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Title: Magnhild Dust
Author: Bjørnson, Bjørnstjerne, 1832-1910
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Magnhild Dust" ***

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Libraries.)



MAGNHILD

DUST



    WORKS OF
    BJÖRNSTJERNE BJÖRNSON

    PATRIOTS EDITION


    MAGNHILD

    DUST

    _Translated from the Norse_
    _By_
    RASMUS B. ANDERSON

    [Illustration]


    NEW YORK
    DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY


    Copyright, 1882,
    BY HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN & CO.

    _All rights reserved._



PREFACE.


"Magnhild" was planned during the summer of 1873, while the translator
accompanied Mr. Björnson on a journey across Norway. The story is
located in Lærdalen and Skarlie's home is in Lærdalsören, a small town
at the head of one of the branches of the far-famed Sognefjord on the
west coast. I well remember with what care the author made his
observations. The story was written the following winter in Rome, but
was not published until 1877, when it appeared in the original in
Copenhagen and in a German translation in the _Rundschau_
simultaneously.

The reader will see that "Magnhild" is a new departure, and marks a new
epoch in Björnson's career as a writer of fiction. It is but justice to
say that Mr. Björnson himself looks upon this as one of his less
finished works, and yet I believe that many of his American readers will
applaud the manner in which he has here championed the rights of a woman
when she has become united with such a man as Skarlie.

The celebration, on the 10th of August, 1882, of the twenty-fifth
anniversary since the publication of "Synnöve Solbakken," was a great
success. The day was celebrated by his friends in all parts of
Scandinavia and by many of his admirers in Germany, France, and Italy.
At Aulestad (his home in Norway), more than two hundred of his personal
friends from the Scandinavian countries were assembled, among whom may
be mentioned the eminent Swedish journalist Hedlund, the Danish poet
Drachmann, and the Norwegian author Kristofer Janson. Over Aulestad,
which was handsomely decorated, floated Norwegian, Danish, Swedish, and
American flags. There was a great banquet, at which speeches and poems
were not wanting. Mr. Björnson received a number of valuable presents
and countless telegrams from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, France,
Italy, England, and America.

This volume closes the present series of translations of Björnson's
works. The seven volumes[1] now published contain all the novels and
short stories that Björnson has written. His other works are, as shown
in the biographical introduction to "Synnöve Solbakken," chiefly dramas.

Being thus about to send my last Björnson manuscript to the publishers,
I desire to express my hearty thanks to the press and to the public for
the generous reception they have given these stories as they have
appeared one by one. Those who are acquainted with Björnson's original
and idiomatic style can appreciate the many difficulties his translators
have had to contend with. I am fully conscious of my shortcomings and am
particularly aware of my failure to transmit the peculiar national
flavor of Björnson's style, but I have done my best, and have turned his
phrases into as good English as I could command. Others might have been
more successful, but they could not have taken more pains, nor could
they have derived more pleasure from the work than I have found in it.
To Auber Forestier, who has kindly assisted me in the translation of the
whole series, I once more extend my hearty thanks. Without her able help
the work could not have progressed so rapidly. Finally, I commend
"Magnhild" to the tender mercy of the critic and to the good-will of the
reader, and say adieu!

                                                 RASMUS B. ANDERSON.

    ASGARD, MADISON, WISCONSIN.
        _November, 1882._

    [1] The first edition of Björnson's writings, from which the present
        edition is arranged, was in seven volumes. "Magnhild" formed the
        seventh volume, and the present preface is reprinted as it there
        stood.



MAGNHILD.



CHAPTER I.


The landscape has high, bold mountains, above which are just passing the
remnants of a storm. The valley is narrow and continually winding.
Coursing through it is a turbulent stream, on one side of which there is
a road. At some distance up the slopes farms are spread; the buildings
are mostly low and unpainted, yet numerous; heaps of mown hay and fields
of half ripe grain are dotted about.

When the last curve of the valley is left behind the fjord becomes
visible. It lies sparkling beneath an uplifting fog. So completely is it
shut in by mountains that it looks like a lake.

Along the road there jogs at the customary trot a horse with a
cariole-skyds.[2] In the cariole may be seen a waterproof coat and a
south-wester, and between these a beard, a nose, and a pair of
spectacles. Lashed to the back seat is a trunk, and seated on this, with
her back to the cariole, is a full-grown "skyds"-girl, snugly bundled up
in a kerchief. She sits there dangling her coarsely-shod feet. Her arms
are tucked in under the kerchief. Suddenly she bursts out with:
"Magnhild! Magnhild!"

The traveler turned to look after a tall woman in a waterproof cloak who
had just walked past. He had caught a glimpse of a delicately-outlined
face, beneath a hood which was drawn over the brow; now he saw the owner
standing with her forefinger in her mouth, staring. As he was somewhat
persistent in his gaze, she blushed.

"I will step in just as soon as I put up the horse," called out the
skyds-girl.

They drove on.

"Who was that, my dear?" asked the traveler.

"She is the wife of the saddler down at yonder point," was the reply.

In a little while they had advanced far enough to gain a view of the
fjord and the first houses on the point. The skyds-girl reined in the
horse and jumped down from the trunk. She first attended to the animal's
appearance, and then busied herself with her own toilet. It had ceased
raining, and she removed her kerchief, folded it, and stowed it away in
a little pocket in front of the cariole. Then thrusting her fingers
under her head-kerchief she tried to arrange her hair, which hung in
matted locks over her cheeks.

"She had such a singular look,"--he pointed over his shoulders.

The girl fixed her eyes on him, and she began to hum. Presently she
interrupted herself with,--

"Do you remember the land-slide you passed a few miles above here?"

"I passed so many land-slides."

She smiled.

"Yes; but the one I mean is on the other side of a church."

"It was an old land-slide?"

"Yes; it happened long ago. But that is where once lay the gard
belonging to her family. It was swept away when she was eight or nine
years old. Her parents, brothers and sisters, and every living thing on
the gard, perished. She alone was saved. The land-slide bore her across
the stream, and she was found by the people who hastened to the
spot,--she was insensible."

The traveler became absorbed in thought.

"She must be destined to something," said he, at last.

The girl looked up. She waited some time, but their eyes did not meet.
So she resumed her seat on the trunk, and they drove on.

The valley widened somewhat in the vicinity of the point; farms were
spread over the plain: to the right lay the church with the churchyard
around it; a little farther on the point itself, a small town, with a
large number of houses, most of which were but one story high and were
either painted white and red or not painted at all; along the fjord ran
the wharf. A steamer was just smoking there; farther down, by the mouth
of the river, might be seen a couple of old brigs taking in their
cargoes.

The church was new, and showed an attempt at imitating the old Norse
wooden church architecture. The traveler must have had some knowledge of
this, for he stopped, gazed a while at the exterior, then alighted, went
through the gateway, and into the church; both gate and door stood open.
He was scarcely inside of the building when the bells began to ring;
through the opening he saw a bridal procession coming up from the little
town. As he took his departure the procession was close by the
churchyard gate, and by this he stood while it moved in: the bridegroom,
an elderly man, with a pair of large hands and a large face, the bride,
a young girl, with a plump, round face, and of a heavy build. The
bridesmaids were all clad in white and wore gloves; not one of them
ventured to bestow more than a side glance at the stranger; most of them
stooped, one was hump-backed; there was not one who could truly be said
to have a fine form.

Their male friends lagged behind, in gray, brown, and black felt hats,
and long frock coats, pea-jackets, or round-abouts. Most of them had a
lock of hair drawn in front of the ear, and those who had beards wore
them to cover the entire chin. The visages were hard, the mouths usually
coarse; most of them had tobacco stains about the corners of their
mouths, and some had cheeks distended with tobacco-quids.

Involuntarily the traveler thought of her in the waterproof cloak. Her
history was that of the landscape. Her refined, unawakened face hung as
full of yearning as the mountains of showers; everything that met his
eye, both landscape and people, became a frame for her.

As he approached the road, the skyds-girl hastened to the wayside where
the horse was grazing. While she was tugging at the reins she continued
to gaze fixedly at the bridal procession.

"Are you betrothed?" asked the stranger, smiling.

"He who is to have me has no eyes yet," she replied, in the words of a
proverb.

"Then, I suppose, you are longing to get beyond your present position,"
said he, adding: "Is it to America?"

She was surprised; that query was evidently well aimed.

"Is it in order that you may more speedily earn your traveling expenses
that you have gone into the skyds line? Do you get plenty of fees? Hey?"

Now she colored. Without uttering a word in reply, she promptly took her
seat on the trunk with her back to the stranger, before he had stepped
into the cariole.

Soon they had neared the white-painted hotels which were situated on
either side of the street close by the entrance to the little town. In
front of one of these they paused. By the balustrade above stood a group
of carriers, chiefly young fellows; they had most likely been watching
the bridal procession and were now waiting for steamer-bound travelers.
The stranger alighted and went in, while the girl busied herself with
unstrapping the trunk. Some one must have offered her help, for as the
traveler approached the window he saw her push from her a great lubberly
boy in a short jacket. In all probability some impertinence had also
been offered her and had been repaid in the same coin, for the other
carriers set up a shout of laughter. The girl came walking in with the
heavy trunk. The traveler opened the door for her, and she laughed as
she met him. While he was counting out her money to her, he said,--

"I agree with you, Rönnaug, you ought to be off to America as soon as
possible."

He now handed her two specie dollars as her fee.

"This is my mite for your fund," said he, gravely.

She regarded him with wide-open eyes and open mouth, took the money,
returned thanks, and then put up both hands to stroke back her hair, for
it had again fallen out of place. While thus engaged she dropped some of
the coins she held in one half-closed hand. She stooped to pick them up,
and as she did so some of the hooks in her boddice gave way. This
loosened her kerchief and one end fell out, for a knot in one corner
contained something heavy. While readjusting this she again dropped her
money. She got off at last, however, with all her abundance, and was
assailed with a volley of rude jests. This time she made no reply; but
she cast a shy glance into the hotel as she drove the horse past, full
trot.

It was the traveler's lot to see her once more; for as he passed down to
the steamer, later in the day, she was standing with her back turned
toward the street, at a door over which hung a sign-board bearing the
inscription: "Skarlie, Saddler." As he drew nearer he beheld Magnhild in
the inner passage. She had not yet removed her waterproof cloak,
although the rain had long since ceased. Even the hood was still drawn
over her head. Magnhild was the first to espy the stranger, and she drew
farther back into the house; Rönnaug turned, and then she too moved into
the passage.

That evening Rönnaug's steamer ticket was bought; for the sum was
complete. Magnhild did not undress after Rönnaug had gone home late in
the evening. She sat in a large arm-chair in the little low room, or
restlessly paced the floor. And once, with her heavy head pressed
against the window pane, she said half aloud,--

"Then she must be destined to something."

    [2] Conveyance.



CHAPTER II.


She had heard these words before.

The first time it was in the churchyard that blustering winter day her
fourteen relatives were buried,--all whom she had loved, both parents
and grandparents, and brothers and sisters. In fancy she saw the scene
again! The wind had here and there swept away the snow, the pickets of
the fence stood out in sharp prominence, huge rocks loomed up like the
heads of monsters whose bodies were covered by the snow-drifts. The wind
whistled behind the little group of mourners through the open church
porch whose blinds had been taken out, and down from the old wooden
belfry came the clanging toll of the bell, like one cry of anguish after
another.

The people that were gathered together were blue with the cold; they
wore mittens and their garments were closely buttoned up. The priest
appeared in sea-boots and had on a skin suit beneath his gown; his hands
also were eased in large mittens, and he vigorously fought the air
round about him with these. He waved one of them toward Magnhild.

"This poor child," said he, "remained standing on her feet, and with her
little sled in her hand she was borne downward and across the frozen
stream,--the sole being the Lord saw fit to save. To what is she
destined?"

She rode home with the priest, sitting on his lap. He had commended her
to the care of the parish, and took her home with him "for the present,"
in order to set a good example. She nestled up to his fur overcoat, with
her small cold hands inside of his huge mittens, beside his soft, plump
hands. And all the while she kept thinking: "What am I destined to, I
wonder?"

She presumed that her mind would become clear on this point when she got
into the house. But nothing met her eye here she had not seen before
until she entered the inner room, where a piano which some one was just
playing in the highest degree attracted her.

But for that very reason she forgot the thought she had brought in with
her.

In this household there were two daughters, heavy-looking girls, with
small round heads and long, thick braids of light hair. They had
recently been provided with a governess, a pale, though fleshy person,
with her neck more exposed and her sleeves more open than Magnhild had
ever seen in any one before. Her voice sounded as though it needed
clearing, and Magnhild involuntarily coughed several times; but this was
of no avail. The governess asked Magnhild's name and inquired if she
knew how to read, to which Magnhild replied in the affirmative. Her
whole family had been noted for their love of reading. And then the
governess proposed, still with the same husky after-tone in her voice,
that she should be allowed to share the instructions of the little
girls, in order to spur them on. Magnhild was one year older than the
elder.

The mistress of the house was sitting by, engaged with her embroidery.
She now glanced up at Magnhild and said, "With pleasure," then bent over
her work again. She was a person of medium size, neither thin nor stout,
and had a small head with fair hair. The priest, who was heavy and
corpulent, came down-stairs after removing his gown; he was smoking, and
as he crossed the floor, he said, "There comes a man with fish," and
passed out of the room again.

The youngest girl once more attacked her scales. Magnhild did not know
whether she should remain where she was, or go back to the kitchen. She
sat on the wood-box by the stove tormented with the uncertainty, when
dinner was announced in the adjoining room. All work was put aside, and
the little one at the piano closed the instrument. Now when Magnhild was
alone and heard the rattling of the knives, she began to cry; for she
had not yet eaten a morsel that day. During the meal the priest came out
from the dining-room; for it had been decided that he had not bought
enough fish. He opened the window and called out to the man to wait
until dinner was over. As he turned to go back into the dining-room he
espied the little one on the wood-box.

"Are you hungry?" asked he.

The child made no reply. He had lived long enough among the peasants to
know that her silence meant "yes," and so taking her by the hand he led
her to the table, where room was silently made for her.

In the afternoon she went coasting with the little girls, and then
joined them in their studies and had a lesson in Bible history with
them; after this she partook of the afternoon lunch with them, and then
played with them until they were called to supper, which they all ate at
the same table. She slept that night on a lounge in the dining-room and
took part the next day in the duties of the priest's daughters.

She had no clothes except those she had on; but the governess made over
an old dress for her; some articles of old linen belonging to one of the
little girls were given to her, and a pair of their mother's boots. The
lounge she had slept on was removed from the dining-room, because it
occupied the space needed for some shoemakers who were to "see the
household well shod." It was placed in the kitchen, but was in the way
there; then in the bed-room of the maid-servants, but there the door
continually struck against it; finally it was carried up to the nursery.
Thus it was that Magnhild came to eat, work, and sleep with the priest's
daughters; and as new clothes were never made for her she naturally fell
to wearing theirs.

Quite as much by chance she began to play the piano. It was discovered
that she had more talent for music than the daughters of the house, so
it was thought best that she should learn, in order to help them.
Moreover, she grew tall, and developed a fine voice for singing. The
governess took great pains in teaching her to sing by note; she did so
at first merely in the mechanical way she did everything, later because
the remarkable skill in reading at sight which her pupil developed under
her guidance proved a diversion to them all in their mountain solitude.
The priest could lie on the sofa (the place he most frequently occupied)
and laugh aloud when he heard Magnhild running all sorts of exercises up
and down like a squirrel in a tree. The result of this, so far as
Magnhild was concerned, was that the young girl learned--not more music,
as one might have supposed, but--basket-making.

The fact was that about this time there spread, like an epidemic among
the people, the idea that skill in manual industries should be
cultivated among the peasants, and propagators of the new doctrine
appeared also in this parish. Magnhild was chosen as the first pupil;
she was thought to have the most "dexterity." The first thing taught was
basket-making, then double spinning, then weaving, especially of the
more artistic kinds, and after this embroidery, etc., etc. She learned
all these things very rapidly, that is to say, she learned zealously as
long as she was gaining an insight into each; further development did
not interest her. But as she was henceforth expected to teach others,
grown people as well as children, it became a settled habit for her to
repair twice each week to the public school where many were assembled.
When anything had once become part of her daily routine she thought no
more about it. The house that had given her shelter was responsible for
this.

The mistress of the house made her daily regulation visits to the
kitchen, cellar, and stables, the rest of the time she embroidered; the
whole house was covered with embroidery. She might be taken for a fat
spider, with a little round head, spinning its web over chairs, tables,
beds, sledges, and carts. Her voice was rarely heard; she was seldom
addressed by any one.

The priest was much older than his wife. His face was characterized by
its small proportion of nose, chin, and eyes, and its very large share
of all else belonging to it. He had fared badly at his examination, and
had been compelled to support himself by teaching until, when he was
advancing in years, he had married one of his former pupils, a lady with
quite a nice property. Then he betook himself to seeking a clerical
appointment, "the one thing in which he had shown perseverance," as he
was himself in the habit of playfully remarking. After a ten years'
search he had succeeded in getting a call (not long since) to his
present parish, and he could scarcely hope for a better one. He passed
most of his time in lying on the sofa reading, chiefly novels, but also
newspapers and periodicals.

The governess always sat in the same chair in which Magnhild had seen
her the first day, took the same walk to the church and back each day,
and never failed to be ready for her duties on the stroke of the clock.
She gradually increased in weight until she became excessively stout;
she continued to wear her neck bare and her sleeves open, furthermore to
speak in the same husky voice, which no effort on her part had ever yet
been able to clear.

The priest's daughters became stout and heavy like their father,
although they had small round heads like their mother. Magnhild and they
lived as friends, in other words, they slept in the same room, and
worked, played, and ate together.

There were never any ideas afloat in this parish. If any chanced to find
their way there from without they got no farther than the priest's
study. The priest was not communicative. At the utmost he read aloud to
his family some new or old novel that he had found diverting.

One evening they were all sitting round the table, and the priest,
having yielded to the entreaties of the united family, was reading aloud
the "Pickwick Club."

The kitchen door slowly opened and a large bald head, with a snub nose
and smiling countenance, was thrust in. A short leg in very wide
trousers was next introduced, and this was followed by a crooked and
consequently still shorter one. The whole figure stooped as it turned on
the crooked leg to shut the door. The intruder thus presented to the
party the back of the before mentioned large head, with its narrow rim
of hair, a pair of square-built shoulders, and an extraordinarily large
seat, only half covered by a pea-jacket. Again he turned in a slanting
posture toward the assembled party, and once more presented his smiling
countenance with its snub-nose. The young girls bowed low over their
work, a suppressed titter arose first from one piece of sewing and then
from another.

"Is this the saddler?" asked the priest, rising to his feet.

"Yes," was the reply, as the new-comer limped forward, holding out a
hand so astonishingly large and with such broad round finger tips that
the priest was forced to look at it as he took it in his own. The hand
was offered to the others; and when it came to Magnhild's turn she burst
out laughing just as her hand disappeared within it. One peal of
laughter after another was heard and suppressed. The priest hastened to
remark that they were reading the "Pickwick Club."

"Aha!" observed the saddler, "there is enough to make one laugh in that
book."

"Have you read it?" asked the priest.

"Yes; when I was in America. I read most of the English writers; indeed,
I have them all in my house now," he answered, and proceeded to give an
account of the cheap popular editions that could be obtained in America.

The laughter of young girls is not easily subdued; it was still ready to
bubble over when, after the saddler was furnished with a pipe, the
reading was resumed. Now to be sure there was a pretext. After a while
the priest grew tired and wanted to close the book, but the saddler
offered to continue the reading for him, and was allowed to do so. He
read in a dry, quiet manner, and with such an unfamiliar pronunciation
of the names of the personages and localities introduced that the humor
of the text became irresistible; even the priest joined in the laughter
which no one now attempted to restrain. It never occurred to the girls
to ask themselves why they were all obliged to laugh; they were still
laughing when they went up-stairs to go to bed, and while undressing
they imitated the saddler's walk, bowed and talked as he did, pronounced
the foreign words with his English accent. Magnhild was the most adroit
in mimicking; she had observed him the most closely.

At that time she was fifteen, in her sixteenth year.

The next day the girls passed every free moment in the dining-room,
which had now been transformed into a work-shop. The saddler told them
of a sojourn of several years in America, and of travels in England and
Germany; he talked without interrupting his work and with a frequent
intermingling of jests. His narratives were accompanied by the incessant
tittering of his listeners. They were scarcely aware themselves how they
gradually ceased laughing at him and laughed instead at the witty things
he said; neither did they observe until later how much they learned from
him. He was so greatly missed by the girls when he left that more than
half of their time together was occupied in conversation about him; this
lasted for many days after he was gone, and never wholly ceased.

There were two things which had made the strongest impression on
Magnhild. The first was the English and German songs the saddler had
sung for them. She had paid little attention to the text, unless perhaps
occasionally; but how the melodies had captivated her!

While singing hymns one Sunday they had first noticed that Skarlie had a
fine voice. Thenceforth he was obliged to sing for them constantly.
These foreign melodies of his fluttering thither from a fuller, richer
life, freer conditions, larger ideas than their own, clung to Magnhild's
fancy the entire summer. They were the first pictures which had awakened
actual yearning within her breast. It may also be said that for the
first time she comprehended what song was. As she was singing her
interminable scales one day, before beginning her studies in singing
from note, she came to a full realization of the fact that this song
without melody was to her like wings beating against a cage: it
fluttered up and down against walls, windows, doors, in perpetual and
fruitless longing, aye, until at last it sank like the cobwebs, over
everything in the room. She could sit alone out of doors with _his_
songs. While she was humming them, the forest hues dissolved into one
picture; and that she had never discovered before. The density, the
vigor in the tree-tops, above and below the tree-tops, over the entire
mountain wall, as it were, overwhelmed her; the rushing of the waters of
the stream attracted her.

The second thing which had made so deep an impression on her, and which
was blended with all the rest, was Skarlie's story of how he had become
lame. In America, when he was a young man, he had undertaken to carry a
boy twelve years old from a burning house; he had fallen with the boy
beneath the ruins. Both were extricated, Skarlie with a crushed limb,
the boy unscathed. That boy was now one of the most noted men of
America.

It was his lot to be saved, "he was destined to something."

This reminder again! The thought of her own fate had heretofore been
shrouded in the wintry mantle of the churchyard, amid frost, weeping,
and harsh clanging of bells; it had been something sombre. Now it
flitted onward to large cities beyond the seas, among ships, burning
houses, songs, and great destinies. From this time forth she dreamed of
what she was destined to be as something far distant and great.



CHAPTER III.


Late in the autumn all three girls were confirmed. This was such a
matter of course to them all that their thoughts were chiefly busied
with what they should wear on the day of the ceremony. Magnhild, who had
never yet had a garment cut out and made expressly for herself, wondered
whether an outfit would now be prepared for her. No. The younger girls
were furnished with new silk dresses; an old black dress that had become
too tight for the priest's wife was made over for Magnhild.

It was too short both in the waist and in the skirt; but Magnhild
scarcely noticed this. She was provided by the governess with a little
colored silk neckerchief and a silver brooch; she borrowed the every-day
shawl of the mistress of the house; a pair of gloves were loaned her by
the governess.

Her inner preparations were not much more extensive than the outer ones.

The day glided tranquilly by without any special emotion. Religious
sentiments at the parsonage, as well as elsewhere in the parish, were
matters of calm custom. Some tears were shed in church, the priest
offered wine and a toast at table, and there was a little talk about
what should now be done with Magnhild. This last topic so affected
Magnhild that after coffee she went out and sat down alone. She gazed
toward the broad rocky path of the land-slide on the verdure-clad
mountain, then toward the mighty mass of débris in the midst of the
plain, for it was there her home had stood.

Her little brothers and sisters appeared before her, one fair, bright
face after another. Her mother came too; and her melancholy eye dwelt
lingeringly on Magnhild; even the lines about the mouth were visible.
The fine psalm-singing of her mother's gentle voice floated around
Magnhild now. There had been sung in church that day one of the hymns
her mother used to sing. Once more, too, her father sat on the bench,
bowed over the silver work in which he was a master. A book or a
newspaper lay at his side; he paused in his work now and then, stole a
glance at the page before him, or turned a leaf. His long, delicately
cut face inclined occasionally toward the family sitting-room and its
inmates. The aged grandparents formed part of the home circle. The
grandmother tottered off after some little dainty for Magnhild, while
the old grandfather was telling the child a story. The dog, shaggy and
gray, lay stretching himself on the hearth. His howl had been the last
living sound Magnhild had heard behind her as she was carried downward
across the stream. The memory of that awful day once more cast over her
childhood the pall of night, thunder, and convulsions of the earth.
Covering her face with her hands, she burst into tears.

The saddler's ballads came floating toward her, bringing a sense of want
with their obscure dream images. And there drifted past her a motley
throng of those half-comprehended songs and the anecdotes upon which she
had often placed false interpretations, until, exhausted by the
thoughts, emotions, and yearnings of the day, with an aching void within
and a dull feeling of resignation, she feel asleep.

In the evening Rönnaug, with whom they had become acquainted during the
confirmation instructions, made her appearance; she was out at service
in the neighborhood and had a holiday in honor of the occasion. She
brought with her a whole budget of gossip concerning the love affairs of
the parish, and the inexperienced girls sat with wondering eyes
listening. It was she who caused the youngest girl to tear her new silk
dress. Rönnaug could roll down hill with such incomprehensible speed
that she was induced to repeat the feat several times, and this finally
led the priest's daughter to try her skill.

Hereafter Rönnaug often dropped in of an evening when her work was done.
They all took delight in her wild exuberance of spirits. She was as
hearty and as plump as a young foal; she could scarcely keep the clothes
on her back because she was all the time tearing them to tatters, and
she had never-ceasing trouble with her hair, which would keep falling
over her face because she never had it done up properly. When she
laughed, and that was nearly all the time, she tossed back her head, and
through two rows of pearly teeth, white as those of a beast of prey,
could be seen far down her throat.

In the autumn Skarlie came again. There was a difference between the
reception now given him and the former one. The three girls surrounded
his sledge, they carried in his luggage, notwithstanding his laughing
resistance, their laughter accompanied him as he stood in the passage
taking off his furs.

Questions without number were showered like hail upon him the first
time they sat with him in the work-room; the girls had an accumulation
of treasured-up doubts and queries about things he had told them on his
previous visit, and many other perplexing themes which they considered
him able to solve. On very few topics did Skarlie hold the prevailing
opinions of the parish, but he had a way of deftly turning the subject
with a joke when pressed too closely for his precise views. When alone
with Magnhild he expressed himself more freely; at first he did so
cautiously, but gradually increased his plainness of speech.

Magnhild had never viewed her surroundings with critical eyes; she would
now laugh heartily with Skarlie over the priest's last sermon, or his
indolent life; now over the spider-like activity of the mistress of the
house, because it was all described so comically. At the "fat repose" of
the governess, even at the "yellow, round heads" of her young friends,
Magnhild could now laugh; for the humor with which everything was
delineated was so surprisingly original; she did not perceive that this
jesting was by degrees undermining the very ground she stood upon.

The quite usual amusement in the country of teasing a young girl about
being in love was, meanwhile, directed rather unexpectedly toward
Magnhild; she was called "the saddler's wife," because she passed so
much time in his society. This reached Skarlie's ears and immediately he
too began to call her his "wife," his "tall wife," his "blonde wife,"
his "very young wife."

The following summer the priest's daughters went to the city for
increased opportunities of culture. The governess remained "for the
present" at the parsonage.

The saddler came once more in the autumn to complete his work. Magnhild
was now, of course, more frequently alone with him than before. He was
merrier than ever. One joke that was often repeated by him was about
journeying round the world with "his young wife." They met with an
immense number of traveling adventures, and they saw many remarkable
sights, all of which were so accurately described by Skarlie that they
attained the value of actual experiences. But the most ludicrous picture
he drew represented the two tramping through the country: Skarlie
limping on before with a traveling satchel, Magnhild following in a
waterproof cloak and with an umbrella in her hand, grumbling at the
heat, dust, and thirst, weary and heartily disgusted with him Then,
having reached their journey's end, they rested in Skarlie's little home
in the little town, where Magnhild had everything her own way and lived
like a princess all the rest of her life.

       *       *       *       *       *

It would be impossible to describe the countenance of the priest when
the saddler appeared in his study one evening, and taking a seat in
front of him asked, after a few cordial, pleasant remarks by way of
introduction, whether the priest would object to his marrying Magnhild.
The priest was lying on the sofa smoking; his pipe dropped from his
mouth, his hand sank with it, his fat face relaxed until it resembled a
dough-like mass, in which the eyes peeped forth as wholly devoid of
thought as two raisins; suddenly he gave a start that set a quantity of
springs beneath him to creaking and grating, and the book that lay
upside down on his knee fell. The saddler picked up the volume smiling,
and turned over the leaves. The priest had risen to his feet.

"What does Magnhild have to say to this?" asked he.

The saddler looked up with a smile.

"Of course I should not have asked if she were not likely to give her
consent," said he.

The priest put his pipe in his mouth, and strode up and down the floor,
puffing away. Gradually he grew calmer, and without slackening his
speed, he observed:--

"To be sure I do not know what is to become of the girl."

Once more the saddler raised his eyes from the book whose leaves he was
turning over, and now laying it aside, he remarked:--

"It is, you know, rather a sort of adoption than a marriage. Down yonder
at my house she can develop into whatever she pleases."

The priest looked at him, took a puff at his pipe, paced the floor, and
puffed again.

"Aye, to be sure! You are, I believe, a wealthy man?"

"Well, if not precisely wealthy, I am sufficiently well provided to get
married."

Here Skarlie laughed.

But there was something in his laugh, something which did not quite
please the priest. Still less did he like the tone of indifference with
which Skarlie seemed to treat the whole affair. Least of all did he like
being so taken by surprise.

"I must speak with my wife about this," said he, and groaned. "That I
must," he added decidedly, "and with Magnhild," came as an
afterthought.

"Certainly," said the other, as he rose to take leave.

A little while later, the priest's wife was sitting where the saddler
had sat. Both hands lay idly open on her lap, while her eyes followed
her spouse as he steamed back and forth.

"Well, what do you think?" he urged, pausing in front of her.

Receiving no reply, he moved on again.

"He is far too old," she finally said.

"And surely very sly," added the priest, and then pausing again in front
of his wife, he whispered: "No one really knows where he comes from, or
why he chooses to settle here. He might have a fine workshop in a large
city--wealthy, and a smart dog!"

The priest did not use the choicest language in his daily discourse.

"To think she should allow herself to be so beguiled!" whispered the
wife.

"Beguiled! Just the word--beguiled!" repeated the priest, snapping his
fingers. "Beguiled!" and off he went in a cloud of smoke.

"I am so sorry for her," remarked the wife, and the words were
accompanied by a few tears.

This touched the priest, and he said: "See here, mother, we will talk
with her, both of us!" then strode heavily on again.

Ere long Magnhild stood within the precincts of the study, wondering
what could be wanted of her. The priest was the first to speak:--

"Is it really true, Magnhild, that you have agreed to be the wife of
this fellow, the saddler?"

The priest often used the general term "fellow" instead of a proper
name.

Magnhild's face became suffused with blushes; in her whole life she
could never have been so red before. Both the priest and his wife
interpreted this as a confession.

"Why do you not come to us with such things?" asked the priest, in a
vexed tone.

"It is very strange you should act so, Magnhild," said the mistress of
the house,--and she wept.

Magnhild was simply appalled.

"Do you really mean to have him?" asked the priest, pausing resolutely
in front of her.

Now Magnhild had never been accustomed to being addressed in a
confidential tone. When questioned thus closely she had not the courage
to give a frank statement of all that had occurred between her and
Skarlie, telling, how this talk of marriage had commenced as a jest,
and that although later she had had a misgiving that it was becoming
serious, it was so continually blended anew with jests that she had not
given herself the trouble to protest against it. How could she, with the
priest standing thus before her, enter on so long a story? And so
instead she burst into tears.

Well now, the priest did not mean to torment her. What was done could
not be undone. He was very sorry for her, and in the goodness of his
heart merely wanted to help her lay a solid foundation to her choice.
Skarlie was a man of considerable means, he said, and she a poor girl;
she certainly could not expect a better match, so far as that went.
True, Skarlie was old; but then he had himself said that he designed
rather a sort of adoption than a marriage; his only object was
Magnhild's happiness.

But all this was more than Magnhild could bear to listen to, and so she
rushed from the room. In the passage she fell to crying as though her
heart would break; she was obliged to go up to the dark garret in order
to avoid attracting attention, and there her grief gradually assumed
definite shape. It was _not_ because the saddler wanted her that she was
in such distress; it was because the priest and his wife did not want
her.

This was the interpretation she had put on their words.

When the governess was informed of the affair she differed entirely from
the mistress of the house, who could not comprehend Magnhild, for the
governess could comprehend the young girl perfectly. Skarlie was a man
of fine mind and very witty. He was rich, jovial, rather homely, to be
sure, but that was not of such great consequence down at the Point. And
she adopted this tone in talking with Magnhild when she finally
succeeded in getting hold of her. Magnhild was red with weeping, and
burst into a fresh flood of tears; yet not a word did she say.

Somewhat curtly the priest now informed the saddler that as the matter
was settled he might as well proceed with the preparations. The saddler
desired this himself; moreover, he was now quite through with his work.
Eagerly as he strove for an opportunity to speak with Magnhild, he even
failed to catch a glimpse of her. He was therefore forced to take his
departure without having an interview with her.

During the days which followed Magnhild neither appeared in the
sitting-room nor at table. No one attempted to seek her and talk with
her; the governess deemed it quite natural that in the face of so
serious a step the young girl should wish to be alone.

One day the members of the household were surprised by the arrival
through the mail of a letter and large package for Magnhild. The letter
read as follows:--

    In order to complete our delightful joke, dear Magnhild, I came
    down here. My house has been painted this summer, within and
    without, a joke which now almost looks like earnest--does it
    not?

