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Title: Katharine Frensham - A Novel
Author: Harraden, Beatrice, 1864-1936
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Katharine Frensham - A Novel" ***

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



Transcriber's Note:

The original text uses 'aa' or 'ã' (a tilde) for 'å' (a ring);
'ø' is represented by 'ö', and 'ae' by 'æ'. All incidences of 'ã'
(a tilde) have been edited to 'å' (a ring).



                      UNIFORM WITH THIS VOLUME


        WAR OF THE CAROLINAS.         _Meredith Nicholson._

        ROMANCE.                           _Joseph Conrad._

        LADY ROSE'S DAUGHTER.          _Mrs. Humphry Ward._

        THE PRIMROSE PATH.                 _Mrs. Oliphant._

        THOMPSON'S PROGRESS.        _C. J. Cutcliffe Hyne._

        LOVE AND MR. LEWISHAM.               _H. G. Wells._

        THE FOOD OF THE GODS.                _H. G. Wells._

        KIPPS.                               _H. G. Wells._

        CYNTHIA'S WAY.                  _Mrs. A. Sidgwick._

        CLARISSA FURIOSA.                   _W. E. Norris._

        HIS GRACE.                          _W. E. Norris._

        RAFFLES.                           _E. W. Hornung._

        FRENCH NAN.               _Agnes & Egerton Castle._

        SPRINGTIME.                         _H. C. Bailey._

        MOONFLEET.                      _J. Meade Falkner._

        WHITE FANG.                          _Jack London._

        MAJOR VIGOUREUX.                             "_Q._"

        EIGHT DAYS.                        _R. E. Forrest._

        THE TRANSLATION OF A SAVAGE.       _Sir G. Parker._

        FORTUNE OF CHRISTINA M'NAB.       _S. Macnaughtan._

        OLD GORGON GRAHAM.         _George Horace Lorimer._

        MRS. GALER'S BUSINESS.             _W. Pett Ridge._

        THE PIT.                            _Frank Norris._

        THE OCTOPUS.                        _Frank Norris._

        MARCELLA.                      _Mrs. Humphry Ward._

        THE INTRUSIONS OF PEGGY.            _Anthony Hope._

        THE GOD IN THE CAR.                 _Anthony Hope._

        THE PRINCESS PASSES.    _C. N. & A. M. Williamson._

_And Many Other Equally Popular Copyright Novels._

_NELSON'S LIBRARY._

[Illustration: With one tremendous effort he broke down the wall of
reserve.]



KATHARINE
FRENSHAM

A Novel

BEATRICE
HARRADEN

THOMAS NELSON
AND SONS

[Illustration]



    "Midway the road of our life's term they met,
      And one another knew without surprise;
      Nor cared that beauty stood in mutual eyes;
    Nor at their tardy meeting nursed regret.


    To them it was revealed how they had found
      The kindred nature and the needed mind,
      The mate by long conspiracy designed;
    The flower to plant in sanctuary ground."

                     --George Meredith.



NOTE.

My thanks are due to Herr Sigurd Hals (Christiania) for permission
to use from his _Hals-Album_ the Norwegian folk-songs: "Aagot's
Mountain-song;" "Astri, my Astri;" "Home from the Saeter."

And to Herr Wilhelm Hansen (Copenhagen) for permission to use from
his _Danmark's melodie bog_ the Danish song, "Thou who hast sorrow
in thy heart."

And to Herr Abraham Lundquist (Stockholm) for permission to use
from his _Svenska Folkvisor_ the Swedish song, "At daytime when
I'm working."

                                              BEATRICE HARRADEN.

HAMPSTEAD, _Oct., 1903_.



CONTENTS.


                                PART   I.           PAGE

IN ENGLAND   .     .     .     .     .     .     .    7

                                PART   II.

IN NORWAY    .     .     .     .     .     .     .  131

                                PART III.

IN ENGLAND   .     .     .     .     .     .     .  347



PART I.

IN ENGLAND.



KATHARINE FRENSHAM.



CHAPTER I.


"Do you understand, Alan, my boy?" asked Clifford Thornton.

"No, father, I don't," the boy said in a low voice. "It seems all such a
fuss about nothing. Why can't you and mother have it out like any other
fellows, and then make it up and be friends? You can't think how easy it
is."

"We have been doing that for fifteen years and more--all your lifetime,"
the man said.

"I never knew it was as bad as that," Alan said.

"We tried to spare you the full knowledge of it," the man answered
gently. "But now that you are old enough to know, we are obliged to tell
you that we are not, never have been, happy together, and that we do not
wish to be together. We spoil each other's lives."

Alan was sitting on the sofa. He stirred a little, and then suddenly,
without any warning, burst into tears. Although he admired his mother's
personality and bearing, he had never been particularly attached to her;
but with that conservative conventionalism characteristic of an English
boy, he was mortified, and felt it to be a disgrace that there should be
any serious disagreement between his parents.

Clifford Thornton looked at the boy whom he loved and whom he had
wounded; and he recognised with a sharp pain of regret that Alan was
still too young and too sensitive for the news which had been broken to
him. Bitterly the man reproached himself for his selfishness. And yet he
had waited for this moment for fifteen long years--more than that; for
he and his wife had discovered at the onset that they were out of
sympathy, each having an _aura_ hostile to the other. Then the child had
come, and these two naturally antipathetic people had thought: "We shall
draw nearer to each other because of the child."

But Nature is merciless in many of her ways, and mysterious; and perhaps
her greatest and subtlest human mystery is the strife, conscious or
unconscious, of one individuality with another individuality. And she
gives no balm for it. On the contrary, she gives a sort of morbid
remorse, wholly out of proportion to the quality and quantity of
mistakes and failings born necessarily of unsuitable companionship.

Clifford Thornton bent over him and put his hand on the lad's shoulder.

"Alan," he said, almost imploringly. "Don't fret like that. We will talk
about it another time. Come, pull yourself together. We will go for a
ride, and you can try the new cob."

The boy sobbed on as though he had not heard.

"Alan," Clifford Thornton said.

The boy looked up, and stifled his last sob.

"I don't want to go riding," he said. "I want to go and be alone."

He rose from the sofa and dried his eyes. He did not seem ashamed of his
tears; he offered no excuses for his sudden outburst of grief.

"I'm awfully upset, father," he said with trembling voice.

"I have done you an injury to-day," his father said, "and I can never
forgive myself. I have taken away from you something which I can never
give back--that splendid belief of childhood that everything is going on
all right."

Alan did not seem to hear. He took his cap from the writing-table and
turned towards the door. It was evident that he wanted to say something
to his father, but that the words would not come. He opened the door
slowly and passed out. Clifford Thornton watched him, and watched the
door close, and then stood still a moment, waiting, longing, and
listening. But when he realised that the boy had indeed gone, he slipped
into his study chair and leaned back, his arms folded tightly together,
and his thin face drawn into an expression of great pain. The thoughts
which passed through his mind kept him chained there, as one paralysed.
Not a muscle of his face moved. He might have been a dead man staring at
nothing. At last, perhaps half an hour afterwards, the door opened, and
Alan came back.

"Father," he said shyly. "It's all right now. Let us go riding, after
all."

The strain on the man's face relaxed. Father and son clasped hands.



CHAPTER II.


Mrs Thornton, who had been making a tour in Scotland with her friend,
Mrs Stanhope, returned to her home the next day after Clifford
Thornton's interview with his boy. The Thorntons lived in Surrey, in a
beautiful house standing with fifteen acres of untouched heather around
it, not far from Farnham. It was called "Falun" after the place in
Dalecarlia, Sweden, where Clifford Thornton's father had been educated
at the celebrated School of Mines, since removed to Stockholm.

Mrs Thornton arrived at Farnham about five o'clock. Alan went to meet
her at the station, and even during their drive home to "Falun," Mrs
Thornton noticed that there was something unusually strained in the
boy's manner. She herself was in a state of great mental excitement,
having been urged by her friend, Mrs Stanhope, who had always taken an
unsympathetic view of Clifford's character, to propose to him an
immediate deed of separation.

Marianne Thornton was a beautiful, imperious woman, with an impossible
temper and an impracticable temperament; she never had been, and never
could have been controlled by any one. But this evening, something
tugged at her heart when she saw that her boy, whom she loved in her
turbulent way, was in trouble; and when they were alone in her boudoir,
she questioned him in her abrupt fashion which so often jarred on her
husband consciously and her son unconsciously.

"Father told me yesterday that you were not happy together," he said
shyly, as he played with the spoon in his teacup. "It upset me rather. I
am awfully sorry about it, mother."

He did not look at her when he spoke, and did not see the sudden flush
on her handsome face. She herself had meant to tell Alan. It had never
entered her head for one moment that Clifford, who, so she knew in her
heart of hearts, had borne with her patiently, would have taken the
initiative and opened the subject to the boy in her absence. She was
stung beyond bearing.

"Happy!" she said excitedly. "Who could be happy with your father? So he
has been speaking to you about me, has he? And what has he been daring
to say against me?"

"He never said anything against you," the boy answered, in a low voice.
"He only told me you were not happy together."

She arranged the cushions on the sofa angrily, and leaned amongst them
angrily.

"Happy!" she said. "I should like to know who could be happy with your
father--a man of no heart, no emotions, selfish beyond words, and unkind
beyond belief."

"Oh, mother, that's not true," the boy said, with an indignant outburst.
"Father is always good and kind. I never once heard him say an unkind
word to you or me. It's all your fault. It's your temper. That's what it
is."

His championship of his father aroused all the anger and jealousy in
her nature.

She got up from the sofa and turned to him.

"You are just like him," she cried passionately, "just like him. Make
your lives together, and find your happiness in each other. I don't want
either of you."

She hastened from the room, swept down the stairs, swept through the
hall, through the study and flung the door of the laboratory violently
open.

Clifford, who was a chemist, was distilling over a flame a substance
which represented more than a month's work. Marianne's sudden entry made
him jerk the bottom of the flask containing it against the ring of the
retort-stand. The flask cracked, and in an instant the whole of the
contents blazed off and disappeared.

She did not notice, and would not have cared if she had noticed.

"What have you been saying to the boy?" she asked, in her tempestuous
manner.

Clifford moved round, looked at her, and leaned against the bench.

"I have told him that we are not happy, and that we must part," he
answered.

Something in his manner, something in his face, in the tone of finality
in his voice arrested her. She glanced at him, glanced at the obvious
signs of his lost labour, and some words rose to her lips, but she did
not speak them. She went towards the door, and there she paused and
turned towards him. He was still leaning against the bench, and his
whole bearing denoted that of a man who can deal no more with despairing
conditions. She knew then that everything was over between them. She
retired to her room, and was not seen any more that evening.

Father and son took their dinner in silence, and no reference was made
to Mrs Thornton's absence. It was tacitly understood by them both that
she was in one of her tempers, which were, alas! part and parcel of the
"Falun" everyday life.

Clifford and the boy played a game of billiards, and then both father
and son went to develop some photographs in the dark room, which
adjoined the laboratory. They were not happy; but like two criminals,
they felt a certain amount of easement in being together.

At last Alan went to bed, and his father shut himself up in his
laboratory and tried to work out some structural formulae in connection
with certain experimental data he had obtained. But his mental serenity
had been disturbed by his wife's return, and he was disheartened by the
loss of the result of his work. That was only one of the many times when
Marianne had burst into the laboratory and spoilt his experiments, and
he was annoyed with himself for not having remembered to turn the key
and thus secure himself from an unwelcome intrusion. He struggled some
time with conflicting thoughts, but eventually came into his study and
drew his chair up to the fire; for it was a cold September night. He sat
there staring at the fire, and his mind wandered back to his happy
student days under Bayer in Munich, and Hofmann in Berlin, when
everything seemed possible to him because his mind was free from
harassment. He glanced at Hofmann's portrait, which was hanging over the
mantelpiece, and he heard once more the man's genial voice, and felt the
charm of his genial presence. A thrill of pleasure and enthusiasm passed
through him. For three years he had studied with Hofmann, and had
finally become his private assistant, only leaving him to take over the
Professorship of Chemistry at Aberystwith College, a post which he held
for two years. Then his father, a mining engineer, died, leaving him a
considerable fortune; and he was thus able to devote himself entirely to
research work, his subjects being the study of stereo-isomeric
compounds, and syntheses amongst the vegetable alkaloids. It was during
his last year at Berlin that he had met and married Marianne Dacre, the
beautiful daughter of a widowed Englishwoman keeping an English
boarding-house in the German capital. When his father died, they settled
down with their little son at "Falun," and from that moment until this
very evening, happiness had been a stranger to the home. Yet the man was
made for happiness. He would have been glad enough to love and be loved.
But he had, of his own free will, chosen badly, and he had to pay the
penalty. And he paid it with all the chivalry and kindness which were
part of his nature. But the moment had come when he realised that he had
paid enough, and as he sat there, half-musing, half-dozing, he said:

"I have paid enough. I can and will pay no more."

And suddenly he fell asleep from sheer mental exhaustion, and he
dreamed. He dreamed that he was telling his wife all his locked inmost
thoughts of her. He had kept them controlled so long and so sternly,
that now they came tumbling out with reckless abandonment.

"You have never known me for what I am," he said passionately. "You have
spoiled my life, my spirit, and ruined my best talents. I tell you I had
talents before you came and trampled on them. Listen to me. If ever a
man has been spiritually murdered, it is I. But now the barrier of
silence has broken down, and I dare to tell you what in my inmost heart
I really think of you. I dare to tell you that I despise your paltry
mind and petty temperament; that your atmosphere is an insult to me, and
that I long and thirst and am starved to be free from the pressure of
your daily presence. You have been merciless to me with your
uncontrolled rages, your insane jealousies of me, my work, my ambitions,
and my friends. I can bear it all no longer. The day on which we go our
own ways, will be the day of my re-birth. And that day shall be
to-morrow--now--even now. No, no, don't begin to argue with me,
Marianne. There is nothing you can say to me either about yourself or
the boy that could alter my determination. We have delayed too long
already, and the precious years are passing. Sixteen wasted years--oh,
the hopeless folly of them, and leading to what? No, no, I'll listen to
no more arguments--there is no sense in this continued penance. We must
and shall part to-morrow; no, no--now--this moment--ah, at last, at
last--freedom at last!"

He awoke and looked around his quiet study.

"Ah," he said, "it was a dream. I am glad, in spite of everything, that
it was a dream. I am glad that I did not say those things to her in
reality. The look of pain and astonishment on her face would have
haunted me all my life."

He shuddered.

"It was horrible," he said. "Poor Marianne, poor Marianne! You must not
know the truth which kills. Poor Marianne! We must pick up the bits
to-morrow--somehow."

Then he turned down the lights, and went upstairs. His wife's door was
open, and he heard her voice calling him.

"Clifford, Clifford!" she cried, as though in some great danger.

He hastened his steps, and found Marianne standing in the middle of the
room, her hair dishevelled, her eyes transfixed, and her face bearing
the same expression of pain and astonishment which he had seen in his
dreams.

"Good God!" he cried. "What is it, Marianne?"

"Clifford," she sobbed, "I dreamed that you had been telling me you
hated and despised me, that I was an insult to your life and talents,
that I had ruined your life, murdered your spirit, and crushed out all
the best in you. Tell me, tell me, it was only a dream. I know we have
not been happy, but--but--it could not have been as bad as that. Tell
me, it was only a dream--but, oh, Clifford, it was so vivid, so
penetrating that I cannot believe it was a dream. I heard your
voice--your real voice; tell me--tell me----"

"It was only a dream," he said excitedly, "nothing but a dream. You must
not look like that. I cannot bear you to look like that. It is more than
I can bear. You must forget about it, and we will begin all over again
to-morrow. I never said those things to you--thank Heaven, I never said
them to you--it was only a dream--your dream--and my dream."

He could have bitten his tongue out after he had said those last words.

"Your dream?" she cried, with a ring of despair in her voice.

"Marianne," he said, gathering himself, and all the best in himself,
together for victory over his temperament and hers--"oh, Marianne, we
are not to be held responsible for our dreams. You know how it is with
our restless, wayward fancies: one little passing discord in real life
becomes magnified and expanded into an immense orchestra of discordant
strains in that dream-life over which we seem to have no control. Don't
you understand--can't you understand?"

"You dreamed it," she said slowly, "and it was so vivid to you that it
broke through all barriers and reached me in my dream. It must have been
born of your inmost thoughts, bred up and strengthened through these
long years of our misunderstandings, until it reached its full maturity.
We should indeed each have gone a separate way long ago. But it is not
too late even now."

"Not too late to find the key to each other even now," he said. "Let us
try to do it. Where others have failed, let us make a triumph. It is not
our hearts which are at war, Marianne: our hearts mean well to each
other. It is our temperaments which cause all the strife."

"We can make no triumph," she answered. "I have ruined your life,
murdered your spirit, crushed out the best in you."

"It was a dream," he cried passionately. "Let it go the way of all
dreams."

She shook her head.

"We must part to-morrow," she said, "and to-morrow will be the day of
your re-birth."

"You stab me with your words," he said, as he passed, with head bowed,
to the door.

"And you stab me with your dreams," she replied.

"We are both very unhappy," he said, as he paused on the threshold.

"Yes," she said, "very unhappy."

And she closed her door.

He stood alone on the landing. There was not a sound to be heard within
the house or without. It was a still September night, so that even the
branches of the trees were not moved in music. The harvest moon shone in
coldly. The world seemed lonely to that lonely man.

"What a failure I have made of everything," he said to himself--"even of
my silence."

He longed for some kind word, for some arresting glance of sympathy; but
life could yield nothing to him in his moment of need. He thought of his
boy whom he loved with all his heart, and he remembered only that he had
deliberately made the lad suffer. He forgot all the years of intimate
companionship which they two had enjoyed together, all the secret
understanding so precious to both of them. These memories, which might
have comforted him, and eloquently too, were silent; and because he was
gentle and generous-hearted, he had to pay the uttermost price for the
emotions which were the finest in his nature. He remembered only that he
had wounded Marianne, hurt her to the quick, and that if he got his
liberty--after fifteen years of bondage--he would be even as a released
prisoner to whom the sweets of freedom had become distasteful.

He went mechanically down the stairs, let himself out of the hall-door,
and stole round to the stables. Bully, the bull-terrier, knew his
master's footstep, and, as a welcome, beat his tail against his kennel.
Jinny, the brown mare, was asleep at the time; but she woke up and
neighed softly when she heard her master's voice, and was eager enough
to be saddled for a midnight ride. It was not the first time that she
had been called upon to sacrifice her own slumbers to his restlessness.
Many a time she and he had ridden out into the darkness and the tempest
and the moonlight of the night.

When he came back again, it was nearly five o'clock. Worn out in body
and spirit, he flung himself on his bed, fell asleep, and only awoke to
the sound of some commotion in the house, and cries of "Father, father."
He sprang up, opened the door, and found Alan outside.

"Father," he cried. "Mother----"

Clifford Thornton saw the look of alarm on his boy's face, and rushed to
Marianne's room. The door stood open. Marianne was leaning back in the
arm-chair--dead.



CHAPTER III.


There was, of course, an inquest, and then poor Marianne Thornton was
laid to rest in the little Surrey churchyard five miles from "Falun."
The verdict was death from sudden failure of the heart's action, due
probably to some shock, the exact nature of which was unknown.

"She must have had some shock, some great fright," Dr Aldborough
deposed. "The expression on her face was that of excessive alarm. It may
have been a dream--I have met with three such curious instances in my
experience. Moreover, it was known to us all that Mrs Thornton was
suffering from valvular disease of the heart. She had only lately been
consulting a new heart-specialist."

"It was a dream," Clifford Thornton stated, "and she called to me, and I
found her with that same expression of alarm on her face, and I tried to
calm her and failed. And feeling heavy of heart, I saddled my horse and
went riding."

"And the nature of the dream?" he was asked.

He shook his head.

"I do not know," he said. "I only know it was a dream."

He had made up his mind to keep that secret, chiefly for Alan's sake. He
felt that he had already injured the boy, and no word of his should now
add to the heavy burden of hastened knowledge.

"If I began to speak of it," he said to himself, "I should go on to tell
him that I had killed her--and in time he would believe it--even as I
do."

That was the torturing thought which at once began to assail him,
although he fought it with all the weapons of reason and common-sense.
He fought it even at the side of the grave, his impenetrable face
showing no sign of the mental torture which he was enduring unhelped by
any one. But when they came back to "Falun" after the funeral, he put
his hands on Alan's shoulders and said sorrowfully:

"Alan, I would give my right hand, and the sight of my eyes, and the
strength of my brain, if only I could unsay what I said to you the other
day about your mother."

"Oh, father," the boy answered, in a paroxysm of grief, "perhaps we did
not love her enough."

He broke off there, and they did not speak together further, both being
of painfully reserved natures; but each wrung the other's hand silently,
in token of closer friendship, and throughout that sad day they did not
leave each other's side. The doctor called in during the afternoon, and
found them in the study sitting close together and trying to interest
themselves in a new book on architecture, which was Alan's beloved
subject, and for which he had undoubted talent. They looked so desolate
and pathetic that Dr Aldborough, who had always been attracted to this
reserved man and his son, was concerned for their welfare. He offered no
un-timely word of comfort or cheer, but he said to them:

"Come out with me. It is a splendid afternoon. I have to drive over to
Midhurst, and the air will do you both good. You will sleep better. And
Alan shall handle the greys, whilst we smoke."

The boy brightened up at once.

"Let us go, father," he said, a little eagerly.

"You go," his father answered. "I think I shall stay here."

"Then I shall stay," Alan said. "I couldn't be without you."

"In that case we will both go," Professor Thornton answered, smiling;
and so they went off, thankful really for the break in that long day.

When they came back that evening, they were a little more cheerful in
spite of themselves, and Alan went to bed and slept, and Clifford wrote
to his old Danish governess, Miss Knudsgaard, telling her of his wife's
sudden death, and asking her to come over. Then he sat thinking of his
dead wife and of all the circumstances of their married life. He
recalled to himself how bitterness of spirit and tenderness of intention
had been ever at war within him. He had no sooner recovered from an
attack of bitterness, than he was assailed by prolonged paroxysms of
self-reproach, which tore him to shreds even more ruthlessly than his
feelings of self-commiseration. He recalled all the petty strain and
stress of trifling tragedies which had been steadily impairing his
mental serenity. He hardened himself when he thought of that.

"This tragedy has happened," he said, "and through no fault of mine. I
must not let it spoil the rest of my life. I am forty-three. What cannot
a man still do and be at forty-three? I will battle with it until I
conquer it. It shall not crush me. No, it shall not."

He rose from his chair with a grim determination in his manner.

"Do you hear what I say?" he said, as though to a vast audience. "It
shall not crush me."

Then his eyes lighted on a box of his wife's letters and papers which
had been found in her room. He opened the box and took out some of the
papers. A few of them were receipted accounts. Several of them were
letters evidently written on that last night, gummed down, and stamped
ready for the post. One was to her intimate friend, Julia Stanhope, with
whom she had been touring in Scotland: a woman whom he had always
disliked, and who, so he thought, had always encouraged poor Marianne's
displays of uncontrolled anger. He put the letters into the post-box.
And here apparently was her journal. He did not know that she had kept a
journal. He smiled sadly as he thought of all the stormy scenes it must
surely record. He did not read it. He tore it up and threw the fragments
in the fire, and watched them curl up and carry their secret away with
them. But one page, the last page, had escaped the destruction, and fell
at his feet. He picked it up and he saw these words:

"_September 20th_.--Had another temper to-night. As usual, bitterly,
bitterly sorry. If only I could tell him; but I can't, and I won't."

Those must have been her last written words. They touched the most
tender chords in the man's highly-strung gentle nature. He forgot his
own sufferings: his own outraged peace and harmony of spirit: his own
ambitions and schemes marred by constant turmoil of mind: his own broad
outlook on life stealthily fenced in, now in one direction and now
another, by her compelling pettiness of temperament. All this he forgot.
She had not understood him--but--had he ever understood her? Ah, that
was it--that was the crux of the whole matter; and he remembered now
that never once had she reproached him with that. Never once had she
said to him:

"And do you think there has been nothing to understand in me? I may not
be the marvellous person you suppose yourself to be. I may not have all
the gifts you are supposed to have; but at least I am a human being,
with my own necessities and crying demands, no less importunate with me
than yours with you."

Never had she said that to him. But he said it to himself over and over
again, and almost broke his heart in the repeating of it.



CHAPTER IV.


"And so you have come home at last, dear old Katharine," Ronald Frensham
said to his sister as they both sat over the fire in the music-room of
Ronald's house in Kensington, one evening in the middle of March. "It is
good to see you again."

Katharine Frensham said nothing, but held out her hand, which her
brother grasped silently. There was a harmony in the atmosphere, a
silent song of friendship. The faces of both brother and sister wore
that expression of quiet happiness always unmistakable when people of
the right temperament are feeling how gracious a thing it is to be
together once more. The music-room, too, delicately furnished, was
restful to the eye; and there seemed to be an appropriate sympathy
between the pictures on the walls, the books on the shelves, and the
musical instruments, some of the latter lying about casually, and others
carefully enshrined in a Chippendale cabinet. A small organ at the other
end of the room gave a dignity to the surroundings peculiar entirely to
the presence of that most compelling of all musical instruments. A
little white Pomeranian dog was curled up in front of the fire, and
added for the time to the effect of peacefulness. Of course one knew
that directly the music began, he would get up, yell, refuse to be
removed, and go as near as possible to the very source of his
nerve-disturbance; but for the moment he was in a dog's Paradise--on the
best rug in the room, near those he loved best, and therefore in tune
with self and circumstance.

It was now nearly three years since Ronald had married, and Katharine
had left England to travel about the world alone. She and her brother
had always been close friends, and their companionship had ever been a
joy to themselves and to those who knew them. Since childhood they had
been called "the inseparables." They had fished together, climbed trees,
fought, followed the otter hounds in their old Somersetshire home,
stolen, ridden, and accomplished all their fun and wickedness in close
partnership. And together they had loved their mother passionately. And
when she died, she said to them, "Love each other always--promise me,
whatever comes--whatever befalls. Stand by each other." And boy and girl
of fifteen and sixteen then, they said, "Always--always."

So the years passed. They grew up and made their home together alone.
Ronald became head of the organ-building business left to him and
Katharine by their father, and thus they were partners in business as
well as in pleasure. And they were still called the inseparables. People
said, "Ah, Katharine is somewhere about, for I see Ronald." Or they
said, "Ronald cannot be far off, as Kath has arrived." There was a story
that Ronald had said at a picnic, "Nothing more for me, thanks, and
nothing more for my sister!"

But at last the inevitable happened: Ronald became engaged to an
attractive girl, and Katharine had the bitter experience of becoming a
secondary consideration in his life. And then people said, "What will
Katharine do? How will she take it?"

She behaved splendidly, and bore herself in a manner worthy of a warm
and generous nature.

"Ronald and Gwendolen shall have a joyous engagement-time," she said to
herself. "I will keep all my jealous feelings locked up in an iron
safe."

And they had it, unmarred by any sadness or jealousy on her part.
Nevertheless she suffered; for she and Gwendolen had nothing in common.
Katharine had the free spirit and the broad outlook. Gwendolen was
essentially of the world worldly, belonging to that ever-increasing
community known as "smart," with no outlook worth speaking of, but, for
all that, delightfully engaging in her beauty and her bearing. In her
metallic way, too, she was appreciative of Katharine's kindness, and she
made a very real attempt to accept the sisterliness affectionately
offered to her.

But they spoke a different language. That was the only criticism
Katharine made of her, and then only to Willy Tonedale, her old friend
and admirer.

"Well, my dear Kath," he had drawled out as he twirled his moustache,
"all I can say is that I prefer your language. It is more intelligible.
Perhaps it may be because I am supposed to have a slow brain. Anyway,
you're behaving like a brick to them both, and Ronnie is a deuced old
duffer for giving you up. I would not have given you up if you'd been my
sister, my grandmother, or my great-grandmother, for the matter of
that."

"Nonsense, Willy!" Katharine had answered laughingly. "Don't be
ridiculous. It is right that Ronnie should marry. It all comes in the
day's march; and I might have been the one to have given him up."

She said that to Ronald when for the last time he and she sat together
by their fireside on the eve of his marriage. She comforted him when,
in spite of his passionate adoration of and desire for Gwendolen, he
felt torn by the thought that he was entering on a new life and
renouncing Kath irrevocably.

"Kath, dear old senior partner," he said, "I feel--terribly upset about
you--now it comes to the point--I----"

He broke off, but there was no need to finish the sentence, for
Katharine knew.

"It is all right, dear old chap," she answered. "And you see, we are
friends for life. And I might have been the one to leave you. I nearly
did three times!"

"Four times," he said quaintly. "You never own up to four times!"

And they both laughed. They had had many merry times over some of
Katharine's passing love affairs.

"But at least you will live near us," Ronnie said.

She shook her head.

"I am going to travel," she answered, "I am going to the ends of the
earth. You know I've always wanted to see the great vast countries of
the great world. And this is my chance. You have some one to love you
and look after you, and I can go forth. But I want you to promise me one
thing. Don't give up your music. Don't give up your Wednesday evening
quartette meetings. I should love to think that you had kept that
pleasure out of our old life, and that Herr Edelhart, Monsieur Gervais,
Signor Luigi, and yourself were continuing to fiddle together on
Wednesday evenings. And when I come back I shall try to arrive on
quartette-night."

That was three years ago, and now Katharine had returned from her
wanderings and arrived at her brother's house on quartette-day. She
left her things at the Langham, intending to take up her quarters there
until she should have made up her mind how to shape her life. But Ronald
seemed hurt, and so she consented to stay a few days in his beautiful
home. Gwendolen was away, but she was coming back the next morning; and
Ronald assured Katharine that his wife's welcome to the returned
traveller would be as warm as his own. Meantime brother and sister,
alone together, renewed the sweet old intimacy which had been so dear to
them both. They talked of old times, old bits of fun, old difficulties,
old bits of mischief, old quarrels, old reconciliations.

"Do you remember that day when I shook you?" Ronald said. "We had had a
terrible upset over one of my love affairs, and I lost my temper, whilst
you remained quite silent and stared into the fire. You were most
irritating."

"And I claimed damages, three theatres and a new evening dress,"
Katharine said. "And Signor Luigi declared we ought both to be heartily
ashamed of ourselves for quarrelling, and that the only way of effacing
the disgrace was by giving _him_ a new violoncello bow! I have always
thought that was so funny."

"Well, he uses the bow to this day, and calls it his Queen," Ronald
said. "How glad they will all be to see you. They have no idea that you
have come back. Every night after we have played, we have drunk your
health, each of us taking it in turn to propose the toast.

"'To the illustrious Signorina.'

"'To the wunderbar Fräulein.'

"'To the gracieuse English Mees.'

"'To the senior partner.'"

The tears came into Katharine's eyes.

"I am so glad you have remembered me," she said.

He rose as he spoke, perhaps to hide his own eyes, and he began to get
out the music.

"Do you know this is the last of our quartette-meetings?" he said.
"Gwendolen does not like them. They seem to interfere with other
arrangements. Every invitation that ever ought to be accepted, appears
to be fixed for that evening in the week. But I'm awfully sorry."

Katharine was silent.

"I should have given them up long ago but that I promised you," he said.
"I think they are a little out of Gwendolen's line, you know. And I want
to please her. I always want passionately to please her. She is my life,
my whole life."

"Then you are really happy, Ronnie," she said gently.

"Yes, yes," he said, his face lighting up, "of course I am. Only
sometimes I am rather worried about money, Kath, and think we are
spending too much. It seems to take such a frightful lot of money to
keep up with other people--and, oh well, we can talk about it another
time--but the quartette costs money, and I think I must let it go at
last. It was different when I was unmarried."

"Let me stand the quartette, old fellow," Kath said. "I like four people
to drink my health regularly once a week."

"No, no," he said, smiling at her. "You must keep your money for
yourself."

And then he added:

"Where are you going to live, and what are you going to do?"

"I am going to live in a flat in Westminster; that is my idea," she
answered. "When you have been away a long time from England, you yearn
to be within sight of the dear old Thames, the Houses of Parliament, and
the Abbey. I have often closed my eyes and seen Westminster in a
vision."

"Do you never intend to marry one of the many men who want you, Kath?"
he asked.

"No," answered Katharine. "You did not marry until you loved
passionately, did you? I shall not marry until I love passionately. And
as that may never happen to me, and the years are passing, I have made
up my mind to go into the business. The senior partner wants at last to
be an active partner. I want to have something definite to do, Ronnie. I
know you won't oppose me."

"Dear old girl," he said warmly, "you shall do as you like, and for as
long as you like, or for as short. You shall receive the clients, help
with the correspondence, design the organ cases, voice the reeds, any
mortal thing you like."

"I am sick of travelling merely for travelling's sake," she went on. "If
I had been a clever woman like Mary Kingsley, for instance, then I could
have contributed something useful to the world as the results of my
travels. But being what I am, there is no real zest in merely moving
about aimlessly like any other globetrotter. No, I want something to do.
I envy all women with a profession, Ronnie. When loneliness comes into
their lives, they have something which has to be done, whether they are
sad or gay. That is the salvation of men. And I believe it is going to
be the salvation of women."

"Are you very lonely?" he said, turning to her impulsively.

"No, no," she said, gathering herself together. "But there have been
times when----"

At that moment the door opened, and a sprightly little man with white
hair leapt into the room. When he saw Katharine, he stood speechless at
first and then advanced running.

"Signorina, the adorable and illustrious Signorina once more!" he cried.
"Ah, what joy, what delight to see you here!"

"Signor Luigi," she exclaimed, "how glad I am to see you again!"

"Ah," he cried, as he shook both her hands time after time, and then
lightly kissed them, "the world have changed places with Heaven. I have
not forgot you one leetle minute. See here, my pocket-book, your gift,
nearest my faithful heart. And the bow, 'my Queen,' here she is--under
my faithful arm. Ah, she is a treasure. We chosed her well--you and
'brother' and I. Yes, that was a splendid idea of mine!"

"Yes, it was brilliant," Katharine said, laughing. "How often I have
laughed over it. How often I have thought of you all. And you see I have
kept my word, and come back on quartette-night."

"The last quartette-night," he said. "But never mind. It will be an
adorable finishing-up. And we will play extra beautiful for the
Signorina. I will make my violoncello sing superb. The others--they
shall be nowhere!"

The door opened once more, and a stately-looking German came in carrying
his violin case. He had bushy hair and a fierce moustache.

"Guten Abend, Signor," he said. "Guten Abend. It is sehr kalt to-night.
Meine Finger----"

Then suddenly he saw Katharine, and Signor Luigi was only just in time
to prevent the violin case from falling to the ground.

"Lieber Himmel!" he cried. "I do see my distinguished pupil."

"Distinguished for my ignorance and impatience, Herr Edelhart, wasn't
it?" said Katharine, greeting him.

"And for wunderbar charm," added the German fervently. "Ah, I have had
no one so distinguished for that. The others have had a little talent or
none--generally none--and no charm. But Fräulein's wunderbar charm--it
could not be described--only felt. Ah, and how himmlisch that you are
come back. My violin shall sing her very best to-night. She shall
inspire herself to welcome Fräulein. The others shall be nowhere!
They----"

Then the door opened again, and a dark little man, obviously of French
persuasion, came into the room looking rather dreamy and preoccupied;
but when he saw Katharine he returned to real life, and his face broke
out into a radiant smile.

"Mon Dieu!" he cried. "Mademoiselle have returned to us. Ah, _le climat_
detestable of England have become a beautiful, French printemps. The
fogs is gone. My dead hearts is alive. And Mademoiselle have made the
miracle."

"You see that you have come back to faithful admirers, Kath," Ronald
said, laughing.

"I see that I have come back to faithful flatterers," Katharine
answered, as she stood in their midst laughing and shaking hands with
them repeatedly. "But it is all delightful, and I feel years younger at
being amongst my old friends. How many years have we known each other?
Isn't it ten?"

"Ten years, five months," said Herr Edelhart, accurately.

"Onze, onze," said Monsieur Gervais.

"Always, always!" cried the Italian, waving his arms about in dismissal
of time, and then dancing a sort of war-dance round the room.

"Ah, ha, we have not been so gay since the Signorina was cruel enough to
leave us," he cried. "Tra, la, la, tra, la, la!"

"Look here, Luigi, we must manage to behave ourselves somehow," said
Ronald, catching hold of the little Italian. "For there is a stranger
coming to-night, and he will think we are all mad."

"A stranger," they cried, "and on our last night?"

"Oh, hang it all," said Ronald, laughing, "it can't be our last night."

"Bravo, bravissimo!" they cried.

And Herr Edelhart whispered to Katharine:

"Fräulein has come home, and 'brother' is coming back to his senses."

"Who is the stranger?" Katharine asked. "And how dare he intrude on us
at such a moment?"

"Poor fellow, he wouldn't willingly intrude on any one," Ronald
answered. "But I asked him in myself. He was a neighbour of ours in
Surrey during the summer. And I met him several times. He lost his wife
under very tragic circumstances, and he is a sad man. We must not let
our gaiety jar on him."

The door opened, and Professor Thornton was announced.

"Light of mine eyeballs," whispered Luigi, "he does not look gay, does
he?"

"Mon Dieu!" whispered Gervais. "He belong to the country of fogs. He
give me the sore-throats at once."

Katharine had risen to receive Clifford Thornton, and when he saw her he
said gravely:

"But, surely I know you?"

"And I know you, surely," she answered, almost as gravely; and for a
moment they stood looking at each other in silence, surrounded by the
four musicians, each waiting with his instrument in his hands.

"Where have you met?" Ronald asked, turning first to Clifford and then
to Katharine. "On your travels?"

"I do not know," they said together, and they still stood motionless,
arrested of body and spirit.

"Well, now for the quartette," said the musicians, and they resined
their bows and tuned up. It was their habit to go into raptures over
their respective instruments; so that sighs of content, and mysterious
expressions of admiration, were soon filling the air. Signor Luigi
bending over his violoncello, kept crying out:

"Ah, per Bacco, what for a treasure! Light of mine eyeballs--light of
mine eyeballs--maccaroni of my native land, what for a beautiful
treasure!"

They laughed as they always did laugh over the merry little Italian,
and were just settling down to Beethoven's Rasomoffsky Quartette, when
Signor Luigi remembered the Pomeranian.

"Ah, ha," he said, "the adorable dog will howl--he must go--he or I must
go. We will depart him prestissimo. He will come very, very near and
mock us. I know him, the rogue! Ah, Signor Professor, many thanks, no
use you trying to do it. It needs a grand genius like myself to depart
that amiable animal."

"And now I think we are safe," he said when he had expelled the
reluctant white Pomeranian and shut the door.

Then the voices and laughter were hushed, Herr Edelhart gave the sign,
and the quartette began, led off by the low notes of the violoncello.
Clifford Thornton and Katharine, sitting in different corners of the
room, lost themselves in the wonderful regions which music, with a
single wave of her magic wand, opens to every one desirous of entering.

"Behold my kingdom," she whispers, "wander unharmed in all
directions--you will find the paths for yourselves----"

Clifford Thornton, with the war of conflicting emotions in his heart,
entered and found the path of peace.

Katharine entered too, and trod unconsciously the path of noble
discontent with self and circumstance.

"Ah, how one rests," thought the man.

"Ah, what an aimless, lonely life I've been leading," thought the woman.
"No use to myself or any one----" The sounds died away, and the
listeners came back from their distant wanderings. Katharine looked up
and met the grave glance of the stranger.

He seemed to be asking her:

"Where did we meet, you and I?"

And her silent answer was:

"I cannot tell you, but I have known you always."

Two or three times during the next quartette, of Brahms, she was
impelled to look in his direction, and saw him sitting alone at the
other end of the room, in an isolation of frigid reserve, staring
straight at her as over a vast, with that strange expression of inquiry
on his thin drawn face. She was curiously stirred, curiously uneasy too.
She was almost glad when the quartette was over and he rose to go.

He went up to the players and thanked them. Then he turned to Katharine.

