voice, which sank to a
whisper as he said, "I have left Hund laying the troughs to water the
meadow, and if he misses me, I don't care.  I could not stay;--I could
not help coming;--and if he kills me for telling you, he may, for tell
you I must."

And Oddo went to close and fasten the door, and then he sat down on the
ground, rested his arms on his grandfather's knees, and told his story
in such a low tone that no "little bird" under the eaves could "carry
the matter."

"O grandfather, what a mind that fellow has! he will go crazy with
horror soon.  I am not sure that he is not crazy now."

"He has murdered Rolf, has he?"

"I can't be sure, but the oddest thing is that he mixes up wolves with
his rambling talk.  Rolf can hardly have met with mischief from any wolf
at this season."

"No, boy; not Rolf.  But did not.  Hund speak of orphan children, and
how wolves have been known to devour them when snow was on the ground?"

"Why, yes," said Oddo, surprised at such a guess.

"There was a reason for Hund's talking so of wolves, my dear.  Tell me
quick what he said of Rolf, and what made him say anything to you,--to
an inquisitive boy like you."

"He is like one bewitched, that cannot hold his tongue.  While I was
bringing the troughs, one by one, for him to lay, where the meadow was
dryest, he still kept muttering and muttering to himself.  As often as I
came within six yards of him, I heard him mutter, mutter; then, when I
helped him to lay the troughs, he began to talk to me.  I was not in the
mind to make him many answers, but on he went, just the same as if I had
asked him a hundred questions."

"It was such an opportunity for a curious boy, that I wonder you did
not."

"Perhaps I might, if he had stopped long enough.  But if he stopped for
a moment to wipe his brows, he began again before I could well speak.
He asked me whether I had ever heard that drowned men could show their
heads above water, and stare with their eyes, and throw their arms
about, a whole day,--two days, after they were drowned."

"Ay! indeed!  Did he ask that?"

"Yes, and several other things: he asked whether I had ever heard that
the islets in the fiord were so many prison-houses."

"And what did you say?"

"I wanted him to explain; so I said they were prison-houses to the
eider-ducks when they were sitting, for they never stir a yard from
their nests.  But he did not heed a word I spoke; he went on about
drowned men being kept prisoners in the islets, moaning because they
can't get out.  And he says they will knock, knock, as if they could
cleave the thick hard rock."

"What do you think of all this, my boy?"

"Why, when I said I had not heard a word of any such thing, even from my
grandmother or Erica, he declared he had heard the moans himself,--
moaning and crying; but then he mixed up something about the barking of
wolves that made confusion in the story.  Though he had been hot just
before, there he stood shivering, as if it was winter, as he stood in
the broiling sun.  Then I asked him if he had seen dead men swim and
stare, as he said he had heard them moan and cry."

"And what did he say then?"

"He started bolt upright, as if I had been picking his pocket.  He was
in a passion for a minute, I know, if ever he was in his life.  Then he
tried to laugh as he said what a lot of new stories--stories of spirits,
such stories as people love--he should have to carry home to the north,
whenever he went back to his own place."

"In the north,--his own place in the north!  He wanted to mislead you
there, boy.  Hund was born some way to the south."

"No, was he really?  How is one to believe a word he says, except when
he speaks as if he was in his asleep,--straight out from his conscience,
I suppose?  He began to talk about the bishop next, wanting to know when
I thought he would come, and whether he was apt to hold private talk
with every sort of person at the houses he stayed at."

"How did you answer him?  You know nothing about the bishop's visits."

"So I told him: but, to try him, I said I knew one thing,--that a
quantity of fresh fish would be wanted when the bishop comes with his
train; and I asked him whether he would go fishing with me, as soon as
we should hear that the bishop was drawing near."

"He would not agree to that, I fancy."

"He asked how far out I thought of going.  Of course I said to Vogel
islet,--at least as far as Vogel islet.  Do you know, grandfather, I
thought he would have knocked me down at the word.  He muttered
something, I could not hear what, to get off.  By that time we were
laying the last trough.  I asked him to go for some more, and the minute
he was out of sight I scampered here.  Now, what sort of a mind do you
think this fellow has?"

"Not an easy one, it is plain.  It is too clear also that he thinks Rolf
is drowned."

"But do you think so, grandfather?"

"Do you think so, grandson?"

"Not a bit of it.  Depend upon it, Rolf is all alive, if he is swimming
and staring, and throwing his arms about in the water.  I think I see
him now.  And I will see him, if he is to be seen, alive or dead."

"And pray, how?"

"I ought to have said if you will help me.  You say, sometimes,
grandfather, that you can pull a good stroke with the oar still: and I
can steer as well as our master himself: and the fiord never was stiller
than it is to-day.  Think what it would be to bring home Rolf, or some
good news of him.  We would have a race up to the seater afterwards to
see who could be the first to tell Erica."

"Gently, gently, boy!  What is Rolf about not to come home, if he's
alive?"

"That we shall learn from him.  Did you hear that he told Erica he
should go as far as Vogel islet, dropping something about being safe
there from pirates and everything?"

Peder really thought there was something in this.  He sent off Oddo to
his work in the little meadow, and himself sought out Madame Erlingsen,
who, having less belief in spirits and enchantments than Peder, was in
proportion more struck with the necessity of seeing whether there was
any meaning in Hund's revelations, lest Rolf should be perishing for
want of help.  The story of his disappearance had spread through the
whole region; and there was not a fisherman on the fiord who had not, by
this time, given an opinion as to how he was drowned.  But Madame was
well aware that, if he were only wrecked, there was no sign that he
could make that would not terrify the superstitious minds of the
neighbours, and make them keep aloof, instead of helping him.  In
addition to all this, it was doubtful whether his signals would be seen
by anybody, at a season when every one who could be spared was gone up
to the dairies.

As soon as Hund was gone out after dinner, the old man and his grandson
put off in the boat, carrying a note from Madame Erlingsen to her
neighbours along the fiord, requesting the assistance of one or two
rowers on an occasion which might prove one of life and death.  The
neighbours were obliging.  The Holbergs sent a stout farm-servant with
directions to call at a cousin's, lower down, for a boatman; so that the
boat was soon in fast career down the fiord,--Oddo full of expectation,
and of pride in commanding such an expedition; and Peter being relieved
from all necessity of rowing more than he liked.

Oddo had found occasionally the truth of a common proverb; he had easily
brought his master's horses to the water, but could not make them drink.
He now found that he had easily got rowers into the boat, but that it
was impossible to make them row beyond a certain point.  He had used as
much discretion as Peder himself about not revealing the precise place
of their destination; and when Vogel islet came in sight, the two
helpers at once gave him hints to steer so as to keep as near the shore,
and as far from the island, as possible.  Oddo gravely steered for the
island, notwithstanding.  When the men saw that this was his resolution,
they shipped their oars, and refused to strike another stroke, unless
one of them might steer.  That island had a bad reputation: it was
bewitched or haunted; and in that direction the men would not go.  They
were willing to do all they could to oblige: they would row twenty miles
without resting, with pleasure; but they would not brave Nipen, nor any
other demon, for any consideration.

"How far off is it, Oddo?" asked Peder.

"Two miles, grandfather.  Can you and I manage it by ourselves, think
you?"

"Ay, surely, if we can land these friends of ours.  They will wait
ashore till we call for them again."

"I will leave you my supper if you will wait for us here, on this
headland," said Oddo to the men.

The men could make no other objection than that they were certain the
boat would never return.  They were very civil--would not accept Oddo's
supper on any account--would remain on the watch--wished their friends
would be persuaded; and, when they found all persuasion in vain,
declared they would bear testimony to Erica, and as long as they should
live, to the bravery of the old man and boy who thus threw away their
lives in search of a comrade who had fallen a victim to Nipen.

Amidst these friendly words the old man and his grandson put off once
more alone, making straight for the islet.  Of the two Peder was the
greater hero, for he saw the most ground for fear.

"Promise me, Oddo," said she, "not to take advantage of my not seeing.
As sure as you observe anything strange, tell me exactly what you see."

"I will, grandfather.  There is nothing yet but what is so beautiful
that I could not, for the life of me, find out anything to be afraid of.
The water is as green as our best pasture, as it washes up against the
grey rock.  And that grey rock is all crested and tufted with green
again wherever a bush can spring.  It is all alive with sea-birds, as
white as snow, as they wheel about it in the sun."

"'Tis the very place," said Peder, putting new strength into his old
arm.  Oddo rowed stoutly too for some way, and then he stopped to ask on
what side the remains of a birch ladder used to hang down, as Peder had
often told him.

"On the north side; but there is no use in looking for that, my boy.
That birch ladder must have rotted away with frost and wet long and long
ago."

"It is likely," said Oddo; "but thinking that some man must have put it
there, I should like to see whether it really is impossible for one with
a strong hand and light foot to mount this wall.  I brought our longest
boat-hook on purpose to try.  Where a ladder hung before, a foot must
have climbed; and if I mount, Rolf may have mounted before me."

It chilled Peder's heart to remember the aspect of the precipice which
his boy talked of climbing; but he said nothing, feeling that it would
be in vain.  This forbearance touched Oddo's feelings.

"I will run into no folly, trust me," said he.  "I do not forget that
you depend on me for getting home; and that the truth, about Nipen and
such things, depends, for an age to come, on our being seen at home
again safe.  But I have a pretty clear notion that Rolf is somewhere on
the top there."

"Suppose you call him, then."

Oddo had much rather catch him.  He pictured to himself the pride and
pleasure of mastering the ascent; the delight of surprising Rolf asleep
in his solitude, and the fun of standing over him to waken him, and
witness his surprise.  He could not give up the attempt to scale the
rock: but he would do it very cautiously.

Slowly and watchfully they passed round the islet, Oddo seeking with his
eye any ledge of the rock on which he might mount.  Pulling off his
shoes, that his bare feet might have the better hold, and stripping off
almost all his clothes, for lightness in climbing, and perhaps swimming,
he clambered up to more than one promising spot, and then, finding that
further progress was impossible, had to come down again.  At last;
seeing a narrow chasm filled with leafy shrubs, he determined to try how
high he could reach by means of these.  He swung himself up by means of
a bush which grew downwards, having its roots firmly fixed in a crevice
of the rock.  This gave him hold of another, which brought him in reach
of a third; so that, making his way like a squirrel or a monkey, he
found himself hanging at such a height, that it seemed easier to go on
than to turn back.  For some time after leaving his grandfather, he had
spoken to him, as an assurance of his safety.  When too far off to
speak, he had sung aloud, to save the old man from fears; and now that
he did not feel at all sure whether he should ever get up or down, he
began to whistle cheerily.  He was pleased to hear it answered from the
boat.  The thought of the old man sitting there alone, and his return
wholly depending upon the safety of his companion, animated Oddo afresh
to find a way up the rock.  It looked to him as like a wall as any other
rock about the islet.  There was no footing where he was looking;--that
was certain.  So he advanced farther into the chasm, where the rocks so
nearly met that a giant's arm might have touched the opposite wall.
Here there was promise of release from his dangerous situation.  At the
end of a ledge, he saw something like poles hanging on the rock,--some
work of human hands, certainly.  Having scrambled towards them, he found
the remains of a ladder, made of birch poles, fastened together with
thongs of leather.  This ladder had once, no doubt, hung from top to
bottom of the chasm; and its lower part, now gone, was that ladder of
which Peder had often spoken as a proof that men had been on the island.

