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Title: Arne: Early Tales and Sketches - Patriots Edition
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.

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  ARNE

  EARLY TALES AND SKETCHES



  WORKS OF BJÖRNSTJERNE BJÖRNSON

  PATRIOTS EDITION

  ARNE

  EARLY TALES AND SKETCHES

  _Translated from the Norse
  By_
  Rasmus B. Anderson

  NEW YORK
  DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY



  Copyright, 1881, 1882,
  By HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN & CO.

  _All rights reserved._



  TABLE OF CONTENTS

                                  PAGE
  PREFACE                           5

  ARNE
    Chapter I                       9
    Chapter II                     14
    Chapter III                    28
    Chapter IV                     42
    Chapter V                      52
    Chapter VI                     60
    Chapter VII                    70
    Chapter VIII                   77
    Chapter IX                     89
    Chapter X                     108
    Chapter XI                    126
    Chapter XII                   139
    Chapter XIII                  149
    Chapter XIV                   163
    Chapter XV                    174
    Chapter XVI                   195


  EARLY TALES AND SKETCHES

  The Railroad and the Churchyard
    Chapter I                     203
    Chapter II                    219
    Chapter III                   237

  Thrond                          248

  A Dangerous Wooing              264

  The Bear Hunter                 272

  The Father                      284

  The Eagle's Nest                290



PREFACE.


"Arne" was written in 1858, one year later than "Synnöve Solbakken," and
is thought by many to be Björnson's best story, though it is, in my
opinion, surpassed in simplicity of style and delicate analysis of
motives, feelings, and character by "A Happy Boy," his third long story,
the translation of which is now in progress, and which will follow this
volume.

Norway's most eminent composers have written music for many of
Björnson's poems, and made them favorite songs, not only with the
cultivated classes, but also with the common people. To the songs in
"Arne" melodies were composed by Björnson's brilliant cousin, Rikard
Nordraak, who died in 1865, only twenty-three years old, but who had
already won a place as one of Norway's greatest composers.

With a view of popularizing these melodies in this country, all the
poems have been given in precisely the same metre and rhyme as the
original, and those caring to know how the tunes are supposed to have
sounded on the lips of Arne are referred to "The Norway Music Album,"
edited by Auber Forestier and myself, and published by Oliver Ditson &
Co. of Boston. In it will be found, together with the original and
English words, Rikard Nordraak's music to the following five songs from
"Arne":--


1. "Oh, my pet lamb, lift your head," from chapter v.

2. "It was such a pleasant, sunny day," from chapter viii.

3. "The tree's early leaf-buds were bursting their brown," from chapter
xii.

4. "Oh how I wonder what I should see
      Over the lofty mountains,"[1] from chapter xiv.

5. "He went in the forest the whole day long," from chapter xiv.

Mr. Björnson returned to Norway in May, 1881; he was welcomed with
enthusiasm, and on the 17th of the same month, Norway's natal day, he
delivered the oration at the dedication of the Wergeland Monument to a
gathering of more than ten thousand people. His visit to America was a
brilliant success. His addresses to his countrymen in America were
chiefly on the constitutional struggle of Norway, on which subject an
article by him will be found in the February (1881) issue of "Scribner's
Monthly." As a souvenir of his pleasant sojourn among us, I will here
attempt an English translation of the poem "Olaf Trygvason" with which
he usually greeted his hearers at his lectures. It is one of his most
popular songs.

    Spreading sails o'er the North Sea speed;
    High on deck stands at dawn, indeed,
    Erling Skjalgson from Sole.
    Spying o'er the sea towards Denmark:
    "Wherefore comes not Olaf Trygvason?"

    Six and fifty the dragons are;
    Sails are furled ... toward Denmark stare
    Sun-scorched men ... then rises:
    "Where stays the King's Long Serpent?
    Wherefore comes not Olaf Trygvason?"

    But when sun on the second day
    Saw the watery, mastless way,
    Like a great storm it sounded:
    "Where stays the King's Long Serpent?
    Wherefore comes not Olaf Trygvason?"

    Quiet, quiet, in that same hour
    Stood they all; for with endless power,
    Groaning, the sea was splashing:
    "Taken the King's Long Serpent!
    Fallen is Olaf Trygvason!"

    Thus for more than an hundred years
    Sounds in every seaman's ears,
    Chiefly in moon-lit watches:
    "Taken the King's Long Serpent!
    Fallen is Olaf Trygvason!"

The reader will not fail to be reminded by this song by Björnson of
Longfellow's "Saga of King Olaf" (the Musician's Tale), in his "Tales of
a Wayside Inn," and especially of those beautiful poems in this
collection, "The Building of the Long Serpent," and "The Crew of the
Long Serpent."

Hoping the translation of these stories and songs will enable the reader
to appreciate in some degree the secret of Björnson's great popularity
in the fair land that lies beneath the eternal snow and the unsetting
sun, I now offer "Arne" to the American public.

        RASMUS B. ANDERSON.

ASGARD, MADISON, WIS.,
  _August, 1881_.



CHAPTER I.


There was a deep gorge between two mountains; through this gorge a
large, full stream flowed heavily over a rough and stony bottom. Both
sides were high and steep, and so one side was bare; but close to its
foot, and so near the stream that the latter sprinkled it with moisture
every spring and autumn, stood a group of fresh-looking trees, gazing
upward and onward, yet unable to advance this way or that.

"What if we should clothe the mountain?" said the juniper one day to the
foreign oak, to which it stood nearer than all the others. The oak
looked down to find out who it was that spoke, and then it looked up
again without deigning a reply. The river rushed along so violently that
it worked itself into a white foam; the north wind had forced its way
through the gorge and shrieked in the clefts of the rocks; the naked
mountain, with its great weight, hung heavily over and felt cold. "What
if we should clothe the mountain?" said the juniper to the fir on the
other side. "If anybody is to do it, I suppose it must be we," said the
fir, taking hold of its beard and glancing toward the birch. "What do
you think?" But the birch peered cautiously up at the mountain, which
hung over it so threateningly that it seemed as if it could scarcely
breathe. "Let us clothe it in God's name!" said the birch. And so,
though there were but these three, they undertook to clothe the
mountain. The juniper went first.

When they had gone a little way, they met the heather. The juniper
seemed as though about to go past it. "Nay, take the heather along,"
said the fir. And the heather joined them. Soon it began to glide on
before the juniper. "Catch hold of me," said the heather. The juniper
did so, and where there was only a wee crevice, the heather thrust in a
finger, and where it first had placed a finger, the juniper took hold
with its whole hand. They crawled and crept along, the fir laboring on
behind, the birch also. "This is well worth doing," said the birch.

But the mountain began to ponder on what manner of insignificant objects
these might be that were clambering up over it. And after it had been
considering the matter a few hundred years it sent a little brook down
to inquire. It was yet in the time of the spring freshets, and the brook
stole on until it reached the heather. "Dear, dear heather, cannot you
let me pass; I am so small." The heather was very busy; only raised
itself a little and pressed onward. In, under, and onward went the
brook. "Dear, dear juniper, cannot you let me pass; I am so small." The
juniper looked sharply at it; but if the heather had let it pass, why,
in all reason, it must do so too. Under it and onward went the brook;
and now came to the spot where the fir stood puffing on the hill-side.
"Dear, dear fir, cannot you let me pass; I am really so small," said the
brook,--and it kissed the fir's foot and made itself so very sweet. The
fir became bashful at this, and let it pass. But the birch raised itself
before the brook asked it. "Hi, hi, hi!" said the brook and grew. "Ha,
ha, ha!" said the brook and grew. "Ho, ho, ho!" said the brook, and
flung the heather and the juniper and the fir and the birch flat on
their faces and backs, up and down these great hills. The mountain sat
for many hundred years musing on whether it had not smiled a little
that day.

It was plain enough: the mountain did not want to be clad. The heather
fretted over this until it grew green again, and then it started
forward. "Fresh courage!" said the heather.

The juniper had half raised itself to look at the heather, and continued
to keep this position, until at length it stood upright. It scratched
its head and set forth again, taking such a vigorous foothold that it
seemed as though the mountain must feel it. "If you will not have me,
then I will have you." The fir crooked its toes a little to find out
whether they were whole, then lifted one foot, found it whole, then the
other, which proved also to be whole, then both of them. It first
investigated the ground it had been over, next where it had been lying,
and finally where it should go. After this it began to wend its way
slowly along, and acted just as though it had never fallen. The birch
had become most wretchedly soiled, but now rose up and made itself tidy.
Then they sped onward, faster and faster, upward and on either side, in
sunshine and in rain. "What in the world can this be?" said the
mountain, all glittering with dew, as the summer sun shone down on
it,--the birds sang, the wood-mouse piped, the hare hopped along, and
the ermine hid itself and screamed.

Then the day came when the heather could peep with one eye over the edge
of the mountain. "Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear!" said the heather, and away
it went. "Dear me! what is it the heather sees?" said the juniper, and
moved on until it could peer up. "Oh dear, oh dear!" it shrieked, and
was gone. "What is the matter with the juniper to-day?" said the fir,
and took long strides onward in the heat of the sun. Soon it could raise
itself on its toes and peep up. "Oh dear!" Branches and needles stood on
end in wonderment. It worked its way forward, came up, and was gone.
"What is it all the others see, and not I?" said the birch; and, lifting
well its skirts, it tripped after. It stretched its whole head up at
once. "Oh,--oh!--is not here a great forest of fir and heather, of
juniper and birch, standing upon the table-land waiting for us?" said
the birch; and its leaves quivered in the sunshine so that the dew
trembled. "Aye, this is what it is to reach the goal!" said the juniper.



CHAPTER II.


Up on the hill-top it was that Arne was born. His mother's name was
Margit, and she was the only child at the houseman's place,--Kampen.[2]
Once, in her eighteenth year, she stayed too long at a dance; her
companions had left her, and so Margit thought that the way home would
be just as long whether she waited until the dancing was over or not.
And thus it happened that she kept her seat until the fiddler, known as
Nils the tailor, suddenly laid aside his fiddle, as was his wont when
drink took possession of him, let others troll the tune, seized the
prettiest girl, moved his foot as evenly as the rhythm of a song, and
with his boot-heel took the hat from the head of the tallest person
present. "Ho!" said he. When Margit went home that evening, the
moon-beams played on the snow with most wondrous beauty. After she had
reached her bed-chamber she was moved to look out once more. She took
off her boddice, but remained standing with it in her hand. Then she
felt that she was cold, closed the door hastily, undressed, and nestled
in under the robe. That night Margit dreamed about a great red cow that
had wandered into the field. She went to drive it out, but though she
tried hard, she could not stir from the spot; the cow stood calmly
grazing there until it grew plump and well fed, and every now and then
it looked at her, with large, heavy eyes.

The next time there was a dance in the parish Margit was present. She
cared little for dancing that evening; she kept her seat to listen to
the music, and it seemed strange to her that there were not others also
who preferred this. But when the evening had worn on, the fiddler arose
and wanted to dance. All at once he went directly to Margit Kampen. She
scarcely knew what she was about, but she danced with Nils the tailor.

Soon the weather grew warm, and there was no more dancing. That spring
Margit took such interest in a little lamb that had fallen ill, that her
mother almost thought she was overdoing it.

"It is only a little lamb," said the mother.

"Yes, but it is ill," replied Margit.

It was some time since she had been to church; she wished to have her
mother go, she said, and some one must be at home. One Sunday, later in
the summer, the weather was so fine that the hay could well be left out
for twenty-four hours, and the mother said that now they surely might
both go. Margit could not reasonably object to this, and got ready for
church; but when they were so far on their way that they could hear the
church-bells, she burst into tears. The mother grew deathly pale: but
they went on, the mother in advance, Margit following, listened to the
sermon, joined in all the hymns to the very last, followed the prayer,
and heard the bell ring before they left. But when they were seated in
the family-room at home again, the mother took Margit's face between her
hands and said:--

"Hide nothing from me, my child."

There came another winter when Margit did not dance. But Nils the tailor
fiddled, took more strong drink than ever, and always, toward the close
of the evening, swung the prettiest girl at the party. In those days, it
was told as a certain fact that he could marry whom he pleased among the
daughters of the first gard-owners in the parish; some added that Eli
Böen herself had courted him for her daughter Birgit, who was madly in
love with him.

But just at that time an infant of the houseman's daughter at Kampen was
brought to baptism; it was christened Arne, and tailor Nils was spoken
of as its father.

The evening of the same day Nils was at a large wedding; there he got
drunk. He would not play, but danced all the time, and scarcely brooked
having others on the floor. But when he crossed to Birgit Böen and asked
her to dance, she declined. He gave a short laugh, turned on his heel,
and caught hold of the first girl he encountered. She resisted. He
looked down; it was a little dark maiden who had been sitting gazing
fixedly at him, and who was now pale. Bowing lightly over her, he
whispered,--

"Will you not dance with _me_, Karen?"

She made no reply. He asked once more. Then she answered in a whisper,
as he had asked,--

"_That_ dance might go farther than I wished."

He drew slowly back, but once in the middle of the floor, he made a
spring and danced the halling[3] alone. No one else was dancing; the
others stood looking on in silence.

Afterwards he went out in the barn, and there he lay down and wept.
Margit kept at home with the little boy. She heard about Nils, how he
went from dance to dance, and she looked at the child and wept,--looked
at him again and was happy. The first thing she taught him was to say
papa; but this she dared not do when the mother, or the grandmother, as
she was henceforth called, chanced to be near. The result of this was
that it was the grandmother whom the boy called papa. It cost Margit
much to break him of this, and thus she fostered in him an early
shrewdness. He was not very large before he knew that Nils the tailor
was his father, and when he reached the age in which the romantic
acquires a flavor, he became also aware what sort of a man tailor Nils
was. The grandmother had strictly forbidden even the mention of his
name; what she mainly strove for was to have the houseman's place,
Kampen, become an independent gard, so that her daughter and her boy
might be free from care. She availed herself of the gard-owner's
poverty, effected the purchase of the place, paid off a portion of the
money each year, and managed the business like a man, for she had been a
widow for fourteen years. Kampen was a large place, and had been
extended until now it fed four cows, sixteen sheep, and a horse in which
she was half owner.

Nils the tailor meanwhile took to roving about the parish; his business
had fallen off, partly because he felt less interest in it, partly also
because he was not liked as before. He gave, therefore, more time to
fiddling; this led oftener to drinking and thence to fighting and evil
days. There were those who had heard him say he was unhappy.

Arne might have been about six years old, when one winter day he was
frolicking in the bed, whose coverlet he had up for a sail, while he was
steering with a ladle. The grandmother sat spinning in the room,
absorbed in her own thoughts, and nodded occasionally as though she
would make a fixed fact of something she was thinking about. The boy
knew that he was unheeded, and he fell to singing, just as he had
learned it, the rough, wild song about tailor Nils:--

    "Unless 'twas only yesterday hither first you came,
    You've surely heard already of Nils the tailor's fame.

    "Unless 'twas but this morning you came among us first,
    You've heard how he knocked over tall Johan Knutson Kirst.

    "How, in his famous barn-fight with Ola Stor-Johann,
    He said, 'Bring down your porridge when we two fight again.'

    "That fighting fellow, Bugge, a famous man was he:
    His name was known all over fjord and fell and sea.

    "'Now, choose the place, you tailor, where I shall knock you down,
    And then I'll spit upon it, and there I'll lay your crown.'

    "'Ah, only come so near, I may catch your scent, my man,
    Your bragging hurts nobody; don't dream it ever can.'

    "The first round was a poor one, and neither man could beat;
    But both kept in their places, and steady on their feet.

    "The second round, poor Bugge was beaten black and blue.
    'Little Bugge, are you tired? It's going hard with you.'

    "The third round, Bugge tumbled, and bleeding there he lay.
    'Now, Bugge, where's your bragging?' 'Bad luck to me to-day!'"[4]

More the boy did not sing; but there were two other stanzas which his
mother was not likely to have taught him:--

    "Have you seen a tree cast its shadow on yesterday's snow?
    Have you seen how Nils does his smiles on the girls bestow?

    "Have you looked at Nils when to dance he just commences?
    Come, my girl, you must go; it is too late, when you've lost
        your senses."

These two stanzas the grandmother knew, and they came all the more
distinctly into her mind because they were not sung. She said nothing to
the boy; but to the mother she said, "Teach the boy well about your own
shame; do not forget the last verses."

Nils the tailor was so broken down by drink that he was no longer the
man he had been, and some people thought his end could not be far
distant.

It so happened that two American gentlemen were visiting in the parish,
and having heard that a wedding was going on in the vicinity, wanted to
attend it, that they might learn the customs of the country. Nils was
playing there. They gave each a dollar to the fiddler, and asked for a
halling; but no one would come forward to dance it, however much it was
urged. Several begged Nils himself to dance. "He was best, after all,"
they said. He refused, but the request became still more urgent, and
finally unanimous. This was what he wanted. He gave his fiddle to
another player, took off his jacket and cap, and stepped smiling into
the middle of the room. He was followed by the same eager attention as
of old, and this gave him his old strength. The people crowded closely
together, those who were farthest back climbing upon tables and benches.
Some of the girls were perched up higher than all the rest, and foremost
among these--a tall girl with sunny brown hair of a varying tint, with
blue eyes deeply set beneath a strong forehead, a large mouth that often
smiled, drawing a little to one side as it did so--was Birgit Böen. Nils
saw her, as he glanced up at the beam. The music struck up, a deep
silence followed, and he began. He dashed forward along the floor, his
body inclining to one side, half aslant, keeping time to the fiddle.
Crouching down, he balanced himself, now on one foot, now on the other,
flung his legs crosswise under him, sprang up again, stood as though
about to make a fling, and then moved on aslant as before. The fiddle
was handled by skillful fingers, and more and more fire was thrown into
the tune. Nils threw his head farther and farther back, and suddenly his
boot-heel touched the beam, sending the dust from the ceiling in showers
over them all. The people laughed and shouted about him; the girls stood
well-nigh breathless. The tune hurrahed with the rest, stimulating him
anew with more and more strongly-marked accents, nor did he resist the
exciting influences. He bent forward, hopped along in time to the music,
made ready apparently for a fling, but only as a hoax, and then moved
on, his body aslant as before; and when he seemed the least prepared for
it, his boot-heel thundered against the beam again and again, whereupon
he turned summersaults forwards and backwards in the air, landing each
time erect on his feet. He broke off abruptly, and the tune, running
through some wild variations, worked its way down to a deep tone in the
bass, where it quivered and vibrated, and died away with a long-drawn
stroke of the bow. The crowd dispersed, and loud, eager conversation,
mingled with shouts and exclamations, broke the silence. Nils stood
leaning against the wall, and the American gentlemen went over to him,
with their interpreter, and each gave him five dollars.

The Americans talked a little with the interpreter, whereupon the latter
asked Nils if he would go with them as their servant; he should have
whatever wages he wanted. "Whither?" asked Nils. The people crowded
about them as closely as possible. "Out into the world," was the reply.
"When?" asked Nils, and looking around with a shining face, he caught
Birgit Böen's eyes, and did not let them go again. "In a week, when we
come back here," was the answer. "It is possible I will be ready,"
replied Nils, weighing his two five-dollar pieces. He had rested one arm
on the shoulder of a man standing near him, and it trembled so that the
man wanted to help him to the bench.

"It is nothing," replied Nils, made some wavering steps across the
floor, then some firm ones, and, turning, asked for a spring-dance.[5]

All the girls had come to the front. Casting a long, lingering look
about him, he went straightway to one of them in a dark skirt; it was
Birgit Böen. He held out his hand, and she gave him both of hers; then
he laughed, drew back, caught hold of the girl beside her, and danced
away with perfect abandon. The blood coursed up in Birgit's neck and
face. A tall man, with a mild countenance, was standing directly behind
her; he took her by the hand and danced off after Nils. The latter saw
this, and--it might have been only through heedlessness--he danced so
hard against them that the man and Birgit were sent reeling over and
fell heavily on the floor. Shouting and laughter arose about them.
Birgit got up at last, went aside, and wept bitterly.

The man with the mild face rose more slowly and went straight over to
Nils, who was still dancing. "You had better stop a little," said the
man. Nils did not hear, and then the man took him by the arm. Nils tore
himself away and looked at him. "I do not know you," said he, with a
smile. "No; but you shall learn to know me," said the man with the mild
face, and with this he struck Nils a blow over one eye. Nils, who was
wholly unprepared for this, was plunged heavily across the sharp-edged
hearth-stone, and when he promptly tried to rise, he found that he could
not; his back was broken.

At Kampen a change had taken place. The grandmother had been growing
very feeble of late, and when she realized this she strove harder than
ever to save money enough to pay off the last installment on the gard.
"Then you and the boy will have all you need," she said to her daughter.
"And if you let any one come in and waste it for you, I will turn in my
grave." During the autumn, too, she had the pleasure of being able to
stroll up to the former head-gard with the last remaining portion of the
debt, and happy was she when she had taken her seat again, and could
say, "Now that is done!" But at that very time she was attacked by her
last illness; she betook herself forthwith to her bed, and never rose
again. Her daughter buried her in a vacant spot in the churchyard, and
placed over her a handsome cross, whereon was inscribed her name and
age, with a verse from one of Kingo's[6] hymns. A fortnight after the
grandmother was laid in her grave, her Sunday gown was made over into
clothes for the boy, and when he put them on, he became as solemn as
though he were his grandmother come back again. Of his own accord, he
went to the book with big print and large clasps she had read and sung
from every Sunday, opened it, and there inside found her spectacles.
These the boy had never been permitted to touch during his grandmother's
lifetime; now he timidly took them up, put them on his nose, and looked
through them into the book. All was misty. "How strange," thought the
boy, "it was through them grandmother could read the word of God." He
held them high up toward the light to see what the matter was, and--the
spectacles lay on the floor.

He was much alarmed, and when the door at that moment opened, it seemed
to him as though his grandmother must be coming in, but it was his
mother, and behind her, six men, who, with much tramping and noise, were
bearing in a litter, which they placed in the middle of the floor. For a
long time the door was left open, so that it grew cold in the room.

On the litter lay a man with dark hair and pale face; the mother moved
about weeping. "Lay him carefully on the bed," she begged, herself
lending a helping hand. But while the men were moving with him,
something made a noise under their feet. "Oh, it is only grandmother's
spectacles," thought the boy, but he did not say so.



CHAPTER III.


It was in the autumn, as before stated. A week after Nils the tailor was
borne into Margit Kampen's home, there came word to him from the
Americans that he must hold himself in readiness to start. He lay just
then writhing under a terrible attack of pain, and, gnashing his teeth,
he shrieked, "Let them go to hell!" Margit stood motionless, as though
he had made no answer. He noticed this, and presently he repeated slowly
and feebly, "Let them--go."

As the winter advanced, he improved so much that he was able to sit up,
although his health was shattered for life. The first time he actually
sat up, he took out his fiddle and tuned it, but became so agitated that
he had to go to bed again. He grew very taciturn, but was not hard to
get along with; and as time wore on, he taught the boy to read, and
began to take work in at home. He never went out, and would not talk
with those who dropped in to see him. At first Margit used to bring him
the parish news; he was always gloomy afterwards, so she ceased to do
so.

When spring had fairly set in, he and Margit would sit longer than usual
talking together after the evening meal. The boy was then sent off to
bed. Some time later in the spring their bans were published in church,
after which they were quietly married.

He did his share of work in the fields now, and managed everything in a
sensible, orderly way. Margit said to the boy, "There is both profit
and pleasure in him. Now you must be obedient and good, that you may do
your best for him."

Margit had remained tolerably stout through all her sorrow; she had a
ruddy face and very large eyes, which looked all the larger because
there was a ring round them. She had full lips, a round face, and looked
healthy and strong, although she was not very strong. At this period of
her life, she was looking better than ever; and she always sang when she
was at work, as had ever been her wont.

One Sunday afternoon, father and son went out to see how the crops were
thriving that year. Arne ran about his father, shooting with a bow and
arrow. Nils had himself made them for the boy. Thus they passed on
directly up toward the road leading past the church and parsonage, down
to what was called the broad valley. Nils seated himself on a stone by
the roadside and fell to dreaming; the boy shot into the road and sprang
after his arrow,--it was in the direction of the church. "Not too far
away!" said the father. While the boy was playing there, he paused, as
though listening. "Father, I hear music!" The father listened too; they
heard the sounds of fiddling, almost drowned at times by loud shouts and
wild uproar; but above all rose the steady rumbling of cart-wheels and
the clatter of horses' feet; it was a bridal procession, wending its way
home from church. "Come here, boy," shouted the father, and Arne knew by
the tones of the voice that he must make haste. The father had hurriedly
risen and hidden behind a large tree. The boy hastened after him. "Not
here, over there!" cried the father, and the boy stepped behind an
alder-copse. Already the carts were winding round the birch-grove; they
came at a wild speed, the horses were white with foam, drunken people
were crying and shouting; father and son counted cart after cart,--there
were in all fourteen. In the first sat two fiddlers, and the wedding
march sounded merrily through the clear air,--a boy stood behind and
drove. Afterwards came a crowned bride, who sat on a high seat and
glittered in the sunshine; she smiled, and her mouth drew to one side;
beside her sat a man clad in blue and with a mild face. The bridal train
followed, the men sat on the women's laps; small boys were sitting
behind, drunken men were driving,--there were six people to one horse;
the man who presided at the feast came in the last cart, holding a keg
of brandy on his lap. They passed by screaming and singing, and drove
recklessly down the hill; the fiddling, the voices, the rattling of
wheels, lingered behind them in the dust; the breeze bore up single
shrieks, soon only a dull rumbling, and then nothing. Nils stood
motionless; there was a rustling behind him, he turned; it was the boy
who was creeping forward.

"Who was it, father?" But the boy started, for his father's face was
dreadful. Arne stood motionless waiting for an answer; then he remained
where he was because he got none. After some time he became impatient
and ventured again. "Shall we go?" Nils was still gazing after the
bridal train, but he now controlled himself and started on. Arne
followed after. He put an arrow into the bow, shot it, and ran. "Do not
trample down the grass," said Nils gruffly. The boy let the arrow lie
and came back. After a while he had forgotten this, and once when his
father paused, he lay down and turned summersaults. "Do not trample down
the grass, I say." Here Arne was seized by one arm, and lifted by it
with such violence that it was almost put out of joint. Afterward, he
walked quietly behind.

At the door Margit awaited them; she had just come in from the stable,
where she had evidently had pretty hard work, for her hair was tumbled,
her linen soiled, her dress likewise, but she stood in the door smiling.
"A couple of the cows got loose and have been into mischief; now they
are tied again."

"You might make yourself a little tidy on Sunday," said Nils, as he went
past into the house.

"Yes, there is some sense in tidying up now that the work is done," said
Margit, and followed him. She began to fix herself at once, and sang
while she was doing so. Now Margit sang well, but sometimes there was a
little huskiness in her voice.

"Stop that screaming," said Nils; he had thrown himself on his back
across the bed. Margit stopped.

Then the boy came storming in. "There has come into the yard a great
black dog, a dreadful looking"--

"Hold your tongue, boy," said Nils from the bed, and thrust out one foot
to stamp on the floor with it. "A devilish noise that boy is always
making," he muttered afterward, and drew his foot up again.

The mother held up a warning finger to the boy. "You surely must see
that father is not in a good humor," she meant. "Will you not have some
strong coffee with syrup in it?" said she; she wanted to put him in a
good humor again. This was a drink the grandmother had liked, and the
rest of them too. Nils did not like it at all, but had drunk it because
the others did so. "Will you not have some strong coffee with syrup in
it?" repeated Margit; for he had made no reply the first time. Nils
raised himself up on both elbows and shrieked, "Do you think I will pour
down such slops?"

Margit was struck with surprise, and, taking the boy with her, went out.

They had a number of things to attend to outside, and did not come in
before supper-time. Then Nils was gone. Arne was sent out into the field
to call him, but found him nowhere. They waited until the supper was
nearly cold, then ate, and still Nils had not come. Margit became
uneasy, sent the boy to bed, and sat down to wait. A little after
midnight Nils appeared.

"Where have you been, dear?" asked she.

"That is none of your business," he answered, and slowly sat down on the
bench.

He was drunk.

After this, Nils often went out in the parish, and always came home
drunk. "I cannot stand it at home here with you," said he once when he
came in. She tried gently to defend herself, and then he stamped on the
floor and bade her be silent: if he was drunk, it was her fault; if he
was wicked, it was her fault too; if he was a cripple and an unfortunate
being for his whole life, why, she was to blame too, and that infernal
boy of hers.

"Why were you always dangling after me?" said he, and wept. "What harm
had I done you that you could not leave me in peace?"

"Lord have mercy on me!" said Margit. "Was it I who went after you?"

"Yes, it was!" he shrieked as he arose, and amid tears he continued:
"You have succeeded in getting what you wanted. I drag myself about from
tree to tree. I go every day and look at my own grave. But I could have
lived in splendor with the finest gard girl in the parish. I might have
traveled as far as the sun goes, had not you and your damned boy put
yourselves in my way."

She tried again to defend herself. "It was, at all events, not the boy's
fault."

"If you do not hold your tongue, I will strike you!"--and he struck her.

After he had slept himself sober the next day, he was ashamed, and was
especially kind to the boy. But soon he was drunk again, and then he
struck the mother. At last he got to striking her almost every time he
was drunk. The boy cried and lamented; then he struck him too. Sometimes
his repentance was so deep that he felt compelled to leave the house.
About this time his fondness for dancing revived. He began to go about
fiddling as in former days, and took the boy with him to carry the
fiddle-case. Thus Arne saw a great deal. The mother wept because he had
to go along, but dared not say so to the father. "Hold faithfully to
God, and learn nothing evil," she begged, and tenderly caressed her boy.
But at the dances there was a great deal of diversion; at home with the
mother there was none at all. Arne turned more and more from her and to
the father; she saw this and was silent. At the dances Arne learned many
songs, and he sang them at home to his father; this amused the latter,
and now and then the boy could even get him to laugh. This was so
flattering to Arne that he exerted himself to learn as many songs as
possible; soon he noticed what kind the father liked best, and what it
was that made him laugh. When there was not enough of this element in
the songs he was singing, the boy added to it himself, and this early
gave him practice in adapting words to music. It was chiefly lampoons
and odious things about people who had risen to power and prosperity,
that the father liked and the boy sang.

The mother finally concluded to take him with her to the stable of
evenings; numerous were the pretexts he found to escape going, but when,
nevertheless, she managed to take him with her, she talked kindly to him
about God and good things, usually ending by taking him in her arms,
and, amid blinding tears, begging him, entreating him not to become a
bad man.

The mother taught the boy to read, and he was surprisingly quick at
learning. The father was proud of this, and, especially when he was
drunk, told Arne he had his head.

Soon the father fell into the habit, when drink got the better of him,
of calling on Arne at dancing-parties to sing for the people. The boy
always obeyed, singing song after song amid laughter and uproar; the
applause pleased the son almost more than it did the father, and finally
there was no end to the songs Arne could sing. Anxious mothers who heard
this, went themselves to his mother and told her of it; their reason for
so doing being that the character of these songs was not what it should
be. The mother put her arms about her boy and forbade him, in the name
of God and all that was sacred, to sing such songs, and now it seemed to
Arne that everything he took delight in his mother opposed. For the
first time he told his father what his mother had said. She had to
suffer for this the next time the father was drunk; he held his peace
until then. But no sooner had it become clear to the boy what he had
done than in his soul he implored pardon of God and her; he could not
bring himself to do so in spoken words. His mother was just as kind as
ever to him, and this cut him to the quick.

Once, however, he forgot this. He had a faculty for mimicking people.
Above all, he could talk and sing as others did. The mother came in one
evening when Arne was entertaining his father with this, and it occurred
to the father, after she had gone out, that the boy should imitate his
mother's singing. Arne refused at first, but his father, who lay over on
the bed and laughed until it shook, insisted finally that he should sing
like his mother. She is gone, thought the boy, and cannot hear it, and
he mimicked her singing as it sounded sometimes when she was hoarse and
choked with tears. The father laughed until it seemed almost hideous to
the boy, and he stopped of himself. Just then the mother came in from
the kitchen; she looked long and hard at the boy, as she crossed the
floor to a shelf after a milk-pan and turned to carry it out.