"Good-bye," he said, and a ghost of a smile, which he repressed
immediately, began to cross his face. "I have been trying to think----"

He broke off.

"Good-bye," he said, and he went to the door.

Ronald followed him out of the room, and every one was silent, until
Signor Luigi made an elaborate gesticulation with his right forefinger,
and finally landed it in the centre of his forehead.

"Signor is like me," he said, "just one leetle poco agitato in the
brains."

Ronald came back after a few minutes and said:

"Well, now, he did not interfere with us much, did he? And I am sure the
music rested him, poor fellow."

"For certain it should have given him pleasure," said Herr Edelhart,
"for we played grand to-night. I was at my wunderbar best. Lieber
Himmel, what a tone I make! We were all at our wunderbar best because of
Fräulein's wunderbar charm."

"The Fatherland don't leave off admiring himselves!" whispered Gervais
to Katharine.

"Gentlemen," said Ronald, "I believe this is an evening for '47 port.
Are we in tune about it?"

"In perfect tune," they cried. "Bravissimo, 'brother'!" So in '47 port
the three foreigners and Ronald toasted Katharine, who responded by
drinking to the _entente cordiale_ of all nations, and the long life and
good health of the quartette.

"May it never be shut out like the adorable Pomeranian dog," she added,
"and if in a moment of temporary aberration it is shut out, may it howl
and howl like the Pomeranian until it is called in again!"

When they had all taken their leave, Katharine spoke affectionately of
these faithful old comrades, and begged Ronald to let her at least help
him to keep on the quartette which had been a pleasure to them both for
so many years. And then, in her own frank way, without any
preliminaries, she asked him about this stranger, Clifford Thornton, who
had made a great impression on her. Ronald told her what was known of
the tragedy of Mrs Thornton's sudden death, which had taken place after
some disturbing scene of unhappiness between husband and wife.

"I admire the man," Ronald added. "It was an awfully sad position for
him to be in, and he bore himself with fine dignity. And he did not
leave his home. He stayed on quietly, living down and ignoring the
gossip and talk of the neighbourhood."

Katharine was deeply interested.

"Poor fellow, poor fellow," she said. "He looks as if he had suffered."

She could not forget him. He penetrated into all her thoughts that night
as she lay awake thinking about her plans for the future, about Ronald's
new life in which she feared that she would have but little part, about
her travels of the last three years, about the people she had met,
talked with, liked, disliked. Her wandering mind came ever back to this
one thought:

"We knew each other. But how--and where--and when?"



CHAPTER V.


For a few months after Mrs Thornton died, Clifford Thornton and his boy
had stayed quietly at home at "Falun." People in the neighbourhood were
kind in their expressions and actions of sympathy, and repeatedly
invited both father and son to their houses; but the Thorntons had
always been so reserved, that no real intimacy had ever been possible
with them. Professor Thornton had written to his old governess to come
and stay with them, and but for her, it is difficult to imagine what
these two desolate people would have done with themselves. Fröken
Knudsgaard, generally called "Knutty," was a cheerful old soul, fully
persuaded that the world was an excellent place to live and thrive in.
She was Danish by birth, and the Danes, unlike the Norwegians, have a
large supply of good spirits and the _joie de vivre_. She had lived a
great many years in England and spoke English perfectly, with a slight
foreign accent which was very engaging. Clifford loved her, and indeed
he might well have done so; for she had taken entire charge of him when
he was a little child, and had lavished on him all the kindness and
affection of which her warm heart was capable. If in his great trouble
he could have unburdened his heart to any one, it would have been to
Knutty. But apart from the man's painful reticence, his own sense of
chivalry made him shrink from confiding in one who could not be generous
in her estimate of his dead wife's character. Marianne and Fröken
Knudsgaard had never succeeded in making friends; and after one or two
visits to Clifford's married home, Knutty had said:

"Farvel, Clifford. You must come and see me in Copenhagen. I am not
coming to you again yet. None of us get any pleasure out of the visit,
and I only do harm to you all. My aura does not match with Marianne's
aura. But do not let the boy forget me. Speak to him sometimes about old
Knutty."

She immediately packed up and came to him when she heard of Marianne's
death; but although he was overjoyed at having her near him, he told her
nothing. Still, it was a comfort to know she was at "Falun;" a comfort
to sit with her and try to begin to tell her something of that which was
torturing his mind, even if the attempt always ended in failure.

"Ak, ak," she reflected, "he was always like that. I used to try and
make a hole in the ice; and when I thought I had succeeded, lo and
behold it was frozen up again! People of his temperament have a hard
time under that ice. Poor dears, all of them."

He told her of course the outward circumstances of the tragedy, and he
made one remark which puzzled her.

"I am so terribly afraid, Knutty," he said, "that Alan may turn against
me."

"Sniksnak!" she said. "Why make trouble for yourself? Why should he turn
against you? If you had murdered your poor Marianne, of course then----"

"Ah, but sometimes I think----" he began, and then broke off.

"I know what I think," said Fröken Knudsgaard, getting up and tapping
him on the head with her knitting-needles. "You must go away, and at
once. Shut up 'Falun,' and turn your back on the laboratory. Take a
journey immediately."

"Shall I come to dear old Denmark?" he said. In the old days he had had
many happy times with Knutty in Copenhagen.

"That is not far enough," she said decisively. "I should advise you to
go round the world, and at once. You have plenty of money and plenty of
time. Don't take a million years to make up your mind. Start to-morrow,
both of you. It will do Alan good to get away. He is a dear boy, but he
is going to be sensitive like you. I wish I could come too. But I am too
old and fat. But you must go, Clifford. You cannot stay on here and add
to your unhappiness by inventing absurd tortures for yourself. Go and
see some of the Yankees' laboratories first, and then run out to Japan
to see your Japanese chemist friend at Tokyo. You have always been
talking about going."

"Shall I really go, Knutty?" he asked, a little wistfully.

"Ja, kjaere,"[A] she answered, nodding at him. "Otherwise, you will have
to go much farther; you will have to go out of your mind. What a
nuisance that would be, and selfish of you too! For you would spoil the
boy's life, and poor old Knutty's life. You know how she loves to smile
and be happy like a true Dane. Take my advice, shut up 'Falun,' go to
London, stay at a hotel for a few days, amuse yourselves, get your kit,
spend a lot of money, and then take your tickets and be off to Japan.
And when you come back, call in at Copenhagen and see me. We will then
go down to your beloved harbour to see the ships coming in. Do you
remember how interested you used to be in the egg-and-butter ships?
Very well, is that settled?"

Clifford Thornton was silent. But he knew that his old Dane was right,
and that he could not go on day after day struggling with his
conflicting emotions without the immense help of changed circumstances.
He knew that every hour he spent in his laboratory mooning over the
subjects on which he could not fix his real attention, was wasted time
and wasted strength.

"And as the days go by," Knutty continued boldly, "you will feel
differently about everything, dear one. And then you must find some one
whose aura will be entirely sympathetic with your aura. Ah, you shake
your head, Clifford."

"Hush, hush, you must not say that," he said, turning away from her.

"Well, well," she said, half to herself, "perhaps I press on too
quickly. But you will go away--promise me that? And shut up 'Falun' with
all its sad memories?"

"In my secret heart," she thought, "I should like to blow up 'Falun' and
have done with the wretched place!"

"If we go away, will you come too, Knutty?" he said eagerly. "We would
take such care of you."

"Seventy years of age, and seventeen stone in weight!" she replied
gaily. "No, no, kjaere, I should be too heavy a responsibility. No, I
will wait for you in my own little Danish home, made so wickedly
comfortable by your kindness; and every day I shall say, 'My Clifford is
finding his way into the sunlight again.'"

He stooped down and kissed her kind old hand.

"If I could only tell you my inmost thoughts; but I cannot," he said
sadly.

"You never could unfold yourself, dear one," she answered. "You know I
always had to guess at what was going on within your mind, and always
guessed wrong, of course, and therefore could not help you. I am sure
there can be no mental or physical suffering so great as reluctant
repression of the thoughts within us."

"Knutty," he said, after a pause, "do you believe that minds can reach
each other in dreams?"

"I don't know, kjaere," she said. "I have never reached any one's mind,
either in a dream or out of one. In the years gone by, I prided myself
on doing so, and then found out that I was mistaken. My present belief
is that no one mind can ever reach another in reality, and that each
human being speaks and understands only one language--his own
language--and every one else's language is what you English people call
a 'damned foreign tongue.' Excuse me, dear one, my words may not be
academic, but they are supposed to be philosophic. And that reminds me
that, in my opinion, you have been a true philosopher, Clifford."

"How so, Knutty?" he said.

"You have asked very little of any one," she answered, "and you have
made a successful fight with bitterness. That is what I call true
philosophy."

He shook his head in deprecation of her praise, and after another pause
he said:

"Do you think, Knutty, that one might be able to injure another person
in and through a dream?"

"How should I know?" she said, looking troubled. "I am not given to
reflecting on such matters, thank Heaven."

"If one could injure, one could also benefit," he said, without heeding
her answer. "There would at least be that comfort--for others."

"And why not for you?" she asked.

"Alas!" he answered, "my dreams were always the other way."

But after he had said that, he returned hastily to his usual reserve,
and Fröken Knudsgaard understood him too well to press him for a
confidence.

"Besides, it would be waste of tissue," she said to herself. "One would
have more success in pressing an alabaster effigy."

But in this way she had had one or two glimpses into his mind, and she
was really anxious about his mental state, and not happy about Alan
either. She kept her shrewd old eyes open, and she began to see that
Alan sometimes avoided being alone with his father. He seemed a little
awkward with him, as though some shadow had risen up between them. He
too was reserved, and Knutty could not get him to speak of his mother's
death.

"I am living with a pair of icebergs," she wrote to her botanist nephew
and niece in Copenhagen, Ejnar and Gerda. "Darling icebergs both of
them, but icebergs all the same. I find this Arctic expedition of mine,
like all Arctic expeditions, fraught with grave difficulties. Write and
encourage me, dear ones; and in case I should become a frozen plant,
keep an extra warm place for me in the herbarium of your hearts."

But Alan was not reserved about other matters, and he and the old Danish
lady became excellent friends together. He said repeatedly to her:

"Knutty, why haven't you been to see us more often?"

And Knutty, stroking her chin, would reply:

"The climate, dear one, the climate; either too hot or too cold; too dry
or too wet--generally too wet! Anyway, the atmosphere didn't suit me;
too trying."

And of course she was speaking of the mental atmosphere of "Falun."

She transformed "Falun" into an abode of comparative cheerfulness, and
brightened up the house in a most astonishing manner. The boy hastened
home from his riding or cycling. There was something to go back for now;
and Knutty was always in a good temper, always ready to be photographed
at the exact moment when she was wanted, and always ready to sympathise
with electric batteries, books on architecture, square towers, round
towers, telephones, and of course chemical experiments.

"Make any experiments you like," she said. "Don't be afraid of blowing
me up. I have been accustomed to it for years. In fact, I prefer it.
Anything is better than monotony. The unexpected is always delightful,
and it is quite refreshing to have a few fingers blown off in a
thrilling fashion, or even a head! Most people lose their heads in a
much less interesting way, and under much less provocation. And as for
smells, Alan, I worship them. In fact, I feel quite exhilarated when I
have the smell of that adorable sulphuretted-hydrogen under my Danish
nose. As for architecture, I could listen all the day long to anything
you have to say on that subject. I am glad you are going to be an
architect; indeed you cannot with any self-respect be anything else,
since you were christened after your father's hero, Alan de Walsingham.
Only listen: if you don't succeed in building a cathedral every bit as
fine as Ely, I shall cut you off from my visiting-list. So there. Now
you know what you have to expect from old Knutty."

She disliked the dismal drawing-room. She was much happier sitting in
the laboratory, and even happier in the dark room, where Alan sometimes
enticed her. And occasionally he got her out for a walk, which was a
great concession; for Knutty hated walking. She always declared it was
the invention of the devil.

In fact she won him entirely, and then by many subtle processes, she
tried to find out what his real feelings were towards his father. He
undoubtedly loved his father, but there was something troubling his
mind: something which had to be cleared up; and from Clifford's allusion
to his own fears of the boy turning against him, Knutty guessed that the
father too was conscious of a change in his son's attitude towards him.
Whatever it was, it must not be allowed to grow. She was nearly
distracted between the two of them. Sometimes she thought it would be
better for them to be separated for a little while, and at other times
she believed it would be safer for them to have a complete understanding
at once. One morning Alan's strained manner to his father strengthened
her in the belief that her two icebergs must be brought into closer
contact again before they drifted away into different parts of the
Arctic regions, where they might never rejoin. By means of great craft,
she at last managed to make Alan speak of his mother, and then some of
the trouble came tumbling out. He regretted so bitterly that he had
told his mother that he knew his father and she were unhappy together;
he regretted so bitterly that he had said it was all her fault.

"And to think that those were the last words I ever said to her," he
said with almost a sob.

He did not say that he blamed his father for telling him about the
proposed separation, but he kept on repeating:

"If only I had not known, if only I had not known."

And of course in his heart he was saying:

"If only father had not told me, if only he had not told me."

Knutty listened and felt torn, for the boy and his father too. Clifford
had wounded his child; there was no doubt about that. And only the hand
which inflicts the wound can give the healing touch--if people love.
Nevertheless, it was for the man she pleaded, for the one who had done
the injury to his son whom he loved.

"You see, kjaere," she said, "your father is very unhappy. He would give
his whole life not to have told you. And you know he was very good to
your mother--very gentle; and he is suffering greatly over her tragic
death. It is a hard time for him. And when he looks at you, he remembers
that he has made things hard for you too; and that naturally adds to his
trouble. And he is ill. No one can comfort him except you. His poor old
Knutty is no good to him now. She is no use to any one now--she is too
old, and too stupid."

"Oh, Knutty, you know you are not stupid," Alan said indignantly. "Why,
you know an awful lot about all sorts of things--and an awful lot about
chemistry. Father says so. And he doesn't think you are useless; for
the first thing he said, was, 'We must send for Knutty.'"

Fröken Knudsgaard closed her eyes for a moment to check some tears.
Those words were very precious to her. When she opened them again, there
was a twinkle in them, and no sign of tears.

"Perhaps I am not so stupid after all," she said. "I forgot I knew about
chemistry! Not that I do know anything, dear one, but I can talk about
it! However, it comes to the same thing. And perhaps I am not so useless
either, not if I make you understand how he has suffered, and how sad he
is, and how you only can help him. He has only you. Talk to him, kjaere.
Tell him everything in your mind. Get rid of every thought which is not
friendship. And now pull old Knutty up from her chair. That's right.
Mange tak.[B] Now I am going to have a sleep. I'm sleepy, Alan. It is
the atmosphere of the dark room. Tell your father I am going to have a
good Danish snore in the dismal drawing-room, and no one must disturb me
unless it is to unfold some plans about the journey to Japan."

So Fröken Knudsgaard went hastily into retreat, for she had heard
Clifford's voice outside, and she wanted her two icebergs to be alone
together.

"By St Olaf's sword, I am very tired," she said to herself, as she lay
on the sofa in the desolate drawing-room. "Arctic expeditions are
exhausting journeys. All the same, I could not have forsaken my poor
icebergs."

Knutty yawned and yawned, and then stared at Marianne's portrait which
hung opposite to her.

"Never liked that woman," she thought. "Beautiful, but Billingsgate.
Quite the wrong aura for Clifford. What a mercy she has died! Cannot
help saying it, though of course I ought to be ashamed of myself if I
were a moral person, which, thank goodness, I'm not! Ak, that Marianne!
And how like her selfishness to die in that way, and leave my
tender-hearted Clifford torn in pieces. Nã, these English people, how
stubborn and ungracious they are! And yet I love them, and love England
too. If Ejnar and Gerda came and stayed long enough, they too would love
England, and not feel angry with their old Tante for being so fond of
this wicked country. Ah, the battles I have to fight for England. I
ought to be given the Order of St George. Ja, ja, and I must remember to
send those mosses to Ejnar to-morrow. How happy he will be over them!
And Gerda, too. I can see the botanical smile on their dear faces. Dear,
dead-alive plants, both of them!"

And Knutty fell asleep and dreamed marvellously of mosses found in
icebergs, and of her nephew, Ejnar, the botanist, and Gerda, his wife,
and of how they came over to England and made friends with the
authorities at Kew Gardens.

"There now, I told you!" Knutty said triumphantly, "I told you that the
Kew people would not insult you after the first quarter of an hour.
After the first quarter of an hour, when they had recovered from the
shock of receiving foreigners, they would be delighted to see you, and
would be willing to exchange specimens. I know them--the dear, proud,
rude ones! You just have to learn how to unwind yards and yards of Red
Tape. I own it takes time. I admit that, Ejnar."

She smiled, laughed, and woke up. Perhaps it was her laughter which woke
her up, and perhaps it was the voices of her two icebergs who were
standing by the sofa.

"Where am I--where am I?" she said, rubbing her eyes. "Of course, I
remember, at the North Pole again! You horrid chemical compounds, I told
you not to wake poor old Knutty unless you had something to tell her
about going to Japan."

"That is just what we have to tell you," Clifford and Alan said
together.

Fröken Knudsgaard glanced furtively at father and son, and saw that they
were standing arm-in-arm. She was too wise an old bird to ask what had
passed between them, and what they had said to each other. Besides, she
knew that icebergs would use only a few words of explanation, and then
drift into intimacy again. She saw at a glance that her Clifford looked
comforted, and that in some way Alan had eased his father's heart and
his own boyish heart too. That was all that mattered. A tender
expression came over her face.

"Help me up, dear ones," she said, holding out her hand to each. "You
know Knutty's knees have become very rheumatic. And Clifford, kjaere, we
really must send those mosses off to Ejnar and Gerda without delay. I
heard this morning that they have had a serious falling out over a
fungus. Let us hope that they will become reconciled over the mosses.
Ah, you must bring them all sorts of treasures from your journey to
Japan."


[Footnote A: _Kjaere_, dear one.]

[Footnote B: _Mange tak_, many thanks.]



CHAPTER VI.


So "Falun" was shut up, and Clifford Thornton, Alan, and Knutty came up
to London to spend two or three weeks at the Langham, and get the
tickets for the journey to Japan. When Knutty was satisfied that all
arrangements were going on satisfactorily, she left her icebergs, but
with a good deal of uneasiness in her kind old heart. She had been
increasingly stern about the necessity for this change of scene and
habit, for she saw that Clifford's unhappy state of mind prevented him
from again taking up his life and work. She knew, of course, that it was
only natural that he should be unhappy in the circumstances and
considering the tragic manner of Marianne's death; but she could not
help thinking that, in addition to the sadness and lingering regret from
which a man of his sensitive character would inevitably be suffering at
such a time, he had some other trouble at the back of his brain. He had
told her nothing about his dream, but he continued to make strange
references to psychic phenomena, such as dreams, telepathy in dreams,
transmission of thoughts, subconscious activities, and subjects of that
description, subjects which Knutty knew to be entirely outside his
natural range of inquiry and thought. In puzzling over this, she said to
herself, "Perhaps he dreamed he wanted her to be dead, and was horrified
with himself when the dream came true. Well, it is all too much for me.
Not for me these problems of occult thought. Certainly I am of the
earth, earthy; and grateful in all conscience for the comfortable
possession of a mundane spirit. May I never have any aspiration beyond.
But, alas for my poor Clifford if he is going to spoil his freedom won
after sixteen years of unhappy married life!"

But although Knutty knew a great deal about Clifford's married troubles,
she had not, up to the time of Marianne's death, realised the
seriousness of the havoc which sixteen years of uncongenial
companionship with Marianne had wrought in his spirit. He had kept his
secret hidden away from the world, hidden away until the last from
Marianne, almost hidden away from himself. Knutty only knew that he had
married the wrong woman--married a coarse-fibred person who could never
appreciate his delicate sensitiveness of brain and character, the innate
chivalry of his heart and the great possibilities of his intellect,
which needed, however, a protecting care to bring them to easy and
natural development. She saw, as the years went by, that Clifford's
labours in his own branch of work were being grievously hindered, and
she had heard in scientific circles that he was not considered to be
fulfilling the brilliant promise of early manhood. It was thought to be
a pity that a man of his leisure and means, and of undoubted gifts,
should not come more prominently to the fore, since there were so few
scientific men in England who were, like himself, independent of paying
work and able to devote their time to research. Something was wrong with
him. Knutty knew that that something was Marianne. Sometimes, when she
had questioned him, on his visits to her at Copenhagen, he had said,
shrugging his shoulders:

"Temperamental strife, Knutty. Temperamental strife, nearly every one's
trouble."

That was all he told her. But when she learned that he had made up his
mind to separate from Marianne, and had told Alan of his intention, she
understood that he, so gentle and chivalrous by nature, must have been
driven to desperation to even think of taking such a decisive step. In
speaking of his part of his trouble, his deep regret at having burdened
Alan with a knowledge of their unhappiness, he merely said:

"You see, Knutty, I waited nearly fifteen years, until I thought that he
was old enough, and then I found he was too young."

"But you had some happiness, dear one?" she asked anxiously.

"No, Knutty, none," he answered.

"But you had your work, kjaere," she said. "That has been a haven,
surely?"

"My haven was always invaded," he said. "There was no peace."

"Ak," she thought, "he must and shall find peace for his work and
happiness for his heart. He was meant to be cared for and loved by some
dear woman with a suitable aura. And where is she, the wretch? Where is
she? She must be waiting somewhere in space for him, if he could only
see her and capture her at once. Ak, how glad I should be! Ak, how I
should cry aloud, 'I see daylight!' Bah, if we could only get rid of
this absurd convention called time! Moments are centuries and centuries
are moments, according to circumstance; and yet we go on adjusting our
lives and emotions to the strike of the parish clock. Parish clocks
indeed! I'd like to stop every one of them all over the world."

But she did not venture to give utterance to these bold sentiments when
Clifford put her on the boat at Harwich. She kept to the safe subject of
his work and arrested ambitions, and tried to arouse his intellectual
pride.

When he thanked her for her tender kindness to himself and the boy, she
answered:

"Alas! dear one, I have done little enough for either of you. I should
have loved to have put everything right for both my beloved icebergs,
but that is not possible. The longer I live, the more clearly I see that
we cannot put matters straight either for ourselves or for other people.
We can only muddle through difficulties, and help others to do the same.
So I say to you: Muddle through your worries quickly, kjaere. Go for
this long outing, and then come back and take up your life again. Come
back to your test-tubes, your platinum dishes, your carbon compounds,
your asymmetric carbon atoms, and get to work on your stereo-isomerism
and all that kind of comforting nonsense! Do, dear one! You are at your
best now--forty-three. What is forty-three? If I were forty-three, I
believe I could make discoveries in all the branches of every science
which ever existed and ever will exist! Come back and knock everybody
into fits by your successful work. Talk about carbon compounds indeed! I
expect you to become a compound of Berzelius, Crookes, Liebig, Faraday,
Hofmann, Gay Lussac, and all the other chemistry creatures. Don't I
rattle off their names beautifully? Oh! what a clever old woman I am! Of
course, being a Dane, I couldn't help being clever--or thinking I was!
But there now! How I chatter, and the boat just going! Sweep the past
away, Clifford. Remember, some people only begin to wake up at
forty-three, and then they have to crowd all sorts of splendid
achievements into their remaining years. And don't fret about the boy.
He loves you in his own icebergic way. And don't dare to come back to
'Falun' until I give you permission."

She had raised her finger, and was still shaking it in playful warning,
when the boat moved off. Clifford stood and watched her until he could
see her no longer, and then took his place in the train for London.

"My good old Dane," he said, "my best friend in the world. How are we
going to get on without all your kind ways?"

He was alone in the carriage, and his thoughts turned unhindered to the
past, which Knutty had wished him to sweep away. He could not sweep it
away. It was seven months now since Marianne had died. During that time
he had not known one single day's peace of mind. It was in vain that he
had reasoned with himself. Reason had had no lasting influence on his
emotions. If he could have spoken to some one about Marianne's death, if
he could have talked it out with some clear-headed, impartial person
accustomed to ponder over the strange phenomena of the dream-world and
their true relation to everyday life, over the mysterious workings of
the brain, when, under the influence of sleep, it loses the
responsibility of normal consciousness, he might perhaps have shaken off
some of the burden which was so greatly oppressing him. But, in the
first place, he was reserved by nature; and, in the second, he shrank,
as a scientific man, from entering that debatable land, the phenomena of
which are not verifiable by the direct experimental method. Even if his
mind had been tuned to such subjects, how could he have brought himself
to say to any one:

"This was my dream and hers. Now tell me, have I killed my wife?"

So he had to fight the battle by himself, and this was how it was
fought. One day he would say, "I will not let the past crush me. I will
remember only that I did my best for Marianne, sacrificing to her the
most precious part of myself--my very brain-power, my power of thinking
and working. I look back with mourning, and see that I have accomplished
scarcely anything of all I intended to do; that I have lost the threads
of this and the threads of that, and also the habit of subtle
concentration. Marianne has ruined my life and my career. But now she
has gone, and I am free. And at forty-three years of age, with health
still left me and my working powers intact, surely I am not going to let
the remembrance of this tragedy rise up between me and my freedom?"

But the next day, this bravado of mind would have spent itself, and he
would remember only that Marianne had died, and that he had certainly
had some part in her death. She had fallen in their final conflict of
temperaments. He was left as victor. And yet no victor either. No,
rather was Marianne victorious, as she had ever been. And he was the one
left vanquished and remorseful. Then all the pity and kindness in him
rose up to condemn him in his own judgment. He forgot his own grievances
and remembered only hers; adding with generous hand to her list. Where
she could scarcely have claimed one, he gave her ten, twenty, a hundred.
And the next day he took them back again, remembering only the harm done
to him by her turbulent spirit. He shuddered as he recalled the
incessant irritations, the senseless scenes of uncontrolled temper, the
insane jealousy, with which his work seemed to inspire her, the scornful
utterances hurled against the things most precious to him, the carping
criticisms on the people he admired most in the world.

All this had taken an immense effect on him, although he had always
tried to ignore it. But he could not ignore scenes. He capitulated to
them. They took the life and spirit out of him. And Marianne knew it.
She knew her power and used it ruthlessly. It had seemed in her lifetime
as though she had been irritated beyond bearing when she saw him intent
on some task in his laboratory; as though she had deliberately got up a
scene to wreck his day's work, and had only been propitiated when she
saw the fabric of his brain-power in ruin for that morning at least.

He went over all this as he leaned back in the carriage. He remembered
that Knutty said he had made a successful fight with bitterness. It was
true that he was not bitter; but he knew that he could take no praise to
himself on that score. For he had discovered that bitterness ruined his
abilities even more ruthlessly than want of serenity; and so, out of
self-preservation, he had tried to keep the citadel of his heart
permanently fortified against that enemy. Knutty also said that he had
asked little of life; but, looking back now, he knew he had asked for
the greatest thing in the world, being what he most needed--_peace_.
Peace. He had had no peace in Marianne's lifetime; and now he knew it
all depended on his own strength of will whether or not he could reach
it at the eleventh hour.

"If I can put from me the remembrance of the past, stifle morbid fears,
and get to believe I was not responsible for Marianne's death, I shall
reach peace," he said.

"Responsible," he repeated. "How could I be considered responsible,
unless it could be proved that there is dormant power in us to prevent
our evil thoughts from overwhelming us in our dreams?"

"Dormant power," he said. "Is it not rather that, proved or unproved,
there must surely be a living force in us which should be able to
control our attitude of mind whether we wake or whether we sleep?"

"Ah, that is the trouble," he said, as he got up and moved restlessly to
the other end of the carriage. "The responsibility comes not from the
dream itself, but from the everyday attitude of mind which caused the
dream. If I could have felt and thought differently, I might have dreamt
differently, and a different message would then have been transmitted to
my poor Marianne."

So he tortured himself; argued with himself; fought the battle unaided;
conquered; was conquered, and, worn out with the strife, longed all the
more passionately for peace which implied the power to work and forget.

"And what else is there in life greater than work and peace?" he said.

Something in his lonely heart whispered, "There is love."

"Yes, yes, there is love," he answered impatiently. "But love has passed
me by. I and love have nothing to do with each other."

And then suddenly the past was swept from his remembrance, and he found
himself thinking of Katharine Frensham.

"Where have I seen her before?" he asked himself. "I knew her face. I
knew her voice----"

The train stopped.



CHAPTER VII.


Gwendolen arrived home the day after Katharine's return, and the two
women, although speaking a different language, were genuinely pleased to
see each other. Katharine thought that Gwendolen was more beautiful than
ever, and with her generous heart recognised that her sister-in-law was
one of those women born to be worshipped by the men they marry, to the
extinction of every one and everything. Her complexion was perfect, her
features were in harmony with each other, her smile was bewitching. Her
eyes were the least attractive part of her; they were a little cold. Her
figure was grace itself, and so was her bearing. She dressed
faultlessly, but in such a quietly extravagant fashion, that Katharine
was appalled when she thought of the enormous outlay which her toilet
implied; whilst in the management of the luxurious home, too, money
seemed to be of no consideration to her. Katharine remembered that
Ronald himself had expressed uneasiness about his increasing expenses;
but when she hinted at her own anxiety on his behalf, he merely shrugged
his shoulders and said:

"Oh, every one lives like this, Kath. Times have altered since you were
here. One is obliged to keep up a style if one wants to be in society."

"Well, old fellow," she answered, "all I can say is, don't make a fiasco
and have to retire into the country suddenly one day, with the excuse
that you have become violently in love with rural life. Every one knows
what that means, and it only makes one look ridiculous."

But even this much had ruffled him, and Katharine said no more. As time
went on, and the first flush of pleasure at her return had faded, she
saw that he had changed, and the atmosphere around him had changed too.
None of his old personal friends belonging to their old happy free life
visited his home. All the people who were in touch with him now were
acquaintances only, of the so-called "smart type," most of them
over-dressed, under-dressed, mindless women and snobs of men, at whom
Katharine and Ronald would not have looked in former days. Katharine
thought:

"I suppose these women are what is called 'respectable,' though they
don't look it. And they are not half so pleasant and interesting as that
_bona-fide_ demi-mondaine with whom I travelled across America for four
days. She had a heart, too, and these people seem to be without such an
old-fashioned possession. Well, I suppose I am out of date."

Once or twice she inquired after their old friends.

"Where are the Grahams? Where is Willy Tonedale?" she asked.

"Oh, the Grahams have gone away," Ronald answered indifferently, "and
Willy comes down to the office to see me. He prefers that. He says he
doesn't like the people he meets here, and they don't like him. He feels
out of it."

Katharine was silent again. She felt as Willy Tonedale, out of it. And
not only was she out of harmony with her surroundings, but she found as
the days went on, that Gwendolen was becoming jealous of her, and that
if she continued to stay, she would soon be a source of discord between
husband and wife. For although Ronald was passionately attached to his
wife, worshipping, indeed, the very ground she trod on, he could not
quite hide from Gwendolen or himself that he loved to have his sister
near him.

Gwendolen, who was not unkind by nature, tried to conquer her growing
jealousy; but her attempts were not successful. She was all the more
ashamed of it, because in her metallic fashion she admired Katharine,
and wished to be friends with her. But one morning her manner was so
insufferable, that Katharine, without giving any warning of her
intention, packed her trunks. When they were packed, she came down into
the morning-room and bent over Gwendolen, who was sitting at her bureau,
writing scented invitation-cards for several dinner-parties.

"Gwendolen," she said gently, "I am going to leave you, dear. You must
not think that I am running away in a temper. But I cannot stand your
jealousy, nor the strain of appearing not to notice it. I have never
been accustomed to strained relations with any one. People have always
wanted whole-heartedly to have me; and I have been glad whole-heartedly
to be with them. I would much prefer to live alone in a top-garret than
to be on difficult terms in a luxurious house with my everyday
companions. It saps all my strength and all my pleasure in life: and to
no purpose. If I were benefiting you and Ronnie, I might perhaps be
virtuous enough to wish to stay; but as I am only harming you both, I
want to go. And I want you to take me: so that we may both feel there is
no ill-will. Put on your things and come down to the Langham and settle
me in. Kiss me, and let us be good friends now and always. No, no, dear,
don't argue about it. I have not come back from my wanderings to make
your home unhappy."

Gwendolen was ashamed and touched, and even shed two or three metallic
tears on the scented envelopes.

"I thought I had been hiding my jealousy so beautifully, Kath," she
said.

"My dear child," Katharine answered, "a polar bear could have found it
out. It requires no exquisite and dainty power of penetration. Jealousy
is felt, tasted, seen at once. Did you really think you had been hiding
it?"

Gwendolen nodded, and Katharine laughed ever so gently.

"Well, dear, at least you tried," she said. "Come now, put on your
prettiest hat, and let us go at once."

So they went without any further discussion, Katharine's mind being
completely made up on the subject. And when Ronald came home that
evening, he found, to his astonishment, that his sister had fled.

"Had you any words?" he asked anxiously.

"No, no," Gwendolen answered. "I wish we had had. I should not be
feeling such a wretch then. Kath said she could not stand my jealousy,
and that she had not come home from her wanderings to make our home
unhappy. She was lovely about it, and I don't wonder you love and admire
her. I think she is a grand creature built on a grand scale, Ronnie, and
I am a horrid mean-spirited thing, and I hate and despise myself----"

"No, no, darling, not that," he said, as he comforted and kissed her.
"But it is sad. I am sorry. My good old Kath who gave you so
uncomplainingly to me! To think she has come home after three years'
absence to find she cannot stay a few days happily with us."

He paced up and down the drawing-room, his heart torn with sadness and
concern.

The clock struck six.

"Ronald," Gwendolen said, "it is only six--if you are not too tired, let
us go to her and fetch her back."

He brightened up at once.

"I would go miles to see her, Gwen," he said eagerly--"miles."

"And so would I," she said. "You can't imagine how much I wish to see
her again."

They had never been so near together and so much in sympathy as when
they started off to find Katharine. Ronald did not attempt to reproach
Gwendolen, and indeed there was no need. As far as her limited nature
would permit, she was overcome with remorse, which gave her an added
beauty in her worshipper's eyes. It was nearly seven o'clock when they
knocked at Katharine's door. Katharine did not hear. She had drawn her
chair up to the fire, and was busy with her thoughts. Loneliness had
taken possession of her heart; for although she had known that sooner or
later this cold visitor would invade her with his chill presence, his
coming was even worse than she had imagined it would be.

"Why did I return?" she said. "If there was nothing and no one to return
for, why should I have returned? Home-sickness--ah, yes--and love of the
old country. But even then, if one has no ties and is not wanted, what
is it all worth? One country is as good as another if there is no
love-niche anywhere. And there can be no loneliness greater than that
found in old conditions changed to new."

She looked lonely, like some strong tree left standing alone on the
mountain-side, to face the tempests alone. She was tall, and, as
Gwendolen had said, made on a grand scale. As there was nothing petty in
her attractive appearance, so also there was nothing petty in her mind.
Without being learnèd or clever, she had been born with a certain
temperamental genius which could not be classified, but only felt and
seen. It was this which drew people to her; and because she knew that
they were always ready to like her, her manner had that simple ease seen
often in unself-conscious little children. Bitterness and harsh
judgments were foreign to her nature; and so now, although she felt
desolate, she was free from bitter thoughts. She remembered with
gratitude all the years of happy comradeship with Ronnie--thirty-six
years: his whole lifetime and nearly hers; for she was his senior by one
year only, and their mother had always said that the two children had
begun their friendship at once.

"No person on earth has the right to grumble," Katharine said, "if he or
she has been lucky enough to have thirty-six years of close
companionship with some beloved one. And it was a splendid time;
something to give thanks for, all the rest of one's life."

"And I had a beautiful home-coming, alone with him, and under the genial
old conditions," she said. "I could not have expected that happiness to
continue. And perhaps it was as well that it came to an end quickly,
before I found it too hard to go----"

Then the knock came outside, but Katharine heard nothing.

"In any case I had to face a new kind of life," she said.

The knock came again--louder this time. Katharine heard it. She went to
the door and opened it. Gwendolen and Ronald stood outside.

"Oh, Kath!" Gwendolen cried, putting out her arms.

"She longed to come," Ronald said.

"Come in at once," Katharine said, holding out a hand to each of them,
and drawing them into the room. There were tears in her eyes, and there
was a smile of welcome on her face. The chill in her heart had turned to
warmth. Perhaps it was only then that she knew what she had been
through; for she collapsed into the arm-chair and cried. They watched
her silently. They felt that they could do and say nothing. So they
waited. But when she looked up and smiled at them, Gwendolen knelt down
by her side, and Ronald bent over her and pinched her ear as in the old
days when he wanted to show especial sympathy and attention.

"I can't help crying a little," she cried, "because I am so happy."

"Happy?" they said inquiringly.

"Yes, happy," she repeated, "because you cared to come. You see, that is
what matters most."

"Come back, Kath dear," Gwendolen pleaded. "I will be so different. You
have taught me such a lesson. You have not any idea how ashamed I feel
of myself."

"No; I cannot come back," Katharine said, shaking her head. "Some other
time perhaps. But not now. No, Ronald, old fellow, not now. One has to
go forward, you know--and alone."

"But you will not put us out of your life, Kath dear?" Ronald said
sadly.

She had risen from the arm-chair, and now put her arm through each of
theirs and drew them to her.

"You will not get rid of me so easily as all that," she answered with
some of her old brightness. "I can skip out of your home, but not out
of your lives. No; I am yours always, and always ready for you. And now
I think we ought to have dinner. You know, my dears, there is no denying
that great emotions produce great hunger! I am starving."

So they dined together and had a happy evening; and when they were
saying good night, Gwendolen whispered:

"When you feel you can come to us again, Kath, you will see how
different I shall be."

Ronald stayed behind a moment to say:

"Kath, it is dreadful to leave you here alone--I feel it
dreadfully--won't you come even now? Do, dear old Kath."

But Katharine shook her head and sent him on his way, promising,
however, to come down to the organ-factory in a day or two. After they
had gone, she lingered for a few moments in the hall, watching some of
the people who were standing together talking and laughing. Every one
seemed to have some belongings. There was that stern-looking military
man whose harsh features relaxed as his two pretty daughters stepped out
of the lift and touched him on the arm.

"We are ready, father," they said, and the three went off arm-in-arm.

Then there was that handsome mother with her fine young son, each proud
of and fond of the other; and that happy young couple yonder, the centre
of a group of friends; and that crippled man leaning on the arm of his
wife, whose face was eloquent with tender protectiveness and love.

Katharine felt desolate again. She went slowly into the reading-room.

"I will read the papers," she thought, "and forget about personal
matters."

There was no one in the reading-room; at least she thought there was no
one, until she discovered a young boy who had hidden himself behind a
paper. He was sitting near the fire, and she drew up her chair to the
fire too, and began to read. She had previously greeted him; for
Katharine did not observe the rigid English rule of ignoring the
presence of a stranger. So she had said, "Good evening," as though he
were a grown-up friend and not a young stranger of perhaps fifteen
years.

The boy coloured a little and said, "Good evening," and retired quickly
into 'The Graphic' again. At last he put down 'The Graphic,' and
Katharine said:

"May I have 'The Graphic' if you have done with it?"

He rose at once, brought it to her, and glanced at her shyly. Something
in his wistful face prompted her to speak to him.

"Is it a good number?" she said, smiling at him.

"Yes," he said.

And he added with a jerk:

"There is a picture of my school and our football team--here it is--it
is so awfully good of the fellows."

"And are you here too?" Katherine asked, looking at his face and then
trying to find him in the picture.

"No," he said, "I'm not there. I've not been to school this term."

"Been ill?" said Katharine; "perhaps measles, mumps, smashed-in head,
broken knee or nose--what other ailments do boys have? I used to be so
well up in them. My brother was always being brought home in fragments."

He smiled a little and said:

"No, I've not been ill, but----"

He paused a moment, and having glanced at her once more, seemed to gain
confidence. He was evidently very shy; but he desired to explain his
absence from that football team.