    Beds, household furniture, bedding, etc., are articles that I
    deal in myself, so these I can purchase from my own stores. When
    I think of the object I have in view, this becomes the most
    delightful business transaction I have ever entered into.

    Do you remember how we laughed the time I took your measure in
    order to prove accurately how much too short in the waist your
    dress was, how much too wide across the shoulders, and how much
    too short in the skirt? Just by chance I took a note of your
    exact measurement, and according to it I am now having made:--

        1 black silk dress (Lyons taffeta).
        1 brown (cashmere).
        1 blue (of some light woolen material).

    As I have always told you, blue is the most becoming color that
    you can wear.

    Such orders cannot be executed without some delay; but the
    articles shall be sent as speedily as possible.

    For other garments that you may perhaps require I telegraphed to
    Bergen immediately upon my arrival here; such things can be
    obtained there ready-made. You will most likely receive them by
    the same mail which brings you this letter.

    As you see (and shall further continue to see), there are sundry
    jokes connected with this getting married. For instance, I made
    my will to-day, and in it designated you as my heiress.

    With most respectful greetings to the priest and his honored
    family, I now subscribe myself
                                      Your most obedient jester,
                                                            SKARLIE.

Magnhild had taken refuge in the garret, with both the letter and the
large package. She had plunged forthwith into the letter, and emerging
from its perusal perplexed and frightened, she tore open the package and
found many full suits of everything pertaining to feminine under
garments. She scattered them all around her, blushing crimson, angry,
ashamed. Then she sat down and wept aloud.

Now she had courage to speak! She sprang down-stairs to the priest's
wife, and throwing her arms about her neck, whispered, "Forgive me!"
thrust the letter into her hand, and disappeared.

The priest's wife did not understand Magnhild's "Forgive me!" but she
saw that the young girl was crying and in great excitement. She took the
letter and read it. It was peculiar in form, she thought; yet its
meaning was plain enough: it indicated a sensible, elderly man's prudent
forethought, and deserved credit. An old housewife and mother could not
be otherwise than pleased with this, and she carried the letter to the
priest. It impressed him in the same way; and he began to think the girl
might be happy with this singular man. The mistress of the house
searched everywhere for Magnhild, in order to tell her that both the
priest and herself were of the opinion that Skarlie's conduct promised
well. She learned that Magnhild was in the garret, and so throwing a
shawl round her (for it was cold) she went up-stairs. She met the
governess on the way and took her with her. Magnhild was not visible;
they saw only the articles of clothing strewn over floor, chests, and
trunks. They collected these together, discussed them, examined them,
and pronounced them admirable. They well knew that such a gift was
calculated to embarrass a young girl; but then Skarlie was an elderly
man whose privilege it was to take things in a fatherly way. This they
told Magnhild when they finally found her. And she had no longer the
courage to be confidential. This was because the priest's wife,
sustained by the governess, spoke what they deemed sensible words to
her. They told her that she must not be proud; she must remember that
she was a poor girl who had neither relatives nor future of her own. In
the days which followed, Magnhild fought a hard fight in secret. But she
lacked energy for action. Where could she have gained it? Where could
she go since the priest's family had so evidently grown tired of her?

A little later there arrived a chest containing her dresses and many
other articles. Magnhild allowed it to stand untouched, but the
governess, who so well understood this bashfulness, attended to having
it opened. She and the priest's wife drew forth the contents piece by
piece, and not long afterwards Magnhild was trying on dress after dress
before the large mirror in the family sitting-room. The doors were
locked, the priest's wife and the governess full of zeal. Finally they
came to the black silk dress, and Magnhild gradually ceased to be
indifferent. She felt a blushing gratification in beholding in the glass
her own form encompassed in beautiful fine material. She discovered
herself, as it were, point by point. If it chanced to be the face, she
had not before this day so fully observed that those she beheld at her
side were without distinct outline, while hers--Her vision had been
rendered keen by the sense awakened, in the twinkling of an eye, by a
handsome, well-fitting garment.

This picture of herself floated before her for many days. Fearing to
disturb it she avoided the mirror. Once more she became absorbed in the
old dreams, those which bore her across the sea to something strange and
great.

But the marriage? At such moments she thrust it from her as though it
were a steamer's plank, to be drawn ashore after serving its purpose.
How was this possible? Aye, how many times in the years that followed
did she not pause and reflect! But it always remained alike
incomprehensible to her.

She could neither be persuaded to put on one of the new dresses the day
Skarlie came, nor to go out to meet him; on the contrary, she hid
herself. Later, and as by chance, she made her appearance. With
unvarying consistency she treated both the marriage and Skarlie as
though neither in the least concerned her.

Skarlie was in high spirits; the fact was both the priest and his wife
took pains to make amends for Magnhild's lack of courtesy, and he
reciprocated in the most winning manner. The governess declared him to
be decidedly amiable.

The next evening Magnhild sat in the dining-room arranging some articles
belonging to the industrial school that must now be sent back. She was
alone, and Skarlie entered softly and smiling, and slowly closing the
door behind him took a seat at her side. He talked for some time on
indifferent subjects, so that she began to breathe freely again; she
even ventured at last to look down on him as he sat bent over smoking.
Her eyes rested on the bald head, the bushy brows, and the extreme end
of the snub-nose, then on his enormous hands and their very
singular-looking nails; the latter were deeply set in the flesh, which
everywhere, therefore in front also, encompassed them like a thick round
frame. Under the nails there was dirt, a fact to which the governess,
who had herself very pretty hands, had once called the attention of her
pupils as a deadly sin. Magnhild looked at the reddish, bristling hair
which completely covered these hands. Skarlie had been silent for a
little while, but as if he felt that he was being scrutinized, he drew
himself up, and with a smile extended to her one of his objectionable
hands.

"Aye, aye, Magnhild!" said he, laying it on both of hers. This gave her
a shock, and in a moment she was like one paralyzed. She could not stir,
could not grasp a single thought except that she was in the clutches of
a great lobster. His head drew nearer, the eyes too were those of a
lobster; they stung. This she had never before observed, and she sprang
hastily to her feet. He retained his seat. Without looking back Magnhild
began to busy herself where she stood with another lot of the industrial
work. Therefore she did not leave the room, but a little while later
Skarlie did.

The governess decked her in her bridal finery the next day; the mistress
of the house too came to look on. This gave her great pleasure, she
said. Magnhild let everything be done for her without stirring, without
uttering a word and without shedding a tear.

It was the same in the sitting-room. She was motionless. A feeling akin
to defiance had taken possession of her. The men-servants and the
house-maids sat and stood by the kitchen door, which was ajar, and just
inside of it; Magnhild saw, too, the heads of little children. The
deacon started the singing as the priest came down-stairs.

Magnhild did not look at the bridegroom. The priest touched on tender
chords; his wife shed tears, and so too did the governess; but
Magnhild's icy coldness chilled both him and them. The discourse was
brief and dealt chiefly in mere generalities. It was followed by
congratulations, and a painful silence; even the saddler had lost his
smile. It was a relief when they were summoned to dinner.

During the repast the priest, desiring to propose a toast, began: "Dear
Magnhild! I trust you have no fault to find with us,"--he got no
farther, for here Magnhild burst into such convulsive weeping that the
priest's wife, the governess, aye, even the priest himself became deeply
affected, and there arose a long and painful silence. Finally, however,
the priest managed to add: "Think of us!" But these words were followed
by the same heart-rending weeping as before, so that no toast was
drunk. What this really signified was not clear to any of those
present, unless perhaps to the bridegroom; and he said nothing.

While they were at dessert one of the young girls approached the bride
and whispered a few words in her ear. Rönnaug was outside and wished to
say farewell; she had been waiting ever since the company had gone to
table and could stay no longer. Rönnaug was standing on the back porch,
benumbed with the cold; she did not wish to intrude, she said. She
examined the bride's dress, thought it extraordinarily fine, and drawing
off one mitten stroked it with the back of her hand.

"Yes, I dare say he is rich," said she, "but if they had given me a gown
of silver I would not"--and she added a few words which cannot be
repeated here, and for which Magnhild, her face flaming, administered a
good sound box on the ear. The kerchief softened the blow somewhat, but
it was seriously meant.

Magnhild returned to the dining-room and sat down, not in her place at
the bridegroom's side, but on a chair by the window; she did not wish
anything more, she said. It was of no avail that she was entreated to
sit with the others at least until they had finished; she said she could
not.

The departure took place shortly after coffee was served. An incident
had meanwhile occurred which suppressed all emotion, of whatever nature
it might be. It was that the bridegroom suddenly appeared, looking like
a shaggy beast, carrying a fur cape, fur boots, a short coat, a hood,
fur gloves, and a muff. He let them fall in front of Magnhild, saying
with dry earnestness,--

"All these I lay at your feet!"

There burst forth a peal of laughter in which even Magnhild was forced
to join. The whole bridal party gathered about the things which were
spread over the carpet, and every one was loud in praise. It was
evidently not displeasing to Magnhild either, in the face of a winter
journey,--for which she had been promised the loan of a variety of
wraps,--to have such presents lavished upon her.

In a few moments more Magnhild was attired in her blue dress, and she
was enough of a child or rather woman to be diverted by the change.
Shortly afterwards the new traveling wraps were donned, piece by piece,
amid the liveliest interest of all, which reached its height when
Magnhild was drawn before the mirror to see for herself how she looked.
The horse had been driven round, and Skarlie just now came into the
room, also dressed for traveling, and wearing a dog-skin coat, deer-skin
shoes and leggings, and a flat fur cap. He was nearly as broad as he was
long, and in order to raise a laugh, he limped up to the mirror, and,
with dry humor in his face, took his stand beside Magnhild. There
followed a burst of laughter, in which even Magnhild herself joined--but
only to become at once entirely mute again. Her silence still hung over
the parting. Not until the parsonage was left behind did she become
again dissolved in tears.

Her eyes wandered listlessly over the snow-covered heap of ruins on the
site of her childhood's home; it seemed as though there were that within
herself which was shrouded in snow and desolation.

The weather was cold. The valley grew narrower, the road led through a
dense wood. One solitary star was visible.

Skarlie had been cutting figures in the snow with his whip; he now
pointed the latter toward the star and began to hum, finally to sing.
The melody he had chosen was that of one of the ballads of the Scottish
highlands. Like a melancholy bird, it flitted from one snow-laden
fir-tree to another. Magnhild inquired its meaning, and this proved to
be in harmony with a journey through the depths of a forest. Skarlie
talked further about Scotland, its history, his sojourn there.

Once started, he continued, and gradually broke into such merry
anecdotes that Magnhild was astonished when they stopped to rest;
astonished that she had been able to laugh, and that they had driven
nearly fourteen miles.

Skarlie helped her out of the sledge and ushered her into the inn, but
he himself went directly out again to feed the horse.

A stylish looking young lady sat by the hearth in the guest-room warming
herself, scattered over the benches around were her traveling-wraps;
they were of such fine material and costly fur that Magnhild grew
curious and felt obliged to touch them. The traveling-suit the lady
wore, so far as material and style was concerned, made the same
impression on Magnhild as she might have gained from a zoölogical
specimen from another quarter of the globe. The lady's face possessed
youth and a gentle melancholy; she was fair and had languishing eyes and
a slightly-curved nose. Her hair, too, was done up in an unfamiliar
style. Pacing the floor was a slender young man; his traveling boots
stood by the hearth and his feet were cased in small morocco slippers,
lined with fur. His movements were lithe and graceful.

"Are you Skarlie's young wife?" inquired the hostess, quite an old
woman, who had placed a chair by the hearth for Magnhild. Before
Magnhild could reply, Skarlie came in with some things from the sledge.
The bald head, half protruding from the shaggy furs, the deer-skin
shoes, sprawling like monstrous roots over the floor, attracted the
wondering gaze of the young lady.

"Is this your wife?" repeated the hostess.

"Yes, this is my wife," was the cheerful reply, as Skarlie limped
forward.

The young man fixed his eyes on Magnhild. She felt herself growing fiery
red beneath his gaze. There was an expression entirely new to her in his
face. Was it scorn? The lady, too, now looked at her, and at the same
moment the hostess begged Magnhild to take a seat by the fire. But the
latter preferred remaining in the dark, on a bench in the farthest
corner.

It was fully ten o'clock when the Point was reached, but every light
there had been extinguished, even in the house in front of which the
sledge stopped. An old woman, awakened by the jingling of the bells,
came to the street door, opened it and looked out, then drew back and
struck a light. She met Magnhild in the passage, cast the light on her
and said finally, "I bid you welcome."

A strong smell of leather filled the passage; for the work-room and shop
were to the left. The loathsome odor prevented Magnhild from replying.
They entered a room to the right. Here Magnhild hastily removed her
traveling-wraps;--she felt faint. Without casting a glance about her, or
speaking to the woman who was watching her from behind the light, she
then crossed the floor and opened a door she had espied on coming into
the room. She first held the light in, then stepped in herself and
closed the door after her. The woman heard a rumbling within and went to
the door. There she discovered that one of the beds was being moved.
Directly afterward Magnhild reappeared with the candle. The light
revealed a flushed face. She looked resolute.

She now told the woman she had no need of her services.

The saddler did not come in for some time; for he had been seeing to the
horse, which he had borrowed for the journey. The light was still on the
table. There was no one up.



CHAPTER IV.


Two years had passed since that evening, and the greater part of a
third.

Magnhild was quite as thoroughly accustomed to the new daily routine as
she had been to the old.

The priest visited her three or four times a year; he slept in the room
over the workshop usually occupied by Skarlie when he was at home.
During the day the priest visited at the captain's, or the custom-house
officer's, or at the home of the chief of police. His coming was called
the "priestly visitation."

There was chess-playing in the day-time and cards in the evening. The
priest's wife and young lady daughters had also been seen at the Point a
few times. In the lading-town there was scarcely any one with whom
Magnhild associated.

Skarlie and she had taken one trip to Bergen. Whatever might there have
happened or not happened, they never undertook another, either to Bergen
or elsewhere.

Skarlie was more frequently absent than at home; he was engaged in
speculations; the work-shop was pretty much abandoned, though the store
was still kept open. A short time after her arrival, Magnhild had
received an invitation from the school committee--most likely through
Skarlie's solicitation--to become the head of the industrial school.
Henceforth she passed an hour or two every day at the public school;
moreover, she gave private instructions to young girls who were grown
up. Her time was employed in walking, singing, and a little sewing; she
did very little reading, indeed. It was tedious to her.

Directly after she came there, Rönnaug had appeared at the Point, and
had hired out at the nearest "skyds" (post-station), in order to earn
money speedily for the purchase of a ticket to America. She was
determined to live no longer the life of an outcast here, she said.

Magnhild took charge of Rönnaug's money for her, and was alarmed to note
how rapidly it increased, for she had her own thoughts about the matter.
Now the ticket was bought, Magnhild would be entirely alone.

Many were the thoughts called forth by the fact that the journey across
the sea to new and perhaps great experiences should be so easy for one
person and not for another.

One morning after a sleepless night, Magnhild took her accustomed walk
to the wharf to watch the steamer come in. She saw the usual number of
commercial travelers step ashore; the usual number of trunks carried
after them; but this day she also observed a pale man, with long, soft
hair and large eyes, walking around a box which he finally succeeded in
having lifted on a wagon. "Be careful! Be careful!" he repeated again
and again. "There must be a piano in the box," thought Magnhild.

After Magnhild had been to school, she saw the same pale man, with the
box behind him, standing before the door of her house. He was
accompanied by the landlord of one of the hotels. Skarlie had fitted up
the rooms above the sitting-room and bed-chamber for the accommodation
of travelers when the hotels were full. The pale stranger was an invalid
who wished to live quietly.

Magnhild had not thought of letting the rooms to permanent guests and
thus assuming a certain responsibility. She stood irresolute. The
stranger now drew nearer to her. Such eyes she had never beheld, nor so
refined and spiritual a face. With strange power of fascination those
wondrous eyes were fixed on her. There was, as it were, two expressions
combined in the gaze that held her captive, one behind the other.
Magnhild was unable to fathom this accurately; but in the effort to do
so she put her forefinger in her mouth, and became so absorbed in
thought that she forgot to reply.

Now the stranger's countenance changed; it grew observant. Magnhild felt
this, roused herself, blushed, gave some answer and walked away. What
did she say? Was it "Yes" or "No"? The landlord followed her. She had
said "Yes!" She was obliged to go up-stairs and see whether everything
was in readiness for a guest; she did not rely very implicitly on her
own habits of order.

There was great confusion when the piano was carried up; it took time,
too, to move the bed, sofa, and other articles of furniture to make room
for the instrument. But all this came to an end at last, and quiet once
more prevailed. The pale stranger must be tired. Soon there was not a
step, not a sound, overhead.

There is a difference between the silence which is full and that which
is empty.

Magnhild dared not stir. She waited, listened. Would the tones of the
piano soon fall upon her ear? The stranger was a composer, so the
landlord had said, and Magnhild thought, too, she had read his name in
the newspaper. How would it be when such a person played? Surely it
would seem as though miracles were being wrought. At all events,
something would doubtless ring into her poor life which would long give
forth resonance. She needed the revelation of a commanding spirit. Her
gaze wandered over the flowers which decorated her window, and on which
the sun was now playing; her eyes sought the "Caravan in the Desert,"
which hung framed and glass covered by the door, and which suddenly
seemed to her so animated, so full of beautifully arranged groups and
forms. With ear for the twittering of the birds in the opposite
neighbor's garden and the sporting of the magpies farther off in the
fields, she sat in blissful content and waited.

Through her content there darted the question, "Will Skarlie be pleased
with what you have done? Is there not danger of injury to the new sofa
and the bed too? The stranger is an invalid, no one can tell"--She
sprang to her feet, sought pen, ink, and paper, and for the first time
in her life wrote a letter to Skarlie. It took her more than an hour to
complete it. This is what she wrote:--

    I have let the rooms over the sitting-room and bed-chamber to a
    sick man who plays the piano. The price is left to you.

    I have had one of the new sofas (the hair-cloth) carried
    up-stairs and one of the spring beds. He wants to be
    comfortable. Perhaps I have not done right.
                                              MAGNHILD.

She had crossed out the words: "Now I shall have an opportunity to hear
some music." The heading of the letter had caused her some trouble; she
finally decided to use none. "Your wife," she had written above the
signature, but had drawn her pen through it. Thus fashioned, the letter
was copied and sent. She felt easier after this, and again sat still and
waited. She saw the stranger's dinner carried up to him; she ate a
little herself and fell asleep,--she had scarcely had any sleep the
previous night.

She awoke; there was yet no sounds of music above. Again she fell
asleep, and dreamed that the distance between the mountain peaks had
been spanned by a bridge. She told herself that this was the bridge at
Cologne, a lithograph of which hung on the wall near the bed-chamber.
Nevertheless it extended across the valley from one lofty mountain to
the other, supported by trestle-work from the depths below. The longer
she gazed the finer, more richly-colored the bridge became; for lo! it
was woven of rainbow threads, and was transparent and radiant, all the
way up to the straight line from crest to crest. But crosswise above
this, the distance was spanned by another bridge. Both bridges began now
to vibrate in slow two-fourths time, and immediately the entire valley
was transformed into a sea of light, in which there was an intermingled
play of all the prismatic hues; but the bridges had vanished. Nor were
the mountains any longer visible, and the dissolving colors filled all
conceivable space. How great was this? How far could she see? She grew
positively alarmed at the infinity of space about her and awoke;--there
was music overhead. In front of the house stood a crowd of people,
silently gazing at the upper window.

Magnhild did not stir. The tones flowed forth with extreme richness;
there was a bright, gentle grace over the music. Magnhild sat listening
until it seemed as though these melodious tones were being showered down
upon head, hands, and lap. A benediction was being bestowed upon her
humble home, the world of tears within was filled with light. She pushed
her chair farther back into the corner, and as she sat there she felt
that she had been found out by the all-bountiful Providence who had
ordered her destiny. The music was the result of a knowledge she did not
possess, but it appealed to a passion awakened by it within her soul.
She stretched out her arms, drew them in again, and burst into tears.

Long after the music had ceased,--the crowd was gone, the musician
still,--Magnhild sat motionless. Life had meaning; she, too, might gain
access to a rich world of beauty. As there was now song within, so one
day there should be singing around about her. When she came to undress
for the night she required both sitting-room and bed-chamber for the
purpose, and more than half an hour; for the first time in her life she
laid down to rest with a feeling that she had something to rise for in
the morning. She listened to the footsteps of her guest above; they were
lighter than those of other people; his contact with the furniture, too,
was cautious. His eyes, with their kindly glow of good-will, and the
fathomless depths beyond this, were the last objects she saw distinctly.

Indescribable days followed. Magnhild went regularly to her lessons, but
lost no time in getting home again, where she was received by music and
found the house surrounded by listeners. She scarcely went out again
the rest of the day. Either her guest was at home and she was waiting
for him to play, or he had gone out for a walk, and she was watching for
his return. When he greeted her in passing she blushed and drew back. If
he came into her room to ask for anything, there ran a thrill through
her the moment she heard the approach of his footsteps; she became
confused and scarcely comprehended his words when he stood before her.
She had, perhaps, not exchanged ten words with him in as many days, but
she already knew his most trifling habit and peculiarity of dress. She
noticed whether his soft brown hair was brushed behind his ears, or
whether it had fallen forward; whether his gray hat was pushed back, or
whether it was drawn down over his forehead; whether he wore gloves or
not; whether he had a shawl thrown over his shoulders or not. And how
was it in regard to herself? Two new summer dresses had been ordered by
her, and she was now wearing one of them. She had also purchased a new
hat.

She believed that in music lay her vocation; but she felt no inclination
to make any kind of a beginning. There was enough to satisfy her in her
guest's playing, in his very proximity.

Day by day she developed in budding fullness of thought; her dream-life
had prepared her for this; but music was the atmosphere that was
essential to her existence: she knew it now. She did not realize that
the refined nature of this man of genius, spiritualized and exalted by
ill-health, was something new, delightful, thought-inspiring to her; she
gave music alone the credit for the pleasure he instilled into her life.

At school she took an interest in each scholar she had never experienced
before; she even fell into the habit of chatting with the sailor's wife
who did the work of her house. There daily unfolded a new blossom within
her soul; she was as meek as a woman in the transition period, which she
had never known. Books she had heard read aloud, or read herself at the
parsonage, rose up before her as something new. Forms she had not
noticed before stood out in bold relief,--they became invested with
flesh, blood, and motion. Incidents in real life, as well as in books,
floated past like a cloud, suddenly became dissolved and gave distinct
pictures. She awoke, as an Oriental maiden is awakened, when her time
comes, by song beneath her window and by the gleam of a turban.



CHAPTER V.


One morning as Magnhild, after making her toilet, went into the
sitting-room, humming softly to herself and in joyous mood, to open the
window facing the street, she saw a lady standing at the open window of
the house opposite.

It was a low cottage, surrounded by a garden, and belonged to a
government officer who had moved away. Vines were trained about the
windows of the house partially covering them, and the lady was engaged
in arranging one of the sprays that was in the way. Her head was
encircled with ringlets, which were rather black than brown. Her eyes
sparkled, her brow was low but broad, her eyebrows were straight, her
nose was also straight but quite large and round, her lips were full,
her head was so beautifully poised on her shoulders that Magnhild could
not help noticing it. The open sleeves had fallen back during the work
with the vines, displaying her arms. Magnhild was unable to withdraw her
eyes. When the lady perceived Magnhild, she nodded to her and smiled.

Magnhild became embarrassed, and drew back.

Just then a child approached the lady, who stooped and kissed it. The
child also had ringlets, but they were fair; the face was the mother's,
and yet it was not the mother's, it was the coloring which misled, for
the child was blonde. The little one climbed upon a chair and looked
out. The mother caught hold of the vine again, but kept her eyes fixed
on Magnhild, and her expression was a most singular one. Magnhild put on
her hat; it was time for her to go to school; but that look caused her
to go out of the back door and return by the same way, when she came
home an hour later.

He was playing. Magnhild paused for a while in her little garden and
hearkened, until finally she felt that she must go in to see what effect
this music had upon the beautiful lady. She went into her kitchen and
then cautiously entered her sitting-room, shielding herself from
observation. No; there was no beautiful lady at the window opposite. A
sense of relief passed over Magnhild, and she went forward. She was
obliged to move some plants into the sunshine, one of her daily duties,
but she came very near dropping the flowerpot into the street, for as
she held it in her hands the lady's head was thrust into the open
window.

"Do not be frightened!" was the laughing greeting, uttered in tones of
coaxing entreaty for pardon, that surpassed in sweetness anything of the
kind Magnhild had ever heard.

"You will allow me to come in; will you not?" And before Magnhild could
answer, the lady was already entering the house.

The next moment she stood face to face with Magnhild, tall and
beautiful. An unknown perfume hovered about her as she flitted through
the room, now speaking of the lithographs on the wall, now of the
valley, the mountains, or the customs of the people. The voice, the
perfume, the walk, the eyes, indeed the very material and fashion of her
dress, especially its bold intermingling of colors, took captive the
senses. From the instant she entered the room it belonged to her; if she
smelled a flower, or made an observation concerning it, forthwith that
flower blossomed anew; for what her eyes rested upon attained precisely
the value she gave it.

Steps were heard above. The lady paused. Magnhild blushed. Then the
lady smiled, and Magnhild hastened to remark: "That is a lodger--who"--

"Yes, I know; he met me last evening at the wharf."

Magnhild opened her eyes very wide. The lady drew nearer.

"My husband and he are very good friends," said she.

She turned away humming, and cast a glance at the clock in the corner
between the bed-room wall and the window.

"Why, is it so late by your time here?" She drew out her own watch. "We
are to walk to-day at eleven o'clock. You must go with us; will you not?
You can show us the prettiest places in the wood behind the church and
up the mountain slopes."

Magnhild promptly answered, "Yes."

"Listen: do you know what? I will run up-stairs and say that you are
going with us, and then we will go at once--at once!"

She gave Magnhild's hand a gentle pressure, opened the door and sped
swiftly up the stairs. Magnhild remained behind--and she was very pale.

There was a whirling, a raging within, a fall. But there was no
explosion. On the contrary, everything became so empty, so still. A few
creaking steps above, then not another sound.

Magnhild must have stood motionless for a long time. She heard some one
take hold of the door-knob at last, and involuntarily she pressed both
hands to her heart. Then she felt an impulse to fly; but the little fair
curly head of the child, with its innocent, earnest eyes, now appeared
in the opening of the door.

"Is mamma here?" the little one asked, cautiously.

"She is up-stairs," replied Magnhild, and the sound of her own voice,
the very purport of the words she uttered, caused the tears to rise in
her eyes and compelled her to turn her face away.

The child had drawn back its head and closed the door. Magnhild had no
time to become clear in her own mind about what had occurred; for the
child speedily came down-stairs again and into her room.

"Mamma is coming; she said I must wait here. Why are you crying?" But
Magnhild was not crying now. She made no reply, however, to the child,
who presently exclaimed: "Now mamma is coming."

Magnhild heard the lady's step on the stair, and escaped into her
bedroom. She heard the interchange of words between mother and child in
the adjoining room, and then to her consternation the bedroom door was
opened; the lady came in. There was not the slightest trace of guilt in
her eyes: they diffused happiness, warmth, candor through the whole
chamber. But when her gaze met Magnhild's the expression changed,
causing Magnhild to drop her eyes in confusion.

The lady advanced farther into the room. She placed one hand on
Magnhild's waist, the other on her shoulder. Magnhild was forced to
raise her eyes once more and met a grieved smile. This smile was also so
kind, so firm, and therefore so persuasive, that Magnhild permitted
herself to be drawn forward, and presently she was kissed--softly at
first, as though she were merely fanned by a gentle breath, while that
unknown perfume which always accompanied the lady encompassed them both,
and the rustle of the silk dress was like a low whisper; then
vehemently, while the lady's bosom heaved and her breath was deeply
drawn as from some life-sorrow.

After this, utter silence and then a whispered: "Come now!" She went on
in advance, leading Magnhild by the hand. Magnhild was a mere child in
experience. With contending emotions she entered the pretty little
cottage occupied by the lady, and was soon standing in the midst of open
trunks and a wardrobe scattered through two rooms.

The lady began a search in one of the trunks, from which she rose with a
white lace neckerchief in her hand, saying: "This will suit you better
than the one you have on, for that is not at all becoming," and taking
off the one Magnhild wore, she tied on the other in a graceful bow, and
Magnhild felt herself that it harmonized well with her red dress.

"But how have you your hair? You have an oval face and your hair done up
in that way? No"--and before Magnhild could offer any resistance she was
pressed down into a chair. "Now I shall"--and the lady commenced undoing
the hair. Magnhild started up, fiery red and frightened, and said
something which was met with a firm: "Certainly not!"

It seemed as though a strong will emanated from the lady's words, arms,
fingers. Magnhild's hair was unfastened, spread out, brushed, then drawn
loosely over the head and done up in a low knot.

"Now see!" and the mirror was held up before Magnhild.

All this increased the young woman's embarrassment to such a degree that
she scarcely realized whose was the image in the glass. The elegant lady
standing in front of her, the delicate perfume, the child at her knee
who with its earnest eyes fixed on her said, "Now you are pretty!"--and
the guest at the opposite window who at this moment looked down and
smiled. Magnhild started up, and was about to make her escape, but the
lady only threw her arms around her and drew her farther into the room.

"Pray, do not be so bashful! We are going to have such a nice time
together;" and once more her attention was full of that sweetness the
like of which Magnhild had never known. "Run over now after your hat and
we will start!"

Magnhild did as she was bid. But no sooner was she alone than a sense of
oppression, a troubled anxiety, wrung her heart, and the lady seemed
detestable, officious; even her kindness was distorted into a lack of
moderation; Magnhild failed to find the exact word to express what
distressed her.

"Well? Are you not coming?"

These words were uttered by the lady, who in a jaunty hat, with waving
plume, beamed in through the window. She tossed back her curls, and
drew on her gloves. "That hat becomes you very well indeed," said she.
"Come now!"

And Magnhild obeyed.

The little girl attached herself to Magnhild.

"I am going with you," said she.

Magnhild failed to notice this, because she had just heard steps on the
stairs. Tande, the composer, was coming to join them.

"How your hand trembles!" cried the little one.

A hasty glance from the lady sent the hot blood coursing up to
Magnhild's neck, cheeks, temples--yet another from Tande, who stood on
the door-steps, not wholly free from embarrassment, and who now bowed.

"Are we going up in the wood?" asked the little girl, clinging tightly
to Magnhild's hand.

"Yes," replied the lady; "is there not a path across the fields behind
the house?"

"Yes, there is."

"Then let us go that way."

They went into the house again, and passed out of the back door, through
the garden, across the fields. The wood lay to the left of the church,
and entirely covered the plain and the tower mountain slopes. Magnhild
and the child walked on in advance; the lady and Tande followed.

"What is your name?" asked the little girl.

"Magnhild."

"How funny, for my name is Magda, and that is almost the same."
Presently she said: "Have you ever seen papa in uniform?"

No, Magnhild never had.

"He is coming here soon, papa is, and I will ask him to put it on."

The little girl continued to prattle about her papa, whom she evidently
loved beyond all else upon earth. Sometimes Magnhild heard what she was
saying, sometimes she did not hear. The pair walking behind spoke so low
that Magnhild could not distinguish a single word they were saying
although they were quite near. Once she gave a hasty glance back and
observed that the lady's expression was troubled, Tande's grave.

They reached the wood.

"Just see! here at the very edge of the wood is the most charming spot
in the world!" exclaimed the lady, and now she was radiant again, as
though she had never known other than the most jubilant mood. "Let us
sit down here!" and as she spoke she threw herself down with a little
burst of delight and a laugh. Tande seated himself slowly and at a
little distance, Magnhild and the child took their seats opposite the
pair.

The little one sprang directly to her feet again, for her mother wanted
flowers, grass, ferns, and moss, and began to bind them at once into
nosegays when they were brought to her. It was evidently not the first
time Magda had made collections of the kind for her mother, for the
child knew every plant by name, and came running up to the group with
exclamations of delight whenever she found anything her mother had not
yet noticed but which she knew to be a favorite of hers.

Various topics were brought forward, some of which, although not all,
were dwelt upon by Tande, who had stretched himself out on the grass and
seemed inclined to rest; but from the moment an affair of recent
occurrence was mentioned, concerning a wife who had forsaken her
husband, and had eventually been cast off by her lover, he took zealous
part, severely censuring the lover, for whom Fru Bang made many excuses.
It was absurd, she said, to feign an affection which no longer existed.
But at least it was possible to act from a sense of duty, Tande
insisted. Ah, to duty they had bid farewell, the lady remarked softly,
as she busied herself in decking Magda's hat with flowers.

Further conversation incidentally revealed that Fru Bang had been in the
habit of mingling in the first circles of the land; that she had
traveled extensively, and evidently had means to live where and how she
pleased. And yet here she sat, full of thoughtful care for Magnhild, for
Tande, for the child. She had a kindly word for everything that was
mentioned; her fancy invested the most trifling remark with worth, just
as she made the blades of grass she was putting into her nosegay appear
to advantage, and managed so that not one of them was lost.

Tande's long pale face, with its marvelously beautiful smile, and the
soft hair falling caressingly, as it were, about it, had gradually
become animated.

The glowing, richly-tinted woman at his side was part of the world in
which he lived and composed.

The spot on which they sat was surrounded by birch and aspen. The fir
was not yet able to gain the mastery over these, although its scions had
already put in an appearance. While such were the case grass and flowers
would flourish--but no longer.



CHAPTER VI.


Magnhild awoke the next day, not to joyous memories such as she had
cherished every morning during the past few weeks. There was something
to which she must now rise that terrified her, and, moreover, grieved
her. Nevertheless it attracted her. What should she pass through this
day?

She had slept late. As she stepped into the sitting-room, she saw Fru
Bang at the open window opposite, and was at once greeted with a bow and
a wave of the hand. Then a hat was held up and turned round. Very soon
Magnhild was so completely under the spell of the lady's kind-hearted
cordiality, beauty, and vivacity that her school hour was nearly
forgotten.