A burning heat ran through his whole body; she had heard it all. He
sprang down from the table where he had been sitting, went out, cast
himself on the ground, and it seemed as though he must bury himself out
of sight. He could not rest, and got up feeling that he must go farther
on. He went past the barn, and behind it sat the mother, sewing on a
fine, new shirt, just for him. She had always been in the habit of
singing a hymn over her work when she sat sewing, but now she was not
singing. She was not weeping, either; she only sat and sewed. Arne could
bear it no longer he flung himself down in the grass directly in front
of her, looked up at her, and wept and sobbed bitterly. The mother
dropped her work and took his head between her hands.

"Poor Arne!" said she, and laid her own beside his. He did not try to
say a word, but wept as he had never done before. "I knew you were good
at heart," said the mother, and stroked down his hair.

"Mother, you must not say no to what I am going to ask for," was the
first thing he could say.

"That you know I cannot do," answered she.

He tried to stop crying, and then stammered out, with his head still in
her lap: "Mother, sing something for me."

"My dear, I cannot," said she, softly.

"Mother, sing something for me," begged the boy, "or I believe I will
never be able to look at you again."

She stroked his hair, but was silent.

"Mother, sing, sing, I say! Sing," he begged, "or I will go so far away
that I will never come home any more."

And while he, now fourteen in his fifteenth year as he was, lay there
with his head in his mother's lap, she began to sing over him:--

    "Father, stretch forth Thy mighty hand,
      Thy Holy Spirit send yonder:
    Bless Thou the child on the lonely strand,
      Nor in its sports let it wander.
    Slipp'ry the way, the water deep,--
    Lord, in Thy arm but the darling keep,
    Then through Thy mercy 't will never
    Drown, but with Thee live forever.

    "Missing her child, in disquiet sore,
      Much for its safety fearing,
    Often the mother calls from her door,
      Never an answer hearing,--
    Then comes the thought: where'er it be,
    Blessed Lord, it is near to Thee;
    Jesus will guide his brother
    Home to the anxious mother."[7]

She sang several verses. Arne lay still: there descended upon him a
blessed peace, and under its influence he felt a refreshing weariness.
The last thing he distinctly heard was about Jesus: it bore him into the
midst of a great light, and there it seemed as though twelve or thirteen
were singing; but the mother's voice rose above them all. A lovelier
voice he had never heard; he prayed that he might sing thus. It seemed
to him that if he were to sing right softly he might do so; and now he
sang softly, tried again softly, and still more softly, and then,
rejoiced at the bliss that seemed almost dawning for him, he joined in
with full voice, and the spell was broken. He awakened, looked about
him, listened, but heard nothing, save the everlasting, mighty roar of
the force, and the little creek that flowed past the barn, with its low
and incessant murmuring. The mother was gone,--she had laid under his
head the half-finished shirt and her jacket.



CHAPTER IV.


When the time came to take the herds up into the woods, Arne wanted to
tend them. His father objected; the boy had never tended cattle, and he
was now in his fifteenth year. But he was so urgent that it was finally
arranged as he wished; and the entire spring, summer, and autumn he was
in the woods by himself the livelong day, only going home to sleep.

He took his books up there with him. He read and carved letters in the
bark of the trees; he went about thinking, longing, and singing. When he
came home in the evening his father was often drunk, and beat the
mother, cursed her and the parish, and talked about how he might once
have journeyed far away. Then the longing for travel entered the boy's
mind too. There was no comfort at home, and the books opened other
worlds to him; sometimes it seemed as though the air, too, wafted him
far away over the lofty mountains.

So it happened about midsummer that he met Kristian, the captain's
eldest son, who came with the servant boy to the woods after the horses,
in order to get a ride home. He was a few years older than Arne,
light-hearted and gay, unstable in all his thoughts, but nevertheless
firm in his resolves. He spoke rapidly and in broken sentences, and
usually about two things at once; rode horseback without a saddle, shot
birds on the wing, went fly-fishing, and seemed to Arne the goal of his
aspirations. He also had his head full of travel, and told Arne about
foreign lands until everything about them was radiant. He discovered
Arne's fondness for reading, and now carried up to him those books he
had read himself. After Arne had finished reading these, Kristian
brought him new ones; he sat there himself on Sundays, and taught Arne
how to find his way in the geography and the map; and all summer and
autumn Arne read until he grew pale and thin.

In the winter he was allowed to read at home; partly because he was to
be confirmed the next year, partly because he always knew how to manage
his father. He began to go to school; but there he took most comfort
when he closed his eyes and fancied himself over his books at home;
besides, there were no longer any companions for him among the peasant
boys.

His father's ill-treatment of the mother increased with years, as did
also his fondness for drink and his bodily suffering. And when Arne,
notwithstanding this, had to sit and amuse him, in order to furnish the
mother with an hour's peace, and then often talk of things he now, in
his heart, despised, he felt growing within him a hatred for his father.
This he hid far down in his heart, as he did his love for his mother.
When he was with Kristian, their talk ran on great journeys and books;
even to him he said nothing about how things were at home. But many
times after these wide-ranging talks, when he was walking home alone,
wondering what might now meet him there, he wept and prayed to God, in
the starry heavens, to grant that he might soon be allowed to go away.

In the summer he and Kristian were confirmed. Directly afterward, the
latter carried out his plan. His father had to let him go from home and
become a sailor. He presented Arne with his books, promised to write
often to him,--and went away.

Now Arne was alone.

About this time he was again filled with a desire to write songs. He no
longer patched up old ones; he made new ones, and wove into them all
that grieved him most.

But his heart grew too heavy, and his sorrow broke forth in his songs.
He now lay through long, sleepless nights, brooding, until he felt sure
that he could bear this no longer, but must journey far away, seek
Kristian, and not say a word about it to any one. He thought of his
mother, and what would become of her,--and he could scarcely look her in
the face.

He sat up late one evening reading. When his heart became too gloomy, he
took refuge in his books, and did not perceive that they increased the
venom. His father was at a wedding, but was expected home that evening;
his mother was tired, and dreaded her husband's return; had therefore
gone to bed. Arne started up at the sound of a heavy fall in the passage
and the rattling of something hard, which struck against the door. It
was his father who had come home.

Arne opened the door and looked at him.

"Is that you, my clever boy? Come and help your father up!"

He was raised up and helped in toward the bench. Arne took up the
fiddle-case, carried it in, and closed the door.

"Yes, look at me, you clever boy. I am not handsome now; this is no
longer tailor Nils. This I say--to you, that you--never shall drink
brandy; it is--the world and the flesh and the devil--He resisteth the
proud but giveth grace unto the humble.--Ah, woe, woe is me!--How far it
has gone with me!"

He sat still a while, then he sang, weeping,--

    "Merciful Lord, I come to Thee;
    Help, if there can be help for me;
    Though by the mire of sin defiled,
    I'm still thine own dear ransomed child."[8]

"Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldest come under my roof; but speak
the word only"--He flung himself down, hid his face in his hands, and
sobbed convulsively. Long he lay thus, and then he repeated word for
word from the Bible, as he had learned it probably more than twenty
years before: "Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, Lord, help me!
But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread,
and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord, yet the dogs eat of
the crumbs which fall from their master's table!"

He was silent now, and dissolved in a flood of tears.

The mother had awakened long since, but had not dared raise her eyes,
now that her husband was weeping like one who is saved; she leaned on
her elbows and looked up.

But scarcely had Nils descried her, than he shrieked out: "Are you
staring at me; you, too?--you want to see, I suppose, what you have
brought me to. Aye, this is the way I look, exactly so!" He rose up,
and she hid herself under the robe. "No, do not hide, I will find you
easily enough," said he, extending his right hand, and groping his way
along with outstretched forefinger. "Tickle, tickle!" said he, as he
drew off the covers and placed his finger on her throat.

"Father!" said Arne.

"Oh dear! how shriveled up and thin you have grown. There is not much
flesh here. Tickle, tickle."

The mother convulsively seized his hand with both of hers, but could not
free herself, and so rolled herself into a ball.

"Father!" said Arne.

"So life has come into you now. How she writhes, the fright! Tickle,
tickle!"

"Father!" said Arne. The room seemed to swim about him.

"Tickle, I say!"

She let go his hands and gave up.

"Father!" shouted Arne. He sprang to the corner, where stood an axe.

"It is only from obstinacy that you do not scream. You had better not do
so either; I have taken such a frightful fancy. Tickle, tickle!"

"Father!" shrieked Arne, seizing the axe, but remained standing as
though nailed to the spot, for at that moment the father drew himself
up, gave a piercing cry, clutched at his breast, and fell over. "Jesus
Christ!" said he, and lay quite still.

Arne knew not where he stood or what he stood over; he waited, as it
were, for the room to burst asunder, and for a strong light to break in
somewhere. The mother began to draw her breath heavily, as though she
were rolling off some great weight. She finally half rose, and saw the
father lying stretched out on the floor, the son standing beside him
with an axe.

"Merciful Lord, what have you done?" she shrieked, and started up out of
bed, threw her skirt about her, and came nearer; then Arne felt as if
his tongue were unloosed.

"He fell down himself," said he.

"Arne, Arne, I do not believe you," cried the mother, in a loud,
rebuking tone. "Now Jesus be with you!" and she flung herself over the
corpse, with piteous lamentation.

Now the boy came out of his stupor, and dropping down on his knees,
exclaimed, "As surely as I look for mercy from God, he fell as he stood
there."

"Then our Lord himself has been here," said she, quietly; and, sitting
on the floor, she fixed her eyes on the corpse.

Nils lay precisely as he fell, stiff, with open eyes and mouth. His
hands had drawn near together, as though he had tried to clasp them, but
had been unable to do so.

"Take hold of your father, you are so strong, and help me lay him on the
bed."

And they took hold of him and laid him on the bed. Margit closed his
eyes and mouth, stretched him out and folded his hands.

Mother and son stood and looked at him. All they had experienced until
then neither seemed so long nor contained so much as this moment. If the
devil himself had been there, the Lord had been there also; the
encounter had been short. All the past was now settled.

It was a little after midnight, and they had to be there with the dead
man until day dawned. Arne crossed the floor, and made a great fire on
the hearth, the mother sat down by it. And now, as she sat there, it
rushed through her mind how many evil days she had had with Nils; and
then she thanked God, in a loud, fervent prayer, for what He had done.
"But I have truly had some good days also," said she, and wept as
though she regretted her recent thankfulness; and it ended in her
taking the greatest blame on herself who had acted contrary to God's
commandment, out of love for the departed one, had been disobedient to
her mother, and therefore had been punished through this sinful love.

Arne sat down directly opposite her. The mother's eyes were fixed on the
bed.

"Arne, you must remember that it was for your sake I bore it all," and
she wept, yearning for a loving word in order to gain a support against
her own self-accusations, and comfort for all coming time. The boy
trembled and could not answer. "You must never leave me," sobbed she.

Then it came suddenly to his mind what she had been, in all this time of
sorrow, and how boundless would be her desolation should he, as a reward
for her great fidelity, forsake her now.

"Never, never!" he whispered, longing to go to her, yet unable to do
so.

They kept their seats, but their tears flowed freely together. She
prayed aloud, now for the dead man, now for herself and her boy; and
thus, amid prayers and tears, the time passed. Finally she said:--

"Arne, you have such a fine voice, you must sit over by the bed and sing
for your father."

And it seemed as though strength was forthwith given him to do so. He
got up, and went to fetch a hymn-book, then lit a torch, and with the
torch in one hand, the hymn-book in the other, he sat down at the head
of the bed and, in a clear voice, sang Kingo's one hundred and
twenty-seventh hymn:--

    "Turn from us, gracious Lord, thy dire displeasure!
    Let not thy bloody rod, beyond all measure,
    Chasten thy children, laden with sore oppressions,
      For our transgressions."[9]



CHAPTER V.


Arne became habitually silent and shy. He tended cattle and made songs.
He passed his nineteenth birthday, and still he kept on tending cattle.
He borrowed books from the priest and read; but he took interest in
nothing else.

The priest sent word to him one day that he had better become a
school-master, "because the parish ought to derive benefit from your
talents and knowledge." Arne made no reply to this; but the next day,
while driving the sheep before him, he made the following song:--

    "Oh, my pet lamb, lift your head,
    Though the stoniest path you tread,
    Over the mountains lonely,
    Still your bells follow only.

    "Oh, my pet lamb, walk with care,
    Lest you spoil all your wool beware,
    Mother must soon be sewing
    Skins for the summer's going.

    "Oh, my pet lamb, try to grow
    Fat and fine wheresoe'er you go!
    Know you not, little sweeting,
    A spring lamb is dainty eating!"[10]

One day in his twentieth year Arne chanced to overhear a conversation
between his mother and the wife of the former gard owner; they were
disputing about the horse they owned in common.

"I must wait to hear what Arne says," remarked the mother.

"That lazy fellow!" was the reply. "He would like, I dare say, to have
the horse go ranging about the woods as he does himself."

The mother was now silent, although before she had been arguing her own
case well.

Arne turned as red as fire. It had not occurred to him before that his
mother might have to listen to taunting words for his sake, and yet
perhaps she had often been obliged to do so. Why had she not told him of
this?

He considered the matter well, and now it struck him that his mother
scarcely ever talked with him. But neither did he talk with her. With
whom did he talk, after all?

Often on Sunday, when he sat quietly at home, he felt a desire to read
sermons to his mother, whose eyes were poor; she had wept too much in
her day. But he did not have the courage to do so. Many times he had
wanted to offer to read aloud to her from his own books, when all was
still in the house, and he thought the time must hang heavily on her
hands. But his courage failed him for this too.

"It cannot matter much. I must give up tending the herds, and move down
to mother."

He let several days pass, and became firm in his resolve. Then he drove
the cattle far around in the wood, and made the following song:--

    "The vale is full of trouble, but here sweet Peace may reign;
    Within this quiet forest no bailiffs may distrain;
    None fight, as in the vale, in the Blessed Church's name,
    Yet if a church were here, it would no doubt be just the same.

    "How peaceful is the forest:--true, the hawk is far from kind,
    I fear he now is striving the plumpest sparrow to find;
    I fear yon eagle's coming to rob the kid of breath,
    And yet perchance if long it lived, it might be tired to death.

    "The woodman fells one tree, and another rots away,
    The red fox killed the lambkin white at sunset yesterday;
    The wolf, though, killed the fox, and the wolf itself must die,
    For Arne shot him down to-day before the dew was dry.

    "I'll hie me to the valley back--the forest is as bad;
    And I must see to take good heed, lest thinking drive me mad.
    I saw a boy in my dreams, though where I cannot tell--
    But I know he had killed his father--I think it was in Hell."[11]

He came home and told his mother that she might send out in the parish
after another herd-boy; he wanted to manage the gard himself. Thus it
was arranged; but the mother was always after him with warnings not to
overtax himself with work. She used also to prepare such good meals for
him at this time that he often felt ashamed; but he said nothing.

He was working at a song, the refrain of which was "Over the lofty
mountains." He never succeeded in finishing it, and this was chiefly
because he wanted to have the refrain in every other line; finally he
gave it up.

But many of the songs he made got out among the people, where they were
well liked; there were those who wished very much to talk with him,
especially as they had known him from boyhood up. But Arne was shy of
all whom he did not know, and thought ill of them, chiefly because he
believed they thought ill of him.

His constant companion in the fields was a middle-aged man, called
Upland Knut, who had a habit of singing over his work; but he always
sang the same song. After listening to this for a few months, Arne was
moved to ask him if he did not know any others.

"No," was the man's reply.

Then after the lapse of several days, once when Knut was singing his
song, Arne asked:

"How did you chance to learn this _one_?"

"Oh, it just happened so," said the man.

Arne went straight from him into the house; but there sat his mother
weeping, a sight he had not seen since his father's death. He pretended
not to notice her, and went toward the door again; but he felt his
mother looking sorrowfully after him again and he had to stop.

"What are you crying for, mother?"

For a while his words were the only sound in the room, and therefore
they came back to him again and again, so often that he felt they had
not been said gently enough. He asked once more:--

"What are you crying for?"

"Oh, I am sure I do not know;" but now she wept harder than ever.

He waited a long time, then was forced to say, as courageously as he
could:--

"There must be something you are crying about!"

Again there was silence. He felt very guilty, although _she_ had said
nothing, and _he_ knew nothing.

"It just happened so," said the mother. Presently she added, "I am after
all most fortunate," and then she wept.

But Arne hastened out, and he felt drawn toward the Kamp gorge. He sat
down to look into it, and while he was sitting there, he too wept. "If I
only knew what I was crying for," mused Arne.

Above him, in the new-plowed field, Upland Knut was singing his song:--

    "Ingerid Sletten of Willow-pool
      Had no costly trinkets to wear;
      But a cap she had that was far more fair,
    Although it was only of wool.

    "It had no trimming, and now was old,
      But her mother who long had gone
      Had given it her, and so it shone
    To Ingerid more than gold.

    "For twenty years she laid it aside,
      That it might not be worn away;
      'My cap I'll wear on that blissful day
    When I shall become a bride.'

    "For thirty years she laid it aside
      Lest the colors might fade away.
      'My cap I'll wear when to God I pray
    A happy and grateful bride.'

    "For forty years she laid it aside,
      Still holding her mother as dear;
      'My little cap, I certainly fear
    I never shall be a bride.'

    "She went to look for the cap one day
      In the chest where it long had lain;
      But ah! her looking was all in vain,--
    The cap had moldered away."[12]

Arne sat and listened as though the words had been music far away up the
slope. He went up to Knut.

"Have you a mother?" asked he.

"No."

"Have you a father?"

"Oh, no; I have no father."

"Is it long since they died?"

"Oh, yes; it is long since."

"You have not many, I dare say, who care for you?"

"Oh, no; not many."

"Have you any one here?"

"No, not here."

"But yonder in your native parish?"

"Oh, no; not there either."

"Have you not any one at all who cares for you?"

"Oh, no; I have not."

But Arne went from him loving his own mother so intensely that it seemed
as though his heart would break; and he felt, as it were, a blissful
light over him. "Thou Heavenly Father," thought he, "Thou hast given her
to me, and such unspeakable love with the gift, and I put this away from
me; and one day when I want it, she will be perhaps no more!" He felt a
desire to go to her, if for nothing else only to look at her. But on the
way, it suddenly occurred to him: "Perhaps because you did not
appreciate her you may soon have to endure the grief of losing her!" He
stood still at once. "Almighty God! what then would become of me?"

He felt as though some calamity must be happening at home. He hastened
toward the house; cold sweat stood on his brow; his feet scarcely
touched the ground. He tore open the passage door, but within the whole
atmosphere was at once filled with peace. He softly opened the door into
the family-room. The mother had gone to bed, the moon shone full in her
face, and she lay sleeping calmly as a child.



CHAPTER VI.


Some days after this, mother and son, who of late had been more
together, agreed to be present at the wedding of some relatives at a
neighboring gard. The mother had not been to any party since she was a
girl.

They knew few people at the wedding, save by name, and Arne thought it
especially strange that everybody stared at him wherever he went.

Once some words were spoken behind him in the passage; he was not sure,
but he fancied he understood them, and every drop of blood rushed into
his face whenever he thought of them.

He could not keep his eyes off the man who had spoken these words;
finally, he took a seat beside him. But as he drew up to the table he
thought the conversation took another turn.

"Well, now I am going to tell you a story, which proves that nothing can
be buried so deep down in night that it will not find its way into
daylight," said the man, and Arne was sure he looked at _him_. He was an
ill-favored man, with thin, red hair encircling a great, round brow.
Beneath were a pair of very small eyes and a little bottle-shaped nose;
but the mouth was very large, with very pale, out-turned lips. When he
laughed, he showed his gums. His hands lay on the table: they were
clumsy and coarse, but the wrists were slender. He looked sharp and
talked fast, but with much effort. People nicknamed him the
Rattle-tongue, and Arne knew that tailor Nils had dealt roughly with him
in the old days.

"Yes, there is a great deal of wickedness in this world; it comes nearer
home to us than we think. But no matter; you shall hear now of an ugly
deed. Those who are old remember Alf, Scrip Alf. 'Sure to come back!'
said Alf; that saying comes from him; for when he had struck a
bargain--and he could trade, that fellow!--he flung his scrip on his
back. 'Sure to come back,' said Alf. A devilish good fellow, fine
fellow, splendid fellow, this Alf, Scrip Alf!

"Well, there was Alf and Big Lazy-bones--aye, you knew Big
Lazy-bones?--he was big and he was lazy too. He looked too long at a
shining black horse Scrip Alf drove and had trained to spring like a
summer frog. And before Big Lazy-bones knew what he was about, he had
given fifty dollars for the nag Big Lazy-bones mounted a carriole,[13]
as large as life, to drive like a king with his fifty-dollar horse; but
now he might lash and swear until the gard was all in a smoke; the horse
ran, for all that, against all the doors and walls that were in the way;
he was stone blind.

"Afterwards, Alf and Big Lazy-bones fell to quarreling about this horse
all through the parish, just like a couple of dogs. Big Lazy-bones
wanted his money back; but you may believe he never got so much as two
Danish shillings. Scrip Alf thrashed him until the hair flew. 'Sure to
come back,' said Alf. Devilish good fellow, fine fellow, splendid
fellow, this Alf--Scrip Alf.

"Well, then, some years passed by without his being heard of again.

"It might have been ten years later that he was published on the church
hill;[14] there had been left to him a tremendous fortune. Big
Lazy-bones was standing by. 'I knew very well,' said he, 'that it was
money that was crying for Scrip Alf, and not people.'

"Now there was a great deal of gossip about Alf; and out of it all was
gathered that he had been seen last on this side of Rören, and not on
the other. Yes, you remember the Rören road--the old road?

"But Big Lazy-bones had succeeded in rising to great power and splendor,
owning both farm and complete outfit.

"Moreover, he had professed great piety, and everybody knew he did not
become pious for nothing--any more than other folks do. People began to
talk about it.

"It was at this time that the Rören road was to be changed, old-time
folks wanted to go straight ahead, and so it went directly over Rören;
but we like things level, and so the road now runs down by the river.
There was a mining and a blasting, until one might have expected Rören
to come tumbling down. All sorts of officials came there, but the
amtmand[15] oftenest of all, for he was allowed double mileage. And now,
one day while they were digging down among the rocks, some one went to
pick up a stone, but got hold of a hand that was sticking out of the
rocks, and so strong was this hand that it sent the man who took hold of
it reeling backwards. Now he who found this hand was Big Lazy-bones. The
lensmand[16] was sauntering about there, he was called, and the skeleton
of a whole man was dug out. The doctor was sent for too; he put the
bones so skillfully together that now only the flesh was wanting. But
people claimed that this skeleton was precisely the same size as Scrip
Alf. 'Sure to come back!' said Alf.

"Every one thought it most strange that a dead hand could upset a fellow
like Big Lazy-bones, even when it did not strike at all. The lensmand
talked seriously to him about it,--of course when no one was by to hear.
But then Big Lazy-bones swore until everything grew black about the
lensmand.

"'Well, well,' said the lensmand, 'if you had nothing to do with this,
you are just the fellow to go to bed with the skeleton to-night; hey?'
'To be sure I am,' replied Big Lazy-bones. And now the doctor jointed
the bones firmly together, and placed the skeleton in one of the beds of
the barracks. In the other Big Lazy-bones was to sleep, but the lensmand
laid down in his gown, close up to the wall. When it grew dark and Big
Lazy-bones had to go in to his bed-fellow, it just seemed as though the
door shut of itself, and he stood in the dark. But Big Lazy-bones fell
to singing hymns, for he had a strong voice. 'Why are you singing
hymns?' asked the lensmand, outside of the wall. 'No one knows whether
he has had the chorister,' answered Big Lazy-bones. Afterward he fell to
praying with all his might. 'Why are you praying?' asked the lensmand,
outside of the wall. 'He has no doubt been a great sinner,' answered Big
Lazy-bones. Then for a long time all was still, and it really seemed as
though the lensmand must be sleeping. Then there was a shriek that made
the barracks shake. 'Sure to come back!' An infernal noise and uproar
arose: 'Hand over those fifty dollars of mine!' bellowed Big
Lazy-bones, and there followed a screaming and a wrestling; the
lensmand flung open the door, people rushed in with sticks and stones,
and there lay Big Lazy-bones in the middle of the floor, and on him was
the skeleton."

It was very still around the table. Finally a man who was about to light
his clay pipe, said:--

"He surely went mad after that day."

"He did."

Arne felt every one looking at him, and therefore he could not raise his
eyes.

"It is, as I have said," put in the first speaker; "nothing can be
buried so deep down in night that it will not find its way into
daylight!"

"Well, now I will tell about a son who beat his own father," said a
fair, heavily-built man, with a round face. Arne knew not where he was
sitting.

"It was a bully of a powerful race, over in Hardanger; he was the ruin
of many people. His father and he disagreed about the yearly allowance,
and the result of this was that the man had no peace at home or in the
parish.

"Owing to this he grew more and more wicked, and his father took him to
task. 'I will take rebuke from no one,' said the son. 'From me you shall
take it as long as I live,' said the father. 'If you do not hold your
tongue I will beat you,' said the son, and sprang to his feet. 'Aye, do
so if you dare, and you will never prosper in the world,' answered the
father, as he too rose. 'Do you think so?'--and the son rushed at him
and knocked him down. But the father did not resist; he crossed his arms
and let his son do as he chose with him.

"The son beat him, seized hold of him and dragged him to the door. 'I
will have peace in the house!' But when they came to the door, the
father raised himself up. 'Not farther than to the door,' said he, 'for
so far I dragged my own father.' The son paid no heed to this, but
dragged his head across the threshold. 'Not farther than to the door, I
say!' Here the old man flung his son down at his feet, and chastised
him, just as though he were a child."

"That was badly done," said several.

"Did not strike his father, though," Arne thought some one said; but he
was not sure of it.

"Now I shall tell _you_ something," said Arne, rising up, as pale as
death, not knowing what he was going to say. He only saw the words
floating about him like great snow-flakes. "I will make a grasp at them
hap-hazard!" and he began.

"A troll met a boy who was walking along a road crying. 'Of whom are you
most afraid?' said the troll, 'of yourself, or of others?' But the boy
was crying, because he had dreamed in the night that he had been forced
to kill his wicked father, and so he answered, 'I am most afraid of
myself.' 'Then be at peace with yourself, and never cry any more; for
hereafter you shall only be at war with others.' And the troll went his
way. But the first person the boy met laughed at him, and so the boy had
to laugh back again. The next person he met struck him; the boy had to
defend himself, and struck back. The third person he met tried to kill
him, and so the boy had to take his life. Then everybody said hard
things about him, and therefore he knew only hard things to say of
everybody. They locked their cupboards and doors against him, so he had
to steal his way to what he needed; he even had to steal his night's
rest. Since they would not let him do anything good, he had to do
something bad. Then the parish said, 'We must get rid of this boy; he is
so bad'; and one fine day they put him out of the way. But the boy had
not the least idea that he had done anything wicked, and so after death
he came strolling right into the presence of the Lord. There on a bench
sat the father he had not slain, and right opposite, on another bench,
sat all those who had forced him to do wrong.

"'Which bench are you afraid of?' asked the Lord, and the boy pointed to
the long one.

"'Sit down there, beside your father,' said the Lord, and the boy turned
to do so.

"Then the father fell from the bench, with a great gash in his neck. In
his place there came one in the likeness of the boy, with repentant
countenance and ghastly features; then another with drunken face and
drooping form; still another with the face of a madman, with tattered
clothes and with hideous laughter.

"'Thus it might have been with you,' said the Lord.

"'Can that really be?' replied the boy, touching the hem of the Lord's
garment.

"Then both benches fell down from heaven, and the boy stood beside the
Lord again and laughed.

"'Remember this when you awaken,' said the Lord, and at that moment the
boy awoke.

"Now the boy who dreamed thus is I, and they who tempted him by thinking
him wicked are you. I no longer fear myself, but I am afraid of you. Do
not stir up my evil passions, for it is doubtful whether I may get hold
of the Lord's garment."

He rushed out, and the men looked at each other.



CHAPTER VII.


It was the next day, in the barn of the same gard. Arne had been drunk
for the first time in his life, was ill in consequence of it, and had
been lying in the barn almost twenty-four hours. Now, turning over, he
had propped himself up on his elbows, and thus talked with himself:--

"Everything I look at becomes cowardice. That I did not run away when I
was a boy, was cowardice; that I listened to father rather than to
mother, was cowardice; that I sang those wicked songs for him was
cowardice; I became a herd-boy, that was from cowardice;--I took to
reading--oh, yes! that was from cowardice, too; I wanted to hide away
from myself. Even after I was grown up, I did not help mother against
father--cowardice; that I did not that night--ugh!--cowardice! I should
most likely have waited until _she_ was killed. I could not stand it at
home after that--cowardice; neither did I go my way--cowardice; I did
nothing, I tended cattle--cowardice. To be sure, I had promised mother
to stay with her; but I should actually have been cowardly enough to
break the promise, had I not been afraid to mingle with people. For I am
afraid of people chiefly because I believe they see how bad I am. And it
is fear of people makes me speak ill of them--cursed cowardice! I make
rhymes from cowardice. I dare not think in a straightforward manner
about my own affairs, and so I turn to those of others--and that is to
be a poet.

"I should have sat down and cried until the hills were turned into
water, that is what I should have done; but instead I say: 'Hush, hush!'
and set myself to rocking. And even my songs are cowardly; for were they
courageous they would be better. I am afraid of strong thoughts; afraid
of everything that is strong; if I do rise up to strength, it is in a
frenzy, and frenzy is cowardice. I am more clever, more capable, better
informed than I seem to be. I am better than my words; but through
cowardice I dare not be what I am. Fy! I drank brandy from cowardice; I
wanted to deaden the pain! Fy! it hurt. I drank, nevertheless; drank,
nevertheless; drank my father's heart's blood, and yet I drank! The fact
is, my cowardice is beyond all bounds; but the most cowardly thing of
all is that I can sit here and say all this to myself.

"Kill myself? Pooh! For that I am too cowardly. And then I believe in
God,--yes, I believe in God. I long to go to Him; but cowardice keeps me
from Him. From so great a change a cowardly person winces. But what if I
tried as well as I am able? Almighty God! What if I tried? I might find
a cure that even my milksop nature could bear; for I have no bone in me
any longer, nor gristle; only something fluid, slush.... What if I
tried, with good, mild books,--I am afraid of the strong ones,--with
pleasant stories and legends, all such as are mild; and then a sermon
every Sunday and a prayer every evening, and regular work, that religion
may find fruitful soil; it cannot do so amid slothfulness. What if I
tried, dear, gentle God of my childhood,--what if I tried?"

But some one opened the barn-door, and hurried across the floor, pale as
death, although drops of sweat rolled down the face. It was Arne's
mother. It was the second day she had been seeking for her son. She
called his name but did not pause to listen; only called and rushed
about, till he answered from the hay-mow, where he was lying. She gave a
loud shriek, sprang to the mow more lightly than a boy, and threw
herself upon him.

"Arne, Arne, are you here? So I have really found you. I have been
looking for you since yesterday; I have searched the whole night! Poor,
poor Arne! I saw they had wounded you. I wanted so much to talk with you
and comfort you; but then I never dare talk with you! Arne, I saw you
drink! O God Almighty! let me never see it again!"

It was long before she could say more. "Jesus have mercy on you, my
child; I saw you drink! Suddenly you were gone, drunk and crushed with
grief as you were, and I ran around to all the houses. I went far out in
the field; I did not find you. I searched in every copse; I asked every
one. I was _here_, too, but you did not answer me--Arne, Arne! I walked
along the river; but it did not seem to be deep enough anywhere"--She
pressed up close to him. "Then it came with such relief to my mind that
you might have gone home, and I am sure I was not more than a quarter of
an hour getting over the road. I opened the door and looked in every
room, and then first remembered that I myself had the key; you could not
possibly have entered. Arne, last night I searched along the road on
both sides; I dared not go to the Kamp gorge. I know not how I came
here; no one helped me; but the Lord put it into my heart that you must
be here!"

He tried to soothe her.

"Arne, indeed, you must never drink brandy again."

"No, you may be sure of that."

"They must have been very rough with you. Were they rough with you?"

"Oh, no; it was I who was _cowardly_." He laid stress on the word.

"I cannot exactly understand why they should be rough with you. What was
it they did to you? You will never tell me anything," and she began to
weep again.

"You never tell me anything, either," said Arne, gently.

"But you are most to blame, Arne. I got so into the habit of being
silent in your father's day that you ought to have helped me a little on
the way! My God! there are only two of us, and we have suffered so much
together!"