"You see," he said, "mother died."

Katharine made no answer, but nodded sympathetically, and for a moment
there was silence between these two new acquaintances. The boy himself
broke it.

"Father and I are going to travel for a few months," he said. "But next
year I shall be in the team again."

"And where are you going?" she asked.

"We are going to Japan," he said half-heartedly. It was obvious that his
heart was not in the travelling scheme.

"Why, that is where I have just come from," Katharine said. "You are a
lucky young man. And you speak of it as if it were a horrible holiday
task. You ungrateful boy!"

And she warmed him with glowing accounts of the journey and all the
queer things and people he would see, and succeeded in making him so
interested that he ended by saying:

"By Jove! I think I shall like to go after all."

"Of course you will," she said. "You will enjoy every minute."

A shadow passed over his young face; and she remembered that he had
lost his mother, and that very likely he was feeling desolate in his
own boyish way. He looked desolate too. He reminded her of some one she
had met lately--who was it? Oh, well, she did not remember; but there
was an air of distress about him, pathetically combined with boyish
eagerness, which appealed to her sympathies.

"And you will come back feeling so spry," she added, "and fit for any
amount of football. Besides, it is a good thing to go and see if Japan
would make a suitable ally, isn't it? Then you can send in a report to
the Government, you know."

His face brightened up, and he drew his chair a little nearer to her;
for he felt that she was distinctly a sensible sort of person, not
unlike Knutty in intelligence.

Katharine gave out to him unsparingly, and when she saw that the boy was
becoming more at his ease and more inclined to talk, she went on
laughing and chatting with him, until her own loneliness tugged less at
her own heart.

Suddenly the door of the reading-room opened, and a man came in.
Katharine and her young friend both looked round.

"It's father," the boy said awkwardly, not knowing what to do next.

"Professor Thornton," Katharine said, with a start of pleasure and
surprise.

"Miss Frensham," he said, with an eager smile on his grave face.

And he sank into the arm-chair as though he had come into a haven.



CHAPTER VIII.


Katharine woke up the morning after her arrival at the Langham feeling
much less miserable than she had expected. The visit from Gwendolen and
Ronald had cheered her, and the evening's companionship with that lonely
father and son had taken away the sting of her own loneliness. She sang
as she rolled up her beautiful soft hair. And when the sun came
streaming into the room, she felt so full of brightness and hope, that
she paused in her process of dressing and danced the Norfolk step-dance
in her smart silk petticoat. Then she stopped suddenly, arrested by an
invisible touch.

"Ah," she said, "how often Ronald and I have danced that at the
bean-feasts! And now, never again, never again, old fellow! All the old
fun is over. You belong heart and soul to that over-dressed jealous
little idiot."

"Shame on you, Katharine!" she said, shaking her fist at herself in the
looking-glass. "You deserve to put on an unbecoming dress. You shall put
on that blue failure. You know blue does not suit you--not that tone of
blue."

Katharine took the dress in question from the wardrobe and began putting
it on.

"No," she said with a smile, "I have changed my mind, Katharine. You
shall not be punished. You shall wear your most becoming one--the
dove-coloured one. Punishment, indeed! You don't need punishment. You
need consolation. And what could be more consoling on earth than a
becoming dress, unless it were a becoming hat? You shall have both."

She nodded and smiled to herself in the glass, and was still smiling
when she went down in the lift, and found Clifford Thornton and Alan in
the hall. By silent agreement they breakfasted together, and then made
their way into the reading-room and drew up to the fire. Katharine was
so genial and companionable that it was impossible even for Knutty's two
icebergs not to thaw in her presence. Free of spirit always, and fresh
from her recent travels, she was feeling as if she had met two strange
people unexpectedly in some desolate corner of the earth, and had
therefore the right to greet them and treat them as fellow-travellers.
She knew that they would pass on, of course; but meantime here they
were; they had broken in upon her loneliness, and she had the right to
enjoy what the hour brought. It was only a chance that the desolate
corner happened to be the Langham. It might have been Mount Ararat, or
some spot in Siberia or Central China.

As for the icebergs themselves, they were feeling vaguely that it was
delightful to be with her. Alan's shyness yielded to her influence, and
the man's grave reserve underwent a slight modification. He seemed to
become younger. Once or twice he even laughed at something Katharine
said. It was such a fresh, boyish laughter, and had such a ring in it,
that any one would have believed he was meant for happiness. That was
what Katharine thought when she heard it; and when she glanced at his
face and saw that for the moment his strained expression had given place
to easier adjustment, something tugged at her heart. In a curious,
impersonal sort of way he, too, appeared to think that this chance
meeting was to be made into pleasure for them all; for he said quite
simply, as one traveller meeting another might say:

"What shall we do this morning?"

"I will do anything you both like," Katharine said. "I have no plans in
the world, except to go to Denmark in a few weeks."

"Denmark!" they both said, interested at once.

"Yes," she answered, "I have a mysterious and sacred parcel intrusted
to me by two botanists in Arizona; and I vowed that I would go
myself to Denmark and put it into the hands of two botanists in
Copenhagen--Ebbesen was the name."

"That is curious," Clifford said. "They are the nephew and niece of my
old governess, whom I only saw off to Denmark last night. Ejnar and
Gerda Ebbesen. And they are great on 'Salix;' and have a good many
quarrels over that and other debatable subjects too. You will find them
to be delightful people, and highly intellectual, as so many Danes are.
But your parcel will probably give rise to many a battle-royal."

"Apparently all botanists quarrel," said Katharine. "I know my friends
were in a perpetual state of warfare. They had a fearful dispute when I
was there about a cactus. Such a hideous thing to quarrel over, too! And
when I said that, they instantly became reconciled and attacked me!"

Then Clifford, with a smile in his heart at the mere thought of Knutty
and her belongings, began to speak of his dear old Dane. And he added:

"You will not need an introduction to her good graces if you are
bringing offerings to her nephew and niece, whom she adores. Still, she
would like to know that you have seen her troublesome Englishman. She is
the kindest friend I have ever had in my life. She came to take charge
of me when I was about seven years of age. A lonely little beggar I was,
too--in a great house in Surrey, with no one to care about my comings
and goings. My mother was dead, and my father, a mining engineer, was
always travelling about to all parts of the globe. When Knutty arrived
on the scenes, I felt that heaven had opened and let out an angel."

"She doesn't look much like an angel now!" said Alan quaintly. "She
weighs about seventeen stone."

"I would not have her otherwise, would you?" said his father, smiling.

"No, no," said Alan staunchly, "she is ripping, just as she is."

"We wanted her to come with us on our travels," Clifford continued.

"She would have been splendid, father, wouldn't she?" Alan said.
"Nothing would have upset Knutty. Why, I believe if we had been drowning
together, she would have said, 'By St Olaf, what a delightful ocean this
is!'"

They all laughed. Knutty at that moment tossing on the sea, would have
been glad to hear her belovèd icebergs laugh, and glad to know that she
was the cause. She would have rejoiced also to know that some one, and
that some one a sympathetic woman, was being kind to them. Perhaps she
would have said: "I see daylight!"

Then Clifford spoke of Denmark, and Norway, and Sweden, the wonderful
North which Knutty had taught him to love and understand.

"I had the love of it in my veins," he said, "for my father had a
passion for Northern countries and people, and that was why he chose a
Northern governess for me; although of course she knew English
perfectly. But she fostered my love of the North, and brought me up on
the Sagas. And it was she who first took me up to the extreme north of
Norway. That is where you should go: where you see the mountains as in a
vision, and the glaciers reflected in the fiords, and the exquisite
colours of the sky chastened and tempered by the magic mist."

Katharine said that she had always intended to go there, but that other
places had taken precedence; and that when her brother married three
years ago, she had been impelled to take a long journey, in order to get
accustomed to a new kind of life, a crippled kind of life without him.

"And have you become accustomed to it?" Clifford Thornton asked.

"No," she answered. "Not yet."

"Then the long journey did not help?" he said.

"Oh yes, it helped," Katharine answered. "Mercifully one passes on."

"Yes," he said, and he seemed lost in thought.

Katharine broke through the silence.

"Well," she said, rising from her chair, "if we are going out, we should
not delay much longer. Where shall we go?" she said, turning to Alan.

Alan chose the Hippodrome, and the three started off together in that
direction. Knutty would have been somewhat surprised to see her two
icebergs. They did not talk much, it is true, for Katharine did all the
talking; but they laughed now and then, and made an occasional remark
which was not at all Arctic. They had a splendid day together: a mixture
of Hippodromes, ices, lunches, animated pictures, Natural History
Museums, and camera-shops; and in the evening they dined together, and
chatted, like old cronies, over the day's doings.

They knew that they owed the day's pleasure to Katharine's
companionship; and when Alan said good night, he blushed and added with
a jerk:

"Thank you."

And Clifford said:

"Yes, indeed, thank you for to-day--tak for idag, as the Danes say."

"Ah, I must learn that if I am going to Denmark," Katharine said, and
she repeated it several times until Alan pronounced her to be perfect.

"Tak for idag, tak for idag!" she said triumphantly. "It is I who have
to thank you for to-day."

She thought of them as she went to sleep. They seemed to her two
pathetic figures, hapless wanderers, not fit to be alone in the world by
themselves. She wished the old Dane had not left them. She dreamed of
them; she saw in her dreams the boy's young face and the man's grave
face. She heard the man's voice telling her that he had met and known
her before, and she answered:

"Yes, it is true. We have met somewhere, you and I. Some message has
passed between us somewhere--somehow----"

When she woke up, she remembered her dreams and lay thinking a long
time.

"He haunts me," she thought. "He is on my mind and in my heart day and
night. I suppose I ought to try and get rid of him. I suppose it would
be the right sort of British matronly thing to do, considering the
circumstances. And yet why should it be the right thing? It does not
harm him that I think of him and am strongly attracted to him. Why
should I stamp down my emotions and impulses? No. I shall think of him
as much as I like, and dream of him as much as I can. I know he is a man
with a broken spirit--out of reach, out of region--but----"

"Well, well," she said, "I must shake myself and 'go forth.'"

She went forth that day looking the picture of health and attractive
grace. She wore the dove-coloured dress, a most becoming hat, and a
cloak which added to her natural charm of bearing. But it was her whole
personality more than her looks which stamped her as a special brand of
beautiful womanhood; whilst her adorable manner, the natural outcome of
a big heart and generous spirit, gave her a radiance which was felt and
seen by every one. Wherever she went, people even of the dullest types
had a distinct feeling of being pleased and stirred. Her arrival at the
organ-factory, near Cambridge Heath, was the signal for all the
employees on the premises to be more or less agreeably excited,
according to their varying powers of receptivity. The porter, who was
known as the "dormouse," from his sleepy disposition, became electrified
into activity when he saw Katharine. He ran and spread the news.

"Miss Katharine has come," he said first to one workman and then
another.

She soon passed in and out amongst them all. The sulky but clever
artiste, who voiced the reeds, the sympathetic craftsman who was doing a
delicate piece of carving for part of an elaborate organ-case, the
mechanics, the packers, the clerks, the manager, all had their eager
word of welcome ready for her.

"It's good to see you, Miss Katharine," they said. "Organ-building
hasn't been organ-building without you."

Ronald was with a client at the time, but he too became excited when he
heard that Katharine had come; and the client was ingeniously got rid of
as soon as possible.

"How many times you have come and upset us all," he said, when they were
alone together in his sanctum. "No one will do any more useful work
to-day, and I am sure I don't wonder. And how jolly to see you here as
in the old days! And how splendid you look too! Why, Kath, I do believe
you have a flirtation on! You have that well-known air of buoyancy which
always has meant a new flirtation. I should recognise it anywhere."

"No, no," she laughed; "I have no flirtation on. I should tell you at
once, if only from sheer force of habit."

"Well," he said, "I have been torn the whole time thinking what a brute
I was to leave you in that way and let you stay at the Langham. I can't
get over it, Kath. Gwendolen is so ashamed, and so am I."

"Don't fret about it," she said gently. "The bitterness has passed, if,
indeed, it ever existed, Ronnie. Gwendolen never meant to be unkind.
Most people would have stayed on and pretended not to feel the strain;
but I couldn't have done that. I would rather never see you again than
live on strained terms with you now that you are married. That would be
a pitiful ending to our long friendship, wouldn't it? No, no, cheer up.
It will all work out beautifully; and I shall come and see you more
often than you wish. I promise you that."

"But it is dreadful for you to be alone," he said.

"I have not been alone," she answered, and she told him about her
strange meeting with Clifford Thornton and his boy.

Ronald pretended to believe that she knew they were there all the time,
and that she had left his home deliberately.

"Don't be ridiculous," she answered gaily. "Life is only a series of
chances, and this is one of them."

"And here have I been racking my brains to think how I might comfort
you, Kath," said Ronald.

"Dear old fellow!" she replied. "Lonely people have to work out their
own redemption."

"Are you very lonely?" he asked regretfully. It always pinched his heart
to think that he had abandoned her.

"No, no," she answered, giving him a sudden hug, "scarcely at all, and
then only for a few passing moments. Nothing that matters. And now tell
me about business. For if you want the benefit of my advice about
anything, now is your chance. I feel that my brains are in splendid
condition this morning, and that I can settle the most momentous
questions in five minutes. I always was quick, wasn't I?"

"There are one or two matters you can help me with, if you will really
give your attention," he said.

"Well, then, I must remove this hat," Katharine said, taking pins
recklessly out of her hair. "No person could be business-like in such a
hat, could they? There, I feel different now, absolutely serious and
commercial! And here go my gloves and rings. Now, Ronnie, I am all
brains and attention."

"And you won't flirt if I ask Barlow in?" Ronald said. "We shall want
him too."

"I will be sphinx-like," she answered, with a twinkle in her eye.

Ronald laughed and sent for his manager, and the three together settled
some important difficulties, over which Katharine showed herself so
quick-witted and sensible that Mr Barlow was lost in admiration, and
remarked it was a pity she was not in the business.

"I have always maintained, Miss Katharine, that you ought to take an
active part in the business," he said. "You have a good and a quick
judgment."

"Ah, Mr Barlow," Katharine answered eagerly, "you have touched the right
chord. I want to take an active part from now onwards, and Ronald says I
could be of use."

"Yes, but the trouble is that you'd soon get tired of routine work,"
Ronald said. "You were not made for a dull life."

"Why could I not be a traveller for the firm?" suggested Katharine. "I
am sure I could manage ecclesiastics beautifully; and that wouldn't be
dull really, though it sounds dull! I have every confidence that I could
make all creeds employ our firm and our firm only. I feel myself quite
capable of tackling Archbishops or Plymouth Brethren, Unitarian
ministers or Anabaptists. All sects of all shades except Christian
Scientists. I draw the line at Christian Scientists. No one could tackle
them, no one on earth or in heaven or--anywhere!"

The manager laughed.

"I believe you can tackle any one, Miss Katharine, even Christian
Scientists," he said, "and I am sure we can make use of your quick
judgment."

When he had gone, she said to Ronald:

"Ronnie, I really am more stable than you think, and I believe I could
even do routine work now. I must have something to do. And you admit I
have a quick brain. It goes like a flash, doesn't it? Not like Willy
Tonedale's, for instance."

And at that moment Willy Tonedale was announced. He was a handsome
fellow, to whom the gods had given a beautiful face, a splendid form, a
dear, kind heart, and certainly the very slowest of brains. Every one
loved him, and Katharine herself was one of his best friends. He was too
lazy to have worked seriously at a profession; but he had had a vague
training as an artist, and had dawdled through the Royal Academy
schools. It was his custom to propose to Katharine every time he met
her, and he at once said:

"Ah, Katharine, there you are, home at last! Do be mine, my dear. Do.
There's a brick."

"We were just talking of you," she said.

"Talking of my slow brain, as usual, I suppose," he said, slipping into
Ronald's chair, his handsome face aglow with the pleasure of seeing her.

"It was just mentioned," Katharine said, laughing; and Ronald said:

"Kath wants to come into the business; and she was remarking that she
had a quick brain, not like----"

"Not like mine, of course," put in Willy. "I know. But what on earth
does she want to come into the business for? I never heard of anything
so absurd. Why don't you tell her to marry me instead, Ronald?"

"You are not the right man, Willy," Katharine said brightly. "You are an
awful dear; but you never were the right fellow, and never will be."

"Well, don't settle down to work," he said. "Work! Who wants to work at
anything regularly? Never heard such an absurd idea. Good heavens! If
it's money you want, take all I've got--every blessèd shilling--and
remain yourself--Katharine the splendid! Business routine for you! It's
ridiculous to think of. Why, the world wouldn't go on properly unless
you were a leisured person. Some nice people have got to be leisured.
That's why I take things easily. Too many busy people make life a
nuisance. Even I've sense enough to know that."

"I am quite determined to take up business, Willy," said Katharine, "and
the world will have to do without me. Ronald says I could be of use. And
Mr Barlow says so too. Now just imagine for one moment how beautifully I
might manage bishops, archbishops, curates, even Popes. Can't you
picture to yourself the Pope ordering a new organ with all the newest
improvements of which only our firm is capable!"

And she went through an imaginary interview with the Pope, which called
forth peals of laughter from her little audience of two. Seriousness had
scarcely been re-established when the card of a real clergyman was
brought in, and Ronald said laughingly:

"Here, Kath, here's your chance--the Dean of St Ambrose's."

"No, no," she answered. "I can't begin with any one inferior to a Pope
or an Archbishop. Come along, Willy. I suppose you are going to your
home to lunch. You know I am spending the afternoon there. Make haste,
Willy! Ronald is longing for us to be off."

"My dear Kath," Willy Tonedale said quaintly, "it isn't I that am
putting all those mysterious pins into my head. Can't understand how
they don't hurt the head, going right through like that. They would hurt
my head. But then it's true----"

"Yes, it's true," said Katharine. "You needn't finish your remark. I
know! Good-bye, Ronnie. Love to Gwendolen, and I'm coming to dinner
to-morrow. If it had only been an Archbishop, I would have begun at
once!"

The Dean passed into Ronald's sanctum as Willy Tonedale and Katharine
passed out. The dignitary of the Church glanced at her, and a fleeting
expression of pleased surprise lit up his clerical countenance. He had
come about some experiment which he wished tried on the organ of St
Ambrose's; but he found himself unable to concentrate his attention on
business until he had asked who that delightful-looking lady might be.
Ronald smiled invisibly as he replied that it was his sister--the senior
partner of the firm.

"Dear me, dear me!" replied the Dean as he stroked his chin. His eyes
wandered restlessly towards the door. Wicked old Dean. He was thinking:

"Surely I have heard that it is always safer to ask for the senior
partner."



CHAPTER IX.


"Well, Willy," said Katharine, as he and she made their way towards the
Tonedales' house in South Kensington, "what have you been doing whilst I
have been away? Have you finished the famous historical picture of the
unhistoric meeting between Queen Elizabeth and Mary, Queen of Scots? I
should like to think that you have finished it, for then I shouldn't
have to sit for it any more! Let me see, how many years have you been
painting at that immortal masterpiece? Is it ten or fifteen years?"

"Don't make fun of me," Willy said. "You know perfectly well that I am
one of those fellows who were never intended for work, although if I had
had you to work for, Kath, I might have overcome my natural laziness.
Anyway, the masterpiece isn't done yet. It has been waiting for your
return. You must still sit for it. I have missed you fearfully.
Everybody has missed you. Even that duffer Ronald, infatuated as he is
with that idiot Gwendolen, even he has had the sense to miss you. By
Jove, though, he is altered! Not the same fellow at all. I never go to
his home. Don't care to meet those pretentious asses of people whom
Gwendolen thinks such fine style. I don't see how you are going to get
on with them, Kath. They'll hate you, and you'll hate them. It's their
pretentiousness I can't swallow. It makes me positively sick. No, when I
want to see Ronnie nowadays I go down to the organ-factory. That is good
enough for me. No one is artificial there."

"Yes, Ronnie has altered," Katharine said. "But still, if he is happy,
Willy, that is the main thing. And I think he is happy; although I am
sure that he knows he is spending too much money. The truth is,
Gwendolen has always been accustomed to these weird people, and likes to
entertain them. Ronnie has nothing in common with them, but he worships
Gwendolen, and loves to please her, and so he has persuaded himself that
it is the right thing to keep in and up with them. Perhaps it is, from
one point of view. It all depends on what one wants in life. I assure
you I was glad enough to escape two or three days ago, and take refuge
in the Langham until I could find a flat for myself. Gwendolen was
jealous of me, too. I felt that at once."

"At the Langham, nonsense!" said Willy. "Come and live with us. That's
the proper place for you until you have decided what to do. Come, Kath,
do!"

Mrs Tonedale and Margaret, Willy's mother and sister, also begged
Katharine to come and make their home her own; but she could not be
persuaded to leave the hotel, and said in excuse that she was still
feeling a wanderer to whom a home was not yet necessary. They did not
coerce her, knowing her love of freedom, and knowing also that she
understood there was always a warm welcome awaiting her. For they loved
her dearly, in spite of the fact that she did not respond to Willy's
adoration.

Margaret Tonedale had been Katharine's earliest school friend in the
years that had gone. They had both been together at one of those
prehistoric private schools, where the poor female victims used to get
very little learning and much less food.

"It didn't matter so much about the learning," Kath said to Margaret
that afternoon, when they were speaking about old times. "I always
thought vaguely one could make that up somehow or other, but one could
not make up the arrears of food; and, you know, I have remained hungry
ever since."

"If you married me, Katharine, I would feed you splendidly," Willy said.
"You'd soon forget that you had been starved at school. My dear girl,
you should have a baron of beef every day!"

"Willy is still incorrigible in the way he proposes," Mrs Tonedale said,
laughing. "You must go on forgiving him, Katharine."

"Willy is a dear, and I don't mind when or how he proposes to me;
whether with a poem, or a baron of beef, or a picture of the meeting
between Elizabeth and Mary, Queen of Scots," said Katharine, smiling. "I
think we still understand each other, and he knows that he will always
get the same answer. Don't you, Willy?"

"Yes, my dear," answered Willy. "Same question, same answer. That is all
I expect now."

"But, supposing some day I said 'Yes,' instead of 'No.' What would you
do then?" suggested Katharine, teasing him.

"By Jove! Kath, I should go out of my senses," he said eagerly.

"My dear fellow, you must keep what brains you've got," she replied.
"You know I've always said you had some, though they do work slowly."

"The machine's there, my dear," he said, "but it certainly doesn't work
quickly. I'm quite willing to own that it doesn't work quickly. It never
could, not even for love of you. Quite sure you couldn't stand a slow
machine?"

"Quite sure," she answered. "It would send me frantic, Willy."

"Awfully hard on a man to have a slow machine when only a quick one will
do the trick," he said. "Where's the justice of it, I should like to
know? Tell me that."

"Oh, I don't pretend to know about justice," she said. "But I think
there are plenty of other women who would not go frantic over the slow
machine."

"Exactly," he said, pulling his moustache. "But I want the woman who
would go frantic."

"Do be sensible, Will," she said. "Our temperaments are hopelessly
different."

"Oh, hang temperament!" he said recklessly. "I hate the word."

"Everything turns on it," she answered. "I see that more and more."

"Oh, don't you begin to talk about temperaments," he said. "I can't
stand it from you, Kath. We hear of nothing else now, since cousin Julia
came to live in London. But, there she is, confound her! And now she
will begin on her eternal subject: a dead friend who was done to death
by her husband's temperamental cruelty. And mother and Margaret will
listen in rapt delight. And if any one fresh is here, she tells the
whole story from beginning to end. All I can say is, that if the woman
was anything like cousin Julia, the husband must have had an awful time
of it, and, if he is a sensible chap, must now be revelling in his
freedom."

Katharine looked in the direction of the new-comer, and saw a
well-dressed woman with a hard face. She was received by Margaret
Tonedale, and joined the little group of friends who had come in whilst
Katharine and Willy had been talking together at the other end of the
big drawing-room.

"What was the name of the dead friend?" Katharine asked indifferently.
She wondered afterwards why she had asked. It was nothing to her. At
least she believed at the moment that it was nothing to her.

"The name was Thornton--Marianne Thornton," Willy said. "I ought to
know, considering I've heard it about a million times. Even my brain
would retain it after that."

Katharine rose from the sofa.

"Let us join the others, Willy," she said; and she took a chair not far
off from Mrs Stanhope. Willy followed her reluctantly.

"Never thought you'd want to listen to that shrew of a woman," he said.
"Besides, what good does she do to her dead friend? The whole thing is
past and gone. And, as for temperaments, I tell you----"

"Hush, hush!" said Katharine, with a slight flush on her face, "I want
to hear what she says."

"Oh, I am never tired of talking about it," Mrs Stanhope was saying.
"You see, she was my great friend, my dearest friend on earth. And to
lose her in such sad circumstances has made me feel tenfold more
bereaved than I should have felt if she had just passed away from
ordinary causes and chances of everyday life. As for her husband, he
deserves all the unhappiness which remorse can measure out to him. He
wrecked and ruined my poor friend's life. She was high-spirited and full
of noble emotions. She had a fine natural disposition which he never
even tried to understand. He never spared a thought to her. His thoughts
were for himself, his work, and his son. I will do him the justice to
say that he loved his boy. But he never gave a thought to his wife. She
had sacrificed everything to his temperament; she sacrificed herself,
her friends, her social obligations, her personal inclinations, her very
love for her boy. No woman could have given more. She was alone in the
world. Her husband had put her out into the biting cold of loneliness."

She paused for a moment, and Willy Tonedale drawled out:

"But you did say once, Cousin Julia, that she had a most fearful temper.
No fellow can stand that sort of thing for long."

Mrs Stanhope glanced at him sternly, and said:

"Could you imagine your temper improved under such conditions? She went
to him sweet-tempered enough; and, if she became a little hasty as the
years went on, it was only right that she should have won that
protection for herself. I encouraged her. '_Let yourself be felt,
Marianne_,' I used to say."

"Poor devil of a man," whispered Willy, "if Marianne were anything like
cousin Julia. By Jove! she must have made herself felt."

"It was temperamental strife," continued Mrs Stanhope, "and my poor
darling was worsted. She was doomed from the beginning. She had no
chance against that man's cruel neglect and selfishness. You had only to
look at him to know that he had no emotions and no heart."

"That is not true," thought Katharine; but she remained silent, although
increasingly stirred by Mrs Stanhope's incisive words.

"And," said Mrs Stanhope, "I know from my poor friend's confidences, how
greatly she suffered from his unvarying unkindness. He killed her by a
long series of tortures--temperamental tortures--and he must have given
the finishing stroke to her on that last evening when, by his own
confession at the inquest, they had had some miserable scene together,
and he, no doubt to recover from his own outbreak of anger, went off
riding, leaving her to right herself as well as she could. He knew that
she had a delicate heart, and that she was always jeopardised by
over-excitation. All this he knew well; and yet he never tried to make
her life happy and calm. He never spared her anything. It was so like
him to bring about a last access of unhappiness for her--and then leave
her to die broken-hearted alone. I shall always say, that if ever a man
killed a woman, Clifford Thornton killed his wife."

There was silence. Mrs Stanhope's words cut into every one's
sensitiveness. Every one was suffering. But she herself leaned back as
if resting from a newly accomplished task and well-earned triumph. She
had raised her voice and testified once more against her dead friend's
husband.

Then Katharine spoke.

"Well," she said, "it is a pitiful story; but nothing and no one will
ever make me believe that Professor Thornton is a cruel man. He may have
made mistakes, and probably did do so, being only human; but it is
impossible to believe anything worse of him than that."

They all turned to her. Her face was flushed. There was a gleam in her
eyes, and a curious tenseness in her manner. She looked as one who had
divined some advancing danger, and was standing ready to ward off the
evil from some friend loved and defenceless except for her.

"Do you know Professor Thornton, Kath?" Willy and Margaret exclaimed.
"You never told us."

"I have met him," she answered. "I believe he is incapable of
cruelty--physical, mental, or temperamental--quite incapable of it."

"I have known him for twelve years," said Mrs Stanhope in her steely
voice. "And you?"

"I have known him for three days," said Katharine, undaunted. "But with
what you would call 'temperamental knowledge,' Mrs Stanhope. I do not
believe he ever said one unkind word to any one."

"He is lucky to inspire such faith in a stranger," Mrs Stanhope
remarked. "He is lucky to have such a staunch defender."

Katharine looked at her steadily for a moment, and then said:

"It is well for him that he has even a stranger to defend him, if you go
about the world saying that he murdered his wife."

"You are scarcely accurate, Miss Frensham," Mrs Stanhope said, flushing.
"I did not use that word."

"I am as accurate as the ordinary outside world would be in the
circumstances," said Katharine.

"Ah, you are right there," drawled out Willy Tonedale. "The outside
world knows nothing about temperamental tortures and temperamental
murders, and all that sort of confounded subtleness. Torture is torture,
and murder is murder to the outside world of ordinary dense people like
myself--and others. I ought to see that man and warn him against you,
cousin Julia--'pon my soul, I ought."

"Oh, there will be no need, Willy," she said with a short, nervous
laugh. "No doubt Miss Frensham will do it instead of you."

Every one had stood up, by silent consent dissolving the meeting. Mrs
Tonedale, Margaret, Willy, and the three or four visitors now looked
towards Katharine again, wondering how she would meet Mrs Stanhope's
parting thrust. She met it quite simply. She said:

"I will gladly warn him. Though I daresay he does not need to be warned.
For at least Mrs Stanhope does not stab in the dark, does she?"

And directly she had spoken these words, she thought of the young boy,
and a wave of sympathetic anxiety swept over her. Supposing that this
woman did stab in the dark; supposing that out of mistaken loyalty to
her dead friend's memory, she believed it to be a solemn duty to tell
her version of the story to the young boy--Marianne's son--what
then--what then? She was obviously such a bigot that she was capable of
doing anything to forward the cause which she had at heart.

At that same moment Mrs Stanhope was saying to herself:

"The boy shall know--the boy shall know--it is only fair to my poor
Marianne's memory that he should learn the true history of his mother's
unhappy life."

The two women glanced at each other, and each read the other's thought.
Then, after a hasty leave-taking, Mrs Stanhope hurried away. Katharine
had an uneasy feeling that she ought to have followed her to her very
door, and thus have made sure that Marianne's avenging colleague wrought
no harm that afternoon to the boy and his father. She attempted several
times to go, but was prevented by her friends, who wished to hear some
of the details of her three years' travels.

"I believe you want to chase cousin Julia and give her a ducking in the
Serpentine," said Willy. "By Jove, I should like to see it!"

Katharine laughed.

"Willy," she said, "you're really becoming quite electrically
intelligent. What is the cause of it?"

"You are, my dear," he said. "And also that adorable female relative of
mine always rouses my indignation. Shades of my ancestors, what a
tongue! How she would yarn to the boy if she ever got hold of him
alone."

"That is what I've been thinking," Katharine said, turning to him
earnestly. "It would be too cruel."

"But why should you mind?" he said. "After all, they are nothing to
you--just strangers--that's all. Can't let yourself be torn in pieces
for strangers. Better do it for me instead. My word, Kath, but you did
speak up for him well."

"Did I?" she asked, with a sudden thrill in her voice.

Willy Tonedale glanced at her and saw a light on her face which had
never shone for him--never.

And the cold crept into his faithful heart.



CHAPTER X.


Mrs Stanhope went on her way home fiercely indignant with this stranger
who had dared to defend Clifford Thornton. In her own unreasoning anger
she felt doubly fierce towards him for daring to have a defender. She
had loved Marianne always, and she had disliked him always. She was of
limited understanding--like all bigots. She knew nothing, and wished to
know nothing about his side of the case. All she knew was that he had
made her poor Marianne miserable, and had brought about her death. All
she hoped now was that he might be miserable himself, for ever and ever.
In memory of her dear, dead friend, she determined that her hand should
always be against him. It was a simple creed, and therefore primitive
and strong, like all primitive instincts. She knew even less than
Marianne about sensitive brains, delicate nervous organisms, and the
surcharged world of thought and imagination. When she spoke about
temperament, it was as though a blacksmith were working at a goldsmith's
goblet: as though a ropemaker were working at a spider's web. She
honestly believed that Marianne had been sacrificed to him. She could
not realise that Marianne was made of coarser fibre than Clifford
Thornton. She knew nothing about Marianne's birth, antecedents, and
environment. She was quite unequipped with delicate understanding of
human nature to judge between any two people--much less two married
people--that unfathomable twin-mystery. But she did judge, and she
condemned him without any reservations. And she thought of Marianne's
son, and resolved in her own mind that he, too, should judge his father
and condemn him.

"It is only right," she said to herself repeatedly, "that the boy should
know, and should carry in his mind a tender memory of his mother. His
father will tell him only cruel things about her. She shall not have
that injustice done to her."

She did not take into account the tenderness of Alan's years; she had no
instincts of mercy and pity for his young thoughts, and his young
birthright of forgetfulness. She did not stop to imagine that Marianne
herself would have wished him to be spared. It never entered her mind
that Marianne herself would have said:

"Let the boy be--he is only a boy--let him be--what does it all matter
now? and he is so young still--let him be."

She never thought of that. She filled a cup of poison ready to put to
his lips at the first opportunity: the poison of disbelief and doubt.

"I must find some means of seeing him," she said to herself. "Marianne
shall not have the injustice of being misinterpreted."

Full of these thoughts she paused before going into Hyde Park.

"Shall I walk through the Park, or shall I go straight to St. James's
Mansions?" she asked herself. "I think I will go straight home. I am
tired."

But after she had advanced a few steps, she turned back and passed into
the Park, impelled to do so against her will. It was a charming evening
at the beginning of April. The spring had come early, and the borders
were gay with flowers. A young boy came along, whistling softly. He
stopped to look at some of the beds, and then went on again. After all,
he thought, it was not so bad going for this journey to Japan. And all
the fellows had said they envied him. And father was better already. And
that was a bully new camera they had bought to-day. And, by Jove, he had
enjoyed himself yesterday. And----

He looked up and saw Mrs Stanhope.

"Alan," she said in her steely voice, which had always jarred on him.
His face clouded over. His heart sank. He had always disliked her.

"Alan," she said, "I have wanted to see you. I was thinking of you this
very moment. I was by your mother's grave yesterday. Shall we sit down
here? It is not cold this evening."

She had kept his hand, and led him to the nearest bench. He disengaged
his hand, and shrank a little from her. She did not notice that.

"Yes," she repeated. "I stood by your mother's grave yesterday. It is a
beautiful stone, simple but beautiful."

"Father and I liked it," the boy said a little nervously. "We--we went
there to say good-bye before--before going away, you know."

"Ah," she said, "you are going away then? Are you going to leave
'Falun'?"

"Yes," he said, "for a few months. Father is not well."

There was a pause, and then she said suddenly:

"Alan, you will never forget your dear mother, will you? She died in
such a sad, sad way--it breaks one's heart to think of it--doesn't
it?--all alone--without a kind word--a kind look--nothing--no one near
her--no one to help her--alone."

The boy bit his lips. Something pulled at his heartstrings.

"You must always think lovingly of her," she continued. "You must always
think the very best of her. She was a grand, noble woman who had not
been understood. When you are older, you will see it all clearly for
yourself--see it with your own eyes, not with any one else's eyes, and
then you will know how unhappy she was, and how sad she was all--all the
days of her married life. Poor darling, she was lonely in life and
lonely in death--you must never forget that--you must be loyal to
her--you, her son. You were good to her; you loved her; you would have
loved her more if--if your father had allowed you, Alan."

The boy's face was rigid.

"Father never stopped me from loving mother," he said, half to himself.

"Ah," she said bitterly, "when you are older you will understand it all
only too well. And meanwhile be loyal to her memory--you, her son."

The boy's face softened again. The tears came into his eyes. The appeal
to his sonship touched him deeply. He said nothing, but Mrs Stanhope
realised that his silence was charged with grief; for she saw the tears
in his eyes, the flush on his face, and the quivering of his mouth.

"Alan," she went on, "and the pity--the pity of it all. She might
be here with us now--there was no reason for her death; it is that
which makes it so sad. If she had had some terrible illness, one
might be comforted a little by her release; but to be cut off like
this--suddenly--and in this sad, sad way--ah, how your poor father
must tear his heart to remember that he had angry words with her that
night--to think that but for that unfortunate incident she might be
alive this very moment--to think----"

She stopped suddenly, for she had already said more than she intended.
Alan turned his face to her. The flush had gone now. He looked deadly
pale.

"Father was always, always good to mother," he said, in a strained tone
of voice. "You were not always with us. You couldn't know."

"No, no--of course I could not know all," she said soothingly; and
again she put her hand on his arm. And again he freed himself.

"But this I do know," she continued with great gentleness, "that you
have lost a noble and unselfish mother who loved you with her whole
heart--more than you ever knew. But I knew. I knew all her hopes and
fears and ambitions for you; and I knew, too, how she yearned for the
time when you would love her more and more, and understand her more and
more. For a mother clings heart and soul to her son, Alan. If he does
not love her, she mourns always, always."

She rose from the bench; and he rose too, his young heart torn and his
young spirit troubled. He stood there looking down on the ground,
overpowered with many emotions.

"Good-bye, Alan," she said. "And remember you have a friend in me. Come
to me in trouble, and I will not fail you--for your dear mother's sake."

She left him, and he lingered for a moment scratching the ground with
his stick. Then he went on his way to the Langham. He was not whistling
now. He ran up against an old gentleman.

"Look out where you're going, my boy!" the old man said angrily.
"Dreaming, I suppose. Boys didn't dream in my time. I've no patience
with this generation."

At the hotel he saw Katharine, who was standing in the hall giving some
instructions to the porter. She had just come back from the Tonedales,
whom she had left as soon as she could. She had been thinking of him all
the time, of him and his father and that metallic woman; and she could
not rest until she was back again at the Langham, mounting guard, as it
were, over these strangers who had come so unexpectedly into her life.
She greeted the boy and spoke some kindly words, which brought a faint
smile into his face.

But he slipped away from her, and locked himself up in his room.



CHAPTER XI.


Katharine spent that night wondering what she could say to Professor
Thornton to warn him against Mrs Stanhope's biting tongue. She felt that
she must warn him, even at the risk of seeming to intrude on the privacy
of his personal concerns. She believed that it would be the part of a
coward to shirk the task, and yet she dreaded to undertake it. She said
to herself a hundred times over that there was no reason why she should
interfere; they were nothing to her--these strangers, their troubles,
their tragedy were nothing to her. That was the common-sense way of
looking at the whole matter. They had their own lives to live. And she
had hers. In a day or two their chance companionship would be a thing of
the past. Why should she be troubled about them? Willy Tonedale was
right. One could not take every one's burden and carry it. Ah, there
was no common-sense about the matter; but there was something else,
something infinitely more compelling than calm reason--the heart's
insistence.

"I must tell him," she said. And her heart was lighter when she decided
that. Then came the difficulty of deciding what to say. She did not
solve that problem. She fell asleep and dreamed, and when she awoke, she
said:

"What was it I dreamed I said to him? Ah, I remember I said that----Ah!
it has gone again."

But it came back to her when she stood with Clifford Thornton alone in
the reading-room. She made no preliminaries, she offered no excuses; she
behaved exactly as though nothing else could be done by her in the
circumstances, as though he and she were in some desolate region alone
together, and she saw some terrible danger threatening him, and cried:

"Look out! Beware!"

"Professor Thornton," she said, "yesterday I met an enemy of yours. It
sounds melodramatic, perhaps, to speak of an enemy. Nevertheless, that
was what she appeared to me. You probably know who she is--a Mrs
Stanhope. But you cannot know how she speaks of you. No one could
imagine it, unless one heard it for oneself."

His drawn face seemed to become thinner as she spoke.

"She has always disliked me," he said in a painfully strained voice.

"It is not merely dislike, it is malice," Katharine said. "It would not
matter so much if you were by yourself in the world. But there is the
boy to think of. Keep him away from her. She might poison his heart
against you. It would be cruel for him, and cruel for you."

The expression of intense anxiety on the man's face filled Katharine's
heart with pity.