She was met by a universal outcry when she appeared at the school with
her hair done up in a new style, and wearing a new hat and a white lace
neckerchief over her red dress! Magnhild had already felt embarrassed at
the change, and now her embarrassment increased. But the genuine,
hearty applause that arose from many voices speedily set her at her
ease, and she returned home in a frame of mind similar to that of a
public officer whose rank had been raised one degree.

The weather was fine as on the preceding day. A little excursion was
therefore decided on for the afternoon. In the forenoon Tande played.
All the windows in the neighborhood were open, and Fru Bang sat in hers
and wept. Passers-by stared at her; but she heeded them not. There was
something passionately intense and at times full of anguish in his
playing to-day. Magnhild had never before heard him give vent to such a
mood. Perhaps he, too, felt it to be a strange bewilderment; for rousing
himself he now conjured up a wealth of bright, glittering bits of
imagery which blended into the sunshine without and the buzzing of the
insects. This dewy summer day became all at once teeming with
discoveries; in the street, now parched and dry, the particles of dust
glittered, over the meadows quivered the varied tints of green where the
aftermath had sprung up, and of yellow and brown where it had not yet
made its appearance. There was everywhere an intermingling of gold, red,
brown, and green in the play of the forest hues. The loftiest pinnacle
of the mighty mountain chair had never been more completely bathed in
blue. It stood out in bold relief against the glowing grayish tone in
the jagged cliffs about the fjord. The music grew more calm; pain was
uppermost again, but it was like an echo, or rather it seemed as though
it were dissolved into drops which ever and anon trickled down into the
sunny vigor of the new mood. The lady opposite bowed forward until her
head rested on her arm, and her shoulders quivered convulsively.
Magnhild beheld this, and drew back. She did not like such an exposure.

On the excursion that afternoon it again fell to Magnhild's lot to take
the lead with the child; the other two came whispering after them. They
found to-day a new tarrying-place, a short distance farther up the
mountain than where they had assembled the previous day;--the lady had
been weeping; Tande was silent, but he appeared even more spiritual than
usual.

The conversation this time centred in the fjord scenery of Norway, and
the depressing influence it must necessarily have on the mind to be so
completely shut in by mountains. The various barriers in the spiritual
life of the people were named; old prejudices, established customs,
above all those regulations of the church which had became mere empty
forms, hypocrisy, too, were all reviewed in the most amusing manner; the
infinite claims of love, however, were freely conceded.

"See, there she is sitting with her forefinger in her mouth again,"
laughed the lady; this greatly startled Magnhild, and created a fresh
flow of merriment.

A little while after this Magnhild permitted her hair to be decked by
Magda with flowers and grass. She hummed softly to herself all the
while, a habit she had acquired during the days when she was practicing
reading notes at the parsonage. This time her irregular song took higher
flights than usual, inasmuch as thoughts filled it, just as the wind
inflates a sail. The higher she sang, the stronger her voice became,
until Magda exclaimed:--

"There comes mamma."

Magnhild was silent at once. True enough there came the lady, and
directly following her Tande.

"Why, my child, do you sing?"

In the course of the day they had fallen into the habit of using the
familiar "du;" that is, Fru Bang used it, but Magnhild could not do so.

"That is the highest, clearest soprano I have heard for some time,"
said Tande, who now drew near, and who was flushed from having taken a
few steps at a more rapid pace than usual.

Magnhild sprang to her feet, so hastily that there fell a shower of
flowers and grass to the ground, at the same time putting up her hands
to remove Magda's adornments from her hair, which called forth a bitter
complaint from the little girl. Tande's words, appearance, and the look
he now fastened on her had embarrassed Magnhild, and Fru Bang displayed
most kindly tact in endeavoring, as it were, to shield her young friend.

It was not long before they were on their way home,--and they went at
once to Tande's room to try Magnhild's voice.

Fru Bang stood holding her hand. Magnhild sang the scale, and every note
was so firm and true that Tande paused and looked up at her. She was
then obliged to admit that she had sung before.

A feeling of happiness gradually took possession of her; for she was
appreciated, there could be no mistake about it. And when a little
two-part song was brought forward and Magnhild proved able to sing the
soprano at sight, and then a second one was tried and a third, such joy
reigned in the little circle that Magnhild gained inspiration, which
gave her a beauty she had never possessed at any previous moment of her
life.

Fru Bang had a fine alto; her voice was not so cultivated as it was
sympathetic; nor was it strong, but for this reason it was all the
better suited to Magnhild's voice, for although the latter doubtless was
stronger, Magnhild had never been accustomed to letting out its full
strength, nor did she do so now.

As they gradually became more acquainted with the songs, Tande kept
adding to the richness and fullness of the piano--the accompaniments.

The street had become crowded with people; such music had never been
heard before in the little town. It was evident that a swarm of new
ideas were let loose upon those heads. The thoughts and words of the
ensuing evening were no doubt more refined than usual. Upon the children
there surely dawned a foreboding of foreign lands. A drizzling rain was
falling, the crests of the lofty mountains on both sides of the valley
and surrounding the fjord were veiled, but towered up all the higher in
fancy. The glorious forest hues, the placid surface of the fjord, now
darkened by the rain, the fresh aftermath of the meadows, and not a
disturbing sound save from the turbulent stream. Even if a wagon came
along, it paused in front of the house.

The silence of the multitude without harmonized with the mood of those
within.

When the singing at length ended, Tande said that he must devote an hour
each day to instructing Magnhild how to use her voice, so that she could
make further progress alone when he and Fru Bang were gone. Moreover,
they must continue the duet singing, for this was improving to the
taste. Fru Bang added that something might be made of that voice.

Tande's eyes followed Magnhild so searchingly that she was glad when it
was time to take leave.

She forgot some music she had brought with her, and turning went back
after it. Tande was standing by the door. "Thanks for your visit!" he
whispered, and smiled. This made her stumble on the threshold, and
overwhelmed with confusion, she came near making a misstep at the head
of the stairs. She entered her sitting-room in great embarrassment. Fru
Bang, who was still there waiting to say "Good-night!" looked at her
earnestly. It was some time before she spoke, and then the greeting was
cold and absent-minded. She turned, however, before she had proceeded
many steps, and descrying Magnhild's look of surprise, sprang back and
clasped her in a fervent embrace.

At no very remote period there had been an evening which Magnhild had
thought the happiest of her life. But this--

When steps were again heard above she trembled in every fibre of her
body. She could see Tande's expression, as he raised his eyes while
playing. The diamond, cutting brilliant circles of light over the keys
of the piano, the blue-veined hands, the long hair which was continually
falling forward, the fine gray suit the musician wore, his silent
demeanor,--all dissolved into the melodies and harmonies, and with them
became blended his whispered "Thanks for your visit!"

At the cottage across the street it was dark.

Magnhild did not seek her couch until midnight, and then not to sleep;
nor did he who was above sleep; on the contrary, just as Magnhild had
retired he began to play. He struck up a melancholy, simple melody, in
the form of a soprano solo at first, and finally bursting into what
sounded like a chorus of female voices; his harmonization was
exquisitely pure. Without being conscious herself of the transition of
thought, Magnhild seemed to be sitting on the hill-side on the day of
her confirmation, gazing at the spot where her home had stood. All her
little brothers and sisters were about her. The theme was treated in a
variety of ways, but always produced the same picture.

At school the next morning Magnhild was accosted with many questions
concerning the preceding evening; among other things whether _she_ had
really taken part in the singing, _what_ they had sung, about the other
two, and whether they would sing often.

The questions filled her with joy: a great secret, _her_ secret, was in
its innermost depths. She felt conscious of strange elasticity. She had
never made such haste home before. She was looking forward to singing
with him again in the forenoon!

And she did sing. Tande sent word down by the sailor's wife that he
expected her at twelve o'clock. A little before this hour she heard once
more that melancholy, pure composition of yesterday.

Tande met her without a word. He merely bowed and went straight to the
piano and then turned his head as before to bid her draw nearer. She
sang scales, he gave suggestions as a rule without looking at her; the
whole hour passed as a calm matter of business; she was thankful for
this.

From her lesson she crossed the street to the lady. Fru Bang sat, or
rather reclined, on the sofa, with an open book on her lap, and with
Magda, to whom she was talking, in front of her. She was grave, or
rather sorrowful; she looked up at Magnhild, but went on talking with
the child, as though no one had entered. Magnhild remained standing,
considerably disappointed. Then the lady pushed aside the child and
looked up again.

"Come nearer!" said she, feebly, and made a motion with the hand that
Magnhild did not understand.

"Sit down there on the footstool, I mean."

Magnhild obeyed.

"You have been with him?" Her fingers loosened Magnhild's hair as she
spoke. "The knot is not quite right,"--then with a little caress, "You
are a sweet child!"

She sat up now, looked Magnhild full in the eyes, gently raising her
friend's head as she did so.

"I have resolved to make you pretty, prettier than myself. Do you see
what I have bought for you to-day?"

On the table behind Magnhild lay the materials for a summer costume.

"This is for you, it will be becoming."

"But, dear lady!"

"Hush! Not a word, my friend! I am not happy unless I can do something
of the kind--and, in this case, I have my own reasons into the bargain."

Her large, wondrous eyes seemed to float away in dreams.

"There, that will do!" said she, and rose hastily.

"Now we will dine together; but first we must have a short stroll, and
in the afternoon a long stroll, and then we will have some singing and
afterwards a delightful siesta; that is what he likes!"

But neither short nor long stroll was accomplished, for it rained. So
the lady busied herself with cutting out Magnhild's dress; it was to be
made in the neighborhood after Fru Bang's own pattern.

They sang together, and even longer than on the preceding day. A supply
of songs for two voices was telegraphed for; a few days later the
package arrived. During the days which followed most of the songs were
gone through with the utmost accuracy. Every day Magnhild had her
regular lesson. Tande entered into it with the same business-like
silence as on the first day. Magnhild gained courage.

Wonderful days these were! Song followed upon song, and these three were
continually together, chiefly at the lady's, where they most frequently
both dined and supped. One day Fru Bang would be in the most radiant
mood, the next tormented with headache, and then she would have a black,
red, and brown kerchief tied like a turban, about her head, and would
sit or recline on the sofa, in languid revery.

As they were thus assembled together one day, and Magda stood at the
window, the little one said,--

"There goes a man into your house, Magnhild: he is lame."

Magnhild sprang up, very red.

"What is it?" asked Fru Bang, who was lying on the sofa with a headache,
and had been talking in a whisper with Tande.

"Oh! it is"--Magnhild was searching for her hat; she found it and
withdrew. From the open window she heard the child say: "A lame, ugly
man, who"--

Skarlie was working this year on the sea-coast. A foreign ship had been
wrecked there Skarlie and some men in Bergen had bought it; for they
could repair it at a much less outlay than had originally been
estimated. They had made an uncommonly good bargain. Skarlie supervised
the carpentering, painting, and leather work of refitting the vessel. He
had come home now after a fresh supply of provisions for the workmen.

His surprise on entering his house was not small. Everything in order!
And the room filled with a pleasant perfume. Magnhild came--it was a
lady who stood before him. Her whole countenance was changed. It had
opened out like a flower, and the soft, fair hair floating about neck
and drooping shoulders threw a lustre over head and form. She paused on
the threshold, her hand on the door-knob. Skarlie had seated himself in
the broad chair in the corner, and was wiping the perspiration from his
bald head. As soon as his first astonishment was over, he said:
"Good-day!"

No reply. But Magnhild came in now, and closed the door after her.

"How fine it looks here," said he. "Is it your lodger"--

He puckered up his lips, his eyes grew small. Magnhild looked at him
coldly. He continued more good-naturedly,--

"Did he make your new dress, too?"

Now she laughed.

"How are you getting on?" she asked, presently.

"I am nearly through."

He had acquired the comfortable air of a man who is conscious of doing
well in the world.

"It is warm here," said he; the sun had just burst forth after a long
rain, and was scorching, as it can be only in September. He stretched
out his legs, as far as the crooked one permitted, and lay back, letting
his large hands hang down over the arms of the chair, exact pictures of
the web-feet of some sea-monster.

"Why are you staring at me?" asked he, with his most comical grimace.
Magnhild turned with a searching glance toward the window.

The room had become filled at once with the peculiar saddler odor which
attended Skarlie: Magnhild was about to open the window, but thinking
better of it stepped back again.

"Where is your lodger?"

"He is across the street."

"Are there lodgers there, too?"

"Yes, a Fru Bang with her daughter."

"So they are the people you associate with?"

"Yes!"

He rose, took off his coat, and also laid aside his vest and cravat.
Then he filled his cutty with tobacco, lighted it, and sat down again,
this time with an elbow resting on one arm of the chair and smoking.
With a roguish smile he contemplated his other half.

"And so you are going to be a lady, Magnhild?"

She did not answer.

"Aye!--Well, I suppose I shall have to begin to make a gentleman of
myself."

She turned toward him with an amused countenance. His chest, thickly
covered with dark red hair, was bare, for his shirt was open; his face
was sunburned, his bald head white.

"The deuce! how you stare at me! I am not nearly as good-looking as your
lodger, I can well believe. Hey?"

"Will you have something to eat?" asked she.

"I dined on the steamer."

"But to drink?"

She went out after a bottle of beer, and placed it with a glass on the
table beside him. He poured out the beer and drank, looking across the
street as he did so.

"That's a deuce of a woman! Is _that_ the lady?"

Magnhild grew fiery red; for she too saw Fru Bang standing at the
window, staring at the half-disrobed Skarlie.

She fled into her chamber, thence into the garden, and there seated
herself.

She had only been there a few minutes when she heard first the chamber,
then the kitchen door open, and finally the garden door was opened by
her husband.

"Magnhild!" he called. "Yes, there she is."

Little Magda's light curly head was now thrust out, and turned round on
every side until Magnhild was seen, and then the child came slowly
toward her. Skarlie had gone back into the house.

"I was sent to ask if you were not coming over to take dinner with us."

"Give greetings and thanks; I cannot come--now."

The child bestowed on her a mute look of inquiry, then asked: "Why can
you not? Is it because that man has come?"

"Yes."

"Who is he?"

It was in Magnhild's mind to say, "He is my ----"; but it would not
cross her lips; and so without speaking she turned to conceal her
emotion from the child. The little one stood silently waiting for some
time; finally she asked,--

"Why are you crying, Magnhild?"

This was said so sweetly: it chimed in with the memory of the whole
bright world which was once more closed, that Magnhild clasped its
little representative in her arms, and bowing over the curly head burst
into tears. Finally, she whispered,--

"Do not question me any more, little Magda; but go home now, this way,
through the garden gate, and tell mamma that I cannot come any more."

Magda obeyed, but she looked over her shoulder several times as she
walked away.

Magnhild removed all traces of tears, and went out to make some
purchases; for her larder was nearly empty.

When she returned home, and passed through the sitting-room, Skarlie was
still in his chair; he had been taking a little nap; now he yawned and
began to fill his cutty.

"Did you tell me the lady across the street was married?"

"Yes."

"Is _he_ married, too?"

"I do not know."

"I saw them kissing each other," said he.

Magnhild grew very pale and then red.

"I have never seen anything of the kind."

"No, of course not; they did not suppose that I saw them either," said
he, and began to light his cutty.

Magnhild could have struck him. She went directly to the kitchen, but
could not avoid coming back again. Skarlie greeted her with,--

"It is no wonder they make much of you, for you serve as a screen."

She had brought in a cloth to spread the table, and she flung it right
at his laughing face. He caught it, however, and laughed all the louder,
until the tears started in his eyes; he could not restrain his laughter.

Magnhild had run back into the kitchen, and she stood in front of the
butter, cheese, and milk she had ready to carry into the adjoining
room,--stood there and wept.

The door opened, and Skarlie came limping in.

"I have spread the cloth," said he, not yet free from laughter, "for
that, I presume, was what you wanted: eh?" and now he took up one by one
the articles that stood before Magnhild, and carried them into the next
room. He asked good-naturedly after something that was wanting, and
actually received an answer. After a while Magnhild had so far recovered
her composure as to set the kettle on the fire for tea.

Half an hour later the two sat opposite each other at their early
evening meal. Not a word more about those across the street. Skarlie
commenced telling of his work on the steamer, but broke off abruptly,
for Tande began to play. Skarlie had taste for music. It was a restless,
almost defiant strain that was heard; but how it brightened the
atmosphere. And it ended with the little melody that always transported
Magnhild to the home of her parents, with the fair heads of her little
brothers and sisters round about. Skarlie evidently listened with
pleasure, and when the playing ceased, he praised it in extravagant
terms. Then Magnhild told him that she was singing with Tande; that he
thought she had a good voice. She did not get beyond this; for the
playing began anew. When it had ceased again, Skarlie said,--

"See here, Magnhild! Let that man give you all the instruction he will;
for he is a master--and with the rest you need not meddle."

Skarlie was still in extraordinarily high spirits when, weary from his
journey, he went up to the room over the saddler workshop to go to bed.
He filled his pipe, and took an English book and a light up-stairs with
him.

Magnhild thoroughly aired the room after him, opening all the windows as
soon as he was gone. She paced the room in the dark for a long while ere
she laid herself down to sleep.

The next morning she stole out of the back door to school, and returned
the same way.

She found the whole school in a state of rejoicing over the news Skarlie
had just brought, that a quantity of hand-work for which he had
undertaken to find purchasers in town had been sold to unusually great
advantage. He had doubtless told her this in the course of the morning,
but she had been so absorbed in her own affairs that it had made no
impression on her. Scarcely was this theme exhausted when one of the
young girls (there were both children and grown people in attendance at
this hour) expressed her surprise at Magnhild's appearance, which was so
different from that of the preceding days. The pupils inquired if
anything was amiss. Magnhild did not wear the dress, either, that was so
becoming to her, that is, the one given to her by the lady. It was
hunch-back Marie, and tall, large-eyed Ellen who were the loudest of all
in both delight and astonishment. Magnhild felt ill at ease among them,
and took her departure as early as possible. As soon as she had reached
home it was announced to her by the sailor's wife that Tande was
expecting her. A brief struggle ensued; and then she put on the dress
which became her best. She was received as she had been received
yesterday, the day before, and every other day: he greeted her with a
slight bow, took his seat at the piano and struck a few chords. She was
so thankful for his reserve, and especially to-day, that she--her desire
to show her appreciation failed to find utterance.

As she came down-stairs she saw Skarlie and Fru Bang standing by the
lady's door, in close conversation; they were both laughing. Magnhild
stole in unperceived and continued to watch them.

There was a changeful play of expression in the countenances of both,
and herein they were alike; but here, too, the resemblance ceased, for
Skarlie had never looked so ugly as he did now in the presence of this
beautiful woman. Moreover, the smooth, glossy hat he wore completely
covered his forehead, giving his face a contracted look; for the
forehead alone was almost as large as all the rest of the face. Magnhild
was conscious of him at this moment to the extreme tips of her fingers.

The lady was all vivacity; it flashed from her as she tossed back her
head and set all her ringlets in fluttering motion, or shifted her foot,
accompanying the act with a swaying movement of the upper part of the
body, or with a wave of her hand aided in the utterance of some thought,
or indicated another with an eager gesture.

The hasty, assured glances the two exchanged gave the impression of
combat. It seemed as though they would never get through. Were they
interested in each other? Or in the mere act of disputing? Or in the
subject they were discussing? Had not Tande come down-stairs, their
interview would scarcely have drawn to a conclusion that forenoon. But
as he approached with a bow Skarlie limped away, still laughing, and the
other two went into the lady's house, she continuing to laugh heartily.

"A deuce of a woman!" said Skarlie, all excitement. "Upon my word she
could very easily turn a man's head."

And while he was scraping the ashes from his cutty, he added: "If she
were not so kind-hearted she would be positively diabolical. She sees
everything!"

Magnhild stood waiting for more.

He glanced at her twice, while he was filling his cutty from his
leathern pouch; he looked pretty much as one who thought: "Shall I say
it or not?" She knew the look and moved away. But perhaps this very
action of hers gave the victory to his taunting impulse.

"She saw that there was light last night up over my workshop. I really
thought she was going to ask whether"--

Magnhild was already in the kitchen.

At noon a wagon drove up to the door; Skarlie was obliged to go out into
the country to buy meat for his workmen down on the sea-coast.

As soon as he was gone, the lady came running across the street. It was
now as it ever had been. Scarcely did she stand in the room, shedding
around her sweet smile, than every bad thought concerning her crept away
abashed, and with inward craving for pardon, Magnhild yielded to the
cordial friendliness with which the lady threw her arms about her, and
kissed her and drew her head down caressingly on her shoulder. This time
there was not a word spoken, but Magnhild felt the same sympathy in
every caress that had accompanied every previous embrace and kiss. When
the lady released her, they moved away in different directions. Magnhild
busied herself in breaking off a few withered twigs from one of the
plants in the window.

Suddenly her cheek and neck were fanned by the lady's warm breath. "My
friend," was softly whispered into her ear, "my sweet, pure little
friend! You are leading a wild beast with your child hands."

The words, the warm breath which, as it were, infused magic into them,
sent a tremor through Magnhild's frame. The tears rolled down her cheeks
and fell on her hand. The lady saw this and whispered: "Do not fear. You
have in your singing an enchanted ring which you only need turn when you
wish yourself away! Do not cry!" And turning Magnhild round, she folded
her in her arms again.

"This afternoon the weather is fine; this afternoon we will all be
together in the wood and in the house, and we will sing and laugh. Ah!
there are not many more days left to us!"

These last words stabbed Magnhild to the heart. Autumn was nigh at hand,
and soon she would be alone again.



CHAPTER VII.


They were up-stairs in the afternoon, standing by the piano singing,
when they heard Skarlie come home and go into the sitting-room below.
Without making any remarks about this, they went on singing. They sang
at last by candle-light, with the windows still open.

When Magnhild came down-stairs Skarlie too had his windows open; he was
sitting in the arm-chair in the corner. He rose now and closed the
windows; Magnhild drew down the curtains, and in the mean time Skarlie
struck a light. While they were still in the dark, he began to express
his admiration of the singing to which he had been listening. He praised
Magnhild's voice as well as the lady's alto, and of his wife's soprano
he repeated his praise. "It is as pure--as you are yourself, my child,"
said he. He was holding a match to the candle as he spoke, and he
appeared almost good-looking, so calm and serious was his shrewd
countenance. But ere long there came the play of other thoughts. This
indicated a change of mood.

"While you were singing her husband, the captain of engineers, arrived."
Magnhild thought he was jesting, but Skarlie added: "He sat in the
window opposite listening." Here he laughed.

This so alarmed Magnhild that she was unable to sleep until late that
night. For the first time it occurred to her that Fru Bang's husband
might be repulsive to her, and she considered the lady's conduct from
this point of view. What if those two people really loved each other?
Suppose it were her own case? She found herself blushing furiously; for
at once Tande's image rose distinctly before her.

When she awoke the next morning she involuntarily listened. Had the
tempest already broken loose? Hurriedly putting on her clothes she went
into the sitting-room, where Skarlie was preparing to start off again. A
portion of the articles he was to have taken with him had not yet
arrived; he was obliged to go with what he had and come again in a few
days. He took a friendly leave of Magnhild.

She accompanied him as far as the school.

Scarcely had she returned home than she saw a man with red beard and
light hair come out of the house opposite, holding little Magda by the
hand. This must be Magda's papa. The little girl had his light hair and
something of his expression of countenance; but neither his features,
nor his form; he was of a heavy build. They crossed the street, entered
the house, and went up-stairs. Surely there could be no quarrel when the
child was along? Magnhild heard Tande go dress himself, and she heard an
audible, "Good-day! Are you here?" in Tande's voice.

Then nothing more, for now the door was softly closed. So filled with
anxiety was she that she listened for the least unusual sound overhead;
but she heard only the steps now of one, now of both. Soon the door
opened, she heard voices, but no contention. All three came down-stairs
and went out into the street where the lady stood waiting for them, in
her most brilliant toilet, and with the smile of her holiday mood. Tande
greeted her, she cordially held out her hand. Then the whole four walked
past the house-door, and turned into the garden way to take the usual
path across the fields to the wood and the mountains. At first, they
sauntered slowly along in a group; later, the father went on in advance
with the child, who seemed desirous to lead the way, and the lady and
Tande followed, very slowly, very confidentially. Magnhild was left
behind alone, overwhelmed with astonishment.

In the afternoon Magda came over with her papa. He greeted Magnhild with
a smile and apologized for coming; his little daughter had insisted on
his paying his compliments to her friend, he said.

Magnhild asked him to take a seat, but he did not do so at once. He
looked at her flowers, talked about them with an air of understanding
such as she had never heard before, and begged to be allowed to send her
some new plants upon whose proper care he enlarged.

"It is really little Magda who will send them," said he, turning with a
smile toward Magnhild. This time she was conscious that he was shyly
observing her.

He looked at the pictures on the wall, the bridge at Cologne, the Falls
of Niagara, the White House at Washington, the Caravan in the Desert,
and "Judith," by Horace Vernet; examined also some photographs of
unknown, often uncouth-looking men and women, some of them in foreign
costumes.

"Your husband has been a traveler," said he, and his eyes glided from
the portraits back to "Judith," while he stood stroking his beard.

"Have you been long married?" he presently asked, taking a seat.

"Nearly three years," she replied, and colored.

"You must put on your uniform so that Magnhild can see you in it," said
the little girl; she had posted herself between her father's knees, now
toying with his shirt studs, now with his beard. He smiled; certain
wrinkles about the eyes and mouth became more apparent when he smiled,
and bore witness of sorrow. Musingly he stroked the little one's hair;
she nestled her head up against him, so lovingly, so trustingly.

He awoke at last from his revery, cast a shy, wondering look at
Magnhild, stroked his beard, and said,--

"It is very beautiful here."

"When will you send Magnhild the flowers you spoke of?" interrupted the
little girl.

"As soon as I get back to town," said he, caressing the child.

"Papa is building a fort," explained Magda, not without pride. "Papa is
building at home, too," she added. "Papa is all the time building, and
now we have a tower to our house, and all the rooms are so pretty. You
just ought to see."

And she fell to describing her home to Magnhild, which, however, she had
often done before. The father listened with that peculiar smile of his
that was not altogether a smile, and as though to turn the conversation
he hastily observed: "We took a short stroll up the mountains this
morning (here the little girl explained where they had been) and
then"--There was undoubtedly something he wanted to say; but a second
thought must have flashed across the first.

He became absorbed again in thought. Just then Tande began to play
overhead. This brought life to the countenance of Magda's father, a
wondering, shy look stole over it, and bowing his head he began to
stroke his little daughter's hair.

"He plays extraordinarily well," he remarked, and rose to his feet.

The next day the captain left. He might perhaps return later to meet the
general of engineers, with whom he had to make a tour of inspection. The
life of those left behind glided now into its accustomed channels.

One evening Magnhild appeared at Fru Bang's with a very carelessly
arranged toilet.

As soon as the lady noticed this she gave Magnhild a hint, and herself
covered her retreat. Magnhild was so much mortified that she could
scarcely be prevailed upon to enter the sitting-room again; but amid the
laughing words of consolation heaped upon her she forgot everything but
the never-wavering goodness and loving forethought of her friend. It was
so unusual for Magnhild to express herself as freely as she did now,
that the lady threw her arms about her and whispered,--

"Yes, my child, you may well say that I am good to you, for you are
killing me!"

Magnhild quickly tore herself away. She sought no explanation with
words, she was by far too much startled; but her eyes, the expression of
her face, her attitude, spoke for her. The door was opened, and Magnhild
fell from surprise to painful embarrassment. Tande had, meanwhile,
turned toward Magda, humming softly, as though he observed nothing; he
amused himself by playing with the little one. Later he talked with
Magnhild about her singing, which he told her she must by no means drop
again. If arrangements could be made for her to live in the city,--and
that could so easily be brought about,--he would not only help her
himself, but procure for her better aid than his.

Fru Bang was coming and going, giving directions about the evening meal.
The maid entered with a tray, on which were the cream and other
articles, and by some untoward chance Fru Bang ran against it directly
in front of Magnhild and Tande, and her efforts to prevent the things
from falling proved fruitless, because the others did not come speedily
enough to her aid. Everything was overthrown. The dresses of both ladies
were completely bespattered. Tande at once drew out his pocket
handkerchief and began to wipe Magnhild's.

"You are less attentive to me than to her," laughed the lady, who was
much more soiled than Magnhild.

He looked up.

"Yes, I know you better than her," he answered, and went on wiping.

Fru Bang grew ashen gray. "Hans!" she exclaimed, and burst into tears.
Then she hastened into the next room. Magnhild understood this as little
as what had previously occurred. Indeed, it was not until months had
elapsed that one day, as she was wandering alone through the wintry
slush of a country road, with her thoughts a thousand miles away from
the lady and the whole scene, she suddenly stood still: the full meaning
of Fru Bang's behavior rushed over her.

Tande had risen to his feet, for Magnhild had drawn back in order not
to accept any further assistance from him. That _she_ could act so, and
that _his_ name was "Hans," was all that was clear to her at this
moment. Tande slowly paced the floor. He was very pale; at least so it
seemed to Magnhild, although she could not see very well, for it was
beginning to grow dark. Should she follow the lady, or withdraw
altogether? Magda was in the kitchen; she finally concluded to go to
her. And out there she helped the little girl fill a dish with
preserves. From the chamber which adjoined the kitchen she soon heard a
low conversation and sobs. When Magda and she went into the sitting-room
with the dish, Tande was not there. They waited so long for the evening
meal that Magda fell asleep and Magnhild had to go home.

Not long afterward she heard Tande, too, come home. The next forenoon
she sang with him; he appeared quite as usual. In the afternoon she met
the lady by chance in the street, and she made sundry criticisms on
Magnhild's improvising, which she had heard, a little while before,
through the open window; at the same time she straightened Magnhild's
hat, which was not put on exactly right.

Skarlie came home again. He told Magnhild that on a trip to Bergen he
had traveled with Captain Bang.

There was a person on the steamer, he said, who knew about Fru Bang's
relations with Tande and spoke of them. Magnhild had strong suspicions
that Skarlie himself was that person; for after he had been home the
last time she had heard allusions to these relations from Tande's
woman-servant, the sailor's wife, and several others.

"The captain is good-natured," said Skarlie; "he considers himself
unworthy to be loved by so much soul and brilliancy. He was, therefore,
rejoiced that his wife had at last found an equal."

"You seem delighted," Magnhild replied, "you appear more disgusting than
you"--She was just going to Fru Bang's, and withdrew without deigning to
complete the sentence.

She was to accompany Magda to an exhibition to be given by an old
Swedish juggler, with his wife and child, on the square some distance
behind the house.

When Magnhild came in, the lady met her all dressed; she was going to
the show, too. The explanation of this speedily followed; that is to
say, Tande appeared to accompany them. He reported that the general had
arrived.

Then they set off, Magda and Magnhild, the lady and Tande. A crowd of
people had assembled, most of them outside of the inclosure, where they
could pay what they pleased. Within the inclosure there were "reserved"
places, that is, benches, and to these the lady and her party repaired.

The old juggler was already in his place, where, with the aid of his
wife, he was preparing for the show. He bore a ludicrous resemblance to
Skarlie, was bald, had a snub-nose, was large and strong-looking, and
his face was not devoid of humor. Scarcely had Magnhild made this
discovery than she heard Magda whisper to her mother,--

"Mamma, he looks just like Magnhild's husband."

The lady smiled. At the same moment the old juggler stepped up to them.
Among the reserved places was one "especially reserved," a bench, that
is, with a back to it. The old man was quite hoarse, and his language,
so far as it could be comprehended, was such a droll mixture of Swedish
and Norwegian, that those nearest laughed; and the clown-like courtesy
of his manner also created a laugh, even among those at a distance. But
so soon as the laugh began Tande stepped back a few paces. The lady
went forward, and Magda and Magnhild followed.

The old juggler had a wife much younger than himself, a black-haired,
hollow-eyed, sorrowfully thin person, who had the general appearance of
having been unfortunate. There soon came skipping out of the tent a
little lad with curly hair, sprightly eyes, and an air of refinement
over face and form which he did not get from his mother, still less from
the old clown. He was dressed as a jester, but was evidently anything
else. He paused at his mother's side and asked her some question. He
spoke in French. The lady, who was annoyed by Tande's foolish shyness,
addressed the boy in his native tongue. The little fellow came forward,
but merely to pause at a short distance and stand viewing her with an
expression of dignified inquiry. This amused her, and taking out her
purse she handed him quite a large coin.

"_Merci, Madame!_" said he, making a low bow.

"Kiss the lady's hand!" commanded the old man. The boy obeyed, with shy
haste. Then he ran back to the tent, whence was heard the barking of
dogs.

Suddenly there arose a commotion in the crowd behind those who were
seated. A woman with a child three or four years old in her arms was
trying to push her way forward. She could not stand and hold the child
forever, she said; she wanted to sit down. She was quite as good as any
one else present.

But there seemed to be no seat vacant except on the front bench. So to
the front bench she went, to the great sport of the multitude; for she
was well known. She was no other than "Machine Martha." Two years before
she had come to the Point with a child and a large and a small
sewing-machine, with which she supported herself, for she was capable.
She had deserted her husband with an itinerant tradesman, who dealt,
among other things, in sewing-machines. He had deceived her. Since then
she had fallen into wretched habits of drunkenness, and had become
thoroughly degraded. Her face was rough and her hair disheveled.
Nevertheless, she still seemed to have sufficient energy left to raise a
storm. She seated herself directly beside the lady, who shrank away, for
Martha smelled strongly of beer.

The old juggler had noticed the involuntary movement the lady made. He
was on hand at once, and, in a hoarse, rough voice, ordered Martha to
take another place.

She must have been abashed herself by all the silk she had come into
contact with, for she now got up and moved away.

As she was watching her Magnhild descried Skarlie. At his side Martha
paused. Soon she came forward again. "I will sit there, I tell you,"
said she, and resuming her seat she placed the child on the bench beside
her.