"Let us see if we cannot do better," whispered Arne. "Next Sunday I will
read the sermon to you."

"God bless you for that! Arne?"

"Yes?"

"I have something I ought to say to you."

"Say it, mother."

"I have sinned greatly against you; I have done something wrong."

"You, mother?" And it touched him so deeply that his own good,
infinitely patient mother should accuse herself of having sinned
against him, who had never been really good to her, that he put his arm
round her, patted her, and burst into tears.

"Yes, I have; and yet I could not help it."

"Oh, you have never wronged me in any way."

"Yes, I have,--God knows it; it was only because I was so fond of you.
But you must forgive me; do you hear?"

"Yes, I will forgive you."

"Well, then, I will tell you about it another time; but you will forgive
me?"

"Oh, yes, mother!"

"You see, it is perhaps because of this that it has been so hard to talk
with you; I have sinned against you."

"I beg of you not to talk so, mother."

"I am happy now, having been able to say so much."

"We must talk more together, we two, mother."

"Yes, that we must; and then you will really read the sermon for me?"

"Yes, I will do so."

"Poor Arne! God bless you!"

"I think it is best for us to go home."

"Yes, we will go home."

"Why are you looking round so, mother?"

"Your father lay in this barn, and wept."

"Father?" said Arne, and grew very pale.

"Poor Nils! It was the day you were christened. Why are you looking
round, Arne?"



CHAPTER VIII.


From the day that Arne tried with his whole heart to live closer to his
mother his relations with other people were entirely changed. He looked
on them more with the mother's mild eyes. But he often found it hard to
keep true to his resolve; for what he thought most deeply about his
mother did not always understand. Here is a song from those days:--

    "It was such a pleasant, sunny day,
      In-doors I could not think of staying:
    I strolled to the wood, on my back I lay,
      And rocked what my mind was saying;
    But there crawled emmets, and gnats stung there,
    The wasps and the clegs brought dire despair.

"'My dear, will you not go out in this pleasant weather?' said mother.
She sat singing on the porch.

    "It was such a pleasant, sunny day,
      In-doors I could not think of staying:
    I strayed to a field, on my back I lay,
      And sang what my mind was saying;
    But snakes came out to enjoy the sun,
    Three ells were they long, and away I run.

"'In such pleasant weather we can go barefoot,' said mother, and she
pulled off her stockings.

    "It was such a pleasant, sunny day,
      In-doors I could no longer tarry:
    I stepped in a boat, on my back I lay,
      The tide did me onward carry;
    The sun, though, scorched till my nose was burned;
    There's limit to all, so to shore I turned.

"'What fine days these are for drying the hay!' said mother, as she
shook it with a rake.

    "It was such a pleasant, sunny day,
      In-doors I could not think of staying:
    I climbed up a tree, and thought there I'd stay,
      For there were cool breezes playing.
    A grub to fall on my neck then there chanced;
    I sprang down and screamed, and how madly I danced.

"'Well, if the cow does not thrive such a day as this, she never will,'
said mother, as she gazed up the slope.

    "It was such a pleasant, sunny day,
      In-doors I could no peace discover:
    I made for the force that did loudly play,
      For _there_ it must surely hover;
    But there I drowned while the sun still shone.
    If you made this song, it is surely not my own.[17]

"'It would take only about three such sunny days to get everything under
cover,' said mother; and off she started to make my bed."

       *       *       *       *       *

Nevertheless, this companionship with his mother brought every day more
and more comfort to Arne. What she did not understand formed quite as
much of a tie between them as what she did understand. For the fact of
her not comprehending a thing made him think it over oftener, and she
grew only the dearer to him because he found her limits on every side.
Yes, she became infinitely dear to him.

As a child, Arne had not cared much for nursery stories. Now, as a grown
person, he longed for them, and they led to traditions and ancient
ballads. His mind was filled with a wonderful yearning; he walked much
alone, and many of the places round about, which formerly he had not
noticed, seemed strangely beautiful. In the days when he had gone with
those of his own age to the priest's to prepare for confirmation, he had
often played with them by a large lake below the parsonage, called Black
Water, because it was deep and black. He began to think of this lake
now, and one evening he wended his way thither.

He sat down behind a copse, just at the foot of the parsonage. This lay
on the side of a very steep hill, which towered up beyond until it
became a high mountain; the opposite bank was similar, and therefore
huge shadows were cast over the lake from both sides, but in its centre
was a stripe of beautiful silvery water. All was at rest; the sun was
just setting; a faint sound of tinkling bells floated over from the
opposite shore; otherwise profound silence reigned. Arne did not look
right across the lake, but first turned his eyes toward its lower end,
for there the sun was shedding a sprinkling of burning red, ere it
departed. Down there the mountains had parted to make room between them
for a long, low valley, and against this the waves dashed; and it seemed
as though the mountains had gradually sloped together to form a swing in
which to rock this valley, which was dotted with its many gards. The
curling smoke rose upward, and passed from sight; the fields were green
and reeking; boats laden with hay were approaching the landings. Arne
saw many people passing to and fro, but could hear no noise. Thence the
eye wandered beyond the shore, where God's dark forest alone loomed up.
Through the forest and along the lake men had drawn a road, as it were,
with a finger, for a winding streak of dust plainly marked its course.
This Arne's eye followed until it came directly opposite to where he was
sitting; there the forest ended; the mountains made a little more room,
and straightways gard after gard lay spread about. The houses were still
larger than those at the lower end, were painted red, and had higher
windows, which now were in a blaze of light. The hills sparkled in
dazzling sunshine; the smallest child playing about could be plainly
seen; glittering white sand lay dry on the shore, and upon this little
children bounded with their dogs. But suddenly the whole scene became
desolate and gloomy; the houses dark red, the meadows dingy green, the
sand grayish-white, and the children small clumps: a mass of mist had
risen above the mountains, and had shut out the sun. Arne kept his eye
fixed on the lake; there he found everything again. The fields were
rocking there, and the forest silently joined them; the houses stood
looking down, doors open, and children going out and in. Nursery tales
and childish things came thronging into his mind, as little fish come
after a bait, swim away, come back again, but do not nibble.

"Let us sit down here until your mother comes; the priest's lady will
surely get through some time."

Arne was startled; some one had sat down just behind him.

"But I might be allowed to stay just this one night," said a beseeching
voice, choked with tears; it seemed to be that of a young girl, not
quite grown up.

"Do not cry any more; it is shocking to cry because you must go home to
your mother." This last came in a mild voice that spoke slowly and
belonged to a man.

"That is not the reason I am crying."

"Why are you crying, then?"

"Because I shall no longer be with Mathilde."

This was the name of the priest's only daughter, and reminded Arne that
a peasant girl had been brought up with her.

"That could not last forever, any way."

"Yes, but just one day longer, dear!" and she sobbed violently.

"It is best you should go home at once; perhaps it is already too late."

"Too late? Why so? Who ever heard of such a thing?"

"You are peasant-born, and a peasant you shall remain: we cannot afford
to keep a fine lady."

"I should still be a peasant, even if I remained here."

"You are no judge of that."

"I have always worn peasant's clothes."

"It is not that which makes the difference."

"I have been spinning and weaving and cooking."

"It is not _that_, either."

"I can talk just as you and mother do."

"Not that, either."

"Then I do not know what it can be," said the girl, and laughed.

"Time will show. Besides, I am afraid you already have too many ideas."

"Ideas, ideas! You are always saying that. I have no ideas." She wept
again.

"Oh, you are a weathercock,--that you are!"

"The priest never said so."

"No, but now _I_ say so."

"A weathercock? Who ever heard of such a thing? I will not be a
weathercock."

"Come, then, what will you be?"

"What will I be? Did you ever hear the like? I will be nothing."

"Very good, then; be nothing."

Now the girl laughed. Presently she said, gravely, "It is unkind of you
to say I am nothing."

"Dear me, when that was what you wanted to be yourself!"

"No, I do not want to be nothing."

"Very good, then; be everything."

The girl laughed. Presently, with a sorrowful voice, "The priest never
fooled with me in this way."

"No, he only made a fool of you."

"The priest? You have never been so kind to me as the priest has."

"No, for that would have spoiled you."

"Sour milk can never become sweet."

"Oh, yes, when it is boiled to whey."

Here the girl burst out laughing.

"There comes your mother."

Then she grew sober again.

"Such a long-winded woman as the priest's lady I have never met in all
the days of my life," here interposed a shrill, rattling voice. "Make
haste, now, Baard. Get up and push the boat out. We will not get home
to-night. The lady wished me to see that Eli kept her feet dry. Dear me,
you will have to see to that yourself. Every morning she must take a
walk, for the sake of her health. It is health, health, from morning
till night. Get up, now, Baard, and push out the boat. Just think, I
have to set sponge this evening!"

"The chest has not come yet," said he, and lay still.

"But the chest is not to come, either; it is to remain until the first
Sunday there is service. Do you hear, Eli? Pick yourself up; take your
bundle, and come. Get up, now, Baard!"

She led the way, and the girl followed.

"Come, now, I say,--come now!" resounded from below.

"Have you looked after the plug in the boat?" asked Baard, still without
rising.

"Yes, it is there;" and Arne heard her just then hammering it in with
the scoop. "But get up, I say, Baard! Surely we are not to stay here all
night?"

"I am waiting for the chest."

"But, my dear, bless you, I have told you it is to wait until the first
Sunday there is service."

"There it comes," said Baard, and they heard the rattling of a cart.

"Why, I said it was to wait until the first Sunday there is service."

"I said we were to take it along."

Without anything further, the wife hastened up to the cart, and carried
the bundle, the lunch-box, and other small things down to the boat. Then
Baard arose, went up, and took the chest himself.

But behind the cart there came rushing along a girl in a straw hat, with
floating hair; it was the priest's daughter.

"Eli! Eli!" she called, as she ran.

"Mathilde! Mathilde!" Eli answered, and ran toward her.

They met on the hill, put their arms about each other, and wept. Then
Mathilde took up something she had set down on the grass: it was a
bird-cage.

"You shall have Narrifas; yes, you shall. Mother wishes it, too. You
shall, after all, have Narrifas,--indeed, you shall; and then you will
think of me. And very often row--row--row over to me," and the tears of
both flowed freely.

"Eli! Come, now, Eli! Do not stand there!" was heard from below.

"But I want to go along," said Mathilde. "I want to go and sleep with
you to-night!"

"Yes, yes, yes!" and with arms twined about each other's necks they
moved down toward the landing.

Presently Arne saw the boat out on the water. Eli stood high on the
stern, with the bird-cage, and waved her hand; Mathilde was left behind,
and sat on the stone landing weeping.

She remained sitting there as long as the boat was on the water; it was
but a short distance across to the red house, as said before; and Arne
kept his seat, too. He watched the boat, as she did. It soon passed into
the darkness, and he waited until it drew up to the shore: then he saw
Eli and her parents in the water; in it he followed them up toward the
houses, until they came to the prettiest one of them all. He saw the
mother go in first, then the father with the chest, and last of all the
daughter, so far as he could judge from their size. Soon after the
daughter came out again, and sat down in front of the store-house door,
probably that she might gaze over at the other side, where at that
moment the sun was shedding its parting rays. But the young lady from
the parsonage had already gone, and Arne alone sat watching Eli in the
water.

"I wonder if she sees me!"

He got up and moved away. The sun had set, but the sky was bright and
clear blue, as it often is of a summer night. Mist from land and water
rose and floated over the mountains on both sides; but the peaks held
themselves above it, and stood peering at one another. He went higher
up. The lake grew blacker and deeper, and seemed, as it were, to
contract. The upper valley shortened, and drew closer to the lake. The
mountains were nearer to the eye, but looked more like a shapeless mass,
for the light of the sun defines. The sky itself appeared nearer, and
all surrounding objects became friendly and familiar.



CHAPTER IX.


Love and woman were beginning to play a prominent part in his thoughts;
in the ancient ballads and stories of the olden times such themes were
reflected as in a magic mirror, just as the girl had been in the lake.
He constantly brooded over them, and after that evening he found
pleasure in singing about them; for they seemed, as it were, to have
come nearer home to him. But the thought glided away, and floated back
again with a song that was unknown to him; he felt as though another had
made it for him,--

    "Fair Venevill bounded on lithesome feet
          Her lover to meet.
    He sang till it sounded afar away,
          'Good-day, good-day,'
    While blithesome birds were singing on every blooming spray
          'On Midsummer Day
          There is dancing and play;
    But now I know not whether she weaves her wreath or nay.'

    "She wove him a wreath of corn-flowers blue:
          'Mine eyes so true.'
    He took it, but soon away it was flung:
          'Farewell!' he sung;
    And still with merry singing across the fields he sprung
          'On Midsummer Day,' etc.

    "She wove him a chain. 'Oh, keep it with care!
          'T is made of my hair.'
    She yielded him then, in an hour of bliss,
          Her pure first kiss;
    But he blushed as deeply as she the while her lips met his.
          'On Midsummer Day,' etc.

    "She wove him a wreath with a lily-band:
          'My true right hand.'
    She wove him another with roses aglow:
          'My left hand, now.'
    He took them gently from her, but blushes dyed his brow
          'On Midsummer Day,' etc.

    "She wove him a wreath of all flowers round:
          'All I have found.'
    She wept, but she gathered and wove on still:
          'Take all you will.'
    Without a word he took it, and fled across the hill.
          'On Midsummer Day,' etc.

    "She wove on, bewildered and out of breath:
          'My bridal wreath.'
    She wove till her fingers aweary had grown:
          'Now put it on.'
    But when she turned to see him, she found that he had gone.
          'On Midsummer Day,' etc.

    "She wove on in haste, as for life and death,
          Her bridal wreath;
    But the Midsummer sun no longer shone,
          And the flowers were gone;
    But though she had no flowers, wild fancy still wove on.
          'On Midsummer-Day
          There is dancing and play;
    But now I know not whether she weaves her wreath or nay."[18]

It was his own intense melancholy that called forth the first image of
love that glided so gloomily through his soul. A twofold longing,--to
have some one to love and to become something great,--blended together
and became one. At this time he was working again at the song, "Over the
lofty mountains," altering it, and all the while singing and thinking
quietly to himself, "Surely I will get 'over' some day; I will sing
until I gain courage." He did not forget his mother in these his
thoughts of roving; indeed, he took comfort in the thought that as soon
as he got firm foothold in the strange land, he would come back after
her, and offer her conditions which he never could be able to provide
for her at home. But in the midst of all these mighty yearnings there
played something calm, cheering, refined, that darted away and came
again, took hold and fled, and, dreamer that he had become, he was more
in the power of these spontaneous thoughts than he himself was aware.

There lived in the parish a jovial man whose name was Ejnar Aasen. When
he was twenty years old he had broken his leg; since then he had walked
with a cane; but wherever he came hobbling along, there was always mirth
afoot. The man was rich. On his property there was a large nut-wood, and
there was sure to be assembled, on one of the brightest, pleasantest
days in autumn, a group of merry girls gathering nuts. At these
nutting-parties he had plenty of feasting for his guests all day, and
dancing in the evening. For most of these girls he had been godfather;
indeed, he was the godfather of half the parish; all the children called
him godfather, and from them every one else, both old and young, learned
to do so.

Godfather and Arne were well acquainted, and he liked the young man
because of the verses he made. Now godfather asked Arne to come to the
nutting-party. Arne blushed and declined; he was not used to being with
girls, he said.

"Then you must get used to it," replied godfather.

Arne could not sleep at night because of this; fear and yearning were at
war within him; but whatever the result might be, he went along, and was
about the only youth among all these girls. He could not deny that he
felt disappointed; they were neither those he had sung about, nor those
he had feared to meet. There was an excitement and merriment, the like
of which he had never known before, and the first thing that struck him
was that they could laugh over nothing in the world; and if three
laughed, why, then, five laughed, simply because those three laughed.
They all acted as though they were members of the same household; and
yet many of them had not met before that day. If they caught the bough
they were jumping after, they laughed at that, and if they did not catch
it, they laughed at that, too. They fought for the hook to draw it down
with; those who got it laughed, and those who did not get it, laughed
also. Godfather hobbled after them with his cane, and offered all the
hindrance in his power. Those whom he caught laughed because he caught
them, and those whom he did not catch laughed because he did not catch
them. But they all laughed at Arne for being sober, and when he tried to
laugh, they laughed, because he was laughing at last.

They seated themselves finally on a large hill, godfather in the centre,
and all the girls around him. The hill commanded a fine outlook; the sun
scorched; but the girls heeded it not, they sat, casting nut-husks and
shells at one another, giving the kernels to godfather. He tried to
quiet them at last, striking at them with his cane, as far as he could
reach; for now he wanted them to tell stories, above all, something
amusing. But to get them started seemed more difficult than to stop a
carriage on a hill-side. Godfather began himself. There were many who
did not want to listen; for they knew already everything he had to tell;
but they all ended by listening attentively. Before they knew what they
were about, they sat in the centre, and each took her turn in following
his example as best she could. Now Arne was much astonished to find that
just in proportion to the noise the girls had made before was the
gravity of the stories they now told. Love was the chief theme of these.

"But you, Aasa, have a good one; I remember that from last year," said
godfather, turning to a plump girl with a round, pleasant face, who sat
braiding the hair of a younger sister, whose head was in her lap.

"Several that are here may know that," said she.

"Well, give it to us anyway," they begged.

"I will not have to be urged long," said she, and, still braiding, she
told and sang, as follows:--

"There was a grown-up youth who tended cattle, and he was in the habit
of driving his herds upward, along the banks of a broad stream. High up
on his way, there was a crag which hung out so far over the stream, that
when he stood on it he could call out to any one on the other side. For
on the other side of the stream there was a herd-girl whom he could see
all day long, but he could not come over to her.

    'Now, tell me thy name, thou girl that art sitting,
    Up there with thy sheep, so busily knitting?'

he asked, over and over again, for many days, until at last one day
there came the answer,--

    'My name floats about like a duck in wet weather;--
    Come over, thou boy in the cap of brown leather.'

"But this made the youth no wiser than before, and he thought he would
pay no further heed to the girl. This was not so easy, though, for, let
him drive the cattle where he would, he was always drawn back to the
crag. Then the youth grew alarmed, and called over:--

    'Well, who is your father, and where are you biding?
    On the road to the church I have ne'er seen you riding.'

"The youth more than half believed her, in fact, to be a hulder.[19]

    'My house is burned down, and my father is drowned,
    And the road to the church-hill I never have found.'

"Now this also made the youth no wiser than before. By day he lingered
on the crag, and by night he dreamed that she was dancing around him,
and gave him a lash with a great cow's-tail each time he tried to take
hold of her. Soon he could not sleep at all, neither could he work, and
the poor youth was in a wretched state. Again he called aloud,--

    'If thou art a hulder, then pray do not spell me,--
    If thou art a maiden, then hasten to tell me?'

"But there came no answer, and then he was sure that this was a hulder.
He gave up tending cattle, but it was just as bad, for wherever he went,
or whatever he did, he thought of the fair hulder who blew on the horn.

"Then one day, as he stood chopping wood, there came a girl through the
yard who actually looked like the hulder. But when she came nearer, it
was not she. He thought much about this; then the girl came back, and in
the distance it was the hulder, and he ran directly toward her. But the
moment he came near her it was not she.

"After this, let the youth be at church, at a dance, at other social
gatherings, or where he would, the girl was there too; when he was far
from her, she seemed to be the hulder; near to her, she seemed to be
another; he asked her then whether it were she or not; but she laughed
at him. It is just as well to spring into it as to creep into it,
thought the youth, and so he married the girl.

"No sooner was this done than the youth ceased to like the girl. Away
from her, he longed for her; but when with her, he longed for one he did
not see; therefore he was harsh toward his wife; she bore this and was
silent.

"But one day, when he was searching for the horses, he found his way to
the crag, and sitting down, he called out,--

    'Like fairy moonlight to me thou seemest,
    Like midsummer fires from afar thou gleamest.'

"He thought it did him good to sit there, and he fell into the way of
going thither whenever anything went amiss at home. The wife wept when
she was left alone.

"But one day, while the youth was sitting on the crag, the hulder, her
living self, appeared on the opposite side, and blew her horn. He
eagerly cried,--

    'Ah, dear, art thou come! all around thee is shining!
    Ah, blow now again! I am sitting here pining.'

"Then she answered,--

    'Away from thy mind the dreams I am blowing,--
    The rye is all rotting for want of mowing.'

"But the youth was frightened, and went home again. Before long, though,
he was so tired of his wife that he felt compelled to wander off to the
wood and take his seat on the crag. Then a voice sang,--

    'I dreamed thou wast here; ho, hasten to bind me!
    No, not over there, but behind you will find me.'[20]

"The youth started up, looked about him, and espied a green skirt
disappearing through the woods. He pursued. Now there was a chase
through the woods. As fleet of foot as the hulder was, no mortal could
be; he cast steel[21] over her again and again; she ran on the same as
before. By and by she began to grow tired. The youth knew this from her
foot-fall, though her form convinced him that it was the hulder herself,
and none other. 'You shall surely be mine now,' thought the youth, and
suddenly flung his arms about her with such force that both he and she
rolled far down the hill before they could stop. Then the hulder laughed
until the youth thought the mountains fairly rang; he took her on his
knee, and she looked so fair, just as he had once thought his wife
would look.

"'Oh, dear, who are you that are so fair?' asked the youth, and as he
caressed her, he felt that her cheeks were warm and glowing.

"'Why, good gracious, I am your wife,' said she."

The girls laughed, and thought the youth was very foolish. But godfather
asked Arne if he had been listening.

"Well, now, I will tell you something," said a little girl, with a
little round face, and such a very little nose.

"There was a little youth who wanted very much to woo a little maiden;
they were both grown up, yet were both very small indeed. But the youth
could not muster up courage enough to begin his wooing. He always joined
her after church, but they did not then get beyond the weather in their
talk; he sought her at the dances, and he danced her almost to death,
but talk with her he could not. 'You must learn to write, and then you
will not have to,' said he to himself, and so the youth took to writing;
but he never thought he could do well enough, and so he wrote a whole
year before he dared think of a letter. Then the trouble was how to
deliver it so that no one should see, and he waited until once they
chanced to meet alone behind the church.

"'I have a letter for you,' said the youth.

"'But I cannot read writing,' answered the maiden.

"And the youth got no further.

"Then he took service at her father's house, and hung round her the
whole day long. Once he came very near speaking to her; he had already
opened his mouth, when there flew into it a large fly. 'If only no one
comes and takes her from me,' thought the youth. But there came no one
to take her from him, because she was so small.

"Some one did come along, though, at last, for he was small too. The
youth well knew what he was after, and when he and the girl went
up-stairs together, the youth made his way to the key-hole. Now he who
was within offered himself. 'Alas, dunce that I am, not to have made
more haste!' thought the youth. He who was inside kissed the girl right
on the lips. 'That must have tasted good,' thought the youth. But he
who was inside had drawn the girl down on his knee. 'What a world we
live in!' said the youth, and wept. This the girl heard, and went to the
door.

"'What do you want of me, you ugly boy, that you never give me any
peace?'

"'I?--I only wanted to ask you if I might be your groomsman.'

"'No; my brothers are to be the groomsmen,' answered the girl,--and
slammed the door in his face.

"And the youth got no further."

The girls laughed a great deal at this story, and sent a shower of husks
flying round after it.

Godfather now wanted Eli Böen to tell something.

What should it be?

Why, she might tell what she had told over on the hill, when he was with
them, the time she gave him the new garters. It was a good while before
Eli was ready, for she laughed so hard, but at last she told:--

"A girl and a boy were walking together on the same road. 'Why, see the
thrush that is following us,' said the girl. 'It is I whom it is
following,' said the boy. 'It is just as likely to be me,' answered the
girl. 'That we can soon see,' remarked the boy; 'now you take the lower
road, and I will take the upper one, and we will meet at the top of the
hill.' They did so. 'Was it not following me?' asked the boy, when they
met. 'No, it was following me,' answered the girl. 'Then there must be
two.' They walked together again a little way, but then there was only
one thrush; the boy thought it flew on his side; but the girl thought it
flew on hers. 'The deuce! I'll not bother my head any more about that
thrush,' said the boy. 'Nor I either,' replied the girl.

"But no sooner had they said this than the thrush was gone. 'It was on
_your_ side,' said the boy. 'No, I thank you; I saw plainly it was on
_yours_. But there! There it comes again!' called out the girl. 'Yes, it
is on _my_ side!' cried the boy. But now the girl became angry. 'May all
the plagues take me if I walk with you any longer!' and she went her own
way. Then the thrush left the boy, and the way became so tedious that he
began to call out. She answered. 'Is the thrush with you?' shouted the
boy. 'No, it is with you.' 'Oh, dear! You must come here again, then
perhaps it will come too.' And the girl came again; they took each other
by the hand and walked together. 'Kvit, kvit, kvit, kvit!' was heard on
the girl's side. 'Kvit, kvit, kvit, kvit!' was heard on the boy's side.
'Kvit, kvit, kvit, kvit, kvit, kvit, kvit, kvit!' was heard on both
sides, and when they came to look, there were a thousand million
thrushes round about them. 'Why, how strange!' said the girl, and looked
up at the boy. 'Bless you!' said the boy, and caressed the girl."

This story all the girls thought fine.

Then godfather suggested that they should tell what they had dreamed the
night before, and he would decide who had had the finest dream.

What! tell their dreams? No, indeed! And there was no end to the
laughing and whispering. But then one after another began to remark that
she had had such a fine dream last night; others, again, that, fine as
the ones they had had, it could not by any means be. And finally, they
all were seized with a desire to tell their dreams. But it must not be
out loud, it must only be to _one_, and that must by no means be
godfather. Arne was sitting quietly on the hill, and so he was the one
to whom they dared tell their dreams.

Arne took a seat beneath a hazel, and then she who had told the first
story came to him. She thought a long time, and then told as follows:--

"I dreamed I stood by a great lake. Then I saw some one go on the water,
and it was one whom I will not name. He climbed up in a large pond-lily,
and sat and sang. But I went out on one of those large leaves that the
pond-lily has, and which lie and float; on it I wanted to row over to
him. But no sooner had I stepped on the leaf than it began to sink with
me, and I grew much alarmed and cried. Then he came rowing over to me in
the pond-lily, lifted me up to where he sat, and we rowed all over the
lake. Was not that a nice dream?"

The little maiden who had told the little story now came.

"I dreamed I had caught a little bird, and I was so happy that I did not
want to let it go until I got home. But there I did not dare let go of
it, lest father and mother should tell me I must let it out again. So I
went up in the garret with it, but there the cat was lurking, and so I
could not let go of it there either. Then I did not know what to do, so
I took it up in the hay-loft; but, good gracious! there were so many
cracks there that it could easily fly away! Well, then I went out in the
yard again, and there I thought stood one whom I will not name. He was
playing with a large, black dog. 'I would rather play with that bird of
yours,' said he, and came close up to me. But I thought I started to
run, and he and the large dog after me, and thus I ran all round the
yard; but then mother opened the front door, drew me quickly in, and
slammed the door. Outside, the boy stood laughing, with his face against
the window-pane. 'See, here is the bird!' said he,--and, just think, he
really had the bird! Was not that a funny dream?"

Then she came who had told about all the thrushes,--Eli they had called
her. It was the Eli he had seen that evening in the boat and in the
water. She was the same and yet not the same, so grown-up and pretty she
looked as she sat there, with her delicately cut face and slender form.
She laughed immoderately, and therefore it was long before she could
control herself; but then she told as follows:--

"I had been feeling so glad that I was coming to the nutting-party
to-day that I dreamed last night I was sitting here on the hill. The sun
shone brightly, and I had a whole lapful of nuts. But then there came a
little squirrel, right in among the nuts, and it sat on its hind legs in
my lap and ate them all up. Was not that a funny dream?"

Yet other dreams were told Arne, and then he was to decide which was the
finest. He had to take a long time to consider, and meanwhile godfather
started off with the whole crowd for the gard, and Arne was to follow.
They sprang down the hill, formed in a row when they had reached the
plain, and sang all the way to the house.

Arne still sat there listening to the singing. The sun fell directly on
the group, it shone on their white sleeves; soon they twined their arms
about each other's waists; they went dancing across the meadow,
godfather after them with his cane, because they were treading down his
grass. Arne thought no more about the dreams. Soon he even left off
watching the girls; his thoughts wandered far beyond the valley, as did
the fine sunbeams, and he sat alone there on the hill and spun. Before
he was aware of it, he was entangled in a close web of melancholy; he
yearned to break away, and never in the world before so ardently as now.
He faithfully promised himself that when he got home he would talk with
his mother, come of it what would.

His thoughts grew stronger, and drifted into the song,--

    "Over the lofty mountains."

Words had never flowed so readily as now, nor had they ever blended so
surely into verse,--they almost seemed like girls sitting around on a
hill. He had a scrap of paper about him and placing it on his knee, he
wrote. When the song was complete, he arose, like one who was released,
felt that he could not see people, and took the forest road home,
although he knew that the night, too, would be needed for this. The
first time he sat down to rest on the way, he felt for the song, that he
might sing it aloud as he went along, and let it be borne all over the
parish; but he found he had left it in the place where it was written.

One of the girls went up the hill to look for him, did not find him, but
found his song.



CHAPTER X.


To talk with the mother was more easily thought than done. Arne alluded
to Kristian and the letter that never came; but the mother went away
from him, and for whole days after he thought her eyes looked red. He
had also another indication of her feelings, and that was that she
prepared unusually good meals for him.

He had to go up in the woods to fetch an armful of fuel one day; the
road led through the forest, and just where he was to do his chopping
was the place where people went to pick whortleberries in the autumn. He
had put down his axe in order to take off his jacket, and was just about
beginning, when two girls came walking along with berry pails. It was
his wont to hide himself rather than meet girls, and so he did now.

"O dear, O dear! What a lot of berries! Eli, Eli!"

"Yes, dear, I see them."

"Well, then, do not go any farther; here are many pailfuls!"

"I thought there was a rustling in that bush over there!"

"Oh, you must be mad!" and the girls rushed at each other, and put their
arms about each other's waists. They stood for a long while so still,
that they scarcely breathed.

"It is surely nothing; let us go on picking!"

"Yes, I really think we will."

And so they began to gather berries.

"It was very kind of you, Eli, to come over to the parsonage to-day.
Have you anything to tell me?"

"I have been at godfather's."

"Yes, you told me that; but have you nothing about _him_,--you know
who?"

"Oh, yes!"

"Oh, oh! Eli, is that so? Make haste; tell me!"

"He has been there again!"

"Oh, nonsense!"

"Yes, indeed; both father and mother pretended they did not see it, but
I went up in the garret and hid."

"More, more! Did he follow you there?"

"I think father told him where I was; he is always so provoking."

"And so he came? Sit down, sit down here beside me. Well, so he came?"

"Yes; but he did not say much, for he was so bashful."

"Every word! Do you hear? every word!"

"'Are you afraid of me?' said he. 'Why should I be afraid?' said I. 'You
know what it is I want of you,' said he, and sat down on the chest
beside me."

"Beside you!"

"And then he put his arm round my waist."

"His arm round your waist? Are you wild?"

"I wanted to get away from him, but he would not let me go. 'Dear Eli,'
said he,"--she laughed, and the other girl laughed too.

"Well? well?"

"'Will you be my wife?'"

"Ha, ha, ha!"

"Ha, ha, ha!"

And then both--"Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!"

Finally, the laughter, too, had to come to an end, and then a long
silence ensued. After a while, the first one asked, but softly,
"Say,--was it not too bad that he put his arm round your waist?"

Either the other one made no reply to this, or else she spoke in such a
low tone that it could not be heard; perhaps, too, she answered only
with a smile. Presently the first one asked:--

"Have neither your father nor your mother said anything since?"

"Father came up and looked at me, but I kept hiding; for he laughed
every time he saw me."

"But your mother?"

"Why, she said nothing; but she was less harsh than usual."

"Well, you certainly refused him?"

"Of course."

Then there was a long silence again.

"Eli!"

"Well?"

"Do you think any one will ever come that way to me?"

"Yes, to be sure."

"How you talk! O--h! say, Eli? What if he should put his arm round my
waist?" She covered her face.

There was much laughter, afterwards whispering and tittering.

The girls soon went away. They had neither seen Arne, nor the axe and
the jacket, and he was glad.

Some days later he put Upland Knut in the houseman's place under Kampen.

"You shall no longer be lonely," said Arne.