With a careful hand, Oddo pulled at the ladder; and it did not give way.
He tugged harder, and still it only shook.  He must try it; there was
nothing else to be done.  It was well for him now that he was used to
dangerous climbing,--that he had had adventures on the slippery, cracked
glaciers of Sulitelma, and that being on a height with precipices below,
was no new situation to him.  He climbed, trusting as little as possible
to the ladder, setting his foot in preference on any projection of the
rock, or any root of the smallest shrub.  More than one pole cracked:
more than one fastening gave way, when he had barely time to shift his
weight upon a better support.  He heard his grandfather's voice calling,
and he could not answer.  It disturbed him, now that his joints were
strained, his limbs trembling, and his mouth parched so that his breath
rattled as it came.

He reached the top, however.  He sprang from the edge of the precipice,
unable to look down, threw himself on his face, and panted and trembled,
as if he had never before climbed anything less safe than a staircase.
Never before, indeed, had he done anything like this.  The feat was
performed,--the islet was not to him inaccessible.  This thought gave
him strength.  He sprang to his feet again, and whistled loud and
shrill.  He could imagine the comfort this must be to Peder; and he
whistled more and more merrily till he found himself rested enough to
proceed on his search for Rolf.

Never had he seen a place so full of water-birds and their nests.  Their
nests strewed all the ground; and they themselves were strutting and
waddling, fluttering and vociferating in every direction.  They were
perfectly tame, knowing nothing of men, and having had no experience of
disturbance.  The ducks that were leading their broods allowed Oddo to
stroke their feathers; and the drakes looked on, without taking any
offence.

"If Rolf is here," thought Oddo, "he has been living on most amiable
terms with his neighbours."

After an anxious thought or two of Nipen,--after a glance or two round
the sky and shores for a sign of wind,--Oddo began in earnest his quest
of Rolf.  He called his name,--gently,--then louder.

There was some kind of answer.  Some sound of human voice he heard, he
was certain; but so muffled, so dull, that whence it came he could not
tell.  It might even be his grandfather, calling from below.  So he
crossed to quite the verge of the little island, wishing with all his
heart that the birds would be quiet, and cease their civility of all
answering when he spoke.  When quite out of hearing of Peder, Oddo
called again, with scarcely a hope of any result, so plain was it to his
eyes that no one resided on the island.  On its small summit there was
really no intermission of birds' nests;--no space where any one had lain
down;--no sign of habitation,--no vestige of food, dress, or utensils.
With a saddened heart, therefore, Oddo called again; and again he was
sure there was an answer; though whence and what he could not make out.
He then sang a part of a chant that he had learned by Rolf singing it as
he sat carving his share of the new pulpit.  He stopped in the middle,
and presently believed that he heard the air continued, though the voice
seemed so indistinct, and the music so much as if it came from
underground, that Oddo began to recall, with some doubt and fear, the
stories of the enchantment of the place.  It was not long before he
heard a cry from the water below.  Looking over the precipice he saw
what made him draw back in terror: he saw the very thing Hund had
described,--the swimming and staring head of Rolf, and the arms thrown
up in the air.  Not having Hund's conscience, however, and having much
more curiosity, he looked again; and then a third time.

"Are you Rolf, really?" asked he, at last.

"Yes; but who are you,--Oddo or the demon,--up there where nobody can
climb?  Who are you?"

"I will show you.  We will find each other out," thought Oddo, with a
determination to take the leap, and ascertain the truth.  He leaped, and
struck the water at a sufficient distance from Rolf.  When he came up
again, they approached each other, staring, and each with some doubt as
to whether the other was human or a demon.

"Are you really alive, Rolf?" said the one.

"To be sure I am, Oddo," said the other: "but what demon carried you to
the top of that rock, that no man ever climbed?"

Oddo looked mysterious, suddenly resolving to keep his secret for the
present.

"Not that way," said Rolf.  "I have not the strength I had, and I can't
swim round the place now.  I was just resting myself when I heard you
call, and came out to see.  Follow me home."

He turned, and began to swim homewards.  Oddo had the strongest
inclination to go with him, to see what would be revealed; but there
were two objections.  His grandfather must be growing anxious; and he
was not perfectly sure yet whether his guide might not be Nipen in
Rolf's likeness, about to lead him to some hidden prison.

"Give me your hand, Rolf," said the boy, bravely.

It was a real, substantial, warm hand.

"I don't wonder you doubt," said Rolf.  "I can't look much like
myself,--unshaven, and shrunk, and haggard as my face must be."

Oddo was now quite satisfied; and he told of the boat and his
grandfather.  The boat was scarcely farther off than the cave; and poor
Rolf was almost in extremity for drink.  The water and brandy he brought
with him had been finished, nearly two days, and he was suffering
extremely from thirst.  He thought he could reach the boat, and Oddo led
the way, bidding him not mind his being without clothes till they could
find him some.

Glad was the old man to hear his boy's call from the water: and his face
lighted up with wonder and pleasure when he heard that Rolf was not far
behind.  He lent a hand to help him into the boat, and asked no
questions till he had given him food and drink.  He reproached himself
for having brought neither camphor nor asafoetida, to administer with
the corn-brandy.  Here was the brandy, however; and some water, and
fish, and bread, and cloud-berries.  Great was the amazement of Peder
and Oddo at Rolf's pushing aside the brandy, and seizing the water.
When he had drained the last drop, he even preferred the cloud-berries
to the brandy.  A transient doubt thence occurred whether this was Rolf
after all.  Rolf saw it in their faces, and laughed: and when they had
heard his story of what he had suffered from thirst, they were quite
satisfied, and wondered no longer.

He was all impatience to be gone.  It tried him more now to think how
long it would be before Erica could hear of his preservation than to
bear all that had gone before.  Being without clothes, however, it was
necessary to visit the cave, and bring away what was there.  In truth,
Oddo was not sorry for this.  His curiosity about the cave was so great,
that he felt it impossible to go home without seeing it; and the
advantage of holding the secret knowledge of such a place was one which
he would not give up.  He seized an oar, gave another to Rolf; and they
were presently off the mouth of the cave.  Peder sighed at their having
to leave him again: but he believed what Rolf said of there being no
danger, and of their remaining close at hand.  One or the other came
popping up beside the boat, every minute, with clothes, or net, or
lines, or brandy-flask, and finally with the oars of the poor broken
skiff; being obliged to leave the skiff itself behind.  Rolf did not
forget to bring away whole handsful of beautiful shells, which he had
amused himself with collecting for Erica.

At last, they entered the boat again; and while they were dressing, Oddo
charmed his grandfather with a description of the cave,--of the dark,
sounding walls, the lofty roof, and the green tide breaking on the white
sands.  It almost made the listener cool to hear of these things: but,
as Oddo had remarked, the heat had abated.  It was near midnight, and
the sun was going to set.  Their row to the shore would be in the cool
twilight: and then they should take in companions, who, fresh from rest,
would save them the trouble of rowing home.

When all were too tired to talk, and the oars were dipping somewhat
lazily, and the breeze had died away, and the sea-birds were quiet, old
Peder, who appeared to his companions to be asleep, raised his head, and
said, "I heard a sob.  Are you crying, Oddo?"

"Yes, grandfather."

"What is your grief, my boy?"

"No grief--anything but grief now.  I have felt more grief than you know
of though, or anybody.  I did not know it fully myself till now."

"Right, my boy: and right to say it out, too."

"I don't care now who knows how miserable I have been.  I did not
believe, all the time, that Nipen had anything to do with these
misfortunes--"

"Right, Oddo," exclaimed Rolf, now.

"But I was not quite certain: and how could I say a word against it when
I was the one to provoke Nipen?  Now Rolf is safe, and Erica will be
happy again, and I shall not feel as if everybody's eyes were upon me,
and know that it is only out of kindness that they do not reproach me as
having done all the mischief.  I shall hold up my head again now, as
some may think I have done all along: but I did not in my own eyes,--no,
not in my own eyes, for all these weary days that are gone."

"Well, they are gone now," said Rolf.  "Let them go by and be
forgotten."

"Nay,--not forgotten," said Peder.  "How is my boy to learn if he
forgets--"

"Don't fear that for me, grandfather," said Oddo, as the tears still
streamed down his face.  "No fear of that.  I shall not forget these
last days,--no, not as long as I live."



CHAPTER THIRTEEN.

PLOT AND COUNTERPLOT.

The comrades who were waiting and watching on the point were duly amazed
to see three heads in the boat on her return; and duly delighted to find
that the third was Rolf,--alive, and no ghost.  They asked question upon
question, and Rolf answered some fully and truly, while he showed
reserve upon others; and at last, when closely pressed, he declared
himself too much exhausted to talk, and begged permission to lie down in
the bottom of the boat and sleep.  Upon this, a long silence ensued.  It
lasted till the farm-house was in sight at which one of the rowers was
to be landed.  Oddo then exclaimed, "I wonder what we have all been
thinking about.  We have not settled a single thing about what is to be
said and done; and here we are almost in sight of home, and Hund's
cunning eyes."

"I have settled all about it," replied Rolf, raising himself up from the
bottom of the boat, where they all thought he had been sleeping soundly.
"My mind," said he, "is quite clear.  The first thing I have decided
upon is that I may rely on the honour of our friends here.  You have
proved your kindness, friends, in coming on this expedition, but for
which I should have died in my hole, like a superannuated bear in its
den.  This is a story that the whole country will hear of; and our
grandchildren will tell it on winter nights, when there is talk of the
war that brought the pirates on our coasts.  Your names will go abroad
with the story, comrades, and, on one condition, with high honour: and
that condition is, that you say not a word beyond the family you live
in, for the next few days, of the adventure of this night, or of your
having seen me.  More depends on this than you know of now; more than I
will tell, this day, to any person but my master.  My good old friend
there will help me to a meeting with my master, without asking a
question as to what I have to say to him.  Will you not, Peder?"

"Surely.  I have no doubt you are right," replied Peder.

The neighbours were rather sorry, but they could not object.  They
smiled at Oddo, and nodded encouragement, when he implored Rolf to fix a
time when everything might be known, and to answer just this and just
that little inquiry.

"Oddo," said his grandfather, "be a man among us men.  Show that your
honour is more to you than your curiosity."

"Thank you, grandfather, I will.  I will ask only one more question; and
that Rolf will thank me for.  Had we not better fix some place, far away
from Hund's eyes and thoughts, for my master and Rolf to have their
talk; and then I will guide my master--"

"Guide your master," cried Rolf, laughing, "when your master knew every
rock and every track in the country years enough before you were born!"

"You did not let me finish," said Oddo.  "You may want a messenger,--he
or you; and I know every track in the country: and there is no one
swifter of foot, or that can keep counsel better."

"That is true, Rolf," said Peder.  "If the boy is too curious to know
everything, it is not for the sake of telling it again.  If you should
happen to want a messenger, it may be worth attending to what he says."

"I have no objection to add that to my plan, if Erlingsen pleases," said
Rolf.  "I must see Erlingsen; but there is another person that I must
make haste to see,--that I would fly to if I could.  What I wish is,
that my master would meet me on the road to where she is; supposing Hund
to remain at home."