The old juggler left his preparations. He had grown angry. "You
cursed"--here he must have remembered the fine company he was in, for he
continued: "It costs money to sit here." He spoke Swedish.

"Here is a mark!" said the woman, holding out the coin as she spoke.

"Very well," said he, hoarsely; "but sit on another bench. Will the
ladies and gentlemen please move closer together?" he begged of those on
the nearest benches. Whether his directions were followed or not, Martha
did not stir.

"The devil a bit will I move," said she.

"Let her stay where she is," whispered the lady.

"Not for any sum," replied the gallant old man. "These seats are
reserved for the highest aristocracy," and he took hold of the child.
But now Martha sprang up like one possessed.

"You Swedish troll!" cried she, "will you let my child alone?"

The crowd burst into stormy shouts of laughter, and encouraged thereby,
she continued: "Highest aristocracy? Pshaw! She is a--she, as well as
I." The word shall remain unwritten; but Martha looked significantly at
the lady. A volley of laughter, and then, as at the word of command, the
silence of the grave.

The lady had started up, proud and beautiful. She looked around for her
escort. She wished to leave. Tande was standing not very far off, with a
couple of travelers, who had begged to be presented to the well-known
composer. The lady's flaming eyes met his. He gazed back at her
intently. Every one was looking at him. But no one could penetrate his
gaze, any farther than they could have penetrated a polished steel ball.

And yet, however unfathomable those eyes, there was one thing they said
plainly enough: "Madame, I know you not!" And his refined, arched brow,
his delicately-chiseled nose, his tightly-compressed lips, his hollow
cheeks, aye, the glittering diamond studs in his shirt, the aristocratic
elegance of his attire, all said, "Touch me not!" Over his eyes were
drawn veil after veil.

It was all the work of a moment. The lady turned to Magnhild as though
to call on her to bear witness. And yet no! There was no one in the
world beside him and herself who could know how great was the offering
that now was burnt, how great the love he now flung from him.

Again the lady turned toward him a look, as brief as a flash of
lightning. What indignation, what a great cry of anguish, what a swarm
of memories, what pride, what contempt, did she not hurl at him.
Magnhild received the quivering remains as she turned to her to--aye,
what should she do now? Her face suddenly betrayed the most piteous
forlornness, and at the same time a touching appeal, as that of a child.
The tears rolled down her cheeks. Magnhild, entering completely into her
mood, impulsively held out her hand. The lady grasped it and pressed it
so vehemently that Magnhild had to exercise all her self-control not to
scream aloud. The poor, wounded, repulsed woman gathered together all
her inward strength through this outward expenditure of force, and thus
she became uplifted. For at the same time she smiled. And lo! across
that part of the square where the tight rope was stretched and where
spectators were forbidden to intrude, there strode at this moment two
officers, seen by all; but how could admittance be refused to a
general's cap? And such a one was worn by the all-powerful individual
who, with long strides and wide-swinging arms, as though he were himself
both commander and army, advanced with his adjutant on the left flank.
Already from afar he saluted, in the most respectful manner, his
captain's beautiful wife. She hastened to meet her deliverer. On the
general's arm she was led back to her place, while he himself took a
seat by her side. The adjutant fell to Magnhild's lot, after the lady
had introduced them. The general stole many a glance at Magnhild, and
the adjutant was all courtesy. This was almost the only thing Magnhild
noticed. She was quivering in every nerve.

The lady sparkled with wit, sprightliness, beauty. But every now and
then she would seize Magnhild's hand, and press it with remorseless
energy. She strengthened herself in the reality of the moment. The
bodily pain this caused Magnhild corresponded with the spiritual pain
she experienced. She heard the adjutant at her side and Magda cry out in
wonder. She, too, now saw several balls glittering in the air, and she
saw a large one weighed by a spectator, and then cast into the air by
the old athlete, as though it were a play ball, and caught again on his
arm, shoulder, or breast; but at the same time she heard the lady tell
the general that she would leave the next morning under his escort; she
had been waiting for him since her husband could not come.

Magnhild well knew that all was now over: but would the end come as soon
as the next morning? A loud outcry, coming chiefly from the voices of
boys, cut through her pain. The old man had thrown the large ball into
the air with both hands, and then quite a small ball, and continued to
keep them in rapid motion for some time. To Magnhild the small ball
represented herself; and the large one--? It was not in order to search
for an adequate symbol, nor did she apply it, but everything became
symbolic. The perpetual glitter of the balls in the air represented to
her the icy glance which had just made her tremble.

"The old man is extraordinarily strong," said the adjutant. "I once saw
a man in Venice with another man standing on his shoulders, who stooped
and raised a third, and he worked his way up and stood on the second
man's shoulders, and then, only think, they drew up a fourth, who
managed to stand on the shoulders of the third. The first man walked
about on the ground, carrying with him the other three, while the upper
man played with balls."

"Were I to die at this moment," the lady was saying on the other side,
"and the soul could forget everything here and have imparted to it a new
series of wonderful problems, infinite vistas, so that enraptured
discovery after discovery might be made--what could there be more
glorious?"

"My imagination does not carry me so far," came in the general's firm
voice. "I am ready to stake my life that to live and die in the
fulfillment of one's duty is the greatest happiness a healthily
organized human being can feel. The rest is, after all, of little
consequence."

Here Magnhild received a feverish pressure of the hand.

"Applaud, ladies and gentlemen, applaud," said the clown, hoarsely and
good-naturedly. This raised a laugh, but no one stirred.

"Why do not the dogs come out?" asked Magda, who heard the animals
impatiently barking in the tent.

About the mountain peaks clouds crisped and curled; a gust of wind
betokened a change in the weather; the fjord darkened under the
influence of a swiftly rising squall. There was something infinitely
sublime in the landscape; something awe-inspiring.

It began to grow cold. The people in the background felt hushed and
gloomy. Now the clown's wife came forward; _she_ was to go on the tight
rope. The haggard, faded beauty wore a dress cut very low in the neck,
and with short sleeves. The lady shivered as she looked at her,
complained of cold feet, and rose. The general, the adjutant, and
consequently Magnhild also, did the same; Magda alone, with looks of
entreaty, kept her seat; she was waiting for the dogs. A single glance
from her mother sufficed; she got up without a word.

They passed out the same way the officers had come in; not one of them
looked back. The lady laughed her most ringing laugh; its pleasant tones
rolled back over the assembled multitude. Every one gazed after her. The
general walked rapidly, so that her light, easy movements appeared well
at his side. The general's height invested hers with a peculiar charm;
his stiff, martial bearing and figure heightened the effect of her
pliant grace. The contrasts of color in her attire, the feather in her
hat, an impression from her laughter, affected one man in the audience
as he might have been affected by withdrawing music.

When the officers took their leave at the lady's door, she did not speak
a word to Magnhild; she did not so much as glance at her as she went
into the house. Magnhild felt her sympathy repulsed. Deeply grieved, she
crossed the street to her own house.

Tande returned late. Magnhild heard him walking back and forth, back and
forth, more rapidly than ever before. Those light steps kept repeating:
"Touch me not!" at last in rhythm; the glitter of the diamond studs, the
aristocratic elegance of the attire, the deep reserve of the
countenance, haunted her. The lady's anguish groaned beneath these
footsteps. What must not _she_ be enduring? "That amidst the thunder and
lightning of her suffering she should think of me," thought Magnhild,
"would be unnatural." In the first moment of terror she had sought
refuge with her young friend, as beneath a sheltering roof, but
immediately afterward all was, of course, forgotten.

Some one came into the hall. Was it a message from the lady? No, it was
Skarlie. Magnhild well knew his triple time step. He gave her a
searching glance as he entered. "It is about time for me to be off,"
said he. He was all friendliness, and began to gather together his
things.

"Have you been waiting for a conveyance?" asked she.

"No, but for the meat I ordered and had to go without the last time; it
came a little while ago."

She said no more, and Skarlie was soon ready.

"Good-by, until I come again!" said he. He had taken up his things, and
now stood looking at her.

"Skarlie," said she, "was it you who gave Machine Martha that mark?"

He blinked at her several times, and finally asked: "What harm was there
in that, my dear?"

Magnhild grew pale.

"I have often despised you," said she, "but never so much as at this
moment."

She turned, went into her bed-room and bolted the door. She heard
Skarlie go. Then she threw herself on the bed.

A few bars were struck on the piano above, but no more followed; Tande
was probably himself startled at the sound. These bars involuntarily
made Magnhild pause. Now she was forced to follow the steps which began
afresh. A new tinge of the mysterious, the incomprehensible, had fallen
over Tande. She was afraid of him. Before this, she had trembled when
he was near at hand; now a thrill ran through her when she merely
thought of him.

The steps above ceased, and she glided from the unfathomable to Skarlie;
for here she was clear. How she hated him! And when she thought that in
a fortnight he would come again and act as though nothing had occurred,
she clinched her hands in rage and opened them again; for as it had been
a hundred times before, so it would be again. She would forget, because
he was so good-natured, and let her have her own way.

A profound sorrow at her own insufficiency fell like the pall of night
on her fancy. She burst into tears. She was unable to cope with one of
the relations of life, either those of others or her own; unable to
grasp any saving resolution. Indeed, what could this be?

The steps began again, swifter, lighter than ever. Once more Magnhild
experienced that inexplicable, not unpleasant tremor Tande had caused in
her before.

It had finally grown dark. She rose and went into the next room. At the
cottage opposite there was light, and the curtains were down. Magnhild
also struck a light. Scarcely had she done so when she heard steps in
the hall, and some one knocked at her door. She listened; there came
another rap. She went to the door. It was a message from the lady for
Magnhild to come to her. She put out the light and obeyed the summons.

She found everything changed. All around stood open, already-packed
chests, trunks, boxes, and traveling satchels; Magda lay sleeping on her
own little hamper. A hired woman was assisting the maid in putting the
room in order. The maid started up saying: "My lady has just gone into
her bed-room. I will announce you."

Magnhild knocked at the door, then entered the chamber.

The lady lay on her couch, behind white bed curtains, in a lace-trimmed
night-dress. She had wound about her head the Turkish kerchief which was
inseparably associated with her headaches. The lamp stood a little in
the background, with a shade of soft, fluttering red paper over it. She
was leaning on one elbow which was buried deep in the pillow, and she
languidly extended the free left hand; a weary, agonized gaze followed.
How beautiful she was! Magnhild was hers again, hers so completely that
she flung herself over her and wept. As though under the influence of
an electric shock the sick woman sat up and casting both arms about
Magnhild pressed her to her own warm, throbbing form. She wanted to
appropriate all this comprehension and sympathy. "Thanks!" she whispered
over Magnhild. Her despair quivered through every nerve of her body.
Gradually her arms relaxed and Magnhild rose. Then the lady sank back
among the pillows and begged Magnhild to fetch a chair and sit by her.

"The walls have ears," she whispered, pointing to the door. Magnhild
brought the chair. "No, here on the bed," said the lady, making room
beside her.

The chair was set aside again. The lady took Magnhild's hand and held it
in both of hers. Magnhild gazed into her eyes, which were still full of
tears. How good, how true, how full of comprehension she looked!
Magnhild bent down and kissed her. The lips were languid.

"I sent for you, Magnhild," said she, softly. "I have something to say
to you. Be not afraid,"--a warm pressure of the hand accompanied these
words; "it is not my own history--and it shall be very brief; for I feel
the need of being alone." Here the tears rolled down over her cheeks.
She was aware of it and smiled.

"You are married--I do not understand how, and I do not wish to know!" A
tremor ran through her and she paused. She turned her head aside for a
moment. Presently she continued: "Do not attempt"--but she got no
farther; she drew away both hands, covered her face, and flinging
herself round, wept in the pillow. Magnhild saw the convulsive quivering
of back and arms, and she rose.

"How stupid that was of me," she heard at last; the lady had turned
round again, and now bathed eyes and brow with an essence which filled
the room with perfume. "I have no advice to give you--besides, of what
use would it be? Sit down again!" Magnhild sat down. The lady laid aside
the phial and took Magnhild's hand in both of hers. She patted and
stroked it, while a long, searching gaze followed. "Do you know that you
are the cause of what happened to-day?" Magnhild flushed as though she
were standing before a great fire; she tried to rise, but the lady held
her fast. "Be still, my child! I have read his thoughts when we were
together. You are pure and fine--and I--!" She closed her eyes and lay
as still as though she were dead. Not a sound was heard, until at last
the lady drew a long, long breath, and looked up with a gaze so full of
suffering!

Magnhild heard the beating of her own heart; she dared not stir; she
suppressed even her breathing. She felt cold drops of moisture start
from every pore.

"Yes, yes, Magnhild;--be now on _your_ guard!"

Magnhild started up. The lady turned her head after her. "Be not proud!"
said she.

"Is there any place where you can now go?" Magnhild did not hear what
she said. The lady repeated her question as calmly as she had spoken
before. "Is there any place where you can now go? Answer me!"

Magnhild could scarcely collect her thoughts, but she answered: "Yes,"
merely out of accustomed acquiescence to the lady. She did not think of
any special place of refuge, only that she must go away from here now,
at once. But before she could move, the lady, who had been watching her
closely, said,--

"I will tell you one thing that you do not know: you love him."

Magnhild drew back, swift as lightning, her eyes firmly fixed on _hers_.
There arose a brief conflict, in which the lady's eyes, as it were,
breathed upon Magnhild's. Magnhild grew confused, colored, and bowed her
head on her hands. The lady sat up and took hold of her arm. Magnhild
still resisted; her bosom heaved--she tottered, as though seeking
support; and finally leaned aside toward where she felt the pressure of
the lady's hand.

Then throwing herself on the lady's bosom she wept violently.



CHAPTER VIII.


While he was still in bed the next morning there was brought to Tande by
the sailor's wife a letter. It had a dainty, old-fashioned, somewhat
yellow, glazed envelope, and the address was written in an unpracticed
lady's hand, with delicate characters, of which those extending below
the lines terminated in a little superfluous flourish, as if afraid of
being round and yet with a strong tendency to become so.

"From whom can this be?" thought Tande.

He opened the letter. It was signed "Magnhild." A warm glow ran through
him, and he read:--

    HR. H. TANDE,--I thank you very much for your kindness to me,
    and for the instruction you have so generously given me. My
    husband has said that you have no room-rent to pay.

    I am obliged to go away without waiting for an opportunity to
    tell you of this. Once more my best thanks.
                                              MAGNHILD.

He read the letter through at least five times. Then he studied each
word, each character. This epistle had cost fully ten rough sketches and
discarded copies; he was sure of it. The word "Magnhild" was written
with more skill than the rest; the writer must have had frequent
practice in that early in life.

But with such trifling discoveries Tande could not silence the terrible
accusation that stared at him from this letter. He lay still a long time
after letting the letter drop from his hands.

Presently he began to drum on the sheet with the fingers of his right
hand; he was playing the soprano part of a melody. Had it reached the
piano, and had Magnhild heard it, she would surely have recognized it.

Suddenly Tande sprang out of bed and into the adjoining room. Stationing
himself behind the curtain he took a cautious survey of the opposite
house. Quite right: the windows were all open, two women were at work
cleaning; the house was empty. Tande paced the floor and whistled. He
walked until he was chilled through. Then he began to dress. It usually
took him an hour to make his toilet, during which he went from time to
time to the piano. To-day he required two hours, and yet he did not once
go near the piano.

In the forenoon he took a long walk, but not to the spots they had all
visited together. During this walk what had occurred began to assume a
shape which made him feel less guilty than he had felt at first. The
next day he scarcely felt that he was in the least to blame. Toward
evening of the third day his conscience began again to trouble him; but
on the following morning he rose from his couch ready to smile over the
whole affair.

The first day he had twice commenced a letter to Magnhild but had torn
up each effort. On the fourth day he found, instead of the attempted
letter, a musical theme. This was capable of being developed into a
complex, richly harmonized composition, full of magnificent unrest.
Several bars of the simple, refined melody which had conjured up for
Magnhild dreams of her childhood might be sprinkled through it. Could
not the two motives be brought into conflict?

But as he failed to succeed to his satisfaction, Tande concluded that
neither at this place nor it this time could it be accomplished. He
remained at the Point one week longer, and then packing up his things he
departed. The piano he left behind him, and the key with it. He set
forth for Germany.



CHAPTER IX


About five years had elapsed when one Sunday evening in spring, a party
of young girls passed up the one large street of the coast town. They
were walking arm in arm, and their numbers were continually increased;
for the girls were singing a three part song as they went along.

In front of the saddler's house (which, by the way, was now without
either sign-board or shop) they slackened their speed, as though they
especially desired their singing to be heard here. Perhaps they also
expected to see a face at one of the low windows; but they saw none and
soon moved onward.

When the last of the party had disappeared, a woman rose from the large
chair in the corner. She was scarcely more than half dressed, had
down-trodden slippers and disheveled hair. As she knew that no one lived
opposite and saw no one in the street, she ventured to approach the
window, and resting her arm on the sash she bowed her head in her hand
and became absorbed in thought. And as she stood thus she dreamily
listened to the harmonies which ever and anon floated back to her.

This chorus was a reminder that Magnhild had once loved song and had
believed that in it she had found her vocation. It was she who stood
there, and who although, it was Sunday, or perhaps just because it was
Sunday, had not thought it worth while to dress herself; it was six
o'clock in the afternoon.

She was roused by the rattling of carriage-wheels from another
direction. The steamer must have arrived. So accustomed was she to this
one break in the desert-stillness of the town, that she forgot she was
not dressed, and looked out to see who was coming. It proved to be two
ladies; one with a child in her arms and a sunshade; the other with a
fluttering veil, bright, eager eyes and a full face. She wore a Scotch
plaid traveling suit, and as the carriage drove rapidly past she nodded
to Magnhild, the travel-bronzed face all beaming; later she turned and
waved her gloved hand.

Who in all the world could this be? In her surprise, which with her
always gave place to embarrassment, Magnhild had drawn back into the
room. Who could it be?

There was something familiar that was struggling in vain for the
supremacy when the lady came running back toward the house. She moved on
briskly in her light traveling costume, and now springing up the steps
she soon stood in the door that was thrown open to receive her. She and
Magnhild looked at each other for a moment.

"Do you not know me?" asked the elegant lady, in the broadest dialect of
the parish.

"Rönnaug?"

"Yes, of course!"

And then they embraced.

"My dear! I am here solely on your account. I want to tell you that all
these years I have been looking forward to this moment. My dear
Magnhild!"

She spoke an intermixture of three languages: English, the dialect of
the parish, and a little of the common book language of Norway.

"I have been trying to speak Norse only a couple of months, and do not
succeed very well yet."

Her countenance had developed: the eyes glowed with more warmth than of
yore; the full lips had acquired facility in expressing every varied
shade of humor, friendliness, and will. Her form was even more
voluptuous than it had formerly been, but her rapid movements and the
elegant traveling suit she wore softened the effect. Her broad hands,
which bore the impress of her working days, closed warmly about
Magnhild's hand, and soon they were sitting side by side while Rönnaug
told her strange experiences of the past four or five years. She had not
wanted to write about them, for no one would have believed her story if
she had. The reason why she had not kept her promise to write
immediately upon reaching her journey's end was simply because even
during the voyage she had risen from the steerage to the first cabin,
and what had caused this promotion would have been misinterpreted.

When she sailed from Liverpool she was sitting forward on the gunwale of
the large ship. A gentleman came up to her and in broken Norwegian
claimed acquaintance with her, for just as she was sitting now, he said,
she had sat a month before on the back of his cariole. Rönnaug, too,
remembered him, and they talked together that day and many other days.
After a while he brought a lady with him. The next day he and the lady
came again and invited Rönnaug to go with them to the first cabin. Here
the lady and she, with the aid of the gentleman, entered into an English
conversation, which created much amusement. Others soon gathered about
the group and the upshot of it all was that Rönnaug was compelled to
remain in the first cabin, she really did not know at whose expense. She
took a bath, was provided with new clothes from top to toe, several
ladies contributing, and remained as a guest among the passengers. All
were kind to her.

She left the ship with the lady, who proved to be an aunt of the
gentleman who had first spoken to Rönnaug and at whose expense, as she
soon learned, she had traveled. He afterwards had her provided with
instruction and the handsomest support, and it was at his expense they
all three took frequent long journeys together. For the past two years
she had been his wife, and they had a child about a year old whom she
had with her. And this child Magnhild must see--not "to-morrow," nor "by
and by," but "now," "right away!"

Magnhild was not dressed. Well, then she must speedily make her toilet.
Rönnaug would help her--and in spite of all resistance they were both
soon standing in Magnhild's chamber.

As soon as Magnhild had begun to dress Rönnaug wandered about in the
rooms. As she did so she asked one single question, and this was: why
Magnhild was not dressed so late in the day. A long protracted "oh!"
was the only answer she received. Rönnaug hummed softly to herself as
she went out into the front room. By and by some words were uttered by
her; they were English words, and one of them Magnhild heard distinctly:
it was "disappointed." Magnhild understood English; during the past
three winters Skarlie had read the language with her, and she could
already read aloud to him from the American weekly paper, which, since
his sojourn in America, it had been a necessity for him to take. She
knew, therefore, that "disappointed" was the same as "_skuffet_."

There are times when a change occurs in our mood, inasmuch as the sun
which filled the whole room suddenly disappears, leaving the atmosphere
gray, cold, within and without. In like manner Magnhild was
involuntarily seized with an indescribable dread; and sure enough, the
next time Rönnaug came humming past the open door (she was looking at
the pictures on the wall), she cast a brief side glance in at Magnhild;
it was by no means unfriendly; but it was felt, nevertheless, by
Magnhild, as though she had received a shock. What in all the world had
happened? or rather, what was discovered? It was impossible for her to
conceive. She cast her eyes searchingly around the room, when she came
in after dressing. But she sought in vain for anything which could have
betrayed what she herself would have concealed, or indicated what could
have caused displeasure. What was it? Rönnaug's face was now quite
changed--ah! what was it?

They set forth; both had grown silent. Even on the street, where there
must be so much that was familiar, she who had but now spoken in three
languages could hold her peace in them all. They met a man in a cariole,
who was talking passionately with a younger man he had stopped; both
bowed to Magnhild, the elder one with an air of indifference, the
younger one with triumph in his pimpled face and flashing eyes. For the
first time Rönnaug roused to interest. Although nearly five years had
elapsed since she had served as "skyds" girl to the unknown man who had
talked about Magnhild's destiny, and who had seen her herself in
circumstances of which she was now ashamed, she recognized him at once.
Hurriedly grasping Magnhild's hand, she cried:--

"Do you know him? What is his name? Does he live here?"

In her eagerness she quite forgot to use her mother-tongue.

Magnhild replied only to the last question:--

"Yes, since last winter."

"What is his name?"

"Grong."

"Have you had any conversation with him?"

"More with his son; that was he who was standing by the cariole."

Rönnaug looked after Grong, who at this moment drove briskly, it might
almost be said angrily, past them.

They soon came to the second hotel on the right hand side; a maid
servant was asked if a lady had stopped there with a child. They were
shown up-stairs. There stood the lady who had accompanied Rönnaug. The
latter asked her in English where the child was, at the same time
presenting Miss Roland to Mrs. Skarlie, after which all three went into
the adjoining room.

"Ah, we have a cradle!" exclaimed Rönnaug in English, and threw herself
on her knees beside the cradle.

Magnhild remained standing, at a little distance. The child was very
pretty, so far as Magnhild could see. Rönnaug bent over it and for some
time she neither looked up nor spoke. But Magnhild saw that great tears
trickled down on the fine coverlet that was spread over the cradle.
There arose a painful silence.

Rönnaug rose to her feet at last, and with a side glance at Magnhild she
went past her into the front room. Magnhild finally felt constrained to
follow her. She found Rönnaug standing by the window. A carriage stopped
at that moment in front of the hotel. Magnhild saw that it was drawn by
three men. It was a new, handsome traveling carriage, the handsomest she
had ever seen.

"Whose carriage is that?" asked she.

"It is mine," replied Rönnaug.

Betsy Roland came in and asked some question. Rönnaug went out with her,
and when, directly afterward, she returned to the room, she went
straight up to Magnhild, who still sat looking at the carriage. Rönnaug
laid one arm about her neck.

"Will you go with me in this carriage through the country, Magnhild?"
she asked, in English.

At the first contact Magnhild had become startled; she was conscious of
Rönnaug's eyes, of her breath; and Rönnaug's arm encircled her like an
iron bar, although there certainly was no pressure.

"Will you go with me through the country in this--in this carriage,
Magnhild?" she heard once more, this time in a blending of the dialect
of the parish and English, and the voice trembled.

"Yes," whispered Magnhild.

Rönnaug released her, went to the other window, and did not look round
again.

"Is the carriage from America?"

"London."

"How much did you give for it?"

"Charles bought it."

"Is your husband with you?"

"Yes--ja," and she added, brokenly, "Not here; Constantinople--delivery
of guns--in September we are to meet--Liverpool." And then she looked up
at Magnhild with wide open eyes. What did she mean?

Magnhild wished to go. Rönnaug accompanied her down-stairs, and they
both went out to inspect the carriage, about which stood a group of
people who now fell back somewhat. Rönnaug pointed out to Magnhild how
comfortable the carriage was, and while her head was still inside she
asked,--

"Your rooms up-stairs, are they to let?"

"No, it would give me too much trouble."

Rönnaug hastily said "good-night," and ran up the steps.

Magnhild had not gone very far before she felt that she certainly ought
to have offered those rooms to Rönnaug. Should she turn back? Oh, no.

This was one of Magnhild's wakeful nights. Rönnaug had frightened her.
And this journey? Never in the world would she undertake it.



CHAPTER X.


When she left her chamber after ten o'clock, the first object she beheld
was Rönnaug, who was coming up from the coast town, and was on her way
to call on Magnhild--no, not on Magnhild, but on the priest, the young
curate, who lived at Magnhild's house, in the former saddler workshop.
Rönnaug at the priest's? At eleven o'clock she was still with him. And
when she came out, accompanied by the curate, a shy young man, she
merely put her head in Magnhild's door, greeted her, and disappeared
again with the curate.

Magnhild found still greater cause for wonder, for later in the day she
saw Rönnaug in company with Grong. This wounded her, she could scarcely
tell why. The following day Rönnaug called in as she passed by; various
people were discussed whom it had entertained Rönnaug to meet, but not a
word was said about the journey. Several days went by, and it was still
not mentioned. Perhaps it had been given up!

But finally Magnhild began to hear about this journey from others: first
from the sailor's wife who did the work of her house, then from the
woman of whom she bought fish, finally from every one. What should she
do? For upon no account would she consent to go.

Rönnaug told her that she was reading Norse with Grong, and also with
the curate, in order that neither might have too much torment with her
at any one time; she wrote exercises, too, she said, and laughed. In the
same abrupt manner she touched upon sundry individuals and
circumstances, mentioned them in the most characteristic way, and
hurried on to something else. Magnhild was not invited to the hotel.
Rönnaug often went by pushing her child in a little wagon she had
bought; she would stop and show the child to every one she met, but she
never brought it in to see Magnhild.

Rönnaug made the most extraordinary sensation in the town. It was no
unusual thing at a sea-port town to see remarkable changes of fortune.
Judging from the presents Rönnaug made, indeed from her whole
appearance, she must be immensely wealthy, yet she was the most
unassuming and sociable of all. Magnhild frequently heard her praises
sounded; the young curate alone occasionally observed that she
decidedly evinced that impatience which was characteristic of such a
child of fortune.

But what then did Rönnaug hear about Magnhild? For it might be assumed
beyond all doubt that if she did not question Magnhild herself she at
least asked others about her. This was true, but she proceeded very
cautiously. There were, indeed, but two people to whom she put direct
questions,--the young curate and Grong.

The curate said that during the whole time he had been at the Point, and
that was now nearly a year, he had neither heard nor seen anything but
good concerning Magnhild. Skarlie was a person who was less transparent;
according to universal testimony he had settled in this town merely to
study the prevailing conditions and utilize them for his own
benefit--"without competition and without control." He was sarcastic and
cynical; but the curate could not deny that it was sometimes amusing to
talk with him. The curate had never heard that Skarlie was otherwise
than considerate to his wife--or rather his adopted daughter; for other
relations scarcely existed between them. And the shy young curate seemed
quite embarrassed at being obliged to give this information.

Grong, on the contrary, called Magnhild a lazy, selfish, pretentious
hussy. She would not even take the trouble to tie up her stockings; he
had noticed this himself. The hand-work she had started here had long
since been left to a hunchback girl named Marie and a tall girl by the
name of Louise. Magnhild occasionally taught them something new, yet
even that was due not to herself but to her husband, who picked up such
things on his travels and spurred her on to introduce them. Upon the
whole, Skarlie was a capable, industrious fellow, who had breathed life
into this sleepy, ignorant parish, and even if he had victimized the
people somewhat, it could scarcely be expected that so much knowledge
should be gained for nothing.

Magnhild's vocation? Bah! He had long since given up the idea of there
being such a thing as a special destiny. In Nordland, many years before,
he had seen an old man who in his childhood had been the only person
saved out of a whole parish; the rest had been swept away by an
avalanche. This man was a great dunce; he had lived to be sixty-six
years of age without earning a farthing except by rowing, and had died a
year before, a pauper. What sort of a destiny was that? Indeed, there
were precious few who had any destiny at all.

Grong at this time was wretchedly out of humor: he had believed his
gifted son to be destined for something; he lived for his sake
alone--and the young man had accomplished nothing except falling in
love. Rönnaug, who knew nothing of Grong's own experience, was shocked
at his harsh verdict. Nor could she induce him to discuss the subject
with her, for he declared point blank that Magnhild bored him.

So she once more sought Magnhild herself, but found her so apathetic
that it was impossible to approach her.

If she would persevere in her design, there was nothing left for her but
to resort to strategy.

In the most indifferent tone in the world she therefore one day
announced to Magnhild that in a couple of days she proposed starting;
Magnhild would not need to take much luggage with her, for when they
stopped anywhere they could purchase whatever they required. That was
the way she always managed.

This was about nine o'clock in the morning, and until twelve o'clock
Magnhild was toiling over a telegram to her husband who had just
announced to her his arrival at Bergen. The telegram was at last
completed as follows:--

"Rönnaug, married to the rich American, Charles Randon, New York, is
here; wants me to go with her on a long journey.--Magnhild."

She felt it to be treason when, on the stroke of twelve, she dispatched
this telegram. Treason? Toward whom? She owed reckoning to no one.
Meanwhile, in the afternoon, she went out in order that no one might
find her. When she returned home in the evening a telegram was awaiting
her.

"Home by the steamer to-morrow.--Skarlie."

Rönnaug sought Magnhild at eight o'clock the next morning: she wanted to
surprise her with a traveling suit that was ready for her at the hotel.
But it was all locked up at Magnhild's. Rönnaug went round the house and
peeped in at the bed-room window whose curtain was drawn aside. Magnhild
was out! Magnhild, who seldom rose before nine o'clock!

Well, Rönnaug went again at nine. Fastened up! At ten o'clock. The same
result. After this she went to the house every quarter of an hour, but
always found it fastened up. Then she became suspicious. At eleven
o'clock she paid two boys handsomely to stand guard over the house and
bring her word as soon as Magnhild returned.

Rönnaug herself stayed at the hotel and waited. It came to be one, two,
three o'clock--no messenger. She inspected her guards; all was right.
The clock struck four, then five. Another inspection. Just as the clock
struck six a boy came running along the street, and Rönnaug, hat in
hand, flew down the steps to meet him.

She found Magnhild in the kitchen. Magnhild was so busy that Rönnaug
could find no opportunity to speak a single word with her. She was
passing incessantly to and fro between kitchen, yard, and inner rooms.
She went also into the cellar and remained there for a long time.
Rönnaug waited; but as Magnhild never paused, she finally sought her in
the pantry. There she asked her if she would not go with her to the
hotel for a moment. Magnhild said she had no time. She was engaged in
putting butter on a plate.

"For whom are you making preparations?"

"Oh!"--

The hand which held the spoon trembled; this Rönnaug observed.

"Are you expecting Skarlie by the steamer--now?"

Magnhild could not well say "No," for this would speedily have proved
itself false, and so she said "Yes."

"Then you sent for him?"

Magnhild laid aside the spoon and went into the next room; Rönnaug
followed her.

It now came to light how much good vigorous Norse Rönnaug had learned in
the short time she had been studying, even if it were not wholly
faultless. She first asked if this signified that Skarlie would prevent
the journey. When Magnhild, instead of making any reply, fled into the
bed-chamber, Rönnaug again followed her; she said that _to-day_ Magnhild
must listen to her.

This "to-day" told Magnhild that Rönnaug had long been wanting to talk
with her. Had the window Magnhild now stood beside been a little larger,
she would certainly have jumped out of it.

But before Rönnaug managed to begin in earnest, something happened.
Noise and laughter were heard in the street, and ringing through them an
infuriated man's voice. "And _you_ will prevent me from taking the
sacrament, you hypocritical villain?" After this a dead silence, and
then peals of laughter. Most likely the man had been seized and carried
off; the shouting and laughing of boys and old women resounded through
the street, and gradually sounded farther and farther away.

Neither of the two women in the chamber had stirred from her place. They
had both peered out through the door toward the sitting-room window, but
they had also both turned away again, Magnhild toward the garden. But
Rönnaug had been reminded by this interruption of Machine Martha, who in
her day had been the terror and sport of the coast town. Scarcely,
therefore, had the noise died away, before she asked,--

"Do you remember Machine Martha? Do you remember something that I told
you about your husband and her? I have been making inquiries concerning
it and I now know more than I did before. Let me tell you it is unworthy
of you to live under the same roof with such a man as Skarlie."

Very pale, Magnhild turned proudly round with:--

"That is no business of mine!"

"That is no business of yours? Why you live in his house, eat his food,
wear his clothes, and bear his name,--and his conduct is no business of
yours?"