Arne himself took to steady work. He had early learned to cut with the
hand-saw, for he had himself added much to the house at home. Now he
wanted to work at his trade, for he knew it was well to have some
definite occupation; it was also good for him to get out among people;
and so changed had he gradually become, that he longed for this whenever
he had kept to himself for a while. Thus it came to pass that he was at
the parsonage for a time that winter doing carpentering, and the two
girls were often together there. Arne wondered, when he saw them, who it
could be that was now courting Eli Böen.

It so happened one day, when they went out for a ride, that Arne had to
drive for the young lady of the parsonage and Eli; he had good ears, yet
could not hear what they were talking about; sometimes Mathilde spoke to
him, at which Eli laughed and hid her face. Once Mathilde asked if it
was true he could make verses. "No!" he said promptly: then they both
laughed, chattered, and laughed. This made him indignant, and he
pretended not to see them.

Once he was sitting in the servants' hall, when there was dancing there.
Mathilde and Eli both came in to look on. They were disputing about
something in the corner where they stood. Eli would not, but Mathilde
would, and she won. Then they both crossed the floor to him, courtesied,
and asked whether he could dance. He answered "No," and then they both
turned, laughed, and ran away. "They keep up a perpetual laughter,"
thought Arne, and became sober. But the priest had a little adopted son,
about ten or twelve years old, of whom Arne thought a good deal; from
this boy Arne learned to dance when no one else was present.

Eli had a little brother about the same age as the priest's adopted son.
These two were playmates, and Arne made sleds, skees,[22] and snares for
them; and he often talked with them about their sisters, especially
about Eli. One day Eli's brother brought word that Arne should not be so
careless with his hair.

"Who said so?"

"Eli said so; but I was not to tell that she said so."

Some days after, Arne sent a message to Eli that she should laugh a
little less. The boy came back with the reply that Arne should laugh a
little more.

Once the boy asked for something he had written. Arne let him have it,
and thought no more of it. After a while the boy thought he would please
Arne with the tidings that both the girls liked his writing very much.

"Why, have they seen it?"

"Yes, it was for them I wanted it."

Arne asked the boys to bring him something their sisters had written;
they did so. Arne corrected the mistakes with a carpenter's pencil. He
asked the boys to place the paper where it could easily be found.
Afterwards he found it again in his jacket pocket, but at the bottom was
written, "Corrected by a conceited fellow!"

The next day Arne finished his work at the parsonage, and set out for
home. So gentle as he was this winter, his mother had never seen him
since those sorrowful days after his father's death. He read the sermon
for her, went with her to church, and was very kind to her. But she well
knew it was all to get her consent to journey away from her when spring
came. Then one day he had a message from Böen to know if he would come
there and do some carpentering.

Arne was quite startled, and answered "Yes," as though he scarcely knew
what he was saying. No sooner had the messenger gone than the mother
said,

"You may well be astonished! From Böen?"

"Is that so strange?" asked Arne, but did not look at her as he spoke.

"From Böen?" cried the mother, once more.

"Well, why not as well from there as from another gard?" Arne now looked
up a little.

"From Böen and Birgit Böen! Baard, who gave your father the blow that
was his ruin, and that for Birgit Böen's sake!"

"What do you say?" now cried the youth. "Was that Baard Böen?"

Son and mother stood and looked at each other. Between the two a whole
life was unfolded, and this was a moment wherein they could see the
black thread which all along had been woven through it. They fell later
to talking about the father's proud days, when old Eli Böen herself had
courted him for her daughter Birgit, and got a refusal. They went
through his whole life just as far as where he was knocked down, and
both found out that Baard's fault had been the least. Nevertheless, it
was he who had given the father that fatal blow,--he it was.

"Am I not yet done with father?" then thought Arne, and decided at the
same moment to go.

When Arne came walking, with the hand-saw on his shoulder, over the ice
and up toward Böen, it seemed to him a pretty gard. The house always
looked as though it were newly painted; he was a little chilled, and
that was perhaps why it seemed so cozy to him. He did not go directly
in, but went beyond toward the stable, where a flock of shaggy goats
were standing in the snow, gnawing at the bark of some fir branches. A
shepherd dog walked to and fro on the barn-bridge, and barked as though
the devil himself was coming to the gard; but the moment Arne stood
still, he wagged his tail and let him pat him. The kitchen door on the
farther side of the house was often opened, and Arne looked down there
each time; but it was either the dairy-maid, with tubs and pails, or the
cook, who was throwing something out to the goats. Inside the barn they
were threshing with frequent strokes, and to the left, in front of the
wood-shed, stood a boy chopping wood; behind him there were many layers
of wood piled up.

Arne put down his saw and went into the kitchen; there white sand was
spread on the floor, and finely cut juniper leaves strewed over it; on
the walls glittered copper kettles, and crockery stood in rows. They
were cooking dinner. Arne asked to speak with Baard. "Go into the
sitting-room," some one said, pointing to the door. He went; there was
no latch to the door, but a brass handle; it was cheerful in there, and
brightly painted, the ceiling was decorated with many roses, the
cupboards were red, with the owner's name in black, the bed-stead was
also red, but bordered with blue stripes. By the stove sat a
broad-shouldered man, with a mild face, and long, yellow hair; he was
putting hoops about some pails; by the long table sat a tall, slender
woman, with a high linen cap on her head, and dressed in tight-fitting
clothes; she was sorting corn into two heaps. Besides these there were
no others in the room.

"Good day, and bless the work!" said Arne, drawing off his hat. Both
looked up; the man smiled, and asked who it was.

"It is he who is to do carpentering."

The man smiled more, and said, as he nodded his head and began his work
again,--

"Well, then, it is Arne Kampen!"

"Arne Kampen?" cried the wife, and stared fixedly before her.

The man looked up hastily, and smiled again. "The son of tailor Nils,"
he said, and went on once more with his work.

After a while, the wife got up, crossed the floor to the shelf, turned,
went to the cupboard, turned again, and as she at last was rummaging in
a table drawer, she asked, without looking up,--

"Is _he_ to work _here_?"

"Yes, that he is," said the man, also without looking up. "It seems no
one has asked you to sit down," he observed, addressing himself to Arne.

The latter took a seat; the wife left the room, the man continued to
work; and so Arne asked if he too should begin.

"Let us first have dinner."

The wife did not come in again; but the next time the kitchen-door
opened it was Eli who came. She appeared at first not to notice Arne;
when he rose to go to her, she stood still, and half turned to give him
her hand, but she did not look at him. They exchanged a few words; the
father worked on. Eli had her hair braided, wore a tight-sleeved dress,
was slender and straight, had round wrists and small hands. She laid the
table; the working-people dined in the next room, but Arne with the
family in this one; it so happened that they had their meals separately
to-day; usually they all ate at the same table in the large, light
kitchen.

"Is not mother coming?" asked the man.

"No, she is up-stairs weighing wool."

"Have you asked her?"

"Yes; but she says she does not want anything."

There was silence for a while.

"But it is cold up-stairs."

"She did not want me to make a fire."

After dinner Arne began work; in the evening he was again with the
family in the sitting-room. Then the wife, too, was there. The women
were sewing. The husband was busy with some trifles, and Arne helped
him; there was a prolonged silence, for Eli, who usually led in
conversation, was also silent. Arne thought with dismay that it probably
was often thus at his own home; but he realized it now for the first
time. Eli drew a long breath at last, as though she had restrained
herself long enough, and then she fell to laughing. Then the father also
laughed, and Arne, too, thought it was laughable, and joined in. From
this time forth they talked of various things; but it ended in Arne and
Eli doing most of the talking, the father putting in an occasional word.
But once, when Arne had been speaking for some time and happened to look
up, he met the eyes of the mother, Birgit; she had dropped her sewing,
and sat staring fixedly at him. Now she picked up her work again, but at
the first word he spoke she raised her eyes.

Bed-time came, and each one went his way. Arne thought he would notice
the dream he had the first night in a new place; but there seemed to be
no sense in it. The whole day long he had talked little or none with the
master of the gard, but at night it was of him he dreamed. The last
thing was that Baard sat playing cards with tailor Nils. The latter was
very angry and pale in the face; but Baard smiled and won the game.

Arne remained several days, during which time there was scarcely any
talking, but a great deal of work. Not only those in the family room
were silent, but the servants, the tenants, even the women. There was an
old dog on the gard that barked every time strangers came; but the gard
people never heard the dog without saying "hush!" and then he went
growling off and laid down again. At home at Kampen there was a large
weather-vane on the house, which turned with the wind; there was a still
larger vane here, to which Arne's attention was attracted because it did
not turn. When there was a strong current of wind, the vane struggled
to get loose, and Arne looked at it until he felt compelled to go up on
the roof and set the vane free. It was not frozen fast, as he had
supposed, but a pin was stuck through it that it might be kept still.
This Arne took out and threw down; the pin struck Baard, who came
walking along. He glanced up.

"What are you doing there?"

"I am letting loose the vane."

"Do not do so; it makes such a wailing noise when it is in motion."

Arne sat astride the gable.

"That is better than always being quiet."

Baard looked up at Arne, and Arne looked down on Baard; then Baard
smiled.

"He who has to howl when he talks had much better keep silent, I am
sure."

Now it often happens that words haunt us long after they were uttered,
especially when they were the last ones heard. So these words haunted
Arne when he crept down in the cold from the roof, and were still with
him in the evening when he entered the family room. Eli was standing, in
the twilight, by a window, gazing out over the ice which lay glittering
beneath the moon's beams. Arne went to the other window and looked out
as she was doing. Within all was cozy and quiet, without it was cold; a
sharp wind swept across the valley, so shaking the trees that the
shadows they cast in the moonlight did not lie still, but went groping
about in the snow. From the parsonage there glimmered a light, opening
out and closing in, assuming many shapes and colors, as light is apt to
do when one gazes at it too long. The mountain loomed up beyond, dark
and gloomy, with romance in its depths and moonshine on its upper banks
of snow. The sky was aglow with stars, and a little flickering northern
light appeared in one quarter of the horizon, but did not spread. A
short distance from the window, down toward the lake, there were some
trees whose shadows kept prowling from one to the other, but the great
ash stood alone, writing on the snow.

The night was very still,--only now and then something shrieked and
howled with a long, wailing cry.

"What is that?" asked Arne.

"It is the weather-vane," said Eli; and afterwards she continued more
softly, as though to herself: "It must have been let loose."

But Arne had been feeling like one who wanted to speak and could not.
Now he said:--

"Do you remember the story about the thrushes that sang?"

"Yes."

"Why, to be sure, it was you who told that one! It was a pretty story."

She said, in so gentle a voice that it seemed as though it were the
first time he heard it,--

"I often think there is something that sings when it is quite still."

"That is the good within ourselves."

She looked at him as though there were something too much in that
answer; they were both quiet afterward. Then she asked, as she traced
figures with one finger on the window-pane,--

"Have you made any songs lately?"

He blushed; but this she did not see. Therefore she asked again,--

"How do you manage when you make songs?"

"Would you really like to know?"

"Oh, yes."

"I hoard up the thoughts that others are in the habit of letting go," he
answered evasively.

She was long silent, for she had doubtless been making an attempt at a
song or two. What if she had had those thoughts and let them go.

"That is strange," said she, as though to herself, and fell to tracing
figures on the pane again.

"I made a song after I had seen you the first time."

"Where was that?"

"Over by the parsonage, the evening you left there. I saw you in the
lake."

She laughed, then was still a while.

"Let me hear that song."

Arne had never before done such a thing, but now he sang for her the
song,--

    "Fair Venevill bounded on lithesome feet,
    Her lover to meet," etc.

Eli stood there very attentive; she stood there long after he was
through. At last she burst out,--

"Oh, how I pity her!"

"It seems as though I had not made it myself," said Arne, for he felt
ashamed at having produced it. Nor did he understand how he had come to
do so. He remained standing there as if looking after the song.

Then she said: "But I hope it will not be that way with me!"

"No, no, no! I was only thinking of myself."

"Is that to be your fate, then?"

"I do not know; but I felt so at that time--indeed, I do not understand
it now, but I once had such a heavy heart."

"That was strange." She began to write on the window-pane again.

The next day, when Arne came in to dinner he went over to the window.
Outside it was gray and foggy, within warm and pleasant; but on the
window-pane a finger had traced "Arne, Arne, Arne!" and over again
"Arne." It was the window where Eli had stood the preceding evening.

But Eli did not come down-stairs that day; she was feeling ill. She had
not been well at all of late; she had said so herself, and it was
plainly to be seen.



CHAPTER XI.


A day later Arne came in and announced that he had just heard on the
gard that the priest's daughter Mathilde had that very moment started
for the town, as she thought, for a few days, but, as had been decided,
to stay there for a year or two. Eli had heard nothing of this before,
and fell fainting.

It was the first time Arne had seen any one faint, and he was much
alarmed; he ran for the maid-servants, they went for the parents, who
started at once; there was confusion all over the gard, even the
shepherd-dog barked on the barn-bridge. When Arne came in again, later,
the mother was on her knees by the bedside, the father stood holding the
sick girl's head. The maid-servants were running, one for water,
another for medicine, which was kept in a cupboard, a third was
unfastening Eli's jacket at the throat.

"The Lord help and bless us!" cried the mother. "It was certainly wrong
that we said nothing to her; it was you, Baard, who would have it so.
The Lord help and bless us!"

Baard made no reply.

"I said we had better tell her; but nothing is ever done as I wish. The
Lord help and bless us! You are always so underhand with her, Baard; you
do not understand her; you do not know what it is to care for any one."

Baard still made no reply.

"She is not like others; they can bear sorrow, but it completely upsets
her, poor thing, she is so slight. And especially now when she is not
well at all. Wake up again, my dear child, and we will be kind to you!
Wake up again, Eli, my own dear child, and do not grieve us so!"

Then Baard said,--

"You are either too silent, or you talk too much;" and he looked over at
Arne, as though he did not wish him to hear all this, but to go away. As
the maid-servants remained in the room, however, Arne thought that he
might stay, too, but he walked to the window. Now the patient rallied
so far that she could look about her and recognize people; but at the
same moment her memory returned; she shrieked "Mathilde," burst into
hysterical weeping, and sobbed until it was painful to be in the room
with her. The mother tried to comfort her; the father had placed himself
where he might be seen; but the sick girl waved her hand to them. "Go
away!" she cried, "I do not love you!"

"Good gracious! You do not love your parents?" said the mother.

"No! You are cruel to me, and take from me the only joy I have!"

"Eli, Eli! Do not speak such dreadful words!" begged the mother.

"Yes, mother," she shrieked; "now I must say it! Yes, mother! You want
me to marry that hateful man, and I will not. You shut me up here, where
I am never happy, except when I am to go out! You take Mathilde from me,
the only person I love and long for in the world! O God, what will
become of me when Mathilde is no longer here--especially now that I have
so much, so much I cannot manage when I have no one to talk with?"

"But you really have so seldom been with her lately," said Baard.

"What did that matter when I had her over at the window yonder!"
answered the sick girl, and she cried in such a child-like way, that it
seemed to Arne as though he had never before seen anything like it.

"But you could not see her there," said Baard.

"I could see the gard," answered she; and the mother added, hotly,--

"You do not understand such things at all."

Then Baard said no more.

"Now I can never go to the window!" said Eli. "I went there in the
morning when I got up; in the evening I sat there in the moonlight: and
I went there when I had no one else to go to. Mathilde, Mathilde!"

She writhed in the bed, and again gave way to hysterical weeping. Baard
sat down on a stool near by and watched her.

But Eli did not get over this as soon as her parents may have expected.
Toward evening they first saw that she was likely to have a protracted
illness, the seeds of which had doubtless been gathering for some time;
and Arne was called in to assist in carrying her up to her own room. She
was unconscious, and lay very pale and still; the mother sat down beside
her; the father stood at the foot of the bed and looked on; afterwards
he went down to his work. Arne did the same; but that night when he went
to bed he prayed for her, prayed that she, young and fair as she was,
might have a happy life, and that no one might shut out joy from her.

The following day the father and mother sat talking together when Arne
came in; the mother had been shedding tears. Arne asked how things were
going; each waited for the other to speak, and therefore it was long
before he got a reply; but finally the father said, "It looks pretty
bad."

Later, Arne heard that Eli had been delirious the whole night; or, as
the father said, had been raving. Now she lay violently ill, knew no
one, would not take any food, and the parents were just sitting there,
deliberating whether they should call in the doctor. When, later, they
went up-stairs to the sick girl, and Arne was left alone again, he felt
as though life and death were both up there, but he sat outside.

In a few days, though, she was better. Once when the father was keeping
watch, she took a fancy to have Narrifas, the bird which Mathilde had
given her, standing beside the bed. Then Baard told her the truth, that
in all this confusion the bird had been forgotten, and that it was dead.
The mother came just while Baard was telling this, and she burst out in
the door,--"Good gracious me! how heedless you are, Baard, to tell such
things to that sick child! See, now she is fainting away again; Heaven
forgive you for what you have done!"

Every time the patient revived she screamed for the bird, said that it
would never go well with Mathilde since Narrifas was dead, wanted to go
to her, and fell into a swoon again. Baard stood there and looked on
until he could bear it no longer; then he wanted to help wait on her
too; but the mother pushed him away, saying that she would take care of
the sick girl alone. Then Baard gazed at both of them a long while,
after which he put on his cap with both hands, turned, and went out.

The priest and his wife came over later; for the illness had taken fresh
hold on Eli, and had become so bad that they knew not whether it was
tending to life or death.

Both the priest and the priest's wife reasoned with Baard, and urged
that he was too harsh with Eli; they had heard about the bird, and the
priest told him bluntly that such conduct was rough; he would take the
child home to the parsonage, he said, as soon as she had improved enough
to be moved. The priest's wife finally would not even see Baard; she
wept and sat with the sick girl, sent for the doctor, took his orders
herself, and came over several times each day to carry them out. Baard
went wandering about from place to place in the yard, going chiefly
where he could be alone; he would often stand still for a long time,
then straighten his cap with both hands, and find something to do.

The mother did not speak to him any more; they scarcely looked at each
other. Baard went up to the sick girl's room several times each day; he
took off his shoes at the bottom of the stairs, laid down his hat
outside of the door, which he opened cautiously. The moment he came in,
Birgit would turn as though she had not seen him, and then sit as
before, with her head in her hand, looking straight before her and at
the sick girl. The latter lay still and pale, unconscious of anything
about her. Baard would stand a while at the foot of the bed, look at
them both, and say nothing. Once, when Eli moved as though about to
awaken, he stole away directly as softly as he had come.

Arne often thought that words had now been exchanged between husband and
wife and parents and child, which had been long brewing, and which
would not soon be forgotten. He longed to get away, although he would
have liked first to know how Eli's illness would end. But this he could
learn even if he left, he thought; he went, therefore, to Baard, and
said that he wished to go home; the work for which he had come was done.
Baard sat outside on the chopping-block when Arne came to tell him this.
He sat digging in the snow with a pin. Arne knew the pin; for it was the
same that had fastened the weather vane. Without looking up Baard
said,--

"I suppose it is not pleasant to be here now, but I feel as if I did not
want you to leave."

Baard said no more; nor did Arne speak. He stood a while, then went away
and busied himself with some work, as though it were decided that he
should remain.

Later, when Arne was called in to dinner, Baard still sat on the
chopping-block. Arne went over to him and asked how Eli was getting on.

"I think she must be pretty bad to-day," said Baard; "I see that mother
is crying."

Arne felt as though some one had bidden him to sit down, and he sat down
directly opposite Baard on the end of a fallen tree.

"I have been thinking of your father these days," said Baard, so
unexpectedly, that Arne could make no reply. "You know, I dare say, what
there was between us two?"

"Yes, I know."

"Ah, well, you only know half, as might have been expected, and
naturally lay the greatest blame on me."

Arne answered presently: "You have doubtless settled that matter with
your God, as my father has surely done."

"Ah, well, that may be as one takes it," answered Baard. "When I found
this pin again, it seemed so strange to me that you should come here and
loosen the vane. Just as well first as last, thought I." He had taken
off his cap and sat looking into it.

Arne did not yet understand that by this Baard meant that he now wanted
to talk with him about his father. Indeed, he still did not understand
it, even after Baard was well under way, so little was this like the
man. But what had been working before in his mind, he gradually
comprehended as the story advanced, and if he had hitherto had respect
for this blundering but thoroughly good man, it was not lessened now.

"I might have been about fourteen years old," said Baard, then paused,
as he did from time to time throughout his whole story, said a few words
more, and paused again in such a manner that his story bore the strong
impress of having every word weighed. "I might have been about fourteen
years old when I became acquainted with your father, who was of the same
age. He was very wild, and could not bear to have any one above him. And
what he never could forgive me was, that I was the head of the class
when we were confirmed, and he was number two. He often offered to
wrestle with me, but nothing ever came of it; I suppose because we were
neither of us sure of ourselves. But it is strange that he fought every
day, and no misfortune befell him; the one time I tried my hand it
turned out as badly as could be; but, to be sure, I had waited a long
time too.

"Nils fluttered about all the girls and they about him. There was only
one I wanted, but he took her from me at every dance, at every wedding,
at every party; it was the one to whom I am now married.... I often had
a desire, as I sat looking on, to make a trial of strength with him,
just because of this matter; but I was afraid I might lose, and I knew
that if I did so I should lose her too. When the others had gone, I
would lift the weights he had lifted, kick the beam he had kicked, but
the next time he danced away from me with the girl, I did not dare
tackle him, although it chanced once, as Nils stood joking with her
right before my face, that I laid hold of a good sized fellow who stood
by and tossed him against the beam, as though for sport. Nils grew pale,
too, that time.

"If he had only been kind to the girl; but he was false to her, and that
evening after evening. I almost think she cared more for him each time.
Then it was that the last thing happened. I thought now it must either
break or bear. Nor did the Lord want him to go about any longer; and
therefore he fell a little more heavily than I had intended. I never saw
him after that."

They sat for a long time silent. Finally Baard continued:--

"I offered myself again. She answered neither yes nor no; and so I
thought she would like me better afterwards. We were married; the
wedding took place down in the valley, at the house of her father's
sister, who left her property to her; we began with plenty, and what we
then had has increased. Our gards lay alongside of each other, and they
have since been thrown into one, as had been my idea from boyhood up.
But many other things did not turn out as I had planned."

He was long silent; Arne thought, for a while, he was weeping; it was
not so. But he spoke in a still gentler tone than usual when he began
again,--

"At first she was quiet and very sorrowful. I had nothing to say for her
comfort, and so I was silent. Later, she fell at times into that
commanding way that you have perhaps noticed in her; yet it was after
all a change, and so I was silent then, too. But a truly happy day I
have not had since I was married, and that has been now for twenty
years."

He broke the pin in two; then he sat a while looking at the pieces.

"When Eli grew to be a large girl, I thought she would find more
happiness among strangers than here. It is seldom that I have insisted
on anything; it usually has been wrong, too, when I have; and so it was
with this. The mother yearned for her child, although only the lake
parted them; and at last I found out that Eli was not under the best
influences over at the parsonage, for there is really much good-natured
nonsense about the priest's family; but I found it out too late. Now she
seems to care for neither father nor mother."

He had taken his cap off again; now his long hair fell over his eyes; he
stroked it aside, and put on his cap with both hands, as though about to
go; but as in getting up he turned toward the house, he stopped and
added, with a glance at the chamber window,--

"I thought it was best she and Mathilde should not bid each other
good-by; but that proved to be wrong. I told her the little bird was
dead, for it was my fault, you know, and it seemed to me right to
confess; but that was wrong too. And so it is with everything. I have
always meant to do the best, but it has turned out to be the worst; and
now it has gone so far that they speak ill of me, both wife and
daughter, and I am alone here."

A girl now called out to them that dinner was getting cold. Baard got
up. "I hear the horses neighing," said he, "somebody must have forgotten
them;" and with this he went over to the stable to give them hay.



CHAPTER XII.


Eli was very weak after her illness; the mother sat over her night and
day, and was never down-stairs; the father made his usual visits up to
the sick-room in his stocking feet, and leaving his cap outside of the
door. Arne was still at the gard; he and the father sat together of
evenings; he had come to think a good deal of Baard, who was a
well-educated man, a deep thinker, but seemed to be afraid of what he
knew. Arne helped him to get things right in his mind and told him much
that he did not know before, and Baard was very grateful.

Eli could now sit up at intervals; and as she began to improve she took
many fancies into her head. Thus it was that one evening as Arne sat in
the room below Eli's chamber singing songs in a loud voice, the mother
came down and brought word that Eli wanted to know if he would not come
up-stairs and sing that she might hear the words. Arne had undoubtedly
been singing for Eli all along; for when her mother gave him the message
he grew red, and rose as though he would deny what he had been doing,
although no one had charged him with it. He soon recovered his
composure, and said evasively that there was very little he could sing.
But the mother remarked that it did not seem so when he was alone.

Arne yielded and went. He had not seen Eli since the day he had helped
carry her up-stairs; he felt that she must now be greatly changed, and
was almost afraid to see her. But when he softly opened the door and
entered, it was so dark in the room that he saw no one. He paused on the
threshold.

"Who is it?" asked Eli, in a clear, low voice.

"It is Arne Kampen," he answered, in a guarded tone, that the words
might fall softly.

"It was kind of you to come."

"How are you now, Eli?"

"Thank you, I am better."

"Please sit down, Arne," said she, presently, and Arne felt his way to a
chair that stood by the foot of the bed. "It was so nice to hear you
singing, you must sing a little for me up here."

"If I only knew anything that was suitable."

There was silence for a moment; then she said, "Sing a hymn," and he did
so; it was a part of one of the confirmation hymns. When he had
finished, he heard that she was weeping, and so he dared not sing any
more; but presently she said, "Sing another one like that," and he sang
another, choosing the one usually sung when the candidates for
confirmation are standing in the church aisle.

"How many things I have thought of while I have been lying here," said
Eli. He did not know what to answer, and he heard her weeping quietly in
the dark. A clock was ticking on the wall, it gave warning that it was
about to strike, and then struck; Eli drew a long breath several times
as though she would ease her breast, and then she said, "One knows so
little. I have known neither father nor mother. I have not been kind to
them,--and that is why it gives me such strange feelings to hear that
confirmation hymn."

When people talk in the dark, they are always more truthful than when
they see each other face to face; they can say more, too.

"It is good to hear your words," replied Arne; he was thinking of what
she had said when she was taken ill.

She knew what he meant; and so she remarked, "Had not this happened to
me, God only knows how long it might have been before I had found my
mother."

"She has been talking with you now?"

"Every day; she has done nothing else."

"Then, I dare say, you have heard many things."

"You may well say so."

"I suppose she talked about my father?"

"Yes."

"Does she still think of him?"

"She does."

"He was not kind to her."

"Poor mother!"

"He was worst of all, though, to himself."

Thoughts now arose that neither liked to express to the other. Eli was
the first to break the silence.

"They say you are like your father."

"So I have heard," he answered, evasively.

She paid no heed to the tone of his voice; and so, after a while, she
continued, "Could he, too, make songs?"

"No."

"Sing a song for me,--one you have made yourself."

But Arne was not in the habit of confessing that the songs he sang were
his own. "I have none," said he.

"Indeed you have, and I am sure you will sing them for me if I ask it."

What he had never done for others, he now did for her. He sang the
following song:--

    "The tree's early leaf-buds were bursting their brown:
    'Shall I take them away?' said the frost, sweeping down.
        'No, dear; leave them alone
        Till blossoms here have grown,'
    Prayed the tree, while it trembled from rootlet to crown.

    "The tree bore its blossoms, and all the birds sung:
    'Shall I take them away?' said the wind, as it swung.
        'No, dear; leave them alone
        Till berries here have grown,'
    Said the tree, while its leaflets all quivering hung.

    "The tree bore its fruit in the midsummer glow:
    Said the girl, 'May I gather thy berries or no?'
        'Yes, dear, all thou canst see;
        Take them; all are for thee,'
    Said the tree, while it bent down its laden boughs low."[23]

This song almost took her breath away. He, too, sat there silent, after
he was through, as though he had sung more than he cared to say to her.

Darkness has great power over those who are sitting in it and dare not
speak; they are never so near each other as then. If Eli only turned,
only moved her hand on the bed-cover, only breathed a little more
heavily than usual, Arne heard it. "Arne, could not you teach me to make
songs?"

"Have you never tried?"

"Yes, these last few days I have; but I have not succeeded."

"Why, what did you want to have in them?"

"Something about my mother, who cared so much for your father."

"That is a sad theme."

"I have cried over it, too."

"You must not think of what you are going to put in your songs; it comes
of itself."

"How does it come?"

"As other precious things, when you least expect it."

They were both silent.

"I wonder, Arne, that you are longing to go away when you have so much
that is beautiful within yourself."

"Do _you_ know that I am longing?"

She made no reply to this, but lay still a few moments, as though in
thought.

"Arne, you must not go away!" said she, and this sent a glow through
him.

"Well, sometimes I have less desire to go."

"Your mother must be very fond of you. I should like to see your
mother."

"Come over to Kampen when you are well."

And now all at once he pictured her sitting in the cheerful room at
Kampen, looking out on the mountains; his chest began to heave, the
blood rushed to his head. "It is warm in here," said he, getting up.

She heard this. "Are you going, Arne?" asked she, and he sat down again.

"You must come over to us often; mother likes you so much."

"I should be glad to come myself; but I must have some errand, though."

Eli was silent for a while, as if she were considering something. "I
believe," said she, "that mother has something she wants to ask of you."

He heard her turn in bed. There was no sound to be heard, either in the
room or outside, save the ticking of the clock on the wall. At last she
burst out,--

"How I wish it were summer!"

"That it were summer?" and there rose up in his mind, blended with
fragrant foliage and the tinkling of cattle bells, shouts from the
mountains, singing from the valleys, Black Water glittering in the
sunshine, the gards rocking in it, and Eli coming out and sitting down,
as she had done that evening long ago.

"If it were summer," said she, "and I were sitting on the hill, I really
believe I could sing a song."

He laughed and asked: "What would it be about?"

"Oh, something easy, about--I do not know myself--"

"Tell me, Eli!" and he sprang up in delight; then, recollecting himself,
he sat down again.

"No; not for all the world!" She laughed.

"I sang for you when you asked me."

"Yes, you did; but--no! no!"

"Eli, do you think I would make sport of your little verse?"

"No; I do not think so, Arne; but it is not anything I have made
myself."

"It is by some one else, then."

"Yes, it just came floating of itself."

"Then you can surely repeat it to me."

"No, no; it is not altogether that either, Arne. Do not ask me any
more." She must have hid her face in the bedclothes, for the last words
seemed to come out of them.

"You are not as kind to me now, Eli, as I was to you!" he said, and
rose.

"Arne, there is a difference--you do not understand me--but it was--I do
not know myself--another time--do not be angry with me, Arne! Do not go
away from me!" She began to weep.

"Eli, what is the matter?" He listened. "Are you feeling ill?" He did
not think she was. She still wept; he thought that he must either go
forward or backward.

"Eli!"

"Yes!"

They both spoke in whispers.

"Give me your hand!"

She did not answer; he listened intently, eagerly, felt about on the
coverlid, and clasped a warm little hand that lay outside.

They heard steps on the stairs, and let go of each other's hands. It was
Eli's mother, who was bringing in a light. "You are sitting quite too
long in the dark," said she, and put the candlestick on the table. But
neither Eli nor Arne could bear the light; she turned toward the
pillow, he held his hand up before his eyes. "Oh, yes; it hurts the eyes
a little at first," said her mother; "but that will soon pass off."

Arne searched on the floor for the cap he did not have with him, and
then he left the room.

The next day he heard that Eli was coming down-stairs for a little while
after dinner. He gathered together his tools, and said good-by. When she
came down he was gone.



CHAPTER XIII.


Spring comes late in the mountains. The mail that passed along the
highway during the winter three times a week, in April only passes once,
and the inhabitants know then that in the outside world the snow is
thawed, the ice broken; that the steamers are running, and the plow put
into the earth. Here, the snow still lies three ells deep; the cattle
low in the stalls, and the birds come, but hide themselves, shivering
with the cold. Occasionally some traveler arrives, saying he has left
his cart down in the valley, and he has flowers with him, which he
shows,--he has gathered them by the wayside. Then the people become
restless, go about talking together, look at the sky and down in the
valley, wondering how much the sun gains each day. They strew ashes on
the snow, and think of those who are now gathering flowers.

It was at such a time that old Margit Kampen came walking up to the
parsonage and asked to speak with "father."[24] She was invited into the
study, where the priest, a slender, fair-haired, gentle-looking man with
large eyes and spectacles, received her kindly, knew who she was, and
asked her to sit down.