He was told that there was no fear of Hund's roving while the bishop was
daily expected.  Rolf having been out of the way, the whole story of the
journey of the bishop of Tronyem had to be told him.  It made him
thoughtful; and he dropped a word or two of satisfaction, as if it had
thrown new light upon what he was thinking of.

"All this," said he, "only makes me wish the more to see Erlingsen
immediately.  I should say the best way will be for you to set me ashore
somewhere short of home, and ask Erlingsen to meet me at the Black Tarn.
There cannot be a quieter place: and I shall be so far on my way to the
seater."

"If you will just make a looking-glass of the Black Tarn," said Oddo,
"you will see that you have no business to carry such a face as yours to
the seater.  Erica will die of terror at you for the mountain-demon,
before you can persuade her it is only you."

"I was thinking," observed one of the rowers, who relished the idea of
going down to posterity in a wonderful story,--"I was just thinking that
your wisest way will be to take a rest in my bed at Holberg's, without
anybody knowing, and shave yourself with my razor, and dress in my
Sunday clothes, and so show yourself to your betrothed in such a trim as
that she will be glad to see you."

"Do so, Rolf," urged Peder.  Everybody said "Do so," and agreed that
Erica would suffer far less by remaining five or six hours longer in her
present state of mind, than by seeing her lover look like a ghastly
savage, or perhaps hearing that he was lying by the roadside, dying of
his exertions to reach her.  Rolf tried to laugh at all this: but he
could not contradict it.  He would not hear a word of any messenger
being sent.  He declared that it would only torment her, as she would
not believe in his return till she saw him: and he dropped something
about everybody being so wanted at home that nobody ought to stray.

All took place as it was settled in the boat.  Before the people on
Holberg's farm had come in to breakfast, Rolf was snug in bed, with a
large pitcher of whey by the bedside, to quench his still insatiable
thirst.  No one but the Holbergs knew of his being there; and he got
away unseen in the afternoon, rested, shaven, and dressed, so as to look
more like himself, though still haggard.  Packing his old clothes into a
bundle, which he carried with a stick over his shoulder, and laden with
nothing else but a few rye-cakes, and a flask of the everlasting
corn-brandy, he set forth, thanking his hosts very heartily for their
care, and somewhat mysteriously assuring them that they would hear
something soon, and that meantime they had better not have to be sought
far from home.

As he expected, he met no one whom he knew.  Nine-tenths of the
neighbours were far away on the seaters, and of the small remainder,
almost all were attending the bishop on the opposite shore of the lake.
Rolf shook his head at every deserted farm-house that he passed,
thinking how the pirates might ransack the dwellings, if they should
happen to discover that few inhabitants remained in them but those whose
limbs were too old to climb the mountain.  He shook his head again when
he thought what consternation he might spread through these dwellings by
dropping at the doors the news of how near the pirate-schooner lay.  It
seemed to be out of the people's minds now because it was out of sight,
and the bishop had become visible instead.  As for the security which
some talked of from there being so little worth taking in the Nordland
farm-houses,--this might be true if only one house was to be attacked,
and that one defended: but half-a-dozen ruffians, coming ashore, to
search eight or ten undefended houses in a day, might gather enough
booty to pay them for their trouble.  Of money they would find little or
none; but in some families there were gold chains, crosses, and
ear-rings, which had come down from a remote generation, or silver
goblets and tankards.  There were goats worth carrying away for their
milk, and spirited horses and their harness, to sell at a distance.
There were stores of the finest bed and table linen in the world; sacks
of flour, cellars full of ale, kegs of brandy, and a mass of tobacco in
every house.  Fervently did Rolf wish, as he passed by these comfortable
dwellings, that the enemy would cast no eye or thought upon their
comforts till he should have given such information in the proper
quarters as should deprive them of the power of doing mischief in this
neighbourhood.

Leaving the last of the farm-houses behind, he ascended the ravine, and
came out upon the expanse of rich herbage which Erica had trodden but a
few days before.  He thought, as she had done, of his own description of
their journeying together to the seater, and of the delight with which
she would leap from the cart to walk with him on the first sight of the
waving grass upon the upland.  His heart beat joyously at the thought,
instead of mourning like hers.  He was transported with happiness when
he thought how near he was to her now, and on the eve of a season of
delight,--a few balmy summer weeks upon the pastures, to be followed by
his marriage.  This affair of the pirates once finished, was ever man so
happy as he was going to be?  The thought made him spring as lightly
through the tall grass that lay between him and the Black Tarn as the
reindeer from point to point of the mountain steep.

The breeze blew in his face, refreshing him with its coolness, and with
the fragrance of the birch, with which it was loaded.  But it brought
something else,--a transient sound which surprised Rolf,--voices of men,
who seemed, if he could judge from so rapid a hint, to be talking
angrily.  He began to consider whom, besides Oddo, Erlingsen could have
thought it safe or necessary to bring with him, or whether it was
somebody met with by chance.  At all events, it would be wisest not to
show himself, and to approach with all possible caution.  Cautiously,
therefore, he drew near, keeping a vigilant watch all around, and ready
to pop down into the grass on any alarm.  Being unable to see any one
near the tarn, he was convinced the talkers must be seated under the
crags on its margin, and he therefore made a circuit, to get behind the
rocks, and then climbed a huge fragment, which seemed to have been
toppled down from some steep, and to have rolled to the brink of the
water.  Two stunted pines grew out from the summit of this crag, and
between these pines Rolf placed himself, and looked down from thence.

Two men sat on the ground in the shadow of the rock: one was Hund, and
the other must undoubtedly be one of the pirate crew.  His dress, arms,
and broken language all showed him to be so; and it was, in fact, the
same man that Erica had met near the same place; though that she had had
such an adventure was the last thing her lover dreamed of as he surveyed
the man's figure from above.  This man appeared surly.  Hund was
extremely agitated.

"It is very hard," said he, "when all I want is to do no harm to
anybody,--neither to my old friends nor my new acquaintances,--that I
cannot be let alone.  I have done too much mischief in my life already.
The demons have made sport of me;--it is their sport that I have as many
lives to answer for as any man of twice my age in Nordland; and now that
I would be harmless for the rest of my days--"

"Don't trouble yourself to talk about your days," interrupted the
pirate; "they will be too _few_ to be worth speaking of, if you do not
put yourself under our orders again.  You are a deserter; and as a
deserter you go back with me, unless you choose to go as a comrade."

"And what might I expect that your orders would be, if I went with you?"

"You know very well that we want you for a guide.  That is all you are
worth.  In a fight, you would only be in the way, unless--indeed, you
could contrive to get out of the way."

"Then you would not expect me to fight against my master and his
people?"

"Nobody was ever so foolish as to expect you to fight, more or less, I
should think.  No; your business would be to pilot us to Erlingsen's,
and answer truly all our questions about their ways and doings."

"Surprise them in their sleep!" muttered Hund.  "Wake them up with the
light of their own burning roofs!  And they would know me by that light!
They would point me out to the bishop;--they would find time in their
hurry to mark me for the monster they might well think me."

"Yes; you would be in the front, of course," observed the pirate.  "But
there is one comfort for you,--if you are so earnest to see the bishop
as you told me you were, my plan is the best.  When once we lock him
down on board our schooner, you can have him all to yourself.  You can
confess your sins to him the whole day long; for nobody else will want a
word with either of you.  You can show him your enchanted island down in
the fiord, and see if he can lay the ghost for you."

Hund sprang to his feet in an agony of passion.  The well-armed pirate
was up as soon as he.  Rolf drew back two paces to be out of sight, if
by chance they should look up, and armed himself with a heavy stone.  He
heard the pirate say--

"You can try to run away, if you like.  I shall shoot you through the
head before you have gone five yards.  And you may refuse to return with
me; and then I shall know how to report of you to my captain.  I shall
tell him that you are lying at the bottom of this lake--if it has a
bottom--with a stone tied round your neck, like a drowned wild cat.  I
hope you may chance to find your enemy there, to make the place the
pleasanter."

Rolf could not resist the impulse to send his heavy stone into the
middle of the tarn, to see the effect upon the men below.  He gave a
good cast on the very instant, and prodigious was the splash as the
stone hit the water precisely in the middle of the little lake.  The men
did not see the cause of the commotion that followed; but, starting and
turning at the splash, they saw the rings spreading in the dark waters
which had lain as still as the heavens but a moment before.  How could
two guilty, superstitious men doubt that the waters were thrown into
agitation by the pirate's last words?  Yet they glanced fearfully round
the whole landscape, far and near.  They saw no living thing but a hawk,
which, startled from its perch on a scathed pine, was wheeling round in
the air in an unsteady flight.  The pirate pointed to the bird with one
hand, while he laid the other on the pistol in his belt.

"Yes," said Hund, trembling; "the bird saw it.  Did you see it?"

"See what?"

"The water-sprite, Uldra.  Before you throw me in to the water-sprite,
we will see which is the strongest."  And in desperation, Hund, unarmed
as he was, threw himself upon the pirate, sprang at his throat, and both
wrestled with all their force.  Rolf could not but look; and he saw that
the pirate had drawn forth his pistol, and that all would be over with
Hund in a moment if he did not interfere.  He stood forward between the
two pine stems on the ridge of the rock, and uttered very loud the
mournful cry which had so terrified his enemies at Vogel islet.  The
combatants flew asunder as if parted by a flash of lightning.  Both
looked up to the point whence the sound had come, and there they saw
what they supposed to be Rolf's spectre pointing at them, and the eyes
staring as when looking up from the waters of the fiord.  How could
these guilty and superstitious men doubt that it was Rolf's spectre
which, rising through the centre of the tarn, had caused the late
commotion in its waters?  Away they fled, at first in different
directions; but it amused Rolf to observe that, rather than be alone,
Hund turned to follow the track of the tyrant who had just been
threatening and insulting him, and driving him to struggle for his life.

"Ay," thought Rolf, "it is his conscience that makes me so much more
terrible to him than that ruffian.  I never hurt a hair of his head; and
yet, through his conscience, my face is worse than the blasting
lightning to his eyes.--When will all the people hereabouts find out, as
my mistress said when I was a boy,--when will people find out that the
demons and sprites they live in fear of all come out of their own heads
and hearts?  Here, in Hund's case, is guilt shaping out visions
whichever way he turns.  Not one of his ghost-stories is there for
months past, but I am at the bottom of; and that only through his
consciousness of hating and wanting to injure me.  Then, in the opposite
case--of one as innocent as the whitest flower in all this pasture--in
my Erica's case, the ghosts she sees are all from passions that leave
her heart pure, but bewilder her eyes.  It is the fear that she was
early made subject to, and the grief that she feels for her mother, that
create demons and sprites for her.  The day may come, if I can make her
happy enough, when I may convince her that, for all she now thinks, she
never yet saw a token of any evil spirit--of any spirit but the Good One
that rules all things.  What a sigh she will give--what a free breathing
hers will be, the day when I can show her, as plainly as I see myself,
that it is nothing but her own fears and griefs that have crossed her
path, and she never doubting that they were demons and sprites!
Heigh-ho!  Where is Erlingsen?  It is nothing short of cruel to keep me
waiting to-day, of all days, and in this spot of all places, almost
within sight of the seater where my poor Erica sits pining, and seeing
nothing of the pastures, but only with her mind's eye, the sea-caves
where she thinks these limbs are stretched, cold and helpless, as in a
grave.  A pretty story I shall have to tell her, if she will only
believe it, of another sort of sea-cave."