"Ah," he said, as if the words were torn from him. "That is the
bitterness of it; he might turn against me simply and solely because he
could not understand; he----"

He broke off and looked at Katharine hopelessly. He appeared to be
appealing to her for help in his distress; she could almost have heard
his voice saying:

"What shall I do--what shall I do? Help me."

But the next moment his pride and reserve got the better of his
momentary weakness. He gathered himself together. He asked for no
details, and made no attempt to justify himself in her eyes. He did not
even give a passing thought as to how much or how little she knew of his
sad story. He felt instinctively that she believed in him.

He came across to her, and leaned over the table by which she was
standing.

"It was beautiful of you to warn me," he said quite simply. "I know it
could not have been easy. But it was the act of a true friend."

Then he went away. And Katharine, alone with her thoughts, threw herself
into the arm-chair and closed her eyes.



CHAPTER XII.


Clifford Thornton passed on from that moment to a new chapter in his
heart's history. He was too stern with himself to yield without a
struggle to even any secret locked-up happiness; and so he tried to turn
from the thought of Katharine Frensham as from something altogether out
of his horizon. But, against his wishes, bright hopes sprang up within
him. Unbidden and harshly rebuked possibilities of joy pressed
themselves importunately on him. A fair vision of a fresh life rose
before him. He dispelled it angrily, and returned to his former self,
with the old tyranny of Marianne chafing him, and the added anxiety
concerning his young son's love and loyalty. Nevertheless, he had passed
on. He was of course too proud to ask Katharine what accusation Mrs
Stanhope had brought against him, and too reserved to thank her the next
morning for her words of warning. He did not even tell her that he had
made up his mind to take an earlier boat to New York, and thus remove
Alan from Mrs Stanhope's influence. His secret belief that he was
responsible for Marianne's death made him morbidly anxious to keep Alan
away from any one who might come between them. And Katharine Frensham's
allusion to Mrs Stanhope's attitude towards him made him doubly
apprehensive of her powers of making mischief. He knew that she had
unceasingly stirred up strife between himself and Marianne, and he
considered her capable of at least making the attempt to cause a breach
between himself and his son. He knew that she disliked him, and that she
believed he had always been hard and unkind to poor Marianne. Many a
time Marianne herself had said to him:

"Julia at least appreciates and understands me; she at least knows of my
unhappiness and your unkind indifference."

What would she say to Alan if by chance he passed her way? Alan, too,
had always disliked her; he, too, had felt that she was an enemy to his
father and himself; nevertheless she would certainly be able to
influence him, for the very reason that his mother had died in
circumstances of great sadness, and generous young hearts remember only
the best things of the dead. Marianne would conquer as she had always
conquered, and the boy's heart would turn from his father.

Clifford was greatly troubled.

"I must have my boy's love, I must have his loyalty," he said. "I cannot
do without it. I desire with all my heart that he should think lovingly
of his mother; but he must not, shall not turn from me. I have done
nothing to deserve that he should not love me. He shall not see that
woman if I can help it. She shall not have the chance of saying one word
against me. His dear young heart shall keep its love and trust. The
sadness of this tragedy in our lives will pass from him; it is passing
from him even now. And the wound which I, in my selfishness, inflicted,
shall be healed with a love which father never gave to son before. He
must and shall believe in me. If I have missed other things, at least I
will wrest this from life. She may say what she likes to the whole
world, but not to him; he would not understand. If he were older, I
would take my chance of his belief or disbelief. But the young judge and
are hard."

Then in the midst of his distress he remembered Katharine, and again
that vision rose before him. He tried to turn from it, but in vain.

"She believed in me," he said. "Whatever that woman may have said to
her, she believed in me."

He went back to the hotel buoyed up in spite of himself, and found Alan
moping in the reading-room. The boy looked miserable, and appeared to
have no heart for anything that was suggested. Clifford remembered that
he had been quiet at breakfast, and had eaten nothing. He had slipped
away, evidently wanting to be alone. His father glanced at him with some
uneasiness.

"What's the matter?" he asked kindly.

"Nothing," said Alan a little roughly, and he turned away with a slight
flush on his face.

"Well, we shall soon be off," Clifford said. "I have changed our berths
for a week earlier. In a fortnight we shall be in New York; then on we
go to San Francisco, and so on to Japan. Knutty was right to send us
away from 'Falun.' We shall both feel better for the change. I shall get
rid of my moods and become quite a jolly companion for you. We'll have
such splendid times. Won't we?"

"Yes," said Alan, but without any ring in his voice.

The father stood looking sad and puzzled.

"I am just going out to buy some books," he said. "Come, too?"

Alan shook his head.

"No, father," he said. "I thought I'd like to read."

Clifford nodded and went out.

"It will be all right between us when we are off on our travels," he
thought. "We ought to have started long ago. I am glad I have berths for
an earlier date. It will be better for him, and for me. And yet----"

He made a gesture of impatience with himself.

"It is high time that I took a journey," he said sternly.

He bought several dry treatises on scientific subjects, a new book on
architecture for Alan, and a brochure on Alan de Walsingham. He was
greatly pleased with this.

"Alan will be glad," he said. And then he found an amusing book about
balloons, also for Alan. And after this he saw a Baedeker for Norway and
Denmark.

"I should like Miss Frensham to have that from me," he said, as he
handled it dreamily.

He hesitated over it, put it aside sternly, then went back to it,
hesitated again, and finally bought it. He had a guilty smile on his
face when he carried it off.

"After all, why not?" he said in excuse to himself.

Knutty would have been glad to know that he had allowed himself to go
even thus far. Surely again she would have whispered, "I see daylight!"

He passed along Oxford Street, stopping now and then to look at the shop
windows. He was thinking all the time what he should buy for Alan. He
went back armed with books, chocolates, new penknives, sketch-blocks,
some fresh kind of printing-paper, and a little pocket microscope.

The buying of that guide-book had exhilarated him astonishingly. He had
the uplifting joy that afternoon of believing in himself; and because he
believed in himself, he was feeling for the moment that all things were
possible to him: to keep his boy's love, to take a reasonable view of
poor Marianne's death, to mend his torn spirit, to lift his head, to
lift his heart, and being free from harassment, to use to better
advantage the gifts of his intellect, and--to pass on. He knew that this
mood would change, but whilst it was on him he was grateful and almost
jubilant.

"What should we poor mortals do unless we did believe in ourselves
sometimes?" he said. "It is our moments of self-confidence which carry
us through our years of self-doubting."

He came in like a schoolboy, tremendously pleased with his shopping,
especially with that guide-book. He hurried to the reading-room, but
Alan was not there; and so he hastened to the boy's bedroom, where he
found him moping as before. One by one, with unconcealed eagerness and
triumph, Clifford displayed his treasures. Alan did not seem to care. He
scarcely looked at them, and even the pocket-microscope aroused no
enthusiasm in him. Clifford gave no sign of noticing the boy's
indifference and ungraciousness; but he was disappointed, and longed to
tell Knutty. In the evening Alan was still in the same mood, and
Clifford made up his mind to speak to him in the morning. They were both
so reserved, that speech was not easy to either of them when it had to
do with their inmost thoughts; and Clifford knew that Alan was
suffering, not sulking. He let the boy go off to bed alone, and sat in
the reading-room by himself.

All the old sadness came as a wave over him, and swept everything else
from him. There was a rift in the lute; he had been conscious of it ever
since Marianne's death. Knutty had laughed at his fears; but even she
had noticed the boy's strained manner, and had tried to ease the
tension. And then for a time things had gone better, and Alan had come
nearer to his father again, back, indeed, to the old tender comradeship
so dear to both of them. But now he was retreating once more. Clifford
knew by instinct that Marianne was between them: Marianne in all her
imperiousness, tenfold more imperious because of her tragic death.

An hour or so went by, and Clifford still lingered, given over to sad
memories and anxious fears. Two or three people came in, glanced at the
evening papers, and hurried away. He did not look up. But when Katharine
opened the door, he knew. In spite of himself he came out of his sad
reveries; in spite of himself a passionate gladness seized the man's
heart. He forgot Marianne, forgot Mrs Stanhope. He forgot Alan. He
forgot everything.

He threw all his former life, with its failures and burdens, to the
winds, and rushed recklessly on, free for the moment--gloriously
free--with the song of spring and hope resounding in his ears and urging
him onwards, onwards!

He rose at once and went to meet her.

"Ah," he said. "I must just go and fetch that book about Denmark. I want
to tell you several things about my old Knutty's country. I will not be
one moment gone."

He hurried away, leaving her, too, with the song of love and life and
hope echoing around her. Her loneliness had passed from her.

He ran up the stairs to his bedroom, found the book, and was just
running down again, when he paused outside his boy's room, which was
opposite to his own.

"I will slip in and see if he is asleep," he thought. "Then my mind will
be easier about him."

He opened the door gently, treading as softly as a loving mother might
tread who has come in the stealth of the night to see if all was well
with the beloved bairns; to touch each one on the dear head, as in
blessing, to smile at each one and then creep out again, satisfied and
comforted. Alan was sleeping, but restlessly. The bedclothes were thrown
off him, and he was murmuring something in his dreams. His father bent
over him and covered him up. He did not wake, but went on, whispering a
few disconnected words. Clifford bent to listen, and he heard, "_Mother_
... _Mrs Stanhope_...." Then there came a sort of sob. The man's heart
stood still. He waited with bowed head. The boy was dreaming of his
mother. Was he perhaps remembering in his dream how he used to come and
say to his father, "Mother has been with Mrs Stanhope to-day"? That was
the only comment on Marianne which ever passed between father and son;
it was their code, their signal of danger. Was it that? Or what was it?
What was troubling him?

Suddenly the thought flashed through the man's mind:

"_Has he seen that woman somewhere?_"

And again the old miserable fear took possession of him. He longed to
kneel down by the side of the bed and beg his little son to tell him
everything that was in his heart, so that nothing and no one might ever
come between them. He knew that when the morrow came he himself would be
too proud and reserved to ask, and his boy too proud and reserved to own
to any secret grief, however great. He had been like that himself as a
boy--he was scarcely any different now--he, a grown man; he understood
so well this terrible stone wall of reserve which the prisoners
themselves would fain pierce. Supposing he were to waken the boy now and
ask him, this very moment? Perhaps it would be easier to tell, this very
moment.

He did not waken him after all; for Alan's restlessness subsided
suddenly, and he passed into quiet sleep. So Clifford stole out of the
room and stood waiting at the top of the staircase, in doubt as to
whether he should go down or not. At last he went down, impelled against
his will. Katharine saw at once the change of expression on his face.

"I feel greatly troubled, Miss Frensham," he said in his half-reluctant
way. "My boy has been unhappy all the day, and now he is talking in his
sleep about--about that Mrs Stanhope. After what you told me, I hope
with all my heart that she has not seen him."

"Oh no, no. It can only be a coincidence," Katharine said.

"Do you really think so?" he said, with a faint smile on his troubled
face.

"Indeed I do," she answered emphatically.

"Ah," he said, "the worst of it is that I do not believe in
coincidences. There is a secret threadless thread of communication
running through the whole region of thought and feeling and event."

"Then I must find something else to say to you," Katharine said, still
undaunted.

And she looked at him, and for the very life of her she could not keep
back the words which came with a rush to her lips:

"Believe in yourself more, Professor Thornton, as I do."



CHAPTER XIII.


After a few days Clifford Thornton and his boy started for New York, and
Katharine was left once more alone in heart and spirit. She had no idea
of the great struggle which had been going on in the man's mind: a
double encounter with the past tragedy of his life and the future
possibilities of love and happiness. When he said good-bye to her, there
seemed to be no sign of regret over the parting which had come as a
matter of course. She could not know that behind his impenetrable manner
was concealed a passionate longing which appalled him by its insistence
and intensity. She could not know that his hurried departure was out of
sternness to himself, as well as out of consideration for the boy's
well-being. She could not know that once, twice, several times he had
nearly thrown up the whole journey for the sake of staying longer near
her--in her presence. If she could have known this, she would have been
comforted. But she only saw that a grave, sad man had gone back to his
past. There had been a moment of travelling on; for that moment they
had travelled together. But now the brief journey was over. She lived it
all over again: she went through the pleasant meetings, the grave
impersonal talks, the sudden passings on, the sudden retreats: the
feeling of fellowship, the feeling of aloofness: her championship of him
to Mrs Stanhope: her championship of him to himself: her entire belief
in him openly expressed direct to him.

"My belief in him waits for him whether he wants it or not. And I am
glad that he knows it," she said to herself proudly.

But in her heart of hearts she knew that he wanted it. If she had not
known it, she might, for all her brave show of spirit, have regretted
her impulsive outcry.

But she regretted nothing--nothing except that he had gone. She thought
of the men who had wanted to marry her, men unburdened with sad
histories and memories, men to whom life had been joyous, and
circumstance favourable. She had pushed them all aside without a single
pang. But this stranger, who was no stranger, and who was claimed by his
past, Katharine yearned to detain. But he had gone.

She gathered herself together to pass on. She looked about for a flat,
and found what she wanted across Westminster Bridge, in Stangate. There
she established herself, and began to see some of her old friends, and
take a fresh survey of London. Katharine was intensely patriotic, and
having been three years from home, was eager to see once more the
favourite sights and places to which absence had lent a glamour of love
and romance. She spent hours in her own surroundings: by the Embankment,
in the Abbey, round about the Houses of Parliament. She sat in the
Abbey, enjoying the dim light and hushed silence of the Past. Lonely
thoughts did not come to her there. There, the personal fades from one.
One is caught up on wings. And if the organ should play, the throb of
the outside life is stilled. She haunted Trafalgar Square. She watched
the Horse Guards change sentry. She went down to the City, sat in St
Paul's, visited the Guildhall. Her friends laughed lovingly at her.

"Ah!" she answered; "go and live out of the old country for a few years,
and if you don't feel a thrill when you return, you are not worthy of
having been born in England."

She went down to the Natural History Museum. She spent hours there,
lingering in the Mineral-room, where she had been with Clifford Thornton
and his boy. It comforted her to be there. She went over all the
beautiful things he had pointed out to her; she recalled how an unknown
mysterious subject had become as a romance full of wonder and interest.

She had meetings with the three devoted musicians, lunching with them at
restaurants representative of their respective nationalities. Ronald did
not go with her.

"No use asking 'brother,'" said Signor Luigi, waving his arms and giving
a sort of leap in the air. "Maccaroni of my native land! _I_ will do the
_rôle_ of the adorable lady--the Signora Grundy!"

"No use asking 'brother,'" said Monsieur Gervais. "'Brother' is a grand
gentleman now, and goes to 'Princes.' He has the stiff necks now."

"No use asking 'brother,'" said Herr Edelhart. "'Brother' likes not to
come without madame his wife, and madame does not love the quartette,
does not admire my wunderbar tone. Donner wetter! what a tone I have!"

Katharine laughed with them and at them, and loved to be in their
company, but her heart was far away; and in the midst of the fun, her
thoughts went straying to that man who had come in that unexpected way
into her life--and gone. She fretted, and there was no one in whom she
could have confided. Ronnie was too much taken up with his own affairs
and his passionate adoration of his wife to have any real mental leisure
for her. Katharine saw that great love, even as great sorrow, shuts the
whole world out. She knew herself excluded from his inner shrine, whilst
his outward social surroundings were increasingly uncongenial to her.
She was troubled about him, too. He looked harassed, and had lost the
old lightheartedness of three years ago. She tried in her kindly way to
probe him; but in vain. She turned away sadly, recognising that she was
no longer his confidante, and he was no longer hers.

She was happier with the Tonedales; and to them she went from time to
time during those sad weeks, and continued to sit to Willy for that
eternal portrait of Mary, Queen of Scots.

"Thank Heaven, Kath," he said one day, "you still have some leisure. No
one has any leisure nowadays. Even Margaret has got dragged by the
scruff of the neck into what my delightful cousin Julia calls 'a
strenuous life.' Always at something, always doing something for some
one who doesn't want that something done; always working at some cause.
Great Scott, Kath! I don't mind you going into business so much, but if
you take up a Cause, I shall commit suicide! Darling cousin Julia is
great on Causes, you know. Good Heavens! What a tongue that woman has!
If Causes want tongues, then she ought to get permanent employment
without any difficulty. By Jove! though, you gave it to her that day,
didn't you?"

Katharine had arrived in a state of great depression on that afternoon;
and when Willy began speaking of Mrs Stanhope, her thoughts turned at
once to Clifford Thornton, and her face became full of grief. Willy
noticed the change in her expression, but went on painting silently.
When he looked at her again, he saw tears in her eyes. He put down
palette and brush and came to her. He saw at once that something was
wrong with her, and all his kindest feelings of concern sprang up to
protect her.

"Why, Kath," he said, "what's the matter with you? Any one been unkind
to you? By Jove! I'll let them know if they have. They won't do it a
second time. You should have heard me bullyragging cousin Julia. I gave
her a bit of my mind for being so disagreeable to you the other day.
What is wrong, Kath? Tell me, my dear."

She looked at him in a forlorn way.

"I am unhappy, Willy," she said; "that's what is wrong."

"Well, you might at least tell me what it is, my dear," he said. "You
know I would do anything to help you. Anything on earth."

"You cannot help me," she said listlessly. "It is something I have to
fight out in myself, old fellow."

He glanced at her, and then said:

"I believe we have known each other twenty years, Kath."

She nodded assent.

"Then I think the least you can do for me, if you can't love me, is to
let me be your best friend," he said. "We all know that Ronnie is so
taken up with Gwendolen that he has no thought for any one else just
now. But I--I have no wife. And my mind is at leisure, and my brain
too--such as it is--and always at your service, as you know."

"If only I had a profession," Katharine said. "That has been my mistake
all along, Willy. Every one ought to have a calling--no matter what it
is; and it won't fail them in moments of poverty and trouble and--and
desolation."

"So you are feeling desolate," he said sadly, "I knew you would when you
came back and realised that Ronnie was married. I dreaded it for you."

"It is not only that," she answered, "though I have felt that bitterly.
But----"

"Well?" he said, turning to her.

"I should like to tell you, Willy," she replied tremblingly--"but it is
not fair on you."

"I know what it is," he said quite quietly, but with a sudden
illumination on his face. "You have fallen in love with that stranger,
Professor Thornton, Kath."

There was no answer, no sign. Katharine sat rigid and speechless.

"It would be fairer to tell me," he said, "fairer and kinder. Believe
me."

"Yes; I have fallen in love with the stranger," she answered gently; and
as she thought of him afresh, the tears streamed down her cheeks.

Willy Tonedale watched her a moment.

"Well, my dear," he said, "I can't pretend to be glad; but, of course,
you had to love some one sooner or later--even I knew that."

"I wish I had something else to tell you, Willy," she said simply,
"something to make you happy; but I can't help myself, can I?"

"No, my dear," he said in a low voice. "'The wind bloweth where it
listeth.' And you have never been anything except your own frank
splendid self to me."

"It came over me the moment I saw him," Katharine said, half to herself.
"I knew nothing about him, but I seemed to have come suddenly out of a
lonely wilderness--such a lonely wilderness--and found him. Then I heard
part of his history, and it filled me with great pity, as it does now.
And then we met again in the hotel. It was so strange that we should
meet there, each knowing nothing of the other. And yet it seemed natural
to be together; it seemed almost to be the continuation, not the
beginning, of something. And then--that's all, Willy. He has gone his
way."

"He will never forget you," Willy said dreamily. "He could not if he
wished."

"I suppose if I were a well-balanced sort of person," Katharine went
on, "with the regulation mind which a regulation woman is supposed to
have, I ought not to have allowed myself to think twice of him--him so
recently bereaved of his wife. And, having allowed it, I ought to be
prepared to receive the reproaches of all the British matrons in the
world. I know all that, and yet I have not been able to help myself,
Willy, though I've been ashamed, too."

"There was no reason for you to be ashamed," he said. "She had died and
gone her way before you even saw him. Don't be miserable about that,
Kath. You could not do anything mean or horrible if you tried till
Doomsday."

"How you believe in me, Willy!" she exclaimed. "That makes me ashamed.
But it is a great comfort, too."

"Kath," he said sadly, "I knew that you loved him when you spoke up for
him to cousin Julia. Your face told me that."

And then there was a silence between them. Willy had lit a cigar, and he
walked up and down the studio, his eyes fixed on the floor. At last he
raised his head, and stood still in front of her.

"And what are you going to do now?" he asked.

"Oh, I am going to gather myself together somehow," she replied, with
something of her old vivacity. "One has to live."

"Yes, yes, you must do that, and you must take comfort and courage," he
said. "He cannot forget you."

"But Willy," she cried, as though in sudden pain; "but he is a man sad
and overburdened--a man with a broken spirit--perhaps if things had been
different--but now----"

Willy came nearer. His face was pale and his eyes were a little dim.

"Look here, Kath," he said, "you take my word for it, you were not born
for unhappiness. By Jove! and you shan't have it either. You were meant
for all the best and brightest things in the world, and, by Jove! you
shall have them. I'll help you to get them--we'll all help you to get
them; you must have anything you want--any one you want, only you
mustn't be unhappy. I can't stand that--never could stand that--always
was a fool about you, Kath--always shall be one--never could change if I
wanted to; don't want to--unless--unless I could have been the man with
the broken spirit."

Then Katharine forgot about herself and remembered only Willy. All her
kind and generous feelings broke through the barrier of her grief. She
sprang to her feet, brushed away her tears, and turned to him with
impetuous eagerness.

"Willy," she said, "I've been a selfish brute pouring out my troubles to
you in this way--poor old fellow! What have I done to you in return for
your faithful kindness of all these years? Given you pain and
disappointment and sadness, and never a glimmer of hope, and now my own
selfish confidence about my feelings for another man. What can I do to
ease your kind, unselfish heart? I know there is not much I can do--but
there must be something. Let me do it, whatever it is."

A tumult came into Willy's heart. A light came into his eyes. He
quenched the light; he quelled the tumult for her dear sake.

"There is one thing you can do for me, Kath," he said in a voice which
trembled; "don't ever regret you trusted me and told me. You couldn't
have told every one. It had to be the right person. Don't take that from
me. And, you see, I knew. I knew by instinct. So don't reproach
yourself. You've never been anything else except a brick to me ever
since I can remember you."

She shook her head in deprecation of his praise, and said gently:

"I will never regret that I trusted you, Willy."

"Thank you, my dear," he said, with more of his old drawling manner
again. "And now let's have another shot at my immortal masterpiece.
That's right, Kath. Dry your eyes. Pull yourself together like Mary
Queen of Scots did on the scaffold. By Jove! she must have been a
stunner! I shall never believe that when her head dropped off, it was
the head of a wizened-up old woman. If that was the truth, I don't want
the truth. By Jove! here's tea. Margaret has gone off to a Cause, and
mother has gone to a dentist and then to a Christian Science meeting.
Those Christian Scientists pretend they can do without doctors, but they
stick to the dentists right enough. No, I'll pour out the tea, Kath. You
stay where you are, on the scaffold--I mean the platform. My word, what
a brain I have! It isn't only slow, but it's so deucèd confused, isn't
it?"

So he tried to cheer her; and when he took her to her home that
afternoon, she had regained her outward composure, and felt all the
better for having had the blessing of a true friend's kindness. His
last words were, "Don't you dare to regret that you trusted me."

       *       *       *       *       *

But when he was alone, his face looked ashen and sad, and his eyes had a
world of grief in them. For that evening, at least, Willy Tonedale, his
beautiful features illuminated by love and loss, might well have stood
for the portrait of a man with a broken spirit.

       *       *       *       *       *

And whilst he was passing through his hour of sadness, Katharine was
reading a letter from the Danish botanists, Ejnar and Gerda Ebbesen,
Knutty's nephew and niece. They wrote in answer to her letter to say
that they had left Denmark and were spending their holidays at a
Norwegian farm. They suggested that she might be inclined to bring the
botanical parcel to them there. Their aunt was with them, and she was
most interested to hear that Miss Frensham had made the acquaintance of
her Englishman and his boy.

"I shall go," Katharine said. "There is nothing to prevent me."

"I shall see the old Dane whom he loves," she said, with a glow of
warmth in her heart.

       *       *       *       *       *

In a few days she packed up and went to Norway.



PART II.

IN NORWAY.



CHAPTER I.[C]


Fröken Knudsgaard pretended to grumble a good deal at having to leave
Copenhagen and go to Norway with Gerda and Ejnar. But there was no help
for it. It was a time-honoured custom that she spent the whole summer
with her nephew and niece. It was true that they saw each other
constantly all through the year, for Tante lived opposite the
Orstedpark, and the botanists, who lived at Frederiksberg, passed that
way every time they went to the Botanic Museum and Library, and would
never have neglected to run in for a chat. Sometimes, also, they lunched
with her in her cosy little home, where, in the spring, she saw the
limes of the Boulevard unfold their tender leaves, and where in summer
she watched the sun disappear in the north-west behind the trees. It
was indeed a pretty little home, made, so she said, wickedly comfortable
by her Clifford's kindness.

But these fragments of companionship were not considered enough by the
botanists; and summer was the time when they claimed Tante for their
own, whether she liked it or not. But of course she liked it; only she
felt it to be her duty as a healthy human being to have a permanent
grievance.

"Don't talk to me about giving up my grievances," she said. "All
right-minded people ought to have them. Rise above them, indeed! Thank
you! I don't want to rise above anything!"

However, after the usual formality of grumbling, Tante was charmed at
the prospect of having a change. Ejnar had set his heart on going to the
Gudbrandsdal to find a particular kind of shrub which grew only in one
district of that great valley. He was a gentle fellow, except where his
botanical investigations were concerned. But if any one thwarted him
over his work, he became quite violent. Tante Knudsgaard used to look at
him sometimes when he was angry, and say in her quaint way:

"Kjaere, one would think you were an anarchist instead of a harmless
botanist. One would think you spent your days with dynamite instead of
with innocent flowers and mosses, which don't explode."

Gerda, also a botanist, and just as clever and distinguished as her
husband, wished specially to go up to Tromsö, to find some particular
kind of saxifrage, growing nowhere in Europe except on the
Tromsdalstind.

But Tante struck.

"No," she said. "You don't get me to go up there within the Arctic
circle. I've had quite enough of icebergs this spring with my two poor
icebergs in England. Poor darlings! I suppose they have reached America
by now. I ought to be hearing soon."

"I cannot imagine why you made them go so far," Gerda said.

"When people are in trouble they must always go a long way," said Tante.
"Even if they come back the next moment."

"You might have sent them to Tromsö," Gerda remarked, with a grim smile.
"That is almost as far. And then we could all have gone and found the
saxifrage. You would have been willing enough to go if you had had your
Englishman with you."

"Perhaps; who knows?" replied Tante. "The human heart is a wayward
thing. I think you have never heard me say otherwise. But why not go to
Tromsö by yourself, dear one? You won't feel at all lonely if you have
the companionship of the saxifrage. You won't miss Ejnar and me in the
least. You won't want to come back the next moment after you have left
us. Oh, no! You won't miss us."

"No," answered Gerda, giving her a hug. "But you would miss me. And
Ejnar would be wretched if he hadn't me to quarrel with."

"Yes, you must have your quarrels," said Tante gravely. "All
well-conducted botanists would go to perdition without two or three
quarrels a-week. You must stay, Gerda, if only for the sake of science.
Only, give in without a mortal battle this time, and let us go
peacefully to the Gudbrandsdal. Ejnar has the dynamite-look on his face.
He has set his heart on that shrub. Heaven and St Olaf help us! We must
get it!--even if we have to scale mountains. Imagine me scaling
mountains, dear one. Have pity on me, and come and help!"

Gerda gave way; a mortal battle was avoided, the dynamite-look
disappeared from Ejnar's gentle face, and all three started off for
Norway in good spirits and admirable tempers. Ejnar was a tall man,
thin, and dark for a Dane. He looked rather 'comatose,' as Tante called
him, except when his botanical emotions were aroused. Then he sprang
into life and became an inspired being, with all the sublime beauty of
intelligence on his face. He only cared for botany, Gerda, and Tante
Knudsgaard. He did not positively dislike music, and did not always go
out of the room when Gerda sang. He was a silent fellow, and scarcely
ever laughed, except over his work, and then sometimes he would give
forth peals of hearty laughter most refreshing to hear and quite boyish.
That was when he had done some satisfactory bit of difficult
classification. Gerda, being musical as well as botanical, was rather
more human. She was of middle height, slight, and wonderfully fair, with
an abundance of fair hair, and a pair of glacier-blue eyes. She sang
gloriously in a wild, untrained manner which thrilled through every one
except Ejnar. He had, however, the greatest and most generous admiration
of her knowledge as a botanist, and was most particular that every paper
with which she had helped him, should bear her name as well as his. In
fact, in his way he loved her dearly. Their quarrels were entirely
scientific, never human. In their simple way they led an almost ideal
life, for they were free to work in an untrammelled fashion at the
subjects they loved, Ejnar holding no official position in connection
with his work, but being sleeping partner in his brother's glove-factory
in Christianhavn. They were very happy together, and although Gerda had
a restless theory that it was ridiculous to be always together, she had
been utterly miserable on the one occasion when she had gone off alone,
and had returned the next day. Tante, remembering this, teased her
continually, of course; and when the good ship brought them to
Christiania, she said to her:

"Are you quite sure you are not wanting to go off to Tromsö alone? You
could come back the next minute, you know, quite easily."

"Nã," answered Gerda gaily. "I prefer to stay and be teased!"

They saw the sights of Christiania, spending most of the time in the
Botanical Department of the University; and then took the train up to
the Gudbrandsdal, the largest and most fertile valley in Norway. They
had engaged rooms for themselves at a large Gaard (farmhouse) owned by
rich peasants of noble lineage, who in the summer months took a few
guests into their spacious dwelling-place. The Gaard had a splendid
situation, lying on the mountain-side, about two thousand feet above
sea-level, and commanding a far-stretching view of the great valley,
which was spread out generously below, dotted with hundreds of farms,
and with two shining rivers flowing on separately, meeting each other,
and then passing on together. Looking down on all those homesteads, one
was reminded all the time of the words of the Norwegian poet, who sings
of Norway, the land of a thousand homes. Red Gaards, being new buildings
added to the original family-home of many generations: bright red,
standing out boldly and picturesquely against the grain fields and the
green of the firs and birches. Dark-brown, almost black Gaards, burnt to
their deep dye by the ever-working hand of Time. Fine old Gaards, not
built of puny slices of wood with which builders content themselves in
these mean-spirited days; but fashioned of entire tree-trunks, grand old
fellows of the giant forests of the past. Dense masses of firs and
birches: down in the valley and advancing boldly up the mountain-sides,
and lining the deep gorges of the side-valleys as well, and pressing on
to a quite unreasonable height, from a conventional point of view, firs
and birches contending all the time as to which should climb the higher.
Waterfalls here and there, catching the sunlight and sending forth
iridescent jewels of rarest worth. Hundreds of grass-grown roofs, some
with flowers and some even with a fir or two amidst the grass. White
bell-towers to every storehouse, with the bell to summon all the
labourers to food and rest. Countless fields of grain of every kind:
some of it cut and fixed on sticks at regular intervals, so that a
regiment would seem to be waiting the word of command: ready and
immovable: a peaceful region of warfare. And a warfare in reality, too,
a hard nature being the enemy.

Then those wonderful rivers: one of them coming straight from a glacier
and therefore unmistakable, even though the changing clouds might give
to it varying shades of colour. Grey and glacier, blue and glacier, rose
and glacier, black and glacier, white and glacier, golden and glacier.
And the other river, not less beautiful because less complex. And the
two together winding through the valley: now hidden from sight, now
coming into view again, now glistening in the far distance, and now
disappearing finally--no--one more glimpse if one strains the eye--one
more greeting, and then, farewell--they have gone their way!

And the snow mountains--not very near, and not very snowy just now; but,
for all that, the glory of the country, the very desire of one's heart,
the shrine of one's secret and mysterious longings.


[Footnote C: All the spellings and expressions are Norwegian and Danish,
and are therefore not to be mistaken for incorrect German.]



CHAPTER II.


Both the botanists and Tante were delighted with the place. Tante, who
adored limitless space, had not quite liked the idea of coming to a
valley.

"You know I have always hated restraints of any kind, dear ones," she
said. "And even at the age of seventy, I desire to continue in the
straight path of blessed uncontrol. Valleys make me shudder a
little--like conventions! Bah!"

But even she was content when she saw the immense proportions of her
prison.

"Well," she said, with a twinkle in her eye, "there is space and freedom
enough for me, for a little while. All is well with me, dear ones. Go
and find your shrubs and be happy. It is true that you have brought your
poor stout relation to a place on the mountain-side where she can
neither go up nor down. Nothing could have been more cruel. But no
matter. She will look at the view and try to feel chastened by patience
and all the other dull virtues. And she will go on knitting socks for
the dear English soldiers. They will never get them, of course. Still,
she will do her best for them, hoping that King Red Tape will allow them
to be delivered. Yes, dear ones, hasten to your shrubs and have some
stimulating quarrels over them. Tante is content for a minute or two."

And she really was happy, and deeply interested in the owners of the
Gaard, rich landowners, Bönder, aristocrats of Norway, direct
descendants of kings and chieftains--Vikinger, in fact; proud and
reserved: proud of their noble lineage, and reserved of feeling and in
manner, and yet, when tactfully approached, capable of the greatest
kindness and appreciative understanding: dignified in behaviour, and
refined in form and feature, bearing on them, indeed, the royal seal of
good birth and good breeding. The Solli family was one of the oldest and
noblest in the valley, and had the most important and most highly
decorated and carved pew in the old brown church. There were three
girls: stately Ragnhild, lovely Ingeborg, and gentle little Helga, the
pet of the family. And there were two sons, Karl and Jens. Karl, being
the elder, would in time inherit the Gaard, paying his brothers and
sisters a share, and giving to his father and mother mysterious dues
called Föderaad. But as Solli and his wife were strong and active, and
Karl was not even betrothed, there was no occasion for the older people
to retire; and meanwhile an older couple still, the grandparents, were
eking out their lives in the comfortable old black dower-house in the
court of the Gaard. Grandmother (Bedstemor) had never wanted to retire,
and bore on her face a settled look of disappointment which had been
accentuated by the coming and going of twenty years. Grandfather
(Bedstefar) had been ailing for many years. He lay in the big bedroom of
the black house, and waited for the caressing hand of Death.

Solli's wife, whose Christian name was Inga, and who in accordance with
custom was called Mor (mother) Inga, was, in her stately way, greatly
attracted to the old Danish lady, and told her many interesting details
about the Gaard. Tante had such perfect tact, and was such a comfortable
easy creature to be with, that she found herself soon _en rapport_ with
the family. A glass of gooseberry-wine, followed on the next day by some
corn-brandy, seemed to indicate that a delightful acquaintanceship was
ripening; and when Mor Inga took her to the Stabur (the storehouse),
that most sacred precinct of every self-respecting Norwegian Gaard, and
showed her the treasures and mysteries of Norwegian housekeeping, every
one felt that Fröken Knudsgaard "had arrived." Even the disagreeable old
magistrate (Sorenskriver)[D] from S----, one of the eight or ten guests,
admitted that.

"She has seen the Stabur," he said, with a grim smile, and he actually
forgot to help himself first to cheese, but passed her a few delicate
shavings; a sure sign from him of even passing respect.

After an introduction to the Stabur, any other honour on earth was easy
of attainment; and no one was surprised to learn that Ragnhild was going
to put up her loom and teach the Danish lady to weave. And Mor Inga
fetched great-grandmother's old painted spinning-wheel from the top room
of the Stabur and put it in the little balcony which overlooked the
courtyard; and she brought some fresh wool from the wool-room--another
sacred spot--and sent for old Kari, who was especially clever at carding
the wool. And Tante sat and knitted, whilst old Kari carded the wool and
Mor Inga span. This was Tante's first introduction to old Kari, eighty
years old, and full of fairy lore.

"Ah," whispered Mor Inga to Tante, "Kari can tell thee many stories of
the Gudbrandsdal if she likes. But it must be in secret, when there is
no young person near to laugh and disbelieve. One day thou shalt give
her a little coffee in a packet--all for herself--and then thou wilt
hear all sorts of things."

But to-day Kari only carded the wool, smiling amusedly at being in the
company of the big Danish lady, who spoke to her so kindly and treated
her as though she were a lady herself and not an old parish-woman who
had no home of her own. Ja, ja, that was very nice, and Kari scratched
her head, and smiled more and more, until even the furrows on her grim
old face were filled up with smiles, and her eyes seemed almost young
and very bright.

"Ah," said Tante, with a friendly nod, "I know some one who has been
very pretty. Oh, I have eyes--sharp, sharp eyes. I can see!"

And Mor Inga laughed and said:

"Kari was beautiful, and she could dance too. They say that in the old
days no one could dance the spring-dance like Kari."

"Nei, nei!" said Kari, smiling more and more still. And her thoughts
wandered back to her Ole--dead these twenty years and more. He had
always said that no one could dance like Kari.

All this kept Fröken Knudsgaard busy; and indeed her distractions
increased as the days went on. Sometimes she sat in the balcony which
looked over the splendid view, and, seized by a sudden enthusiasm for
nature, watched the ever-changing colours of the rivers, and the shadows
on the hillsides, and listened to the music of the waterfall down below
in the Vinstra gorge. But she did not pretend to be able to live on
Nature's great wonders alone. She was delightfully candid about it.

"No, my dear ones," she said to Ejnar and Gerda, "I am the wicked
product of a beautifully wicked world. I need my fellow-sinners. It
would never have contented me to lie flat on my stomach looking for
flowers and grasses, and so forth. Nor would it have been desirable for
me. I should never have got up!"

Nevertheless, when her botanists came back from their wanderings, with
their green tin wallets full of mystic treasures unguessed at by the
uninitiated, she was eagerness itself to know whether they had had "good
hunting." And when Gerda said:

"Wicked old Tante, you know you are interested in these things," she
answered gaily:

"No, no; but I have accepted my fate. Since my best beloved ones are all
scientific sillies, I have to appear to be interested in what they do."

She felt it to be her duty to secure, on behalf of science, a big study
for her botanists, and Mor Inga let her have a vast room in one of the
out-buildings.

"They must have plenty of room to quarrel in," she explained to Mor
Inga. "Everything goes so much more easily if there is generous space."

"And," she added to herself, "it is my experience that scientific people
are safer caged up in their laboratories and studies. You know they are
all right then. When they are wandering about, they might get lost; but
when they are shut up, they are comparatively safe, barring brain fever
and explosions, of course."

So she caged her botanists, and felt herself free to amuse herself with
human nature whilst they were immersed in the study of nature.

"Well, then, good-bye for the moment," she said, when she shut them up
for the first time. "I will now go and have a few disagreeable words
with that horrid Sorenskriver, who dislikes my belovèd English. I will
go and sit quite near him, and knit my stockings for the dear English
soldiers. That annoys him beyond everything. What a delight to see his
irritation! Poor Sorenskriver! He suffers, and I enjoy. That is the way
in life, and very amusing too. My poor dear ones, what a pity you cannot
have a little fun too. Well, I suppose you do get it through your
microscopes."

But they had a great deal of fun in a quiet way. No one could be long
with Tante without catching a little of her gaiety; and even Ejnar was
heard to laugh sometimes over matters which had nothing to do with his
work. And Gerda left her cage and went singing in the birch-woods above
the Gaard, and along the mountain paths. She was content, too, and had
forgotten about the saxifrage. And Tante attempted short little strolls
along the easiest road, and always stopped by the black hay-barn near
the group of mountain-ashes, which rejoiced her eyes. Here she sat down
and took out her opera-glasses, really to observe the clouds, though she
pretended always to be looking at the numberless Gaards and barns which
covered the hillsides and mountain-slopes. But once she forgot her
_rôle_ of indifference to nature, and cried enthusiastically to Gerda:

"By St Olaf! I never saw such soft clouds in my life, nor such colours!
And just look at the reflection in the rivers, Gerda. Sapristi, how
beautiful!"