"Is it now something about Arne again?" he inquired, as though they had
often talked together about him.

"Heaven help me!" said Margit; "it is never anything but good I have to
say of him, and yet my heart is so heavy." She looked very sad as she
spoke.

"Has that longing come back again?" asked the priest.

"Worse than ever," said the mother. "I do not even believe he will stay
with me until spring comes to us here."

"And yet he has promised never to leave you."

"True enough; but, dear me, he must manage for himself now; when the
mind is set upon going, go one must, I suppose. But what will become of
me?"

"Still I will believe, as long as possible, that he will not leave you,"
said the priest.

"Certainly not; but what if he should never be content at home? I would
then have it on my conscience that I stood in his way. There are times
when I think I ought to ask him myself to go away."

"How do you know that he is longing now more than ever?"

"Oh, from many things. Since midwinter he has not worked out in the
parish a single day. On the other hand, he has made three trips to town,
and has stayed away a long while each time. He scarcely ever talks now
when he is working, as he often used to do. He sits for hours by the
little window up-stairs, and looks out over the mountains in the
direction of the Kamp gorge; he sometimes stays there a whole Sunday
afternoon, and often when it is moonlight, he sits there far into the
night."

"Does he never read to you?"

"Of course he reads and sings to me every Sunday; but he always seems in
a hurry, except now and then, when he overdoes it."

"Does he never come and talk with you?"

"He often lets so long a time pass without saying a word, that I cannot
help crying when I sit alone. Then, I suppose, he sees this, for he
begins to talk with me, but it is always about trifles, never about
anything serious."

The priest was walking up and down; now he stopped and asked, "Why do
you not speak with him about it?"

It was some time before she made any reply to this; she sighed several
times, she looked first downward, then on either side,--she folded the
handkerchief she carried.

"I came here to-day to have a talk with father about something that lies
heavily on my heart."

"Speak freely, it will lighten the burden."

"I know that; for I have now dragged it along alone these many years,
and it grows heavier each year."

"What is it, my good woman?"

There was a brief pause; then she said, "I have sinned greatly against
my son,"--and she began to cry.

The priest came close up to her. "Confess it to me," said he, "then we
will together pray God that you may be forgiven."

Margit sobbed and dried her eyes, but began to weep afresh as soon as
she tried to speak, and this was repeated several times. The priest
comforted her, and said she surely could not have been guilty of
anything very sinful, that she was no doubt too strict with herself, and
so on. Margit wept, however, and could not muster the courage to begin
until the priest had seated himself by her side and spoken kindly words
to her. Then, in broken sentences, she faltered forth her confession:--

"He had a hard time of it when he was a boy, and so his mind became bent
on travel. Then he met Kristian, he who has grown so very rich over
there where they dig for gold. Kristian gave Arne so many books that he
ceased to be like the rest of us; they sat together in the long
evenings, and when Kristian went away, my boy longed to follow him.
Just at that time, though, his father fell down dead, and Arne promised
never to leave me. Yet I was like a hen that had brooded a duck's egg,
when the young duckling had burst the shell, he wanted to go out on the
great water, and I remained on the bank screaming. If he did not
actually go away himself, his heart went in his songs, and every morning
I thought I would find his bed empty.

"Then there came a letter for him from a far-off country, and I knew it
must be from Kristian. God forgive me, I hid it! I thought that would be
the end of the matter, but still another one came, and as I had kept the
first from him, I had to keep the second one too. But, indeed, it seemed
as though they would burn a hole in the chest where they lay, for my
thoughts would go there from the time I opened my eyes in the morning
until I closed them at night. And you never have known anything so bad
as this, for there came a third! I stood holding it in my hand for a
quarter of an hour; I carried it in my bosom for three days, weighing
within me whether I should give it to him or lay it away with the
others, but perhaps it would have power to lure the boy away from me,
and I could not help it, I put the letter away with the others. Now I
went about in sorrow every day, both because of those that were in the
chest and because of the new ones that might come. I was afraid of
every person who came to our house. When we were in the house together,
and there came a knock at the door, I trembled, for it might be a
letter, and then _he_ would get it. When he was out in the parish, I
kept thinking at home that now perhaps he would get a letter while he
was away, and that it might have something in it about those that had
come before. When he was coming home, I watched his face in the
distance, and, dear me! how happy I was when I saw him smiling, for then
I knew he had no letter! He had grown so handsome, too, just like his
father, but much fairer and more gentle-looking. And then he had such a
voice for singing: when he sat outside of the door at sunset, singing
toward the mountain ridge and listening for the echo, I felt in my heart
that I never could live without him! If I only saw him, or if I knew he
was anywhere around, and he looked tolerably happy, and would only give
me a word now and then, I wished for nothing more on earth, and would
not have had a single tear unshed.

"But just as he seemed to be getting on better, and to be feeling more
at ease among people, there came word from the parish post-office that a
fourth letter had now come, and that in it there were two hundred
dollars! I thought I should drop right down on the spot where I stood.
What should I do now? The letter, of course, I could get out of the way;
but the money? I could not sleep for several nights on account of this
money. I kept it up in the garret for a while, then left it in the
cellar behind a barrel, and once I was so beside myself that I laid it
in the window so that he might find it. When I heard him coming, I took
it away again. At last I found a way, though. I gave him the money and
said it had been out at interest since mother's lifetime. He spent it in
improving the gard, as had been in my own mind, and there it was not
lost. But then it happened that same autumn that he sat one evening
wondering why Kristian had so entirely forgotten him.

"Now the wound opened afresh, and the money burned. What I had done was a
sin, and the sin had been of no use to me!

"The mother who has sinned against her own child is the most unhappy of
all mothers,--and yet I only did it out of love. So I shall be punished,
I dare say, by losing what is dearest to me. For since midwinter he has
taken up again the tune he sings when he is longing; he has sung it from
boyhood up, and I never hear it without growing pale. Then I feel I
could give up all for him, and now you shall see for yourself,"--she
took a scrap of paper out of her bosom, unfolded it, and gave it to the
priest,--"here is something he is writing at from time to time; it
certainly belongs to that song. I brought it with me, for I cannot read
such fine writing; please see if there is anything in it about his going
away."

There was only one stanza on this paper. For the second one there were
half and whole lines here and there, as if it were a song he had
forgotten, and was now calling to mind again, verse by verse. The first
stanza ran,--

    "Oh, how I wonder what I should see
        Over the lofty mountains!
    Snow here shuts out the view from me,
    Round about stands the green pine-tree.
        Longing to hasten over--
        Dare it become a rover?"

"Is it about his going away?" asked Margit, her eyes fixed eagerly on
the priest's face.

"Yes, it is," answered he, and let the paper drop.

"Was I not sure of it! Ah, me! I know that tune so well!" She looked at
the priest, her hands folded, anxious, intent, while tear after tear
trickled down her cheek.

But the priest knew as little how to advise as she. "The boy must be
left to himself in this matter," said he. "Life cannot be altered for
his sake, but it depends on himself whether he shall one day find out
its meaning. Now it seems he wants to go away to do so."

"But was it not just so with the old woman?" said Margit.

"With the old woman?" repeated the priest.

"Yes; she who went out to fetch the sunshine into her house, instead of
cutting windows in the walls."

The priest was astonished at her shrewdness; but it was not the first
time she had surprised him when she was on this theme; for Margit,
indeed, had not thought of anything else for seven or eight years.

"Do you think he will leave me? What shall I do? And the money? And the
letters?" All this crowded upon her at once.

"Well, it was not right about the letters. You can hardly be justified
in withholding from your son what belonged to him. It was still worse,
however, to place a fellow Christian in a bad light when it was not
deserved, and the worst of all was that it was one whom Arne loved and
who was very fond of him in return. But we will pray God to forgive you,
we will both pray."

Margit bowed her head; she still sat with her hands folded.

"How earnestly I would pray him for forgiveness, if I only knew he would
stay!" She was probably confounding in her mind the Lord and Arne.

The priest pretended he had not noticed this. "Do you mean to confess
this to him at once?" he asked.

She looked down and said in a low tone, "If I dared wait a little while
I should like to do so."

The priest turned aside to hide a smile, as he asked, "Do you not think
your sin becomes greater the longer you delay the confession?"

Both hands were busied with her handkerchief: she folded it into a very
small square, and tried to get it into a still smaller one, but that was
not possible.

"If I confess about the letters, I am afraid he will leave me."

"You dare not place your reliance on the Lord, then?"

"Why, to be sure I do!" she said hurriedly; then she added softly, "But
what if he should go anyway?"

"So, then, you are more afraid of Arne's leaving you than of continuing
in sin?"

Margit had unfolded her handkerchief again; she put it now to her eyes,
for she was beginning to weep.

The priest watched her for a while, then he continued: "Why did you tell
me all this when you did not mean it to lead to anything?" He waited a
long time, but she did not answer. "You thought, perhaps, your sin would
become less when you had confessed it?"

"I thought that it would," said she, softly, with her head bowed still
farther down on her breast.

The priest smiled and got up. "Well, well, my dear Margit, you must act
so that you will have joy in your old age."

"If I could only keep what I have!" said she; and the priest thought
she dared not imagine any greater happiness than living in her constant
state of anxiety. He smiled as he lit his pipe.

"If we only had a little girl who could get hold of him, then you should
see that he would stay!"

She looked up quickly, and her eyes followed the priest until he paused
in front of her.

"Eli Böen? What"--

She colored and looked down again; but she made no reply.

The priest, who had stood still, waiting, said finally, but this time in
quite a low tone "What if we should arrange it so that they should meet
oftener at the parsonage?"

She glanced up at the priest to find out whether he was really in
earnest. But she did not quite dare believe him.

The priest had begun to walk up and down again, but now he paused. "See
here, Margit! When it comes to the point, perhaps this was your whole
errand here to-day, hey?"

She bowed her head far down, she thrust two fingers into the folded
handkerchief, and brought out a corner of it. "Well, yes, God help me;
that was exactly what I wanted."

The priest burst out laughing, and rubbed his hands. "Perhaps that was
what you wanted the last time you were here, too?"

She drew the corner of the handkerchief farther out; she stretched it
and stretched it. "Since you ask me, yes, it was just that."

"Ha, ha, ha, ha! Ah, Margit! Margit! We shall see what we can do; for,
to tell the truth, my wife and daughter have for a long time had the
same thoughts as you."

"Is it possible?" She looked up, at once so happy and so bashful, that
the priest had his own delight in her open, pretty face, in which the
childlike expression had been preserved through all sorrow and anxiety.

"Ah, well, Margit, you, whose love is so great, will, I have no doubt,
obtain forgiveness, for love's sake, both from your God and from your
son, for the wrong you have done. You have probably been punished enough
already in the continual, wearing anxiety you have lived in; we shall,
if God is willing, bring this to a speedy end, for, if He _wishes_ this,
He will help us a little now."

She drew a long sigh, which she repeated again and again; then she
arose, gave her thanks, dropped a courtesy, and courtesied again at the
door. But she was scarcely well outside before a change came over her.
She cast upward a look beaming with gratitude, and she hurried more and
more the farther she got away from people, and lightly as she tripped
down toward Kampen that day, she had not done for many, many years. When
she got so far on her way that she could see the thick smoke curling
gayly up from the chimney, she blessed the house, the whole gard, the
priest, and Arne,--and then remembered that they were going to have
smoked beef for dinner,--her favorite dish!



CHAPTER XIV.


Kampen was a beautiful gard. It lay in the midst of a plain, bordered
below by the Kamp gorge, and above by the parish road; on the opposite
side of the road was a thick wood, a little farther beyond, a rising
mountain ridge, and behind this the blue, snow-capped mountains. On the
other side of the gorge there was also a broad mountain range, which
first entirely surrounded Black Water on the side where Böen lay, then
grew higher toward Kampen, but at the same time turned aside to make way
for the broad basin called the lower parish, and which began just below,
for Kampen was the last gard in the upper parish.

The front door of the dwelling-house was turned toward the road; it was
probably about two thousand paces off; a path with leafy birch-trees on
either side led thither. The wood lay on both sides of the clearing; the
fields and meadows could, therefore, extend as far as the owners
themselves wished; it was in all respects a most excellent gard. A
little garden lay in front of the house. Arne managed it as his books
directed. To the left were the stables and other out-houses. They were
nearly all new built, and formed a square opposite the dwelling-house.
The latter was painted red, with white window-frames and doors, was two
stories high, thatched with turf, and small shrubs grew on the roof; the
one gable had a vane staff, on which turned an iron cock, with high,
spread tail.

Spring had come to the mountain districts. It was a Sunday morning;
there was a little heaviness in the air, but it was calm and without
frost; mist hung over the wood, but Margit thought it would lift during
the day. Arne had read the sermon for his mother and sung the hymns,
which had done him good; now he was in full trim, ready to go up to the
parsonage. He opened the door, the fresh perfume of the leaves was
wafted toward him, the garden lay dew-covered and bowed by the morning
mist, and from the Kamp gorge there came a roaring, mingled at intervals
with mighty booms, making everything tremble to the ear and the eye.

Arne walked upward. The farther he got from the force the less
awe-inspiring became its roar, which finally spread itself like the deep
tones of an organ over the whole landscape.

"The Lord be with him on his way!" said the mother, opening the window
and looking after him until the shrubbery closed about him. The fog
lifted more and more, the sun cut through it; there was life now about
the fields and in the garden; all Arne's work sprouted out in fresh
growth, sending fragrance and joy up to the mother. Spring is lovely to
those who long have been surrounded by winter.

Arne had no fixed errand at the parsonage, but still he wanted to learn
about the papers he and the priest took together. Recently he had seen
the names of several Norsemen who had done remarkably well digging gold
in America, and among them was Kristian. Now Arne had heard a rumor that
Kristian was expected home. He could, no doubt, get information about
this at the parsonage,--and if Kristian had really returned, then Arne
would go to him in the interval between spring and haying time. This was
working in his mind until he had advanced so far that he could see Black
Water, and Böen on the other side. The fog had lifted there, too; the
sun was playing on the green, the mountain loomed up with shining peak,
but the fog was still lying in its lap; the wood darkened the water on
the right side, but in front of the house the ground was more flat, and
its white sand glittered in the sunshine. Suddenly his thoughts sped to
the red-painted building with white doors and window-frames, that he had
had in mind when he painted his own. He did not remember those first
gloomy days he had passed there; he only thought of that bright summer
they had both seen, he and Eli, up beside her sick-bed. Since then he
had not been to Böen, nor would he go there, not for the whole world. If
only his thoughts barely touched on it, he grew crimson and abashed; and
yet this happened again every day, and many times a day. If there was
anything which could drive him out of the parish, it was just this!

Onward he went, as though he would flee from his thoughts, but the
farther he walked the nearer opposite Böen he came, and the more he
gazed upon it. The fog was entirely gone, the sky clear from one
mountain outline to the other, the birds sailed along and called aloud
to one another in the glad sunny air, the fields responded with millions
of flowers; the Kamp force did not here compel gladness to bow the knee
in submission and awe, but buoyant and frolicsome it tumbled over,
singing, twinkling, rejoicing without end!

Arne had walked till he was in a glowing heat; he flung himself down in
the grass at the foot of a hill, looked over towards Böen, then turned
away to avoid seeing it. Presently he heard singing above him, pure and
clear, as song had never sounded to him before; it floated out over the
meadow, mingled with the chattering of the birds, and he was scarcely
sure of the tune before he recognized the words too,--for the tune was
his favorite one, and the words were those that had been working in his
mind from the time he was a boy, and forgotten the same day he had
brought them forth! He sprang up as though he would catch them, then
paused and listened; here came the first stanza, here came the second,
here came the third and the fourth of his own forgotten song streaming
down to him:--

    "Oh, how I wonder what I should see
        Over the lofty mountains!
    Snow here shuts out the view from me,
    Round about stands the green pine-tree,
        Longing to hasten over--
        Dare it become a rover?

    "Soars the eagle with strong wing play,
        Over the lofty mountains;
    Rows through the young and vigorous day
    Sating his courage in quest of prey;
        When he will swooping downward,
        Tow'rd far-off lands gazing onward.

    "Leaf-heavy apple, wilt thou not go
          Over the lofty mountains?
    Forth putting buds 'mid summer's glow,
    Thou wilt till next time wait, I know;
          All of these birds art swinging,
          Knowing not what they're singing.

    "He who for twenty years longed to flee
          Over the lofty mountains,
    Nor beyond them can hope to see,
    Smaller each year feels himself to be;
          Hears what the birds are singing,
          Thou art with confidence swinging.

    "Bird, with thy chatt'ring, what wouldst thou here
          Over the lofty mountains?
    Fairer the lands beyond must appear,
    Higher the trees and the skies far more clear.
          Wouldst thou but longing be bringing,
          Bird, but no wings with thy singing?

    "Shall I the journey never take
          Over the lofty mountains?
    Must my poor thoughts on this rock-wall break?
    Must it a dread, ice-bound prison make,
          Shutting at last in around me,
          Till for my tomb it surround me?

    "Forth will I! forth! Oh, far, far away,
          Over the lofty mountains!
    I will be crushed and consumed if I stay;
    Courage tow'rs up and seeks the way,
          Let it its flight now be taking,
          Not on this rock-wall be breaking!

    "One day I know I shall wander afar
          Over the lofty mountains!
    Lord, my God, is thy door ajar?
    Good is thy home where the blessed are;
          Keep it though closed a while longer,
          Till my deep longing grow stronger."[25]

Arne stood still until the last verse, the last word, had died away.
Again he heard the birds sporting and twittering, but he knew not
whether he himself dared stir. Find out who had been singing, though, he
must; he raised his foot and trod so carefully that he could not hear
the grass rustle. A little butterfly alighted on a flower, directly at
his feet, had to start up again, flew only a little piece farther, had
to start up again, and so on all over the hill as he crept cautiously
up. Soon he came to a leafy bush, and cared to go no farther, for now he
could see. A bird flew up from the bush, gave a startled cry and darted
over the sloping hill-side, and then she who was sitting within view
looked up. Arne stooped far down, holding his breath, his heart
throbbing so wildly that he heard its every beat, listening, not daring
to move a leaf, for it was, indeed, she,--it was Eli whom he saw!

After a long, long while, he looked up just a little, and would gladly
have drawn a step nearer but he thought the bird might perhaps have its
nest under the bush, and was afraid he would tread on it. He peered out
between the leaves as they blew aside and closed together again. The sun
shone directly on her. She wore a black dress without sleeves,[26] and
had a boy's straw hat perched lightly on her head, and slanting a little
to one side. In her lap lay a book, and on it a profusion of wild
flowers; her right hand was dreamily toying with them; in her left,
which rested on her knee, her head was bowed. She was gazing in the
direction of the bird's flight, and it really seemed as though she had
been weeping.

Anything more lovely Arne had neither seen nor dreamed of in his whole
life; the sun, too, had scattered all its gold over her and the spot
where she was sitting, and the song still floated about her, although
its last notes had long since been sung, so that he thought,
breathed--aye, even his heart beat in time to it.

She took up the book and opened it, but soon closed it again and sat as
before, beginning to hum something else. It was, "The tree's early
leaf-buds were bursting their brown." He knew it at once, although she
did not quite remember either the words or the tune, and made many
mistakes. The stanza she knew best was the last one, therefore she often
repeated it; but she sang it thus:--

    "The tree bore its berries, so mellow and red:
    'May I gather thy berries?' a sweet maiden said.
        'Yes, dear; all thou canst see;
        Take them; all are for thee;'
    Said the tree--trala-lala, trala, lala--said."[27]

Then suddenly she sprang up, scattering the flowers all around her, and
sang aloud, so that the tune, as it quivered through the air, could
easily be heard all the way over to Böen. And then she ran away. Should
he call after her? No! There she went skipping over the hills, singing,
trolling; her hat fell off, she picked it up again; and then she stood
still in the midst of the tallest grass.

"Shall I call after her? She is looking round!"

He quickly stooped down. It was a long while before he dared peep forth
again; at first he only raised his head; he could not see her: then he
drew himself up on his knees, and still could not see her; finally, he
got all the way up. No, she was gone! He no longer wanted to go to the
parsonage. He wanted nothing!

Later he sat where she had been sitting, still sat there until the sun
drew near the meridian. The lake was not ruffled by a single ripple; the
smoke from the gards began to curl upward; the land-rails, one after
another, had ceased their call; the small birds, though, continued their
sportive gambols, but withdrew to the wood; the dew was gone and the
grass looked sober; not a breath of wind stirred the leaves; it was
about an hour from noon. Arne scarcely knew how it was that he found
himself seated there, weaving together a little song; a sweet melody
offered itself for it, and into a heart curiously full of all that was
gentle, the tune came and went until the picture was complete. He sang
the song calmly as he had made it:--

    "He went in the forest the whole day long,
          The whole day long;
    For there he had heard such a wonderful song,
          A wonderful song.

    "He fashioned a flute from a willow spray,
          A willow spray,
    To see if within it the sweet tune lay,
          The sweet tune lay.

    "It whispered and told him its name at last,
          Its name at last;
    But then, while he listened, away it passed,
          Away it passed.

    "But oft when he slumbered, again it stole,
          Again it stole,
    With touches of love upon his soul,
          Upon his soul.

    "Then he tried to catch it, and keep it fast,
          And keep it fast;
    But he woke, and away in the night it passed,
          In the night it passed.

    "'My Lord, let me pass in the night, I pray,
          In the night, I pray;
    For the tune has taken my heart away,
          My heart away.'

    "Then answered the Lord, 'It is thy friend
          It is thy friend,
    Though not for an hour shall thy longing end,
          Thy longing end;

    "'And all the others are nothing to thee,
          Nothing to thee,
    To this that thou seekest and never shalt see,
          Never shalt see.'"[28]



CHAPTER XV.


It was a Sunday evening in midsummer; the priest had returned from
church, and Margit had been sitting with him until it was nearly seven
o'clock. Now she took her leave, and hastened down the steps and out
into the yard, for there she had just caught sight of Eli Böen, who had
been playing for some time with the priest's son and her own brother.

"Good evening!" said Margit, standing still, "and God bless you all!"

"Good evening!" replied Eli, blushing crimson, and showing a desire to
stop playing, although the boys urged her to continue; but she begged to
be excused, and they had to let her go for that evening.

"It seems to me I ought to know you," said Margit.

"That is quite likely," was the reply.

"This surely never can be Eli Böen?"

Yes, it was she.

"Oh, dear me! So you are Eli Böen! Yes, now I see you are like your
mother."

Eli's auburn hair had become unfastened, so that it floated carelessly
about her; her face was as hot and as red as a berry, her bosom heaved,
she could not speak, and laughed because she was so out of breath.

"Yes, that is the way with young people."

Margit looked at Eli with satisfaction as she spoke.

"I suppose you do not know me?"

Eli had no doubt wanted to ask who she was, but could not command the
courage to do so, because the other was so much older than she; now she
said that she did not remember having seen her before.

"Well, to be sure, that is scarcely to be expected; old folks seldom get
out. You may perhaps know my son, Arne Kampen. I am his mother." She
stole a sly glance, as she spoke, at Eli, on whom these words wrought a
considerable change. "I am inclined to think he worked over at Böen
once, did he not?"

Yes, it was Eli's impression, too, that he had done so.

"The weather is fine this evening. We turned our hay to-day, and got it
in before I left home; it is really blessed weather."

"There will surely be a good hay-harvest this year," Eli observed.

"Yes, you may well say so. I suppose everything looks splendidly over at
Böen."

"They are through harvesting there."

"Oh, of course; plenty of help, stirring people. Are you going home this
evening?"

No, she did not intend to do so. They talked together about one thing
and another and gradually became so well acquainted that Margit felt at
liberty to ask Eli to walk a short distance with her.

"Could you not keep me company a few steps?" said she. "I so seldom find
any one to talk with, and I dare say it will make no difference to you."

Eli excused herself because she had not her jacket on.

"Well, I know, it is really a shame to ask such a thing the first time I
meet a person; but then one has to bear with old folks."

Eli said she was quite willing to go, she only wanted to fetch her
jacket.

It was a close-fitting jacket; when it was hooked, she looked as if she
wore a complete dress; but now she only fastened the two lowest hooks,
she was so warm. Her fine linen had a small turned down collar, and was
fastened at the throat with a silver button, in the form of a bird with
outspread wings. Such a one tailor Nils had worn the first time Margit
Kampen had danced with him.

"What a handsome button," she remarked, looking at it.

"My mother gave it to me," said Eli.

"Yes, so I thought," and Margit helped the girl adjust it as she spoke.

Now they walked on along the road. The new-mown hay was lying about in
heaps. Margit took up a handful, smelled it, and thought it was good.
She asked about the live stock at the parsonage, was led thereby to
inquire about that at Böen, and then told how much they had at Kampen.

"The gard has prospered finely of late years, and it can be made as much
larger as we ourselves wish. It feeds twelve milch cows now, and could
feed more; but Arne reads a great many books, and manages according to
them, and so he must have his cows fed in a first-rate way."

Eli made no reply to all this, as was quite natural; but Margit asked
her how old she was. She was nineteen.

"Have you taken any part in the house-work? You look so dainty, I
suppose it has not been much."

Oh, yes, she had helped in various ways, especially of late.

"Well, it is a good thing to become accustomed to a little of
everything; if one should get a large house of one's own, there might be
many things to be done. But, to be sure, when one finds good help
already in the house, it does not matter so very much."

Eli now thought she ought to turn back, for they had gone far beyond the
parsonage lands.

"It will be some time yet before the sun sets; it would be kind if you
would chat with me a little longer." And Eli went on.

Then Margit began to talk about Arne. "I do not know if you are very
well acquainted with him. He can teach you something about everything.
Bless me! how much that boy has read!"

Eli confessed that she was aware he had read a great deal.

"Oh, yes; that is really the least that can be said of him. Why, his
conduct to his mother all his days is something far beyond that. If the
old saying is true, that one who is good to his mother is sure to be
good to his wife, the girl Arne chooses will not have very much to
grumble about. What is it you are looking for, child?"

"I only lost a little twig I had in my hand."

They were both silent after this, and walked on without looking at each
other.

"He has such strange ways," began the mother, presently; "he was so
often frightened when he was a child that he got into the habit of
thinking everything over to himself, and such folks never know how to
put themselves forward."

Now Eli insisted on turning back, but Margit assured her that it was
only a short distance now to Kampen, and see Kampen she must, as she was
so near. But Eli thought it was too late that day.

"There is always some one who can go home with you," said Margit.

"No, no," promptly replied Eli, and was about to leave.

"To be sure, Arne is not at home," said Margit; "so it will not be he;
but there will be sure to be some one else."

Now Eli had less objection to going; besides, she wanted very much to
see Kampen. "If only it does not grow too late," said she.

"Well, if we stand here much longer talking about it, I suppose it may
grow too late," and they went on.

"You have read a great deal, I dare say; you who were brought up at the
priest's?"

Yes, Eli had read a good deal.

"That will be useful," Margit suggested, "when you are married to one
who knows less than you."

Eli thought she would never be married to such a person.

"Ah, well, it would perhaps not be best either; but in this parish there
is so little learning."

Eli asked where the smoke rising yonder in the wood came from.

"It comes from the new houseman's place belonging to Kampen. A man
called Upland Knut lives there. He was alone in the world, and so Arne
gave him that place to clear. He knows what it is to be lonely, my poor
Arne."

Soon they reached an ascent whence the gard could be seen. The sun shone
full in their faces; they held up their hands to shade their eyes and
gazed down at Kampen. It lay in the midst of a plain, the houses red
painted and with white window-frames; the grass in the surrounding
meadows had been mown, the hay might still be seen in heaps here and
there, the grain-fields lay green and rich among the pale meadows; over
by the cow-house all was stir and bustle: the cows, sheep, and goats
were just coming home, their bells were tinkling the dogs were barking,
the milk-maids shouting, while above all rose with awful din the roar of
the force in the Kamp gorge. The longer Eli looked, the more completely
this grand tune filled her ears, and at last it seemed so appalling to
her that her heart throbbed wildly; it roared and thundered through her
head until she grew bewildered, and at the same time felt so warm and
tender that involuntarily she took such short, hesitating steps, that
Margit begged her to walk a little faster.

She started. "I never heard anything like that waterfall," said she; "I
am almost afraid of it."

"You will soon get used to it," said the mother; "at last you would even
miss it if you could not hear it."

"Dear me! do you think so?" cried Eli.

"Well, you will see," said Margit, smiling.

"Come now, let us first look at the cattle," she continued, turning off
from the main road. "These trees on each side Nils planted. He wanted to
have everything nice, Nils did, that is what Arne likes too; look!
there you can see the garden my boy has laid out."

"Oh, how pretty!" cried Eli, running over to the garden fence. She had
often seen Kampen, but only from a distance, where the garden was not
visible.

"We will look at that after a while," said Margit.

Eli hastily glanced through the windows, as she went past the house;
there was no one inside.

They stationed themselves on the barn-bridge and watched the cows as
they passed lowing into the stable. Margit named them to Eli, told how
much milk each one gave, and which of them calved in the summer, which
did not. The sheep were counted and let into the fold; they were of a
large, foreign breed; Arne had raised them from two lambs he got from
the south. "He gives much attention to all such things, although you
would not think it of him."

They now went into the barn, and examined the hay that had been housed,
and Eli had to smell it--"for such hay is not to be found everywhere."
Margit pointed through the barn-hatch over the fields, and told what
each one yielded and how much was sown of each kind of seed.

They went out toward the house; but Eli, who had not spoken a word in
reply to all that had been said, as they passed by the garden, asked if
she might go into it. And when leave had been given her to go, she
begged to be allowed to pluck a flower or two. There was a little bench
away in one corner; she went and sat down on it, only to try it,
apparently, for she rose at once.

"We must hurry now, if we would not be too late," said Margit, standing
in the door. And now they went in. Margit asked Eli if she should offer
her some refreshments on this her first visit; but Eli blushed and
hastily declined. Then the girl's eyes wandered all around the room they
had entered; it was where the family sat in the day-time, and the
windows opened on the road; the room was not large but it was cozy, and
there was a clock and a stove in it. On the wall hung Nils's fiddle,
dingy and old, but with new strings. Near it also hung a couple of guns
belonging to Arne, an English angling-rod and other rare things which
the mother took down and showed to Eli, who looked at them and handled
them. The room was without paint, for Arne disliked it; nor was there
any painting in the room looking toward the Kamp gorge, with the fresh
green mountains directly opposite and the blue ones in the background;
this latter room,--which was in the new part of the building, as was the
entire half of the house it was in,--was larger and prettier than the
first. The two smaller rooms in the wing were painted, for there the
mother was to live when she was old, and Arne had brought a wife into
the house. They went into the kitchen, the store-house, the bake-house,
Eli spoke not a single word; indeed, she viewed everything about her as
though from afar off; only when anything was held out for her inspection
she touched it, but very daintily. Margit, who had kept up an unbroken
stream of chatter the whole way, now led her into the passage again;
they must go and take a look up-stairs.

There also were well-arranged rooms, corresponding with those below; but
they were new and had scarcely yet been occupied, except one, which
looked toward the gorge. In these rooms were kept all sorts of articles
which were not in daily household use. Here hung a whole lot of robes,
together with other bedclothes; the mother took hold of them, lifted
them up, and now and then insisted on having Eli do the same.
Meanwhile, it actually seemed as though the young girl were gaining a
little courage, or else her pleasure in these things increased; for to
some of them she went back a second time, asked questions about them,
and became more and more interested.

Finally the mother said, "Now at last we will go into Arne's own room;"
and then they went into the room overlooking the Kamp gorge. Once more
the awful din of the force smote upon their ears, for the window was
open. They were up so high that they could see the spray rising between
the mountains, but not the force itself, save in one spot farther on,
where a fragment had fallen from the cliff, just where the torrent, with
all its might, took its final leap into the depths below. Fresh turf
covered the upward turned side of this fallen piece of rock, a few fir
cones had buried themselves in it, and sent forth a growth of trees with
their roots in the crevices. The wind had tugged at and shaken the
trees, the force had washed them so completely that there was not a
branch four ells from the roots; they were crooked in the knees, their
boughs knotted and gnarled, yet they kept their footing, and shot far up
between the rocky walls. This was the first thing Eli noticed from the
window; the next, the dazzling white snow-capped peaks rising above the
green mountains. She turned her eyes away, let them wander over the
peaceful, fruitful fields, and finally about the room where she stood;
the roar of the force had hitherto prevented this.