To pass the time, he took out the shells he had collected for Erica, and
admired them afresh, and planned where she would place them, so as best
to adorn their sitting-room, when they were married.  Erlingsen arrived
before he had been thus engaged five minutes; and indeed before he had
been more than a quarter of an hour altogether at the place of meeting.

"My dear master!" exclaimed Rolf, on seeing him coming, "have pity on
Erica and me; and hear what I have to tell you, that I may be gone."

"You shall be gone at once, my good fellow!  I will walk with you, and
you shall tell your story as we go."

Rolf shook his head, and objected that he could not, in conscience, take
Erlingsen a step further from home than was necessary, as he was only
too much wanted there.

"Is that Oddo yonder?" he asked.  "He said you would bring him."

"Yes: he has grown trustworthy of late.  We have had fewer heads and
hands among us than the times require since Peder grew old and blind,
and you were missing, and Hund had to be watched instead of trusted.  So
we have been obliged to make a man of Oddo, though he has the years of a
boy, and the curiosity of a woman.  I brought him now, thinking that a
messenger might be wanted, to raise the country against the pirates; and
I believe Oddo, in his present mood, will be as sure as we know he can
be swift."

"It is well we have a messenger.  Where is the bishop?"

"Just going to his boat, at this moment, I doubt not," replied
Erlingsen, measuring with his eye the length of the shadows.  "The
bishop is to sup with us this evening."

"And how long to stay?"

"Over to-morrow night, at the least.  If many of the neighbours should
bring their business to him, it may be longer.  My little Frolich will
be vexed that he should come while she is absent.  Indeed, I should not
much wonder if she sets out homeward when she hears the news you will
carry, so that we shall see her at breakfast."

"It is more likely," observed Rolf, "that we shall see the bishop up the
mountain at breakfast.  Ah! you stare; but you will find I am not out of
my wits when you hear what has come to my knowledge since we parted, and
especially within this hour."

Erlingsen was indeed presently convinced that it was the intention of
the pirates to carry off the Bishop of Tronyem, in order that his ransom
might make up to them for the poverty of the coasts.  He heard besides
such an ample detail of the plundering practices which Rolf had
witnessed from his retreat as convinced him that the strangers, though
in great force, must be prevented by a vigorous effort from doing
further mischief.  The first thing to be done was to place the bishop in
safety on the mountain; and the next was so to raise the country as that
these pirates should be certainly taken when they should come within
reach.

Oddo was called, and entrusted with the information which had to be
conveyed to the magistrate at Saltdalen.  He carried his master's
tobacco-pouch as a token,--this pouch, of Lapland make, being well known
to the magistrate as Erlingsen's.  Oddo was to tell him of the danger of
the bishop, and to request him to send to the spot whatever force could
be mustered at Saltdalen; and moreover to issue the budstick, [Note 1]
to raise the country.  The pirates having once entered the upper reach
of the fiord, might thus be prevented from ever going back again, and
from annoying any more the neighbourhood which they had so long
infested.

Erlingsen promised to be wary on his return homewards, so as not to fall
in with the two whom Rolf had put to flight.  He said, however, that if
by chance he should cross their path, he did not doubt he could also
make them run, by acting the ghost or demon, though he had not had Rolfs
advantage of disappearing in the fiord before their eyes.  They were
already terrified enough to fly from anything that called itself a
ghost.

The three then went on their several ways,--Oddo speeding over the
ridges like a sprite on a night errand, and Rolf striding up the grassy
slopes like (what he was) a lover anxious to be beside his betrothed,
after a perilous absence.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  When it is desired to send a summons or other message over a
district in Norway where the dwellings are scattered, the budstick is
sent round by running messengers.  It is a stick, made hollow, to hold
the magistrate's order, and a screw at one end to secure the paper in
its place.  Each messenger runs a certain distance, and then delivers it
to another, who must carry it forward.  If any one is absent, the
budstick must be laid upon the "house-father's great chair, by the
fire-side;" and if the house is locked, it must be fastened outside the
door, so as to be seen as soon as the host returns.  Upon great
occasions it was formerly found that a whole region could be raised in a
very short time.  The method is still in use for appointments on public
business.



CHAPTER FOURTEEN.

MIDNIGHT.

This was the day when the first cheese of the season was found to be
perfect and complete.  Frolich, Stiorna, and Erica examined it
carefully, and pronounced it a well-pressed, excellent Gammel cheese,
such as they should not be ashamed to set before the bishop, and
therefore one which ought to satisfy the demon.  It now only remained to
carry it to its destination,--to the ridge where the first cheese of the
season was always laid for the demon, and where, it appeared, he
regularly came for his offering, as no vestige of the gift was ever to
be found the next morning,--only the round place in the grass where it
had lain, and the marks of some feet which had trodden the herbage.

"Help me up with it upon my head, Stiorna," said Erica.  "If Frolich
looks at it any longer, she will grudge such a cheese going where it
ought.  Is not that the thought that is in your mind at this moment,
Frolich, dear?"

"No.  I do not grudge it," replied Frolich.  "My mother says it is right
freely to give whatever the feelings of those who help us require."

"And you do thus freely give,--my mistress and all who belong to her,
without a sign of grudging," declared Erica.  "But, would you not be
better pleased if the gift required was a bunch of mossflowers, or a
basket of cloud-berries?"

"Perhaps so;--yet, no; I think not.  Our good cheeses are not wasted.
They do not lie and rot in the sun and the mists.  Somebody has the
benefit of them, whether it be the demon or not."

"Who else should it be?" asked Stiorna.  "There is not a man, woman, or
child, on any seater in Sulitelma, who would touch a cheese laid out for
the mountain-demon."

"Perhaps not.  I never watched, to see what happens when the Gammel
cheese is left alone.  I only say I do not grudge our cheese, as
somebody has it.  I will carry it myself, in token of good-will, if you
will let me, Erica.  Here,--shift it upon my head."

Erica would not hear of this, and began to walk away with her load,
begging Stiorna to watch the cattle,--not once to take her eye off them,
till she should return to assume her watch for the night hours.

"I know why you will not let me carry the cheese," said Frolich,
smiling.  "You are thinking of Oddo with the cake and ale.  Nobody but
you must deposit offerings henceforward.  You are afraid I should eat up
that cheese, almost as heavy as myself.  You think there would not be a
paring left for the demon, by the time I got to the ridge."

"Not so," replied Erica.  "I think that he to whom this cheese is
destined had rather be served by one who does not laugh at him.  And it
is a safer plan for you, Frolich."

And off went Erica with her cheese.

The ridge on which she laid it would have tempted her at any other time
to sit down.  It was green and soft with mosses, and offered as
comfortable a couch to one tired with the labours of the day as any to
be found at the farm.  But, to-night it was to be haunted: so Erica
merely stayed to do her duty.  She selected the softest tuft of moss on
which to lay the cheese, put her offering reverently down, and then
diligently gathered the brightest blossoms from the herbage around, and
strewed them over the cheese.  She then walked rapidly homewards,
without once looking behind her.  If she had had the curiosity and
courage to watch for a little while, she would have seen her offering
carried off by an odd little figure, with nothing very terrible in its
appearance; namely, a woman about four feet high, with a flat face, and
eyes wide apart, wearing a reindeer garment like a waggoner's frock, a
red comforter about her neck, a red cloth cap on her head, a blue
worsted sash, and leather boots up to the knee:--in short, such a
Lapland girl as Erica would have given a rye-cake to as charity, but
would not have thought of asking to sit down, even in her master's
kitchen;--for the Norwegian servants are very high and saucy towards the
Lapps who wander to their doors.  It is not surprising that the Lapps
who pitch their tents on the mountain should like having a fine Gammel
cheese for the trouble of picking it up: and the company whose tents
Erica had passed on her way up to the seater, kept a good look-out upon
all the dairy people round, and carried off every cheese meant for the
demon.  While Erica was gathering and strewing the blossoms, this girl
was hidden near: and, trusting to Erica's not looking behind her, the
rogue swept off the blossoms, and threw them at her, before she had gone
ten yards, trundled the cheese down the other side of the ridge, made a
circuit, and was at the tents with her prize before supper-time!  What
would Erica have thought if she had beheld this fruit of so many
milkings and skimmings, so much boiling and pressing, devoured by greedy
Lapps in their dirty tent?

On her way homewards, Erica remembered that this was Midsummer Eve,--a
season when her mother was in her thoughts more than at any other time,
for Midsummer Eve is sacred in Norway to the Wood-Demon, whose victim
she believed her mother to have been.  Every woodman sticks his axe into
a tree that night, that the demon may, if he pleases, begin the work of
the year by felling trees, or making a fagot.  Erica hastened to the
seater, to discover whether Erlingsen had left his axe behind, and
whether Jan had one with him.

Jan had an axe, and remembering his duty, though tired and sleepy, was
just going to the nearest pine grove with it when Erica reached home;
she seized Erlingsen's axe and went also, and stuck it in a tree, just
within the verge of the grove, which was in that part a thicket, from
the growth of underwood.  This thicket was so near the back of the dairy
that the two were home in five minutes; yet they found Frolich almost as
impatient as if they had been gone an hour.  She asked whether their
heathen worship was done at last, so that all might go to bed, or
whether they were to be kept awake till midnight by more mummery?

Erica replied by showing that Jan was already gone to his loft over the
shed, and begging leave to comb and curl Frolich's hair, and see her to
rest at once.  Stiorna was asleep; and Erica herself meant to watch the
cattle this night.  They lay couched in the grass, all near each other,
and within view, in the mild slanting sunshine, and here she intended to
sit, on the bench outside the home-shed, and keep her eye on them till
morning.

"You are thinking of the Bishop of Tronyem's cattle," said Frolich.

"I am, dear.  This is Midsummer Eve, you know,--when, as we think, all
the spirits love to be abroad."

"You will die before your time, Erica," said the weary girl.  "These
spirits give you no rest of body or mind.  What a day's work we have
done!  And now you are going to watch till twelve, one, two o'clock!  I
could not keep awake," she said, yawning, "if there was one demon at the
head of the bed, and another at the foot, and the underground people
running like mice all over the floor."

"Then go and sleep, dear; I will fetch your comb, if you will just keep
an eye on the cattle for the moment I am gone."

As Erica combed Frolich's long fair hair, and admired its shine in the
sunlight, and twisted it up behind, and curled it on each side, the
weary girl leaned her head against her, and dropped asleep.  When all
was done, she just opened her eyes to find her way to bed, and say, "You
may as well go to bed comfortably, for you will certainly drop asleep
here, if you don't there."

"Not with my pretty Spiel in sight.  I would not lose my white heifer
for seven nights' sleep.  You will thank me when you find your cow, and
all the rest, safe in the morning.  Good night, dear."