But Magnhild swept past her and went into the sitting-room without
vouchsafing a reply. She took her stand by one of the windows opening on
the street.

"Aye, if you do not feel this to be a disgrace, Magnhild, you have sunk
lower than I thought."

Magnhild had just leaned her head, against the window frame. She now
drew it up sufficiently to look at Rönnaug and smile, then she bowed
forward again. But this smile had sent the blood coursing up to
Rönnaug's cheeks, for she had felt their joint youth compared in it.

"I know what you are thinking of,"--here Rönnaug's voice trembled,--"and
I could not have believed you to be so unkind, although at our very
first meeting I plainly saw that I had made a mistake in feeling such a
foolish longing for you."

But in a moment she felt herself that these words were too strong, and
she paused. It was, moreover, not her design to quarrel with Magnhild;
quite the contrary! And so she was indignant with Magnhild for having
led her so far to forget herself. But had it not been thus from the
beginning? With what eager warmth had she not come, and how coldly had
she not been received. And from this train of thought her words now
proceeded.

"I could think of nothing more delightful in the world than to show you
my child. There was, indeed, no one else to whom I could show it. And
you did not even care to see it; you did not so much as want to take the
trouble to dress yourself."

She strove at first to speak calmly, but before she finished what she
was saying, her voice quivered, and she burst into tears.

Suddenly Magnhild darted away from the window toward the kitchen
door--but that was just where Rönnaug was; then toward the bed-room
door, but remembering that it would be useless to take refuge there,
turned again, met Rönnaug, knew not where to go, and fled back to her
old place.

But this was all lost on Rönnaug; for now she too was in a state of
extreme agitation.

"You have no heart, Magnhild! It is dreadful to be obliged to say so!
You have permitted yourself to be trailed in the mire until you have
lost all feeling, indeed you have. When I insisted upon your seeing my
child, you did not even kiss it! You did not so much as stoop to look at
it; you never said a word, no, not a single word, and you have no idea
how pretty it is!"

A burst of tears again checked her flow of words.

"But that is natural," she continued, "you have never had a child of
your own. And I chanced to remember this, otherwise I should have
started right off again--at once! I was so disappointed. Ah! well, I
wrote Charles all about it!" In another, more vigorous tone she
interrupted herself with: "I do not know what you can be thinking of. Or
everything must be dead within you. You might have full freedom--and you
prefer Skarlie. Write for Skarlie!" She paced the floor excitedly.
Presently she said: "Alas! alas! So this is Magnhild, who was once so
pure and so refined that she saved me!" She paused and looked at
Magnhild. "But I shall never forget it, and you _shall_ go with me,
Magnhild!" Then, with sudden emotion: "Have you not one word for me? Can
you not understand how fond I am of you? Have you quite forgotten,
Magnhild, how fond I have always been of you? Is it nothing to you that
I came here all the way from America after you."

She failed to notice that she had thus avowed her whole errand; she
stood and waited to see Magnhild rouse and turn. She was not standing
near enough to see that tears were now falling on the window-sill. She
only saw that Magnhild neither stirred nor betrayed the slightest
emotion. This wounded her, and, hasty as she was in her resolves when
her heart was full, she left. Magnhild saw her hurry, weeping, up the
street, without looking in.

And Rönnaug did not cease weeping, not even when she had thrown herself
down over her child and was kissing it. She clasped it again and again
to her bosom, as though she wanted to make sure of her life's great
gain.

She had expected Magnhild to follow her. The clock struck eight, no
Magnhild appeared; nine--still no Magnhild. Rönnaug threw a shawl over
her head and stole past the saddler's house. Skarlie must have come home
some time since. All was still within; there was no one at the windows.
Rönnaug went back to the hotel and as she got ready for bed she kept
pondering on what was now to be done, and whether she should really
start on her journey without Magnhild. The last thought she promptly
dismissed. No, she would remain and call for assistance. She was ready
to risk a battle, and that with Mr. Skarlie himself, supported by the
curate, Grong, and other worthy people. She probably viewed the matter
somewhat from an American standpoint; but she was determined.

She fell asleep and dreamed that Mr. Skarlie and she were fighting. With
his large hairy hands he seized her by the head, the shoulders, the
hands; his repulsive face, with its toothless mouth, looked with a laugh
into her eyes. She could not ward him off: once more he had her by the
head; then Magnhild repeatedly called her name aloud and she awoke.
Magnhild was standing at the side of her bed.

"Rönnaug! Rönnaug!"

"Yes, yes!"

"It is I--Magnhild!"

Rönnaug started up in bed, half intoxicated with sleep. "Yes, I
see--you--It is you? No, really you, Magnhild! Are you going with me?"

"Yes!"

And Magnhild flung herself on Rönnaug's bosom and burst into tears. What
tears! They were like those of a child, who after long fright finds its
mother again.

"Good Heavens! What has happened?"

"I cannot tell you." Another burst of passionate weeping. Then quietly
freeing herself from Rönnaug's arms, she drew back.

"But you will really come with me?"

There was heard a whispered "yes," and then renewed weeping. And Rönnaug
stretched out her arms; but as Magnhild did not fly into them, she
sprang out of bed and took her joy in a practical way by beginning to
dress in great haste. There was joy, aye, triumph in her soul.

As she sat on the edge of the bed, drawing on her clothes, she took a
closer survey of Magnhild; the summer night was quite clear and light,
and Magnhild had raised a curtain, opened a window, and was now standing
by the latter. It was about three o'clock. Magnhild had on a petticoat
with a cloak thrown over it; a bundle lay on the chair, it perhaps
contained her dress. What could have happened? Rönnaug went to her
parlor to finish dressing, and when Magnhild followed her, the new
traveling suit was lying spread out and was shown to her. She uttered no
word of thanks, she scarcely looked at the suit; but she sat down beside
it and her tears flowed anew. Rönnaug was obliged to put the clothes on
her. As she was thus engaged, she whispered:--

"Did he try to use force?"

"That he has never done," said Magnhild; "no, there are other
things"--and now she became so convulsed with weeping that Rönnaug said
no more, but finished dressing both Magnhild and herself as quickly as
possible. She hastened into the bed-chamber to awaken her American
friend, then down-stairs to rouse the people of the hotel: she wanted to
start within an hour.

She found Magnhild where she had left her.

"No, this will not do," said she. "Pray control yourself. Within an hour
we must be away from here."

But Magnhild sat still; it was as though all her energy had been
exhausted by the struggle and the resolve she had just come from.
Rönnaug let her alone; she had as much as she could do to get ready.
Everything was packed, and last of all the child was wrapped in its
traveling blanket without being roused. Within an hour they and all
their belongings were actually stowed away in the carriage.

The world around them slept. They drove onward in the bright, dawning
morning, past the church. The sun was not visible; but the skies, above
the mountains to the east, were flushed with roseate hues. The landscape
lay in dark shadows, the upper slope of the mountains in the deepest of
deep black-blue; the stream, not a streak of light over its struggle,
cut its way along, like a procession of wild, angry mountaineers,
recklessly dashing downward at this moment of the world's awakening,
without consideration, without pausing for rest, and with shrill
laughter at this mad resolve and the success which attended it.

The impressions of nature, and the feelings Magnhild might otherwise
have experienced during this journey away from the griefs of many years,
over the first miles, as it were, of a new career in the sumptuous
traveling carriage of the friend of her childhood,--all were lulled into
a weary, vapid drowsiness. Her daily life had been for years one
monotonous routine, so that the emotions of a single evening had
completely exhausted her strength. She longed now for nothing so much as
for a bed. And Rönnaug, bent on fully carrying out the wonders of
contrast, was not content with traveling in her own carriage with two
horses (when the ascent began she would have four), she wanted also to
sleep in one of the guest-beds at the post-station where she had once
served. This wish was gratified, and three hours' sleep was taken by
them all. The hostess recognized Rönnaug, but as she was a person
Rönnaug had not liked, there was no conversation between them.

After they had slept, eaten, and settled their account, Rönnaug felt a
desire to write something with her own hand in the traveler's register.
That was indeed too amusing. She read what was last written there, as
follows: "Two persons, one horse, change for the next station," and on
the margin was added,--

    "Birds encountered us two, tweewhitt!
     'With _us_ to tarry, think you, tweewhitt?'

    "'We plan, we reason, no more, tra-ra!
      Each other we adore, tra-ra!'"

"What nonsense was this?" The rest of the party must see: it was
translated into English for Betsy Roland. Now they remembered that as
they drove into the station they had seen a carriage, with a gentleman
and lady in it, driving quickly past them up the road. The gentleman had
turned his face away, as though he did not wish to be seen; the lady was
closely veiled.

They were still talking of this when they sat in the carriage and drove
away, while all the people at the station had assembled to watch them.
The travelers concluded that the verses must have been written by some
happy new-married couple; and Magnhild, by one of those trains of
thought which cannot be accounted for, called to mind the young couple,
the gentleman in morocco slippers, and the lady with her hair so
strangely done up, she had met at the next station, on her own wedding
trip. This led her to recall her own wedding, then to think of what she
had gone through in all these years, and of how aimless her whole life
was,--aimless whether she looked into the past or into the future.

Day had meanwhile dawned in wondrous beauty. The sun had risen above the
lofty mountains. The valley, although narrow, was so situated that it
was thoroughly illumined by the sunshine. The stream now flowed in a
narrower, more rocky bed, was white with foam where struggles arose,
grass-green where they ceased, blue where there were overhanging
shadows, and gray where the water formed eddies over a clay bottom. The
grass here was filled with stubble, farther up it was studded with
yellow cowslips, the largest they had ever seen.

The peaks of the mountains sparkled, the dark pine forest in the bosom
and lap of the chain displayed such a wealth of luxuriance, that whoever
viewed it aright must inevitably be refreshed. Close by the road-side
grew deciduous trees, for here the pines had been cut down, yet ever and
anon they pushed their way triumphantly forth from their vigorous
headquarters in the background. The road was free from dust. On the
outskirts of the forest grew mountain flowers, all glittering with the
last dew-drops of the day.

The travelers had the carriage stop that they might pluck some of the
flowers; and then they sat in the grass and amused the child with them;
they wove garlands and twined them about the little one. A short
distance farther up, where the stream had sunk so far beneath them that
its roar had ceased to sound above all else, they heard the jubilant
song of birds. The thrush, singly and in groups, swung from tree to
tree, and its vigorous chirping had a cheering tone. A startled
wood-grouse, with strong wing-beats, flew shrieking among the branches.
A dog who followed the horses set chase to the red grouse; they
shrieked, flapped their wings, hid in the heather, shrieked, started up
again and sought a circuitous way back. They must have nests here. There
was also a rich growth of birch round about this little heath.

"Ah, how I have longed for this journey! And Charles, who gave it to
me!" The tears stood in Rönnaug's eyes, but she brushed them away, after
she had kissed her child. "No, no tears. Why should there be any?"

And she sang:--

    "Shed no tear! Oh shed no tear!
     The flower will bloom another year.
     Weep no more! Oh weep no more!
     Young buds sleep in the root's white core."[3]

    [3] Keats.

"This is our summer trip, Magnhild! The summer travels in Norway. Now
onward!"

But Magnhild bowed down and covered her face with her hands.

"All shall be well with you, Magnhild. Charles is so good! He will do
everything for you."

But here she heard Magnhild sob, and so she said no more.

The sunny day through which they rode onward, the fresh, aromatic
mountain air they inhaled, the sounds of jubilee which burst forth from
the forest, blending with childhood's memories, became too much for
Rönnaug. She forgot Magnhild and began to sing again. Then she took the
child and chatted playfully with it and with Miss Roland. She was
surprised by Magnhild's asking:--

"Do you love your husband, Rönnaug?"

"Do I love him? Why, when Mr. Charles Randon said to me: 'I will gladly
provide for your education, Rönnaug; I hope you will let me have this
pleasure,'--well, I let him have the pleasure. When Mr. Charles said to
me: 'My dear Rönnaug, I am much older than you; yet if you could consent
to be my wife, I am certain that I should be happy,'--well--and so I
made him happy. And when Mr. Charles said: 'My dear Rönnaug, take good
care of our little Harry, so that I may find you all in Liverpool in
September, and your Norwegian friend with you,'--why, I determined that
he should find us all in Liverpool in September, and little Harry well
and hearty; and my Norwegian friend along, too!"--and she kissed the
child and set it to laughing.

They changed horses at the next post-station. Magnhild and Miss Roland
kept their seats in the carriage. Rönnaug got out, partly to re-visit
familiar haunts, partly to make an entry in the register. That was her
duty, she said. Presently she came back, laughing, with the register.
Under the entry: "Two persons for the next station,"--indicating that
these two persons were too much absorbed to even trouble themselves with
the name of the next station,--were the following lines:--

    "Love is all the budding flower,
       Perfect blossom, fruit mature.
       When breaking boughs no more endure,
     Then "stop!" is shrieked to Winter's power.
       Rather life to stop be driven;
       No alternative is given!"

Rönnaug translated it for Betsy Roland, and now various conjectures were
expressed by them all, in both Norwegian and English. They agreed in
supposing the writers to be two lovers, on a journey, under peculiar
circumstances; but whether they were a newly-married couple, or merely
lovers; whether theirs was a runaway flight, or whether they were simply
actuated by exuberance of spirits over happily overcome obstacles,
or,--oh! there were manifold possibilities.

Rönnaug wished to copy the verses, and Magnhild offered her a leaf from
her pocket-book. As this was produced a letter fell from it. Magnhild
was surprised, but she soon remembered that she had received the letter
by mail the evening before, an hour after her husband's arrival. Wholly
absorbed in her conflict with him, she had placed it for the time in her
pocket-book. She never received letters, so she could not imagine from
whom this could come. The two travelers from America did not notice that
the letter bore a foreign stamp, but Magnhild saw this at once. She tore
open the letter; it was written in a delicate hand, on fine paper, and
was quite long. It was headed "Munich," and the signature was--did she
read aright?--"Hans Tande." She folded the letter again, without knowing
what she was doing, while the hot blushes spread over face and neck. The
two others acted as though they had observed nothing; Rönnaug busied
herself with copying the verses.

They drove rapidly on, and left Magnhild to her reflections. But her
embarrassment increased to such a degree that it became positive torture
to her to sit in the carriage with the others. She meekly begged to be
allowed to get out and walk a little distance. Rönnaug smiled and
ordered the coachman to stop,--they had just reached a level plain where
the horses could rest a while. When the travelers had alighted, she took
Magnhild by the hand and led her toward a thicket a few steps behind
them.

"Come--go in there now and read your letter!" said she.

When Magnhild found herself alone in the wood she stood still. Her
agitation had compelled her to pause. She peered about her, as though
fearing even in this lonely spot the presence of people. The sun played
here and there on the yellow pine needles that were strewn about, on the
fallen decayed branches, on the dark green moss covering the stones, on
the heather in the glades. Around her all was profoundly still; from the
sunny margin of the wood there floated toward her the twittering of a
solitary bird, the babbling of the child, and Rönnaug's laughter, which
rang with the utmost clearness through the trees.

Magnhild ventured to draw forth the letter once more. She opened it. It
was not folded in the original creases. She spread it out before her,
and looked at it as an aged woman might gaze into the depths of a chest
upon her bridal garments. A solitary sunbeam, breaking through the
branches, played restlessly on the sheet, and was now round, now oblong.
Magnhild saw within its shining ring one word, two words, more
distinctly than the rest. "Great hopes--and failed!" were written there.
"Great hopes--and failed." She read and trembled. Alas! alas! alas! Over
and over again she read the words, and felt rich in expectation, in
dread, in memories of bliss and of conflict; she could not sit still,
she rose to her feet, but only to sit down again to fresh efforts. The
ringing tones of Rönnaug's laughter broke upon her solitude, like a
staff, which she grasped for support. She gained courage from Rönnaug's
courage, and looked here and there in the letter, not to read, rather to
find out whether she dare read. But she was too agitated to connect the
broken sentences, and was led, almost unawares, to a continuous perusal.
She did not understand all that she read. Still it was a communion; it
was like the warm clasp of a hand. There was music wafted about
her,--_his_ music; she was once more in his presence, with the rare
perfume, the look, the embarrassed silence, amid which she had
experienced earth's highest bliss. The diamond cut its shining circlets
over the piano keys, his white, refined hand played "Flowers on the
Green." Wholly under his influence now, she became absorbed in
re-reading the letter, comprehended it better than before, paused,
exulted without words, read, while the tears trickled down her cheeks.
She paused, without being aware of it, simply because she could not see,
began again, without perceiving it, wept profusely, read on, finished
only to begin anew--three, four, five times from beginning to end. She
could read no more.

What had she not experienced during this perusal of thoughts and
feelings she had had a thousand times before, and thoughts and feelings
she had never dreamed of!

The first complete impression she gathered, in the humid forest shades,
where she sat concealed from view, was like a shaft of quivering
sunbeams. It was the foreboding which stole over her--it was not put
into words, and yet it was breathed from every line (a thousand times
sweeter so!) the foreboding, aye, the certainty, that he, yes, that he
had loved her!--and the second was that he had at the same time been
fully aware of her love, long, long before she had grasped it herself!
and he had not hinted at this by so much as a look. How considerate he
had been! And yet, what must he not have seen in her heart! Was it true?
Could it be true?

Ah! it was all one! And yet amidst her grief the thought of being able
to feel all this to the core as _he_ had felt, was like the sun shining
behind a misty atmosphere and gradually bursting through the layers of
fog with thousands of undreamed-of light effects, above and below. How
freely she could breathe again after the void, privation, brooding of
many years.

Not until later did individual thoughts force themselves forward, then
not fully until Rönnaug came to her. There was something labored in this
letter; it read occasionally like a translation from a foreign language.
But now for the _letter itself_:--

    I have just returned from the south. I thought myself strong
    enough. Alas! The papers have doubtless informed you that I am
    ill; but the papers do not know what I now know!

    The first thing I do in this new certainty is to write to you,
    dear Magnhild.

    You will, of course, be painfully surprised at the sight of my
    signature. I awakened great hopes--and failed when they should
    have been fulfilled.

    A thousand times since I have thought how impossible it would be
    for you to go to the piano and try over some song we three had
    studied together, or some exercise we two had gone through. A
    miracle would have been needed to compel you to do so.

    A thousand times I have considered whether I should write to
    you, and tell you what I must now tell you, that this has been
    the deepest sorrow of my life.

    You set me free from a once rich, but afterward unworthy
    relation, and this was my salvation. The germ of innocence in my
    soul was once more released. The entire extent of my
    emancipation, however, I did not realize so long as we were
    together.

    And I repaid you for what you had done for me by desolating your
    life, so far as lay within my power. But I have also yearned to
    tell you what I now believe: our destiny upon earth is not alone
    what we ourselves have recognized it to be, not alone what we
    believe to be the main purpose of our existences. When you,
    without being yourself conscious of it, gave me a purer, higher
    tendency, you were fulfilling a part of your destiny, dear
    Magnhild. It was perhaps a small part; but perhaps it was also
    only an hundredth part of still more which you had done for many
    others without so much as suspecting it yourself.

    Magnhild, I can say it now without danger of being
    misinterpreted, and also without doing harm; for you have become
    four years and a half older and I am going hence; indeed, I
    believe it will help you to hear it. Well, then, the innocence
    in your soul had become, amidst your peculiar circumstances, a
    moral atmosphere which in you, more than in any one I ever met,
    proclaimed itself to be a power. It was all the more beautiful
    because so unconscious in its manifestations. It was breathed
    from every manifestation of your bashfulness. It revealed itself
    to me not alone in your blushes, Magnhild; no, in the tone of
    your voice also, in the immediate relations you held with every
    one you had intercourse with, or looked upon, or merely greeted.
    If there were those in your presence who were not pure, you made
    them appear abhorrent; you taught even the fallen ones what
    beauty there is in moral purity.

    You have the fullest right to rejoice over what I say. Aye, may
    it bring you more than rejoicing! It is not well to brood over
    a lost vocation, Magnhild, and the letters I receive from Grong
    lead me to suppose that this is what you are now doing. One who
    does not attain the first or greatest object of his ambition
    ought not to sink into listless inactivity; for do we not thus
    check the development of the thousand-leaved destiny of the tree
    of life? May not even disappointment be part of this?

           *       *       *       *       *

    (Five days later.)

    Magnhild, I do not say this in self-justification. Every time I
    think of your singing I realize what I have repressed. It
    possessed a purity, untouched by passion, and that was why it
    moved with such exalting influence through my soul. The perfume
    of tender memories was in it, memories of my childhood, my
    mother, my good teacher, my first conceptions of music, my first
    yearning for love, or thirst for beauty. It also revived the
    first, pure tintings of life, those which had not yet become
    glaring, still less tainted.

    I think of your singing artistically schooled, radiant with
    spirituality--what a revelation! And this I checked in its
    growth.

    I bought while we were together some of the brooches made by
    your father. I showed them to no one. Under the circumstances
    it would have caused suspicion and consequent annoyance. But in
    those brooches I felt the family calling, Magnhild, the family
    work, which your talent should have further continued. In your
    father's work there is innocent fancy, patience, in its
    imperfections, as it were, a sigh of far more significant,
    undeveloped power.

    Is all this now checked because your progress is checked, you
    who are the last of your family and without children? No, I
    cannot justify myself.

           *       *       *       *       *

    (I have been again compelled to lay aside my pen for many days.
    Now I must try if I can finish.)

    Let not the wrong I did to you, and thereby, alas, to many both
    in the present and in the future, be used by you as an excuse
    for never making further progress! You can, if you will, give
    free scope to whatever power there is within you, if not in one
    way, in another. And do this now; do it, also, because I implore
    you! You can make the burden of my fault less heavy for my
    thoughts, now in the last hours of my life.

    Aye, while I write this it grows lighter. The kindness you, in
    spite of all, surely cherish toward me (I feel it!) sends me a
    greeting.

    You will, so far as you can, rescue my life's work, where it
    failed to complete its efforts; you will build upon and improve,
    Magnhild!

    You will, moreover, accept this request as a consolation?

           *       *       *       *       *

    (I could proceed no farther. But to-day I am better.)

    If what I have written helps to open the world once more to you,
    so that you can enter in and take hold of life's duties; aye, if
    all that you have either neglected or only half performed can
    come to attain the rank of links in life's problem, and thus
    become dear to you,--then it will do me good; remember this!
    Farewell!

    Ah, yes, farewell! I have other letters to write, and cannot do
    much. Farewell!      HANS TANDE.

           *       *       *       *       *

    (Eight days later.)

    I copy in this letter to you the following lines from a letter
    to another:--

    "It is not true that love is for every one the portal to life.
    Perchance it is not so for even half of those who attain _real
    life_.

    "There are many whose lives are ruined by the loss of love, or
    by sacrificing everything to love. With some of them, perhaps,
    it could not have been otherwise (people are so different,
    circumstances excuse so much); but those whose existences I have
    seen thus blighted could unconditionally have gained the mastery
    over self and in the effort acquired a new power. Encouraged,
    however, by a class of literature and art whose
    short-sightedness proceeds from a maimed will, they neglected
    all attempts at gaining strength."



CHAPTER XI.


Magnhild and Rönnaug came arm in arm out of the wood where Rönnaug had
finally been obliged to seek her friend, where so many confidences had
been made, so much discussed and considered. They emerged into the open
plain. How blue the haze about the mountains! And this was the frame for
the pine forest, the surrounding heather, and the plain with Miss Roland
and the child. The latter were sitting on blue and red rugs near the
carriage. From this foreground the mother's eye wandered away more
musingly than ever, and gained even stronger impressions of outline,
light, color.

"The summer travels in Norway! The summer travels in Norway!" she kept
saying to herself.

From the way in which she uttered these words it might be surmised that
in the entire English vocabulary there was nothing which admitted of
being repeated with such varied shades of meaning.

The two friends took a long ramble. Magnhild had become a new being to
Rönnaug, her individuality enriched, her countenance illumined and thus
transformed. For nearly five years Magnhild had been secretly brooding
over her lost vocation, and her lost love, those two sisters that had
lived and died together. At length she had opened her heart to another;
thus something had been accomplished.

The horses were now hitched to the carriage, and the party drove on. The
noonday repose of nature was not disturbed by so much as the rumbling of
the wheels, for the carriage wound its way slowly over the mountain
slopes.

At the next post-station the following lines were found in the
register:--

    "There met us croaking ravens on our way:
     We knew that Evil this to us did bode;
      We made no off'rings, though, as on we rode,
      To angry gods--the mild are fall of doubt.
     Why should we care? One God to us feels kindly.
     He is with us! And Him we follow blindly:--
       We laugh at all the omens round about."

These little verses began to affect the party like a chorus of birds.

But a joy to which we are unattuned is apt to jar; and here, moreover,
the verses became prophetic, for the travelers had gone but a short
distance when they gained a view of the church steeple on the heights
where Magnhild's parents and brothers and sisters were buried, and of
the stony ground in the mountain to the left where the home of her
childhood had been situated.

This barren patch of stones always rose up distinctly in Magnhild's mind
when she thought of her own life, whose long desert wastes seemed to lay
stretched out before her like just such a heap of ruins. Here it faced
her once more. It was some time before the consolation she had newly
grasped could find expression, for she was haunted by so much that was
unsolved, so much that was doubtful. She was now approaching the
starting-point of the whole; from the brow of the hill the parsonage was
visible.

It had been agreed that they should stop here. The carriage rolled down
toward the friendly gard through an avenue of birch-trees. Rönnaug was
giving Miss Roland a most humorous description of the family at the
parsonage when suddenly they were all terrified by having the carriage
nearly upset. Just by the turn near the house-steps the coachman had
driven against a large stone which lay with its lower side protruding
into the road. Both Rönnaug and Miss Roland uttered a little shriek, but
when they escaped without an accident they laughed. To their delight
Magnhild joined in their laughter. Trifling as had been the occurrence,
it had served to rouse her. She was surprised to find herself at the
parsonage. And this stone? Ah, how many hundred vehicles had not driven
over it! Would it ever be removed, though? There stood old Andreas, old
Sören, old Knut? There, too, was old Ane, looking out! From the
sitting-room came the sound of a dog's bark.

"Have they a dog?" asked Magnhild.

"If they have," replied Rönnaug, "I will venture to say it came through
its own enterprise."

Old Ane took the luggage, Rönnaug the child, and the whole party was
ushered through the passage into the sitting-room, where no one was
found except the dog. He was a great shaggy fellow, who at the first
kind word relinquished his wrath, and in a leisurely way went from one
to the other, snuffing and wagging his tail, then sauntering back to the
stove, lay down, fat and comfortable.

A creaking and a grating could now be heard overhead; the priest was
rising from the sofa. How well Magnhild knew the music of those springs!
The dog knew it too, and started up, ready to follow his master. But the
latter, who was soon heard on the groaning wooden stairs, did not go
out but came into the sitting-room, so the dog only greeted him, and
wagging his tail went back to the stove, where he rolled over with a
sigh after his excessive exertion.

The priest was unchanged in every possible particular. He had heard
about Rönnaug, and was glad to see her; his plump hands closed with a
long friendly clasp about hers and with a still longer one about
Magnhild's. He greeted Miss Roland and played with the child, who was in
high glee over the unfamiliar objects in the room, especially the dog.

And when he had lighted his pipe and had seated the others and himself
on the embroidered chairs and sofas, the first thing he must tell them
(for it was just about a month since the matter had been successfully
terminated) was that the "little girls" were provided for. There had
been secured for each an annuity. It was really on the most
astonishingly favorable terms. God in his inconceivable mercy had been
so good to them. About the "Fröken" (so the former governess was usually
called), they had had greater cause for anxiety. They had, indeed,
thought of doing something for her, too, although their means would
scarcely have sufficed to make adequate provision for her, and she had
grown too unwieldy to support herself. But God in his inscrutable mercy
had not forgotten her. She no longer needed an annuity. She had gone to
make a visit at the house of a relative not many miles distant, and
while there God had called her to Himself; the journey had been too much
for her. This intelligence had reached the parsonage a few days before,
and the priest was in great uncertainty as to whether a bridal couple
would postpone their wedding for a few days.

"Thus it is, dear Magnhild, in life's vicissitudes," said he. "The one
is summoned to the grave, the other to the marriage feast. Ah, yes! But
what a pretty dress you have on, my child! Skarlie is truly a good
husband to you. This cannot be denied."

The mistress of the house and her two daughters at length appeared. The
moistened hair, the clean linen, the freshly ironed dresses, betokened
newly-made toilets. They had not a word to say; the priest took charge
of the conversation, they merely courtesied as they shook hands, and
then, taking up their embroidery, sat down each on her own embroidered
chair. One of the daughters, however, soon rose and whispered something
to her mother; from the direction in which first her eyes then her
mother's wandered, it might be concluded that she had asked whether the
gauze covers should be removed from the mirror, the pictures, and the
few plaster figures in the room. As the girl at once took her seat
again, it must have been decided that the covers should not be removed.

"Tell me about the Fröken who is dead," said Magnhild.

With one accord the three ladies dropped their embroidery and raised
their heads.

"She died of apoplexy," said the priest's wife.

They all sat motionless for a moment, and then the ladies continued
their embroidery.

The priest rose to let the dog out. The animal departed with the
appearance of being excessively abashed, for which the priest gave him
much praise. Then followed a lengthy account of the dog's virtues. He
had come to them three years ago, the Lord alone knew from where, and He
alone knew why the dog had come to the parsonage; for the very next
summer the animal had saved the "Fröken's" life when she was attacked on
her accustomed walk to the church by Ole Björgan's mad bull.

The third great event, that old Andreas had cut his foot, was next
detailed at quite as great length. The priest was just telling what old
Andreas had said when he, the priest, was helping him to the couch, when
the narrative was interrupted by an humble scratching at the door; it
came, of course, from the dog. The corpulent priest rose forthwith to
admit the animal, and bestowed on him kind words of admonition, which
were accepted with a timid wagging of the tail.

The dog glanced round the room; observing that the eyes of the priest's
wife manifestly rested with especial friendliness on him, he walked up
to her, and licked the hand extended to him.

At this moment Magnhild rose, and abruptly crossing the floor to where
the priest's wife sat, she stroked her hair. She felt that every one was
watching her, and that the mistress of the house herself was looking up
in embarrassed surprise,--and Magnhild was now powerless to explain what
she had done. She hastened from the room. Profound silence reigned among
those left behind.

What was it? What had happened? It was _this_: in the forenoon Magnhild
had received a letter, as we know, and it had caused her to look with
new eyes on the life at the parsonage.

The tedium seemed uplifted, and behind it she beheld a kindness and an
innocence she had always overlooked. And she began to understand the
character of that home.

There was not a word in the priest's narratives, from beginning to end,
designed to call attention to the good he or any of his household had
done. The listener was left to find this out for himself. But the dog
had discovered it before Magnhild.

The dog returned thanks; had she ever done so? The thought had rushed
over her with such force that it caused her to feel an irresistible
impulse to express her gratitude. The universal astonishment caused by
her effort to do so made her for the first time realize how unaccustomed
her friends were to thanks, or indication of thanks from her, and she
became frightened. This was the reason why she had left the room.

She took the road leading up toward the church, perhaps because it had
just been mentioned. Her new views wholly absorbed her. Until now she
had seen only the ludicrous side of the life at the parsonage. The
members of the household had provoked, amused, or wearied her. But
hitherto she had not been aware that what had just been praised in
herself had been gained by her in this household whose influences had
spread themselves protectingly over her soul, just as the embroidery was
spread over the furniture in these rooms. Had all the weaknesses of the
house served Skarlie as a means to ensnare her, in this same house she
had acquired the strength wherewith to resist his power until the
present time.

If she had lived here without forming close relations with any one, the
fault lay not alone in the monotonous routine of the house: it was due
chiefly to herself, for even in the days of her life at the parsonage
she had wrapped herself up in dreams. It must have required all the
forbearance by which the family were characterized to bring her,
notwithstanding all this, to the point she had reached. In any other
family she would have been shown the door--dull, awkward, thankless as
she had been.

Yes, thankless! Whom had she ever thanked? Aye, there was one--him who
had done her the most harm but also the most good; for him she loved.
But this could scarcely be counted.

But whom else? Not Skarlie, although he had been incessantly kind to
her, even he. Not Fru Bang, and how kind she had been! Not Rönnaug; no,
not Rönnaug either.

She was appalled. For the first time in her life she held true communion
with herself, and she had done little else all her life than commune
with herself.

Now she comprehended, although once before she had been startled by a
passing thought of the kind; now for the first time she comprehended
what it must have been to Rönnaug after having longed for so many years
to tell her about the rich change in her own life, to show her her
child, to bring her freedom and increased happiness; and then to find a
person who did not even care to take the trouble to walk to the hotel,
not a hundred steps distant, because, forsooth, it would necessitate her
dressing herself.

She sat once more on the heights facing the ruins of the home of her
parents; and she covered her face in shame.

From the thoughts to which this spot gave birth she did not escape until
evening, weary in body and in soul.

When late in the evening she said good-night to Rönnaug, she threw her
arm round her, and leaned her head against hers. But words refused to
come; they are not easily found the first time they are sought.



CHAPTER XII.


The next morning Rönnaug dreamed of singing; she still heard it when she
awoke, and ere long she had so far collected herself as to consider
whether it could really be Magnhild who was singing. This thought caused
her to become wide awake and to leave her bed.

She scarcely waited to don her morning-gown before she opened a window.
From the sitting-room, which was at the other end of the house, there
came the sound of singing and a low piano accompaniment. The voice was
pure and high; it must be Magnhild's.

Rönnaug made haste to complete her toilet and go down-stairs. She
carried her boots out into the passage and put them on there lest she
should awaken Miss Roland and the child. There was some one coming up
the stairs. Rönnaug quickly put down her boots and stepped forward; for
the head which was now displayed to her view was Grong's. What, Grong
here?

He greeted Rönnaug with a keen, hasty glance, and, without a word, went
into an apartment near hers.

Rönnaug sat listening to the singing while she put on her boots. It
flowed so equally and calmly; unquestionably there was joy in it, but
the joy was subdued--it might be called pure.