How calm and cheerful it was within, compared with the scene without.
She did not look at any single article, because one blended into the
other, and most of them were new to her, for Arne had centred his
affections in this room, and, simple as it was, it was artistic in
almost every particular. It seemed as though the sound of his songs came
floating toward her, while she stood there, or as though he himself
smiled at her from every object. The first thing her eyes singled out in
the room, was a broad, handsomely carved book-shelf. There were so many
books on it that she did not believe the priest had more. A pretty
cabinet was the next thing she noticed. Here he kept many rare things,
his mother said. Here, too, he had his money, she added, in a whisper.
They had twice had property left to them, she told afterwards; they
would have one more inheritance besides, if things went as they should.
"But money is not the best thing in the world, after all. Arne may get
what is far better."

There were many little trinkets in the room which were interesting to
examine, and Eli looked at them all, as happy as a child.

Margit patted her on the shoulder, saying, as she looked brightly into
her eyes, "I have never seen you before to-day, my child, but I am
already very fond of you." Before Eli had time to feel embarrassed,
Margit pulled at her dress, and said, quite softly, "You see that little
red chest; there is something nice in that, I can tell you."

Eli looked at the chest: it was a small, square one, which she at once
longed to call her own.

"Arne does not want me to know what is in that chest," whispered the
mother, "and he always keeps the key hid." She walked up to some clothes
hanging on the wall, took down a velvet waistcoat, felt in the
watch-pocket, and there found the key. "Come, now, you shall see," she
whispered.

Eli did not think the mother was doing quite right, but women are
women,--and these two now crossed softly over to the chest and knelt in
front of it. As the mother raised the lid, so pleasant a perfume rose
toward them that Eli clapped her hands even before she had seen
anything. Spread over the top was a kerchief which the mother took away.
"Now you shall see," she whispered, as she took up a fine, black silk
neckerchief, such a one as men do not wear. "It looks just as if it were
for a girl," said the mother. "Here is another," she added.

Eli could not help taking hold of this; but when the mother insisted
upon trying it on her, she declined, and hung her head. The mother
carefully folded them up again.

"See!" she then said, taking up some pretty silk ribbons; "everything
here looks as if it were meant for a girl."

Eli grew red as fire, but not a sound escaped her; her bosom heaved, her
eyes had a shy look, otherwise she stood immovable.

"Here are more things still!" The mother took hold of a beautiful black
dress pattern, as she spoke. "This is fine goods, I dare say," said she,
as she held it up to the light.

Eli's hands trembled, when the mother asked her to take hold of the
cloth, she felt the blood rushing to her head; she would gladly have
turned away, but this was not easy to do.

"He has bought something every time he has been to town," said the
mother.

Eli could scarcely control herself any longer; her eyes roamed about the
chest from one article to another, and back again to the dress goods;
she, in fact, saw nothing else. But the mother persisted, and the last
thing she took up was wrapped in paper; they slowly unwrapped it; this
became attractive again. Eli grew eager; it proved to be a pair of small
shoes. They had never seen anything like these, either one of them; the
mother wondered how they could be made. Eli said nothing, but when she
went to touch the shoes, all her fingers made marks on them; she felt so
ashamed that she came very near bursting into tears. She longed most of
all to take her leave, but she dared not speak, nor dare she do anything
to make the mother look up.

Margit was wholly occupied with her own thoughts. "Does it not look just
as if he had bought them one by one for some one he had not the courage
to give them to?" said she, as she put each article back in the place
where she had found it; she must have had practice in so doing. "Now let
us see what there is in this little box," she added, softly opening it,
as though now they were going to find something really choice.

There lay a buckle, broad enough for a belt; that was the first thing
she showed Eli; the next was two gold rings, tied together, and then the
girl caught sight of a velvet hymn-book with silver clasps; further she
could not look, for on the silver of the book was engraved, in small
letters, "Eli, Baardsdatter Böen."[29]

Margit called her attention to something, got no reply, but saw that
tear after tear was trickling down on the silk kerchief, and spreading
over it. Then the mother laid down the brooch she held in her hand,
closed the little box, turned round and clasped Eli in her arms. The
daughter wept on her shoulder, and the mother wept over her, but
neither of them spoke a word.

       *       *       *       *       *

A little while later, Eli was walking alone in the garden: the mother
had gone into the kitchen to prepare something good for supper, for now
Arne would soon be home. By and by, Margit came out into the garden to
look for her young friend, and found her sitting writing in the sand. As
the mother joined her, Eli quickly smoothed the sand over what she had
written,--looked up and smiled; she had been weeping.

"There is nothing to cry about, my child," said Margit, and gave her a
pat.

They saw a black object moving between the bushes on the road. Eli stole
into the house, the mother followed her. Here a bounteous repast was
awaiting them: cream pudding, smoked meat, and cakes; but Eli had no
eyes for these things; she crossed the floor to the corner where the
clock stood, sat down on a chair close to the wall, and trembled if she
only heard a cat stir. The mother stood by the table. Firm steps were
heard on the flag-stones, a short, light step in the passage, the door
was gently opened, and Arne came in.

The first object his eyes lighted on was Eli in the clock corner; he let
go of the door and stood still. This made Eli yet more embarrassed; she
got up, regretted at once having done so, and turned towards the wall.

"Are _you_ here?" said Arne, softly, blushing crimson.

Eli shaded her eyes with one hand, as one does when the sun shines too
full in the face.

"How--?" He could get no farther, but he advanced a step or two.

She put her hand down again, turned toward him, then, bowing her head,
she burst into tears.

"God bless you, Eli!" said he, and drew his arm around her; she nestled
close up to him. He whispered something in her ear; she made no reply,
but clasped her hands about his neck.

They stood thus for a long time, and not a sound was heard save the roar
of the force, sending forth its eternal song. By and by some one was
heard weeping near the table. Arne looked up: it was the mother.

"Now I am sure you will not leave me, Arne," said she, approaching him.
She wept freely, but it did her good, she said.

       *       *       *       *       *

When Arne and Eli walked home together in the bright summer evening, they
did not talk much about their new-born happiness. They let Nature
herself take the lead in the conversation,--so quiet, bright, and grand,
she seemed, as she accompanied them. But it was on his way back to
Kampen from this their first summer-night's walk, with his face turned
toward the rising sun, that he laid the foundations of a poem, which he
was then in no frame of mind to construct, but which, later, when it was
finished, became for a while his daily song. It ran thus:--

    "I hoped to become something great one day;
    I thought it would be when I got away.
    Each thought that my bosom entered
    On far-off journeys was centred.
    A maiden then into my eyes did look;
      My rovings soon lost their pleasure.
    The loftiest aim my heart can brook
      Is her to proclaim my treasure.

    "I hoped to become something great one day;
    I thought it would be when I got away.
    To meet with the great in learning
    Intensely my heart was yearning.
    She taught me, she did, for she spoke a word:
      'The best gift of God's bestowing
    Is not to be called a distinguished lord,
      But ever a _man_ to be growing.'

    "I hoped to become something great one day;
    I thought it would be when I got away.
    My home seemed so cold, neglected,
    I felt like a stranger suspected.
    When her I discovered, then love I did see
      In every glance that found me;
    Wherever I turned friends waited for me,
      And life became new around me."

There came afterwards many a summer evening walk, followed by many a
song. One of these must be recorded:--

    "The cause of this all is beyond my knowing;
    No storm there has been and no floods have been flowing.
    A sparkling and glittering brook, it would seem,
    Has poured itself into the broader stream
    Which constantly growing seeks the ocean.

    "There is something we can from our lives not sever;
    In need it is near and forsakes us never,--
    A power that draws, a loving breast,
    Which sadness, shyness, and all unrest
    Can gather in peace in a bridal present.

    "Could I but by spirits through life be attended,
    As pure as the thought which has now me befriended!
    The ordering spirit of God it was.
    He ruleth the world with sacred laws.
    Toward goodness eternal I am progressing."

But perhaps none of them better expressed his fervent gratitude than the
following:--

    "The power that gave me my little song
      Has caused that as rain has been my sadness,
      And that as sunshine has been my gladness,
    The spring-time wants of my soul along.
            Whate'er betided
              It did no harm;
            My song all guided
              To love so warm.

    "The power that gave me my little song
      Has given me friendship for all that's yearning.
      For freedom's blessings my blood is burning;
    The foe I am of every wrong.
            I sought my station,
              Spite every storm,
            And found salvation
              In love so warm.

    "The power that gave me my little song
      Must make me able to sing the others,
      And now and then to make glad my brothers
    Whom I may meet in the worldly throng,--
            For there was never
              A sweeter charm
            Than singing ever
              In love so warm."



CHAPTER XVI.


It was late in the autumn; the harvesters were at work housing the
grain. The day was clear, it had rained during the night; and in the
morning, therefore, the air was as mild as in summer-time. It was a
Saturday, and yet many boats were making their way across Black Water
toward the church; the men, in their shirt sleeves, were rowing; the
women sat in the stern, with light-colored kerchiefs on their heads. A
still greater number of boats were steering over to Böen, in order to
move away from there later in grand procession, for on this day Baard
Böen gave a wedding for his daughter Eli and Arne Nils' son Kampen.

All the doors were open; people were going in and out; children, with
pieces of cake in their hands, stood about the yard, afraid of their new
clothes, and looking shyly at one another; an old woman sat upon the
store-house steps alone,--it was Margit Kampen. She wore a large silver
ring, with several small rings fastened to the upper silver plate; now
and then she looked at it; Nils had given it to her the day of their
wedding and she had never worn it since.

The man who presided at the feast, and the two young groomsmen, the
priest's son and Eli's brother, went about in the two or three rooms,
offering refreshments to the wedding guests as they arrived to be
present on this great occasion. Up-stairs in Eli's room were the bride,
the priest's wife, and Mathilde,--the last-named had come from town for
the sole purpose of decking the bride; this the girls had promised each
other from their childhood. Arne--wearing a broadcloth suit, with
close-fitting roundabout and with a collar that Eli had made--stood in
one of the down-stairs rooms by the window on which Eli had written
"Arne."

Outside in the passage two persons met as they came each from some duty
of the day. One of them was on his way from the landing-place, where he
had been helping to put the church boats in order; he wore a black
broadcloth roundabout, with blue wadmal trousers, whose dye rubbed off,
so that his hands were blue; his white collar looked well with his fair
face and long light hair; his high forehead was calm; about the mouth
played a smile. It was Baard. She whom he met in the passage was just
coming from the kitchen. She was dressed for church, was tall and
slender, and walked with a firm though hurried step through the door.
When she met Baard she paused, and her mouth drew up to one side. It was
Birgit, his wife. Each had something to say, but it only found
expression through both standing still. Baard was the most embarrassed
of the two; he smiled more and more, but it was his embarrassment that
came to his aid, forcing him to start up-stairs without further delay.
"Perhaps you will come too," he said, as he passed, and Birgit
followed him. Up-stairs in the garret they were entirely alone; yet
Baard locked the door after them, and he was a long time about it. When
finally he turned, Birgit stood by the window gazing out; it was in
order to avoid looking into the room. Baard brought forth a small flask
from his breast pocket and a little silver cup. He wanted to pour out
some wine for his wife, but she would not have any, although he assured
her that it was wine that had been sent from the parsonage. Then he
drank himself, but paused several times to offer the cup to her. He
corked the flask, put both it and the cup away in his breast-pocket
again, and sat down on a chest. It very evidently pained him that his
wife would not drink with him.

He breathed heavily several times. Birgit stood leaning with one hand
against the window frame. Baard had something to say, but now it seemed
even harder to speak than before.

"Birgit!" said he, "I dare say you are thinking of the same to-day that
I am."

Then he heard her move from one side of the window to the other, and
again she leaned her head on her arm.

"Oh, yes; you know who I mean. He it was who parted us two. I thought it
would not go beyond the wedding, but it has lasted much longer."

He heard her sigh, he saw her again change her place; but he did not see
her face. He himself was struggling so hard that he had to wipe his face
with his jacket sleeve. After a long conflict he began again: "To-day a
son of his, well-educated and handsome, becomes one of us, and to him we
have given our only daughter. Now, how would it be, Birgit, if we two
were to have our wedding to-day?"

His voice trembled, and he cleared his throat. Birgit, who had raised
her head, now leaned it on her arm again, but said nothing. Baard waited
for some time; he heard her breathe, but he got no answer,--and he had
nothing further to say himself either. He looked up and grew very pale;
for she did not even turn her head. Then he rose.

At the same moment there was a gentle knock at the door, and a soft
voice asked, "Are you coming, mother?" It was Eli. There was something
in the tone that made Baard involuntarily pause and glance at Birgit.
Birgit also raised her head; she looked towards the door, and her eyes
fell on Baard's pale face. "Are you coming, mother?" was once more asked
from without.

"Yes, I am coming now!" said Birgit, in a broken voice, as she firmly
crossed the floor to where Baard stood, gave him her hand, and burst
into the most passionate weeping. The two hands met, they were both
toil-worn now, but they clasped as firmly as though they had been
seeking each other for twenty years. They still clung together as they
went toward the door, and when a while later the bridal procession was
passing down to the landing-place, and Arne gave his hand to Eli to take
the lead, Baard, seeing it, took his wife by the hand, contrary to all
custom, and followed them, smiling contentedly.

Behind them, Margit Kampen walked alone, as was her wont.

Baard was in high spirits that day; he sat talking with the rowers. One
of these who kept looking up at the mountains remarked, that it was
strange that even such a steep rock could be clad.

"It must, whether it would or no," said Baard, and his eyes wandered
all along the procession until they rested on the bridal pair and his
wife. "Who could have foretold this twenty years ago?" said he.



EARLY TALES AND SKETCHES.



THE RAILROAD AND THE CHURCHYARD.



CHAPTER I.


Knud Aakre belonged to an old family in the parish, where it had always
been renowned for its intelligence and its devotion to the public
welfare. His father had worked his way up to the priesthood, but had
died early, and as the widow came from a peasant stock, the children
were brought up as peasants. Knud had, therefore, received only the
education afforded by the public schools of his day; but his father's
library had early inspired him with a love of knowledge. This was
further stimulated by his friend Henrik Wergeland, who frequently
visited him, sent him books, seeds, and much valuable counsel. Following
some of the latter, Knud early founded a club, which in the beginning
had a very miscellaneous object, for instance: "to give the members
practice in debating and to study the constitution," but which later was
turned into a practical agricultural society for the entire bailiwick.
According to Wergeland's advice, he also founded a parish library,
giving his father's books as its first endowment. A suggestion from the
same quarter led him to start a Sunday-school on his gard, for those who
might wish to learn writing, arithmetic, and history. All this drew
attention to him, so that he was elected member of the parish board of
supervisors, of which he soon became chairman. In this capacity, he took
a deep interest in the schools, which he brought into a remarkably good
condition.

Knud Aakre was a short man, brisk in his movements, with small, restless
eyes and very disorderly hair. He had large lips, which were in constant
motion, and a row of splendid teeth which always seemed to be working
with them, for they glistened while his words were snapped out, crisp
and clear, crackling like sparks from a great fire.

Foremost among the many he had helped to gain an education was his
neighbor Lars Högstad. Lars was not much younger than Knud, but he had
developed more slowly. Knud liked to talk about what he read and
thought, and he found in Lars, whose manner was quiet and grave, a good
listener, who by degrees grew to be a man of excellent judgment. The
relations between them soon became such that Knud was never willing to
take any important step without first consulting Lars Högstad, and the
matter on hand was thus likely to gain some practical amendment. So Knud
drew his neighbor into the board of supervisors, and gradually into
everything in which he himself took part. They always drove together to
the meetings of the board, where Lars never spoke; but on the way back
and forth Knud learned his opinions. The two were looked upon as
inseparable.

       *       *       *       *       *

One fine autumn day the board of supervisors convened to consider, among
other things, a proposal from the bailiff to sell the parish grain
magazine and with the proceeds establish a small savings-bank. Knud
Aakre, the chairman, would undoubtedly have approved this measure had he
relied on his unbiased judgment. But he was prejudiced, partly because
the proposal came from the bailiff, whom Wergeland did not like, and who
was consequently no favorite of Knud's either, and partly because the
grain magazine had been built by his influential paternal grandfather
and by him presented to the parish. Indeed, Knud was rather inclined to
view the proposition as a personal insult, therefore he had not spoken
of it to any one, not even to Lars, and the latter never entered on a
topic that had not first been set afloat by some one else.

As chairman, Knud Aakre read the proposal without adding any comments;
but, as was his wont, his eyes sought Lars, who usually sat or stood a
little aside, holding a straw between his teeth,--he always had one when
he took part in a conversation; he either used it as a tooth-pick, or he
let it hang loosely in one corner of his mouth, turning it more rapidly
or more slowly, according to the mood he was in. To his surprise Knud
saw that the straw was moving very fast.

"Do you think we should agree to this?" he asked, quickly.

Lars answered, dryly,--

"Yes, I do."

The whole board, feeling that Knud held quite a different opinion,
looked in astonishment at Lars, but the latter said no more, nor was he
further questioned. Knud turned to another matter, as though nothing had
transpired. Not until the close of the meeting did he resume the
subject, and then asked, with apparent indifference, if it would not be
well to send the proposal back to the bailiff for further consideration,
as it certainly did not meet the views of the people, for the parish
valued the grain magazine. No one replied. Knud asked whether he should
enter the resolution in the register, the measure did not seem to be a
wise one.

"Against one vote," added Lars.

"Against two," cried another, promptly.

"Against three," came from a third; and before the chairman could
realize what was taking place, a majority had voted in favor of the
proposal.

Knud was so surprised that he forgot to offer any opposition. He
recorded the proceedings and read, in a low voice: "The measure is
recommended,--adjourned."

His face was fiery red as he rose and put up the minute-book; but he
determined to bring forward the question once more at the meeting of
the representatives. Out in the yard, he put his horse to the wagon, and
Lars came and took his seat at his side. They discussed various topics
on their way home, but not the one they had nearest at heart.

The next day Knud's wife sought Lars's wife to inquire if there was
anything wrong between the two men, for Knud had acted so strangely when
he came home. A short distance above the gard buildings she met Lars's
wife, who was on her way to ask the same question, for her husband, too,
had been out of sorts the day before. Lars's wife was a quiet, bashful
person, somewhat cowed, not by harsh words, but by silence, for Lars
never spoke to her unless she had done something amiss, or he feared
that she might do wrong. Knud Aakre's wife, on the other hand, talked
more with her husband, and particularly about the board, for lately it
had taken his thoughts, work, and affection away from her and the
children. She was as jealous of it as of a woman; she wept at night over
the board and quarreled with her husband about it during the day. But
for that very reason she could say nothing about it now when for once he
had returned home unhappy; for she immediately became more wretched than
he, and for her life she could not rest until she had discovered what
was the matter. Consequently, when Lars's wife could not give her the
desired information, she had to go out in the parish to seek it. Here
she obtained it, and of course was at once of her husband's opinion;
she found Lars incomprehensible, not to say wicked. When, however, she
let her husband perceive this, she felt that as yet there was no breach
between Lars and him; that, on the contrary, he clung warmly to him.

The representatives met. Lars Högstad drove over to Aakre in the
morning; Knud came out of the house and took his seat beside him. They
exchanged the usual greetings, spoke perhaps rather less than was their
wont on the way, and not of the proposal. All the members of the board
were present; some, too, had found their way in as spectators, which
Knud did not like, for it showed that there was a stir in town about the
matter. Lars was armed with his straw, and he stood by the stove warming
himself, for the autumn was beginning to be cold. The chairman read the
proposal, in a subdued, cautious manner, remarking when he was through,
that it must be remembered this came from the bailiff, who was not apt
to be very felicitous in his propositions. The building, it was well
known, was a gift, and it is not customary to part with gifts, least of
all when there is no need of doing so.

Lars, who never before had spoken at the meetings, now took the floor,
to the astonishment of all. His voice trembled, but whether it did so
out of regard for Knud, or from anxiety lest his own cause should be
lost, shall remain unsaid. But his arguments were good and clear, and
full of a logic and confidence which had scarcely been heard at these
meetings before. And when he had gone over all the ground, he added, in
conclusion:--

"What does it matter if the proposal does come from the bailiff? This
affects the question as little as who erected the building, or in what
way it came into the public possession."

Knud Aakre had grown very red in the face (he blushed easily), and he
shifted uneasily from side to side, as was his wont when he was
impatient, but none the less did he exert himself to be circumspect and
to speak in a low voice. There were savings-banks enough in the country,
he thought, and quite near at hand, he might almost say _too_ near. But
if, after all, it was deemed expedient to have one, there were surely
other ways of reaching it than those leading over the gifts of the dead
and the love of the living. His voice was a little unsteady when he said
this, but quickly recovered as he proceeded to speak of the grain
magazine in itself, and to show what its advantages were.

Lars answered him thoroughly on the last point, and then added,--

"However, one thing and another lead me to doubt whether this parish is
managed for the sake of the living or the dead; furthermore, whether it
is the love and hatred of a single family which controls matters here,
or the good of the whole."

Knud answered quickly,--

"I do not know whether he who has just spoken has been least benefited
by this family,--both by the dead and by him who now lives."

The first shot was aimed at the fact that Knud's powerful grandfather
had saved the gard for Lars's paternal grandfather, when the latter, on
his part, was absent on a little excursion to the penitentiary.

The straw which long had been in brisk motion, suddenly became still.

"It is not my way to keep talking everywhere about myself and my
family," said Lars, then turned again with calm superiority to the
subject under discussion, briefly reviewing all the points with one
definite object. Knud had to admit to himself that he had never viewed
the matter from such a broad standpoint; involuntarily he raised his
eyes and looked at Lars, who stood before him, tall, heavily built, with
clearness on the vigorous brow and in the deep eyes. The lips were
tightly compressed, the straw still played in the corner of his mouth;
all the surrounding lines indicated vigor. He kept his hands behind him,
and stood rigidly erect, while his voice was as deep and as hollow as
if it proceeded from the depths of the earth. For the first time in his
life Knud saw him as he was, and in his inmost soul he was afraid of
him; for this man must always have been his superior. He had taken all
Knud himself knew and could impart; he had rejected the tares and
retained what had produced this strong, hidden growth.

He had been fostered and loved by Knud, but had now become a giant who
hated Knud deeply, terribly. Knud could not explain to himself why, but
as he looked at Lars he instinctively felt this to be so, and all else
becoming swallowed up in this thought he started up, exclaiming,--

"But Lars! Lars! what in Heaven's name is the matter with you?" His
agitation overcame him,--"you, whom I have--you who have"--

Powerless to utter another word, he sat down; but in his effort to gain
the mastery over the emotion he deemed Lars unworthy of seeing, he
brought his fist down with violence on the table, while his eyes flashed
beneath his stiff, disorderly hair, which always hung over them. Lars
acted as if he had not been interrupted, and turning toward the others
he asked if this was to be the decisive blow; for if such were the case
there was no need for further remarks.

This calmness was more than Knud could endure.

"What is it that has come among us?" cried he. "We who have, until
to-day, been actuated by love and zeal alone, are now stirred up against
each other, as though goaded on by some evil spirit," and he cast a
fiery glance at Lars, who replied,--

"It must be you yourself who bring in this spirit, Knud; for I have kept
strictly to the matter before us. But you never can see the advantage of
anything you do not want yourself; now we shall learn what becomes of
the love and the zeal when once this matter is decided as we wish."

"Have I then illy served the interests of the parish?"

There was no reply. This grieved Knud, and he continued,--

"I really did persuade myself that I had accomplished various
things--various things which have been of advantage to the parish; but
perhaps I have deceived myself."

He was again overcome by his feelings; for his was a fiery nature, ever
variable in its moods, and the breach with Lars pained him so deeply
that he could scarcely control himself. Lars answered,--

"Yes, I know you appropriate the credit for all that is done here, and
if one should judge by the amount of speaking at these meetings, you
certainly have accomplished the most."

"Is that the way of it?" shouted Knud, looking sharply at Lars. "It is
you who deserve the entire honor?"

"Since we must finally talk about ourselves," said Lars, "I am free to
admit that every question has been carefully considered by both of us
before it was introduced here."

Here little Knud Aakre regained his ready speech:--

"Take the honor, in God's name; I am quite able to live without it;
there are other things that are harder to lose!"

Involuntarily Lars evaded his gaze, but said, as he set the straw in
very rapid motion,--

"If I were to express _my_ opinion, I should say that there is not very
much to take credit for. No doubt the priest and the school-masters are
content with what has been done; but certainly the common people say
that up to the present time the taxes of this parish have grown heavier
and heavier."

Here arose a murmur in the crowd, and the people grew very restless.
Lars continued,--

"Finally, to-day we have a matter brought before us that might make the
parish some little amends for all it has paid out; this is perhaps the
reason why it encounters such opposition. This is a question which
concerns the parish; it is for the welfare of all; it is our duty to
protect it from becoming a mere family matter."

People exchanged glances, and spoke in half-audible tones; one of them
remarked, as he rose to go for his dinner-pail, that these were the
truest words he had heard in these meetings for many years. Now all rose
from their seats, the conversation became general, and Knud Aakre, who
alone remained sitting, felt that all was lost, fearfully lost, and made
no further effort to save it. The truth was, he possessed something of
the temperament attributed to Frenchmen: he was very good at a first,
second, or even third attack, but poor at self-defense, for his
sensibilities overwhelmed his thoughts.

He was unable to comprehend this, nor could he sit still any longer, and
so resigning his place to the vice-chairman, he left. The others could
not refrain from a smile.

He had come to the meeting in company with Lars, but went home alone,
although the way was long. It was a cold autumn day, the forest was
jagged and bare, the meadow gray-yellow, frost was beginning here and
there to remain on the road-side. Disappointment is a terrible
companion. Knud felt so small, so desolate, as he walked along; but Lars
appeared everywhere before him, towering up to the sky, in the dusk of
the evening, like a giant. It vexed him to think it was his own fault
that this had been the decisive battle; he had staked too much on one
single little issue. But surprise, pain, anger, had mastered him; they
still burned, tingled, moaned, and stormed within him. He heard the
rumbling of cart-wheels behind him; it was Lars driving his superb horse
past him, in a brisk trot, making the hard road resound like distant
thunder. Knud watched the broad-shouldered form that sat erect in the
cart, while the horse, eager for home, sped onward, without any effort
on the part of Lars, who merely gave him a loose rein. It was but a
picture of this man's power: he was driving onward to the goal! Knud
felt himself cast out of his cart, to stagger on alone in the chill
autumn air.

In his home at Aakre Knud's wife was waiting for him. She knew that a
battle was inevitable; she had never in her life trusted Lars, and now
she was positively afraid of him. It had been no comfort to her that he
and her husband had driven away together; it would not have consoled her
had they returned in the same way. But darkness had fallen and they had
not come. She stood in the doorway, gazing out on the road in front of
the house; she walked down the hill and back again, but no cart
appeared.

Finally she hears a rattling on the hard road, her heart throbs as the
wheels go round, she clings to the casement, peering out into the night;
the cart draws near; only one is in it; she recognizes Lars, who sees
and recognizes her, but drives past without stopping. Now she became
thoroughly alarmed. Her limbs gave way under her, she tottered in and
sank down on the bench by the window. The children gathered anxiously
about her, the youngest one asked for papa; she never spoke with them
but of him. He had such a noble disposition, and this was what made her
love him; but now his heart was not with his family, it was engrossed in
all sorts of business which brought him only unhappiness, and
consequently they were all unhappy.

If only no misfortune had befallen him! Knud was so hot-tempered. Why
had Lars come home alone? Why did he not stop? Should she run after him,
or down the road after her husband? She was in an agony of distress, and
the children pressed around her, asking what was the matter. But this
she would not tell them, so rising she said they must eat supper alone,
then got everything ready and helped them. All the while she kept
glancing out on the road. He did not come. She undressed the children
and put them to bed, and the youngest repeated the evening prayer while
she bowed over him. She herself prayed with such fervor in the words
which the infant lips so soothingly uttered that she did not heed the
steps outside.

Knud stood upon the threshold, gazing at his little company at prayer.
The mother drew herself up; all the children shouted: "Papa!" but he
seated himself at once, and said, softly:

"Oh, let him say it once more!"

The mother turned again to the bedside, that he, meanwhile, should not
see her face, for it would have seemed like intruding on his grief
before he felt the need of revealing it. The little one folded its hands
over its breast, all the rest did likewise, and it repeated,--

    "I, a little child, pray Heaven
    That my sins may be forgiven,
    With time I'll larger, wiser grow,
    And my father and mother joy shall know,
    If only Thou, dearest, dearest Lord,
    Will help me to keep Thy precious word!
    And now to our Heavenly Father's merciful keeping
    Our souls let us trust while we're sleeping."

What peace now fell upon the room! Not a minute had elapsed ere all the
children were sleeping as in the arms of God; but the mother moved
softly away and placed supper before the father, who was, however,
unable to eat. But after he had gone to bed, he said,--

"Henceforth I shall be at home."

And his wife lay at his side trembling with joy which she dared not
betray; and she thanked God for all that had happened, for whatever it
might be it had resulted in good!



CHAPTER II.


In the course of a year Lars had become chairman of the parish board of
supervisors, president of the savings-bank, and leading commissioner in
the court of reconciliation; in short, he held every office to which his
election had been possible. In the board of supervisors for the amt
(county) he was silent during the first year, but the second year he
created the same sensation when he spoke as in the parish board; for
here, too, coming forward in opposition to him who had previously been
the guiding power, he became victorious over the entire rank and file
and was from that time himself the leader. From this his path led him to
the storthing (parliament), where his fame had preceded him, and where
consequently there was no lack of challenges. But here, although steady
and firm, he always remained retiring. He did not care for power except
where he was well known, nor would he endanger his leadership at home by
a possible defeat abroad.

For he had a pleasant life at home. When he stood by the church wall on
Sundays, and the congregation walked slowly past, saluting him and
stealing side glances at him, and one after another paused in order to
exchange a few words with him,--then truly it might be said that he
controlled the entire parish with a straw, for of course this hung in
the corner of his mouth.

He deserved his honors. The road leading to the church, he had opened;
the new church they were standing beside, he had built; this and much
more was the fruit of the savings-bank which he had founded and now
managed himself. For its resources were further made fruitful, and the
parish was constantly held up as an example to all others of
self-management and good order.

Knud Aakre had entirely withdrawn from the field, although at first he
attended a few of the meetings of the board, because he had promised
himself that he would continue to offer his services, even if it were
not altogether pleasing to his pride. In the first proposal he had made,
he became so greatly perplexed by Lars, who insisted upon having it
represented in all its details, that, somewhat hurt, he said: "When
Columbus discovered America he did not have it divided into parishes and
deaneries; this came gradually;" whereupon Lars, in his reply, compared
the discovery of America with Knud's proposal,--it so happened that this
treated of stable improvements,--and afterwards Knud was known by no
other name in the board than "Discovery of America." So Knud thought
that as his usefulness had ceased, so too had his obligations to work,
and he refused to accept further reëlections.

But he continued to be industrious; and in order that he might still
have a field for usefulness, he enlarged his Sunday-school, and placed
it, by means of small contributions from the attendants, in
communication with the mission cause, of which he soon became the centre
and leader in his own and the surrounding counties. Thereupon Lars
Högstad remarked, that if ever Knud undertook to collect money for any
purpose, he must know beforehand that it was to do good thousands of
miles from home.

There was, be it observed, no more strife between them. To be sure, they
no longer associated with each other, but they bowed and spoke when they
met. Knud always felt a little pain at the mere thought of Lars, but
strove to suppress it, and persuade himself that matters could not have
been otherwise. At a large wedding-party, many years afterward, where
both were present and both were in good spirits, Knud mounted a chair
and proposed a toast for the chairman of the parish board, and the
first representative their amt had sent to the storthing! He spoke until
he became deeply moved, and, as usual, expressed himself in an
exceedingly handsome way. Every one thought it was honorably done, and
Lars came up to him, and his gaze was unsteady as he said that for much
of what he knew and was he was indebted to him.

At the next election of the board of supervisors Knud was again made
chairman!