And Erica closed the door after her young mistress, and sat down on the
bench outside, with her face towards the sun, her lure by her side, and
her knitting in her hands.  She was glad that the herd lay so that by
keeping her eye on them she could watch that wonder of Midsummer night
within the Arctic Circle, the dipping of the sun below the horizon, to
appear again immediately.  She had never been far enough to the north to
see the sun complete its circle without disappearing at all, but she did
not wish it; she thought the softening of the light which she was about
to witness, and the speedy renewing of day, more wonderful and
beautiful.  She sat soothed by her employment and by the tranquillity of
the scene, and free from fear.  She had done her duty by the spirits of
the mountain and the wood; and in case of the appearance of any object
that she did not like, she could slip into the house in an instant.  Her
thoughts were therefore wholly Rolf's.  She could endure now to
contemplate a long life spent in doing honour to his memory by the
industrious discharge of duty.  She would watch over Peder, and receive
his last breath,--an office which should have been Rolf's.  She would
see another houseman arrive, and take possession of that house, and
become betrothed and marry: and no one, not even her watchful mistress,
should see a trace of repining in her countenance, or hear a tone of
bitterness from her lips.  It should be her part to see that others were
happier than she had been.  However weary her heart might be, she would
dance at every wedding,--of fellow-servant or of young mistress.  She
would cloud nobody's happiness, but would do all she could to make
Rolf's memory pleasant to those who had known him, and wished him well.
She thought she could do all this in prospect of the day when her grave
should be dug beside those of Peder and Ulla, and when her spirit should
meet Rolf, and learn at length how he had died, and be assured that he
had watched over her as faithfully as she had remembered him.

As these thoughts passed through her mind, making her future life appear
shorter and less dreary than she could have imagined possible a few
hours before, her fingers were busily at work, and her eyes rested on
the lovely scene before her.  From the elevation at which she was, it
appeared as if the ocean swelled up into the very sky, so high was the
horizon line: and between lay a vast region of rock and river, hill and
dale, forest, fiord, and town, part in golden sunlight, part in deep
shadow, but all, though bright as the skies could make it, silent as
became the hour.  As Erica found that she could glance at the sun itself
without losing sight of the cattle, which still lay within her indirect
vision, she carefully watched the descent of the orb, anxious to observe
precisely when it should disappear, and how soon its golden spark would
kindle up again from the waves.  When its lower rim was just touching
the waters, its circle seemed to be of an enormous size, and its whole
mass to be flaming.  Its appearance was very unlike that of the
comparatively small, compact, brilliant luminary which rides the sky at
noon.  Erica was just thinking so, when a rustle in the thicket, within
the pine grove, made her involuntarily turn her head in that direction.
Instantly remembering that it was a common device of the underground
people for one of them to make the watcher look away, in order that
others might drive off the cattle, she resumed her duty, and gazed
steadfastly at the herd.  They were safe--neither reduced to the size of
mice, nor wandering off, though she had let her eye glance away from
them.

The sky, however, did not look like itself.  There were two suns in it.
Now, Erica really did quite forget the herd for some time, even her dear
white heifer,--while she stared bewildered at the spectacle before her
eyes.  There was one sun,--the sun she had always known,--half sunk in
the sea, while above it hung another, round and complete; somewhat less
bright perhaps, but as distinct and plain before her eyes as any object
in heaven or earth had ever been.  Her work dropped from her hands, as
she covered her eyes for a moment.  She started to her feet, and then
looked again.  It was still there, though the lower sun was almost gone.
As she stood gazing, she once more heard the rustle in the wood.
Though it crossed her mind that the Wood-Demon was doubtless there
making choice of his axe and his tree, she could not move, and had not
even a wish to take refuge in the house, so wonderful was this
spectacle,--the clearest instance of enchantment she had ever seen.  Was
it meant for good,--a token that the coming year was to be a doubly
bright one?  If not, how was she to understand it?

"Erica!" cried a voice at this moment from the wood,--a voice which
thrilled her whole frame.  "My Erica!"

She not only looked towards the wood now, but sprang forwards: but her
eyes were so dazzled by having gazed at the sun that she could see
nothing.  Then she remembered how many forms the cunning demon could
assume, and she turned back, thinking how cruel it was to delude her
with her lover's voice, when, instead of his form, she should doubtless
see some horrid monster: most likely a hippopotamus, or, at best, an
overgrown bear, showing its long, sharp, white teeth, to terrify her.
She turned in haste, and laid her hand on the latch of the door,
glancing once more at the horizon.

There was now no sun at all.  The burnish was gone from every part of
the landscape, and a mild twilight reigned.

One good omen had vanished; but there was still enchantment around; for
again she heard the thrilling "Erica."

There was no huge beast glaring through the pine stems, and trampling
down the thicket; but, instead, there was the figure of a man advancing
from the shadow into the pasture.

"Why do you take that form?" said the trembling girl, sinking down on
the bench.  "I had rather have seen you as a bear.  Did you not find the
axe?  I laid it for you.  Pray,--pray, come no nearer."

"I must, my love, to show you that it is your own Rolf.  Erica, do not
let your superstition come for ever between us."

She held out her arms;--she could not rise, though she strove to do so.
Rolf sat beside her,--she felt his kisses on her forehead,--she felt his
heart beat,--she felt that not even a spirit could assume the very tones
of that voice.

"Do forgive me," she murmured; "but it is Midsummer Eve; and I felt so
sure--"

"As sure of my being the demon as I am sure there is no cruel spirit
here, though it is Midsummer Eve.  Look, love!  See how the day smiles
upon us!"

And he pointed to where a golden star seemed to kindle on the edge of
the sea.  It was the sun again, rising after its few minutes of absence.

"I saw two just now," cried Erica,--"two suns.  Where are we, really?
And how is all this?  And where do you come from?"

And she gazed, still wistfully,--doubtfully in her lover's face.

"I will show you," said he, smiling.  And while he still held her with
one arm, lest, in some sudden fancy, she should fly him as a ghost, he
used the other hand to empty his pockets of the beautiful shells he had
brought, tossing them into her lap.

"Did you ever see such, Erica?  I have been where they lie in heaps.
Did you ever see such beauties?"

"I never did, Rolf; you have been at the bottom of the sea."

And once more she shrank from what she took for the grasp of a drowned
man.

"Not to the bottom, love," replied he, still clasping her hand.  "Our
fiord is deep; perhaps as deep as they say.  I dived as deep as a man
may, to come up with the breath in his body; but I could never find the
bottom.  Did I not tell you that I should go down as far as Vogel
island; and that I should there be safe?"

"Yes!  You did--you did!"

"Well!  I went to Vogel island; and here I am safe!"

"It _is_ you!  We are together again!" she exclaimed now in full belief.
"Thank God!  Thank God!"

As she wept upon his shoulder, he told her where he had been, what
perils he had met, how he had been saved, and how he had arrived the
first moment he could; and then he went on to declare that their enemies
would soon be disposed of, that they would be married, that they would
take possession of Peder's house, and make him comfortable, and would
never be separated again as long as they lived.

They did not heed the time, as they talked and talked; and Rolf was just
telling how he had more than once seen a double sun, without finding any
remarkable consequences follow, when Stiorna came forth with her
milk-pails, just before four o'clock.  She started and dropped one of
her pails, when she saw who was sitting on the bench; and Erica started
no less at the thought of how completely she had forgotten the cattle
and the underground people all this time.  The herd was all safe,
however,--every cow as large as life, and looking exactly like itself;
so that the good fortune of this Midsummer Eve had been perfect.



CHAPTER FIFTEEN.

MOUNTAIN FARE.

The appearance of Stiorna reminded the lovers that it was time to begin
the business of the morning.  They startled Stiorna with the news that a
large company was coming to breakfast.  Being in no very amiable temper
towards happy lovers, she refused, after a moment's thought, to believe
what they said, and set down sulking to her task of milking.  So Rolf
proceeded to rouse Jan; and Erica stepped to Frolich's bedside, and
waked her with a kiss.

"Erica!  No--can it be?" said the active girl, up in a moment.  "You
look too happy to be Erica."

"Erica never was so happy before, dear; that is the reason.  You were
right, Frolich--bless your kind heart for it!  Rolf was not dead.  He is
here."

Frolich gallopaded round the room like one crazy, before proceeding to
dress.

"Whenever you like to stop," said Erica, laughing, "I have some good
news for you too."

"I am to go and see the bishop!" cried Frolich, clapping her hands, and
whirling round on one foot, like an opera-dancer.

"Not so, Frolich."

"There, now!  You promise me good news, and then you won't let me go and
see the bishop, when you know that is the only thing in the world I want
or wish for."

"Would it not be a great compliment to you, and save you a great deal of
trouble, if the bishop were to come here to see you?"

"Ah! that would be a pretty sight!  The Bishop of Tronyem over the
ankles in the sodden, trodden pasture--sticking in the mud of Sulitelma!
The Bishop of Tronyem sleeping upon hay in the loft, and eating his
dinner off a wooden platter!  That would be the most wonderful sight
that Norland ever saw."

"Prepare, then, to see the Bishop of Tronyem drink his morning coffee
out of a wooden bowl.  Meantime, I must go and grind his coffee.--
Seriously, Frolich, you must make haste to dress and help.  The pirates
want to carry off the bishop for ransom.  Erlingsen is raising the
country.  Hund is coming here as a prisoner; and the bishop, and my
mistress, and Orga to be safe; and if you do not help me, I shall have
nothing ready, for Stiorna does not like the news."

Never had Frolich dressed more quickly.  She thought it very hard that
the bishop should see her when she had nothing but her dairy dress to
wear; but she was ready all the sooner for this.  Erica consoled her
with the belief that the bishop was the last person who could be
supposed to make a point of a silk gown for a mountain maiden.

A consultation about the arrangements was held before the door by the
four who were all in a good humour; for Stiorna remained aloof.  This,
like other mountain dwellings, was a mere sleeping and eating shed, only
calculated for a bare shelter at night, at meals, and from occasional
rain.  There was no apartment at the seater in which the bishop could
hold an audience, out of the way of the cooking and other household
transactions.  It could not be expected of him to sit on the bench
outside, or on the grass, like the people of the establishment; for,
unaccustomed as he was to spend his days in the open air, his eyes would
be blinded and his face blistered by the sun.  The young people cast
their eyes on the pine-wood as the fittest summer parlour for him, if it
could be provided with seats.

Erica sprang forward to prevent any one from entering the wood till she
should have seen what state the place was in on this particular morning.
No trees had been felled, and no branches cut since the night before,
and the axes remained where they had been hung.  The demon had not
wanted them, it seemed, and there was no fear of intruding upon him now.
So the two young men set to work to raise a semicircular range of turf
seats in the pleasantest part of the shady grove.  The central seat,
which was raised above the rest, and had a footstool, was well cushioned
with dry and soft moss, and the rough bark was cut from the trunk of the
tree against which it was built; so that the stem served as a
comfortable back to the chair.  Rolf tried the seat when finished; and
as he leaned back, feasting his eyes on the vast sunny landscape which
was to be seen between the trees of the grove, he declared that it was
infinitely better to sit here than in the bishop's stall in Tronyem
cathedral.

"Surely," said Erica, whom he had summoned to see the work, "when God
plants a lofty mountain overlooking the glorious sea, with the heavens
themselves for a roof, He makes a temple with which no church built by
men can compare.  I suppose men build cathedrals in cities because they
are not so happy as to have a mountain to worship on."

"How I pity the countries that have no glorious mountains!" cried
Frolich; "especially if few of their people live in sight of the vast
sea, or in the heart of deep forests."