She remained still until Magnhild ended, and even then paused a little
while. She finally went down-stairs. The door of the sitting-room was
half open, which accounted for her having heard so distinctly. Magnhild
had turned round with the piano-stool and sat talking with the two
friends of her childhood, who had seats one on each side of her. She had
been singing for them, it would seem.

They all rose as Rönnaug entered. Magnhild called her friend's attention
to the clock. Verily, the hour hand pointed to ten. Magnhild had been up
a long time--and singing.

The girls withdrew to carry coffee, eggs, etc., into the dining-room. As
soon as Magnhild saw that she and Rönnaug were alone, she hastened to
ask if Rönnaug knew that Grong was at the parsonage. Rönnaug told about
having just met him.

"Yes," whispered Magnhild, "he is traveling in search of his son. Only
think, the young man has eloped with the girl to whom he is betrothed!
He is twenty years old, she about sixteen."

"So, then, the verses--?"

"Were of course by Grong's son. Grong is furious. He wanted to make a
poet of his son, though!"

They both laughed.

The young man was really extraordinarily gifted, Magnhild further
narrated, and for his sake his father had read extensively, besides
taking long journeys with his son in Germany, France, Italy, and
England. Plans had been made to give the young man an opportunity of
gaining an impression of the scenery of his fatherland and of country
life, but--pop!--the bird had flown.

Grong was now heard on the stairs, so nothing more was said. He gave the
ladies a sharp glance as he entered, then began to pace the floor, as
completely hidden by his beard as though it were a forest, and veiled by
his spectacles as an image is veiled in a fountain.

They sat down to the late breakfast, and the priest's wife received
them, one by one, with diffident friendliness. The priest had gone down
to the school-house to attend a meeting.

After the meal was over, Grong, who had not opened his mouth for any
other purpose than to eat and to drink, walked through the sitting-room
and passage directly out to the door-steps. Rönnaug bravely followed;
she wished to talk with him. He discovered this and made an effort to
escape, but was overtaken and obliged to walk up the road with Rönnaug.
When he heard what she wanted, he exclaimed:--

"I have been so confoundedly bored with this tall woman and her tiresome
vocation, that you will find it impossible to get one word out of me.
Besides, I am expecting my 'skyds.'"

He was about to turn away; but Rönnaug held fast to him, laughing, and
brought him back to the theme. Before she had succeeded, however, in
laying before him the necessary facts, he interrupted with,--

"The fact is she has no vocation whatever; that is the whole secret of
the matter. Her singing? Tande so often wrote to me about her singing.
Well, I have been listening to her singing this morning, and do you know
what I think about it? Technical correctness, good method, pure tone, in
abundance; but no fancy, no inspiration, no expression; how the deuce
could there be! Had she had fancy, she would have had energy, and with
her voice, her natural technical ability, she would have become a
singer, whether there was a Tande or not, whether she had married a
Skarlie or a Farlie."

Notwithstanding the harsh, blunt form in which this idea was framed,
there might be sufficient truth in it to make it worth while to place
Magnhild's history before Grong in its true light. Grong could not
resist the fascination of a soul's experiences. He became all ear,
forgetting both his ire and his "skyds."

He heard now about the Magnhild who would scarcely take pains to dress
herself, and who let Skarlie do and say what he pleased, but who the
moment Skarlie mentions Tande's name and hers together, in other words,
invades her inner sanctuary, flees forthwith from him to America. Was
there no energy in that?

He heard about the Magnhild who, checked in her highest aspirations,
became wholly indifferent. The relations with Tande were fully
explained. Grong, indeed, had been partially acquainted with them by
Tande himself. Rönnaug also thought it right to inform Grong of the
purport of Tande's letter; she could recall it perfectly, for it had
made a deep impression on her.

What an impression did it not make on Grong!

How much it must have cost this man in his time to renounce what he had
originally believed to be his vocation. And now to have to give up his
hopes for his son? How could she and Magnhild have laughed at this--as
they had done that same morning.

"Consolation in the idea that our calling is greater and more manifold
than we ourselves are aware? Yes, for those who can blindly and without
exercise of their own wills place themselves under subjection to the
unknown guidance! I cannot do so!" He raised his clinched hand, but let
it fall again. "Is it a crime to steer toward a definite goal, and
concentrate one's will, one's responsibility upon its attainment? Look
at yonder insect! It goes straight forward; it has a fixed aim. Now I
crush it to death. See--thus!

"You should have seen my wife," he continued, presently. "She sped
onward through life, with fluttering veil; her eyes, her thoughts
sparkled. What was her goal? Just as she was beginning, with my aid, to
comprehend her faculties, she expired. A meteor!

"I had a friend. What talents, and what aspirations! How handsome he
was! When he was but little over twenty years of age, he fell during the
siege of a Danish fortress, scarcely mentioned, scarcely remembered. A
meteor!

"But what solicitude for existences which neither can nor will be of any
use in the world. That fisherman in Nordland was the only person who was
saved from destruction out of a whole parish. And he lived more than
sixty years as stupid as the codfish he drew out of the sea.

"For the sake of others? For the advancement of one's fellow-creatures?
For the good of posterity? Aye, aye, find consolation in all this, if
you can! Before I shall be able to do so I must see the benefit of it
for myself. The mole's life in the dark, with chance alone for its
guide, is not a life that I could lead, even though I might have a
certificate guarantying that light should dawn on me one day, that is to
say, on the other side of the grave. I admire those who can be content
with such a lot."

"In other words, you despise them!" interposed Rönnaug.

Grong looked at her, but made no reply.

Rönnaug was anxious to know how it was best to advise Magnhild. Grong
promptly answered,--

"Advise her to go to work."

"Without definite object? Merely for the sake of work?"

He hesitated a moment, and then said,--

"I will tell you one thing, my good lady: Magnhild's misfortune has been
that throughout her whole life she has had every want supplied, every
meal, every garment. Had she been obliged to labor hard, or to bring up
children, she would not have indulged so freely in dreams."

"So, then, work without definite aim?" repeated Rönnaug.

"There are so many kinds of aims," said Grong, peevishly,--and then he
was silent. It was evident that he had been all round the circle and had
returned to his wrath over what had befallen himself.

They had turned and were retracing their steps in the friendly birch
avenue leading to the parsonage. The tones of a human voice were heard;
they drew nearer, paused, and listened attentively. The windows were
open, and every note rang out, clear and equal.

"Yes, there is purity in the voice," said Grong; "that is true. But
purity is a mere passive quality."

They went on.

"Not technical skill alone, then?" queried Rönnaug.

To this Grong made no reply. He had fallen into a new train of thought.
When they had reached the house, he roused himself.

"She and I are, both of us, I dare say, bearers of a half-completed
family history. Nevertheless, her family dies out with her; and mine?
Oh, all this is enough to drive one mad! Where is my 'skyds?'"

With these words he strode past the main building to the court-yard
behind. Rönnaug slowly followed. The "skyds" had not yet arrived.
Grumbling considerably, Grong sauntered up to the coach-house, whose
doors stood open, and in which he saw Rönnaug's carriage. She joined
him, and they discussed the carriage together. It was too light for a
traveling carriage, Grong thought. One fore-wheel must already have been
damaged, for it had been taken off. So, then, it depended upon the
blacksmith how long the ladies would remain at the parsonage? But he
would start without further delay; for there--at last--came the "skyds."

He bade her a light farewell, as though he were merely going to the next
corner, and then went into the house for his luggage. Rönnaug, however,
determined to wait until he came out again.

She had a kindly feeling for him. She earnestly hoped that the son's
case was not so bad as the father now thought. There was so much unrest
in Grong. Was not this caused by his having a great variety of
"talents," but no one special talent? She had once heard Grong half
jestingly make a similar assertion about another person. All these
endowments, however, might be combined in one main tendency, of this
Rönnaug felt sure. It might be the same in the case of Magnhild; but
perhaps there was not sufficient talent there. Technical ability? Aye,
if that were her chief endowment she could doubtless render it available
in singing.

Rönnaug had failed to find the light she needed. This was truly
discouraging; for counsel must be given, a resolution formed. She prayed
God for her friend, and for this gloomy man now coming out of the house,
accompanied by the priest's wife, who seemed to be the only person to
whom he had said farewell.

"Present my greetings to my old teacher," he called down from the
cariole, as he grasped the hand of the mistress of the house. "Tell
him--tell him nothing!" and with this he whipped up his horse so
suddenly that the "skyds" boy came near being left behind.

The priest's wife made some remarks about his surely being very unhappy,
as she stood watching him drive away. While the ladies were still at the
door, a woman came walking up the road toward them. She nodded and
smiled at the mistress of the house as she passed on her way to the
kitchen.

"You made your sale?"

"Yes."

"I thought so from your looks."

Then turning to Rönnaug the priest's wife said,--

"This woman, you may well believe, made Magnhild happy this morning."

"How so?"

"Why, she stopped here with her work on her way to the dealer, who makes
purchases for a merchant in town. Just as she stepped inside Magnhild
came down into the kitchen. When the woman caught sight of her, she
eagerly addressed her--she is a great talker--and she began to cry and
to talk, to talk and to cry, telling how poor she had been and how well
off both she and her children now were. Magnhild, you know, for many
years taught an Industrial School up in these mountains, and this woman
was one of her aptest pupils. This hand-work, I can assure you, has
spread rapidly here; there are scarcely any poor people to be found in
our parish now."

"But Magnhild--was she glad?"

"She certainly must have been glad, for soon afterward we heard her
singing. And the last time she was here--about four or five years
ago--we could not persuade her to go near the piano."

Rönnaug now greeted Miss Roland, who was coming toward her with the
child. A little later, as she was going through the passage to the
sitting-room, the sounds of music once more floated out toward her. The
priest's daughters were at the piano, singing a duet with feeble voices,
one of which was more quavering than the other. They were drawling
out,--

    "All rests in God's paternal hand."

The door stood open. One of the girls sat at the piano, the other stood
at its side. Magnhild sat facing them, leaning against the piano.

Peace radiated from the little hymn, because they who sang it were at
peace. The small, yellow-haired heads above the stiff collars did not
make a single movement, the piano almost whispered. But the sunshine,
playing on the embroidered furniture and the embroidered covers, blended
with the music a harmony from afar.

When they had finished singing, one of the girls told that a lady
traveling that way had taught them the hymn, and the other, that her
part had been arranged by the Fröken. Without uttering a word, without
even changing her position, Magnhild held out her hand, which was
clasped by the young lady nearest her.

At this moment voices were heard out of doors. The priest was
approaching, accompanied by several men. As they stopped at the
door-steps, Rönnaug entered the sitting-room. Soon a tramping of many
feet was heard on the steps; the group at the piano rose, Magnhild
crossed the floor to where Rönnaug stood. First the dog, then the
priest, entered in solemn procession, and slowly following them came
dropping in, one by one, six or seven of the farmers of the little
mountain parish, heavy, toil-worn men, all of them. Magnhild pressed
close up to Rönnaug, who also drew back a little, so that they two stood
in front of the gauze-covered mirror. The priest said good-morning,
first to Mrs. Randon, then to Magnhild, and asked how they were. Then
the men went round the room, one by one, and shook hands with every one
present.

"Call mother," said the priest to one of his daughters, and cleared his
throat.

The mistress of the house soon appeared, and again man after man stepped
forward, shook hands, and returned to his place. The priest wiped his
face, stationed himself in front of the frightened Magnhild, bowed, and
said:--

"Dear Magnhild, there is no cause for alarm! The representatives of our
little parish chanced to assemble to-day in the school-house, and as I
happened to mention that you were making a journey and had stopped at
the parsonage on your way, some one said: 'It is due to her exertions
that the poor-rates of this parish are so small.' Several others
expressed the same sentiments. And then I told them that this should be
said to your face; they all agreed with me. I do not suppose thanks have
ever been offered to you, my dear child, either here or down at the
Point, where the results of your work are even greater than here and
have spread to the parishes on both sides of the fjord.

"Dear child, God's ways are inscrutable. As long as we can discern them
in our own little destinies we are happy, but when we fail to see them
we become very unhappy." (Here Magnhild burst into tears.)

"When you were carried downward by the landslide, with your sled in your
little hand, you were saved in order that you might become a blessing to
many.

"Do not scorn the gratitude of this humble parish: it is a prayer for
you to the Almighty. You know what He has said: 'Inasmuch as ye have
done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto
me.' May you realize this!"

The priest now turned toward his wife, and in the same solemn tone
said,--

"Have refreshments handed to these men!"

He strode round among the latter with playful remarks, but the whole
house seemed to shake beneath his tread. The more deeply Magnhild seemed
moved the happier the priest was.

Magnhild felt a strong impulse to say something to him; for had she not
found a refuge in his house, none of the results for which she had just
received such unmerited thanks would have been accomplished. But the
priest's impetuosity restrained her.

Refreshments were handed round; then the men once more shook hands with
every one and withdrew, led by the priest, whose voice could be heard
almost all the way to the school-house.



CHAPTER XIII.


In the afternoon the mail from the Point arrived, bringing a letter for
Magnhild. She was alarmed, and handed the letter to Rönnaug, who soon
returned it to her, with the information that she need not be afraid to
read it herself.

"You will see by this what your journey has already brought about,"
Rönnaug added.

The letter was from tall Louise.

    DEAR MAGNHILD,--I was obliged to go up to your house to-day to
    ask for the pattern you had promised to explain to us. But I
    found only Skarlie at home, and he was not exactly--ah! what
    shall I call it? for I have never before seen so unhappy a
    person. He said you had gone on a journey.

    I heard later that you were traveling with Mrs. Randon, and
    thinking it most likely that you are at the parsonage in the
    mountains I address you there. For you must not leave us,
    Magnhild, or if you do go away, you must come back to us again!

    We have all of us plainly seen that you were unhappy; but as you
    said nothing, we did not like to say anything either. But can
    you not stay with _us_?

    How shall we make progress with the new work which has just been
    introduced? We cannot understand it without some one to explain
    it to us. And there is the singing, too! Dear Magnhild, so many
    people thank me and Marie; she and I take the lead now, it is
    true, but we all know to whom we owe our excellent means of
    support, the good times we have together, and our opportunities
    for helping one another. Now that you have left us it seems very
    dreadful to think that we never did anything to give you
    pleasure, and that you do not really know us.

    I can assure you we could do much for you in return for your
    kindness to us if you would only let us. Do not leave us! Or if
    you must, come back to us when your journey is over!
                    Your devoted, heartily grateful
                                                  LOUISE.

There was added to the letter an extremely neat postscript from Marie.

    I was so grieved when Louise told me you had gone. She has more
    energy than I, poor hunchback. She has written and said what we
    all, yes, all of us, think of the matter.

    But I have the _greatest_ cause to write to you. What in the
    world would have become of me if you had not come to the school
    and made me skillful in work that is just suited to me. Without
    you I should have been a burden to others, or at least I should
    never have learned to take pleasure in work. Now I feel that I
    am engaged in something which is continually growing. Yes, now I
    am happy.

    I have told you this at last. How often have I wished to open my
    heart to you, yet did not quite dare, because you were so
    reserved!

    What delightful times we might have had together! But can we not
    have them yet?
                  Your
                     MARIE.

    Postscript.--You may think I mean that you took no interest in
    us. No: I did not mean that. You were too patient with us for me
    to have any such thought. But it seemed as if you were
    indifferent to everything about you, people as well as all else;
    that is what I had in mind.

    Cannot you, as Louise says, come to us? We will gather about
    you, as bees about their queen, dear Magnhild.

There is no better way to express what now happened to Magnhild, than to
say that a new life-spring welled up within her. This help from what she
had never thought of as anything but a pastime and a monotonous routine
worked wonders. She felt that she must endeavor to deserve this
devotion; she knew now what it was her duty to do.

She was walking and talking with Rönnaug in the court-yard. Evening was
drawing nigh; the fowls had already sought shelter and were settling
themselves cackling on the roost; the cows were being driven home from
the pasture, and slowly passed by. The perfume of hay was wafted toward
the ladies, ever and anon, for loads were being hauled into the barn.

Rönnaug was so sure of what she was doing that she did not hesitate to
tell Magnhild what the same mail had brought her: it was a newspaper
containing a telegram from Munich announcing the death of Tande. These
tidings produced no further effect upon Magnhild than to make both her
and Rönnaug pause for an instant and then walk on in silence. Tande had
always been thought of as one very far away, and now he seemed nearer.
What he had recently sent her for her guidance became more profoundly
true than ever.

The first words she uttered were not about Tande but about Skarlie.
Perhaps it would be best to send for him that they might have an
explanation before she started on her journey. Rönnaug was not
disinclined to agree to this; but she thought that she, not Magnhild,
should attend to the explanation. In fact, there was nothing to say
except to announce what Magnhild had resolved upon doing.

The conversation was spasmodic like their walk. All the people of the
house were out making hay. Miss Roland and the child had also gone to
the field. Magnhild and Rönnaug were about going there themselves when a
boy came walking into the yard whistling, with his hands in his pockets.
Seeing the ladies he stood still and stopped whistling. Then he took a
stand on his right foot; the left heel he planted in the ground, and
moved his leg in such a way that the sole of the foot stood erect and
fanned the air.

Presently he drew nearer.

"Is it you they call Magnhild?" he asked, in the ringing dialect of the
parish.

He addressed the question to the right one, who replied in the
affirmative.

"I was sent to ask you to come down to our place, Synstevold; for there
is a fellow there waiting to see you."

"What is his name?" asked Rönnaug.

"I was told not to tell," said the boy, as he planted his left heel in
the ground again, fanned the air with his foot, and stared at the barn.

Rönnaug broke into the dialect as she asked whether the "fellow" was not
lame.

"That is very possible," answered the boy, with a grin, and an oath.

Here Rönnaug ran to meet old Andreas who was just coming out of the barn
with an empty hay wagon to go after another load; the rumbling of the
wheels prevented him from hearing her call; but she overtook him.

"Was it you who took one of the fore-wheels from my carriage?" asked
she.

"Fore-wheel of the carriage," repeated old Andreas. "Is it off? Stand
still, you fool there?" he cried, giving the reins such a jerk that one
of the horses started to move backward instead of forward, for it was a
young horse.

But in the mean time Rönnaug had gained light on the question, and left
Andreas. In slow English she told Magnhild what she believed she had
discovered; she did not want the boy who was standing by to understand.
Andreas drove on.

Magnhild laughed: "Yes, Skarlie has come. It is undoubtedly he!" and
turning to the boy she said that she would accompany him at once.

Rönnaug tried to persuade Magnhild to remain where she was and let _her_
go. No, Magnhild preferred to go herself. She was already on her way
when Rönnaug called after her that she would soon follow herself to see
how things were going. Magnhild looked back with a smile, and said,--

"You may if you like!"

So after a time Rönnaug set forth for Synstevold. She knew very well
that Skarlie could offer nothing that would tempt Magnhild, but he might
be annoying, perhaps rough. The fore-wheel was a warning.

There was perhaps no one to whom Skarlie was so repulsive as to Rönnaug.
She knew him well. No one besides Rönnaug could surmise how he had
striven, dastard as he was, to taint the purity of Magnhild's
imagination, to deaden her high sense of honor. Magnhild's frequent
blushes had their history.

What was it that so bound him to her? At the outset, of course, the hope
that failed. But since then? The evening before, when the conversation
had turned on the Catholic cloisters, the priest had remarked that
Skarlie--who was a man that had traveled and thought considerably--had
said that in the cloisters the monks prayed night and day to make amends
for the neglected prayers of the rest of the people. That was the reason
why people were willing to give their money so freely to the cloisters:
it was like making a cash payment on the debt of sin.

Rönnaug had sat and pondered. Had not Skarlie hereby explained his own
relations with Magnhild? It was his way of making payments on his debt
of sin.

And so, of course, he grudged giving her up.

Had he but been harsh and impatient, Magnhild would immediately have
left him. That was just the misfortune; he was a coward, and he could
not bear to renounce her. He was very humble whenever he failed in his
attempts to win her, and when he had been especially malicious he
forthwith made amends by being as friendly and interesting as possible.
And this was what had kept the ball rolling.

Amid these and similar reflections, Rönnaug took the way across the
fields in order not to be seen from the place. The grass where she
walked had not been mown; she trampled it mercilessly under foot, but
she paused before a patch of flowers whose varied hues and leaves she
could not help contemplating. Suddenly she heard voices. In front of her
there were several willow copses through whose branches she espied the
pair she was seeking.

There sat Skarlie and Magnhild in the grass, he in his shirt-sleeves and
without a hat.

Half-frightened for Magnhild and utterly without respect for _him_,
Rönnaug immediately stood guard. Concealing herself from view she took
her post between two copses. Skarlie and Magnhild could be seen quite
distinctly, for the space behind them was open.

"Then I shall certainly close up down at the Point, and I will follow
you."

"You may if you choose. But spare me further threats. For the last time:
I have resolved to go. I wish to travel in order to see and to learn.
Some day I hope to return and teach others."

"Do you intend to come back to me?"

"That I do not know."

"Oh, you do know very well."

"Perhaps I do, for if you should lead a better life I presume I would
come back to you; but I do not believe you capable of changing, and so
I might just as well say at once that I shall not return to you."

"You do not know all I mean to do for you."

"What, your last will and testament again? Suppose we drop this subject
now."

She sat twirling a flower, upon which she was intently gazing. Skarlie
had placed his shorter leg under him; his face was all puckered up and
his eyes stung.

"You have never appreciated me."

"No--that is true. I have much to thank you for which I have taken
without thanks. Please God, I shall one day show my gratitude."

"Cannot we make it right now? What is it you want? To travel? We can
travel; we have means enough."

"As I said before, let us drop this subject now."

He sighed, and taking up his cutty, he laid his forefinger over it. It
was already filled; he produced a match-box.

"If you can smoke there is hope for you," said Magnhild.

"Oh! I am not smoking; it is nothing but habit,"--he drew a long sigh.
"No, Magnhild, it is impossible for things to go well with me if you
leave me. For that is about equal to closing up my house and driving me
out into the world. The gossip of the people would be more than I could
bear."

He looked now positively unhappy. Magnhild plucked several flowers; but
if he expected an answer from her it was in vain.

"It is hard for those who have strong natures," said he; "the devil
gains the upper-hand over them in many ways. I thought _you_ would have
helped me. One thing I must say: if we two could have had a right cozy
home together, and a child"--

But here she sprang up quickly, and the flowers fell from her lap.

"Let us have no more of this! He who means to do right does not begin as
you did. But in spite of the beginning you might perhaps still have--Yet
how did you act? I say: let us have no more of this!"

She moved away a few paces and came back again with: "No, I was not to
blame when I gave myself to you, for you promised that I should do and
live precisely as I pleased. And I was such an inexperienced child that
I did not in the least understand how you were outwitting me. But I did
wrong when I heard how matters really were and did not at once leave
you. Also when I failed to do so later. However, this is connected with
many things about which we will not talk at present. All we can do now
is to make amends, as far as we can, for the past. Give me up, and try
to do your duty toward others."

"What do you mean by that?" His eyes blinked and his face grew sharp.

"I mean that you have outwitted others, so I have heard, for your own
selfish ends. Try to make amends for your evil deeds, if you really
desire improvement."

"That is not true. If it was, it is nothing to you."

"Alas! alas! There is little hope of improvement, I fear, in this as in
other things. Aye, then, farewell! It shall be as I have said."

He looked up and distorted his face to a grin, making the eyes almost
wholly disappear beneath the bushy brows.

"You cannot leave here without my consent."

"Oh!"

"Moreover, have you considered what you are doing? Are you right in the
eyes of God?"

"You know very well what I think upon _this_ subject."

"Pshaw! If you mean that talk about unholy marriages, it is sheer
nonsense. There is not a word in the Bible about it. I have looked."

She stroked the hair from her brow. "Then it is written here," said she,
and turned to go.

Skarlie began to get up. He was very angry.

Rönnaug felt the necessity of making haste, for now she was in danger of
being seen.

Suddenly the three stood face to face.

Rönnaug went right up to Skarlie, in the sweetest, most amiable manner,
heartily shook his hand, and said in English that she was delighted to
see him, he had often been so extremely kind to her. Then she began to
jest; she was at once insinuating and daring. Skarlie could not help
laughing and offering some remarks, also in English; then Rönnaug said
something witty to which Skarlie could retaliate; soon they were both
laughing heartily. The impression made on him by this handsome, finely
developed woman, transported him, as it were, before he was aware, to
other scenes and spread a new train of thoughts over his spirit. The
jesting became livelier. English alone was spoken, which particularly
pleased Skarlie; and it put him in a good humor, too, to have a chance
of displaying his ready wit, of which he possessed an abundance.
Finally, Rönnaug held him completely bound by the spell of her witchery,
and thus made no unalloyed good impression on Magnhild, who was alarmed
at this display of the powers Rönnaug had at her command. She wound her
spell about him, with her look, her words, her challenging figure; but
her eyes flashed fire, while she was laughing: she would have liked,
above all things, to give him a good box on the ear! Women become
wonderfully united when they have occasion to defend or avenge one
another.

Amid the stream of conversation she gradually led the limping Skarlie
round the willow copse, and when they stood on the other side she turned
toward the copse which had concealed her while she was eavesdropping.
Thrusting aside some of the branches, she asked Skarlie, with a laugh,
if he would not be "gallant enough" to aid them in rolling home the
wheel that lay concealed here. He could not possibly allow the ladies to
do it alone, she said.

Skarlie heartily joined in her laughter, but showed no readiness to give
her any assistance. He was in his shirt sleeves, he said; he must go
after his coat if he was to accompany them to the parsonage.

Rönnaug assured him that his coat could be sent after him, and that he
would find it far easier to roll the wheel without it. She went to work
to raise the wheel unaided, shouting "Ahoy!" No sooner had she, with
great effort, succeeded in getting it up, than it fell over again.

"It requires two to do this!" said she.

She once more stooped to take hold of the wheel, and while bending over
it flashed her roguish eyes on Skarlie. His were irresistibly attracted
to her face and superb form. The wheel was raised. Rönnaug and Skarlie
rolled it forward between them, she skipping along on one side, he
limping on the other, amid merry words and much laughter. Magnhild
slowly followed. Rönnaug cast back a look at her, over the top of
Skarlie's bald head; it sparkled with mirth and victory. But ere it was
withdrawn, its fire was scorching enough to have left two deeply seared
brown stripes on his neck and shoulders.

The distance was not very short. Skarlie groaned. Soon Rönnaug felt
great drops of sweat rolling down from his face upon her hands. All the
more swiftly did she roll. His sentences became words, his words
syllables; he made a vigorous effort to conceal his exhaustion with a
laugh. At last he could neither roll himself nor the wheel; he dropped
down on the grass, red as a cluster of rowan berries, his eyes fixed in
their sockets, his mouth wide open. He gasped to recover his breath and
his senses.

Rönnaug called to old Andreas, who at this moment appeared on the road
with a load of hay, to come and take the wheel. Then she drew her arm
through Magnhild's, bowed and thanked Skarlie--still in English--"many
thousand times for his admirable assistance." Now they could start the
next morning early--and so, "farewell!"

From the road they looked back. The attitude of Andreas indicated that
he was asking Skarlie how the wheel had come there. Skarlie made a
wrathful movement of the hand, as though he would like to sweep away
both the wheel and Andreas; or perhaps he was consigning them to a place
where the inhabitants of Norway are very apt to consign their least
highly-prized friends. The ladies now saw him turn his face toward them;
Rönnaug promptly waved her handkerchief and cried back to him,
"Farewell!" The word was echoed through the evening air.

The two friends had not proceeded many steps before Rönnaug paused to
give vent to the residue of her wrath. She poured out a stream of words,
in a half whisper. Magnhild could only distinguish a few of these words,
but those she did make out were from the vocabulary of the old days of
service on the road; they compared with Rönnaug's present vocabulary as
the hippopotamus compares with the fly.

Magnhild recoiled from her. Rönnaug stared wildly at Magnhild, then
composed herself and said in English, "You are right!" but immediately
gave way to a new outburst of wrath and horror; for she was so forcibly
reminded of the time when she herself crept along as best she could down
among the slimy dwellers of the human abyss where darkness reigns, and
where such as he down on yonder hill sat on the brink and fished. She
thrust her hand into her pocket to draw forth Charles Randon's last
letter, which she always carried about her until the next one came; she
pressed it to her lips and burst into tears. Her emotion was so violent
that she was forced to sit down.

It was the first time Magnhild had ever seen Rönnaug weep. Even upon the
deck of the vessel on which she had set sail for America she had not
wept. Oh, no, quite the contrary!



CHAPTER XIV.


They remained at the parsonage several days, for when it was announced
that Magnhild was going with Rönnaug to America the good people were so
startled that it was thought best to grant them time to become
accustomed to the idea. Magnhild wished for her own sake, too, to pass a
little time with them.

One day the ladies were all taking a walk along the road. Rönnaug and
Miss Roland had little Harry between them, so they made but slow
progress. From sheer solicitude for the child they all went quite out of
the way of a large carriage which was overtaking them.

"Magnhild!" was called from the carriage, at the moment those walking
had fully turned their faces toward it.

Magnhild looked up; a lady in black was smiling at her. Magnhild sprang
directly toward her; the coachman stopped his horses. It was Fru Bang.

The lady drew Magnhild up to her and kissed her. A stout military man by
the lady's side bowed.

The lady was thin. She wore a mourning suit of the latest style. Jet
beads, strewed all over the costume, sparkled with every movement; from
the jaunty hat, with waving plume, flowed a black veil which was wound
about the neck. As from out the depths of night she gazed, with her
glowing eyes, which acquired, in this setting, an especially fascinating
radiance. Melancholy resignation seemed to command, as it were, the
countenance, to hold sway over every nerve, to control the smile about
the mouth, to languish in these eyes.

"Yes, I am changed," said she, languidly.

Magnhild turned from the lady to the stout officer. The lady's eyes
followed.

"Do you not recognize Bang? Or did you not see him?"

His size had increased tenfold, the flesh resembling heavy layers of
padding; he occupied at least two thirds of the carriage, crowding his
wife, for one shoulder and arm covered hers. He looked good-natured and
quite contented. But when one looked from his plump, heavy face and body
back to the lady, she appeared spiritualized--aye, to the very
finger-tips of the hand from which she was now drawing the glove.

Steadfastly following Magnhild's eyes, she stroked back from Magnhild's
brow a lock of hair which had crept forward, and then let her hand pass
slowly, softly over her cheek.

"You are in mourning?" asked Magnhild.

"The whole land should be in mourning, my child!" And after a pause,
came a whispered, "He is dead!"

"You must remember that there is no time to lose if we would reach the
steamer," said Bang.

The lady did not look up at her husband's words; she was busy with the
lock she had just stroked back. Bang gave the coachman a sign, the
carriage was set in motion.

"I am going to America," whispered Magnhild, as she descended from the
carriage step.

The lady gazed after her a moment, then she seemed to grasp in its full
extent what it implied that Skarlie's wife was going far, far away--what
suppositions might be therewith connected and what consequences. For her
face resumed somewhat of its old brightness, her frame regained its
elasticity: at once she was on her feet, had turned completely round,
and was waving her handkerchief. With what charming grace she did it!

Her husband would not permit the carriage to halt again. He contented
himself with following his wife's example by waving one hand. The
movement must have been accompanied by an admonition to sit down, for
the lady disappeared forthwith.

The plume in her hat waved over his shoulder. More could not be seen;
she must have let herself glide back into her place.



DUST.



CHAPTER I.


The drive from the town to Skogstad, the large gard belonging to the
Atlung family, with its manufacturing establishment on the margin of
the woodland stream, at the usual steady pace, might possibly occupy
two hours; but in the fine sleighing we had been having it could
scarcely take an hour and a half. The road was a chaussée running
along the fjord. All the way from town I had the fjord on the
right-hand side, and on the left broad fields, gently sloping down
from the heights and dotted with villas and gards, surrounded by
hedges of trees and having avenues leading to them.

Farther on, the heights became mountains, and rose more abruptly from
the shore; here, too, they became more and more rugged, and at last had
no other growth than the pine forest, from the uppermost ridge all the
way down to the fjord, forest, forest, far as the eye could reach. This
belonged to Skogstad; the factory on the Skogstad River prepared the raw
material.

The Atlungs were of French descent, having settled here in the times of
the Huguenots, and were people of plain origin who had bettered their
condition by marrying into the once wealthy and influential Atlung
family, taking its name, which sounded not unlike their own.

I thoroughly enjoyed the drive. It had recently been snowing, and the
snow still lay on the trees; not a breath of wind had left its traces in
the wood. On the other hand, it had been thawing a little, which the
deciduous trees that here began to press forward farther down toward the
road could not tolerate; the sole covering they wore was the new-fallen
snow of the morning.

Between both the white landscape and the snow-laden air, the fjord
appeared black. It was not far to the opposite side, and there still
loftier mountains loomed up, now also white, but of that subdued tint
imparted by the atmosphere.

Where I was driving the sea lay close up to the edge of the snow, only a
few sea-weeds, some pebbles, and in some places not so much as these,
separated the two forms and hues of the same element--reality and
poetry, where the poetry is just as real as the reality, simply not so
enduring.

As soon as I had advanced as far as the forest, this attracted my
undivided attention. The fir-trees held great armfuls of snow; in some
places it had been showered around; nevertheless there was still so much
uncovered that a shimmer of dark green overspread the whiteness of the
entire forest. On a nearer view it could be seen that the single
uncovered branches were thrust forth, as it were, defiantly, and that
the red-tinted lower boughs had pierced the snow-drifts.

Higher up mighty trunks were visible, most of them dark, although some
of the younger ones were brighter: taken all together an assemblage of
well-laden giants, and this gave an air of solemnity to the thicket. The
foremost trees, which were low enough not to impede the view, and which
while growing had been disfigured either by man or beast, perhaps too by
the storms (for they had borne the brunt of these), had not the regular
shapes of the others; they were more gnarled, affording the snow an
opportunity to commit what ravages it chose among them. Their lowest
branches were in some places quite bowed to the ground, often making the
tree appear like an unbroken mass of white; others were fantastically
transformed into clumsy dwarfs, with only upper parts to their bodies,
or into sundry human forms, each with a white sack drawn over the head,
or a shirt that was not put on right.