But had Lars Högstad foreseen what now followed, he would certainly not
have used his influence for this. "Every event happens in its own time,"
says an old proverb, and just as Knud Aakre again entered the board, the
best men of the parish were threatened with ruin, as the result of a
speculation craze which had long been raging, but which now first began
to demand its victims. It was said that Lars Högstad was the cause of
this great disaster, for he had taught the parish to speculate. This
penny fever had originated in the parish board of supervisors, for the
board itself was the greatest speculator of all. Every one down to the
laboring youth of twenty years desired in his transactions to make ten
dollars out of one; a beginning of extreme avarice in the efforts to
hoard, was followed by an excessive extravagance, and as all minds were
bent only on money, there had at the same time developed a spirit of
suspicion, of intolerance, of caviling, which resulted in lawsuits and
hatred. This also was due to the example of the board, it was said, for
among the first things Lars had done as chairman was to sue the
venerable old priest for holding doubtful titles. The priest had lost,
but had also immediately resigned. At that time some had praised, some
censured this suit; but it had proved a bad example. Now came the
consequences of Lars's management, in the form of loss to every single
man of property in the parish, consequently public opinion underwent a
sharp change! The opposing force, too, soon found a leader, for Knud
Aakre had come into the board, introduced there by Lars himself!

The struggle began forthwith. All those youths to whom Knud in his time
had given instructions, were now grown up and were the most enlightened
men in the parish, thoroughly at home in all its transactions and public
affairs. It was against these men that Lars now had to contend, and they
had borne him a grudge from their childhood up. When of an evening after
one of these stormy proceedings he stood on the steps in front of his
house, gazing over the parish, he could hear a sound as of distant
rumbling thunder rising toward him from the large gards, now lying in
the storm. He knew that the day they met their ruin, the savings-bank
and himself would be overthrown, and all his long efforts would
culminate in imprecations heaped on his head.

In these days of conflict and despair, a party of railroad
commissioners, who were to survey the route for a new road, made their
appearance one evening at Högstad, the first gard at the entrance to the
parish. In the course of conversation during the evening, Lars learned
that there was a question whether the road should run through this
valley or another parallel to it.

Like a flash of lightning it darted through his mind that if he could
succeed in having it laid here, all property would rise in value, and
not only would he himself be saved but his fame would be transmitted to
the latest posterity! He could not sleep that night, for his eyes were
dazzled by a glowing light, and sometimes he could even hear the sound
of the cars. The next day he went himself with the commissioners while
they examined the locality; his horse took them, and to his gard they
returned. The next day they drove through the other valley; he was still
with them, and he drove them back again to his house. They found a
brilliant illumination at Högstad; the first men of the parish had been
invited to be present at a magnificent party given in honor of the
commissioners; it lasted until morning. But to no avail, for the nearer
they came to a final issue, the more plainly it appeared that the road
could not pass through this locality without undue expense. The entrance
to the valley lay through a narrow gorge, and just as it swung into the
parish, the swollen river swung in also, so that the railroad would
either have to take the same curve along the mountain that the highway
now made, thus running at a needlessly high altitude and crossing the
river twice, or it would have to run straight forward, and thus through
the old, now unused churchyard. Now the church had but recently been
removed, and it was not long since the last burial had taken place
there.

If it only depended on a bit of old churchyard, thought Lars, whether or
not this great blessing came into the parish, then he must use his name
and his energy for the removal of this obstacle! He at once set forth on
a visit to the priest and the dean, and furthermore to the diocese
council; he talked and he negotiated, for he was armed with all possible
facts concerning the immense advantage of the railroad on one hand, and
the sentiments of the parish on the other, and actually succeeded in
winning all parties. It was promised him that by a removal of part of
the bodies to the new churchyard the objections might be considered set
aside, and the royal permission obtained for the churchyard to be taken
for the line of railroad. It was told him that nothing was now needed
but for him to set the question afloat in the board of supervisors.

The parish had grown as excited as himself: the spirit of speculation
which for many years had been the only one prevailing in the parish, now
became madly jubilant. There was nothing spoken or thought of but Lars's
journey and its possible results. When he returned with the most
magnificent promises, they made much of him; songs were sung in his
praise; indeed, if at that time the largest gards had gone to
destruction, one after another, no one would have paid the slightest
attention to it: the speculation craze had given way to the railroad
craze.

The board of supervisors assembled: there was presented for approval a
respectful petition, that the old churchyard might be appropriated as
the route of the railroad. This was unanimously adopted; there was even
mention of giving Lars a vote of thanks and a coffee-pot in the form of
a locomotive. But it was finally thought best to wait until the whole
plan was carried into execution. The petition came back from the diocese
council, with a demand for a list of all bodies that would have to be
removed. The priest made out such a list, but instead of sending it
direct, he had his own reasons for sending it through the parish board.
One of the members carried it to the next meeting. Here it fell to the
lot of Lars, as chairman, to open the envelope and read the list.

Now it chanced that the first body to be disinterred was that of Lars's
own grandfather! A little shudder ran through the assembly! Lars himself
was startled, but nevertheless continued to read. Then it furthermore
chanced that the second body was that of Knud Aakre's grandfather, for
these two men had died within a short time of each other. Knud Aakre
sprang from his seat; Lars paused; every one looked up in consternation,
for old Knud Aakre had been the benefactor of the parish and its best
beloved man, time out of mind. There was a dead silence, which lasted
for some minutes. At last Lars cleared his throat and went on reading.
But the further he proceeded the worse the matter grew; for the nearer
they came to their own time, the dearer were the dead. When he had
finished, Knud Aakre asked quietly whether the others did not agree
with him in thinking that the air about them was filled with spirits.
It was just beginning to grow dark in the room, and although they were
mature men and were sitting in numbers together, they could not refrain
from feeling alarmed. Lars produced a bundle of matches from his pocket
and struck a light, dryly remarking, that this was no more than they
knew beforehand.

"Yes, it is," said Knud pacing the floor, "it is more than I knew
before. Now I begin to think that even railroads can be purchased too
dearly."

These words sent a quiver through the audience, and observing that they
had better further consider the matter, Knud made a motion to that
effect.

"In the excitement which had prevailed," he said, "the benefit likely to
be derived from the road had been overestimated. Even if the railroad
did not pass through this parish, there would have to be stations at
both ends of the valley; true, it would always be a little more
troublesome to drive to them than to a station right in our midst; yet
the difficulty would not be so very great that it would be necessary
because of it to violate the repose of the dead."

Knud was one of those who when his thoughts were once in rapid motion
could present the most convincing arguments; a moment before what he now
said had not occurred to his mind, nevertheless it struck home to all.
Lars felt the danger of his position, and concluding that it was best to
be cautious, apparently acquiesced in Knud's proposition to reconsider.
Such emotions are always worse in the beginning, he thought; it is
wisest to temporize with them.

But he had miscalculated. In ever increasing waves the dread of touching
the dead of their own families swept over the inhabitants of the parish;
what none of them had thought of as long as the matter existed merely in
the abstract, now became a serious question when it was brought home to
themselves. The women especially were excited, and the road near the
court-house was black with people the day of the next meeting. It was a
warm summer day, the windows were removed, and there were as many
without the house as within. All felt that a great battle was about to
be fought.

Lars came driving up with his handsome horse, and was greeted by all; he
looked calmly and confidently around, not seeming to be surprised at
anything. He took a seat near the window, found his straw, and a
suspicion of a smile played over his keen face as he saw Knud Aakre rise
to his feet to act as spokesman for all the dead in the old Högstad
churchyard.

But Knud Aakre did not begin with the churchyard. He began with an
accurate exposition of how greatly the profits likely to accrue from
having the railroad run through the parish had been overestimated in all
this turmoil. He had positive proofs for every statement he made, for he
had calculated the distance of each gard from the nearest station, and
finally he asked,--

"Why has there been so much ado about this railroad, if not in behalf of
the parish?"

This he could easily explain to them. There were those who had
occasioned so great a disturbance that a still greater one was required
to conceal it. Moreover, there were those who in the first outburst of
excitement could sell their gards and belongings to strangers who were
foolish enough to purchase. It was a shameful speculation which not only
the living but the dead must serve to promote!

The effect of his address was very considerable. But Lars had once for
all resolved to preserve his composure let come what would. He replied,
therefore, with a smile, that he had been under the impression that Knud
himself was eager for the railroad, and certainly no one would accuse
him of having any knowledge of speculation. (Here followed a little
laugh.) Knud had not evinced the slightest objection to the removal of
the bodies of common people for the sake of the railroad; but when his
own grandfather's body was in question then it suddenly affected the
welfare of the whole community! He said no more, but looked with a faint
smile at Knud, as did also several others. Meanwhile, Knud Aakre
surprised both him and them by replying:--

"I confess it; I did not comprehend the matter until it touched my own
family feelings; it is possible that this may be a shame, but it would
have been a far greater one not to have realized it at last--as is the
case with Lars! Never," he concluded, "could this raillery have been
more out of place; for to people with common decency the whole affair is
absolutely revolting."

"This feeling is something that has come up quite recently," replied
Lars, "we may therefore hope that it will soon pass over again. May it
not perhaps help the matter a little to think what the priest, dean,
diocese council, engineers, and government will all say if we first
unanimously set the ball in motion, then come and beg to have it
stopped? If we first are jubilant and sing songs, then weep and deliver
funeral orations? If they do not say that we have gone mad in this
parish, they must at all events say that we have acted rather strangely
of late."

"Yes, God knows, they may well think so!" replied Knud. "We have,
indeed, acted very strangely of late, and it is high time for us to mend
our ways. Things have come to a serious pass when we can each disinter
his own grandfather to make way for a railroad; when we can disturb the
resting-place of the dead in order that our own burdens may the more
easily be carried. For is not this rooting in our churchyard in order to
make it yield us food the same thing? What is buried there in the name
of Jesus, we take up in Moloch's name--this is but little better than
eating the bones of our ancestors."

"Such is the course of nature," said Lars, dryly.

"Yes, of plants and of animals."

"And are not we animals?"

"We are, but also the children of the living God, who have buried our
dead in faith in Him: it is He who shall rouse them and not we."

"Oh, you are talking idly! Are we not obliged to have the graves dug up
at any rate, when their turn comes? What harm is there in having it
happen a few years earlier?"

"I will tell you. What was born of them still draws the breath of life;
what they built up yet remains; what they loved, taught, and suffered
for, lives about us and within us; and should we not allow them to rest
in peace?"

"Your warmth shows me that you are thinking of your own grandfather
again," replied Lars, "and I must say it seems to me high time the
parish should be rid of _him_. He monopolized too much space while he
lived; and so it is scarcely worth while to have him lie in the way now
that he is dead. Should his corpse prevent a blessing to this parish
that would extend through a hundred generations, we may truly say that
of all who have been born here, _he_ has done us the greatest harm."

Knud Aakre tossed back his disorderly hair, his eyes flashed, his whole
person looked like a bent steel spring.

"How much of a blessing what you are speaking about may be, I have
already shown. It has the same character as all the other blessings with
which you have supplied the parish, namely, a doubtful one. It is true,
you have provided us with a new church, but you have also filled it with
a new spirit,--and it is not that of love. True, you have furnished us
with new roads, but also with new roads to destruction, as is now
plainly manifest in the misfortunes of many. True, you have diminished
our public taxes, but you have increased our private ones; lawsuits,
promissory notes, and bankruptcies are no fruitful gifts to a community.
And _you_ dare dishonor in his grave the man whom the whole parish
blesses? You dare assert that he lies in our way; aye, no doubt he does
lie in your way, this is plain enough now, for his grave will be the
cause of your downfall! The spirit which has reigned over you, and until
to-day over us all, was not born to rule but to enter into servitude.
The churchyard will surely be allowed to remain in peace; but to-day it
shall have one grave added to it, namely, that of your popularity which
is now to be buried there."

Lars Högstad rose, white as a sheet; his lips parted, but he was unable
to utter a word, and the straw fell. After three or four vain efforts
to find it again and recover his powers of speech, he burst forth like a
volcano with,--

"And so these are the thanks I get for all my toil and drudgery! If such
a woman-preacher is to be allowed to rule--why, then, may the devil be
your chairman if ever I set my foot here again! I have kept things
together until this day, and after me your trash will fall into a
thousand pieces, but let it tumble down now--here is the register!" And
he flung it on the table. "Shame on such an assembly of old women and
brats!" Here he struck the table with great violence. "Shame on the
whole parish that it can see a man rewarded as I am now."

He brought down his fist once more with such force that the great
court-house table shook, and the inkstand with its entire contents
tumbled to the floor, marking for all future generations the spot where
Lars Högstad fell in spite of all his prudence, his long rule, and his
patience.

He rushed to the door and in a few moments had left the place. The
entire assembly remained motionless; for the might of his voice and of
his wrath had frightened them, until Knud Aakre, remembering the taunt
he had received at the time of _his_ fall, with beaming countenance and
imitating Lars's voice, exclaimed:--

"Is _this_ to be the decisive blow in the matter?"

The whole assembly burst into peals of merriment at these words! The
solemn meeting ended in laughter, talk, and high glee; only a few left
the place, those remaining behind called for drink to add to their food,
and a night of thunder succeeded a day of lightning. Every one felt as
happy and independent as of yore, ere the commanding spirit of Lars had
cowed their souls into dumb obedience. They drank toasts to their
freedom; they sang, indeed, finally they danced, Knud Aakre and the
vice-chairman taking the lead and all the rest following, while boys and
girls joined in, and the young folks outside shouted "Hurrah!" for such
a jollification they had never before seen!



CHAPTER III.


Lars moved about in the large rooms at Högstad, without speaking a
word. His wife, who loved him, but always in fear and trembling, dared
not come into his presence. The management of the gard and of the house
might be carried on as best it could, while on the other hand there kept
growing a multitude of letters, which passed back and forth between
Högstad and the parish, and Högstad and the post-office; for Lars had
claims against the parish board, and these not being satisfied he
prosecuted; against the savings-bank, which were also unsatisfied, and
so resulted in another suit. He took offense at expressions in the
letters he received and went to law again, now against the chairman of
the parish board, now against the president of the savings-bank. At the
same time there were dreadful articles in the newspapers, which report
attributed to him, and which were the cause of great dissension in the
parish, inciting neighbor against neighbor. Sometimes he was absent
whole weeks, no one knew where, and when he returned he lived as
secluded as before. At church he had not been seen after the great scene
at the representatives' meeting.

Then one Saturday evening the priest brought tidings that the railroad
was to run through the parish after all, and across the old churchyard!
It struck like lightning into every home. The unanimous opposition of
the parish board had been in vain, Lars Högstad's influence had been
stronger. This was the meaning of his journeys, this was his work!
Involuntary admiration of the man and his stubborn persistence tended to
suppress the dissatisfaction of the people at their own defeat, and the
more they discussed the matter the more reconciled they became; for a
fact accomplished always contains within itself reasons why it is so,
which gradually force themselves upon us after there is no longer
possibility of change. The people assembled about the church the next
day, and they could not help laughing as they met one another. And just
as the whole congregation, young and old, men and women, aye, even
children, were all talking about Lars Högstad, his ability, his rigorous
will, his immense influence, he himself with his whole household came
driving up in four conveyances, one after the other. It was two years
since his last visit there! He alighted and passed through the crowd,
while all, as by one impulse, unhesitatingly greeted him, but he did not
deign to bestow a glance on either side, nor to return a single
salutation. His little wife, pale as death, followed him. Inside of the
church, the astonishment grew to such a pitch that as one after another
caught sight of him they stopped singing and only stared at him. Knud
Aakre, who sat in his pew in front of Lars, noticed that there was
something the matter, and as he perceived nothing remarkable in front of
him, he turned round. He saw Lars bowed over his hymn-book, searching
for the place.

He had not seen him since that evening at the meeting, and such a
complete change he had not believed possible. For this was no victor!
The thin, soft hair was thinner than ever, the face was haggard and
emaciated, the eyes hollow and bloodshot, the giant neck had dwindled
into wrinkles and cords. Knud comprehended at a glance what this man had
gone through; he was seized with a feeling of strong sympathy, indeed,
he felt something of the old love stirring within his breast. He prayed
for Lars to his God, and made a resolute vow that he would seek him
after service; but Lars had started on ahead. Knud resolved to call on
him that evening. His wife, however, held him back.

"Lars is one of those," said she, "who can scarcely bear a debt of
gratitude: keep away from him until he has an opportunity to do you some
favor, and then perhaps he will come to you!"

But he did not come. He appeared now and then at church, but nowhere
else, and he associated with no one. On the other hand, he now devoted
himself to his gard and other business with the passionate zeal of one
who had determined to make amends in one year for the neglect of many;
and, indeed, there were those who said that this was imperative.

Railroad operations in the valley began very soon. As the line was to go
directly past Lars's gard, he tore down the portion of his house that
faced the road, in order to build a large and handsome balcony, for he
was determined that his gard should attract attention. This work was
just being done when the temporary rails for the conveyance of gravel
and timber to the road were laid and a small locomotive was sent to the
spot. It was a beautiful autumn evening that the first gravel car was to
pass over the road. Lars stood on his front steps, to hear the first
signal and to see the first column of smoke; all the people of the gard
were gathered about him. He gazed over the parish, illumined by the
setting sun, and he felt that he would be remembered as long as a train
should come roaring through this fertile valley. A sense of forgiveness
glided into his soul. He looked toward the churchyard, a part of which
still remained, with crosses bowed down to the ground, but a part of it
was now the railroad. He was just endeavoring to define his own feeling
when the first signal whistled, and presently the train came slowly
working its way along, attended by a cloud of smoke, mingled with
sparks, for the locomotive was fed with pine wood. The wind blew toward
the house so that those standing without were soon enveloped in a dense
smoke, but as this cleared away Lars saw the train working its way down
through the valley like a strong will.

He was content, and entered his house like one who has come from a long
day's work. The image of his grandfather stood before him at this
moment. This grandfather had raised the family from poverty to
prosperity; true, a portion of his honor as a citizen was consumed in
the act, but he had advanced nevertheless! His faults were the
prevailing ones of his time: they were based on the uncertain boundary
lines of the moral conceptions of his day. Every age has its uncertain
moral distinctions and its victims to the endeavor to define them
properly.

Honor be to him in his grave, for he had suffered and toiled! Peace be
with him! It must be good to rest in the end. But he was not allowed to
rest because of his grandson's vast ambition; his ashes were thrown up
with the stones and the gravel. Nonsense! he would only smile that his
grandson's work passed over his head.

Amid thoughts like these Lars had undressed and gone to bed. Once more
his grandfather's image glided before him. It was sterner now than the
first time. Weariness enfeebles us, and Lars began to reproach himself.
But he defended himself also. What did his grandfather want? Surely he
ought to be satisfied now, for the family honor was proclaimed in loud
tones above his grave. Who else had such a monument? And yet what is
this? These two monstrous eyes of fire and this hissing, roaring sound
belong no longer to the locomotive, for they turn away from the railroad
track. And from the churchyard straight toward the house comes an
immense procession. The eyes of fire are his grandfather's, and the long
line of followers are all the dead. The train advances steadily toward
the gard, roaring, crackling, flashing. The windows blaze in the
reflection of the dead men's eyes. Lars made a mighty effort to control
himself, for this was a dream, unquestionably but a dream. Only wait
until I am awake! There, now I am awake. Come on, poor ghosts!

And lo! they really did come from the churchyard, overthrowing road,
rails, locomotive and train, so that these fell with a mighty crash to
the ground, and the green sod appeared in their stead, dotted with
graves and crosses as before. Like mighty champions they advanced, and
the hymn, "Let the dead repose in peace!" preceded them. Lars knew it;
for through all these years it had been sighing within his soul, and now
it had become his requiem; for this was death and death's visions. The
cold sweat started out over his whole body, for nearer and nearer--and
behold, on the window pane! there they are now, and he heard some one
speak his name. Overpowered with dread he struggled to scream; for he
was being strangled, a cold hand was clinching his throat and he
regained his voice in an agonized: "Help me!" and awoke. The window had
been broken in from the outside; the pieces flew all about his head. He
sprang up. A man stood at the window, surrounded by smoke and flames.

"The gard is on fire, Lars! We will help you out!"

It was Knud Aakre.

When Lars regained his consciousness, he was lying outside in a bleak
wind, which chilled his limbs. There was not a soul with him; he saw the
flaming gard to the left; around him his cattle were grazing and making
their voices heard; the sheep were huddled together in a frightened
flock; the household goods were scattered about, and when he looked
again he saw some one sitting on a knoll close by, weeping. It was his
wife. He called her by name. She started.

"The Lord Jesus be praised that you are alive!" cried she, coming
forward and seating herself, or rather throwing herself down in front of
him. "O God! O God! We surely have had enough of this railroad now!"

"The railroad?" asked he, but ere the words had escaped his lips, a
clear comprehension of the case passed like a shudder over him; for, of
course, sparks from the locomotive that had fallen among the shavings of
the new side wall had been the cause of the fire. Lars sat there
brooding in silence; his wife, not daring to utter another word, began
to search for his clothes; for what she had spread over him, as he lay
senseless, had fallen off. He accepted her attentions in silence, but as
she knelt before him to cover his feet, he laid his hand on her head.
Falling forward she buried her face in his lap and wept aloud. There
were many who eyed her curiously. But Lars understood her and said,--

"You are the only friend I have."

Even though it had cost the gard to hear these words, it mattered not to
her; she felt so happy that she gained courage, and rising up and
looking humbly into her husband's face, she said,--

"Because there is no one else who understands you."

Then a hard heart melted, and tears rolled down the man's cheeks as he
clung to his wife's hand.

Now he talked to her as to his own soul. Now too she opened to him her
mind. They also talked about how all this had happened, or rather he
listened while she told about it. Knud Aakre had been the first to see
the fire, had roused his people, sent the girls out over his parish,
while he had hastened himself with men and horses to the scene of the
conflagration, where all were sleeping. He had engineered the
extinguishing of the flames and the rescuing of the household goods, and
had himself dragged Lars from the burning room, and carried him to the
left side of the house from where the wind was blowing and had laid him
out here in the churchyard.

And while they were talking of this, some one came driving rapidly up
the road and turned into the churchyard, where he alighted. It was Knud,
who had been home after his church-cart,--the one in which they had so
many times ridden together to and from the meetings of the parish board.
Now he requested Lars to get in and ride home with him. They grasped
each other by the hand, the one sitting, the other standing.

"Come with me now," said Knud.

Without a word of reply, Lars rose. Side by side they walked to the
cart. Lars was helped in; Knud sat down beside him. What they talked
about as they drove along, or afterwards in the little chamber at Aakre,
where they remained together until late in the morning, has never been
known. But from that day they were inseparable as before.

As soon as misfortune overtakes a man, every one learns what he is
worth. And so the parish undertook to rebuild Lars Högstad's houses, and
to make them larger and handsomer than any others in the valley. He was
reëlected chairman, but with Knud Aakre at his side; he never again
failed to take counsel of Knud's intelligence and heart--and from that
day forth nothing went to ruin.



THROND.


There was once a man named Alf, who had raised great expectations among
his fellow-parishioners because he excelled most of them both in the
work he accomplished and in the advice he gave. Now when this man was
thirty years old, he went to live up the mountain and cleared a piece of
land for farming, about fourteen miles from any settlement. Many people
wondered how he could endure thus depending on himself for
companionship, but they were still more astonished when, a few years
later, a young girl from the valley, and one, too, who had been the
gayest of the gay at all the social gatherings and dances of the parish,
was willing to share his solitude.

This couple were called "the people in the wood," and the man was known
by the name "Alf in the wood." People viewed him with inquisitive eyes
when they met him at church or at work, because they did not understand
him; but neither did he take the trouble to give them any explanation of
his conduct. His wife was only seen in the parish twice, and on one of
these occasions it was to present a child for baptism.

This child was a son, and he was called Thrond. When he grew larger his
parents often talked about needing help, and as they could not afford to
take a full-grown servant, they hired what they called "a half:" they
brought into their house a girl of fourteen, who took care of the boy
while the father and mother were busy in the field.

This girl was not the brightest person in the world, and the boy soon
observed that his mother's words were easy to comprehend, but that it
was hard to get at the meaning of what Ragnhild said. He never talked
much with his father, and he was rather afraid of him, for the house had
to be kept very quiet when he was at home.

One Christmas Eve--they were burning two candles on the table, and the
father was drinking from a white flask--the father took the boy up in
his arms and set him on his lap, looked him sternly in the eyes and
exclaimed,--

"Ugh, boy!" Then he added more gently: "Why, you are not so much afraid.
Would you have the courage to listen to a story?"

The boy made no reply, but he looked full in his father's face. His
father then told him about a man from Vaage, whose name was Blessom.
This man was in Copenhagen for the purpose of getting the king's verdict
in a law-suit he was engaged in, and he was detained so long that
Christmas Eve overtook him there. Blessom was greatly annoyed at this,
and as he was sauntering about the streets fancying himself at home, he
saw a very large man, in a white, short coat, walking in front of him.

"How fast you are walking!" said Blessom.

"I have a long distance to go in order to get home this evening,"
replied the man.

"Where are you going?"

"To Vaage," answered the man, and walked on.

"Why, that is very nice," said Blessom, "for that is where I was going,
too."

"Well, then, you may ride with me, if you will stand on the runners of
my sledge," answered the man, and turned into a side street where his
horse was standing.

He mounted his seat and looked over his shoulder at Blessom, who was
just getting on the runners.

"You had better hold fast," said the stranger.

Blessom did as he was told, and it was well he did, for their journey
was evidently not by land.

"It seems to me that you are driving on the water," cried Blessom.

"I am," said the man, and the spray whirled about them.

But after a while it seemed to Blessom their course no longer lay on the
water.

"It seems to me we are moving through the air," said he.

"Yes, so we are," replied the stranger.

But when they had gone still farther, Blessom thought he recognized the
parish they were driving through.

"Is not this Vaage?" cried he.

"Yes, now we are there," replied the stranger, and it seemed to Blessom
that they had gone pretty fast.

"Thank you for the good ride," said he.

"Thanks to yourself," replied the man, and added, as he whipped up his
horse, "Now you had better not look after me."

"No, indeed," thought Blessom, and started over the hills for home.

But just then so loud and terrible a crash was heard behind him that it
seemed as if the whole mountain must be tumbling down, and a bright
light was shed over the surrounding landscape; he looked round and
beheld the stranger in the white coat driving through the crackling
flames into the open mountain, which was yawning wide to receive him,
like some huge gate. Blessom felt somewhat strange in regard to his
traveling companion; and thought he would look in another direction; but
as he had turned his head so it remained, and never more could Blessom
get it straight again.

The boy had never heard anything to equal this in all his life. He dared
not ask his father for more, but early the next morning he asked his
mother if she knew any stories. Yes, of course she did; but hers were
chiefly about princesses who were in captivity for seven years, until
the right prince came along. The boy believed that everything he heard
or read about took place close around him.

He was about eight years old when the first stranger entered their door
one winter evening. He had black hair, and this was something Thrond had
never seen before. The stranger saluted them with a short
"Good-evening!" and came forward. Thrond grew frightened and sat down on
a cricket by the hearth. The mother asked the man to take a seat on the
bench along the wall; he did so, and then the mother could examine his
face more closely.

"Dear me! is not this Knud the fiddler?" cried she.

"Yes, to be sure it is. It has been a long time since I played at your
wedding."

"Oh, yes; it is quite a while now. Have you been on a long journey?"

"I have been playing for Christmas, on the other side of the mountain.
But half way down the slope I began to feel very badly, and I was
obliged to come in here to rest."

The mother brought forward food for him; he sat down to the table, but
did not say "in the name of Jesus," as the boy had been accustomed to
hear. When he had finished eating, he got up from the table, and said,--

"Now I feel very comfortable; let me rest a little while."

And he was allowed to rest on Thrond's bed.

For Thrond a bed was made on the floor. As the boy lay there, he felt
cold on the side that was turned away from the fire, and that was the
left side. He discovered that it was because this side was exposed to
the chill night air; for he was lying out in the wood. How came he in
the wood? He got up and looked about him, and saw that there was fire
burning a long distance off, and that he was actually alone in the wood.
He longed to go home to the fire; but could not stir from the spot. Then
a great fear overcame him; for wild beasts might be roaming about,
trolls and ghosts might appear to him; he must get home to the fire;
but he could not stir from the spot. Then his terror grew, he strove
with all his might to gain self-control, and was at last able to cry,
"Mother," and then he awoke.

"Dear child, you have had bad dreams," said she, and took him up.

A shudder ran through him, and he glanced round. The stranger was gone,
and he dared not inquire after him.

His mother appeared in her black dress, and started for the parish. She
came home with two new strangers, who also had black hair and who wore
flat caps. They did not say "in the name of Jesus," when they ate, and
they talked in low tones with the father. Afterward the latter and they
went into the barn, and came out again with a large box, which the men
carried between them. They placed it on a sled, and said farewell. Then
the mother said:--

"Wait a little, and take with you the smaller box he brought here with
him."

And she went in to get it. But one of the men said,--

"_He_ can have that," and he pointed at Thrond.

"Use it as well as _he_ who is now lying _here_," added the other
stranger, pointing at the large box.

Then they both laughed and went on. Thrond looked at the little box
which thus came into his possession.

"What is there in it?" asked he.

"Carry it in and find out," said the mother.

He did as he was told, but his mother helped him open it. Then a great
joy lighted up his face; for he saw something very light and fine lying
there.

"Take it up," said his mother.

He put just one finger down on it, but quickly drew it back again, in
great alarm.

"It cries," said he.

"Have courage," said his mother, and he grasped it with his whole hand
and drew it forth from the box.

He weighed it and turned it round, he laughed and felt of it.

"Dear me! what is it?" asked he, for it was as light as a toy.

"It is a fiddle."

This was the way that Thrond Alfson got his first violin.

The father could play a little, and he taught the boy how to handle the
instrument; the mother could sing the tunes she remembered from her
dancing days, and these the boy learned, but soon began to make new ones
for himself. He played all the time he was not at his books; he played
until his father once told him he was fading away before his eyes. All
the boy had read and heard until that time was put into the fiddle. The
tender, delicate string was his mother; the one that lay close beside
it, and always accompanied his mother, was Ragnhild. The coarse string,
which he seldom ventured to play on, was his father. But of the last
solemn string he was half afraid, and he gave no name to it. When he
played a wrong note on the E string, it was the cat; but when he took a
wrong note on his father's string, it was the ox. The bow was Blessom,
who drove from Copenhagen to Vaage in one night. And every tune he
played represented something. The one containing the long solemn tones
was his mother in her black dress. The one that jerked and skipped was
like Moses, who stuttered and smote the rock with his staff. The one
that had to be played quietly, with the bow moving lightly over the
strings, was the hulder in yonder fog, calling together her cattle,
where no one but herself could see.

But the music wafted him onward over the mountains, and a great yearning
took possession of his soul. One day when his father told about a little
boy who had been playing at the fair and who had earned a great deal of
money, Thrond waited for his mother in the kitchen and asked her softly
if he could not go to the fair and play for people.

"Who ever heard of such a thing!" said his mother; but she immediately
spoke to his father about it.

"He will get out into the world soon enough," answered the father; and
he spoke in such a way that the mother did not ask again.

Shortly after this, the father and mother were talking at table about
some new settlers who had recently moved up on the mountain and were
about to be married. They had no fiddler for the wedding, the father
said.

"Could not I be the fiddler?" whispered the boy, when he was alone in
the kitchen once more with his mother.

"What, a little boy like you?" said she; but she went out to the barn
where his father was and told him about it.

"He has never been in the parish," she added, "he has never seen a
church."

"I should not think you would ask about such things," said Alf; but
neither did he say anything more, and so the mother thought she had
permission. Consequently she went over to the new settlers and offered
the boy's services.

"The way he plays," said she, "no little boy has ever played before;"
and the boy was to be allowed to come.

What joy there was at home! Thrond played from morning until evening and
practiced new tunes; at night he dreamed about them: they bore him far
over the hills, away to foreign lands, as though he were afloat on
sailing clouds. His mother made a new suit of clothes for him; but his
father would not take part in what was going on.

The last night he did not sleep, but thought out a new tune about the
church which he had never seen. He was up early in the morning, and so
was his mother, in order to get him his breakfast, but he could not eat.
He put on his new clothes and took his fiddle in his hand, and it seemed
to him as though a bright light were glowing before his eyes. His mother
accompanied him out on the flag-stone, and stood watching him as he
ascended the slopes;--it was the first time he had left home.

His father got quietly out of bed and walked to the window; he stood
there following the boy with his eyes until he heard the mother out on
the flag-stone, then he went back to bed and was lying down when she
came in.

She kept stirring about him, as if she wanted to relieve her mind of
something. And finally it came out:--

"I really think I must walk down to the church and see how things are
going."