And, by one impulse, they all struck up the national air "For Norge,"--a
thanksgiving for their home being planted in the midst of the northern
seas.

All being done now for which a strong arm was wanted, Rolf declared that
he and Jan must be gone to the farm.  Not a man could be spared from the
shores of the fiord, till the affairs of the pirates should be settled.
Erica ought to have expected to hear this: but her cheek grew white as
it was told.  She spoke no word of objection, however, seeing plainly
what her lover's duty was.

She turned towards the dairy when he was gone, instead of indulging
herself with watching him down the mountain.  She was busy skimming bowl
after bowl of rich milk, when Frolich ran in to say that Stiorna had
dressed herself, and put up her bundle, and was setting forth homewards,
to see, as she said, the truth of things there;--which meant, of course,
to learn Hund's condition and prospects.  It was now necessary to tell
her that she would presently see Hund brought up to the seater a
prisoner: and that the farm was no place for any but fighting-men this
day.  To save her feelings and temper, Erica asked her to watch the
herd, leading them to a point whence she could soonest see the expected
company mounting the uplands.

Frolich shook her head often and mournfully over the breakfast.  The
skill and diligent hands of two people could not, up in the clouds here,
cover the long table in a way which appeared at all creditable to
Nordland eyes.  Do what they would, it was only bread, cheese, butter,
berries, and cream: and then berries and cream, butter, cheese, and
bread.  They garnished with moss, leaves, and flowers; they disposed
their few bowls and platters to the best advantage,--taking some from
the dairy which could ill be spared.  It was still but a poor apology
for a feast; and Frolich looked so ready to cry as to make Erica laugh.

Presently, however, there were voices heard from the hill above.  Some
traveller who had met the budstick had reported the proceedings below,
and the news had spread to a northern seater.  The men had gone down to
the fiord and here were the women, with above a gallon of strawberries,
fresh gathered, and a score of plovers' eggs.--Next appeared a pony,
coming westward over the pasture, laden with panniers containing a
tender kid, a packet of spices, a jar of preserved cherries, and a few
of the present season, early ripe; and a stone bottle of ant-vinegar
[Note 1].  Frolich's spirits rose higher and higher, as more people came
from below, sent by Rolf on his way down.  A deputation of Lapps came
from the tents, bringing reindeer venison, and half of a fine Gammel
cheese.  Before Erica had had time to pour out a glass of corn-brandy
for each of this dwarfish party, in token of thanks, and because it is
considered unlucky to send away Lapps without a a treat, other mountain
dwellers came with offerings of tydder, roer, ryper, and jerper [Note
2]: so that the dresser was loaded with game enough to feed half a
hundred hungry men.

Some of these willing neighbours stayed to help.  One went to pick more
cloud-berries on the edge of the nearest bog.  Another rode off, on the
pony, to beg a supply of sugar from a house where it was known to
abound.  Two or three more cleared a space for a fire behind a thicket,
and prepared to broil the venison and stew the kid, while others sat
down to pluck the game.  The Lapps, as being dirty and despised, were
got rid of as soon as possible.

Erica and Frolich returned to their breakfast-table, to make the new
arrangements now necessary, and place the fruits and spices.  Erica
closely examined the piece of Gammel cheese brought by the Lapps, and
then, with glowing cheeks, called Frolich to her.

"What now?" said Frolich.  "Have you found a way of telling fortunes
with the hard cheese, as some pretend to do with the soft curds?"

"Look here," said Erica.  "What stamp is this?  The cheese has been
scraped,--almost pared, you see: but they have left one little corner.
And whose stamp is there?"

"Ours," said Frolich, coolly.  "This is the cheese you laid out on the
ridge last night."

"I believe it.  I see it," exclaimed Erica.

"Now, dear Erica, do not let us have the old story of your being
frightened about what the demon will say and do.  Nobody but you will be
surprised that the Lapps help themselves with good things that lie
strewing the ground.  You know I gave you a hint, just twelve hours
since, of what would become of this same cheese."

"You did," admitted Erica.  To Frolich's delight and surprise, she
appeared too busy,--or was rather, perhaps, too happy--to lament this
mischance, as she would formerly have done.  Possibly she comforted
herself with thinking, that if the demon had set its heart upon the
cheese, it might have been beforehand with the Lapps.  She contented
herself with setting apart the dish till her mistress should decide what
ought to be done with it.  Just when a youth from the highest pasture on
Sulitelma had come, running and panting, to present Frolich with a
handful of fringed pinks and blue gentian, plucked from the very edge of
the glacier, so that their colours were reflected in the ice, Stiorna
appeared, in haste, to tell that a party, on horseback and on foot, were
winding out of the ravine, and coming straight up over the pasture.--All
was now certainty; and great was the bustle, to put out of sight all
unseemly tokens of preparation.  In the midst of the hurry, Frolich
found time to twist some of her pretty flowers into her pretty hair; so
that it might easily chance that the bishop would not miss her silk
gown.--When, however, were unfashionable mothers known to forget the
interests of their daughters?  Madame Erlingsen never did! and she now
engaged one of the bishop's followers to ride forward with a certain
bundle which Orga had carried on her lap.  The man discharged his errand
so readily that, on the arrival of the train, Frolich was seen so
dressed, walking "in silk attire," as to appear to all eyes as the
daughter of the hostess.

The bishop's reputation preceded him, as is usual in such cases.

"Where is he now?"

"How far off is he?"

"Why does he not come?" asked one and another of the expectant people,
of those who first appeared before the seater.

"He is at the tents, speaking to the Lapps."

"Speaking to the Lapps!  Impossible!  What Lapp would ever dream of
being spoken to by a bishop of Tronyem?"

"He is with them, however.  When I left him, he was just stooping to
enter one of their tents."

"Now, you must be joking.  The Lapps are low people enough in the open
pasture: but in their tents, pah!"

He did not go in without a reason.  There was a sick child in the tent,
who could not come out to him.  The mother wished him to see and
pronounce upon the charms she was employing for her child's benefit, and
he himself chose to be satisfied whether any medical knowledge which he
possessed could avail to restore the sick.  Nothing was more certain
than that the Bishop of Tronyem was in a Lapland tent.  The fact was
confirmed by M.  Kollsen, who next appeared, musing as he rode, with a
countenance of extreme gravity.  He would fain have denied that his
bishop was smiling upon Lapps who wore charms; but he could not.  He
muttered that it was very extraordinary.

"Quite as much so," whispered Erica to Frolich, "as that the Holiest
should be found in the house of a publican."

"What is that?" inquired the vigilant M.  Kollsen.  "What was your
remark?"

Erica blushed deeply; but Frolich readily declared what it was that she
had said: and in return M.  Kollsen remarked on the evil of ignorant
persons applying Scripture according to their own narrow notions.

"Two--four--eight horses," observed a herdsman.  "I think the neighbours
should each take one or two; or here will soon be an end of Erlingsen's
new hay.  This lot of pasture will never feed eight horses, besides his
own and the herd."

"Better than having them carried off by the pirates," said a neighbour.
"But I will run home and send a load of grass."

In such an amiable mood did the bishop find all who were awaiting him at
his place of refuge.  On their part, they were persuaded that he
deserved all their love, even if he had some low notions about the
Lapps.

As the bishop's horse, followed by those which bore the ladies, reached
the house-door, all present cried, "Welcome to the mountain!"

"Welcome to Sulitelma!"

The bishop observed that, often as he had wished to look abroad from
Sulitelma, and to see with his own eyes what life at the seaters was
like, he should have grown old without the desire being gratified, but
for the design of the enemy upon him.  It was all he could do to go the
rounds of his diocese, from station to station below, without thinking
of journeys of pleasure.  Yet here he was on Sulitelma!

When he and M.  Kollsen and the ladies had dismounted, and were entering
the house to breakfast, the gazers found leisure to observe the hindmost
of the train of riders.  It was Hund, with his feet tied under his
horse, and the bridle held by a man on each side.  He had seen and heard
too much of the preparations against the enemy to be allowed to remain
below, or at large anywhere, till the attack should be over.  He could
not dismount till some one untied his legs; and no one would do that
till a safe place could be found, in which to confine him.  It was an
awkward situation enough, sitting there bound before everybody's eyes;
and not the less for Stiorna's leaning her head against the horse, and
crying at seeing him so treated: and yet Hund had often been seen, on
small occasions, to look far more black and miserable.  His face now was
almost cheerful.  Stiorna praised this as a sign of bravery; but the
truth was, the party had been met by Rolf and Jan, going down the
mountain.  It was no longer possible to take Rolf for a ghost: and,
though Hund was as far as possible from understanding the matter, he was
unspeakably relieved to find that he had not the death of his rival to
answer for.  It made his countenance almost gay to think of this, even
while stared at by men, women, and children, as a prisoner.

"What is it?" whimpered Stiorna,--"what are you a prisoner for, Hund?"

"Ask them that know," said Hund.  "I thought at first that it was on
Rolfs account; and now that they see with their own eyes that Rolf is
safe, they best know what they have to bring against me."

"It is no secret," said Madame Erlingsen.  "Hund was seen with the
pirates, acting with and assisting them, when they committed various
acts of thievery on the shores of the fiord.  If the pirates are taken,
Hund will be tried with them for robberies at Thore's, Kyril's, Tank's
and other places along the shore, about which information has been given
by a witness."

"Thore's, Kyril's, Tank's!" repeated Hund to himself; "then there must
be magic in the case.  I could have sworn that not an eye on earth
witnessed the doings there.  If Rolf turns out to be the witness, I
shall be certain that he has the powers of the region to help him."

So little is robbery to be dreaded at the seaters, that there really was
no place where Hund could be fastened in,--no lock upon any door,--not a
window from which he might not escape.  The zealous neighbours
therefore, whose interest it was to detain him, offered to take it in
turn to be beside him, his right arm tied to the left of another man.
And thus it was settled.

After breakfast, notice was given that the party who had travelled all
night wished to repose for a few hours; all others therefore withdrew,
to secure quiet some within the pine-wood, others to the nearest breezy
hill, to gossip and sport, while some few took the opportunity of going
home, to see after their cattle, or other domestic affairs, intending to
return in the afternoon.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  Ants abound in Norway, both in the forests and on the
mountains.  Some, of a large kind, are boiled for the sake of the
(formic) acid they contain; and the water when strained is used for
vinegar.  It is as good as weak vinegar.

Note 2.  Tydder and roer are the cock and hen of the wild bird called in
Scotland the capercailzie.  The ryper is the ptarmigan.  The jerper is
of the grouse species.--Lloyd's "Field Sports of the North of Europe."



CHAPTER SIXTEEN.

OLD TALES AND BETTER TIDINGS.

When the bishop came forth in the afternoon to take his seat in the
shade of the wood, those who were there assembled were singing "For
Norge."  Instead of permitting them to stop, on account of his arrival,
he joined in the song, and solely because his heart was in it.  Seldom
had he witnessed such a scene as this; and as he looked around him, and
saw deep shades and sunny uplands, blue glaciers above, green pastures
and glittering waters below, and all around herds on every hill-side, he
felt his love of old Norway, and his thankfulness for being one of her
sons, as warm as that of any one of the singers in the wood.  Out of the
fulness of his heart, the good bishop addressed his companions on the
goodness of God in creating such a land, and placing them in it, with
their happiness so far in their own hands as that little worthy of being
called evil could befall them, except through faults of their own.  M.
Kollsen, who had before uttered his complaints of the superstition of
his flock, hoped that his bishop was now about to attack the mischief
vigorously.