"What is this I hear?" cried Gerda. "Tante admiring nature!"

"Oh, that's a big Gaard--that yonder," said Tante, correcting herself
with a twinkle in her eye. "I wonder what the name is, and how many
cotters they have, and how many children, how many cows up at the
Saeter, how many goats, how many cheeses they make, how many sheep they
have; whether Bedstefar and Bedstemor are alive, and whether they have
as comfortable quarters as our Bedstefar and Bedstemor. Ah, and that
reminds me that I am drinking coffee with Bedstemor this afternoon. Help
me up, Gerda, and don't stand staring at that cloud as though you had
never seen one in your life before."

So Tante drank coffee with picturesque old Bedstemor in the old
dower-house of the Gaard.

The principal dwelling-place of the Gaard had been considerably added to
in modern times. The old part was in the middle, and new wings had been
built on either side, a whole new storey with a slate roof added, and a
new balcony and porch. So that the Gaard proper, in which Mor Inga
reigned, was a curious mixture of the old and the new: the new part
being painted pink, and the old part keeping its ancient glory intact.
But Bedstemor's house was untouched by modern hands; in fact, all the
houses which formed part of the settlement were just as they had been
for two or three hundred years. Bedstemor's house was the largest of
them all. There were about eight or nine others, all black or dark
brown, all with their roofs covered with long grass, amongst which grew
poppies, corn-flowers, and forget-me-nots. They were grouped together
round the courtyard, as quaint and picturesque a sight as one might see
anywhere. The Stabur stood somewhat apart from the other buildings, and
was raised above the ground by tree-trunks which looked like elephants'
legs. The Stabur had a conceited, self-contained look after the manner
of all true Staburs. It seemed to be saying all the time, "_Behold me, I
am the Stabur!_" The possession of a white bell-tower on its grass-grown
roof, and of an old carved door, encouraged its self-importance, and
gave it an air of distinction not enjoyed by the other houses. Still,
they had their tall white chimneys; and it is obvious that one cannot
have everything in life. And some of them also had a more picturesque
situation than the Stabur: creeping up the hill, indeed, as though they
were thinking of climbing up into the woods, but had stopped to rest by
a mountain-ash, or by a graceful birch; whilst others, mounting higher,
came to a standstill at last and were used for storing wood. Then there
were hay-barns of various sizes and shapes, the most characteristic
being those with sloping bridges leading up to the top floor. And last,
not least, there was the great cowhouse, forsaken now except for five or
six cows which had not gone up to the Saeter. And Ingaros, the most
beautiful cow of all, christened after Mor Inga, was sulking partly
because she had not gone up to the Saeter, but chiefly because she, the
belle of the Gaard and the authorised leader of the herd, had been
deprived of her noble collar and bell. Some wretched upstart of a
creature was wearing it, so that she might be sure to come home to her
calves.

Ingaros had Tante's profound sympathy. She visited her in the cowhouse
at milking-time, and exchanged a few understanding greetings with her.
Old Kari was milking her and singing a soothing little song, something
about a saeter-girl who lost all her cows, and she danced and they all
came back again, and then she sang and sang till they ran away again!
Tante stood and listened delightedly to the clear, sweet voice of the
old woman.

"Ja, ja, Kari," she said, "I believe I have some coffee-berries in my
pocket. Such a song deserves a good cup Of coffee."


"Stakkar!"[E] said Kari, smiling with delight. "Thou art a kind one,
although thou art not Norwegian. Thou shalt hear all the tunes I know."


[Footnote D: _Sorenskriver_, magistrate. He would be addressed always by
his title.]

[Footnote E: _Stakkar_ is a very usual expression of endearment, and
means "poor dear."]



CHAPTER III.


It was a hot afternoon. Ejnar and Gerda had had a quarrel over "Salix."
Ejnar's face wore the dynamite expression, and Gerda was white with
anger. Her glacier eyes looked like the eyes of a polar bear, and she
was moving her head to and fro in a manner which always meant
rebellion. On these occasions she longed for a divorce.

"Give me a divorce at once!" she cried tragically both to Ejnar and
Tante.

"My dear one," remarked Tante soothingly, "I don't keep divorces ready
in my pocket; and you know Ejnar never has even a handkerchief in his
pocket. You should have a divorce at once if we had one handy. Be
reasonable. Have I ever denied you anything in this world? Of course you
should have one instantly."

Ejnar was silent; but his expression was quite enough to blow up all the
royal palaces and personages in the universe. Tante herself did not feel
too amiable that afternoon. She had had an angry discussion with the
Sorenskriver and another man, a Norwegian fur-merchant, about England;
and she was shocked to hear them say things against the English which
she knew to be not only untrue, but venomously unjust.

"Why," she said, flourishing her knitting-needles, "even the greatest
criminal has some redeeming features. And as with criminals, so with
countries. But you leave England no virtues: not one."

The men shrugged their shoulders. It was so obvious to them that England
had no virtues. It was so obvious to them that they, who had never been
to that detestable country, knew far more about the character of the
people than this ridiculous old Danish woman who had spent about twenty
years amongst the barbarians. Tante was ruffled. And Ejnar, being in a
disagreeable mood, had chimed in too against this much-abused nation.

"Ja," he said in his quiet way, "it is a barbarous country, this
England. I know nothing about politics, thank heaven, nothing about wars
and so forth. But this I can tell you: that England is the only country
which refused to exchange botanical specimens with our Botanical Museum.
The barbarian director wrote a rude letter."

"I've told you a dozen times, Ejnar, that it was all probably owing to
Red Tape," replied Tante angrily. She could have shaken Ejnar.

"And pray what is this Red Tape?" asked the Sorenskriver contemptuously.

"It is an invisible thread which no one has been able to cut, so far,"
said Tante. "Every one knows it is there and deplores its presence. If
it could once be cut, it would shrivel away, and one of England's
dangers would be gone."

"Then you admit she has dangers?" asked the fur-merchant, triumphantly
rubbing his hands.

"Ja, ja," said Tante Knudsgaard; "but the greatest of them is Red Tape.
She suffers from it in everything--both in war and in peace. But she
will overcome all her difficulties and emerge."

"Never, never!" said the Sorenskriver and fur-merchant joyfully
together. "Her day is gone."

"Then her twilight and her night will be like the glorious midnight
sunlight of your north," said Tante, turning to the fur-merchant who
came from the north.

"Pyt!" said the fur-merchant scornfully, and went away.

"Sniksnak!" said the Sorenskriver impatiently.

Tante made no reply, but went on knitting; and in a few minutes finished
a sock, which she spread on her knee, and then added it to a great pile
beside her on the seat of the courtyard verandah, where every one was
awaiting the arrival of the letters.

"That makes twelve pairs for those brave English soldiers," she said,
half to herself. And the Sorenskriver moved nearer to the horrid
spectacle, attracted to the spot against his own wishes. Tante laughed
silently; but, all the same, she was ruffled. Every one was more or less
cross.

Solli was worried about the crops, for there had been no rain for a long
time, and both corn and potatoes threatened to fail. Also, there was a
shortage of water, and that made him anxious about fire. Also,
Bedstefar was more ailing than usual, and the doctor had been sent for.
Bedstemor came over from her house, sat near Tante, and grumbled a
little because Bedstefar was so obstinate about the doctor. But she
cheered up when a Swedish lady, an artist, one of the guests, praised
her quaint, old-fashioned head-gear, and wanted to take a photograph of
her pretty old face.

"Ah," said Bedstemor, "many people have wanted to take a picture of me."

And then every one laughed, and said:

"Ja, Bedstemor, we can well believe it!"

That seemed to put every one in better spirits again; and soon beautiful
Ragnhild came out of the kitchen with a bundle of letters and papers,
and was the centre of an eager circle. Ejnar stood apart, near the
Stabur, not being concerned with human affairs. But Ragnhild had a
letter even for him, and took it to him herself. She and all the
peasants had a great respect for scholarship.

"There is a letter for the professor. Will he care to have it?" she said
gently.

She handed it to him in her own charming way, and even Ejnar was
pleased; for Ragnhild was the object of great admiration amongst the
men, although she kept them at a distance. And all the women, too,
admired her, and were glad when she came amongst them. Tante gave her a
good hug when she dropped several letters and papers into her lap, and
got in return an affectionate pat of approval on the back.

"Thou hast more than thy share of letters to-day," she said. "I shall
give thee none to-morrow."

"I don't want any more!" cried Tante, who had just glanced at one of her
letters. "Only think, Ragnhild, some dear friends of mine are coming
here. I should like to dance the Halling dance. Help me up, kjaere. I
want to dance over to the Botaniker. No use calling to him. He never
hears human sounds."

Then gaily the pretty girl and the old Danish woman went arm-in-arm to
the Stabur, near which Ejnar and Gerda were standing, their heads buried
in a letter. They looked up when they saw her, and cried:

"Such news! such news! It has come from America. She will bring it to us
at once. We have only to write and say where we are."

"And I, too, have something coming from America," cried Tante. "My
Clifford and his boy!"

"Only think, Tante, that valuable botanical parcel at last!" cried Gerda
wildly.

"Only think, my poor icebergs home again!" cried Tante, putting her arm
round each of them. "What could be more delightful! Your dried-up
flowers and my frozen-up human beings! Let us all be friends again and
have some aqua vitae. I feel at peace even with that wretched old
magistrate!"

"Oh, Gerda," said Ejnar, "what joys are before us! Just think of it--the
Mariposa lilies and the Romney poppy at last!"

When they had all calmed down a little, Tante read Katharine Frensham's
letter, and learned that she wished to bring the botanical parcel as
soon as she knew whether Herr and Frue Ebbesen could receive her. She
had heard from Professor Thornton that they were perhaps going to
Norway. If they had already gone, she could just as easily come there.
She added:

"It is curious that I, who knew nothing about Professor Thornton a few
weeks ago, should all the time have been in communication with the
nephew and niece of his dear Danish friend."

"Ja," said Tante, "waves--waves--wireless telegraphy, as always."

There was a sentence in Clifford's letter which struck Tante as being a
remarkable thing for him to have written.

"I have become acquainted with a Miss Frensham," he wrote, "to whom I
have given a letter of introduction to you--though she will scarcely
need it, being, as she is, on a botanical errand to Ejnar and Gerda, and
therefore to you. But I desired not to be left out in the cold where she
is concerned."

"Well," reflected Tante, "that is a remarkable thing for an iceberg to
say."

And she read the sentence several times in order to make sure that she
had caught the meaning. The rest of the letter ran thus:--

     "DEAR OLD KNUTTY,--Alan and I are coming back, and we shall come
     and find you somewhere and somehow. We have not been happy
     together. There is a shadow between us--that shadow which I always
     feared,--and he has something against me in his young heart which
     makes easy and close companionship impossible. We have both
     suffered. There was a man of my own age with his son, a boy of
     Alan's age, on board. I used to look at them with hungry eyes. They
     had such a good understanding between them; there were no shadows
     there. He was a great traveller, an ornithologist. And his boy
     thought he was the finest hero on earth, and worshipped him. I
     would not wish that; but I would only ask that Alan should believe
     in me again, as in the old days before--before Marianne's death. It
     will be good to hear your voice again, even if you do scold me for
     throwing over Japan. But, under present conditions, it is waste of
     money and waste of heart-fibre. Alan will be happier without me.
     Perhaps you won't scold me after all, Knutty. You are such a wise
     old Knutty; and I still think you were wise to send us in spite of
     everything."

"Of course I was wise to send you, my poor Clifford," Knutty said, as
she read the letter over and over again in the quiet of her beautiful
big bedroom, with its lovely views of the valley, the wood, and the
grass-roofed houses. "Of course I was wise to send you--even if you came
back the next moment. That doesn't matter. It is the starting-off which
counts. My poor boy, I won't scold you. My good, gentle-hearted
Clifford. You ought to have had a heart as tough as Knutty's. You would
not have wanted to gnaw it then; no temptation then. My poor boy!"

She rubbed two or three tears away from her cheeks, and tapped the floor
impatiently with her foot.

"Bah!" she said; "that Marianne, I never could bear her!"

And then something prompted her to turn once more to his letter, and she
read the words, "But I desired not to be left out in the cold where she
is concerned." A faint smile came over Knutty's face. It disappeared,
came again, stayed, deepened and deepened.

"By St Olaf, I believe I see daylight!" she cried.



CHAPTER IV.


So Katharine started off to Norway, taking the boat from the London
Docks. By a curious chance Mrs Stanhope was on board too, and the
presence of this bigot, Marianne's friend, Clifford Thornton's enemy,
stirred Katharine to her depths. They had bowed stiffly, and then had
contented themselves with glaring at each other.

It was a rough passage, and they were the only two women who did not
retreat to their cabins. They sat side by side, in silence, in a
sheltered part of the boat, having no choice to go elsewhere.

But although no words were spoken between them, an active warfare went
on unceasingly: encounter after encounter, and the victory to neither.

The voyage came to an end, Christiania was reached, and the two women
went, each her own way; each thankful to be free of the other.

But Mrs Stanhope, without knowing it, had sown fresh seeds of love and
protection in Katharine's heart for Clifford Thornton. More than ever
her thoughts turned to him. More than ever she found herself weaving a
fancy fabric of happiness and love. Then she rent it in pieces and began
it over again. She had to begin it again each time she had destroyed it,
and each time some new beauty was added.

And thus busy with her work of destroying and restoring, the train bore
her past beautiful Lake Mjösen, the biggest lake in Norway, and into the
Gudbrandsdal, where she at once made the acquaintance of the river
Laagen, the glacier river which Knutty, Ejnar, and Gerda were learning
to love in their upland Gaard. She thought of them as old friends. It
seemed to be quite natural that she was coming to them. She longed to
see Knutty. She knew that she would not have one minute's shyness with
Clifford's old Dane.

But she had not any idea how eagerly she was awaited. Tante was most
impatient to see her, and kept on murmuring to herself, "By St Olaf, I
see daylight through a leper's squint!" And when asked to explain these
mysterious words, she only said:

"Keep to your own department, botanists. Don't interfere with the
section marked human nature."

And Ejnar and Gerda were wild with delight, and even spoke soft words
together about "Salix." Of course they only looked upon Katharine as the
bringer of the parcel: having no value in herself, being, as it were,
only a base instrument. It made no difference to them whether she was
fair or dark, tall or short, agreeable or disagreeable, electric or
soporific, with an attractive aura or an antipathetic personality.

"What on earth does it matter so long as she brings the parcel safely?"
said Ejnar, in answer to Tante's repeated, "I wonder whether."

"That sort of thing matters very much to people who are alive," replied
Tante sternly. "Of course to people who are prematurely dead, like
botanists, nothing matters except the parcel. My belovèd Ejnar, I am
delighted to see you so happy; but I must entreat you not to sing. You
are frightening the horse; he looked round then to see whether an
ostrich was driving him. And you observe we are on the most dangerous
part of the cliff. Don't let us have an accident until we have embraced
the parcel and received the bringer of it with indulgence.--And do
remember to thank her, Gerda. And don't let Ejnar ask for the parcel the
minute he sees her. Let us show the English barbarian woman that we know
how to behave.--Ah, here we are on the level. Now, Ejnar, you can sing
as much as you please. What a curious voice--not human! The sort of
voice you would expect a decaying plant to have. But how happy you must
be! You don't often sing, I think."

"Ja, I am very happy," said Ejnar, smiling radiantly. "I only sang once
before in my life, after Gerda accepted me, when I was alone in the
woods."

"A good thing she didn't hear you, or else she might have changed her
mind," remarked Tante.

"Dear ones, dear ones," said Gerda, "here is the train. Oh, Ejnar, how I
hope we shall not quarrel over the parcel. I know we shall, though."

They hurried out of the carriage, all of them in a state of great
excitement, and Tante, very red and hot, but her face beaming with
kindness and pleasant expectancy. She looked up and saw Katharine
standing at the window.

"That is Miss Frensham," she said.

"How do you know?" said Gerda and Ejnar. "You've never seen her."

"Instinct, stupid ones!" answered Knutty breathlessly. "Of course it is
Miss Frensham. Come along now, and remember to say nothing about the
parcel, Ejnar."

Then she pressed forward, and just as Katharine was stepping out of the
train, she put out her hand and said: "Welcome, Miss Frensham. I am
Fröken Knudsgaard, and these are my botanists--your friends. We are so
glad to see you."

"Ja, ja!" cried Ejnar and Gerda.

"And I to see you," Katharine answered. "It is like coming to see old
friends. And I have the parcel quite safely here in my little
travelling-box. I put it there so that there might not be one moment's
delay. For, of course, you must be feeling impatient. I am sure I
should."

With those simple but magic words Katharine immediately won her way into
the botanical hearts of the botanists; and Knutty, looking at her dear
frank face and delightful appearance, felt a glow of pleasure such as
she had not been conscious of for many long years.

Then the clever Norwegian ponies, those yellow little fellows, full of
mountain-wisdom and resource, drew the carriage slowly up the winding
road which led to the Solli Gaard. Like all true Norwegians, they did
exactly what they wished: rested when they wished, and went on when they
wished: went very near the edge when they felt so inclined, or paused to
drink of the brook running into the hollow tree-trunk placed there for
their benefit. As Knutty said, they allowed plenty of time to look at
the graceful birches which crept up from the valley, lined the hillside,
were shimmering in the sunlight, trembling in the breezes, and sending
out their own delicious fragrance laden with subtle sweetness.

"Ja, ja," said Knutty, "the birches are at their best to-day, to
welcome the Englishwoman to beautiful Norway!"



CHAPTER V.


The contents of the parcel exceeded the botanists' wildest expectations.
They were radiantly happy over it, and delighted with Katharine. She had
stamped herself on their minds as a woman of sense, who had understood
that the parcel had been the entity and herself the non-entity.

"Obviously a person of discernment," Ejnar remarked several times to
Tante, who laughed secretly when she observed that the impersonal
botanist was beginning to show distinct signs of human appreciation as
well. He even left his study once or twice, and came to sit with the
ladies on the balcony, bringing his long pipe with him. He did not speak
much, of course, and when he did he never touched on human affairs. But
Katharine had seen these flowers, and in an unscientific but vivid way
she could tell him a little about them, and a great deal about the
botanists who had sent the precious gift. Gerda and he listened with
rapt attention while she described to them the Colorado botanists'
herbarium. She told them that they were rich, but that they did not care
for a grand house. They lived in a small 'frame house,' and had built a
princely herbarium, which, together with their wonderful botanic garden,
was the chief feature of their property.

"They do not care about human grandeur," Katharine said, in conclusion.

"That is as it ought to be," exclaimed Ejnar and Gerda approvingly.

"All the same," remarked Tante, "I would prefer to inhabit that
herbarium, and put the stupid dried plants in the cottage. But then I
know I have a base human soul. Always have had--isn't it so, dear ones?"

"Yes, yes," said Ejnar and Gerda. "And you've always liked comfort."

"Yes," replied Tante--"good English comfort. Give me good English
comfort and mange tak![F] Let me be base and comfortable, like my
darling, much-abused English people."

"Are you really so fond of them, Fröken Knudsgaard?" Katharine said
warmly; for every one feels a glow of pleasure at hearing one's country
praised in a foreign land.

"Ja, I love them," Knutty replied, smiling at her; "and I spend half my
time in fighting their battles. Even here I have several deadly
conflicts every day with a Norwegian magistrate and a fur-merchant from
the north. But now you've come, you can defend your own country much
better than I can. But I shall always be delighted to help."

"Ja, she loves them," said Gerda. "And that Englishman of hers is the
only person for whom she cares in the whole world. Ejnar and I have been
jealous of that Englishman ever since I can remember."

"I have told you hundreds of times that it is absurd to be jealous of an
iceberg," Knutty said, with a twinkle in her eye.--"You know, Miss
Frensham, they are speaking of my dear Clifford Thornton, whom I've
known and loved ever since he was seven years old. There is no one like
him on earth----"

"Ak," said Gerda, "if she begins to talk to you about her Englishman,
all is lost. Don't encourage her, Fröken. Take my advice. Tell us
something more about the Colorado botanists and their garden. Moreover,
the Englishman is soon coming himself. That will make her happy."

"_He is coming_," Katharine said eagerly, turning to Tante; "_he is
coming here_?"

"Yes," said Tante, nodding at her.

And the quick old Dane glanced at her and saw how the light of a great
happiness had come into her eyes.

"Yes," Tante said; "he has given up the journey to Japan, and I suppose
he and his boy will be here in a week or so."

"In a week or so?" Katharine repeated, as though she could scarcely
believe it.

Then, with a gaiety which delighted them all, she turned impulsively to
the botanists and continued telling them all the details she could
remember of that wonderful garden and the interesting collection of
cactuses, and the different kinds of pepper-trees. And Gerda and Ejnar,
entranced, kept on saying:

"Ja, and what more?" And Tante kept on thinking:

"Surely I see daylight! But, good heavens, what can we do to get rid of
these botanists? Wretched creatures! Why don't they go back to their
study provided so thoughtfully by me? And what a darling she is, and how
delightful to look upon, and with a fine temperament. Simple and easy as
a child. Built on a big scale, mind and body. Like the Gaard itself.
Ja, ja. And then to think of that Marianne! Ak, what a brute I am! Never
mind. Let me remain a brute! Oh, those botanists! If only they would go
to their study and quarrel about the Mariposa lily, or cactuses, or
salix, or something. And just look at Ejnar! He is becoming human. He is
leaving the vegetable and entering the animal kingdom. By St Olaf, he
has picked up her handkerchief! Ah, and here is Ragnhild coming to the
Stabur to ring the bell for dinner. Nã, after dinner, we can have a
talk about my Clifford."

So after dinner Tante took entire possession of Katharine, but much
against the botanists' wishes. And Gerda said privately:

"Well, at least, don't bore her by talking about your Englishman all the
time. You yourself saw how glad she was to get away from a subject which
could not possibly interest her, and to continue to talk to us about
Arizona and Colorado."

In answer Tante had a mysterious attack of laughter, and gave Gerda a
specially affectionate hug; and, having assured her that she would use
moderation, walked off with Katharine to show her, so she said, the
principal sights of the Gaard, and to introduce her to some of her
intimate friends, all of whom were interested in the arrival of the
Englishwoman, the first English person they had ever seen. Knutty was
proud that Katharine had such a fine appearance and such a charming way
with every one. The Sollis, Johann himself, and Mor Inga, in their
grave, reserved fashion, were kindly to her; and Karl, a most
unemotional creature, was quite excited when she spoke some German to
him. Bedstemor arrived on the scene, having heard that an English guest
had come to the Gaard; and when Katharine was presented to her, she
greeted her with great dignity, and said to Tante:

"She is nice looking, this Englishwoman. But thou shouldst have seen
_me_ when I was young."

This was translated to Katharine, who said to Tante:

"Tell her that I can see her in my mind's eye as a beautiful young girl;
but she has not forgotten how to be beautiful in her old age."

Bedstemor was gratified, patted her on the back, and told her that she
might come one day and drink coffee with her and see her wedding-cap.

Then she was introduced to old Kari, whom they passed on their way to
Tante's favourite resting-place, an old black barn near a group of
mountain-ashes. Kari was standing outside the great cowhouse; she looked
at Katharine critically, seemed to approve of her, and said:

"She is nice looking, and strong too. She could do a good day's work in
the fields. And how many children has she got?"

"Well, I _suppose_ she has not any," laughed wicked old Tante. "She is
not married."

"Perhaps she will find a husband here," said Kari reflectively.

"Perhaps she will," laughed Tante; and she was passing on when Kari came
a little nearer to her and said mysteriously:

"If thou wilt come into the cowhouse to-morrow, I think I can tell thee
something thou wilt like to hear--about the Huldre,[G] the beautiful
long-tailed one--but thou must come alone. And I will sing to thee again
very willingly, for thou art a kind one. And to-morrow Mette makes
Fladbröd.[H] If thou dost wish to see her make the Fladbröd, thou shalt
most certainly. Ja, and Mette can sing too. Thou shalt hear her also."

Then she nodded and disappeared into the cowhouse. Tante and Katharine
paused for a moment to look at the picturesque winter-house of the
seventy cows, and its long, grass-grown roof, its two bridges leading up
to the top floor, where some of the hay was stored, and its most curious
gap in the centre of the upper floor, through which one could see
enclosed in a great oblong frame the valley below, the rivers, and the
distant mountains. Tante pointed out this beautiful picture to Katharine
and said:

"You know, I really enjoy Nature very much, although I pretend not to do
so just to tease Ejnar and Gerda. Ah, they are dears, both of them. It
was good of you to come and bring them their parcel. You do not know how
eagerly you have been looked for--by them and by me. Of course they
wanted their parcel; but I had another reason for being eager to receive
you. May a wicked old woman tell you something some day?"

"Tell me now," Katharine said, turning to her.

"Well," said Tante recklessly, "it may be only an old woman's fancy; but
he said in his letter that you did not really need a letter of
introduction to me, since you were coming to see Ejnar and Gerda, and
therefore me. But he felt that he could not be left out in the cold
where you were concerned."

"Did he say that?" asked Katharine, with a tremor in her voice.

"Yes," answered Tante; and they strolled on together in silence until
they came to the hay-barn on the hillside, near the mountain-ashes,
Tante's terminus. There they sat, still in silence, but with their
hearts and thoughts charged with the remembrance of Clifford Thornton.
It was a long silence, probably the longest which Knutty had ever
endured without impatience; for an instinctive comradeship had sprung up
between her and this Englishwoman in whose eyes the light of love had
come when Clifford Thornton's name was spoken. They were both glad to be
together, and they knew it. At last Knutty said:

"My dear, since we are both thinking of him all the time, shall we not
speak of him?"

And Katharine looked up and answered simply:

"Yes, let us speak of him."

So they spoke of him: Knutty with warm affection and pity; Katharine
with sympathetic interest. That was all. She spoke of him as one
traveller might speak of another traveller, both of them having met on
some mountain-path in a distant land, spoken some words of greeting, and
then passed on. That was all the personal part she thought she put into
it.

But Knutty listened, and heard distinct unspoken words.


[Footnote F: _Mange tak_, many thanks.]

[Footnote G: The general name for the legendary "mountain people."]

[Footnote H: A thin kind of bread, like Passover cake.]



CHAPTER VI.


Katharine spoke a fair amount of German, and some of the guests at the
Gaard spoke a little English. The fur-merchant from Tromsö spoke English
well; but he scorned at first to show any sign of friendliness to any
one from such an abominable country; and the Sorenskriver was
consistently careful not to be betrayed into the most primitive form of
politeness to this Englishwoman. He knew, of course, that she spoke and
understood German; and he went out of his way on several occasions to
make in his aggressive voice disparaging remarks about England, using
for this purpose the language of Germany. At first Katharine took no
notice; but after a day or two of quiet forbearance she said to him at
dinner, fearlessly but politely:

"Herr Sorenskriver, you insult my country every time we sit down to
dinner. I am sure you do not intend to insult me personally. But you
see, Englishwomen love their country passionately, although they may
know and share its faults. May I ask you to use the Norwegian language,
which I do not understand, when you feel particularly insulting? If,
however, you want to _discuss_ England with me, then let us speak German
together; and I will tell you all I know, and listen to all you have to
say. That is quite another matter. Then you shall say all you have to
say against us; and I will answer you if I can, and bear with your
criticisms if I cannot."

Her words were so simple, her manner was so direct, and her own
temperamental charm was so irresistible, that England, personified in
her, went up twenty-five per cent. in every one's estimation. There was
quite a stir amongst the guests; they all left off eating their beloved
cloudberries (multebaer), of which the Norwegians think so much, and
turned expectantly to the Sorenskriver. The gruff old Norwegian did
something unexpected, both to himself and the whole company.

"Ah," he said, "you carry your flag better than I carry mine, Fröken.
You are right and I am wrong."

Then he lifted his half-filled glass and turned to her with an almost
shy smile on his face.

"Skaal!"[I] he said.

"Skaal!" she answered, raising her glass too, and smiling at him.

"Bravo--skaal to them both!" said every one with one accord; and no one
was surprised afterwards to see the Englishwoman and the Sorenskriver
strolling off together in the direction of the foss in the birch-woods
above the Gaard.

Katharine had conquered him, and the fur-merchant was the next person to
capitulate. He was heard saying to the Swedish professor that, when all
was said and done, the English were people of spirit, and whatever their
politics might be, they were honourable people to trade with. Ejnar,
too, forgot for the moment about the barbarian authorities at Kew
Gardens, and gave such remarkable signs of wanting Katharine's
companionship, not at all from botanical reasons, that Gerda began to
complain to Tante that he was neglecting his work and not taking the
least interest in the Romney poppy. And once he came back from a short
expedition which he himself had planned, leaving poor Gerda to look for
the little rare plant which was the object of the expedition. He said he
was tired and wanted to go home; and he fetched his long pipe and
established himself in a corner of the verandah where Tante and
Katharine were sitting. Gerda came back angry and wanted a divorce; but
Tante laughed and said to her:

"Don't be angry with him. It is only an aberration. It won't do you or
him any harm. He will soon be ready to quarrel with you over the Romney
poppy. And you cannot possibly be angry with _her_. She knows nothing
about it. Every one likes her; she wins every one. It is her nature; her
temperament; her aura. If she has won the Sorenskriver, she could win
the most ferocious Trold ever heard of in Norwegian lore. Don't be angry
with anybody. I think I ought to be the one to be angry. He always
interrupts our conversations. And you always want her when you can get
her. Everybody wants her. Even Bedstemor likes to talk with her. I can
scarcely get a word in. Poor old Tante."

"You wicked old woman, you were talking to her for hours yesterday,"
said Gerda, laughing.

"Nã," said Tante, "yesterday is not to-day."

"I cannot think what you want to talk to her about," said Gerda.

"There are other subjects besides the 'botanik,'" remarked Tante
sternly.

"And, after all, you are both strangers," said Gerda.

"Strangers very often have a great deal to say to each other," answered
Tante. "Ah, and here she comes. Now I insist on you dragging your
wretched Ejnar off to your study and keeping him there. Have a quarrel.
I mean a real botanical quarrel. Do, kjaere. You have not had one for
quite two days. Talk about Salix. That is always a safe subject for a
quarrel. And you need not be afraid that I will bore the barbarian
woman. I will speak only of subjects which interest her."

No, Katharine was not bored. She drifted to Tante on every possible
occasion; and they spoke on many different subjects, but always ended
with Clifford Thornton. It was curious how he came into everything. If
they began about the customs of the peasants, they finished up with
Clifford and his boy. If they started off with Bedstefar's illness,
which was becoming more and more serious, they ended with Clifford
Thornton. If they spoke of England, it was natural enough that they
should speak of Tante's Englishman. If they spoke of America, it was
natural enough that Clifford and his boy should slip into the
conversation. And if they spoke of Scandinavia, and especially of little
Denmark, where he and his boy would soon be arriving, it was natural
enough to refer to the two travellers now on their way home to Europe.

"Ja, ja," said Tante, "he always loved the North. I, who taught him,
took care about that. And his father before him had loved the North.
That was why I was chosen to be the little lad's governess; because I
was a Dane--and not a bad-looking one either in those days, let me tell
you! Yes, I was chosen out of about ten Englishwomen. I shall never
forget that day."

"Tell me about it," Katharine said eagerly; and the old Danish woman,
nothing loth, put down her knitting and gazed dreamily out on the great
valley below. It was about six in the afternoon. All the other guests
had finished their coffee and left the balcony, and Katharine and Tante
were in sole possession. There were no sounds except the never-ceasing
roar of the foss in the Vinstra Valley.

"It was many years ago," Tante said,--"about thirty eight, I think. He
was seven years old when I was called to look after him. I journeyed to
a desolate house in the country, in Surrey, and waited in a dismal
drawing-room with several other ladies, who were all on the same errand.
A tall, stern-looking man came into the room, greeted us courteously,
but scanned us closely. And then he said, 'And which is the Danish
lady?' And I said, 'I am the Dane.' And he said, 'Do you speak English
very badly?' And I said, 'No, I speak it remarkably well.' And he smiled
and said, 'Ah, you're a true Dane, I see. You have a good opinion of
your powers.' And I said, 'Yes, of course I have.' Then I went with him
alone into his study, another depressing room, and we had an interview
of about an hour. I saw he loved the North. It was a passion with him.
He was a lonely impersonal sort of creature; but his face lit up when he
spoke of the North. He asked me to wait whilst he spoke with the other
ladies. Lunch was served in the dining-room; and those of us who were
not being interviewed, tried to enjoy an excellent meal. But every one
was anxious, for the salary was exceptionally high, indeed princely.
When all the interviewing was over, he did a curious thing; but I
thought it considerate and kind to the little person for whose care he
was providing. He went upstairs and brought down to us a
desolate-looking little boy, and said:

"'Clifford, my little son, one of these ladies is going to be good
enough to come and take care of you. I wonder which is the one you would
like best of all.'

"The little fellow shrank back, for he was evidently shy; but he looked
up into his father's stern face, and knew that he had to make an answer.
Then very shyly he glanced round, and his eye rested on me.

"'That one, father,' he said, almost in a whisper.

"So that was how I came to be his governess. He knew what he wanted when
he chose me. I have always wished that he could have known just as
cleverly what he wanted when he chose his wife--that poor Marianne."

And here Tante paused, and gave that sort of pious regulation-sigh which
we are always supposed to offer to the memory of all dead people, good,
bad, or indifferent.

Katharine waited impatiently. She longed to know something about that
dead wife. She longed to know something of Clifford's childhood, of his
youth, his early career--but chiefly of that dead wife: whether he had
loved her, whether she had loved him. She did not try to conceal her
eagerness. She bent forward and touched Tante's hands.

"Tell me about her," she said. "I have only heard what Mrs Stanhope said
of her."

"Ah," said Knutty, "she was her friend. If you have only heard what Mrs
Stanhope said, you have heard only unjust things about my Clifford."

"Yes," replied Katharine, "and believed them to be impossible, and told
her so."

"My dear," said Knutty warmly, "you have a mind that understands. Well,
about this Marianne. She has gone her way, and I suppose custom demands
that one should speak of her respectfully. But I cannot help saying that
she had a Billingsgate temperament. That was the whole trouble. She had
a great deal of beauty, and something of a heart. Indeed, she was not
bad-hearted. I always wished she had been a downright devil; for then my
poor Clifford would have known how to decide on a definite course of
action. I own that I often wished she would run away with another man.
But of course he would have forgiven her. Bah! It was so like her not to
run away. Excuse me, my dear. But I have never learnt not to be
impatient, even with her memory; for she preyed on his kindness and his
great sense of chivalry. I don't know where she originally came from,
and whether it was her original _entourage_ which gave her the
Billingsgate temperament, or whether it was just her natural possession
independent of surroundings. I did not see her until he had married her.
When I saw her, I knew of course that it was her physical charm with
which he had fallen in love. It could not have been her mind. She had
none."

Knutty paused a moment, took off her spectacles to clean them, and then
continued:

"He married her in Berlin, and took her to Aberystwith College, where he
was Professor of Chemistry for two years. Alan was born there. Then his
father died and he gave up teaching. He settled down at 'Falun,' his
country-house, and devoted himself to research-work: as far as she would
let him. But she was jealous of his work, and I believe did her best to
thwart it. I saw that as the time went on. He used to come over to
Denmark partly to see me, and partly on his way to Sweden, which is a
grand hunting-ground for mineralogists. He had always been interested in
mineralogy; indeed, as a child he played with minerals as most children
play with soldiers. Well, one morning he walked into my room
unexpectedly and said, 'Knutty, I came to tell you I've discovered a new
mineral. You know I've had a lot of disappointments over them; but this
one has not cheated me. He is a new fellow beyond all doubt. _And I felt
I must have some one to be glad with me._' That was all he said; but
there was something so pathetic about his obvious need of sympathy that
I felt sure things were not going well with him at home. When I went
over to stay with them, I understood. I had not been three days at
'Falun' before I discovered that Marianne had this unfortunate
temperament, the very worst in the world for his peculiar sensitiveness
and his curiously delicate brain. I knew his brain well. As a child, if
not harassed, he could do wonders at his studies. But he needed an
atmosphere of peace, in which to use his mental machinery successfully.
I learnt to know this, and I gave him peace, dear little chap, and
spared him most of the petty tyrannies which the grown-up impose on
youngsters. But Marianne could give him no peace. Peace was not in her;
nor did she wish for it; nor could she understand that any one wished
for it. Life to her meant scenes: scenes over anything and everything.
Day after day I saw the delicate balance of his brain, so necessary for
the success of his investigations, cruelly disturbed. But to be just to
Marianne, she did not know. And if she had been told, she would not have
understood. I tried to hint at it once or twice; and I might as well
have spoken in the Timbuctoo original dialect. I did not even offend
her. She did not even understand that much of this foreign language. It
was all hopeless. Her aura was impossible. So I said 'Farvel,' and I
never went to stay with them again for any length of time. But
occasionally I went for a day or two to please him. I saw as time went
on, that he was getting some comfort out of the boy. That was a comfort
to me. But I also saw that the brilliant promises of his early manhood
were being unfulfilled. I heard that his scientific friends wondered and
mourned. They did not know the disadvantages with which he had to cope.
Probably they would not have allowed themselves to be thus harassed. But
he was not they, and they were not he. And, after all, a man can only be
himself. And if he is born with a heart as well as a brain, and with an
almost excessive chivalry for the feelings of other people, then he is
terribly at the mercy of his surroundings.

"Yes," she repeated, "at the mercy of his surroundings. And poor
Marianne had no mercy on him: none."

"But if she had no understanding, then it was not that she was
unmerciful, but only ignorant," Katharine said gently.

"Yes, yes; but it works out the same," Tante answered.

"Not quite," Katharine replied. "It makes one think more mercifully of
her."

"Why, that is precisely the sort of thing he says!" Knutty exclaimed.

"Is it?" said Katharine, flushing up to her very eyes. And at that
moment there came a sound of sweet melancholy music from the hillside.

"That is Gerda," whispered Tante. "That is one of her favourite Swedish
songs--how sweet and melancholy it is."

They listened, arrested and entranced. The stillness of the evening and
the pureness of the air made a silent accompaniment to Gerda's beautiful
voice.

    Allt un-der himmelens fäst-e Der sitt-a stjer-nor
    små Allt un-der himmelens fäst-e Der
    sitt-a stjer-nor smaå Den vän-nen som jag
    äl-skat Den kan jag ald-rig få Ah ...

[Illustration: Un-named sheet music.]

And the wail of despair at the end of the verse was almost heartrending.

They listened until the sad strains had died away, and then Tante softly
translated the words:

    "High on the dome of heaven shine the bright stars;
    The lover whom I love so well, I shall reach him never.
    Ah me, ah me!...."

She turned impulsively to Katharine.

"But that is not for you, not for you," she said. "You will reach him, I
know you will reach him--I feel it. I want you to reach him--something
or other tells me that it must and will be so--that----"

The door of the balcony opened hastily, and Ragnhild came to Tante and
held out both her hands to help her up.

"Two Englishmen have come and are asking for thee," she said.

"Men du milde Himmel!"[J] cried Tante. "My icebergs, of course!"

She almost ran to the hall, where she found Clifford and Alan standing
together like the two forlorn creatures that they were.

"Velkommen, velkommen!" she cried. "I don't know where you've come from,
whether from the bottom of the sea or the top of the air! Nor how you've
got here! But velkommen, velkommen!"

Their faces brightened up when they saw her and heard her cheery voice
with its slight foreign accent.

"Oh, Knutty, it is good to see you again," the man said.

"Yes, by Jove! it is ripping," the boy said.

"Come out into the balcony, dear ones," she said, taking them by the
hand as she would have taken two children. "And I'll inquire about your
rooms and your food. You look like tired and hungry ghosts."

Katharine was bending over the balcony, looking down fixedly at those
wonderful rivers, and with the sound and words of that sad song echoing
in her ears and heart. Then she turned round and saw them both; saw the
look of shy pleasure on the boy's face, and of gladness on the man's.
The music died away, hushed by the gladness of her own heart.

"Velkommen!" she said, coming forward to greet them. "I've learnt that
much Norwegian, you see!"