Alongside of these awkward figures I noticed small clusters of deciduous
trees, over which but the faintest suspicion of snow was spread; a
single one, which stood apart from the rest, looked as though its
outmost white branches, as they grew finer and finer, gradually flowed
into the air; then there were young spruce trees which formed pyramid
upon pyramid of regular layers of snow. Close down by the sea, where
there were more stones, might now and then be seen a bramble bush. The
snow had spread itself on every thorn, so that the bush looked as if it
were strewed over with white berries.

I rounded a naze with a crag upon it, and here is where Skogstad proper
begins. The ridge recedes and is broken by the river. Again we see
gently sloping fields, and here lies the gard. The river flows farther
away; the red roof and a row of buildings alongside become visible. On
either side of the gard lie the housemen's places with their surrounding
grounds, but they are separated from the gard by fields on the one side
and by a wood or park on the other.

At the sight of the park I forgot all that had gone before. Originally
it was intended to slope down to the sea; but the stony ground had
evidently rendered this impossible, and so the trees on the lower square
had been felled; but in the course of years, instead of pine woods a
vigorous growth of deciduous trees had shot up. These, being of the same
year's growth, were of an equal height, and extended all the way up to
the venerable pine trees in the park. The effect of the delicate
encircling the ponderous, the light opposed to the heavy, the low and
perpetually level at the foot of the upward-soaring and powerful, was
very fine.

The eye reveled in this, searching for forms; I would combine a hundred
branches in one survey, because they ran parallel in the same curve, at
about the same height; or I would single out one solitary bough from the
rest and follow it from its first ramification through the branches of
its branches to the most delicate twig,--a distended, transparent white
wing, or a monstrous fern leaf strewed all over with white down. Then I
was compelled once more to cease following the forms and turn to the
colors; the unequal coating presented an infinite variety.

I turned my back on my traveling companion, the fjord, and wound my way
up to the gard. Where the park ended, the garden began, and the road
followed this in a gradual ascent. Once there had been a wood here also,
and the road had passed through it; but of the wood there was left but a
few yards, on either side, thus forming the avenue. Large, old trees
were about being replaced by young ones, whose growth was so dense that
in some places I could not see the gard I was driving toward. But the
snow-romance followed, decking the sinking giants with white flags,
powdering the young and fresh ones, and playing Christmas masquerade
with the deformed ones.



CHAPTER II.


The impressions of nature play their part in our anticipations of what
we are about to meet. What was there so white and refined in the
experience that awaited me here?

She was not clad in white, to be sure, the last time I saw her, the
bright attractive being whom I was now to meet again. On her wedding
journey, and in Dresden, some nine years previous to this time, we had
last been together. True, she was dressed in gala attire every day--a
whim of the young bridegroom, in his blissful intoxication; but most
frequently she wore blue, not once did she appear in white; nor would it
have been becoming to her.

I remember them especially as they sang at the piano, he sitting,
because he was playing the accompaniment, she standing and usually with
her hand on his shoulder; but what they sang was indeed white, at least
it was always of the character of a more or less jubilant anthem. She
was the daughter of a sectarian priest, and they had just come from the
parsonage and from the wedding feast. Since then I had heard of them
from time to time at the parsonage, and from that source I had received
repeatedly renewed urgent entreaties to visit them the next time I was
in their vicinity. I was now on my way to them.

I had heard the dwelling-house spoken of as one of the largest frame
buildings in Norway. It was gray and immensely long. No Atlung had ever
been satisfied with what his predecessor had built, and so the house
had had an addition made to it by every generation and a partial
remodeling of the old portions, so far as it was necessary to make these
correspond with the new. I had heard that many and long passages
(concerning which at festal gatherings rhymes without end were said to
have been made) endeavor to unite the interior in the same successful or
unsuccessful manner as the out-buildings, sloping roof, balconies, and
verandas attempt to keep up the style of the exterior. I have heard how
many rooms there are in the house, but I have forgotten it.

The last addition was made by the present owner, and is in a sort of
modernized gothic style.

Behind the dwelling the other buildings of the gard form a crescent,
which, however, protrudes in rather an unsightly manner on one side.
Between these and the dwelling I now drove in order to alight, according
to the post-boy's advice, at a porch in the gothic wing. I did not see a
living being about the gard, not even a dog. I waited a little but in
vain, then walked through the porch into a passage, where I took off my
wraps, and then passed on into a large bright front room to the right.
Neither did I see any one here; but I heard either two children's
voices and a woman's voice, or two female voices and one child's voice,
and I recognized the song, for it was one that was just then floating
about the country, the lament of a little girl that she was everywhere
in the way except in heaven with God, who was so glad to have unhappy
children with Him. It sounded rather strange to hear such a lament in
this bright, lively room, filled with guns and other sporting
implements, reindeer horns, fox skins, lynx skins, and similar
substantial objects, arranged with the most exquisite taste.

I knocked at the door and entered one of the most charming sitting-rooms
I have seen in this country, so bright its outlook on the fjord, so
large it was, so elegant. The brightly polished wooden panels of the
wall were relieved by carved wooden brackets, each bearing a bust or a
small statue; the stylish furniture was in every direction gracefully
distributed about on the Brussels carpet. Moody and Sankey's dreamy
melody flowed out over this like a white or yellow sheet. This hymn
belongs to a collection of Christian songs which are among the most
beautiful that I know; but it made the same impression here as if
beneath this modern room there was a crypt from the Middle Ages where
immured nuns were taking part in ceremonies for the dead, amidst smoking
lamps, and whence incense and low chanting, inseparably blended, stole
up into the bright conceptions and cheerful art of the nineteenth
century.

The singing proceeded from one woman and two boys, the elder of the
latter seven years old or a little more, and the younger about six. The
woman turned her face toward the door, and paused quite astonished at my
entrance; the boys were gazing out of the window, and did not look at
her; they were wholly absorbed in their singing, and therefore they
continued a while after she had ceased.

Of these two boys the one resembled the father's family, the other the
mother's; only the mother's eyes had been bestowed on them both. The
elder of the boys had a long face, with high brow and sandy hair, and he
was freckled like his father. The younger one had his mother's figure,
and stooped slightly because the head was set forward on the shoulders.
But in consequence of this his head was usually thrown somewhat backward
in order to recover its equilibrium. The result of this again was that
the lips were habitually parted, and then the large, questioning eyes
and the bright curly hair encircling the fine arched brow were exactly
like the mother's. The elder one was tall and thin, and had his father's
lounging gait and small, outward turned feet. I observed all this at a
glance, while the boys walked across the room to the table by the sofa,
as their companion left them. She had advanced, after a moment's
hesitation, to meet me; she was evidently not sure whether she knew me
or not. On hearing my name, she discovered with a smile that it was only
my portrait she had seen, the portrait in the album, a souvenir of the
wedding journey of the heads of the house. She informed me that Atlung
was at the factories, and would be home to dinner, that is to say in
about an hour, and that the mistress of the house was at one of the
housemen's places I had seen from the road; it seemed that there was an
old man lying at the point of death there.

She made this announcement in a melodious, although rather feeble voice,
and with a pair of searching eyes fastened on me. She had heard
something about me. I had never thought that I should see one of Carlo
Dolci's madonnas step down from a frame to stand in a modern
sitting-room and talk with me, and therefore my eyes were certainly not
less searching than hers. The way the head was poised on the shoulders,
its inclination to one side, the profile of the face, and beyond all
else the eyes and the eyebrows, indeed, the bluish green head kerchief,
which was drawn far forward, imparting to the pale face something of its
own hue--altogether a genuine Carlo Dolci!

She walked noiselessly away, and left me alone with the boys, whom I at
once attacked. The elder one was named Anton, and he could walk on his
hands, at least, almost; and the younger one informed me that his name
was Storm, and told me a great deal more about his brother, whom he
regarded with unqualified admiration. The elder, on the other hand,
assured me that his brother Storm was a very bad boy sometimes; he had
recently been caught at some of his naughty tricks, and so papa had
given him a flogging that same day; Stina had told papa about it. Stina
was the name of her who had just left us.

After this not very diplomatic introduction to an acquaintance, they
stood one on each side of me and prattled away about what at present was
working in their minds, with most extraordinary force. They both now
told me, the elder one taking the lead and the younger following with
supplementary details, that yonder at one of the houseman's places, past
which I had driven, lived Hans, little Hans; that is he _had_ lived
there, for the real, true little Hans was with God. He had come to the
gard to play with the boys almost every day; though sometimes they too
had been over at the housemen's places, which I soon perceived were to
the boys the promised land of this earth. Then one evening, about a
fortnight since, Hans had started to go home at dusk; it was before the
snow came, and in the park, through which he had to pass, the fish pond
lay spread before him so smooth and black. Hans thought he would like to
slide on it and he climbed up from the path on to the pond, for the path
ran right along it. But that same day there had been a hole cut in the
ice for the people to fish, and they had forgotten to put a signal
there, and so little Hans slid right into the hole. A child's cry of
distress had reached the gard; the milkmaid had heard it, but only once,
and she had not thought very much about it, for all the boys were in the
habit of playing in the park. So little Hans had disappeared and no one
could say where he was. Then the ice was cut away from the pond and they
found him; but the boys were not allowed to see him. They had, however,
been permitted to be present at the funeral with all the little boys and
girls of the factory school. But Hans was not buried in the chapel
where grandfather and grandmother lie; he was buried in the churchyard.
Oh, what beautiful singing they had had! The school-master had sung bass
with them, and the old brown horse had drawn Hans, who was in a white
painted coffin that papa had bought in town, and there were garlands of
flowers on it. Mamma and Stina had arranged them. All the children got
cakes before they started and currant wine. And the song was the one the
boys had just been singing; Stina had taught it to them. Hans had been
very poor; but now he had all he wanted; he was with God; it was only
the coffin that was put in the ground. What was in the coffin? Why, it
was not the real Hans that was there, for Hans was quite new now. Angels
had come down to the pond with everything that the new Hans was to wear,
so that he did not feel cold in the pond; he was not there. All children
who died went to God, and that together with a hundred thousand million
very small angels. The angels were all round about us here too; but we
could not see them because they were invisible, and Hans was now with
them. The angels could see us, and they were so kind to us, especially
to children, and they always wanted to have very unhappy little
children with them; that was the reason why they took them. It is ever
and ever and ever so much nicer to be with the angels than to be here.
Yes, indeed, it is, for Stina said so. Stina too would rather be with
the angels than here; it was only for mamma's sake that Stina did not go
to them, for mamma would be so lonely without her. All angels had wings,
and now Hans's father was lying ill, and he would soon be with Hans. He
also would have wings and be a little angel and fly about here and
wherever he himself chose--right up to the stars. For the stars were not
only stars, they were as large, as large, when we got up to them, as
large as the whole earth, and that was enormously large, larger than the
largest mountain. And there were people on the stars, and there were
many things that were not here. And that same afternoon Hans's father
was to go right to God, for God was up in heaven. They would like so
much to see Hans's father get his wings; but mamma would not let them go
with her. And Hans's father had already become so beautiful, as he lay
in his bed, that he almost looked like an angel. Mamma had said so; but
they were not allowed to see him.

Stina made her appearance as they came to the last words; she bade them
come with her and they obeyed.

A door stood open to the left; I could see book-shelves in the room to
which it led, so that I presumed the library must be there. I felt a
desire to know what the father of these boys was reading just
then--provided that he read at all. The first thing I found open on the
desk, by the side of letters, account-books, and factory samples, was
Bain. And Bain's English friends were the first books my eyes beheld on
the nearest shelves. I took out one, and saw that it had been much read.
This accorded with what I had heard of Atlung.

Just then bells were heard outside. I thought it must be the mistress of
the house returning, and put back the books in the same order I had
found them. In so doing I disarranged some behind them (for the books
stood in two rows), and I felt a desire to examine also these that were
hidden from view, which took time. I did not leave the library until
just as the lady was entering the front door.



CHAPTER III.


Fru[4] Atlung was evidently glad to see me. She had a singular walk; it
seemed as though she never fully bent her knees; but with this peculiar
gait she advanced hastily toward me, grasped my hands with both of hers,
and looked long into my eyes, until her own filled with tears. It was,
of course, the wedding journey this look concerned, the most beautiful
days of her life;--but the tears?

Nay, unhappy she could not be. She was so thoroughly the same as she was
formerly, that had she not been somewhat plumper, I could not--at all
events, not at once--have detected the slightest change. The expression
of her countenance was exactly the same innocent, questioning one, not
the slightest suggestion of a sterner line or a change of coloring; even
the hair fell in the same ringlets about the backward thrown head, and
the half parted lips had the same gentle expression, were just as
untouched by will, the eyes wore the same look of mild happiness, even
the slightly-veiled tone of the voice had the same childlike ring as of
yore.

"You look as though you had not had a single new experience since last
we met," was the first remark I could not help making to her.

She looked up smiling into my face, and not a shadow contradicted my
words. We took our seats, each in a chair that stood out on the carpet,
near the library door; our backs were turned to the windows, and thus we
faced a wall where between the busts and statues that rested on the
carved wooden brackets, there hung an occasional painting on the
polished panels.

I gave an account of my trip, received thanks for coming at last. I
delivered greetings from her parents, of whom we talked a little. She
said she had been thinking of her father to-day, she would have been so
glad to have had him with her; for she had just come from a dying man,
whose death-bed was the most beautiful she had ever witnessed.
Meanwhile, she had assumed her favorite position, that is to say, she
sat slightly bowed forward, with her head thrown back, and her eyes
fixed on the upper part of the wall, or on the ceiling. As she sat thus,
she pressed one finger against her open under lip, not once, but with a
constant repetition of the same movement. Now and then the upper portion
of her body swayed to and fro Her eyes seemed to be fixed; they did not
seek my face, either when she asked a question or when she received an
answer, unless something special had attracted her from her position.
Even then she would promptly resume it.

"Do you believe in immortality?" she asked, as though this were the most
natural question in the world, and without looking at me.

But as I was surprised, and consequently compelled to look at her, I
perceived that a tear was trickling down her cheek, and that those open
eyes of hers were full of tears.

I felt at once that this question was a pretext; it was her husband's
belief she was thinking of. Therefore I thought I would spare her
further pretexts.

"What is your husband's opinion of immortality?"

"He does not believe in the immortality of the individual," replied she;
"we perpetuate ourselves in our intercourse with those about us, in our
deeds, and above all in our children: but this immortality, he thinks,
is sufficient."

Her eyes were fixed as before, and they were still full of tears; but
her voice was mild and calm; not a trace of discontent or reproach in
the simple statement, which doubtless was correct.

No, she is not one of the so-called childlike women, I thought; and if
she has the same innocent, questioning expression she had nine years
ago, it is not because she has been without thought or research.

"You talk, then, with Atlung about these subjects, I suppose?"

"Not now."

"In Dresden you seemed to be thoroughly united about these things; you
sang together"--

"He was under father's influence then. Besides, I think he was not quite
clear in his own mind at that time. The change came gradually."

"I saw some books, that are now placed behind the others."

"Yes, Albert has changed."

She sat motionless, as she gave this answer, except that her finger
continued its play on the under lip.

"But who, then, attends to the education of the children?" asked I.

Now she turned half toward me. I thought for a while that she did not
intend to answer but after a long time she did speak.

"No one," said she.

"No one?"

"Albert prefers to have it so for the present."

"But, my dear lady, if no one teaches them, at least one thing or
another is told to them?"

"Yes, there is no objection to that; and it is usually Stina who talks
with them."

"And so it is left entirely to chance?"

She had turned from me, and sat in her former attitude.

"Entirely to chance," she replied, in a tone that was almost one of
indifference.

I briefly related to her what Stina had told the boys about the life
beyond the grave, about angels, etc., and I inquired if she approved of
this.

She turned her face toward me. "Yes; why not?" said she. Her great eyes
viewed me so innocently; but as I did not answer immediately the blood
slowly coursed up into her face.

"If anything of the kind is to be told to them," said she, "it must be
something that will take hold of their childish imaginations."

"It confuses the reality for them, my dear lady, and _that_ is the same
thing as to disturb the development of their faculties."

"Make them stupid, do you mean?"

"Well, if not exactly stupid, it would at least hinder them from using
their faculties rightly."

"I do not understand you."

"When you teach children that life here below is nothing to the life
above, that to be visible is nothing in comparison to being invisible,
that to be a human being is far inferior to being an angel, that to live
is not by any means equal to being dead, _is that_ the way to teach them
to view life properly, or to love life, to gain courage for life, vigor
for work, and patriotism?"

"Ah, in that way! Why, _that_ is our duty to them later."

"Later, my dear lady? After all this dust has settled upon their souls?"

She turned away from me, assumed her old position, stared fixedly at the
ceiling, and became absorbed in thought.

"Why do you use the word dust?" she began presently.

"By the word dust I mean chiefly that which has been, but which now
having become disintegrated, floats about and settles in vacant places."

She remained silent a little while.

"I have read of dust which carries the poison from putrified matter. You
do not mean that, I suppose?"

There was neither irony nor anger in the tone, so I failed to
understand at what she was aiming.

"That depends on where the dust falls, my dear lady; in healthy human
beings it only creates a cloud of mist, prejudices which prevent them
from seeing clearly; if there be stagnation this dust will oftentimes
collect an inch thick, until the machinery is thoroughly clogged."

She turned toward me with more vivacity than she had yet shown, and
leaning on the arm of her chair brought her face nearer to mine.

"How did you happen upon this idea?" asked she. "Is it because you have
seen how much dust there is in this house?"

I admitted that I had seen this.

"And yet the chambermaid and Stina do nothing else but clean away the
dust, and I did nothing else either at first. I cannot understand it. At
home at my mother's, there was nothing I heard so much about as dust.
She was always busied about father with a damp cloth; he was constantly
annoyed because she would disturb his books and papers. But she insisted
that he gathered more dust than any one else. He never left his study
that she was not after him with a clothes-brush. And later it came to be
my turn. I was like my father, she said I accumulated dust, and I never
could dust well enough to satisfy her. I was so weary of dust that when
I married a Paradise seemed in prospect because I thought I should
escape this annoyance and have some one to dust for me. But therein I
was greatly in error. And now I have given it up. It is of no use. I
evidently have no talent for getting rid of dust."

"And so it is very singular," she continued, as she sank back in her
chair, "that you too should come with this talk about dust."

"I hope I have not hurt your feelings?"

"How can you think--?" and then, in the calmest, most innocent voice in
the world, she added: "It would not be easy to hurt the feelings of any
one who had lived nine years with Albert."

I became greatly embarrassed. What possible good could it do for me to
become entangled in the affairs of this household? I did not say another
word. She too sat, or rather reclined in her seat, for a long time in
silence, drumming with her fingers on the arms of her chair. Finally I
heard, as from far away, the words: "Butterfly dust is very beautiful,
though." And then some time afterward there glided forth from the midst
of a long chain of thought which she did not reveal, the query,
"refracted rays--the various prismatic colors--?" She paused, listened,
rose to her feet; she had heard Atlung's step in the front room.

I also rose.

    [4] Fru corresponds to the German Frau, and means Mrs.--Translator.



CHAPTER IV.


The door was thrown wide open, and Atlung came lounging in. This tall,
slender man, in these capacious clothes that showed many a trace of the
factories he had been visiting, bore in his face, his movements, his
bearing, the unconcerned ease of several generations.

The gray eyes, beneath the invisible eyebrows, blinked a little when he
saw me, and then the long face broadened into a smile. His superb teeth
glittered between the full, short lips, as he exclaimed: "Is that you!"
He took both my hands between his hard, freckled ones, then dropping one
of them threw his arm around his wife's waist. "Was not _that_
delightful, Amalie? What? Those days in Dresden, my dear?"

When he had relaxed his hold, he made eager inquiries about myself and
my journey,--he knew I was to make a short trip abroad. Then he began
to tell me what occupied _him_ the most, and meanwhile he strolled up
and down the room, took up one article between his fingers, handled it,
then took up another. He did not hold any little thing as others do with
the extreme tips of his fingers; he firmly grasped it in his hand so
that his fingers closed over it. In conversation, too, it was just the
same: there was a certain fullness in the way he took up each subject
and flung it away again at once for something else.

His wife had left the room, but returned very soon and invited us to
dinner. Just at that moment Atlung was sauntering past the piano, on
which was open a new musical composition, whose character he described
in a few words. Then he began to play and sing verse after verse of a
long song. When he was through, his wife again reminded him of the meal.
This probably first called his attention to her presence in the room.

"See here, Amalie, let us try this duet!" he cried, and struck up the
accompaniment.

Looking at me with a smile, she took her place at his side and joined in
the song. Her somewhat veiled, sweet soprano blended with his rich
baritone, just as I had heard it nine years before. The voices of both
had acquired that deeper, fuller meaning which life gives when it has
meaning itself; their skill, on the other hand, was about the same as of
old.

Any one who but a moment before might perhaps have found it difficult to
understand how these two had come together, only needed to be near them
while they sang. A lyric abandonment of feeling was common to both, and
where there was any difference of sentiment they were perfectly content
to waive it. They floated onward like two children in a boat, leaving
the dinner behind them to grow cold, the servants to become impatient,
the guest to think what he pleased, and the order of the house and their
own plans for the day to be upset.

In their singing there was no energy, no school, no delicate finish of
style of this simple number, which, moreover, they were doubtless
singing for the first time; but there was a smooth, lazy, happy gliding
over the melody. The light coloring of the voices blended together like
a caress; and there was a charm in the way it was done.

They sang verse after verse, and the longer they continued the better
they sang together, and the more joyously. When finally they were
through and the wife, with her somewhat labored step, walked into the
dining-room on my arm, and Atlung sauntered on before to give Stina the
key to the wine-cellar, there was no longer any question in Fru Atlung's
eyes, only joy, mild, beautiful joy, and her husband warbled like a
canary bird.

We sat down to table while he was still out, we waited an interminable
time for him; either he had not found Stina or she had not understood
him: he had gone himself to the cellar and had returned so covered with
dust and dirt that we could not help laughing. His wife, however, paused
in the midst of her laughter, and sat silent while he changed his
clothes and washed.

He swallowed spoonful after spoonful of the soup in greedy haste,
regained his spirits when his first hunger was satisfied, and began to
talk in one unbroken stream, until suddenly, while carving the roast, he
inquired for the boys. They had had their dinner; they could not wait so
long.

"Have you seen the boys?" he asked.

"Yes," I replied, and I spoke of their extreme artlessness, and what a
strong likeness I thought one bore to his and the other to his wife's
family.

"But," he interposed, "it is unfortunate that both families have
comparatively too much imagination; there is an element of weakness in
it, and the boys have inherited their share from both families. A very
sorrowful occurrence took place here about a fortnight since. A little
playfellow was drowned in the fish-pond. What the boys have made out of
this--of course, with Stina's aid--is positively incredible. I was
thinking about it to-day. I have not said anything, for after all it was
extremely amusing, and I did not want to spoil their intercourse with
Stina. But, indeed, it is most absurd. See here, Amalie, it would almost
be better to send them away to school than to let them run wild in this
way and get into all kinds of nonsense."

His wife made no reply.

I wanted to divert his attention, and inquired if he had read Spencer's
"Essay on Education."

Then he became animated! He had just settled himself to eat, but now he
forgot to do so; he took a few bites and forgot again. Indeed, I should
judge we sat over this one course a whole hour, while he expatiated on
Spencer. That I who had asked if he had read the book in all probability
had read it myself, did not trouble him in the least. He gave me a
synopsis of the book, often point after point, with his own comments.
One of these was that even if as Spencer desires, pedagogics was
introduced into every school, as one of its most important
branches--most people would nevertheless lack the ability to bring up
their own children; for teaching is a talent which but few possess. He
for his part proposed to send the boys, as soon as they were old enough,
to a lady whom he knew to possess this talent and who also had the
indispensable knowledge. She was an enthusiastic disciple of Spencer.

He spoke as though this were a matter long since decided upon; his wife
listened as though it were an old decision. I was much surprised that
she had not told me of it when we were talking about the children a
little while before.

I do not now remember what theme we were drifting into when Atlung
suddenly looked at his watch.

"I had entirely forgotten Hartmann! I should have been in town! Yes,
yes--it is not yet too late! Excuse me!"

He threw down his napkin, drank one more glass of wine, rose and left
the room. His wife explained apologetically that Hartmann was his
attorney; that unfortunately there was no telegraphic communication
between the gard and the town, and that unquestionably there was some
business that must be settled within an hour or thereabout.

It would take an hour at least to drive to town, if for nothing else
than to spare the horse; at least an hour there; and then an hour and a
half back, for no one would drive such a long distance equally fast back
and forth with the same horse. I sat calculating this while I finished
eating, and became aware at the same time that my coming was most
inopportune. Therefore I resolved that after coffee I too would take my
leave.

We had both finished and now rose from the table. My hostess excused
herself and went out into the kitchen, and I who was thus left alone
thought I would look round the gard.

When I got out on the steps in front of the porch, I was met by a burst
of loud laughter from the boys, immediately followed by a word which I
should not have thought they would take in their mouths, to say nothing
of shouting it out with all their might, and this in the open yard. The
elder boy called it out first, the younger repeated it after him.

They were standing up on the barn bridge, and the word was addressed to
a girl who stood in the frame shed opposite them, bending over a
sledge. The boys shouted out yet another word, and still another and
another, without cessation. Between each word came peals of merriment.
It was clear that they were being prompted by some one inside of the
barn door. The girl made no reply; but once in a while she looked up
from her work and glanced over her shoulder--not at the boys but at some
one behind the barn where the carriage-shed was situated.

Then I heard the sound of bells from that direction. Atlung came forth,
dressed for his trip and leading his horse. Great was the alarm of the
boys when they saw their father! For they suddenly realized, though
perhaps not distinctly, what they had been shouting,--at least they felt
they had been making mischief for some one.

"Wait until I get home, boys," the father shrieked, "and you shall
surely both have a whipping."

He took his seat in his sledge and applied the lash to his horse. As he
drove past me, he looked at me and shook his head.

The boys stood for a moment as though turned into stone. Then the elder
one took to his heels with all his strength. The younger followed,
crying, "Wait for me! Say, Anton, do not run away from me!" He burst
into tears. They disappeared behind the carriage-shed; but for a long
time I heard the sobbing of the younger one.



CHAPTER V.


I felt quite out of spirits, and determined to leave at once; but as I
entered the sitting-room my hostess was seated on the large gothic
settee or sofa, near the dining-room door, and no sooner did she
perceive me than she leaned forward across the table in front of her and
asked,--

"What do _you_ think of Spencer's theory of education? Do you believe we
can put it into practice?"

I did not wish to be drawn into an argument, and so merely answered,--

"Your husband's practice, at all events, does not accord with Spencer's
teachings."

"My husband's practice? Why, he has none."

Here she smiled.

"You mean he takes no interest in the children?"

"Oh, he is like most other men, I suppose," she replied; "they amuse
themselves with their children, now and then, and whip them
occasionally, too, when anything occurs to annoy them."

"You believe that husband and wife should have equal responsibilities in
such matters?"

"Yes, to be sure I do. But even in this respect men have made what
division they chose."

I expressed a desire to take my leave. She appeared much astonished, and
asked if I would not first drink coffee; "but, it is true," she added,
"you have no one to talk with."

She is not the first married woman, I thought, who makes covert attacks
on her husband.

"Fru Atlung!" I said, "you have no reason to speak so to me."

"No, I have not. You must excuse me."

It was growing dusk; but unless I was greatly in error, she was almost
ready to weep.

So I took my seat on the other side of the table. "I have a feeling,
dear Fru Atlung, that you desire to talk to some one; but I am surely
not the right person."

"And why not?" she asked.

She sat with both elbows on the table, looking into my face.

"Well, if for no other reason, at least because such a conversation
needs to be entered into more than once, because there are so many
things to consider, and I am going away again to-day."

"But cannot you come again?"

"Do you wish it?"

She was silent a moment, then she said slowly: "As a rule, I have but
one great wish at a time. And it was fully in keeping with the one I now
have that _you_ should come here."

"What is it, my dear lady?"

"Ah, that I cannot tell you, unless you will promise me to come again."

"Well, then, I will promise you to do so."

She extended her hand across the table with the words: "Thank you."

I turned on my chair toward her, and took her hand.

"What is it, my dear lady?"

"No, not now," she replied; "but when you come again. You must help
me--if you believe it to be right to do so."

"Of course."

"Because you, I know, think in many particulars as Atlung does. He will
listen to _you_."

"Do you think so?"

"He will not listen to me, at all events."

"Did you ever make an effort to be heard?"

"No, that would be the worst thing I could do. With Atlung everything
must come as by chance."

"But, dear me! I noticed that on the whole you seemed to hold most
blessed relations with each other."

"Yes, to be sure we do! We often amuse ourselves exceedingly well
together."

I had a feeling that she did not wish me to look at her, and I had
turned away, so that I sat with my side to the table as before. The
twilight deepened about us.

"You remember us, I dare say, as we were in Dresden?"

"Yes."

"We were two young people who were playing with life; it had been very
amusing to be engaged, but to be married must be still more diverting,
and then to come home and keep house, oh! so immensely entertaining; but
not equal to having children. Well, here I am now with a house which I
am utterly powerless to manage, and two children which neither of us can
educate; at least Atlung thinks so."

"But do not you try to take hold?"

"Of the house, do you mean?"

"Well, yes, of the house."

"Dear me! of what use would that be? I usually get a scolding when I
try."

"But you have plenty of help, I suppose?"

"Yes, that is just the misfortune."

I was about to ask what she meant by this when the dining-room door was
noiselessly opened; Stina entered with the lamps. She passed in and out
two or three times; but the large room was far from being lighted by the
lamps she brought in. Meanwhile, conversation ceased.

When Stina was about to leave, Fru Atlung asked for the children. Stina
informed her they were being searched for; they were not on the gard.
The mother paid no further attention to this, and Stina left the room.

"Who is Stina?" I asked, as the door closed behind her.

"Oh, she is a very unhappy person. She had a drunken father who beat
her, and afterwards she had a husband, a bank cashier, who also became a
hard drinker and beat her. Now he is dead."

"Has she been here long?"

"Since before my first child was born."

"But this is sad company for you, my dear lady."

"Yes, she is not _very_ enlivening."

"Then most surely she should be sent away."

"That would be contrary to the traditions of this house. An older person
must always take charge of the children, and this older person must live
and die in the family. Stina is a very worthy woman."

Again the subject of our conversation came noiselessly into the room;
this time with the coffee. There was upon the whole something ghost-like
about this blue-green Carlo Dolci portrait flitting thus over the rugs
in the large room, where she was searching for a shade for the lamp on
the coffee table, as though it were not dark enough here before. The
shade was, moreover, a perforated picture of St. Peter's at Rome.

Stina departed, and the lady of the house poured out the coffee.

"And so you men are going to take from us the hope in immortality, with
all the rest?" she abruptly asked.

To what this "all the rest" referred, I was allowed to form my own
conjectures. She handed me a cup of coffee and continued,--

"When I was driving this morning to the other side of the park to visit
the dying man, it occurred to me that the snow on the barren trees is,
upon the whole, the most exquisite symbol that could be imagined of the
hope of immortality spread over the earth; is it not so? So purely from
above, and so merciful!"

"Do you believe it falls from the skies, my dear lady?"

"It certainly falls down on the earth."

"That is true, but it comes also from the earth."

She appeared not to want to hear this, but continued,--

"You spoke a little while ago of dust. But this white, pure dust on the
frozen boughs and on the gray earth is truly like the poetry of
eternity; so it seems to me," and she placed a singing emphasis on the
"me."

"Who is the author of this poetry, my dear lady?"

She turned on me her large eyes, now larger than ever, but this time not
questioningly; no, there was certainly in her look.

"If there is no revelation from without, there is one from within; every
human being who feels thus possesses it."

She had never been more beautiful. At this moment steps were heard in
the front room. She turned her head in a listening attitude.

"It is Atlung back again!" said she, as she rose and rang for another
cup.

She was right; it was Atlung, who as soon as he had removed his out-door
wraps opened wide the door and came in. His attorney, Hartmann, had
grown anxious and had come to meet him. Atlung had attended to the
entire business with him on the highway.

His wife's questioning eyes followed him as he sauntered across the
floor. Either she did not like his having interrupted us, or she noticed
that he was out of humor. As he took the coffee cup from her hand, he
recounted to her his recent experience with the boys. He did not mention
any of the words the little fellows had shouted out with such jubilant
merriment; but he added enough to lead her to surmise what they were.
And while he was drinking his coffee, he repeated to her that he had
promised them a whipping; "but," said he, "something more than the rod
is needed in this case."

As she stood when she handed him the cup, so she remained standing after
he had finished his coffee and gone. Terror was depicted in both face
and attitude. Her eyes followed him as he walked about the room; she was
waiting to hear this something else which was more than the rod.

"Now I will tell you what it is, Amalie," came from across the room,
"the boys must leave to-morrow at latest."

She sank slowly down on the sofa, so slowly that I do not think she was
aware that she was seating herself. She watched him intently. A more
helpless, unhappy object I had never seen.

"You surely think enough of the boys, Amalie, to submit? You see now the
result of my humoring you the last time."

But if he goes on thus he will kill her! Why does he not look at her?

Whether she noticed my sympathy or not, she suddenly turned her eyes,
her hands, toward me, while her husband walked from us across the floor;
there was a despairing entreaty in this glance, in this little movement.
I comprehended at once what was her sole wish: this was the matter in
which I was to help her.

She had sunk down on her hands, and she remained lying thus without
stirring. I did not hear sounds of weeping; probably she was praying. He
strode up and down the room; he saw her; but his step kept continually
growing firmer. The articles he picked up and crushed in his hand, he
flung each time farther and farther away from him, and with increased
vehemence.