The bishop, however, only took his seat,--the mossy seat prepared for
him,--and declared himself to be now at the service of any who wished to
consult or converse with him.  Instead of thrusting his own opinions and
reproofs upon them, as it was M.  Kollsen's wont to do, he waited for
the people to open their minds to him in their own way, and by this
means, whatever he found occasion to say had double influence from
coming naturally.  The words dropped by him that day to the anxious
mother awaiting the confirmation of her child,--to the young person
preparing for that important event,--to the bereaved,--to the
penitent,--to the thoughtless,--and to those who wondered why God had
given them so many rich blessings--what the good bishop said to all
these was so fit and so welcome, that not a word was forgotten through
long years after, and he was quoted half a century after he had been in
his grave, as old Ulla had quoted the good bishop of Tronyem of her day.

In a few hours many of the people were gone for the present,--some being
wanted at home, and others for the expected affair on the fiord.  The
bishop and M.  Kollsen had thought themselves alone in their shady
retreat when they saw Erica lingering near among the trees.  With a kind
smile, the bishop beckoned to her, and bade her sit down, and tell him
whether he had not been right in promising, a while ago, that God would
soothe her sorrows with time, as is the plan of his kind providence.  He
remembered well the story of the death of her mother.  Erica replied
that not only had her grief been soothed, but that she was now so
blessed that her heart was burdened with its gratitude.  She wished,--
she needed to pour out all that she felt; but M.  Kollsen was there, and
she could not speak quite freely before him.  He, for his part, observed
that, if she was now so happy, she must have given up some of her
superstitions, for certainly he had never known any one less likely to
enjoy peace than Erica, on all occasions on which he had seen her,--so
great was her dread of evil spirits on every hand.

"I wish," said Erica, with a sigh,--"I do wish I knew what to think
about Nipen."

"Ay! here it comes," observed M.  Kollsen, folding his arms, as if for
an argument.

Encouraged by the bishop, Erica told the whole story of the last few
months, from the night of Oddo's prank to that which found her at the
feet of her friend, for she had cast herself down at the bishop's feet,
sitting as she had done in her childhood, looking up in his face.

"You want to know what I think of all this?" said the bishop, when she
had done.  "I think that you could hardly help believing as you have
believed, amidst these strange circumstances, and with your mind full of
the common accounts of Nipen.  Yet I do not believe there is any such
spirit as Nipen, or any demon in the forest, or on the mountain.  Did
you ever hear what spirits everybody in this country believed in before
the blessed gospel was brought to old Norway?"

"I have heard of Thor, that yonder islet was named after; and that, when
there was a tempest, with rolling thunder, such as we never hear in this
region, the people used to say it was Thor driving his chariot over the
mountain-ridge."

"That was what people said of the thunder.  What they said of fire and
frost was that they were giants called Loke and Thrym, who dwelt in a
dreadful tempestuous place, at the end of the earth, and came abroad to
do awful things among men.  The giant Frost drove home his horses at
night,--the hail-clouds that sped through the air; and there sat the
giant on the frost winds, combing the manes of his horses as they went.
Fire was a cunning demon that stole in where it was not wanted: and when
once in, it devoured all that it chose, till it rose into the sky at
last in smoke.--Then there was the giant Aegir, who brought in squalls
from the sea, and made whirlpools in the fiords."

"Why, that is like Nipen."

"Very like Nipen;--perhaps the same.  Then there was the good god Balder
(the white god), who made everything bright and beautiful, and ripened
the fruits of the earth.  This god Balder was the sun.  Then there were
the three magical women, the Fates, who made men's lives happy or
miserable.  Did you ever hear how these giants and Fates were worshipped
before Jehovah and Christ were known in this land?"

"I have heard Ulla sing many old songs about these and more; and how
Thor and two companions as mighty as himself were travelling, and
entered a curious house for the night; and wandered about in the great
house, being frightened at a strange loud noise outside: and how they
found in the morning that this house was the mitten of a giant,
infinitely greater than themselves; and that what they had taken for a
separate chamber in the great house was the thumb of his mitten; and
that the strange noise was the snoring of this giant Skrymir, who was
asleep close by, after having pulled off his mittens."

"That is one of the many tales belonging to the old religion of this
country.  And how did this old religion arise?--Why, the people saw
grand spectacles every day, and heard wonders whichever way they turned;
and they supposed that the whole universe was alive.  The sun as it
travelled they thought was alive, and kind and good to men.  The tempest
they thought was alive, and angry with men.  The fire and frost they
thought were alive, pleased to make sport with men."

"As people who ought to know better," observed M.  Kollsen, "now think
the wind is alive, and call it Nipen, or the mist of the lake and river,
which they call the sprite Uldra."

"It is true," said the bishop, "that we now have better knowledge, and
see that the earth, and all that is in it, is made and moved by One Good
Spirit, who, instead of sporting with men, or being angry with them,
rules all things for their good.  But I am not surprised that some of
the old stories remain, and are believed in still,--and by good and
dutiful Christians too.  The mother sings the old songs over the cradle;
and the child hears tell of sprites and demons before it hears of the
good God who `sends forth the snow and rain, the hail and vapour, and
the stormy winds fulfilling his word.'  And when the child is grown to
be a man or woman, the northern lights shooting over the sky, and the
sighing of the winds in the pine-forest, bring back those old songs, and
old thoughts about demons and sprites; and the stoutest man trembles.  I
do not wonder; nor do I blame any man or woman for this; though I wish
they were as happy as the weakest infant, or the most worn-out old man,
who has learned from the gentle Jesus to fear nothing at any time,
because his Father is with him."

"But what is to be done?" asked M.  Kollsen.

"The time will come," said the bishop, "when the mother will sing to her
babe of the gentle Jesus; and tell her growing child of how he loved to
be alone with his Father in the waste and howling wilderness; and bade
his disciples not be afraid when there was a tempest on the wide lake.
Then, when the child grows up to be a man, if he finds himself alone on
the mountain or in the forest, he will think of Jesus, and fear no
demon: and if a west wind and fog should overtake a woman in her boat on
the fiord," he continued, looking with a smile at Erica, "she will never
think of Nipen, but rather that she hears her Saviour saying, `Why are
ye afraid, O! ye of little faith?'"

Erica hid her face, ashamed under the good man's smile.

"In our towns," continued he, "much of this blessed change is already
wrought.  No one in my city of Tronyem now fears the angry and cunning
fire-giant Loke; but every citizen closes his eyes in peace when he
hears the midnight cry of the watch, `Except the Lord keep the city, the
watchman waketh but in vain.'  [The watchman's call in the towns of
Norway.] In the wilds of the country every man's faith will hereafter be
his watchman, crying out upon all that happens, `It is the Lord's hand:
let Him do what seemeth to Him good!'  This might have been said, Erica,
as it appears to me, at every turn of your story, where you and your
friends were not in fault."

He went on to remark on the story she had told him; and she was really
surprised to find that there was not the slightest reason to suppose
that any spirit had been employed to vex and alarm her.  The fog and the
pirates had overtaken and frightened many in the fiord with whom Nipen
had no quarrel.  Rolfs imprisonment, and all the sorrows that belonged
to it, had been owing to his own imprudence.  The appearance of a double
sun the night before was nothing uncommon, and was known to take place
when the atmosphere was in a particular state.  She herself had seen
that no Wood-Demon had touched the axes in this very grove last night;
and that it was no mountain-sprite, but a Laplander, who had taken up
the first Gammel cheese.  She had also witnessed how absurdly mistaken
Hund had been about the boat having been spirited away, and Vogel island
being enchanted, and Rolf's ghost being allowed to haunt him.  Here was
a case before her very eyes of the way in which people with
superstitious minds may misunderstand what happens to themselves.

"Oh!" exclaimed Erica, dropping her hands from before her glowing face,
"if I dared but think there were no bad spirits--if I dared only hope
that everything that happens is done by God's own hand, I could bear
everything!  I would never be afraid again!"

"It is what I believe," said the bishop.  Laying his hand on her head,
he continued, "We know that the very hairs of your head are all
numbered.  I see that you are weary of your fears--that you have long
been heavy-laden with anxiety.  It is you, then, that He invites to
trust Him when He says by the lips of Jesus, `Come, ye that are weary
and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.'"

"Rest--rest is what I have wanted," said Erica, while her tears flowed
gently; "but Peder and Ulla did not believe as you do, and could not
explain things; and--"

"You should have asked me," said M.  Kollsen; "I could have explained
everything."

"Perhaps so, sir; but--but, M.  Kollsen, you always seemed angry; and
you said you despised us for believing anything that you did not: and it
is the most difficult thing in the world to ask questions which one
knows will be despised."

M.  Kollsen glanced in the bishop's face, to see how he took this, and
how he meant to support the pastor's authority.  The bishop looked sad,
and said nothing.

"And then," continued Erica, "there were others who laughed--even Rolf
himself laughed; and what one fears becomes only the more terrible when
it is laughed at."

"Very true," said the bishop.  "When Jesus sat on the well in Samaria,
and taught how the true worship was come, He neither frowned on the
woman who inquired, nor despised her, nor made light of her superstition
about a sacred mountain."

There was a long silence, which was broken at last by Erica asking the
bishop whether he could not console poor Hund, who wanted comfort more
than she had ever done.  The bishop replied that the demons who most
tormented poor Hund were not abroad on the earth or in the air, but
within his breast--his remorse, his envy, his covetousness, his fear.
He meant, however, not to lose sight of poor Hund, either in the prison
to which he was to travel to-morrow, or after he should come out of it.

Here Frolich appeared running to ask whether those who were in the grove
would not like to look forth from the ridge, and see what good the
budstick had done, and how many parties were on their way from all
quarters to the farm.

M.  Kollsen was glad to rise and escape from what he thought a
schooling, and the bishop himself was as interested in what was going on
as if the farm had been his home.  He was actually the first at the
ridge.



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN.

THE WATCH ON THE HILL.

This part of the mountain was a singularly favourable situation for
seeing what was doing on the spot on which every one's attention was
fixed this day.  While the people on the fiord could not see what was
going forward at Saltdalen, nor those at Saltdalen what were the
movements of the farm, the watchers on the ridge could observe the
proceedings at all the three points.  The opportunity was much improved
by the bishop having a glass--a glass of a quality so rare at that time,
that there would probably have been some talk of magic and charms, if it
had been seen in Olaf's hands, instead of the bishop's.