[Footnote I: _Skaal!_--Your health!]

[Footnote J: Danish expression--"But Thou, mild Heaven."]



CHAPTER VII.


Knutty was overjoyed at the return of her icebergs, and it was pathetic
to see how glad they were to be with her again. She thought that, on the
whole, they were the better for their journey; but when she questioned
Clifford, he told her that Alan had not cared to be with him.

"He is much happier since he has returned and is not alone with me,"
Clifford said.

"And you?" asked Knutty.

"I am much happier too, Knutty," he said thoughtfully.

And he looked in the direction of the foss, where Katharine had just
gone with the Sorenskriver.

"Ah," said Knutty, "you are a strange pair, you and your boy."

He made no reply; but afterwards said in an absent sort of way:

"I think I will take a stroll in the direction of the foss."

"Yes, I should, if I were you," said Knutty, with a twinkle in her eye.
"The Sorenskriver will be so pleased to see you, I'm sure."

He glanced at her a little suspiciously, but saw only a grave,
preoccupied expression on her naughty old face.

But when he had gone, she laughed to herself and said:

"Yes, there is decidedly daylight, not through a leper's squint, but
through a rose-window! Only I must be careful not to turn it into black
darkness again. I must see nothing and hear nothing, and I must talk
frequently of Marianne--or oughtn't I to talk of her? Nã, I wonder which
would be the best plan. If I do speak of her, it will encourage him to
remember her; and if I don't speak of her it will encourage him to brood
over her in silence. She always was a difficulty, and always will be
until----And even then, there's the other iceberg to deal with--ah, and
here he comes--made friends with Jens, I see, and no difficulty about
the language--Jens never speaking a word, and Alan only saying something
occasionally, like his father."

The two boys parted at the Stabur, where Ragnhild was standing on the
steps holding a pile of freshly made Fladbröd. Alan looked up at her,
took off his little round cricketing-cap, blushed, made his way over to
the porch, and sat down by Knutty. And Ragnhild thought:

"That nice English boy. He shall have plenty of multebaer."

So she disappeared into the Stabur and brought out a plateful of
multebaer, which she handed him with a friendly nod. He fell to without
any hesitation, and Knutty watched him and smiled.

"Well, kjaere," she said, "and what do you think of this part of the
world? Glad to be here?"

"Yes, Knutty," he answered. "And it is ripping to see you again."

"Am I so very 'bully'?" she said, in her teasing way.

"Yes," he said, smiling.

"Ah," she said, "I suppose I am!" And they both laughed.

"Jens and I are going fishing this afternoon up to a mountain lake over
there," he said. "I wish you'd come too. Do, Knutty."

"Dear one," she answered, "I'll come with pleasure if you'll send over
for one of the London cart-horses. Nothing else on this earth could
carry me, and then I suppose he couldn't climb! You surely did not think
of hoisting me up on one of those yellow ponies? No, I think I'll stop
below and eat the fish you bring home. All the same, thank you for the
invitation. Many regrets that age and weight, specially weight, prevent
me from accepting."

There was a pause, and Alan went on eating his multebaer.

"Did you like your journey to America?" she asked, without looking up
from her work.

"Yes," he answered half-heartedly, and his face clouded over. "But--but
I was glad to come back."

"Well," she said, "that is what many people say. The New World may be
good enough in its way, but the Old World is the Old World, when all is
said and done. And you got tired of the Americans, did you?"

"Oh no," he said, "it wasn't that. But----"

He hesitated, and then he blurted out:

"I wish you'd been with us, Knutty. It would have been so different
then."

"Nei, stakkar," she said. "You'll make old Knutty too conceited if you
go on saying these nice things to her."

He had put down his plate of multebaer, and was now fiddling nervously
with a Swedish knife that Knutty had given him. Knutty glanced at him
with her sly little old eyes. She knew she was in for confidences if she
conducted herself with discretion.

"Give it to me," she said, holding out her hand for the knife. "This is
the way it opens--so--and then you stick it through the case--so--and
then it's ready to stick anybody you don't like--so--in true Swedish
fashion, with which I have great sympathy--there it is!"

The boy went on fiddling with the knife, and then he took his cap off
and fiddled with that.

"Du milde Himmel!" thought Knutty. "These icebergs! Why do I ever put up
with them?"

"Knutty," the boy began nervously, "I want so dreadfully to ask you
something--about--mother. Was she--very unhappy--do you think? I can't
get out of my head what Mrs Stanhope said. I tried to forget
it--but----"

He looked up hopelessly at Knutty, and broke off.

Knutty gave no sign.

"Twice I nearly ran away from father," the boy went on. "I--I wanted to
be alone--not with father--once at New York--and another time at
Chicago. There were two fellows going out West from there, and--I wanted
to be alone, not with father--and I thought I could get along
somehow--other fellows do--and then I remembered how you said that he
only had me--and I stayed--but----"

He looked up again at Knutty, and this time she answered:

"I know," she said. "I understand."

"You don't think it beastly of me?" he said.

"No," she said, "not beastly at all; only very, very sad."

"You won't let father know I--I nearly left him?" Alan asked.

"No; you may rely on me," she answered gently. And she knew that she
was speaking the truth, and that she would have no heart to tell
Clifford. With her quick insight she saw the whole thing in a flash of
light. She guessed that Mrs Stanhope had got hold of the boy, and
planted in his heart some evil seed which had grown and grown. The
difficulty was to find out exactly what she had said to him; and Knutty
knew that Alan would be able to tell her only unconsciously, as it were,
involuntarily. Her kind old heart bled for the lad when she thought how
much he must have suffered, alone and unhelped. His simple words about
wanting to get away from his father spoke volumes in themselves. And he
seemed to harp on this, for he said almost at once:

"You see, I shall be going back to school, and then to college, and then
to work."

"And then out into the world to make your name as a great architect,"
she said.

He smiled a ghost of a smile.

"Yes," he said; "but far away, Knutty, out in the colonies somewhere."

"Alan," she said suddenly, "you asked me about your mother--whether I
thought she had been unhappy. I don't know; I never knew her well enough
to be able to say. I thought she seemed happy when I saw her last--about
two years ago, I think--and she was looking very beautiful. She was a
beautiful woman your mother, and well set-up, too, wasn't she?"

"Yes," she boy said, and his lip quivered. He turned away and leaned
against the pillar of the porch.

"Oh, Knutty," he said, turning round to her impetuously, "why did she
die? Why isn't she here? There wasn't any need for her to die. She never
would have died if father had been kinder to her, if we'd both been
kinder to her; but--she was unhappy. Mrs Stanhope said she was unhappy:
she told me all about it before we left England. I can't forget what she
said--what she said about--about father being the cause of mother's
death; that's what she meant--I know that's what she meant.... I can't
get it out of my head. I never thought of it like that until she told
me; but when she spoke as she did, then I knew all at once
that--that--that there was something wrong somewhere about mother's
death, and that I oughtn't to forget it, being her son--and--and she was
fond of me--and----"

He broke off. Knutty had risen, and put her hand on the boy's shoulder.

"Kjaere," she said in a strained voice, "I did not know things were as
bad as this with you. My poor boy."

She slipped her arm through the boy's arm and led him away from the
courtyard, down past the cowhouse and the hay-barns and through the
white gate.

Old Kari was grubbing about, singing her favourite refrain to call the
cows back:--

    "Sulla ma, Sulla ma, Sulla ma, aa kjy!
    Sulla ma, Sulla ma, Sulla ma, aa kjy![K]
    Sullam, sullam, sy-y-y y-y-y!"

Bedstemor was in her garden, giving an eye to her red-currant bushes, of
which she was specially proud, and casting a sly glance round to see
what the Swedish artist-lady was doing perched on that rock in the next
field. She was only looking towards the Gaard and measuring the cowhouse
in the air. Bedstemor thought there was no harm in that; and any way,
these people had to do something.

The Sorenskriver was coming down from the birch-woods, alone and
apparently in a disagreeable mood, for he pushed roughly on one side the
little golden-haired daughter of one of the cotters who was playing on
the hillside.

"These wretched Englishmen," he said, frowning. "_Uff_, they are always
in the way, all over the world. And I was having such a pleasant time
with her before this fellow came."

Katharine and Clifford were lingering near the foss. Katharine was
making a little water-colour of the lovely scene. Through the trees one
could catch a glimpse of the shining river and a bit of the bright blue
sky.

"Yes," Clifford was saying, "my old Dane was wise to send us, and we
were wise to come back. We were not happy together, Miss Frensham. But
since we have returned the boy is happier, and--I am happier too."

Katharine, bending over her work, whispered to herself:

"And I--I am happier too."

But down by Knutty's mountain-ashes, near the black hay-barn, an old
woman and a young boy sat, with pale, drawn faces.


[Footnote K: _Kjy_, cows. The refrain is merely a doggerel.]



CHAPTER VIII.


Gerda had pretended to hope that when Tante's English friends arrived on
the scene, she would mend her strange ways, and no longer haunt the
cowhouse and seek the companionship of old Kari and of Thea, who was so
clever at making Fladbröd, and Mette, who had three fatherless babies
and a dauntless demeanour which seemed to be particularly attractive to
wicked old Knutty. But Tante was incorrigible, and would not for any
one's sake have missed her evening visit to that august building. So
after her sad talk with Alan, she stood and waited as usual, whilst
Mette, that bright gay soul, called the cows down to the Gaard.

"Kom da, stakkar, kom da, stakkar!" ("Come then, my poor little
dears!"), she cried merrily.

And Gulkind (yellow cheek), Brungaas (brown goose), Blomros (red rose),
and Fjeldros (mountain rose) responded with varying degrees of bellowing
and dilatoriness.

When they were safely in their stalls, the singing began. Thea had the
softest voice, but Mette had a dramatic delivery. Old Kari acted as
prompter when they forgot the words of the old folk-songs, and the cows
went on munching steadily and switching their tails in the singers'
faces, so that the music was mingled with strange discords of scolding
and Knutty's laughter. And then Mette got up, and began to dance some
old peasant-dance; and very pretty and graceful she looked, too, in her
old cow-dress and torn bodice.

"Come, Thea!" she cried. "Let us dance the Spring-dance for the good
Danish lady to see. Fjeldros and Brungaas can wait a few minutes."

"Nei, nei, nei!" cried old Kari. "It is not safe to dance in the
cowhouse, Mette. Thou know'st the Huldre will come and throw stones in
at the cows. Thou know'st she will come. Ja, ja, I have seen her do it,
and the cows were killed. Ak, I am afraid. The Huldre will come."

"Perhaps," said Mette, winking mischievously at Tante--"perhaps it _is_
better to be on the safe side. All the same, I'm not afraid of the
long-tailed Huldre."

"Have you seen her often, Kari?" asked Tante.

"Three times," said Kari, shuddering, "and each time she worked me harm.
She is mischievous and ugly, not like the beautiful green-dressed
Huldre. I saw her once up at the Saeter, when I was alone and had made a
big fire. She came and danced and danced before the fire. But I must not
waste my time with thee. I must milk Blomros."

"Kari has been taken away by the mountain people," Mette said, winking
again at Tante. "Thou shouldst tell the Danish lady."

But Kari buried herself under Blomros; and so Mette, still anxious to
entertain her visitor, struck up with the pretty little folk-song, "Home
from the Saeter."

    HOME FROM THE SAETER.

    We have done our man-y du-ties, Cheese have made, have
      but-ter churn'd;
    Now we'll lead our will-ing cat-tle, Now we'll lock the
      sae-ter door;
    Here no long-er food can be found, By the Hul-drefolk
      or ourselves,
    Glad are we that home we're go-ing, Glad-der still the
      cows, I'm sure.

[Illustration: Sheet music of 'Home from the Saeter.']

When they had finished, Knutty looked round and saw Gerda standing
listening.

"Now," said Knutty, "you will understand why I come to the cowhouse. It
is my concert-room. Well then, my good friends, good-bye for the
present."

"Come back to-morrow," cried Mette. "The milking goes so merrily when
thou art here."

"And mind, no dancing!" said Knutty, smiling and putting up her hand in
warning. "Remember the long-tailed one!"

Mette's merry laughter sounded after them, and was followed by her
finale, the mountain-call to the goats:

"Kille bukken, kille bukken, kille bukken! lammet mit!" with a final
flourish which would have made a real prima donna ill for a week from
jealousy.

"Mette has got a temperament," said Knutty, still smiling. "Thank Heaven
for that! Anything is better than your dead-alivers, your decaying
vegetable world. No disrespect to you, kjaere, for you look particularly
alive this evening; a nice flush on your face--whether anger or joy, no
matter--the effect is the same--life."

"Ejnar and I have found some dwarf-birch," said Gerda, pointing to her
green wallet.

"Ah, that is certainly a life-giving discovery," remarked Knutty.

"We've had a lovely afternoon together," continued Gerda, "and we've
discussed 'Salix' to our hearts' content."

"Ah," said Knutty, "no wonder you look so animated."

"But just by the group of mountain-ashes we met Fröken Frensham," said
Gerda, "and Ejnar left me. And I was angry. But as she had the
Sorenskriver and your Englishman with her, I didn't mind so much. Oh,
it isn't her fault. She doesn't encourage him; and she cannot help being
attractive. But Ejnar----"

"Why, my child," said Knutty, "who ever heard of a live woman being
jealous, generous, and just? You can't possibly be an animal--nor even a
vegetable--you must be a mineral. I have it--gold!"

"Tante," said Gerda, "wait until you have a husband, and then you won't
laugh."

"No, I don't suppose I should!" replied Knutty. "Other people would do
the laughing for me."

"No," said Gerda. "They should not laugh at you in my presence, I can
tell you."

"Ah," said Knutty, "you're pure gold, kjaere. There, don't fret about
that wretch Ejnar. If he ran away from you, we could easily overtake
him. He'd be stopping to look at all the plants on the wayside; and the
lady, no matter who she was, would leave him in disgust. No
self-respecting eloping female could stand that, you know. Come. There's
the bell ringing for smoked salmon and cheese."

But although Knutty kept up her spirits that evening, she was greatly
disturbed by her talk with Alan, and distressed to know how to help him.
When she went to her room, she sat for a long time at the window,
thinking and puzzling. Not a single helpful idea suggested itself to
her. Her heart was full of pity for the boy and concern for the father.
She reflected that it was in keeping with Marianne's character to leave
this unnecessary trouble behind her: that all the troubles Marianne
ever made had always been perfectly unnecessary. And she worked herself
into a rage at the mere thought of Mrs Stanhope, Marianne's friend.

"The beast," she said, "the metallic beast! I'd like to see her whole
machinery lynched."

After that she could not keep still, but walked up and down her big
room, turning everything over in her mind until her brain was nearly
distraught. Once she stood rigid for a moment.

"Had Clifford anything to hide about his wife's death?" she asked
herself.

"No, no," she replied angrily. "That is ridiculous--I'm a fool to think
of it even for a moment."

Her mind wandered back to the time of Marianne's death. She remembered
the doctor had said that Marianne had died from some shock.

"Had Clifford lost his self-control that last night when, by his own
telling, he and Marianne had some unhappy words together, and had he
perhaps terrified her?" she asked herself.

"No, no," she said. "Why do I think of these absurd things?"

But if she thought of them--she, an old woman with years of judgment and
experience to balance her--was it surprising that the young boy, worked
upon by Mrs Stanhope's words, was thinking of them?

Knutty broke down.

"My poor icebergs," she cried. "I'm a silly, unhelpful old fool, and no
good to either of you. I never could tackle Marianne--never could. She
was always too much for me; and although she's dead, she is just the
same now--too much for me."

She shook her head in despair, and the tears streamed down her cheeks;
but after a few minutes of profound misery she brightened up.

"Nã," she said, brushing her tears away, "of course, of course! Why
was I forgetting that dear Katharine Frensham? I was forgetting that I
saw daylight. What an old duffer I am! If I cannot help my icebergs, she
can--and will. If I cannot tackle Marianne, she can."

Her thoughts turned to Katharine with hope, affection, admiration, and
never a faintest touch of jealousy. She had been drawn to her from the
beginning; and each new day's companionship had only served to show her
more of the Englishwoman's lovable temperament. They all loved her at
the Gaard. Her presence was a joy to them; and she passed amongst them
as one of those privileged beings for whom barriers are broken down and
bridges are built, so that she might go her way at her own pleasure into
people's hearts and minds. Yes, Knutty turned to her with hope and
belief. And as she was saying to herself that Katharine was the one
person in the world to help that lonely man and desolate boy, to build
her bridge to reach the man, and her bridge to reach the boy, and a
third bridge for the man and the boy to reach each other--as she was
saying all this, with never one single jealous thought, there came a
soft knock at her door. She did not notice it at first; but she heard it
a few seconds later, and when she opened her door, Katharine was
standing there.

"My dear," Knutty exclaimed, and she led her visitor into the room.

"I have been uneasy about you," Katharine said, "and could not get to
sleep. I felt I must come and see if anything were wrong with you. Why,
you haven't been to bed yet. Do you know it is two o'clock?"

"It might be any time in a Norwegian summer night, and I've been busy
thinking," said Knutty--"thinking of you, and longing for the morrow to
come when I might tell you of some trouble which lies heavy on my
heart."

"Most curious," said Katharine. "I had a strong feeling that you wanted
me. I thought I heard you calling me."

"I did call you," Knutty said, "none the less loudly because
voicelessly. I wanted to tell you that Mrs Stanhope did see Alan before
he left England. Your warning to my poor Clifford came too late. She
took the boy and made him drink of the poison of disbelief."

Then she gave Katharine an account of her painful interview with Alan.
Katharine had previously told Knutty a few particulars of her own
encounter with Mrs Stanhope at the Tonedales, and she now, at Knutty's
request, repeated the story, adding more details in answer to the old
Dane's questionings. Long and anxiously these two new friends, who were
learning to regard each other as old friends, discussed the situation.

"I cannot bear that the boy should be suffering in this way," Knutty
said. "And I cannot bear that my poor Clifford should know. For he has
come back happier--ah, you know something about that, my dear. And I am
glad enough to see even the beginning of a change in him. Only it is
pathetic that he, without knowing it, should be steering for some
happiness in a distant harbour, whilst the boy should be drifting out to
sea--alone."

"He shall not drift out to sea," Katharine said. "He must and shall
believe in his father again."

"But, my dear, how are you going to manage that?" Knutty asked sadly.

"By my own belief," Katharine answered simply.

"You believe in him?" Knutty said, half to herself.

"Absolutely," Katharine answered, with a proud smile on her face.

"How you comfort me!" said Knutty. "Here have I been wrestling with
plans and problems until all my intelligence had gone--all of it except
the very best bit of it which called out to you for help. And you come
and give me courage at once, not because you have any plans, but because
you are yourself."

They were standing together by the window, and Katharine put her arm
through Knutty's. They looked a strange pair: Knutty with her unwieldy
presence of uncompromising bulk, and Katharine with her own special
grace of build and bearing. She was clothed in a blue dressing-gown. Her
luxuriant hair fell down far below her waist. The weird Norwegian moon
streamed into the room, and shone caressingly around her. It was a
wonderful night: without the darkness of the south and without the
brightness of the extreme north; a night full of strange half-lights and
curious changes. At one moment dark-blue clouds hung over the great
valley, mingling with the mists in fantastic fashion. Then the blue
clouds would give place to others, rosy-toned or sombre grey, and these
two would mingle with the mists. Then the next moment the moon would
reassert herself, and her rays would light up the rivers and fill the
mists with diamonds. Then there would come a moment when mists and
clouds were entirely separated; and between this gap would be seen, as
in a dream, a vision of the valley beyond, mysterious and haunting.
Verily a land of sombre wonder and mystic charm, this great Gudbrandsdal
of Norway, with its legends of mortal and spirit, fit scene for weird
happenings and strange beliefs, being a part of that whole wonderful
North, the voice of which calls aloud to some of us, and which, once
heard, can never be lulled into silence.

The two women stood silently watching the beauty of this Norwegian
summer night, arrested in their own personal feelings by Nature's
magnetism.

"Behold!" cries Nature, and for the moment we are hers and hers only.
Then she releases us, and we turn back to our ordinary life conscious of
added strength and richness.

Katharine turned impetuously to Knutty.

"He must and shall believe in his father again," she said. "I know how
helpless boys are in their troubles, and how unreachable. But we will
reach him--you and I."

"With you as ally," said Knutty, "I believe we could do anything."

"Poor little fellow, poor little fellow!" said Katharine tenderly.

As she spoke she glanced out of the window and saw some one coming down
from the birch-woods. She watched the figure approaching nearer and
nearer to the Gaard.

"There is some one coming down from the woods," she said. "How
distinctly one can see in this strange half-light!"

"One of the cotters, perhaps," suggested Knutty.

"No," said Katharine, "it is the boy--it's Alan."

They watched him, with tears of sympathy in their eyes. They knew by
instinct that he had been wandering over the hills, fretting his young
heart out. They drew back, so that he might not see them as he passed up
the garden.

They heard him go into the back verandah and up the outer stairs leading
to his room.

They caught sight of his troubled face.



CHAPTER IX.


It was Katharine who proposed the expedition to a group of Saeters. She
came down one morning in a determined frame of mind, and no obstacles
could deter her from carrying out her scheme. F---- was about a day's
journey distant from the Gaard, and Katharine had heard of its beauties
from several of the guests, including the Sorenskriver. The difficulty
was to get horses at the Gaard, for they were wanted in the fields, and
when not required for work, they appeared to be wanted for rest. Solli
did not like his horses to go for expeditions, and as a rule he was not
to be persuaded to change his views. When asked, he always answered:

"The horses cannot go." And there the matter ended.

To-day also he said, "The horses cannot go;" and Katharine,
understanding that entreaty was vain, made no sign of disappointment,
and determined to walk. She invited Alan specially to come with her, and
the boy, in his shy way, was delighted. Her manner to him was so genial
that, spite of his trouble, he cheered up.

"The others may come with us if they like," she said to him; "but we are
the leaders of this expedition. It is true that we don't know the way;
but born leaders find the way, don't they?"

Ejnar declared he would go, and Gerda, still feeling injured, said she
would stay behind. But Tante advised her to go and see that Ejnar did
not run away with Katharine. The Sorenskriver refused rather sulkily,
but was found on the way afterwards, having changed his mind and
discovered a short cut. The little Swedish lady-artist accepted gladly,
and the Swedish professor accompanied her as a matter of course, being
always in close attendance on his pretty young compatriot. Clifford said
he would remain with Knutty, but Knutty said:

"Many thanks. But I'm coming too. Do you suppose I've come to Norway to
let others see Saeters? Not I."

"But, Knutty," he said, looking gravely at her, "you know we'd love to
have you, but----"

"But you think it is not humanly possible," she answered, with a twinkle
in her eye. "Well, I agree with you. If I walked, I should die; and if I
rode, the horse would die! And as there is no horse----"

But just then Jens came into the courtyard leading Svarten, the black
Gudbrandsdal horse, and Blakken, a sturdy little Nordfjording.[L] Jens
hitched Svarten to the gig. Another pony was brought from the field hard
by.

"The horses can go," said Solli, looking rather pleased with himself;
and the little band of travellers, agreeably surprised, called out:

"Tusend tak, Solli!"

"Well, now, there _are_ horses," Clifford said, turning to Knutty.

"Kjaere," she answered, "I may be a wicked old wretch, but I'm not as
bad as that yet! I'll stay at home and read to Bedstemor out of the old
Bible which Bedstefar bought in exchange for a black cow! Could anything
be more exciting? But you go--and be happy."

"Happiness is not for me, Knutty," he said.

"No, probably not," she answered gravely. "But go and pretend. There's
no harm in that."

"All the same," he said a little eagerly, "it is curious how much
brighter and happier I do feel since we came here. It's the getting
back to you, Knutty. That is what it is."

"Yes, I can quite believe that," replied Knutty. "There now. They are
starting off."

But he still lingered in the porch.

"What sort of nonsense have you been telling Miss Frensham about my
researches?" he said, smiling shyly.

"Oh," said Knutty, "I only told her you were engaged on some ridiculous
stereo-something investigations. I didn't think it was anything against
your moral character."

He still lingered.

"Do you know," he said, "I've been thinking that I shall enlarge my
laboratory when I get back. I believe I am going to do a lot of good new
work, Knutty."

"I shouldn't wonder," she answered. "A man isn't done for at
forty-three."

"No, that's just it," he said brightly. "Well, good-bye for the
present."

She watched him hasten after the others. She laughed a little, and
congratulated herself on her beautiful discretion. And then she went
over to Bedstemor's, and on her way met old Kari carrying a bundle of
wood. Old Kari, who always plunged without preliminaries into a
conversation, said:

"Perhaps that nice Englishwoman will find a husband here after all, poor
thing. Perhaps the Englishman will marry her. What dost thou think?"

Meanwhile Clifford hurried after the Saeter pilgrims, and caught up with
Gerda and Ejnar. Katharine and Alan were on in front, but he did not
attempt to join them. But he heard Alan laugh, and he was glad. A great
gladness seized him as he walked on and on. She was there. That was
enough for him. Ah, how he had thought of her when he was away. She did
not know. No one knew. It was his own secret. No one could guess even.
No one would ever know that Alan's unhappiness was only one of the
reasons for their sudden return. There was another reason too: his own
unconquerable yearning to see her. He had tried to conquer it; and he
had not tried to conquer it. He had tried to ignore it; and he had not
tried to ignore it. He had said hundreds of times to himself, "I am not
free to love her;" and he had said hundreds of times too, "I am free to
love her." He had said of her, "She is kind and pitiful; but she would
never love me--a broken-spirited man--never--never." And he had said,
"She loves me." He had said, "No, no, not for me the joys of life and
love--not for me. But if only in earlier days--if only----" And he had
said, "The past is gone, and the future is before me. Why must I turn
from love and life?"

But he had ended with, "No, no, it is a selfish dream; there is nothing
in me worthy of her--nothing for me to offer her--nothing except failure
and a saddened spirit."

But this morning Clifford was not saying or thinking that. He remembered
only that she was there--and the world was beautiful. For the moment,
all troubles were in abeyance. He scarcely remembered that the boy
shirked being with him and went his own way in proud reserve. He had,
indeed, scarcely noticed it since his return. If Alan went off with
Jens, it was only natural that the two lads should wish to be together.
And for the rest, the rest would come right in time. So he strode on,
full of life and vigour, and with a smile on his grave face. And Gerda
said:

"And why do you smile, Professor?"

He answered:

"The world is beautiful, Frue.[M] And the air is so crisp and fine."

Gerda, who enjoyed being with Knutty's Englishman, was glad that Ejnar
was lingering behind picking some flower which had arrested his
attention. She did not mind how far he lingered behind alone. It was the
going on in front with Katharine which she wished to prevent! She said
to Clifford:

"Your countrywoman is very attractive. I like her immensely. Do you like
her?"

"Yes," said Clifford.

"She is not fond of chemistry, I think."

"No."

"Nor is she botanical."

"No," said Clifford.

"Nevertheless, she has a great charm," said Gerda. "Tante calls it
temperamental charm. It must be delightful to have that mysterious gift.
For it is a gift, and it is mysterious."

Clifford was silent. Gerda thought he was not interested in the
Englishwoman.

"How blind he is!" she thought. "Even my Ejnar uses his eyes better. He
knows that woman is charming."

Katharine was indeed charming that morning, and to every one. She had
put little Fröken Eriksen, the Swedish artist, and the Swedish
mathematical Professor, Herr Lindstedt, into the gig, so that they might
enjoy a comfortable flirtation together. They laughed and greeted her
pleasantly as they drove on in front.

"Tack!" they said, turning round and waving to her. They felt she
understood so well.

Soon afterwards the Sorenskriver was found sitting on one of the great
blocks of stone which formed the railing of the steep road down from the
Solli Gaard.

"Good-morning," he said. "May a disagreeable old Norwegian join this
party of nations?"

Katharine beamed on him, and spoke the one Norwegian word of which she
was sure, "_Velkommen!_"

But she did not let him displace Alan. She kept the boy by her side,
giving him the best of her kindness and brightness. She drew him out,
heard something about his American journey, and listened to a long
description of the ship which took him out and brought him home. He did
not once speak of his father. And she did not speak of him. But she had
a strong belief that if she could only manage to win the boy for
herself, she could hand him back to his father and say, "Here is your
boy. He is yours again. I have won him for you."

It was a joy to her to feel that she was working for Clifford Thornton.
And with the pitiful tenderness that was her own birthright, she was
glad that she was trying to help the boy. She knew she would succeed. No
thoughts of failure crossed her mind. No fears of that poor Marianne
possessed her. She made no plans, and reckoned on no contingencies. She
had never been afraid of life. That was all she knew. And without
realising it, she had a remarkable equipment for success in her
self-imposed task. By instinct, by revelation, by reason of her big,
generous nature, she understood Marianne: that poor Marianne, who, so
she said to Knutty, could not be called unmerciful if she was
ignorant--since mercy belonged only to true knowledge.

So she kept Alan by her side, and he was proud to be her chosen
companion. She said:

"This is our show, you know. The other people are merely here on
sufferance. And if the Sorenskriver says anything disagreeable about
England, we'll wollop him and leave him tied up to a tree until we
return."

"Or shove him down into the torrent," said Alan, delighted. "Here it is,
just handy."

"Yes; but he has not begun yet," she answered. "We must give the poor
man a chance."

"Don't you feel beastly angry when these foreigners say anything against
England?" he asked.

"Beastly angry!" she replied with gusto.

He smiled with quiet satisfaction. He loved her comradeship of words as
well as her comradeship of thoughts.

They passed over the bridge leading to the other side of the Vinstra
gorge, stopped to rest at the Landhandleri (store-shop), and then began
their long ascent to the Saeters. Up they went past several fine old
farms; and as they mounted higher, they could see the Solli Gaard
perched on the opposite ridge. The road was a rough carriage-road
leading up to a large sanatorium, which was situated about
three-quarters of the way to F----. As they mounted, the forest of
Scotch firs and spruces seemed thicker and darker, being unrelieved by
the presence of other trees, as in the valley below. Leafy mosses formed
the carpeting of the forest, and a wealth of bilberries was accumulated
in the spruce-woods; whilst the red whortleberry showed itself farther
on in open dry spots amongst the pines which crept up higher than the
Scotch firs--"Grantraer," as the Norwegians call them. Then they, in
their turn, thinned out, and the lovely birches began to predominate; so
that the way through the forest became less gloomy, and the spirits of
the pilgrims rose immediately, and Gerda sang. But, being Danish, she
sang a song in praise of her native beech-woods! And the Sorenskriver
joined in too, out of compliment to Denmark, but said that he would like
to recite to the English people the poem about the beeches of Denmark,
the birches of Sweden, and the fir-trees of Norway. The beeches were as
the Danes themselves, comfortable, easy; the birches were even as the
Swedes, graceful, gracious, light-hearted; and the grim firs were as the
Norwegians, gloomy, self-contained, and sad.

"Therefore, Fröken," he said, turning to Katharine, "judge us gently. We
are even as our country itself, stern and uncompromising."

"But grand, Herr Sorenskriver," said Katharine, "with nothing petty."

"Nei da!" he said, looking pleased. "It would be nice to think that this
was as true of ourselves as of our mountains."

Then they glanced back at the snow-clad Rondane in the distance; and
they came out into the open country, and saw the Jutenheim (the home of
the giants) in front of them. They had left the region of the firs,
pines, and birches, and reached the land of the dwarf-birch, the willow,
and the persistent juniper. And here the rough carriage-road ended; for
the sanatorium, where the fashionable Scandinavians were taking their
summer mountain-holiday, was now only a few yards off. The saeter
pilgrims had thought of dining there; but no one seemed inclined to face
a crowd of two hundred guests. So the little company drew up by the side
of a brook, and ate Mysost[N] sandwiches; the Sorenskriver, who
continued in the best of good humours, assuring Katharine that this was
an infallible way of learning Norwegian quickly. Alan was disappointed
that he was not rude.

"Then we could go for him," he said privately to Katharine.

"Oh, perhaps he may even yet be rude!" whispered Katharine, reassuring
him.

When they had lunched and taken their ease, they started once more on
their journey, passing the precincts of the sanatorium in order to hire
boats for crossing the beautiful mountain lake; for F---- was on the
other side, perched high up on the mountain-slope. By rowing over, they
would save themselves about two miles of circuitous rough road. Jens
said that he would take the gig and the horses round by the road to meet
the boat. Alan went with him, but he looked back wistfully at Katharine
once or twice.

And now a curious thing happened. As Katharine and Gerda were standing
waiting for their boat, the sound of English voices broke upon them.

"English," said Gerda. "That is a greeting for you."

"Well, it's very odd," said Katharine, listening; "but I've heard that
voice before."

"Perhaps you think it is familiar because it is English," suggested
Gerda.

"Perhaps," answered Katharine; but she was still arrested by the sound.

"I thought the Sorenskriver said that no English people came here?" she
said.

"He said they came very rarely to these parts," Gerda replied. "One or
two Englishmen for fishing sometimes; otherwise Swedes, Danes, Finns,
Russians."

"I am sure I have heard that voice before," Katharine said. She seemed
troubled.

"There they go, you see," Gerda said, pointing to two figures. "They
were in the little copse yonder--two of your tall Englishwomen. How
distinctly one hears voices at this height! Well, the Kemiker is waiting
for us. Du milde Gud! Look at my Ejnar handling the oars! Bravo, Ejnar!"

"Come, ladies," called Clifford cheerily from the boat. "Let us be off
before the Botaniker upsets the boat. He has been trying to reach a
plant at the bottom of the lake."

When they had taken their places, Katharine turned to Clifford, who was
looking radiantly happy, and she said:

"Row quickly, row quickly, Professor Thornton. I want to get away from
here."

"Do you dislike the great caravanserai so much?" he said. "Well, you
have only to turn round, and there you have the Jutenheim mountains in
all their glory. Are they not beautiful?"

She looked at the snow-capped mountains; but for the moment their beauty
scarcely reached her. She was thinking of that voice. When had she heard
it? And where?

"The mountains, the mountains of Norway!" cried Clifford. "Ah, I've
always loved the North, and each time I come I love it more
passionately, and this time----"

No one was listening to him. Gerda and Ejnar were busy trying to see
what was in the bottom of the lake, and Katharine seemed lost in her own
thoughts. Suddenly she remembered where she had heard that voice. It was
Mrs Stanhope's. The words rushed to her lips; she glanced at Clifford,
saw and felt his happiness, and was silent. But now she knew why the
sound of that voice had aroused feelings of apprehension and anxiety,
and an instinctive desire to ward off harm both from the man and the
boy.

For directly she heard it, she had been eager to hurry Clifford away,
and relieved that Alan had gone on with Jens.


[Footnote L: Horse from the Nordfjord. Svarten, the black one; Blakken,
the yellow one.]

[Footnote M: _Frue_, Norwegian for Frau.]

[Footnote N: The favourite Norwegian cheese.]



CHAPTER X.


So they rowed across the lake, he remembering nothing except the joy of
being with her, and she trying to forget that any discord of unrest had
broken in upon the harmonies of her heart. They landed on swampy ground,
and made their way over rare beautiful mosses, ling, and low growth of
bilberry and cloudberry. Ejnar and Gerda became lost to all human
emotions, and gave themselves up to the joys of their profession. Long
after all the rest of the little company had met on the rocky main road
to the Saeters, the two botanists lingered in that fairyland swamp. At
last Jens and Alan were sent back to find them, and in due time they
reappeared, with a rapt expression on their faces and many treasures in
their wallets. The country grew wilder and grimmer as the pilgrims
mounted higher. The road, or track, was very rough, scarcely fit for a
cariole or stol-kjaerre, and the Swedish mathematical Professor felt
anxiously concerned about the comfort and safety of the little Swedish
artist, who was a bad walker, and who therefore preferred to jolt along
in the gig. But she did not mind. She laughed at his fears, and
whispered to Katharine with her pretty English accent:

"My lover is afraid for my safeness!"

And Katharine laughed and whispered back:

"I hope you are having a really good flirtation with him."

"Ja, ja," she answered softly, "like the English boy says 'reeping
good!'"

Grimmer and wilder still grew the mountainous country. They had now
passed the region of the dwarf-birch and willow-bushes, and had come to
what is called the "lichen zone," where the reindeer-moss predominates,
and where the bushes are either creeping specimens, growing in tussocks,
or else hiding their branches among the lichens so that only the leaves
show above them. It seemed almost impossible to believe that here, on
these more or less barren mountain-plateaus, good grazing could be found
for the cattle during the summer months. Yet it was true enough that in
this particular district the cows and goats of about fifty Saeters found
their summer maintenance, about fifty of the great Gaards down in the
side valleys of the Gudbrandsdal owning, since time immemorial, portions
of the mountain grazing-land. The Sollis' Saeter was not in this region.
It was fifty miles distant from the Solli Gaard, and, as Jens told the
pilgrims, took two whole days to reach, over a much rougher country than
that which they had just traversed.

"This is nothing," said Jens smiling grimly, when the Swedish lady was
nearly thrown out of the gig on to Svarten's back. "We call this a good
road; and it goes right up to the first Saeter. Then you can drive no
more. Now you see the smoke rising from the huts. We are there now."

Jens, usually so reserved and silent, was quite animated. The
mountain-air, and the feeling of being in the wild, free life he loved
so much, excited him. He was transformed from a quiet, rather surly lad
into an inspired human being fitted to his own natural environment.
Gerda, looking at him, thought immediately of Björnson's Arne.

"You love the mountains, Jens?" she said to him.

"Yes," he answered simply. "I am always happy up at the Saeter. One has
thoughts."

They halted outside the first Saeter, and turned to look at the
beautiful scene. They were in the midst of low mountains. In the
distance, across the lake, they could see the snow-peaks of the great
Jutenheim range--the home of the giants. Around them rose strange weird
mountain forms, each one suggestive of wayward and grim fancy. And over
to the right, towering above a group of castle-mountains, peopled with
strange phantoms born of the loneliness and the imagination, they saw
the glistening peaks of the Rondane caught by the glow of the sun
setting somewhere--not there. And below them was another mountain-lake,
near which nestled two or three Saeters apart from the rest, and in
which they could see the reflection of the great grey-blue clouds edged
with gold. And above them passed in tumultuous procession the wonders of
a Norwegian mountain evening sky of summer-time: clouds of delicate
fabric, clouds of heavy texture: calm fairy visions, changing
imperceptibly to wild and angry spectacle: sudden pictures of fierce and
passionate joy, and lingering impressions of deepest melancholy,--all of
it faithfully typical of the strange Norwegian temperament.

"One must have come up to the mountains," whispered Clifford to
Katharine, "to understand anything at all of the Norwegian mind. This is
the Norwegians, and the Norwegians are this."

And the grim old Sorenskriver, standing on the other side of Katharine,
said in his half-gruff, half-friendly way:

"Fröken, you see a wild and uncompromising Nature, without the gentler
graces. It is ourselves."

"And again I say, with nothing petty in it," said Katharine, spreading
out her arms. "On a big scale--vast and big--the graces lost in the
greatness."

"Look," said Jens, "the goats and cows are beginning to come back to the
Saeters. They have heard the call. You will see them come from all
directions, slowly and in their own time."

Slowly and solemnly they came over the fields, a straggling company,
each contingent led by a determined leading lady, who wore a massive
collar and bell. She looked behind now and again to see if her crowd of
supernumeraries were following her at sufficiently respectful distances,
and then she bellowed, and waited outside her own Saeter. The saeter
pilgrims stood a long time looking at this characteristic Norwegian
scene: the wild heath in front of them was literally dotted with far-off
specks, which gradually resolved themselves into cows or goats strolling
home in true Norwegian fashion--_largissimo lentissimo_! Even as stars
reveal themselves in the sky, and ships on the sea, if one stares long
and steadily, so these cows and goats revealed themselves in that great
wild expanse. And just when there seemed to be no more distant objects
visible, suddenly something would appear on the top of a hillock, and
Jens would cry with satisfaction:

"See, there is another one!" He looked on as eagerly as all the
strangers, very much as an old salt gazing fixedly out to sea. Then some
of the saeter-girls came out to urge the lingering animals to hurry
themselves, and the air was filled with mysterious cries of coaxment and
impatience. At last the pilgrims went to inquire about food and lodging
for the night.