He made no reply, and therefore she considered the matter settled,
dressed herself and started.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a glorious, sunny day, the boy walked rapidly onward; he listened
to the song of the birds and saw the sun glittering among the foliage,
while he proceeded on his way, with his fiddle under his arm. And when
he reached the bride's house, he was still so occupied with his own
thoughts, that he observed neither the bridal splendor nor the
procession; he merely asked if they were about to start, and learned
that they were. He walked on in advance with his fiddle, and he played
the whole morning into it, and the tones he produced resounded through
the trees.

"Will we soon see the church?" he asked over his shoulder.

For a long time he received only "No" for an answer, but at last some
one said:

"As soon as you reach that crag yonder, you will see it."

He threw his newest tune into the fiddle, the bow danced on the strings,
and he kept his eyes fixed intently before him. There lay the parish
right in front of him!

The first thing he saw was a little light mist, curling like smoke on
the opposite mountain side. His eyes wandered over the green meadow and
the large houses, with windows which glistened beneath the scorching
rays of the sun, like the glacier on a winter's day. The houses kept
increasing in size, the windows in number, and here on one side of him
lay the enormous red house, in front of which horses were tied; little
children were playing on a hill, dogs were sitting watching them. But
everywhere there penetrated a long, heavy tone, that shook him from head
to foot, and everything he saw seemed to vibrate with that tone. Then
suddenly he saw a large, straight house, with a tall, glittering staff
reaching up to the skies. And below, a hundred windows blazed, so that
the house seemed to be enveloped in flames. This must be the church, the
boy thought, and the music must come from it! Round about stood a vast
multitude of people, and they all looked alike! He put them forthwith
into relations with the church, and thus acquired a respect mingled with
awe for the smallest child he saw.

"Now I must play," thought Thrond, and tried to do so.

But what was this? The fiddle had no longer any sound in it. There must
be some defect in the strings; he examined, but could find none.

"Then it must be because I do not press on hard enough," and he drew his
bow with a firmer hand; but the fiddle seemed as if it were cracked.

He changed the tune that was meant to represent the church into another,
but with equally bad results; no music was produced, only squeaking and
wailing. He felt the cold sweat start out over his face, he thought of
all these wise people who were standing here and perhaps laughing him to
scorn, this boy who at home could play so beautifully but who here
failed to bring out a single tone!

"Thank God that mother is not here to see my shame!" said he softly to
himself, as he played among the people; but lo! there she stood, in her
black dress, and she shrank farther and farther away.

At that moment he beheld far up on the spire, the black-haired man who
had given him the fiddle. "Give it back to me," he now shouted, laughing
and stretching out his arms, and the spire went up and down with him, up
and down. But the boy took the fiddle under one arm, screaming, "You
shall not have it!" and turning, ran away from the people, beyond the
houses, onward through meadow and field, until his strength forsook him,
and then sank to the ground.

There he lay for a long time, with his face toward the earth, and when
finally he looked round he saw and heard only God's infinite blue sky
that floated above him, with its everlasting sough. This was so terrible
to him that he had to turn his face to the ground again. When he raised
his head once more his eyes fell on his fiddle, which lay at his side.

"This is all your fault!" shouted the boy, and seized the instrument
with the intention of dashing it to pieces, but hesitated as he looked
at it.

"We have had many a happy hour together," said he, then paused.
Presently he said: "The strings must be severed, for they are
worthless." And he took out a knife and cut. "Oh!" cried the E string,
in a short, pained tone. The boy cut. "Oh!" wailed the next; but the boy
cut. "Oh!" said the third, mournfully; and he paused at the fourth. A
sharp pain seized him; that fourth string, to which he never dared give
a name, he did not cut. Now a feeling came over him that it was not the
fault of the strings that he was unable to play, and just then he saw
his mother walking slowly up the slope toward where he was lying, that
she might take him home with her. A greater fright than ever overcame
him; he held the fiddle by the severed strings, sprang to his feet, and
shouted down to her,--

"No, mother! I will not go home again until I can play what I have seen
to-day."



A DANGEROUS WOOING.


When Aslaug had become a grown-up girl, there was not much peace to be
had at Huseby; for there the finest boys in the parish quarreled and
fought night after night. It was worst of all on Saturday nights; but
then old Knud Huseby never went to bed without keeping his leather
breeches on, nor without having a birch stick by his bedside.

"If I have a daughter, I shall look after her, too," said old Huseby.

Thore Næset was only a houseman's son; nevertheless there were those who
said that he was the one who came oftenest to see the gardman's daughter
at Huseby. Old Knud did not like this, and declared also that it was not
true, "for he had never seen him there." But people smiled slyly among
themselves, and thought that had he searched in the corners of the room
instead of fighting with all those who were making a noise and uproar in
the middle of the floor, he would have found Thore.

Spring came and Aslaug went to the sæter with the cattle. Then, when
the day was warm down in the valley, and the mountain rose cool above
the haze, and when the bells tinkled, the shepherd dog barked, and
Aslaug sang and blew the loor on the mountain side, then the hearts of
the young fellows who were at work down on the meadow would ache, and
the first Saturday night they all started up to the mountain sæter, one
faster than the other. But still more rapidly did they come down again,
for behind the door at the sæter there stood one who received each of
them as he came, and gave him so sound a whipping that he forever
afterward remembered the threat that followed it,--

"Come again another time and you shall have some more."

According to what these young fellows knew, there was only one in the
parish who could use his fists in this way, and that was Thore Næset.
And these rich gardmen's sons thought it was a shame that this
houseman's son should cut them all out at the Huseby sæter.

So thought, also, old Knud, when the matter reached his ears, and said,
moreover, that if there was nobody else who could tackle Thore, then he
and his sons would try it. Knud, it is true, was growing old, but
although he was nearly sixty, he would at times have a wrestle or two
with his eldest son, when it was too dull for him at some party or
other.

Up to the Huseby sæter there was but one road, and that led straight
through the gard. The next Saturday evening, as Thore was going to the
sæter, and was stealing on his tiptoes across the yard, a man rushed
right at his breast as he came near the barn.

"What do you want of me?" said Thore, and knocked his assailant flat on
the ground.

"That you shall soon find out," said another fellow from behind, giving
Thore a blow on the back of the head. This was the brother of the former
assailant.

"Here comes the third," said old Knud, rushing forward to join the fray.

The danger made Thore stronger. He was as limber as a willow and his
blows left their marks. He dodged from one side to the other. Where the
blows fell he was not, and where his opponents least expected blows from
him, they got them. He was, however, at last completely beaten; but old
Knud frequently said afterwards that a stouter fellow he had scarcely
ever tackled. The fight was continued until blood flowed, but then
Huseby cried,--

"Stop!" and added, "If you can manage to get by the Huseby wolf and his
cubs next Saturday night, the girl shall be yours."

Thore dragged himself homeward as best he could; and as soon as he got
home he went to bed.

At Huseby there was much talk about the fight; but everybody said,--

"What did he want there?"

There was one, however, who did not say so, and that was Aslaug. She had
expected Thore that Saturday night, and when she heard what had taken
place between him and her father, she sat down and had a good cry,
saying to herself,--

"If I cannot have Thore, there will never be another happy day for me in
this world."

Thore had to keep his bed all day Sunday; and Monday, too, he felt that
he must do the same. Tuesday came, and it was such a beautiful day. It
had rained during the night. The mountain was wet and green. The
fragrance of the leaves was wafted in through the open window; down the
mountain sides came the sound of the cow-bells, and some one was heard
singing up in the glen. Had it not been for his mother, who was sitting
in the room, Thore would have wept from impatient vexation.

Wednesday came and still Thore was in bed; but on Thursday he began to
wonder whether he could not get well by Saturday; and on Friday he rose.
He remembered well the words Aslaug's father had spoken: "If you can
manage to get by the Huseby wolf and his cubs next Saturday, the girl
shall be yours." He looked over toward the Huseby sæter again and again.
"I cannot get more than another thrashing," thought Thore.

Up to the Huseby sæter there was but one road, as before stated; but a
clever fellow might manage to get there, even if he did not take the
beaten track. If he rowed out on the fjord below, and past the little
tongue of land yonder, and thus reached the other side of the mountain,
he might contrive to climb it, though it was so steep that a goat could
scarcely venture there--and a goat is not very apt to be timid in
climbing the mountains, you know.

Saturday came, and Thore stayed without doors all day long. The sunlight
played upon the foliage, and every now and then an alluring song was
heard from the mountains. As evening drew near, and the mist was
stealing up the slope, he was still sitting outside of the door. He
looked up the mountain, and all was still. He looked over toward the
Huseby gard. Then he pushed out his boat and rowed round the point of
land.

Up at the sæter sat Aslaug, through with her day's work. She was
thinking that Thore would not come this evening, but that there would
come all the more in his stead. Presently she let loose the dog, but
told no one whither she was going. She seated herself where she could
look down into the valley; but a dense fog was rising, and, moreover,
she felt little disposed to look down that way, for everything reminded
her of what had occurred. So she moved, and without thinking what she
was doing, she happened to go over to the other side of the mountain,
and there she sat down and gazed out over the sea. There was so much
peace in this far-reaching sea-view!

Then she felt like singing. She chose a song with long notes, and the
music sounded far into the still night. She felt gladdened by it, and so
she sang another verse. But then it seemed to her as if some one
answered her from the glen far below. "Dear me, what can that be?"
thought Aslaug. She went forward to the brink of the precipice, and
threw her arms around a slender birch, which hung trembling over the
steep. She looked down but saw nothing. The fjord lay silent and calm.
Not even a bird ruffled its smooth surface. Aslaug sat down and began
singing again. Then she was sure that some one responded with the same
tune and nearer than the first time. "It must be somebody, after all."
Aslaug sprang up and bent out over the brink of the steep; and there,
down at the foot of a rocky wall, she saw a boat moored, and it was so
far down that it appeared like a tiny shell. She looked a little farther
up, and her eyes fell on a red cap, and under the cap she saw a young
man, who was working his way up the almost perpendicular side of the
mountain. "Dear me, who can that be?" asked Aslaug, as she let go of the
birch and sprang far back.

She dared not answer her own question, for she knew very well who it
was. She threw herself down on the greensward and took hold of the grass
with both hands, as though it were _she_ who must not let go her hold.
But the grass came up by the roots.

She cried aloud and prayed God to help Thore. But then it struck her
that this conduct of Thore's was really tempting God, and therefore no
help could be expected.

"Just this once!" she implored.

And she threw her arms around the dog, as if it were Thore she were
keeping from loosing his hold. She rolled over the grass with him, and
the moments seemed years. But then the dog tore himself away. "Bow-bow,"
he barked over the brink of the steep and wagged his tail. "Bow-wow," he
barked at Aslaug, and threw his forepaws up on her. "Bow-wow," over the
precipice again; and a red cap appeared over the brow of the mountain
and Thore lay in her arms.

Now when old Knud Huseby heard of this, he made a very sensible remark,
for he said,--

"That boy is worth having; the girl shall be his."



THE BEAR HUNTER.


A worse boy to tell lies than the priest's oldest son could scarcely be
found in the whole parish; he was also a very good reader; there was no
lack on that score, and what he read the peasants were glad to hear, but
when it was something they were well pleased with, he would make up more
of the same kind, as much as he thought they wanted. His own stories
were mostly about strong men and about love.

Soon the priest noticed that the threshing up in the barn was being done
in a more and more lazy manner; he went to see what the matter was, and
behold it was Thorvald, who stood there telling stories. Soon the
quantity of wood brought home from the forest became wonderfully small;
he went to see what the trouble was, and there stood Thorvald again,
telling stories. There must be an end to this, thought the priest; and
he sent the boy to the nearest school.

Only peasant children attended this school, but the priest thought it
would be too expensive to keep a private tutor for this one boy. But
Thorvald had not been a week among the scholars, before one of his
schoolmates came in pale as a corpse, and said he had met some of the
underground folk coming along the road. Another boy, still paler,
followed, and said that he had actually seen a man without a head
walking about and moving the boats down by the landing-place. And what
was worst of all, little Knud Pladsen and his young sister, one evening,
as they were returning home from school, came running back, almost out
of their senses, crying, and declaring that they had heard the bear up
near the parsonage; nay, little Marit had even seen his gray eyes
sparkle. But now the school-master got terribly angry, struck the table
with his ferule, and asked what the deuce--God pardon me my wicked
sin--had gotten into the school-children.

"One is growing more crazy than the other," said he. "There lurks a
hulder in every bush; there sits a merman under every boat; the bear is
out in midwinter! Have you no more faith in your God or in your
catechism," quoth he, "or do you believe in all kinds of deviltry, and
in all the terrible powers of darkness, and in bears roaming about in
the middle of winter?"

But then he calmed down somewhat after a while, and asked little Marit
whether she really did not dare to go home. The child sobbed and cried,
and declared that it was utterly impossible. The school-master then said
that Thorvald, who was the eldest of those remaining, should go with her
through the wood.

"No, he has seen the bear himself," cried Marit; "it was he who told us
about it."

Thorvald shrank within himself, where he was sitting, especially when
the school-master looked at him and drew the ferule affectionately
through his left hand.

"Have you seen the bear?" he asked, quietly.

"Well, at any rate, I know," said Thorvald, "that our overseer found a
bear's den up in the priest's wood, the day he was out ptarmigan
shooting."

"But have you seen the bear yourself?"

"It was not one, it was two large ones, and perhaps there were two
smaller ones besides, as the old ones generally have their last year's
cubs and this year's, too, with them."

"But have _you_ seen them?" reiterated the school-master, still more
mildly, as he kept drawing the ferule between his fingers.

Thorvald was silent for a moment.

"I saw the bear that Lars, the hunter, felled last year, at any rate."

Then the school-master came a step nearer, and asked, so pleasantly that
the boy became frightened,--

"Have you seen the bears up in the parsonage wood, I ask?"

Thorvald did not say another word.

"Perhaps your memory did not serve you quite right this time?" said the
school-master, taking the boy by the jacket collar and striking his own
side with the ferule.

Thorvald did not say a word; the other children dared not look that way.
Then the school-master said earnestly,--

"It is wicked for a priest's son to tell lies, and still more wicked to
teach the poor peasant children to do such things."

And so the boy escaped for that time.

But the next day at school (the teacher had been called up to the
priest's and the children were left to themselves) Marit was the first
one to ask Thorvald to tell her something about the bear again.

"But you get so frightened," said he.

"Oh, I think I will have to stand it," said she, and moved closer to her
brother.

"Ah, now you had better believe it will be shot!" said Thorvald, and
nodded his head. "There has come a fellow to the parish who is able to
shoot it. No sooner had Lars, the hunter, heard about the bear's den up
in the parsonage wood, than he came running through seven whole parishes
with a rifle as heavy as the upper mill-stone, and as long as from here
to Hans Volden, who sits yonder."

"Mercy!" cried all the children.

"As long?" repeated Thorvald; "yes, it is certainly as long as from here
to yonder bench."

"Have you seen it?" asked Ole Böen.

"Have I seen it, do you say? Why, I have been helping to clean it, and
that is what Lars will not allow everybody to do, let me tell you. Of
course _I_ could not lift it, but that made no difference; I only
cleaned the lock, and that is not the easiest work, I can tell you."

"People say that gun of Lars's has taken to missing its mark of late,"
said Hans Volden, leaning back, with both his feet on the desk. "Ever
since that time when Lars shot, up at Osmark, at a bear that was asleep,
it misses fire twice and misses the mark the third time."

"Yes, ever since he shot at a bear that was asleep," chimed in the
girls.

"The fool!" added the boys.

"There is only one way in which this difficulty with the rifle can be
remedied," said Ole Böen, "and that is to thrust a living snake down its
barrel."

"Yes, we all know that," said the girls. They wanted to hear something
new.

"It is now winter, and snakes are not to be found, and so Lars cannot
depend very much upon his rifle," said Hans Volden, thoughtfully.

"He wants Niels Böen along with him, does he not?" asked Thorvald.

"Yes," said the boy from Böen's, who was, of course, best posted in
regard to this; "but Niels will get permission neither from his mother
nor from his sister. His father certainly died from the wrestle he had
with the bear up at the sæter last year, and now they have no one but
Niels."

"Is it so dangerous, then?" asked a little boy.

"Dangerous?" cried Thorvald. "The bear has as much sense as ten men, and
as much strength as twelve."

"Yes, we know that," said the girls once more. They were bent on hearing
something new.

"But Niels is like his father; I dare say he will go along," continued
Thorvald.

"Of course he will go along," said Ole Böen; "this morning early, before
any one was stirring over yonder at our gard, I saw Niels Böen, Lars the
hunter, and one man more, going up the mountain with their rifles. I
should not be surprised if they were going to the parsonage wood."

"Was it early?" asked the children, in concert.

"Very early! I was up before mother, and started the fire."

"Did Lars have the long rifle?" asked Hans.

"That I do not know, but the one he had was as long as from here to the
chair."

"Oh, what a story!" said Thorvald.

"Why, you said so yourself," answered Ole.

"No, the long rifle which I saw, he will scarcely use any more."

"Well, this one was, at all events, as long--as long--as from here,
nearly over to the chair."

"Ah! perhaps he had it with him then after all."

"Just think," said Marit, "now they are up among the bears."

"And at this very moment they may be in a fight," said Thorvald.

Then followed a deep, nay, almost solemn silence.

"I think I will go," said Thorvald, taking his cap.

"Yes! yes! then you will find out something," shouted all the rest, and
they became full of life again.

"But the school-master?" said he, and stopped.

"Nonsense! you are the priest's son," said Ole Böen.

"Yes, if the school-master touches me with a finger!" said Thorvald,
with a significant nod, in the midst of the deep silence of the rest.

"Will you hit him back?" asked they, eagerly.

"Who knows?" said Thorvald, nodding, and went away.

They thought it best to study while he was gone, but none of them were
able to do so,--they had to keep talking about the bear. They began
guessing how the affair would turn out. Hans bet with Ole that Lars's
rifle had missed fire, and that the bear had sprung at him. Little Knud
Pladsen thought they had all fared badly, and the girls took his side.
But there came Thorvald.

"Let us go," said he, as he pulled open the door, so excited that he
could scarcely speak.

"But the school-master?" asked some of the children.

"The deuce take the school-master! The bear! The bear!" cried Thorvald,
and could say no more.

"Is it shot?" asked one, very softly, and the others dared not draw
their breath.

Thorvald sat panting for a while, finally he got up, mounted one of the
benches, swung his cap, and shouted,--

"Let us go, I say. I will take all the responsibility."

"But where shall we go?" asked Hans.

"The largest bear has been borne down, the others still remain. Niels
Böen has been badly hurt, because Lars's rifle missed its mark, and the
bears rushed straight at them. The boy who went with them saved himself
only by throwing himself flat on the ground, and pretending to be dead,
and the bear did not touch him. As soon as Lars and Niels had killed
their bear, they shot his also. Hurrah!"

"Hurrah!" shouted all, both girls and boys, and up from their seats, and
out through the door, they sprang, and off they ran over field and wood
to Böen, as though there was no such thing as a school-master in the
whole world.

The girls soon complained that they were not able to keep up, but the
boys took them by the hand and away they all rushed.

"Take care not to touch it!" said Thorvald; "it sometimes happens that
the bears become alive again."

"Is that so?" asked Marit.

"Yes, and they appear in a new form, so have a care!"

And they kept running.

"Lars shot the largest one ten times before it fell," he began again.

"Just think! ten times!"

And they kept running.

"And Niels stabbed it eighteen times with his knife before it fell!"

"Mercy! what a bear!"

And the children ran so that the sweat poured down from their faces.

Finally they reached the place. Ole Böen pushed the door open and got in
first.

"Have a care!" cried Hans after him.

Marit and a little girl that Thorvald and Hans had led between them,
were the next ones, and then came Thorvald, who did not go far forward,
but remained standing where he could observe the whole scene.

"See the blood!" said he to Hans.

The others hardly knew whether they should venture in just yet.

"Do you see it?" asked a girl of a boy, who stood by her side in the
door.

"Yes, it is as large as the captain's large horse," answered he, and
went on talking to her. It was bound with iron chains, he said, and had
even broken the one that had been put about its fore-legs. He could see
distinctly that it was alive, and the blood was flowing from it like a
waterfall.

Of course, this was not true; but they forgot that when they caught
sight of the bear, the rifle, and Niels, who sat there with bandaged
wounds after the fight with the bear, and when they heard old Lars the
hunter tell how all had happened. So eagerly, and with so much interest
did they look and listen, that they did not observe that some one came
behind them who also began to tell his story, and that in the following
manner:--

"I will teach you to leave the school without my permission, that I
will!"

A cry of fright arose from the whole crowd, and out through the door,
through the veranda, and out into the yard they ran. Soon they appeared
like a lot of black balls, rolling one by one, over the snow-white
field, and when the school-master on his old legs followed them to the
school-house, he could hear the children reading from afar off; they
read until the walls fairly rattled.

Aye, that was a glorious day, the day when the bear-hunter came home! It
began in sunshine and ended in rain, but such days are usually the best
growing days.



THE FATHER.


The man whose story is here to be told was the wealthiest and most
influential person in his parish; his name was Thord Överaas. He
appeared in the priest's study one day, tall and earnest.

"I have gotten a son," said he, "and I wish to present him for baptism."

"What shall his name be?"

"Finn,--after my father."

"And the sponsors?"

They were mentioned, and proved to be the best men and women of Thord's
relations in the parish.

"Is there anything else?" inquired the priest, and looked up.

The peasant hesitated a little.

"I should like very much to have him baptized by himself," said he,
finally.

"That is to say on a week-day?"

"Next Saturday, at twelve o'clock noon."

"Is there anything else?" inquired the priest.

"There is nothing else;" and the peasant twirled his cap, as though he
were about to go.

Then the priest rose. "There is yet this, however," said he, and walking
toward Thord, he took him by the hand and looked gravely into his eyes:
"God grant that the child may become a blessing to you!"

One day sixteen years later, Thord stood once more in the priest's
study.

"Really, you carry your age astonishingly well, Thord," said the priest;
for he saw no change whatever in the man.

"That is because I have no troubles," replied Thord.

To this the priest said nothing, but after a while he asked: "What is
your pleasure this evening?"

"I have come this evening about that son of mine who is to be confirmed
to-morrow."

"He is a bright boy."

"I did not wish to pay the priest until I heard what number the boy
would have when he takes his place in church to-morrow."

"He will stand number one."

"So I have heard; and here are ten dollars for the priest."

"Is there anything else I can do for you?" inquired the priest, fixing
his eyes on Thord.

"There is nothing else."

Thord went out.

Eight years more rolled by, and then one day a noise was heard outside
of the priest's study, for many men were approaching, and at their head
was Thord, who entered first.

The priest looked up and recognized him.

"You come well attended this evening, Thord," said he.

"I am here to request that the bans may be published for my son: he is
about to marry Karen Storliden, daughter of Gudmund, who stands here
beside me."

"Why, that is the richest girl in the parish."

"So they say," replied the peasant, stroking back his hair with one
hand.

The priest sat a while as if in deep thought, then entered the names in
his book, without making any comments, and the men wrote their
signatures underneath. Thord laid three dollars on the table.

"One is all I am to have," said the priest.

"I know that very well; but he is my only child, I want to do it
handsomely."

The priest took the money.

"This is now the third time, Thord, that you have come here on your
son's account."

"But now I am through with him," said Thord, and folding up his
pocket-book he said farewell and walked away.

The men slowly followed him.

A fortnight later, the father and son were rowing across the lake, one
calm, still day, to Storliden to make arrangements for the wedding.

"This thwart is not secure," said the son, and stood up to straighten
the seat on which he was sitting.

At the same moment the board he was standing on slipped from under him;
he threw out his arms, uttered a shriek, and fell overboard.

"Take hold of the oar!" shouted the father, springing to his feet and
holding out the oar.

But when the son had made a couple of efforts he grew stiff.

"Wait a moment!" cried the father, and began to row toward his son.

Then the son rolled over on his back, gave his father one long look, and
sank.

Thord could scarcely believe it; he held the boat still, and stared at
the spot where his son had gone down, as though he must surely come to
the surface again. There rose some bubbles, then some more, and finally
one large one that burst; and the lake lay there as smooth and bright as
a mirror again.

For three days and three nights people saw the father rowing round and
round the spot, without taking either food or sleep; he was dragging the
lake for the body of his son. And toward morning of the third day he
found it, and carried it in his arms up over the hills to his gard.

It might have been about a year from that day, when the priest, late one
autumn evening, heard some one in the passage outside of the door,
carefully trying to find the latch. The priest opened the door, and in
walked a tall, thin man, with bowed form and white hair. The priest
looked long at him before he recognized him. It was Thord.

"Are you out walking so late?" said the priest, and stood still in
front of him.

"Ah, yes! it is late," said Thord, and took a seat.

The priest sat down also, as though waiting. A long, long silence
followed. At last Thord said,--

"I have something with me that I should like to give to the poor; I want
it to be in vested as a legacy in my son's name."

He rose, laid some money on the table, and sat down again. The priest
counted it.

"It is a great deal of money," said he.

"It is half the price of my gard. I sold it to-day."

The priest sat long in silence. At last he asked, but gently,--

"What do you propose to do now, Thord?"

"Something better."

They sat there for a while, Thord with downcast eyes, the priest with
his eyes fixed on Thord. Presently the priest said, slowly and
softly,--

"I think your son has at last brought you a true blessing."

"Yes, I think so myself," said Thord, looking up, while two big tears
coursed slowly down his cheeks.



THE EAGLE'S NEST.


The Endregards was the name of a small solitary parish, surrounded by
lofty mountains. It lay in a flat and fertile valley, and was
intersected by a broad river that flowed down from the mountains. This
river emptied into a lake, which was situated close by the parish, and
presented a fine view of the surrounding country.

Up the Endre-Lake the man had come rowing, who had first cleared this
valley; his name was Endre, and it was his descendants who dwelt here.
Some said he had fled hither on account of a murder he had committed,
and that was why his family were so dark; others said this was on
account of the mountains, which shut out the sun at five o'clock of a
midsummer afternoon.

Over this parish there hung an eagle's nest. It was built on a cliff far
up the mountains; all could see the mother eagle alight in her nest, but
no one could reach it. The male eagle went sailing over the parish, now
swooping down after a lamb, now after a kid; once he had also taken a
little child and borne it away; therefore there was no safety in the
parish as long as the eagle had a nest in this mountain. There was a
tradition among the people, that in old times there were two brothers
who had climbed up to the nest and torn it down; but nowadays there was
no one who was able to reach it.

Whenever two met at the Endregards, they talked about the eagle's nest,
and looked up. Every one knew, when the eagles reappeared in the new
year, where they had swooped down and done mischief, and who had last
endeavored to reach the nest. The youth of the place, from early
boyhood, practiced climbing mountains and trees, wrestling and
scuffling, in order that one day they might reach the cliff and demolish
the nest, as those two brothers had done.

At the time of which this story tells, the best boy at the Endregards
was named Leif, and he was not of the Endre family. He had curly hair
and small eyes, was clever in all play, and was fond of the fair sex. He
early said of himself, that one day he would reach the eagle's nest; but
old people remarked that he should not have said so aloud.

This annoyed him, and even before he had reached his prime he made the
ascent. It was one bright Sunday forenoon, early in the summer; the
young eagles must be just about hatched. A vast multitude of people had
gathered together at the foot of the mountain to behold the feat; the
old people advising him against attempting it, the young ones urging him
on.

But he hearkened only to his own desires, and waiting until the mother
eagle left her nest, he gave one spring into the air, and hung in a tree
several yards from the ground. The tree grew in a cleft in the rock, and
from this cleft he began to climb upward. Small stones loosened under
his feet, earth and gravel came rolling down, otherwise all was still,
save for the stream flowing behind, with its suppressed, ceaseless
murmur. Soon he had reached a point where the mountain began to project;
here he hung long by one hand, while his foot groped for a sure
resting-place, for he could not see. Many, especially women, turned
away, saying he would never have done this had he had parents living. He
found footing at last, however sought again, now with the hand, now with
the foot, failed, slipped, then hung fast again. They who stood below
could hear one another breathing.

Suddenly there rose to her feet, a tall, young girl, who had been
sitting on a stone apart from the rest; it was said that she had been
betrothed to Leif from early childhood, although he was not of her
kindred. Stretching out her arms she called aloud: "Leif, Leif, why do
you do this?" Every eye was turned on her. Her father, who was standing
close by, gave her a stern look, but she heeded him not. "Come down
again, Leif," she cried; "I love you, and there is nothing to be gained
up there!"

They could see that he was considering; he hesitated a moment or two,
and then started onward. For a long time all went well, for he was
sure-footed and had a strong grip; but after a while it seemed as if he
were growing weary, for he often paused. Presently a little stone came
rolling down as a harbinger, and every one who stood there had to watch
its course to the bottom. Some could endure it no longer, and went away.
The girl alone still stood on the stone, and wringing her hands
continued to gaze upward.

Once more Leif took hold with one hand but it slipped; she saw this
distinctly; then he tried the other; it slipped also. "Leif!" she
shouted, so loud that her voice rang through the mountains, and all the
others chimed in with her. "He is slipping!" they cried, and stretched
up their hands to him, both men and women. He was indeed slipping,
carrying with him sand, stones, and earth; slipping, continually
slipping, ever faster and faster. The people turned away, and then they
heard a rustling and scraping in the mountain behind them, after which,
something fell with a heavy thud, like a great piece of wet earth.

When they could look round again, he was lying there crushed and
mutilated beyond recognition. The girl had fallen down on the stone, and
her father took her up in his arms and bore her away.

The youths who had taken the most pains to incite Leif to the perilous
ascent now dared not lend a hand to pick him up; some were even unable
to look at him. So the old people had to go forward. The eldest of them,
as he took hold of the body, said: "It is very sad, but," he added,
casting a look upward, "it is, after all, well that something hangs so
high that it cannot be reached by every one."


FOOTNOTES:

[1] To this there will also be found in the Album a melody by Halfdan
Kjerulf.

[2] The top of a hill is called in Norwegian "Kamp," and the houseman's
place took its name from its situation.

[3] A popular dance in two-fourths time, described in this chapter.

[4] Translated by Augusta Plesner and S. Rugeley-Powers.

[5] A popular dance, in three-fourths time.

[6] A Dane, the most noted psalmist of Scandinavia.

[7] Auber Forestier's translation.

[8] Translated by Augusta Plesner and S. Rugeley-Powers.

[9] Auber Forestier's translation.

[10] Adapted to the metre of the original from the translation of
Augusta Plesner and S. Rugeley-Powers.

[11] Adapted to the metre of the original, from the translation of
Augusta Plesner and S. Rugeley-Powers.

[12] Translated by Augusta Plesner and S. Rugeley-Powers.

[13] A kind of road-sulky used by travelers in Norway.

[14] Important announcements are made to the people in front of the
church after service.

[15] The chief magistrate of an amt or county.

[16] Bailiff.

[17] Auber Forestier's translation.

[18] Translated by Augusta Plesner and S. Rugeley-Powers.

[19] The hulder dwells in forests and mountains, appears like a
beautiful woman, and usually wears a blue petticoat and a white hood.
She has a long tail, which she tries to conceal when she is among
people. She is fond of cattle.

[20] Translated by Augusta Plesner and S. Rugeley-Powers.

[21] Shooting or flinging steel over the head of hulders, trolls, etc.,
makes the witchery vanish. Thus also a piece of steel laid in the cradle
prevents hulders from exchanging little children for their own.

[22] A kind of long snow-shoe.

[23] Adapted to the metre of the original from the translation of
Augusta Plesner and S. Rugeley-Powers.

[24] The peasants call the priest father.

[25] Auber Forestier's translation.

[26] Peasants wear an under-garment high in the neck with long sleeves.

[27] Adapted to the original metre from the translation of Augusta
Plesner and S. Rugeley-Powers.

[28] Translated by Augusta Plesner and S. Rugeley-Powers.

[29] The Norse word _datter_ means daughter.


       *       *       *       *       *


TRANSCRIBER'S NOTES

38 typos have been silently corrected. The vast majority of these are
caused by the apparent failure of a letter or punctuation mark to print
correctly, leaving a gap in the text.

Both "childlike" and "child-like", "roadside" and "road-side" were used
in this text.

On p. 238, the phrasing "articles in the newspapers, which report
attributed to him," does not make sense, but there is no obvious
amendment. No change has been made.

Italic text is denoted by _underscores_.

A Table of Contents has been added.





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