By means of this glass, the bishop, M.  Kollsen, or Madame Erlingsen
announced, from time to time, what was doing, as the evening advanced;--
how parties of two or three were leaving Saltdalen, creeping towards the
farm under cover of rising grounds, rocks, and pine-woods;--how small
companies, well-armed, were hidden in every place of concealment near
Erlingsen's;--and how there seemed to be a great number of women about
the place.  This was puzzling.  Who these women could be, and why they
should choose to resort to the farm when its female inhabitants had left
it for safety, it was difficult at first to imagine.  But the truth soon
occurred to Frolich.  No doubt some one had remembered how strange and
suspicious it would appear to the pirates, who supposed the bishop to be
at the farm, that there should be no women in the company assembled to
meet him.  No doubt, these people in blue, white, and green petticoats,
who were striding about the yards, and looking forth from the galleries,
were men dressed in their wives' clothes, or in such as Erlingsen
furnished from the family chests.  This disguise was as good as an
ambush, while it also served to give the place the festive appearance
looked for by the enemy.  It was found afterwards that Oddo had acted as
lady's maid, fitting the gowns to the shortest men, and dressing up
their heads, so as best to hide the shaggy hair.  Great numbers were
certainly assembled before night; yet still a group might be seen now
and then, winding down from some recess of the wide-spreading mountain,
making circuits by the ravines and water-courses, so as to avoid
crossing the upland slopes, which the pirates might be surveying by
means of such a glass as the bishop's.

The bishop was of opinion that scarcely a blow would be struck,--so
great was the country force, compared with that of the pirates.  He
believed that the enemy would be overpowered and disarmed, almost
without a struggle.  Erica, who could not but tremble, with fear as well
as expectation, blessed his words in her heart: and so, in truth, did
every woman present.

No one thought of going to rest, though Madame Erlingsen urged it upon
those over whom she had influence.  Finding that Erica had sat up to
watch the cattle the night before, she compelled her to go and lie down:
but no compulsion could make her sleep; and Orga and Frolich did the
best they could for her, by running to her with news of any fresh
appearance below.  Just after midnight, they brought her word that the
bishop had ordered every one but M.  Kollsen away from the ridge.  The
schooner had peeped out from behind the promontory, and was stealing up
with a soft west wind--

"A west wind!" exclaimed Erica.  "Any fog?"

"No, not a flake of mist.  Neither you nor any one will say that Nipen
is favourable to the enemy to-night, Erica."

"You will hear me say less of Nipen, henceforward," said Erica.

"That is wise for to-night, at least.  Here is the west wind; but only
to waft the enemy into our hands.  But have you really left off
believing in Nipen, and the whole race of sprites?"

These words jarred on Erica's yet timid feelings.  She replied that she
must take time for thought, as she had much to think about: but the
bishop had to-day spoken words which she believed would, when well
considered, lift a heavy load from her heart.

The girls kindly left this impression undisturbed, and went on to
describe how the schooner was working up, and why the bishop thought
that the people at the farm were aware of every inch of her progress.

Erica sprang from the bed, and joined the group who were sitting on the
grass, awaiting the sunrise, and eagerly listening for every word from
their watchman, the bishop.  He told when he saw two boats full of men
put off from the schooner, and creep towards Erlingsen's cove under the
shadow of the rocks.  He told how the country-people immediately
gathered behind the barn, and the house, and every outbuilding; and, at
length, when the boats touched the shore, he said--

"Now come and look yourselves.  They are too busy now to be observing
us."

Then how eyes were strained, and what silence there was, broken only by
an occasional exclamation, as it became certain that the decisive moment
was come!  The glass passed rapidly from hand to hand; but it revealed
little.  There was smoke, covering a struggling crowd: and such gazers
as had a husband, a father, or a lover there, could look no longer.  The
bishop himself did not attempt to comfort them, at a moment when he knew
it would be in vain.  In the midst of all this, some one observed two
boats appearing from behind the promontory, and making directly and
rapidly for the schooner; and presently there was a little smoke there
too;--only a puff or two; and then all was quiet till she began to hang
out her sails, which had been taken in, and to glide over the waters in
the direction of a small sandy beach, on which she ran straight up, till
she was evidently fast grounded.

"Excellent!" exclaimed M.  Kollsen.  "How admirably they are conducting
the whole affair!  The retreat of these fellows is completely cut off,--
their vessel taken, and driven ashore, while they are busy elsewhere."

"That is Oddo's doing," observed Orga, quietly.

"Oddo's doing!  How do you know?  Are you serious?  Can you see?  Or did
you hear?"

"I was by when Oddo told his plan to my father, and begged to be allowed
to take the schooner.  My father laughed so that I thought Oddo would be
for going over to the enemy."

"No fear of that," said Erica.  "Oddo has a brave, faithful heart."

"And," said his mistress, "a conscience and temper which will keep him
meek and patient till he has atoned for mischief that he thinks he has
done."

"I must see more of this boy," observed the bishop.  "Did your father
grant his request?" he inquired of Orga.

"At last he did.  Oddo said that a young boy could do little good in the
fight at the farm; but that he might lead a party to attack the
schooner, in the absence of almost all her crew.  He said it was no more
than a boy might do, with half a dozen lads to help him; for he had
reason to feel sure that only just hands enough to manage her would be
left on board; and those the weakest of the pirate party.  My father
said there were men to spare; and he put twelve, well-armed, under
Oddo's orders."

"Who would submit to be under Oddo's command?" asked Frolich, laughing
at the idea.

"Twice twelve, if he had wanted so many," replied Orga.  "Between the
goodness of the joke and their zeal, there were volunteers in plenty,--
my father told me, as he was putting me on my horse."

In a very few minutes, all signs of fighting were over at the farm.  But
there was a fire.  The barn was seen to smoke, and then to flame.  It
was plain that the neighbours were at liberty to attend to the fire, and
had no fighting on their hands.  They were seen to form a line from the
burning barn to the brink of the water, and to hand buckets till the
fire was out.  The barn had been nearly empty; and the fire did not
spread farther; so that Madame Erlingsen herself did not spend one
grudging thought on this small sacrifice, in return for their
deliverance from the enemy, who, she had feared, would ransack her
dwelling, and fire it over her children's heads.  She was satisfied and
thankful, if indeed the pirates were taken.

At the bishop's question about who would go down the mountain for news,
each of Hund's guards begged to be the man.  The swiftest of foot was
chosen; and off he went,--not without a barley-cake and brandy-flask,--
at a pace which promised speedy tidings.

As Madame Erlingsen hoped in her heart, he met a messenger despatched by
her husband; so that all who had lain down to sleep,--all but herself,
that is,--were greeted by good news as they appeared at the
breakfast-table.  The pirates were all taken, and on their way, bound,
to Saltdalen, there to be examined by the magistrate, and, no doubt,
thence transferred to the jail at Tronyem.  Hund was to follow
immediately, either to take his trial with them, or to appear as
evidence against them.

One of the pirates was wounded, and two of the country-people; but not a
life was lost; and Erlingsen, Rolf, Peder, and Oddo were all safe and
unhurt.

Oddo was superintending the unlading of the schooner, and was appointed
by the magistrate, at his master's desire, head-guard of the property,
as it lay on the beach, till the necessary evidence of its having been
stolen by the pirates was taken; and the owners could be permitted to
identify and resume their property.  Oddo was certainly the greatest man
concerned in the affair, after Erlingsen.  And like a really great man,
Oddo's head was not turned with his importance, but intent on the
perfect discharge of his office.  When it was finished, and he returned
to his home, he found he cared more for the pressure of his
grandfather's hand upon his head, as the old man blessed his boy, than
for all the praises of the whole country round.



CHAPTER EIGHTEEN.

TO CHURCH.

An idea occurred to everybody but one, within the next few hours, which
occasioned some consultation.  Everybody but Erica felt and said that it
would be a great honour and privilege, but one not undeserved by the
district, for the Bishop of Tronyem to marry Rolf and Erica before he
left Nordland.  The bishop wished to make some acknowledgment for the
zealous protection and hospitality which had been afforded him; and he
soon found that no act would be so generally acceptable as his blessing
the union of these young people.  He spoke to Madame Erlingsen about it:
and her only doubt was whether it was not too soon after the burial of
old Ulla.  If Peder, however, should not object on this ground, no one
else had a right to do so.

So far from objecting, Peder shed tears of pleasure at the thought.  He
was sure Ulla would be delighted, if she knew;--would feel it an honour
to herself that her place should be filled by one whose marriage-crown
should be blessed by the bishop himself.  Erica was startled, and had
several good reasons to give why there should be no hurry: but she was
brought round to see that Rolf could go to Tronyem, to give his evidence
against the pirates, even better after his marriage than before, because
he would leave Peder in a condition of greater comfort: and she even
smiled to herself as she thought how rapidly she might improve the
appearance of the house during his absence, so that he should delight in
it on his return.  When the bishop assured her that she should not be
hurried into her marriage within two days, but that he would appoint a
day and hour when he should be at the distant church, to confirm the
young people resident lower down the fiord, she gratefully consented,
wondering at the interest so high and reverend a man seemed to feel in
her lot.  When it was once settled that the wedding was to be next week,
she gave hearty aid to the preparations, as freely and openly as if she
was not herself to be the bride.

The bishop embarked immediately on descending the mountain.  His
considerate eye saw, at a glance, that there was necessarily much
confusion at the farm, and that his further presence would be an
inconvenience.  So he bade his host and the neighbours farewell, for a
short time, desiring them not to fail to meet him again at the church,
on his summons.

The kindness of the neighbours did not cease when danger from the enemy
was over.  Some offered boats for the wedding procession; several sent
gilt paper to adorn the bridal crown which Orga and Frolich were making:
and some yielded a more important assistance still.  They put trusty
persons into the seater, and over the herd, for two days; so that all
Erlingsen's household might be at the wedding.  Stiorna preferred making
butter, and gazing southwards, to attending the wedding of Hund's rival;
but every one else was glad to go.  Nobody would have thought of urging
Peder's presence; but he chose to do his part,--(a part which no one
could discharge so well),--singing bridal songs in the leading boat.

The summons arrived quite as soon as it could have been looked for; and
the next day there was as pretty a boat procession on the still waters
of the fiord as had ever before glided over its surface.  Within the
memory of man, no bride had been prettier,--no crown more glittering,--
no bridegroom more happy; no chanting was ever more soothing than old
Peder's--no clarionet better played than Oddo's,--no bridesmaids more
gay and kindly than Orga and Frolich.  The neighbours were hearty in
their cheers as the boats put off; and the cheers were repeated from
every settlement in the coves and on the heights of the fiord, and were
again taken up by the echoes, till the summer air seemed to be full of
gladness.  The birds of the islands, and the leaping fish, might perhaps
wonder as the train of bowery boats floated down,--for every boat was
dressed with green boughs and garlands of flowers;--but the matter was
understood and rejoiced in by all others.

To conclude, the bishop was punctual, and kindly in his welcome of Erica
to the altar.  He was also graciously pleased with Rolfs explanation
that he had not ventured to bring a gift for so great a dignitary; but
that he hoped the bishop would approve of his giving his humble offering
to the church instead.  The six sides of the new pulpit were nearly
finished now; and Rolf desired to take upon himself the carving of the
basement as his marriage fee.  As the bishop smiled approbation, M.
Kollsen bowed acquiescence; and Rolf found himself in prospect of indoor
work for some time to come.

Erica carried home in her heart, and kept there for ever, certain words
of the bishop's address, which he uttered with his eye kindly fixed upon
hers.  "Go, and abide under the shadow of the Almighty.  So shall you
not be afraid for the terror by night, nor for the arrow that flieth by
day: nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the
destruction that wasteth at noon-day.  When you shall have made the Lord
your habitation, you shall not fear that evil may befall you, or that
any plague shall come nigh your dwelling.

"Go: and peace be on your house!"





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