"You may get it perhaps," Jens remarked vaguely. This, of course, was
the Norwegian way of saying that they would get it; and when they
knocked at the door of the particular Saeter which Jens pointed out to
them, a dear old woman welcomed them to her stue (hut) as though it were
a palace. She liked to have visitors, and her only regret was that she
had not known in time to prepare the room for them in best saeter
fashion. Meanwhile, if they would rest, she would do her utmost; and she
suggested that the gentlemen should go down to the Saeter by the lake
and secure a lodging there, and then they could return and have their
meal in the stue here. She was a pretty old woman. Pleasure and
excitement lit up her sweet face and made her eyes wonderfully bright.
She wanted to know all about her visitors, and Gerda explained that they
were Swedes, Danes, and English, and one Norwegian only, the
Sorenskriver. She was deeply interested in Katharine, and asked Gerda
whether the English Herr and the boy were Katharine's husband and son;
and when Gerda said that they were only friends, she seemed
disappointed, and patted Katharine on the shoulder in token of sympathy
with her. Gerda told Katharine, and Katharine laughed. She was very
happy and interested. She had forgotten the sound of that jarring voice.
All her gaiety and _bonhomie_ had come back to her. It was she who began
to help their pretty old hostess. It was she who sprinkled the fresh
juniper-leaves over the floor, throwing so many that she had to be
checked in her reckless generosity. Then Gerda fetched the logs, and
made a grand fire in the old Peise (stone fireplace), and almost
immediately the warmth brought out the sweet fragrance of the
juniper-leaves. The old woman spread a fine woven cloth over the one bed
in the room. Then she bustled into the dairy and brought out mysost--a
great square block of it, and fladbröd, and coffee-berries, which
Katharine roasted and then crushed in the machine. When the table had
been set, the old woman brought a bowl of cream and sugar, and the
"vaffle" irons, and began to make vaffler (pancakes). She filled three
large plates with these delicious dainties, and her eager face was
something to behold. Finally she signed to Katharine, who followed her
into the dairy, and came back carrying two wooden bowls of
römmekolle--milk with cream on the top turned sour.

"Now," she said triumphantly, "everything is ready. And here come the
Herrer. And now you will want some fresh milk. The cows have just been
milked."

"No, no, thou hast done enough. I will go and fetch the milk," said the
Sorenskriver, who was in great spirits still, and almost like a young
boy. "Why, thou dear Heaven, I was a cotter's son and lived up at the
Saeter summer after summer. This is like my childhood again. I am as
happy as Jens!"

So off he went to the cowhouse at the other end of the little
saeter-enclosure. He began to sing a stev[O] with the milkmaids. This
was the stev:--

    ASTRI, MY ASTRI.

    (_The Sorenskriver sang_.)

    As-tri, my As-tri, who cared but for me,
    The time you were car-ing so warm-ly for me;
    Weep-ing each Sa-tur-day night when I left,
    Do you re-mem-ber it, now that it's past?
    That was the time when I out-shone them all,
    Law-yer and priest in the val-ley were nought,
    That was the time when I out-shone them all,
    Law-yer and priest in the val-ley were nought.

    (_The milkmaids answered_)--

    The time you were caring for Astri alone,
    Was the time when that Svanaug you cared not to see;
    The time when your steps were so active and brisk,
    Hastening to greet me each Saturday eve.
    That was the time when no riches on earth,
    Fair could have seemed without my sweetheart's love.
    That was the time when no riches on earth,
    Fair could have seemed without my sweetheart's love.

[Illustration: Sheet music of 'Astri, my Astri.']

He returned with two jugs of milk. A merry laugh sounded after him, and
he was smiling too. The saeter-door was divided into two parts, and he
shut the lower half to keep out the draught; and when the old woman
tried to slip away, leaving her guests to enjoy themselves in their own
fashion, he said:

"No, no, mor, thou must stay." And every one cried out:

"Thou must stay."

So she stayed. She tidied herself, folded a clean white silk kerchief
crosswise over her head, and took her place at the table, dignified and
charming in her simple ease of manner. Many an ill-bred low-born, and
ill-bred well-born society dame might have learnt a profitable lesson
from this old saeter-woman--something about the unconscious grace which
springs from true unself-consciousness. And she smiled with pride and
pleasure to see them all doing justice to the vaffler, the mysost, the
fladbröd, and the römmekolle. She was particularly anxious that the
English lady should enjoy the römmekolle.

"Stakkar!" she said. "Thou must eat the whole of the top! Ja, saa, with
sugar on it! It is good. Thou canst not get it so good in thy country?
Thou hast no mountains there, no Saeters there? Ak, ak, that must be a
poor sort of country! Well, we cannot all be born in Norway."

And she laughed to see Alan pegging away at the vaffler.

"The English boy shall have as many vaffler as he likes," she said.
"Wilt thou have some more, stakkar? I will make thee another plateful."

It was a merry, merry meal. Every one was hungry and happy. The
Sorenskriver asked for some spaeke-kjöd (smoked and dried mutton or
reindeer) which was hanging up in the Peise. He cut little slices out of
it and made every one eat them.

"Otherwise," he said, "you will know nothing about a Norwegian Saeter.
And now a big piece for myself! Isn't it good, Botaniker? Ah, if you eat
it up, you will be inspired to find some rare plants here!"

Then they all drank the old saeter-woman's health.

"Skaal!" they said.

And then Clifford said:

"Skaal to Norway!"

And the Sorenskriver said:

"Skaal to England!"

And the botanists said:

"Skaal to Sweden!"

And the Swedish professor said:

"Skaal to Denmark!"

Then the Sorenskriver added:

"Would that all the nations could meet together up at the Saeter and cry
'Skaal!'"

And at that moment there came a knock at the door, and a little man in
English knickerbockers and Norfolk jacket asked for admittance.

"English, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, German?" asked the Sorenskriver.

"_Monsieur, je suis un peintre français_," said the little man, somewhat
astonished.

"Then Skaal to France!" cried the merry company, draining their
coffee-cups.

The Frenchman, with that perfect tact characteristic of his nation,
thanked them in the name of his country, his hand on his heart; and took
his place amongst these strangers, at their invitation. And then they
gathered round the fire and heaped up the logs. Katharine never forgot
that evening: the five nations gathered together in that quaint low room
built of huge tree-trunks roughly put together, with lichen and
birch-leaves filling in the crevices: the curious mixture of languages;
the fun of understanding and misunderstanding: the fragrance of the
juniper: the delightful sense of good fellowship: the happiness of being
in the presence of the man she loved: the mysterious influence of the
wild mountains: the loosening of pent-up instincts and emotions. Years
afterwards she was able to recall every detail of the surroundings: the
Lur (horn) hanging on the wall, and in those parts still used for
calling to the cattle; the Langeleik (an old kind of zither) in its own
special recess, seldom found missing in real old Norwegian houses,
silent now, but formerly playing an important part in the saeter-life of
bygone days; the old wooden balances, which seemed to belong to the
period of the Ark; the sausages and smoked meat hanging in the Peise;
the branches of fir placed as mats before the door; the saeter-woman
passing to and fro, now stopping to speak to one of her guests, now
slipping away to attend to some of her many saeter duties. Then at an
opportune moment the Sorenskriver said:

"Now, mor, if we heap on the logs, perhaps the green-dressed Huldre will
come and dance before the fire. Thou hast seen the Huldre, thou? Tell us
about her--wilt thou not?"

But she shook her head mysteriously, and went away as if she were
frightened; but after a few minutes she came back, and said in an awed
tone of voice:

"Twice I have seen the green-dressed Huldre--ak, and she was beautiful!
I was up at the Saeter over by my old home, and my sweetheart had come
to see me; and ak, ak, the Huldre came and danced before the fire--and
she bewitched him, and he went away into the mountains and no one ever
saw him again."

"And so," she added simply, "I had to get another sweetheart."

"Aa ja," said the Sorenskriver. "I expect there was no difficulty about
that."

"No," she answered, "thou art right."

And she beat a sudden retreat, as though she had said too much; but she
returned of her own accord, and continued:

"And the second time I saw the Huldre it was on the heath. I had gone
out alone to look for some of the cows who had not come home, and I saw
her on horseback. Her beautiful green dress covered the whole of
Blakken's back, and her tail swept the ground. And Blakken flew, flew
like lightning. And when I found the cows, they were dying. The Huldre
had willed them ill. That was fifty years ago. But I see her now. No one
can ever forget the Huldre."

So the evening passed, with stories of the Huldre, and the Trolds, and
the mountain-people of Norwegian lore; for here were the strangers in
the very birthplace of many of these weird legends, all, or most of
them, part and parcel of the saeter-life; all, or most of them, woven
out of the wild and lonely spirit of mountain-nature.

And then the little company passed by easy sequence to the subject of
visions and dreams. Some one asked Katharine if she had ever had a
vision.

"Yes," she answered; "once--once only."

"Tell it," they said.

But she shook her head.

"It would be out of place," she answered, "for, oddly enough, it was
about God."

"Surely, mademoiselle," said the Frenchman, "we are far away enough from
civilisation to be considered near enough to God for the moment?"

But she could not be induced to tell it.

"You would think I was a religious fanatic," she said. "And I am neither
fanatical nor religious."

"Ah," said Ejnar, "I hope I may have a vision to-night of what is in the
bottom of that lake we crossed over."

"You did your very best, Professor, to include us all in that vision of
the bottom of the lake," said Clifford quaintly.

"My poor Ejnar, how they all tease you!" said Gerda.

"I think," said Katharine, "the Kemiker ought to know better, being
himself a scientific man. Probably if he were piloting us all down a
mine, he would not care what became of us if his eye lit on some
unexpected treasure of the earth-depths."

"Noble lady," said Ejnar, smiling; "I perceive I have a friend in you,
and the Kemiker has an enemy."

Clifford Thornton looked into the fire and laughed happily.

Then Gerda said:

"Twice I have dreamed that I found a certain species of fungus in a
particular part of the wood; and guided by the memory of my dream, the
next day I have found it. Have you ever found anything like that in a
dream, Professor Thornton?"

Clifford looked up with a painful expression on his face.

"I always try my very hardest never to dream, Frue," he answered.

"And why?" she asked.

"Because up to the present we appear to have no knowledge of how to
control our dreams," he replied.

"But if we could control them, they would not be dreams," said
Katharine.

"So much the better then," answered Clifford; "they would be mere
continuations of self-guided consciousness in another form."

"But it is their utter irresponsibility and wildness which give them
their magic!" cried the French artist. "In my dreams, I am the prince of
all painters born since the world began. Mon Dieu, to be without that! I
tremble! Life would be impossible! In my dreams I discover unseen,
unthought-of colours! I cry with rapture!"

"In my dreams," said the Swedish mathematician, "I find the fourth
dimension, the fifth dimension, the hundredth dimension!"

"In my dreams," said the Sorenskriver, waving his arms grandiosely, "I
see Norway standing by herself, strong, powerful, irresistible as the
Vikinger themselves, no union with a sister country--nei, nei, pardon
me, Mathematiker!"

"Why, you would take away the very inspiration of the poet, the very
life of the patriot's spirit," said Katharine, turning to Clifford.

"You are all speaking of the dreams which are the outcome of the best
and highest part of ourselves," said Clifford, speaking as if he were in
a dream himself. "But what about the dreams which are not the outcome of
our best selves?"

"Oh, surely they pass away as other dreams," she answered.

"But do you not see," he said, "that if there is a chance that the
artist remembers the rapture with which he discovered in his dream that
marvellous colour, and the patriot the joy which he felt on beholding in
his dreams his country strong and irresistible, there is also a chance
that less noble feelings experienced in a dream may also be remembered?"

The Frenchman shrugged his shoulders.

"Mon Dieu!" he said. "We cannot always be noble--not even in our
dreams. I, for my part, would rather take the chance of dreaming that I
injured or murdered some one and rejoiced over it, than lose the chance
of dreaming that I was the greatest artist in the world. Why, I have
murdered all my rivals in my dreams, and they are still alive and
painting with great _éclat_ pictures entirely inferior to mine! And I am
no worse for having assassinated them and rejoiced over my evil deeds in
my dream."

"Probably because there were no evil consequences," Clifford said. "But
supposing there had been evil consequences, what then?"

"But you do not seriously believe that there is any such close
relationship between dream-life and actual life, between dream-cause and
actual effect?" asked Gerda.

"I do not know what I believe about it, Frue," he answered. "Some day
science will be able to explain to us the mysterious working of the
brain in normal life, in dream-life, in so-called death: and the
connecting links."

He had risen as he spoke, as though he, even as the old saeter-woman,
had let himself go too much, and now wished to slip away quietly. But
they all rose too, and the Sorenskriver said:

"We have spent a true saeter-evening, communing with mysteries. The
spirit of place has seized us, the mountain-spirit. But if we do not
soon get to rest and sleep dreamlessly, we shall have no brains left us
in the morning for yet another mountain mystery--the making of the
Mysost!"

"Tak for maden" (thanks for the meal), he added, turning to the old
saeter-woman.

"Tak for maden!" cried every one in a pleasant chorus.

"And tak for behageligt selskab!" (thanks for your delightful company),
he said, turning to all his comrades.

"Tak for behageligt selskab!" cried every one.

Then the men went off to the Saeter down by the lake; and Katharine,
Gerda, and the little Swedish artist arranged themselves for rest as
well as they could in a rough saeter-stue. The two of them were soon
asleep; but Katharine lay on her bench in the corner watching the fire,
listening to the moaning of the wind, and thinking of Clifford Thornton.

"Dreams, dreams," she thought. "Why should he dread to dream? And his
face was full of pain when he said that he tried never to dream. Ah, if
I could only reach him--sometimes we seem so near--and then----"

Katharine slept.

But in the morning she was up betimes, and out in the early freshness
and crispness. She was alone on that wild expanse. There was deep
stillness all around her. Silently, softly the magic mists were
caressing the mountains. The stars were losing their own brightness in
the brightening skies. The sun was breaking over the distant snow-peaks
of the Giant range. She was alone with Nature. And Nature set her free.

"My belovèd!" she cried. "My life was as grey as this great dreary wild
until your presence glorified it. You broke in upon my loneliness--the
bitterest loneliness on earth--a woman's heart-loneliness,--you broke in
upon it so that now nothing of it remains--scarcely the memory. Have no
fear, my belovèd. I will gather up your past life and your past love
with reverential tenderness. I have no fear. My love for you and my
belief in you shall conquer everything."

Clifford Thornton was mounting from the Saeter down by the lake-side. He
came out joyously into the freshness and crispness of the early morning.
He was alone on that wild expanse. There was deep stillness all around
him. Silently, softly the magic mists were caressing the mountains. The
stars were losing their own brightness in the brightening skies. The sun
was breaking over the distant snow-peaks of the Giant range. He was
alone with Nature. And Nature set him free.

"My love!" he cried. "I fling the past behind me at last. There are no
barriers--none--none. Fool that I was to think I was not free. Free! I
am as free as these vast stretches of wild country, free as this
mountain air. Do you know, will you ever know, oh, you must know, my own
belovèd, that I am yours--yours, unutterably yours. Shall I ever clasp
you in my arms and know that you are mine?"

Then suddenly he saw Katharine in the distance, and she saw him. She was
moving towards him as he was moving towards her. He hastened to meet her
with a tornado of wild gladness in his heart.

But when they came face to face they stood in silence, as when they had
first met on the evening of the quartette.

He was the first to find words.

"Don't let us go back," he said; "let us go on--let us go on--the
morning is still young--and there is no gladness like the gladness of
the early morning. What do you think?"

"No gladness like the gladness of the early morning," she repeated
joyously.

So they passed on together, over the wild and stony heathland, in the
direction of the Rondane mountains: he with a song in his heart, she
with the same song in hers.

"Isn't it glorious to be up here?" he cried. "I feel like the
Sorenskriver himself--a silent, surly fellow suddenly turned
light-hearted and eloquent. Knutty always said I ought to have been a
Norwegian."

"And I feel like Jens," said Katharine, "an inspired person, with grand,
big thoughts in my mind, which I shall lose on my way down to the valley
again. Ak, ak!"

"What was your vision?" he asked. "Will you not tell me?"

"If you wish," she answered; "but it is not worth telling, really. I
have never told any one. I don't know how I came to let those words slip
out last night."

"Tell me," he said, turning to her.

"Well," she said, "I was going to have a slight operation to my mouth,
and some anaesthetic had been given to me. I was trying my very hardest
to keep my consciousness to the last millionth of a minute, when I saw a
look of great mental suffering and tension on the surgeon's face. And I
said to myself, 'I will be merciful to the man, and I will make a
sacrifice to him of what I value most on earth at this moment: the tiny
remaining fragment of my consciousness. He will never know, and no one
will ever know; all the same, from my point of view, it is a deed of
infinite mercy.' So I let myself pass into unconsciousness an
infinitesimal instant of time sooner than I need have done. I heard him
say, 'Now!' Suddenly I found myself in a vast region, which seemed
limitless, which seemed to consist of infinite infinities which one
nevertheless could see were finities blending with each other
imperceptibly."

Katharine stood still a moment.

"And I realised," she continued, "how little I had ever known about the
proportion of things, how little my mind had ever grasped the true
significance of finities, which here were certainly infinities. I felt
entirely bewildered, and yet wildly excited. Ever since I can remember,
great space has always excited me. And suddenly, whilst I was wondering
where to go, what to do, whom to reach, I saw a woman near me--a
beautiful woman of so-called ill-fame. And she cried out to me:

"'This is heaven, and I am straining upwards, upwards, upwards through
all the infinities until I reach God. _For it takes the highest to
understand the lowest._'

"And I went with her, and a dim vision of God broke upon me, and I knew
no more. But I came back to consciousness, saying, 'For it takes the
highest to understand the lowest.'"

She paused a moment, and then said:

"If I had been thinking of God, I could better understand why I had that
vision."

"You had been thinking of God," he answered. "You had thought of mercy
and sacrifice, of an inappreciable quantity and quality from a finite
point of view; and that led you to think unconsciously of the different
aspect and value of things when seen and understood by an infinite mind
unbounded by horizons. If there is a God, that must be God--the greatest
and highest mind which understands the lowest grade of everything:
religion, morals, morals, religion."

"But it is not you who should have a vision of that kind," he added.
"You do not need it. It should come to those who cannot see beyond their
prison wall. It might make them wish to break through it and see the
open space, and still more open space, and still more open space. But
you, who have the free spirit, you were surely born in the open space;
no petty narrow horizon for you, but a wide and generous expanse."

"Alas!" she said, "you are imputing to me virtues which I have not!"

"They are not virtues," he answered. "They are part of your temperament;
born with you, not acquired."

She smiled at his praise. It was very sweet to her. He smiled too. He
was proud that he, a prisoner of silence, had had the courage to say
those words to her. And on they went together, he with a song in his
heart, and she with the same song in hers. Once she thought to ask him
why he tried never to dream; but she glanced at his grave face lit up
with happiness, and she grudged that even a passing shadow of pain
should mar the brightness of the morning. And once, perhaps at that same
moment, he himself thought of his dreams, and felt, by sudden
inspiration, that one day, one day he would be able to open his heart to
her--the woman born in the open space--and tell her the history of his
burdened mind. The thought flashed through him, and brought, not
memories of the past, but hopes for the future.

At last they turned back to the Saeter, and realised they had come a
long way: far away from the beat of the cows and goats. But after a
spell of solitude, they met a few of the wandering creatures, who
stopped to look at them and inquire in loud chorus what right they had
to venture on these private pastures. And after a time they came upon
more stragglers; and then they made out a black cow in the distance,
immovable and contemplative; but, on closer inspection, it proved to be
Ejnar examining some new-found treasure! As they approached he called
out to them:

"What have you brought back from your long walk?"

"Nothing, nothing," they cried together.

"Well," he answered, looking at them pityingly, "how foolish to go for a
long walk, then!"

They laughed, passed on, and found Gerda standing scanning the distance.

"Did you see my Ejnar?" she inquired. "It is time for breakfast, and the
Sorenskriver has been singing in the Lur to call every one in. Listen,
there it is again! The Sorenskriver is in great good spirits again this
morning. He is like a big boy."

He was like a big, good-natured boy at breakfast too. Alan confided to
Katharine that he thought the old chap was behaving awfully
disappointingly well.

"He hasn't been disagreeable one single moment," Alan whispered. "And
look here, he has given me this Lap knife. Isn't it jolly of him?"

"I think that we shall all have to give him a vote of thanks instead of
wolloping him and tying him to a tree," whispered Katharine.

"Oh, but there's all the way back yet," said Alan quaintly. And then he
added, "I say, you'll let me come along with you again, won't you?"

"Of course," she answered, her heart going out to the boy. "Of course;
we are the leaders of this expedition, and must take our followers
safely home."

He blushed in his boyish way, and slipped away with a happy smile on his
young face. He did not know it, but he admired and liked Katharine
tremendously. He did not realise it, but he always felt, after he had
been with Katharine, that his old love and longing for his father began
to tug at his heart. He went and stood by him now in front of the
Saeter, and slipped his arm through his father's.

"It's splendid up here, isn't it, father?" he said.

"Yes, Alan," answered the man joyfully, as he felt the touch of his
boy's arm.

It was the first time for many months that the boy had crept up to his
father in his old chum-like fashion. Katharine watched him, and knew
that for the moment they were happy together, and that she had begun and
was carrying on successfully her work of love and healing for the boy as
well as for the man.

"It is a morning of happiness," she said to herself; and when the merry
little Swedish artist came into the saeter-hut and showed her the sketch
which she had been making of the interior, she found the Englishwoman as
gay as herself.

"Why," she said to Katharine, "you look as if you was having the flirts
as well as me! What do you think of my sketch? Not bad? I give it
perhaps to my lover." Then she danced round the room singing a gay
Swedish melody.

The old saeter-woman laughed, clapped her hands, and cried:

"Ja vel, it is good to dance when one is young and happy!"

And then the Sorenskriver blew the Lur again to summon every one to the
cheese-making.

"Mor," he said, "thou must show us everything, so that all these foreign
people may remember the only right way to make the best cheese in the
world."

So they went into the dairy, and saw all the different kinds of bowls
and pans, and rows of square blocks of Mysost kept there to settle into
solidarity. Each block weighed about ten pounds, and Katharine was
amazed to hear that it took the milk of forty goats to make one of these
cheeses a-day. Then they saw the infernal machine which separates the
milk from the cream, and the Sorenskriver, still acting as general
showman, poured a vessel of fresh rich milk into the iron ogre, whilst
Katharine, under directions, turned the handle, and made the mighty
beast to roar and screech. Every one's nerves were set on edge. Ejnar
dashed wildly from the hut; but was collared by Alan and Jens, for the
Sorenskriver cried out:

"Don't let the Botaniker go off by himself. We shall never find him, and
our time is getting short."

And then they went to the other little hut where the cheese was being
made. There were two large open caldrons over the great stone-oven, and
two pretty young saeter-girls (saeter-gjenter) were busily stirring the
contents of the caldrons. They told Gerda that one caldron contained
cream and the other milk, from which the cheese had first been taken by
mixing it with yeast. And the pigs got the rejected cheese. Then the two
liquids were heated slowly for about four hours, being stirred
unceasingly, and when they were on the verge of boiling, they were mixed
together. Meantime they both looked and tasted like toffee, and smelt
like toffee too.

"And now you have seen the true and only Mysost, mine Damer og Herrer,"
said the Sorenskriver dramatically. "Now you know the two secrets of
Norwegian greatness--the Mountains and the Mysost!"

And he half meant it, too, although he laughed. And the old saeter-woman
quite meant it.

"Ja, ja," she said proudly, and inclined her head with true Norwegian
dignity.

Then they packed up and paid. The paying was not quite an easy matter.
The old saeter-woman made no fixed charge, and appeared not to want to
take any money. The Sorenskriver had a twinkle in his eye when he
settled up. He knew that, in accordance with Norwegian peasant
etiquette, she would appear to be indifferent to the money, accept it
reluctantly, and then probably not consider it enough! However, he
managed this delicate task with great skill, and began to arrange for
returning to the Solli Gaard. But none of the company were anxious to be
off. They lingered about, strolling, talking, laughing. The French
artist was making a small water-colour of the picturesque interior of
the stue. And he wanted to come with them too, if they could wait a
little. The old saeter-woman gave Katharine a large cow-bell.

"It has rung on these mountains a hundred years and more," she said.
"Thou shalt have it. It is for thee, stakkar. I like thee. Thou art
beautiful and kind. It is a pity thou art not that Englishman's wife."

She beckoned to Gerda to come and translate her words, and the three
women laughed together. Gerda said in a whisper:

"It is a good thing that the Kemiker is out of the way. He would be
astonished, wouldn't he? I don't think love is much in his line, is it?
Why, he is less human even than my poor Ejnar--if indeed such a thing is
possible!"

But Katharine stooped down and kissed the old saeter-woman.

"Tusend, tusend tak!" she said. She rang the bell, and then pointed to
the old woman and then to her own heart. She attempted some Norwegian
words of explanation, too, most of them wrong--which added to the
merriment. The Sorenskriver translated them.

"When I ring the bell, I shall think of you."

A few minutes later Katharine, Alan, and Clifford were sitting on the
great blocks of stone outside the saeter-enclosure, when Alan said:

"Hullo! Here are two people coming up the road--two ladies. They have
alpenstocks. What bosh! Any baby could get up here."

"Probably they are on their way to some real climbing," Clifford said.
"You know the Norwegian women walk and climb a great deal in the summer.
I always think of little Hilda Wangel in Ibsen's 'Master-builder' when I
see them with their stocks and knapsacks. You remember she came straight
from the mountains to the Master-builder's office--'the young generation
knocking, knocking at the door.' Ah, and that reminds me about Ibsen's
'Peer Gynt.' We must not leave the Gudbrandsdal without making a
pilgrimage to Peer Gynt's home. Jens has been telling me about it. That
ought to be our next outing. Will you come?"

"I am ready for anything," Katharine answered.

"Hullo!" said Alan; "English voices. We ought to get up and wave a
Union-Jack."

The voices came nearer and nearer. Katharine heard that same hard,
metallic tone which had distressed her on the previous evening. She was
distressed now. She looked from father to son and son to father. They
had not yet recognised that voice. But they understood instinctively
that some disturbing element had come into their atmosphere. They stood
up. Katharine rose. They were on either side of her. The next moment Mrs
Stanhope and her companion appeared on the top of the ridge, and stood
face to face with them. For one brief moment they were all too much
astonished to utter even an exclamation of surprise. They merely looked
at each other.

Then Mrs Stanhope stepped forward, and held out her hand to Alan. She
ignored the presence of Clifford and Katharine, and made straight for
the boy.

"Alan," she said in her kindest way, "who would have thought to find you
up here?"

"This is my dear friend's son," she said, turning to her companion. "You
know how often I have spoken of Marianne to you."

Slowly, reluctantly the boy left Katharine's side, and took the hand
held out to him.

"I thought you were far away in America," Mrs Stanhope said.

"We have come back," the boy answered simply.

"Ah me," she said, with a glance at Clifford and Katharine. "The dead
are soon forgotten."

And she added:

"Well, dear boy, some other time we must have another long talk
together. And remember I am always waiting for you--for your dear
mother's sake."

And she passed on, but they heard her saying aloud to her friend:

"And that is the woman I told you about. She amuses herself with men and
throws them over, just as she threw over Willy Tonedale, my poor
infatuated cousin. And now she is amusing herself with this widower. She
might have had the decency to wait a little longer until poor
Marianne----"

Katharine hurried after the two women.

"How dare you, how dare you speak of me in that way?" she said in a
voice which trembled with passion. "Some day you shall answer to me for
it. If we were not in a foreign country, you should answer to me for it
now."

"It is good of you to put it off until we are in our own country," said
Mrs Stanhope, with a forced laugh. But she looked uneasy, for
Katharine's flushed and angry face was not reassuring.

At that moment the Sorenskriver, the Swedish mathematical Professor, the
little Swedish artist, and the Frenchman came out of the stue.

"Well," asked the Sorenskriver, "are we all ready? Thou art not glad to
leave the Saeter, Jens. Nor am I. But all good times must come to an
end. Nei, da, Fröken Frensham! Are we leaving just when you have found
compatriots? That is too bad."

"Oh, I think I can do without them for the present," Katharine said,
with a laugh. She had composed herself outwardly, but inwardly she was
consumed with anger and mortified pride. But her moral courage did not
forsake her, although she knew that Mrs Stanhope had deliberately tried
to put her at a disadvantage with that man and that boy. But she trusted
them. She returned to them, and said, with a wistful smile on her face:

"I heard her voice down by the lake-side. That was why I felt
distressed. I knew she would spoil our happiness--yours--the
boy's--mine."

"She has always spoilt our happiness," the boy said.

"Always," said the man--"always."

Then Alan did an unexpected thing.

"Come along," he said impulsively, putting his arm through Katharine's.
"Never mind what she says. Let's get away from her. Come along, father."

Clifford looked at his boy wistfully.

"You two go on ahead," he said. "I don't want you ever to see her, Alan.
She has never been a friend to us. But I must see her--for our own
pride's sake."

"Father," cried the boy, "I have seen her once since--since mother died;
you didn't know it, but I have seen her--just before we left for
America."

"I might have known it," said Clifford.

They watched him walk back to the stue. He turned and waved to them to
move on. Gerda and Ejnar joined them, and the Sorenskriver called out:

"Do not wait for the Kemiker. He has gone back to help his compatriots,
who cannot speak any Norwegian. Farvel, mor, and tak for alt!" (Thanks
for everything).

"Farvel, farvel!" the old saeter-woman cried, waving to them all; and
then she followed Clifford into her stue, where Mrs Stanhope and her
friend were seated on the bench. She sank down in her chair, tired.

Clifford took off his hat, and stood, a tall proud figure.

"I have come back to tell you, Mrs Stanhope," he said very slowly, "that
I have never even thought it worth my while to attempt to shield myself
against your malignant tongue. But I shall shield my friend whom you
have just insulted. And I shall shield my boy. You shall not get hold of
him and attempt to influence him against me. If you attempt to see him
again, I warn you that I will make direct inquiry concerning all the
damaging words you have said against me, and I will prosecute you to the
bitter end for defamation of character; to the bitter end, Mrs Stanhope;
at the cost of all the suffering to my pride."

She had never before confronted him, and a feeling of vague uneasiness
about some of her indiscreet words seized her. For once in her life her
ready tongue failed her.

"You have always been our evil genius," he went on. "Time after time my
poor Marianne and I could have got nearer to each other but for you. But
you shall not be my boy's evil genius. You shall not come between him
and me."

Mrs Stanhope still did not speak. She was tired, bewildered.

"And," he said, "I would warn you, too, that it is unwise of you to try
to belittle Miss Frensham in the presence of her friends."

Mrs Stanhope still gave no sign. His quiet, deliberate manner
intimidated her. For one moment there was a painful silence, to which
the saeter-woman put an end.

"Be so good as to tell them to go," she said to Clifford. "I do not want
any more guests now. I am tired. Tell them to go to the third Saeter
away from here."

He told them, with a ghost of a grim smile on his drawn face; and they
could see for themselves that the old saeter-woman wished to be rid of
them. She was pointing dramatically in the direction of the third
Saeter. They rose to go.

"You do not appear to have much belief in your son's belief in you," Mrs
Stanhope was able to say as they passed out of the stue.

"My dear Julia," her friend said, "I really advise you to remain
speechless for the rest of our visit to a Norwegian Saeter! Surely you
don't want two libel-suits! You know, my dear, I've always said your
indiscretion----"

They passed out of hearing. Clifford took leave of the old saeter-woman,
and went to join his companions.

"Alas!" he thought, "she was able to find the right weapon with which to
wound me."

Meantime Katharine and Alan were waiting for him. The boy had thrown
himself down on the ground, and seemed lost in his own thoughts.
Suddenly he said to her:

"How did you know it was her voice? You have never seen her--have you?"

"Yes," Katharine answered. "I have seen her once before, Alan, when she
said cruel and slanderous things against your father. Every one was
shocked. No one believed."

"No one believed," Alan repeated to himself.

"No one could believe such things of a man like your father," Katharine
answered without looking at him. "Even I, a stranger to him, knew they
must be untrue. I thought to myself at the time what a curse it must be
to be born with a tongue and a mind like Mrs Stanhope's. Much better to
be a sweet old saeter-woman like the old woman up there."

"What was it she said about father?" the boy asked with painful
eagerness.

"I think you know," Katharine replied gently.

And just then Clifford came towards them. Alan got up and ran to meet
him.

"Father," he cried, "I want to tell you everything she said to me. I've
tried dozens of times, but----"

"I know, Alan," Clifford said tenderly. "You are even as I have been all
my life--a prisoner of silence. We will have a long talk when we get
home."

It was a glorious day: with bright warm sunshine, cold, crisp air, and a
sky of unbroken blue. And all around stretched the great and wonderful
distances, less mysterious in the frankness of the morning, but always
possessed of mystic influence and eloquent bidding. But the harmony of
the day was gone for Clifford, Katharine, and Alan; the gladness of the
expedition was over for them. Still, they took their part with the
others, and did their best to hide their own sad feelings. The returning
pilgrims passed over the wild heathland, through the low and luxuriant
growth of brush, juniper, and stunted willow, through the birch-woods
and pine-forests, and so downwards, downwards, their faces set towards
the Rondane mountains and their backs to the great Jutenheim range.
Gerda sang, Ejnar was rescued from swamps, the French artist sketched,
and the little Swedish lady flirted with him, for a "changeling," so she
told Katharine! The Mathematiker sulked, Katharine comforted him, and
Alan kept close to her, whilst Clifford strolled along, sometimes with
them, sometimes alone, and sometimes with Gerda, who loved to get him to
herself. The Sorenskriver had left his geniality behind at the Saeter.
He became quieter and quieter, until he reached his normal condition of
surliness. Jens, however, remained in a state of mountain-exhilaration
all the way home, and, encouraged by sympathetic listeners, told stories
of frightful Trolds living in the mountains, and of the occasions when
he himself had seen apparitions of men, women, and horses fading into
nothing on near approach.

"Ja, vel," he said, "at this very water-trough where Svarten is now
drinking, I have seen half a dozen horses standing and barring the road;
but when I came near, they have disappeared. Ja, ja, I've even heard
them being whipped, and heard the noise of their hoofs striking the
ground."

He told a story of a man he knew who had once seen several men, all
black and all wearing top-hats, "just like church-people," standing on a
stone-heap down in the valley. He shouted to them, but they did not
answer, and then he was foolish enough to ask them to show him their
backs.

"Now," said Jens, "you know they have not any backs, and he had scarcely
pronounced the words when he fell in a dead faint. This was about six
o'clock in the evening; and two hours later he regained consciousness
and found himself lying near his own home. As it was in the valley that
he met these people, they must have carried him up home. He is very
grave and quiet now, and you will never hear _him_ making fun of the
Huldre-folk."

It was late in the afternoon when the travellers reached the Gaard. The
flag had been hoisted and was flying at half-mast. Knutty came out to
meet them, and said, "Velkommen tilbage" (Welcome back).

And then she added:

"Jens, Bedstefar is dead."


[Footnote O: _Stev_, a vocal conversation.]



CHAPTER XI.


The silence of death rested on the Gaard, and every one went about
softly in courtyard and house. The visitors had asked Mor Inga whether
or not she wished them to leave; but her message was that they might
stay if they pleased. Nevertheless, two or three of them, who resented
the presence of death, took themselves off at once; but their places
were filled up by a party of mountaineers who had come down from the
Dovrefjelde. One of them, so Knutty told her dear ones, was a Finnish
botanist, and he had found some rare flowers which had much excited him.
Knutty had a great deal of news to give; and it was obvious that she had
not been having a dull time.

"I began by reading the Scriptures to Bedstemor out of that remarkable
book bought in exchange for a black cow," she said, with a twinkle in
her eye. "That was truly enlivening, wasn't it? Then a lone, weird man
and his dog came down from the mountains. He had been fishing. He had
been on two Polar expeditions and his dog on one. The dog had just that
superior look and manner about him which would seem to proclaim that he
had been on the way to the North Pole. He seemed to be saying the whole
time, 'Don't dare to stroke me in that familiar way. I have been on a
Polar trip!' The man was more human, and told me a great deal. Then the
old Foged (under-magistrate) from the valley came to inquire about
Bedstefar. I flirted with him, and we drank aqua-vitae in the arbour.
Also I had my musical entertainment in my usual concert-hall, the
cowhouse. Also, Mor Inga was good enough to tell the milkmaids that they
might dance for me in the fladbröd-room. And beautifully they danced,
too! Their feet scarcely touched the floor! And then, dear ones, this
morning I had a great joy--a joy of joys--an English book to translate,
but not a novel, nor a problem play--nothing about the sexes for once.
Dear heaven, what a relief!--no--a book defending and explaining the
English people, written by a just and patriotic man, and to be
translated into all the Continental languages. And I am to do it into
Danish. Ah, I am a happy old woman--kille bukken, kille bukken, sullei,
sulleima! Nã, I long to finish it at once, and throw it at the
Sorenskriver's head!"

"We must deal gently with the Sorenskriver," said Katharine. "He has
been an old dear. He has been the life and soul of the Saeter
expedition. And he has not said one word against England."

"Because the old coward is afraid of the British lioness," Knutty said,
smiling at her. "You should have seen her, my Clifford, in the early
days here, standing up to the Sorenskriver and the fur-merchant from
Tromsö and overcoming them. And as for Ejnar, she has quite quelled him
too. We don't hear anything nowadays against Kew Gardens."

They all laughed, and handled the book each by turn almost lovingly. The
author would have been touched if he could have seen that little group
in a foreign land bending over his book, and thinking of him with pride
and gratitude.

"And if we feel grateful," Katharine said, "we, merely temporary and
willing exiles in a foreign country, imagine what the feelings of
enforced and permanent British exiles will be. I always have a great
sympathy with Britishers who have burnt their boats and are obliged to
live under a foreign flag. I would like to ship them all home."

"You would ship home many broken hearts," Clifford said.

"Well, the place for broken hearts is home," Katharine answered.

"I cannot say that the Saeter expedition has exhilarated any of you,"
remarked Knutty. "And you have not told me anything about it yet."

"You have been talking so much yourself, Tante," Gerda remarked.

"Kjaere," returned Knutty; "surely thou dost not wish me to be a
prisoner of silence like my Clifford?"

Her words brought Alan's impulsive outburst to the remembrance of both
Clifford and Katharine. They looked at each other. The boy was not
there.

"Knutty," said Clifford, "we saw Mrs Stanhope up at the Saeter."

"Well," she said, "you do say astounding things when you do speak."

He smiled gravely.

"Yes," he replied, "we saw Mrs Stanhope up at the Saeter."

But at that moment Ragnhild came into the verandah and touched Knutty on
the shoulder. She had not been crying, but she had on her pretty face
that awed expression which the presence of death in a community gives to
even the most unemotional. For death is a shock, and the mystery of it
holds us under its influence whether we be willing or not.

"Fröken," she said, "Bedstemor is asking for thee. No one will do except
only thee. And they have carried Bedstefar into the other house. And Mor
is very tired. Thou wilt come, ja?"

Tante went off with Ragnhild, and she had no further chance that evening
of talking with Clifford. But Katharine told her details of that strange
encounter up at the Saeter, and ended up by saying naïvely:

"And you know, Knutty, part of what Mrs Stanhope said is true, for I
have flirted tremendously in my time. At least, my brother always says
so."

"Well, my dear," Knutty said, embracing her, "and a good thing too! A
woman is not worth her salt if she does not know how to flirt. But all
women do know, though they call it by different names--taking an
interest in--making slippers for--embroidering waistcoats for--doing
mission work for--and so on, in an ascending scale of intensity, you
know, from the slipper business onwards and upwards to the postchaise,
or, I suppose we ought to say, motor-car in these advanced days. Don't
regret your flirtations! They have made you what you are--a darling!
Believe the word of a wicked old woman."