The dining-room door slowly opened. Stina appeared again, but this time
she remained standing on the threshold, paler than usual. Atlung, who
had just turned toward us, stood still and cried: "What is it, Stina?"

She did not reply at once; she looked at the mistress of the house, who
had raised her head and was staring at her, and who at last burst out:
"What is it, Stina?"

"The boys," said Stina, and paused.

"The boys?" repeated both parents, Atlung standing motionless, his wife
springing up.

"They are neither on the gard, nor at the housemen's places; we have
searched everywhere, even through the manufactory."

"Where did you see them last?" asked Atlung, breathless.

"The milkmaid says she saw them running toward the park crying, when you
promised to give them a whipping."

"The fish-pond!" escaped my lips before I had time to reflect, and the
effect upon myself, and upon all the others, was the same as if
something had been dashed to pieces in our midst.

"Stina!" shouted Atlung,--it was not a reproach, no, it was a cry of
pain, the bitterest I have ever heard,--and out he rushed. His wife ran
after him, calling him by name.

"Send for lanterns!" I cried to the people I saw behind Stina in the
dining-room. I went out and found my things, and returning again, met
Stina, who was moving round in a circle with clasped hands.

"Come now," said I, "and show me the way!"

Without reply, perhaps without being conscious of what she was doing,
she changed her march from round in a circle to forward, with hands
still clasped, and praying aloud: "Father in heaven, for Christ's sake!
Father in heaven, for Christ's sake!" in touching, vigorous tones; and
thus she continued through the yard, past the houses, through the
garden, and into the park.

It was not very cold; it was snowing. As one in a dream, I walked
through the snow-mist, following this tall, dark spectre in front of me,
with its trail of prayer, in and out among the lofty, snow-covered
trees. I said to myself that two small boys might of course go to the
fish-pond in the hope of finding God and the angels and new clothes; but
to spring into a hole if there was one, when there were two of them
together--impossible, unnatural, absurd! How in all the world had I come
to think of or suggest such a thing? But all the sensible things one
can say to one's self at such a moment are of no avail; the worst and
most improbable suppositions keep gaining force in spite of them; and
this "Father in heaven, for Christ's sake! Father in heaven, for
Christ's sake!" which soughed about me, in tones of the utmost anguish,
kept continually increasing my own anxiety.

Even if the boys had not gone to the fish-pond, or if they had been
there and had not dared jump into the water, they might have tumbled
into some other place. The father of little Hans was to receive wings
that afternoon; might not they, with their troubled hearts, be sitting
under a tree somewhere waiting for wings to be given them? If such were
the case, they would freeze to death. And I could see these two little
frozen mortals, who dared not go home, the younger one crying, the elder
one finally crying too. I positively seemed to hear them--"Hush!"

"What is that?" said Stina, and turned in sudden hope. "Do you hear
them?"

We both stood still; but there was nothing to hear except my own panting
when I could no longer hold my breath. Nor was there anything resembling
two little human beings huddled together.

I told her what I had just been thinking about, and drawing near me she
clasped her hands, and, in tones of suppressed anguish, whispered: "Pray
with me! Oh, pray with me!"

"What shall I pray for? That the boys may die, and go to heaven and
become angels?"

She stared at me in alarm, then turned and walked on as before, but now
without a word.

We followed a foot-path through the wood: it led to the fish-pond, as I
remembered from the story about little Hans; but we had to go more than
half the length of the park in order to reach the latter. Through a
ravine flowed a brook, and here a dam had been made. It was large so
that the fish-pond had a considerable circumference. We had to step up
from the foot-path in order to reach the edge of the pond. Stina
continued to walk in front of me, and when she had climbed the bank and
could see the pond and the two parents standing on it, she kneeled down,
praying and sobbing. Now I was sorry for her.

When I also stood upon the bank and saw the parents, I was deeply
affected. At the same time I heard voices in the wood behind me. They
came from the people with the lanterns. The flickering light of the four
lanterns that, subdued by the falling snow, was shed over human beings,
the snow itself, the lower trunks of the trees, and the shadows into
which some individuals in the party and some of the trees and certain
portions of the landscape occasionally fell, all became fixed forever in
my memory with the words I at that moment heard from the pond: "There is
no hole in the ice!"

It was Atlung's voice, quivering with emotion. I turned and saw his wife
on his neck. Stina had sprung up with an exclamation which ended in a
long but hushed: "God be praised and thanked!"

But the two on the ice still clung together, with some difficulty I
climbed down from the bank and crossed to where they stood; the wife
still hung on Atlung's neck and he was bowed over her. I paused
reverently at a little distance; they were whispering together. The
light shed by the lanterns on the pond was the first thing that roused
them.

"But what next? Where shall we seek now?" asked Atlung.

I drew nearer. I now repeated to the parents, although more cautiously,
what I had already said to Stina, that perhaps the children were sitting
somewhere under a tree, waiting in their distress of mind for
compassionate angels, and in that case there would be danger of their
being already so cold that they would be ill. Before I had finished
speaking, Atlung had called up to those on the bank: "Had the boys their
out-door things on when they were last seen?"

"No," replied two of the by-standers.

He inquired if they had their caps on; and here opinions differed. I
insisted that they did have them on; some one else said No. Atlung
himself could not remember. Finally some one declared that the elder boy
had his cap on, but not the younger one.

"Ah, my poor little Storm!" wailed the mother.

Among the people on the edge of the pond there were some who wept so
loud that they were heard below. I think there were about twenty people,
side by side, about the lanterns.

Atlung shouted up to them: "We must search the whole park through; we
will begin with the housemen's places." And he came toward the bank,
climbed up and helped his wife up after him.

They were met by Stina. "My dear, dear lady!" she whispered,
beseechingly; but neither of the parents paid any attention to her.

I stared into the ravine below us. To look down on snow-laden trees from
above is like gazing on a petrified forest.

"Dear Atlung! will not you call?" begged the wife.

He took a position far in advance of the rest; all became still. And
then he called aloud through the wood, slowly and distinctly: "Anton and
little Storm! Come home to papa and mamma! Papa is no longer angry!"

Was it the air thus set in motion, or did the last flake of snow needed
to break an overladen branch fall just then, or had some one come into
contact with such a branch; suffice it to say, Atlung received for an
answer the snow-fall from a large bough, partly at one side, partly in
front of us. It gave a hollow crash, rousing the echoes of the wood, the
bough swayed to and fro, and rose to its place, and snow was showered
over us. But this swaying motion finally caused all the heavy branches
to loose their burdens; crash followed crash, and snow enveloped us;
before we knew what was coming the nearest tree had cast the burden from
all its branches at once. The atmospheric pressure now became so great
that two more, then five, six, ten, twenty trees freed themselves, with
violent din, from their heavy loads, sending an echo through the wood
and a mist as from mighty snow-drifts. This was followed by cluster
after cluster of trees, some at our sides, some at a long distance off,
some right in front of us; the movement first passed through two great
arms, which gradually spread into manifold divisions; ere long the whole
forest trembled. The thunder rolled far away from us, close by us, now
at intervals, now all at once, and seemed interminable. Before us
everything was surrounded by a white mist; this loud rumbling of thunder
through the wood had at first appalled us; gradually as it passed
farther on and grew in proportion it became so majestic that we forgot
all else.

The trees stood once more proudly erect, fresh and green; we ourselves
looked like snow-men. All the lanterns were extinguished, we lighted
them again, and we shook the snow from us. Then we heard in a moaning
tone: "What if the little boys are lying under a snow-drift!"

It was the mother who spoke. Several hastened to say that it could not
in any way harm them, that the worst possible result would be that they
might be thrown down, perhaps stifled for a little while; but they would
surely be able to work their way out again. There was one who said that
unquestionably the children would scream as soon as they were free from
the snow, and Atlung called out: "Hark!" We stood for more than a minute
listening; but we heard nothing except a far-off echo from some solitary
cluster of trees that had just been drawn into the vortex with the rest.

But if the boys were in one of the remote recesses of the wood, their
voices could scarcely reach us; on either side of us the edges of the
ravine were higher than the banks of the pond where we stood.

"Yes, let us go search for them," said Atlung, deeply moved; as he
spoke, he went close to the brink of the pond, turned toward the rest of
us who were beginning to step down, and bade us pause. Then he cried:
"Anton and little Storm! Come home again to papa and mamma! Papa is no
longer angry!" It was heart-rending to hear him. No answer came. We
waited a long time. No answer.

Despondently he returned, and came down on the path with the rest of us;
his wife took his arm.



CHAPTER VI.


We reached the edge of the wood, and then our party divided, keeping at
such a distance apart that we could see one another and everything
between us; we walked the whole length of the wood up and then took the
next section down, but slowly; for all the snow from the trees was now
spread over the old snow on the ground; in some places it was packed
down so hard that it bore our weight, but in other places we sank in to
our knees. When we assembled the next time, in order to disperse anew, I
inquired if after all it were likely that two small boys would have the
courage to remain in the wood after it had grown dark. But this
suggestion met with opposition from all. The boys were accustomed to be
busied in the wood the whole day long and in the evenings too; they had
other boys who constructed snow-men for them, forts and snow-houses, in
which they often sat with lights, after it was dark.

This naturally drew our thoughts to all these buildings, and the
possibility of the boys having taken refuge in one or other of them. But
no one knew where they were situated this year, as the snow had come so
recently. Moreover, they were in the habit of building now in one
place, now in another, and so nothing remained but to continue as
before.

It so happened that Stina walked next to me this time, and as we two
were in the ravine, and this was winding in some places, we were brought
close together, and had no locality to search. She was evidently in a
changed frame of mind. I asked her why this was.

"Oh," said she, "God has so plainly spoken to me. We are going to find
the boys! Now I know why all this has happened! Oh, I know so plainly!"

Her Madonna eyes glowed with a dreamy happiness; her pale, delicate face
wore an expression of ecstasy.

"What is it, Stina?"

"You were so hard toward me before. But I forgive you. Dear Lord, did
not I sin myself? Did not I doubt God? Did not I murmur against the
decrees of God? Oh, His ways are marvelous! I see it so plainly--so
plainly!"

"But what do you mean?"

"What do I mean? Fru Atlung has for the last half year prayed God for
only one single thing. Yes, it is her way to do so. She learned it of
her father. Just for one single thing she has prayed, and we have
helped her. It is that the boys may not be separated from her; Atlung
has threatened to send them away. Had it not been for what has happened
this evening he would surely have kept his word; but God has heard her
prayer! Perhaps I too have been an instrument in his hands; I almost
dare believe that I have. And the death of little Hans, yes, most
certainly the death of little Hans! If those two sweet little souls are
sitting and freezing somewhere, waiting for the angels, oh, the dear,
dear boys, they surely have these with them! Do you doubt this? Ah, do
not doubt! If the boys are made ill--and they most surely will be
ill--it will be most fortunate for them! For when the father and mother
sit together beside the sick-bed, oh, then the boys will never be sent
away. Never, no never! Then Atlung will see that it would be the death
of his wife. Oh, he sees it this evening. Yes, he unquestionably sees
it. He has already made her a solemn promise; for the last time we met,
she gave me a look of such heartfelt kindness, and that she did not do a
little while ago. It was as though she had something to say to me--and
what else could it possibly be in the midst of her anxiety than this?
She has discerned God's ways, she too God's marvelous ways. She thanks
and praises Him, as I do; yes, blessed be the name of God, for Jesus
Christ's sake, through all eternity!"

She spoke in a whisper, but decidedly, aye, vehemently; the last, or
words of thanksgiving, on the contrary, with bowed head, clasped hands,
and softly, as to her own soul.

We drifted apart, although now and then we drew near together again,
when the ravine obliged us to do so, and all attempt at searching on our
part ceased.

"There is one thing I need to have explained," I whispered to her. "If
everything from the time of the sorrowful death of little Hans has
happened in order that Atlung's boys may remain with their mother; then
this great fall of snow we have recently seen and heard must be part of
the whole plan. But I cannot see how?"

"That? Why that was simply a natural occurrence; a pure accident."

"Is there such a thing?"

"Yes," replied she; "and it often has its influence on the rest. To be
sure, in this instance I cannot see how. It is a great mercy though,
that I can see what I do. Why should I ask more?"

We peered about us; but we felt convinced that the boys were not in the
ravine. What I had last said seemed to absorb Stina.

"What did _you_ think about the snow-fall?" asked she, softly, the next
time we were thrown together.

"I will tell you. Shortly before we came out into the park, Fru Atlung
had been saying to me that the hope of immortality descended from heaven
on our lives, just as hushed, white, and soft as the snow on the naked
earth"--

"Oh, how beautiful!" interposed Stina.

"And so I thought when the shock came, and the whole forest trembled,
and the snow fell from the trees with the sound of thunder,--now do not
be angry,--that in the same way the hope of immortality had fallen from
the mother of the boys, and you and all of us, in our great anxiety for
the lives of the little fellows. We rushed about in sorrow and
lamentation, and some of us in ill-concealed frenzy, lest the boys had
received a call from the other life, or lest some occurrence here had
led them to the brink of eternity."

"O my God, yes!"

"Now we have had this hope of immortality hanging over us for many
thousand years, for it is older, much older than Christianity; and we
have progressed no farther than this."

"Oh, you are right! Yes, you are a thousand times right! Think of it!"
she exclaimed, and walked on in silent brooding.

"You said before that I was hard toward you, and then I had done nothing
but remind you of the belief in immortality you had taught the boys."

"Oh, that is true; forgive me! Oh, yes indeed!"

"For you know that you had taught them that it was far, far better to be
with God than to be here; and that to have wings and be an angel was the
highest glory a little child could attain; indeed, that the angels
themselves came and carried away unhappy little children."

"Oh, I beg of you, no more!" she moaned, placing both hands on her ears.
"Oh, how thoughtless I have been!" she added.

"Do not you believe all this yourself, then?"

"Yes, to be sure I believe it! There have been times in my life when
such thoughts were my sole consolation. But you really confuse me
altogether."

And then she told me in a most touching way that her head was no longer
very strong; she had wept and suffered so much; but the hope of a better
life after this had often been her one consolation.

Atlung's mournful call, with always the same words, was heard ever and
anon, and just at this moment fell on our ears. With a start we were
back again in the dreadful reality that the boys were not yet found, and
that the longer the time that elapsed before they were found, the
greater the certainty that they must pay the penalty of a dangerous
illness. It continued to snow so that notwithstanding the moonlight we
walked in a mist.

Then a cry rang through forest and snow from another voice than Atlung's
and one of quite a different character. I could not distinguish what was
said; but it was followed by a fresh call from another, then again from
a third, and this last time could be distinctly heard the words: "I hear
them crying!" It was a woman's voice. I hastened forward, the rest ran
in front of and behind me, all in the direction whence came the call. We
had become weary of wading in the heavy snow; but now we sped onward as
easily as though there were firm ground beneath our feet. The light from
the lanterns skipping about among us and over our heads, shone in our
eyes and dazzled us; no one spoke, our breathing alone was heard.

"Hush!" cried a young girl, suddenly halting, and the rest of us also
stood still; for we heard the voices of the two little ones uplifted in
that piteous wail of lamentation common to children who have been
weeping in vain for long, long hours and to whom sympathy has finally
come.

"Good gracious!" exclaimed an elderly man,--he well knew the sound of
such weeping. We perceived that the boys were no longer alone; we walked
onward, but more calmly. We reached and passed the fish-pond, and came
to a place a little beyond the ravine, where the trees were regular in
their growth; for the spot was sheltered and hidden. The weeping, of
course, became more distinct the nearer we approached, and at last we
heard voices blended with it. They were those of the father and mother,
who had been the first to gain the spot. When we had reached an opening
where we could see between the trees into the snow, our gaze was met by
two black objects against something extremely white; it was the father
and mother, on their knees, each clinging to a boy; behind them was a
snow fort, or rather a crushed snow house, in which, sure enough, the
boys had sought refuge. When the lanterns were brought near, we saw how
piteously benumbed with the cold the little fellows were: they were
blue, their fingers stiff, they could not stand well on their feet;
neither of them had on caps; these no doubt lay in the heap of snow, if
the boys had had them with them at all. They replied to none of the
tokens of endearment or questions of their parents; not once did they
utter a word, they only wept and wept. We stood around them, Stina
sobbing aloud. The weeping of the boys, and the lamentations, questions,
and tokens of endearment of the parents, together with the accents of
despair and joy, which alternately blended therewith, were very
affecting.

Atlung rose and took up one child; it was the elder one. His wife rose
also, and gathered up the other in her arms. Several offered to carry
the boy for her; but she made no reply, only walked on with him,
consoling him, moaning over him, without a moment's pause between the
words, until she made a misstep and plunging forward fell prostrate on
the ground over her boy. She would not have help, but scrambled up with
the boy still in her arms, walked on, and fell again.

Then she cast a look up to heaven, as though she would ask how this
could happen, how it could be that this was possible!

Whenever I now recall her in her faith and in her helplessness, I
remember her thus, with the boy in front of her stretched out in the
snow, and she bending over him on her knees, tears streaming from the
eyes which were uplifted with a questioning gaze toward heaven.

Some one picked up the boy, and Stina helped his mother. But when the
little fellow found himself in the arms of another, he began to cry:
"Mamma, mamma!" and stretched forth his benumbed hands toward her. She
wanted to go to him at once and take him again in her arms, but he who
carried the child hastened onward, pretending not to hear her, although
she begged most humbly at last. They had scarcely come down on the
footpath before she hastened forward and stopped the man; then with many
loving words she took her boy again in her arms. Atlung was no longer in
sight.

I allowed them all to go on in advance of me.

But when I saw them a short distance from me, enveloped in snow between
the trees and heard the weeping and the soothing words, I drifted back
into my old thoughts.

These two poor little boys had accepted literally the words of the grown
people--to the utter dismay of the latter! If we were right in our
conjectures (for the boys themselves had not yet told us anything and
would not be likely to tell anything until after the illness they must
unquestionably pass through); but _if_ we were right in our conjectures,
then these two little ones had sought a reality far greater than ours.

They had believed in beings more loving than those about us, in a life
warmer and richer than our own; because of this belief they had braved
the cold, although amid tears and terror, waiting resolutely for the
miracle. When the thunder rolled over them, they had doubtless
tremblingly expected the change--and were only buried.

How many had there been before them with the same experience?



CHAPTER VII.


I left Skogstad at once, and without taking leave of the parents, who
were with their children. I got a horse to the next station, and was
soon slowly driving along the chaussée. The snow which had fallen made
the road heavier than when I had come that way. A few atoms still swept
about through the air but the fall was lightening more and more, so that
the moonlight gradually gained in force. It fell on the snow-clad
forest, which still stood unchanged, with fantastic power; for although
the details were lost the contrasts were striking.

I was weary, and the mood I was in harmonized with my fatigue. In the
still subdued moonlight the forest looked like a bowed-down, conquered
people; its burden was greater than it could bear. Nevertheless, it
stood there patiently, tree after tree, without end, bowed to the
ground. It was like a people from the far-distant past to the present
day, a people buried in dust. Yonder "heaven-fallen, merciful snow"--

And just as all symbols, even those from the times of old, which
mythology dimly reveals to us, became fixed in the imagination, and
gradually worked their way out to independence, so it was now with mine.
I saw the past generations enveloped in a cloud of dust, in which they
could not recognize one another, and that was why they fought against
one another, slaying one another by the millions. Dust was being
continually strewed over them. But I saw that it was the same with all
those who were wounded, or who must die. I saw in the midst of these
poor sufferers many kind, refined souls, who in thus strewing dust were
rendering the highest, most beautiful service they knew, like those
priestly physicians of Egypt, who offered to the sick and dying magic
formulas as the most effectual preventive of death, and placed on the
wounds a medicine, the greater part of which was composed of mystic
symbols.

And I saw _all_ the relations of life, even the soundest, strewed over
with a coating of dust, and the attempt at deliverance to be the world's
most complete revolution, which would wholly shatter these relations
themselves.

And as I grew more and more weary and these fancies left me, but what I
had recently experienced kept rising uppermost in my mind, then I
plainly heard weeping in among the snow-flakes that were no longer
falling; it was the boys I heard. They wept so sorely, they lamented so
bitterly, while we tenderly bore them from dust to more dust.

I passed through the forest and drove along its margin up to the
station. When I had nearly reached this I cast one more look downward
over the tree-tops, which were radiant in the moonlight. The forest was
magnificent in its snowy splendor.

The majesty of the view struck me now, and the symbol presented itself
differently.

A dream hovering over all people, originating infinitely long before all
history, continually assuming new forms, each of which denoted the
downfall of an earlier one, and always in such a manner that the most
recent form lay more lightly over the reality than those just preceding
it, concealing less of it, affording freer breathing-space--until the
last remnants should evaporate in the air. When shall _that_ be?

The infinite will always remain, the incomprehensible with it; but it
will no longer stifle life. It will fill it with reverence; but not with
dust.

I sat down in the sledge once more, and the monotonous jingle of the
bells caused drowsiness to overcome me. And then the weeping of the boys
began to ring in my ears together with the bells. And weary as I was I
could not help thinking about what further must have happened to the two
little fellows, and how it must appear at first in the sick-room at
Skogstad, and in the surroundings of those I had just left.

How different was the scene I imagined from what actually occurred!

I could not but recall it when, two months later, I drove over the same
road with Atlung and he related to me what had taken place. I had then
been abroad and he met me in town.

And when I now repeat this, it is not in his words, for I should be
totally unable to reproduce them; but the substance of his story is what
follows.

The boys were attacked with fever, and this passed into inflammation of
the lungs. From the outset every one saw that the illness must take a
serious turn; but the mother was so sure that all had come to pass
solely in order that she might keep her boys, that she inspired the rest
of the household with her faith.

However serious the illness might be, it would only be the precursor of
happiness and peace. While yet in the wood she had obtained a solemn
promise from her husband that their children should not be sent away;
but that a tutor should be engaged for them who would have them
continually under his charge. And by the sick-bed, when through the long
nights and silent days they met there, Atlung repeated this promise as
often as his wife wished. She had never been more beautiful, he had
never loved her more devotedly; she was in one continual state of
ecstasy. She confided to Atlung that from the first time, about half a
year before, he had declared that the boys must go away, she had prayed
the Lord to prevent it, prayed incessantly, and in all this time had
prayed for nothing else. She knew that a prayer offered in the name of
Jesus must be granted. She had prayed in this way several times before
in regard to circumstances which seemed to herself to be brought into
her life under the guidance of faith, brought into it in the most
natural way. This time she had called her father to her aid and finally
Stina; both of them had promised to pray only for this one thing. It did
not seem to occur to her for a moment that there was another way of
gaining her point, for instance, as far as lay within her power, and as
far as her faith permitted it, to study Atlung's ideas on education, and
to endeavor to persuade him to unite with her in an attempt, that it
might be proved whether they were equal to the task. She started from
the standpoint that she was utterly incompetent; what, indeed, was she
able to do? But God could do what He would. This was his own cause, and
that to a far higher degree than any other matter concerning which he
had granted her prayers, and so she was sure He would hear her. Every
occurrence, every individual who came to the gard, was sent; in one way
or another everything must be a link in the chain of events, which was
to lead Atlung to other thoughts. When she told Atlung this, in her
innocence and her faith, he felt that, at all events, there was no human
power which could resist her. He was so completely borne along in the
current of her fancies that he not only became convinced that the boys
would recover, but he even failed to perceive how ill she was.

The long stay in the park, without any out-door wraps and with wet feet,
the overstrained mental condition and long night vigils, the pursuit of
one fixed idea, without any regard to its effect on herself, being so
wholly absorbed in it that she forgot to eat, indeed, no longer felt the
need of food--wholly robbed her of strength at last. But the first
symptoms of illness were closely united with her restless, ecstatic
condition; neither she herself, nor the rest of the household paid any
heed to them. When finally she was obliged to go to bed, there still
hovered over her such joy, aye, and peace, that the others had no time
for anxiety. Her feverish fancies blended in such a way with her life,
her wishes, her faith, that it was often not well to separate them. They
all understood that she was ill and that she was often delirious, but
not that she was in any danger. The physician was one of those who
rarely express an opinion; but they all thought that had there been
danger he would have spoken. Stina, who had undertaken the supervision
of the sick-room, was absorbed in her own fancies and hope, and
explained away everything when Atlung showed any uneasiness.

Then one noon he came home from the factories, and after warming
himself, went up-stairs to the large chamber where the invalids all lay,
for the mother wanted to be where the boys were. Her bed was so placed
that she could see them both. Atlung softly entered the room. It was
airy and pleasant there, and deep peace reigned. No one besides the
invalids, as far as he could see at first, was in the room; but he
afterwards discovered that the sick-nurse was there asleep in a large
arm-chair, which she had drawn to the corner nearest the stove. He did
not wake her; he stood a little while bending over each of the boys, who
were either sleeping or lying in a stupor, and thence he stepped very
softly to his dear wife's bed, rejoicing in the thought that she too was
now peaceful, perhaps sleeping; for he did not hear her babble which
usually greeted him. A screen had been placed between the bed and the
window, so he could not see distinctly until he came close to her. She
lay with wide-open eyes; but tear after tear trickled down from them.

"What is it?" he whispered, startled. In her changed mood he saw at once
how worn, how frightfully worn, she was. Why, in all the world, had he
not seen this before. Or had he observed it, yet been so far governed by
her security that he had not paid any attention to it. For a moment it
seemed as if he would swoon away, and only the fear that he might fall
across her bed gave him strength to keep up.

As soon as he could he whispered anew, "What is it, Amalie?"

"I see by your looks that you know it yourself," she whispered slowly,
in reply; her lips quivered, the tears filled her eyes and rolled down
her cheeks: but otherwise she lay quite still. Her hands--oh, how thin
they were; the ring was much too large on her finger, and this he
remembered having noticed before; but why had he not reflected on what
it meant?

Her hands lay stretched out on either side of the body which seemed to
him so slender beneath the coverlet and sheet. The lace about her wrists
was unrumpled, as though she had not stirred since she was dressed for
the morning, and that must now be several hours since.

"Why, Amalie," he burst out, and knelt down at her bedside.

"It was not thus I meant it," replied she, but in so soft a whisper that
under other circumstances he could not have heard it.

"What do you mean by 'thus,' Amalie? Oh, try once more to answer me!
Amalie!"

He saw that she wanted to reply, but either could not, or else had
thought better of it. Tears filled her eyes and trickled down her
cheeks, filled her eyes and were shed again, her lips quivered, but as
noiselessly as this occurred, just so still she lay. Finally she raised
her large eyes to his face. He bowed closer to her to catch the words:
"I would not take them from--you," spoken in a whisper as before; the
word "you" was uttered by itself, and in the same low tone as the rest,
encompassed with a tenderness and a mournfulness which nothing on earth
could exceed in strength.

He dared not question further, although he failed to understand his
wife. He only comprehended that something had occurred that same
forenoon which had turned the current of life to that of death. She lay
there paralyzed. Her immobility was that of terror; something
extraordinary had weighed her down to this speechless silence, had
crushed her. But he also comprehended that behind this noiseless
immobility there was an agitation so great that her heart was ready to
burst; he knew that there was danger, that his presence increased the
danger, that there must be help sought; in other words, he comprehended
that if he did not go away himself, his face as it must now look was
enough to kill her. He never knew how he got away. He can remember that
he was on a stairway, for he recollects seeing a picture that his wife
herself must have hung up, it was one representing St. Christopher
carrying the child Jesus over a brook. He found himself lying on the
sofa in the large sitting-room, with something wet on his brow, and a
couple of people at his side, of whom one was Stina. He struggled for a
long time as with a bad dream. At the sight of Stina his terror
returned. "Stina, how is it with Amalie?" The answer was that she was in
a raging fever.

"But what happened this forenoon while I was absent?"

Stina knew nothing. She did not even understand his question. She was
not the one who had attended Fru Atlung in the forenoon; she had watched
in the night, and then the patient's fever fancies were happy ones, as
they had again become. Had the doctor been with her in the forenoon?
No, he was expected now. He had said yesterday that to-day he would not
come until later than usual. This indicated a feeling of security on the
doctor's part.

Had Fru Atlung spoken with any one else? If so it must be the
sick-nurse. "Bring her here!" Stina left the room. Atlung also sent away
the others who had assembled around him, he needed to collect his
thoughts. He sat up, with his head between his hands, and before he knew
it he was weeping aloud. He heard his own sobs resounding through the
large room and he shuddered. He felt sure; oh, he felt but too sure,
that he would sit here alone and hear this wail of misery for weeks. And
in this sense of boundless bereavement, her image stood forth
distinctly: she came from her bed in her white garment and told him word
for word what she had meant. Her prayer to God had been to be allowed to
keep her boys, and now this had been granted in a terrible way for she
was to have them with her in death. It was this which had paralyzed her.
And the beloved one repeated: "I did not mean it thus, I would not take
them from--you."

But how had this idea suddenly occurred to her? _Why_ was her security
transformed into something so terrible?

The sick-nurse knew nothing. Toward morning the dear lady had fallen
into a slumber, and this had gradually become more and more calm. When
she awoke rather late in the morning, she lay still a little while
before she was waited on. She was excessively weak; the housekeeper
helped care for her. Not a word was said to her about her condition, not
a single word. She had not spoken herself, except once; it was after she
had had a little broth, then she said: "Oh, no, never mind!" She lay
back and closed her eyes. Her attendants urged her to take some more;
but she made no reply. They stood a little and waited; then they left
her in peace.

As the evening wore on, the fever increased; by the doctor's advice she
was carried into the next room. She understood this to mean that she was
being borne into Paradise, and while they were moving her, she sang in a
somewhat hoarse voice. She talked, too, now, without cessation; but with
the exception of that hymn about Paradise there was nothing in her words
which indicated that she remembered anything that had occupied her
thoughts in her moments of consciousness. All was now happiness and
laughter once more. Toward morning she slept; but she woke very soon,
and at once the unspeakable pain she had had before came over her, but
at the same time came also the death-struggle. Amid this she became
aware that the beds of the boys were not near hers. She looked at Atlung
and opened her hand, as if she would clasp his. He understood that she
thought the boys had gone on before and wanted to console him. With this
cold little hand in his, and with its gentle pressure through the
struggle with the last message from this receding life, he sat until the
end came.

But then, too, he gave way wholly to his boundless grief. The
responsibility he felt for not having attempted to draw her into his own
vigorous reading and thought; for having left her to live a weak
dream-life; to bear the burden of the housekeeping and the bringing up
of the children, but not in community of spirit and will, partly out of
consideration for her, partly from a careless desire to leave her as she
was when he took her; for having amused himself with her when it struck
his fancy to do so, but not having made an effort to work in the same
direction with her,--this was what tormented his mind and could find no
consolation, no answer, no forgiveness.

Not until the following night when he was wandering about out of doors,
beneath a bright starlit sky, came the first soothing thoughts. Would
she under any circumstances have forsaken the ideas of her childhood to
follow his? Were not they an inheritance, so deeply rooted in her nature
that an attempt to alter them would only have made her unhappy? This he
had always believed, and it was this which ultimately determined him to
live _his_ life while she lived hers. The image of his beautiful darling
hovered about him, and the two boys always accompanied her. Whether it
was because of his own weariness, or whether his self-reproaches had
exhausted themselves and let things speak their own natural
language--his guilt toward her and toward them was shifted slightly and
spread over many other matters, which were painful enough; but not as
these were.

What these matters were, he did not tell me; but he looked ten years
older than before.

The doctor sought an interview with him the next day, and said that he
felt obliged to tell him that if he had not pronounced his wife's
condition dangerous it was because he had felt sure that she would
recover. Her own happy frame of mind would help her, he thought. But
something most have happened that forenoon.

Atlung made no reply. The doctor then added that the boys were past all
danger; the elder one, indeed, had never been in any.

Atlung had not yet for a moment separated mother and boys in his
thoughts. During their illness he felt with her that they must live; for
the last twenty-four hours he had been convinced that they must follow
her in death. He could not think of the mother without them.

And now that he must separate them, the first feeling was--not one of
joy: no, it was dismay that even in this matter the dear one had been
disappointed! It seemed as though she were living and could see that it
was all a mistake, and that this last mistake had needlessly killed her.

The two little boys, clad in mourning, were the first objects we met on
the gard. They looked pale and frightened. They did not come to meet us,
nor did they return their father's caress.

In the passage Stina met us; she too looked worn. I expressed my honest
sympathy for her. She answered calmly that God's ways were inscrutable.
He alone knew what was for our good.

Atlung took me with him to the family burial-place, a little stone
chapel in a grove near the river. On the way there, he told me that
every time he tried to talk confidentially with the boys and endeavor to
be both father and mother to them, his loss rushed over him so
overwhelmingly that he was forced to stop. He would learn with time to
do his duty.

The sepulchral chamber was a friendly little chapel, in which the
coffins stood on the floor. The door, however, was not an ordinary door,
but an iron grating which now stood open; for there was work going on in
the chapel. We removed our hats, and walked forward to her little
coffin. We did not exchange a word. Not until after we had left it and
were looking at the other coffins and their inscriptions, did Atlung
inform me that his wife's coffin was to be placed in one of stone. I
remarked that in this way we would eventually have more of our ancestors
preserved than would be good for us. "But there is reverence in it," he
replied, as we walked out.

There was warmth in the atmosphere. Over the bluish snow, the forest
rose green or dark gray and the fjord was defiantly fresh. Spring was in
the air, although we were still in the midst of winter.



Transcriber's Note:

    Punctuation has been standardised. Spelling and hyphenation have
    been retained as they appear in the original publication except
    as follows:

    Page 58
    a piano in the box," though Magnhild _changed to_
    a piano in the box," thought Magnhild

    Page 78
    and now her embarrasment increased _changed to_
    and now her embarrassment increased

    Page 166
    Ronnaug wished to copy the verses _changed to_
    Rönnaug wished to copy the verses

    Page 249
    But she inisted _changed to_
    But she insisted

    Page 227
    chaussé running along the fjord _changed to_
    chaussée running along the fjord





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