"I don't regret them!" Katharine said, as she went off to bed, laughing
quietly.

But the next morning Clifford gave Tante an account of the meeting with
Mrs Stanhope; and in the gentlest way possible Knutty confessed to him
that she knew Alan had been suffering and grieving over certain vague
ideas which Mrs Stanhope had planted in his mind when she saw him a day
or two before they sailed for America. Knutty did not tell him what
these ideas were; and he did not ask. But she described to him how
Katharine and she had seen the boy coming down from the hills in the
middle of the night, and how they had yearned to help him back to
happiness and ease of spirit.

"Then you knew that Alan had been worked on by Mrs Stanhope, and yet you
never gave a hint to me?" Clifford said.

"Ah," Knutty answered, "I had no heart to tell you. You were happy. It
is such a long time since I have seen you happy. I had no heart to wound
you."

"Alas!" said Clifford, "I have been thinking only of myself."

And he turned away from Knutty.

"It was not so at first," he said, as he turned to her again. "At first
I thought only about my boy, whom I had hurt and alienated by my selfish
outbreak just before his mother's death. I did all in my power to woo
him again. I grieved over his growing indifference to me. I said in the
bitterness of my heart, 'Marianne is between us.' On our travels I tried
to forget and ignore it. But I longed to return; for there were no
results of happiness to him or me from our journey and our close
companionship. When we were on our way home, my heart grew suddenly
lighter. And since that moment, I have been thinking only of
myself--myself, Knutty. I have scarcely noticed that the boy did not
want to be with me. I have not wanted to be with him. I have been
forgetting him."

"But we have not been forgetting him, she and I," Knutty said gently.
"Don't grieve. Every right-minded human being ought to have a spasm of
self occasionally."

He smiled and stooped down to kiss her kind old hand.

"And you saw the little fellow wandering about in the silence of the
night?" he asked sadly.

Knutty nodded.

"That stabs me more than anything," he said. "He is like me, Knutty. I
have taken most of my own sorrows out into the stillness of the night."

"Yes, kjaere," Knutty answered. "He is like you. It is a good thing for
me that I am not going to live long enough to know his grown-up son.
Three of exactly the same pattern--ak!--I couldn't stand that in one
lifetime!"

They were sitting on Tante's verandah, where she had established herself
with her writing-materials, her English dictionary, and the book which
she was translating.

"Have I really been such a burden to you?" he said a little wistfully,
playing with her pen.

"Ja, kjaere," she said, with a charming old smile. "You have been one of
those heavy burdens which are the true joy of silly old women like
myself."

And then she added:

"But for you, my spirit would be like a piece of dried fish in the
Stabur. Things being as they are, it is much more like one of those
tender fresh mountain-trout which Jens and Alan are going to catch for
poor Bedstefar's funeral. So be of good cheer, Clifford. You have done
me only good. All the same, three of you, no thank you! But I have
always yearned over the first--and I find myself yearning over the
second--yearning over that little chap! Ak, that metallic beast of a
woman! I'd like to break up her mechanism."

Clifford rose.

"Knutty," he said, "I have not asked you what she said, because I want
Alan to tell me himself. I am going to find him now."

When he reached the door of the verandah he paused.

"At least there is one thing that she could not have put into his heart
and head," he said, "because she did not know it--no one knows it--not
even you, Knutty, although I have tried to tell you times without
number. But it didn't come; and so the weeks have worn into months."

"Kjaere," she said, in real distress, "have you still anything on your
mind about poor Marianne?"

"Yes, Knutty," he answered, and he went away.

"Ak, ak," she said to herself, "It's just like that wretched Marianne to
be immortal."

She sat there puzzled and grave, but eventually made a great effort to
throw off worrying thoughts, and to focus her mind on the
translation-task.

Meanwhile Clifford passed up to his room thinking of his boy. He saw him
wandering on the hillside in the silence of the night. The picture which
thus rose before his mind's eye, touched him to the quick.

"We must put it all right between us," he said, "once and for all."

Then his door opened, and Alan came in.

"Father," he began shyly.

"My boy," Clifford said--and he put his hand on Alan's shoulder--"I
can't bear to think of you wandering about in the night alone, unhappy
and uncomforted. What is it that you have against me? What is it that
has been rankling in your mind? What is it that has made you drift
farther and farther away from me--I, alas! doing nothing to help you
back to me? I know Mrs Stanhope says unkind and unjust things against
me; but I never cared what she said, until I knew that my boy had turned
from me. Now I care."

"Oh, father," Alan cried, with a ring of distress in his voice, "I've
been so unhappy. I've tried to tell you dozens of times. You don't know
how I've longed to come and tell you."

"Yes, I do know," Clifford answered. "For I have tried to ask you time
after time, and could not. One night, before we started for America, I
bent over your bed, heard you sobbing in your dreams, and nearly woke
you to ask you what was troubling you--but I could not. It is awfully
hard for shut-up fellows like you and me to reach each other, isn't it?
But let's try now, this very moment; let's break the ice somehow. Tell
me everything, without fear and reserve; tell me everything; nothing can
wound me so much as being without our dear chumship."

Then the boy told him everything, bit by bit, in detached fragments; now
with painful effort, now with sudden ease. Clifford listened, his heart
grey. He had not expected the story to be as bad as this. He heard that
the boy had been terribly upset by his mother's death following
immediately on their conversation that day, when Clifford told him that
he intended to separate from Marianne. He had brooded over that. It was
so sad to think that his father had wanted to get rid of his mother, and
that she had died, alone, and no one caring. He had brooded over that.
Not at first, but after he had seen and spoken with Mrs Stanhope. He had
tried to forget what Mrs Stanhope said about his father having been
unkind to his mother, about his father having been the cause of his
mother's death. He could not forget it. He did not understand exactly
what she meant; but he had thought about it hours and hours, and he
remembered he had seen in the papers that his father had said at the
inquest that mother and he had had unhappy words together that very
evening; and then--and then all sorts of dreadful thoughts had come into
his mind, and he could not drive them away, and----

He stopped and looked at his father, who had begun to walk up and down
the room.

"Go on, my boy," Clifford said gently.

And the boy went on pitilessly, with the ruthlessness of youth, which is
unconscious, involuntary. As he gathered courage and confidence, he felt
the wild relief of freeing himself from his pent-up condition. And he
told his father he had begun to wonder more and more how his mother had
died--how she had died--and then he had remembered what Mrs Stanhope had
said to him about his sonship; he couldn't forget that--his sonship--and
he did not feel he ought to go on loving his father if there was any
doubt about the manner of his mother's death--no son could stand
that--and yet he had always loved his father so awfully, so awfully, and
he could not believe that he would have done anything to hurt his
mother; and yet he did not know--everything seemed so strange and
wrong--and he was so very unhappy, and the journey did not make things
better for him, for these dreadful thoughts were at the back of
everything he saw and heard--even on the sea, on that bully steamer; and
twice he had nearly run away--he wanted to get away by himself, away
from his father--yes, away from his father, because he could not bear to
be with him and feel----

He stopped again. Clifford stood still. His face was ashen.

"Go on," he said, almost inaudibly.

And Alan went on, and told his father how he had tried to leave him and
could not, and how he had tried to come and pour out his heart to him
and entreat him to say that it was not true what Mrs Stanhope had said.
But he could not. And old Knutty had urged him to come. But he could
not. And then, he did not know why, but lately he had been feeling
happier again, happier each day, and he had not been thinking so much
about--about his mother's death. And they had all been so jolly up at
the Saeter, until that beastly woman had come and spoilt everything; she
always had spoilt everything for them, and he hated her when he saw her
again, just as much as he ever used to hate her--and he hated her for
saying those beastly things against Miss Frensham, who was such a brick,
and----

A pang of jealousy shot through the man's heart.

"Ah," he said to himself bitterly, "he is up in arms for her."

"And, oh, father," cried the boy passionately, "I hate myself for
believing what she said against you--I don't know how I could have
thought anything bad of you; but I have, nearly the whole time since she
spoke to me about--about mother's death; and, oh, I've been so unhappy."

He had been sitting on the edge of his father's bed; and now, as if he
had suddenly come to an end of his powers of telling, he flung himself
lengthwise on the bed and turned his face to the wall.

For one moment Clifford hesitated. He would have given anything on earth
to have eased his mind then and there by telling the boy all the
circumstances of poor Marianne's tragic death. The old conviction that
he was responsible for Marianne's death assailed him once more. The old
battle between common-sense and morbid sensitiveness raged within him.
Was he responsible for Marianne's death? Was he not responsible for
Marianne's death? Was it his duty to tell the boy? Was it his duty to
spare the boy? Would it not be cruel to the boy to burden him with a
knowledge which he could not understand, and cruel to himself to risk
being hated and shunned by his own son? And for what--for what?--for a
fiction woven from the fine, frail threads of morbid conscientiousness.
But in spite of everything--oh, the luxury of opening his locked-up
heart--now--this moment!

Then a vision of the boy wandering alone on the hillside in the silence
of the night rose before him.

He went and sat on the bed where the boy lay, with his face turned to
the wall. He put his hand on Alan's arm.

"Alan," he said, "be comforted. There was nothing unnatural in your
mother's death; nothing which I humanly speaking, could have prevented.
Her heart was weak--weaker than she herself knew; but I knew--that was
why----"

He paused; for the dead are despots, and must not be spoken against.

"That was why I had always tried to keep her tranquil," he said.

The boy did not stir.

"I know what you have been thinking," Clifford went on. "I understand.
It was only right for you to have turned from me if such a terrible
thought had taken possession of you. If you had not done so, you would
not have been worthy to be called a mother's son. I know well how the
thought grew in your mind. It grew imperceptibly until it reached this
terrible size, didn't it?"

The boy moved his head in silent assent.

"But now you must get rid of it," Clifford said quietly, "because it is
not true. Your mother and I were not always happy together; things were
not always easy for her, nor sometimes quite easy for me, and I made
many mistakes, and I know I must have been very trying to
her--often--often--one thinks of all those mistakes when it is too late.
But, whatever I did do, or failed to do, I swear to you solemnly, that I
never meant to be unkind to her."

Alan turned impulsively round, threw his arms round his father's neck,
and whispered:

"Oh, father, I know you never were unkind to her."



CHAPTER XII.


Clifford was deeply wounded. It was all so much worse than he had
expected. The injury to the boy, the injury to himself wrought by Mrs
Stanhope, surpassed in reality his own vague anticipations of ill. But,
as usual, he hid his feelings under his impenetrable manner, and to
Knutty he only said:

"Knutty, Alan has been able to open his heart to me. And I have been
able to tell him that--that I did not kill his mother."

"Oh, my dear one," she cried, "you have suffered, both of you."

"It will be all right now for him," Clifford answered.

"And for you?" she asked anxiously.

"It will be all right for me later," he said. "I am going for a long
walk to think things over and pull myself together. And, Knutty, I want
you to tell Miss Frensham that I thank her with my whole heart for
urging the boy to come to me this morning. I cannot speak of it myself
just now. But you will tell her."

Knutty watched him climb up the steep hillside, pass the different
barns, and disappear into the birch-woods.

"Nã," she said, "it is the best plan for him to go and have it out by
himself with Nature, which he loves, to help and sustain him."

Later on she found Katharine, and gave Clifford's last message.

"Those were his last words, kjaere," she said. "I don't grudge them to
you one little bit. If you had not bewitched that boy, we should not be
one single step forrader. It was all too much for me. Seventeen stone
cannot bewitch any one. I know my limitations as well as my weight."

"Seventeen stone can stand solidly by like a fine old fortress," said
Katharine, giving her a hug.

"That metallic beast!--that metallic beast!" Knutty exclaimed. "She is
fifty times worse than poor Marianne. Marianne was merely an explosive
substance. She was a pretty bad explosive substance, I will own. But she
had some kind of a heart. Mrs Stanhope has only some sort of artificial
clockwork contrivance. But I'd like to tear even that out. Ak, ak, how
hot it is! Fat people will go to heaven when they die, I feel sure; for
they've had all their roasting on earth!"

"There is thunder in the air," Katharine said, as she fanned Tante with
an English newspaper. "I am sure we are in for a storm. I hope Professor
Thornton will not go far. Alan is out, too. He went off with Jens a few
minutes ago, down to the valley, to the Landhandleri. He has been
talking to me about his mother, Knutty. We had a stroll together before
breakfast, and then it was I told him that----"

Katharine paused.

"That he would never forgive himself if he were to lose his father
before he had told him what his trouble had been."

Knutty put down her knitting.

"Why did you say that?" she asked.

"I don't know," Katharine answered. "It came into my head, and I felt
something had to be done to help the boy through the barrier of silence
at once."

"Before it was too late, you meant?" Knutty said, looking distressed.

"Yes," replied Katharine simply.

"Well," said Knutty, in her own generous way, "I am glad he knew you did
it."

But they were not to be allowed to have further private conversation
that afternoon; for Bedstemor, now recovered from the first shock of
Bedstefar's death, came across from her own house to the Gaard. Ragnhild
hurried out to the porch, and begged Fröken Knudsgaard to keep Bedstemor
by her side and prevent her from making a descent on the kitchen, where
already great preparations were going on for the funeral feast.

"Bedstemor is going to give trouble!" Ragnhild whispered. "Thou knowest
she likes to have everything very, very grand. She wants us to do twice
as much as we are doing. Ak! There she comes now. Wilt thou not keep her
and talk with her? Let her tell thee again about her marriage, and how
she danced her shoes through on her wedding-day."

Knutty captured Bedstemor, and the old lady sat in the porch and talked
of poor Bedstefar.

"A ja," she said quaintly, "he is dead at last, poor man. He was two
years dying. It seemed a long time." Then she added mysteriously:

"God has been very good to me. And I feel very happy."

"Aha, that is a good thing," said Knutty. "Nei, nei, Bedstemor, don't go
and make yourself hotter in the kitchen. It is terribly hot this
afternoon. Stay here with me and tell me about your wedding. Tell me the
history of this old, old family. And is it true, Bedstemor, that when
you were fifteen, you were carried off by the mountain-people? Tell me
all about it. You can trust me. I won't breathe a word to any one."

So in this way Bedstemor was kept quiet, entertained and entertaining by
speaking of herself and old days, and old ways. She told Knutty about
Föderaad, the legal dues paid to the parents by the eldest son who takes
over the management of the Gaard. Knutty learnt that Föderaad varied in
different families; but in the Solli family it meant the possession of
five cows, eight sheep, sixteen sacks of grain annually, a two-year-old
calf for killing each autumn; also a pig, and a potato-field, or else
the payment of 60 kroner a-year. Bedstefar's death would deprive
Bedstemor of rather less than half this Föderaad; she would have three
cows, five sheep, half the quantity of grain, half the value of the
potato-field, and, of course, pig and calf entire; and the dower-house
with all its belongings undisturbed.

But the moment arrived when Bedstemor could no longer be deterred from
going into the Gaard which had once been hers, and making straight for
the kitchen, in a masterful manner born of reawakened memories of
ownership. Then Mor Inga came out and had a cry; but Tante patted her on
the back and whispered cheering words which brought a smile to Mor
Inga's tearful face.

"Ja," said Mor Inga, "thou art right, thou. One can never please one's
relatives. It is stupid to expect to do so. It was a wise remark. Thou
good Danish friend of mine!"

She told Tante that the old order of things was passing away, even in
the more remote parts of the valley; but as Bedstefar belonged to the
old order, he was to be buried according to the "gammel skik" (the old
custom). But they intended to reduce the number of feast-days to the
lowest number compatible with the dignity of the family and due honour
to the dead--about four days; only in that case it would be necessary to
show more than ordinarily lavish hospitality, so that none of the guests
might feel that the family had not the means nor the desire to entertain
them right royally. The kitchen had already become the scene of
increased industry; and Ragnhild would soon be cooking countless jellies
and innumerable fancy biscuits. No cakes were to be made; for, according
to custom, the guests would bring them on the day of the funeral, or
send them the day before. A sheep, an ox, and a calf were to be killed
that very evening, and some one would be sent to bring back fresh Mysost
from the Saeter. And two days before the burial, Jens and a fair-haired
cousin Olaf would go up into the mountains to bring back a good supply
of trout from the lake. Mor Inga reckoned that they would need about two
hundred pounds. Then the main dwelling-house and all the brown houses
would have to be thoroughly scoured and put in order.

"The guests must not see one speck of dust nor one unpolished
door-handle," Mor Inga said. "For they will walk over the whole house
and notice everything."

"Now remember," enjoined Knutty, as Mor Inga rose to go back to domestic
difficulties, "do your best, and don't waste time trying to please any
relation on earth; for it is an impossibility."

Solli passed by afterwards, and paused to say a few words to Tante. He
did not often talk.

"We are in for a thunderstorm," he said. "I wish we had more water. Rain
has been so scarce that we have no water with which to put the fire out,
if the Gaard should be struck by lightning. There has not been such a
dry season for years."

Old Kari paused a moment on her way to the house, where Bedstefar lay in
sublime unconsciousness of life, the things of this world, and the
bustling preparations which were being carried on for his funeral feast.
He lay there decorated with scented geranium-leaves. The entrance-door
of his resting-place was guarded by two young fir-trees, which Karl had
cut down from the woods above. He was visited from time to time by
different members of the family, and old Kari went in continually,
sprinkling the ground with water, and strewing fresh sweet
juniper-leaves on the floor which Bedstefar would never tread again. She
held some juniper in her apron now.

"God morgen," she said, nodding to Tante. "Ak, ja! I knew Bedstefar
would die yesterday. Lisaros was so restless. And there is still more
trouble to come, for Fjeldros has a very sore throat!"

Then Jens and Alan came back in the gig.

"We are going to have an awful storm, Knutty," Alan said. "It is
suffocating down in the valley. Where's father?"

"He went out," Knutty answered, pointing vaguely in the direction of the
birch-woods.

"I'll go and meet him," Alan said.

"Don't go, Alan," Knutty said a little anxiously. "You don't know which
way he will come back."

"Knutty," the boy asked shyly, "did he tell you we'd--we'd--we'd----"

"Yes," answered Knutty, with a comforting nod. "I know all about it."

"I feel quite a different fellow now," Alan said. "And father was so
awfully good to me. He wasn't angry or upset or anything. And he was
just splendid about mother, and--and, Knutty, I--I shall always hate
myself."

"You may do that as much as you like, so long as you love him," Knutty
said. "Now help me up, stakkar. I am going to take another lesson in the
making of fladbröd. And Mette is beckoning to me that she is ready to
begin."

As they strolled together across the courtyard to the hut where Mette
was making the fladbröd, Knutty said:

"I feel ten stone lighter to-day to think that my darling icebergs have
come together again. They must never drift apart any more."

"Never," said Alan eagerly; and Knutty, glancing at him out of the
corner of her sharp little eyes, was satisfied that Clifford had won or
was winning his son back to their old loving comradeship.

"Ah," she thought, "how unconscious the boy is of the wound he has
inflicted on his father. Well, that's all right. It is only fair on the
young that they should not realise the limits of their own
understanding."

So they went in and watched the bright and dramatic Mette, with whom
Tante had an affinity, making fladbröd for the funeral guests. She
explained that she was making the best quality now: cooked potato,
barley and rye, finely powdered and mixed, without water. Gaily she
rolled this mystic compound until it was as thin as a sheet of paper,
and she whipped it off with a flourish on to the top of the
fladbröd-oven, known as a "Takke," a round, flat iron oven placed for
the time being in the Peise. Then she turned it at the right moment on
to its other side, and whisked it off with another flourish on to the
top of a great pile of fladbröd, which looked like a ruined pillar of
classic times.

"Certainly," said Tante, nodding approvingly, "thou art a true
_artiste_, Mette."

"I do it best when I'm watched," said Mette, laughing. "Then I get
excited."

"An _artiste_ should get excited," said Knutty.

Then Knutty learnt that there were other kinds of fladbröd, the coarsest
quality being made of beans, barley, and water. And she was still
acquiring accurate knowledge on this important subject, and listening
delightedly to Mette's animated explanations, when a clap of thunder was
heard.

"Nei da!" cried Mette, "we are in for a storm. I must go and call my
poor cows home. It is nearly milking-time."

Tante found Gerda, Katharine, and Alan standing together in the
courtyard.

"Here comes my Ejnar," Gerda exclaimed, as a lone figure came into view
on the hillside. "I am thankful he has not strayed far. Solli says we
are in for an awful storm."

"And I see some one yonder," Katharine said. "I daresay that is
Professor Thornton."

But it proved to be the Sorenskriver. He hastened back to the Gaard,
hurrying the loitering Ejnar on with him. Every one had now returned
except Clifford. The sky grew blacker and more threatening. There was no
rain. Hesitating claps of thunder were heard. Knutty, Katharine, and
some of the others gathered together on the verandah, which commanded
the whole view of the valley, and watched the awe-inspiring exhibition
of Nature's anger. The fury of the storm broke loose. The lightning was
blinding, the thunder terrific. Time after time they all thought that
the Gaard must have been struck. At last the rain fell heavily and more
heavily. Every one was relieved to hear it; for the turf on the roofs of
all the black houses and barns was as dry as matchwood. Every one in
different corners of the Gaard was keeping a look-out for Clifford.

Knutty pretended to be philosophic, and said at intervals:

"He is quite safe, I am sure. He has taken shelter somewhere. Besides,
he loves a thunderstorm, the silly fellow! Isn't it ridiculous? Now, _I_
think the only pleasant place in a thunderstorm is the coal-cellar. I've
found it a most consoling refuge."

And when Alan said:

"I'm getting awfully anxious about father, Knutty," she answered:

"Now, really, kjaere, don't be foolish. He can take care of himself. He
was not born yesterday."

They all tried to reassure and divert the boy, all of them, including
even Ejnar.

"If the Kemiker does not bring some treasure back from his long
expedition," he said, "I, for one, will have nothing to say to such a
contemptible wretch."

Mor Inga came to add her word of comfort.

"No doubt the Professor has taken shelter at that little lonely Saeter
in the direction of F----," she said.

"He will be comfortable there; and the old woman makes an excellent cup
of coffee."

The storm died down. The early evening passed into the late evening; and
still Clifford did not come. Ten o'clock struck, and still he did not
come. At twelve o'clock the storm broke loose again and raged with
redoubled fury. Knutty, Katharine, and Alan watched together, in
Knutty's room. They could not induce the boy to go to bed. He was in
great distress.

"If father would only come back," he kept on saying; "if he'd only come
back. If he does not come soon, I must go and look for him."

"He will not return to-night," Katharine said. "And it would be useless
to go out and look for him. As Mor Inga says, he has probably taken
shelter in some Saeter, and there he will stay until the morning comes.
Cheer up, Alan dear. It will be all right to-morrow."

It was she who finally persuaded the boy to go to bed; and when she
looked into his room ten minutes later, he was fast asleep, worn out
with the emotions and anxieties of that day. Then Knutty and she watched
and waited.

"I should not be feeling so miserable about my poor iceberg," Knutty
said, "if he had gone off in a happier mood. But he was quite knocked
over by his interview with the boy. It was all so much worse than he had
anticipated. That was what I had feared."

"But you see it is past now," Katharine said, reassuring her,--"I mean,
the telling of it. He will come back, strengthened and soothed; while
Alan's anxiety for his father's safety will help to put things right."

"My dear, I never thought of that," Knutty exclaimed, with a faint
glimmer of cheerfulness on her old face. "You leap out to those things.
You're an illuminated darling. That's what you are."

Gerda came to see them.

"Ejnar is fast asleep and dreaming of 'Salix,'" she said; "but I could
not sleep, Tante. I have been thinking how dreadful it would be if the
Professor had been struck by lightning."

"That is what we have all been thinking, stupid one," answered Tante
gravely, "but we've had the sense not to say it. Go back to bed and
dream of 'Salix' too. Much better for you."

"But I came to comfort you," Gerda said "You must not send me away. Do
you know, I have been thinking of that song you love so much, 'Thou who
hast sorrow in thy heart.' Shall I sing to you now?"

Knutty nodded.

Gerda sang, softly, softly this Danish song:--

    THOU WHO HAST SORROW IN THY HEART.

    Thou, who hast sor-row   in thy heart,
    Go out to field and copse;
    Let the cool winds breathe on thee
    To make thee strong and whole.
    Go o-ver hill and o-ver dale,
    Go by the shin-ing sea and hear-ken intent,
    To the tale of sad-ness in the woods,
    And the gen-tle an-swer of the brook.

Knutty slept.

[Illustration: Sheet music of 'Thou who hast sorrow in thy heart'.]



CHAPTER XIII.


But Katharine did not sleep. Hour after hour she watched by the window,
straining her eyes into the distance. And as he still did not come, and
the suspense became intolerable, she went out to find him. It was five
o'clock when she left the Gaard, and nearly nine when she returned.

"Has he come back?" she asked eagerly of Gerda, who was standing in the
porch. Gerda shook her head.

Just then Ole Persen, the mattress-maker, arrived at the Gaard on his
annual round to repair the mattresses or make up new ones from the
year's accumulation of wool. Ole was the newsbringer of that part of the
Gudbrandsdal, and, for a mattress-maker, was considered to be rather
reliable. He would therefore have been quite useless on the staff of an
Anglo-Saxon evening newspaper. He brought the news that over at Berg,
about ten miles away, an Englishman had been struck dead by the
lightning, and his body had been brought down from the mountains to the
nearest Skyds-station (posting-station). Ole said that the people over
there were sure he was an Englishman, and the doctor had said that the
letters in his pocket were all from England. Ole had not seen him; but
they had told him that the dead stranger was a tall thin man, with thin,
clean-shaven face.

Mor Inga and Solli looked grave.

"Art thou sure he was an Englishman, Ole?" Mor Inga asked abruptly.

"I can only tell thee what they said," answered Ole. "The doctor
declared only an Englishman would have so much money in his pocket."

Then Mor Inga told Knutty exactly what she had heard, neither more nor
less.

"It may not be our Englishman," Mor Inga said gently, "but----"

And then Knutty told the others, first Gerda and Katharine.

"It may not be our Englishman," Knutty said, looking at them bravely,
"but----"

She told Alan.

"Kjaere," she said, "it may not be your dear father, but----"

In a few minutes Knutty, Katharine, and Alan were on their way to Berg.

Solli whipped up the horses unsparingly, and admonished them with weird
Norwegian words. His voice and the roar of the foss below were the only
sounds heard; for at the onset no one of that anxious little company
spoke a single syllable. They sat there with strained faces; they
glanced at each other with silent questionings, and then as quickly
turned away to look with sightless eyes at the country which was growing
sterner and grimmer as the valley became narrower and shut them in from
all generous share of sky and space. Suddenly there came a break in the
valley, and a flood of light broke upon the travellers; they breathed a
sigh of relief, and even smiled faintly, as though that unexpected
blessing had, for the moment, eased the overwhelming burden of their
hearts. They passed the place where the church had stood before it was
swept away in the great avalanche of a hundred years ago; and on they
went, skirting a fine old Gaard built near a great mound, said to be the
resting-place of some renowned chieftain; on they went, in their silence
and suspense. The two women glanced from time to time at the drawn face
opposite, and the boy felt the silent comfort of their sympathy. When at
last he spoke, the relief to them was as great as if there had been a
second break in the valley. He bent forward and put his hands on their
knees.

"I don't know what I should do without you both," he said simply, and he
drew back again.

"Stakkar," Knutty said, "two or three miles more, and we shall know."

"Oh, Knutty," the boy cried in a sudden agony, "and I've been saying
such cruel things to him, and never thinking about hurting him; and he
went off all alone, and I can't bear to think that----"

Alan broke off; and once more Knutty saw before her the solitary figure
of her beloved Englishman climbing up the steep hillside and
disappearing into the birch-woods. She heard his words, "It will be all
right for me later." Her eyes became dim; and she would have given way
to her grief then and there, but for Katharine, who, notwithstanding her
own great need, lent half her youthful courage, strength, and
hopefulness to the old Danish woman.

"Tante," she said in her impulsive way, "for pity's sake don't forget
that you are of Viking descent--a heartless, remorseless pirate, in
fact."

There came a faint smile on the old Dane's face.

"Thank you for reminding me of my ancestors, kjaere," she said.

"And besides," continued Katharine, "we may yet find another break in
the valley. We may find that all our fears have been only the fears of
love and anxiety."

"Do you really, really think that?" the boy cried, turning to her with
passionate eagerness.

"Yes, Alan," she answered, without flinching.

So she buoyed them up, and heartened herself as well, although she was
saying to herself all the time:

"Oh, my love, my love, if it be indeed you lying there in the silence of
death, then my womanhood lies buried with my girlhood."

At last the horses drew up at the entrance of an old Gaard which was
also the Skyds-station of that district. Solli had called out
immediately, and a young woman in the Gudbrandsdal dress stepped into
the courtyard.

"Yes, yes, stakkar, he lies upstairs," she said, glancing
sympathetically at the three travellers. "Come, I will lead the way."

They passed up the massive stairs outside the old house, and reached the
covered verandah. She pointed to a door at the end of the passage.

"That is the room," she said gently; and with the fine understanding of
the true Norwegian peasant, she left them.

Katharine put a detaining hand on Knutty and Alan.

"Shall I go in first and come and tell you?" she asked. "I am the
stranger. It should be easier for me."

But they shook their heads, clung to her closer, and so all three passed
into the room together. The room was not darkened; but sweet
juniper-leaves had been spread over the floor. Katharine led them like
two little stricken children to the bed of death: one of them a child
indeed, and the other an old woman of seventy, childlike in her need of
protecting help.

Then Katharine bent forward, and with trembling hands reverently lifted
the covering from the dead man's face--and they looked.

A cry rose to their lips.

The dead man was not their beloved one.



CHAPTER XIV.


Like children, too, Katharine led them from the room and took them into
the old Peise-stue below. Tante had for the time being forgotten her
Viking origin. Her nerve completely forsook her; and she cried
abundantly, from the strain and the merciful loosening of the tension.
Once she smiled through her tears as she pressed Katharine's hand and
gave Alan a reassuring nod.

"Ak," she said, "this is not the correct behaviour of an abandoned
sea-robber, is it?" And to Alan she added quaintly:

"Don't I make a beautiful comforter, kjaere? Ought not I to be proud of
myself?"

He made no answer, but came close to her, to show that she was a
comforting presence. He was painfully quiet--indeed, he seemed
half-bewildered; and Katharine, glancing at his ashen face, knew that he
was still under the spell of death's mysterious majesty. She wished that
they had not suffered him to go into that room of death; and yet he
would never have been satisfied to remain outside and take their word;
it was perhaps his own father lying there, and he had to see for
himself. But that part of it was over, and she felt she must break the
spell for him at once. She thought of scores of things to say; but
nothing seemed suitable. Suddenly, without thinking, she said:

"I know it sounds dreadfully prosaic; but I believe we should all be
better for some food. I am famished. Do go and ask that nice woman if we
can have breakfast, Alan."

The old Peise-stue in which they were sitting was a typical old
Norwegian room, with its quaint painted furniture, its sideboard adorned
with inscriptions, its Peise in the corner, fitted up in true old
fashion with a shelf on the top, which was furnished with carved and
painted jugs and bowls. There was, of course, a recess in the wall for
the Langeleik, and a queer little cupboard for the housewife's keys. Old
carved and painted mangles (manglebret), marriage gifts to several
generations, hung on the walls. The Kubbe-stul,[P] made from a solid
block of wood, stood in the corner. At any other time Katharine and
Knutty would have been deeply interested in seeing this characteristic
old place. But now they scarcely noticed it. They sat together looking
at nothing, and awaiting in silence the boy's return.

He came back with a different expression on his face.

"It's all right," he said. "We can have breakfast. I'm awfully hungry
too."

"So am I," said Tante; and in a few minutes the servant, in her pretty
costume of red bodice, white sleeves, and black skirt edged with green,
served them a good meal of trout, fladbröd, and admirable flödemelk
(milk with cream).

"Ripping, isn't it?" Katharine said, nodding approvingly to Alan.

"Ripping," he answered, always so glad and proud of her _camaraderie_.

"And now you'll go back to the Gaard," she went on, "and I believe you
will find your father waiting for you there, Alan. This was a false
alarm of danger, and I cannot think there is any more trouble in store."

"Do you really think that?" they both said to her.

"Yes," she answered, touched beyond words by their pathetic dependence
on her. "I believe he will come down from the mountains, and that you
will find him safe and sound."

"But you will be there too?" Alan said anxiously. And Knutty also said:

"But you will be there too?"

"I shall be with you in spirit," Katharine said; "but, you see, my place
is here, upstairs, Knutty, with that dead Englishman, lying lonely and
uncared for in a strange land. I could not go away until I, as an
Englishwoman, had done something on his behalf: watched by him a little,
written to his people, done something to show him that our gratitude to
him for not being--ours--had passed into gentle concern for him and
his."

Her voice faltered for the first time that morning when she paused at
the word "ours."

"So you will go back without me," she said; "but you will tell Professor
Thornton why I stayed behind. He will understand."

"Ah," said Knutty, looking at her lovingly, "you English people have the
true secret of nationality."

So they left her there, sadly enough; yet knowing that for the moment
her place was not with them, to whom she had already been so much, but
with her dead countryman upstairs. Knutty, with many tender
instructions, gave her into the charge of the people of the house.
Solli's last words as he drove off were:

"Take care of the English lady. Send her safely back in your best
cariole."

Katharine stood watching the carriage until it was out of sight; and
then a great longing and loneliness seized her. The music and words of
Gerda's Swedish song suddenly came into her remembrance:

    "The lover whom thou lov'st so well,
    Thou shalt reach him never--ah ... ah ...!"

And the wail of despair at the end of the verse smote as a piercing
blast on her spirit.

"Yes," she said, "he will come down from the mountains, and the joy of
reunion will be theirs; and I shall be outside of it--outside of it as
always. Always outside the heart of things."

She went slowly up the stairs; but when she reached the threshold where
the dead man was lying alone and as yet unmourned, she had forgotten
herself and her own personal life.

She uncovered his face once more. There was the burnt mark where the
lightning had passed through his brain. She tried to hide it with his
hair. His eyes were closed; but she laid her gentle hands on each of
them, so that his own countrywoman, and not a foreigner, should be the
one to put the last seal of sightlessness on them. She drew a soft
little handkerchief from her satchel and spread it over his face. Then
she glanced through the letters and papers which had been found on him,
and she discovered his name and his home address in Cornwall. He was a
soldier, captain in one of the line regiments. Probably he had been out
in South Africa. Yes, there was a letter addressed to him at
Bloemfontein. Katharine's sympathy deepened.

"Even more willingly do I watch by him," she said.

As there was no evidence of where he had come from in Norway, and as the
people of the Skyds-station had not even begun to make active inquiries,
she telegraphed to his Cornish address, and also to two or three of the
sanatoria in the more mountainous part of the country. No answer came;
and meantime she watched by his side, weaving from some forget-me-nots
and berries a garland, which she placed at his feet. It was no strain to
her to be giving her companionship to the dead. Katharine was fearless
of life and fearless of death, fearless of the living, fearless of the
dead. Her mind wandered back to her own dead: her mother whom she had
loved passionately and lost as a young girl; her girlhood's lover, whom
she had lost when she was scarcely twenty; her school-friend, whom she
had laid to rest ten years past. When each of them had died, she had
said, "This is the end of everything for me." But she knew that those
words had been no truer for her at thirty than at thirteen, and that the
only end of life itself, and therefore of life's thrill, was death
itself; _and then was that the end_? Was there immortality?--and what
was immortality? Was it, as some one had once told her, merely the
natural persistence under different conditions of the temperamentally
strong? Not necessarily the persistence of the good, but of the
masterful? She thought of all the forceful people she had known, and she
could not believe in their obliteration; somehow, somewhere they would
surely continue their individual processes for good or for bad. She
thought of all the half-toned, colourless people she had known, who
scarcely seemed to have any life in them in this life. Was it reasonable
to suppose that there could be any continuance of their feeble outlines?

She recalled a conversation she had had with an embittered man in
Arizona. He had scoffed at everything: at life, at love, at patriotism,
at death, at immortality.

"Belief in immortality!" he had cried. "Why, it is just a typical bit of
selfishness, that's all. We want immortality for ourselves and for those
we love. But we do not want it for those we hate. We do not want it for
those who interfere with us. We may pretend to have the principle of it
implanted in our hearts; but all we really care about is the
offshoot--the personal application of it to our own individual needs."

She remembered she had said to him:

"Yes, but the people hated by us are loved by other people; so that all
the thousands and thousands of personal applications create the great
principle, surely?"

She remembered his answer:

"That is not logical," he had said.

"Logical!" she had replied. "What a word to use about the great
mysteries of life and death! Learn to love some one. Then you will not
crave to be logical about immortality; you will only crave to believe in
it."

He had laughed at her; but two years later he wrote:

"Since seeing you, I have loved and have lost my love. I buried her in
the little cañon not far from my ranch. I find myself turning, spite of
myself, to a belief in immortality, whatever that may be."

Whatever that may be. That was the whole mystery which the reasoning of
all the finest brains in the world's history had failed to unravel.
Love, itself a great mystery, had done more. Was it possible that love,
itself a mystery, and yet a key to many of life's perplexing problems,
might prove to be the only key to the problems of death?

These thoughts passed through Katharine's mind as she watched over the
dead.

Once she turned in her impulsive way to that silent companion.

"If you could only tell us what you have found!" she cried.

And then she recalled to her mind something which a great thinker had
said in her presence.

"Some day," he had said, "we may stumble across the natural means of
communication with the dead, and, like all other great discoveries, it
will seem simple. The difficulties are insuperable in the present state
of knowledge among the living; and the dead have to recover from the
shock of death, and to find readjustment to altered conditions of
existence. But there is all Time in which to work out the discovery; and
there is always the chance that we may find out the great truth by an
accident of detail in our researches and reflections."

"_But the dead have to recover from the shock of death._" What was it he
meant? Death was a shock to the nervous system of the living; but to the
dead themselves surely it was----Ah, that was just the whole mystery;
and the chemist, the philosopher, the poet, the musician, the explorer,
the priest, and herself, an ordinary unilluminated person of average
intelligence,--all were mere surmisers--mere surmisers....

Then the door was gently opened, and Katharine, leaving with a sigh of
relief the regions of surmise, came back to actual life; for, first and
foremost, she was human, and the earth was her territory. The woman of
the Gaard said something to her, and beckoned to her. Katharine followed
her out of the room, and tried to understand what she was saying, but
could only gather the words, "To Engelske" (Two Englishmen). The woman,
who seemed greatly harassed, took her straight to the "Peise-stue,"
pointed in a despairing way to two men, said, "Engelsk," and hurried
off, holding her hands to her head, as though things were too much for
her. Katharine saw two Englishmen sitting warming themselves before the
fire. They turned round as she came in, and she noticed at a glance that
the elder of the two was the exact image of the dead man upstairs.

"Then you got my telegram," she said, thinking at once of the telegram
which she had sent off to three of the mountain sanatoria.

"Telegram?" said the elder man, looking at her in a puzzled way. "What
telegram? I've had no telegram; could have had no telegram. I, my
friend, and my brother have been out in the mountains fishing; but my
brother left us. The storm came on; he did not return, and we made our
way down here, hoping to find him or get some news of him. Perhaps you
can tell us something; for the woman of the house does not understand a
word we say, and we don't understand her. We are quite bewildered, and
so is she."

Katharine looked at the two Englishmen, and saw that they were worn out,
wet through, and hopelessly at a loss. Her protective instincts for
those who were in trouble leapt up within her. She was not going to
suffer these tired fellows to have any unnecessary shock, and so she
took the precaution of asking the elder man his name.

It was the name of the dead man upstairs.

Then in the gentlest manner possible, as though she had known this
stranger years instead of minutes, Katharine broke the sad news to him.


[Footnote P: _Kubbe-stul_, a chair cut out of one solid piece of wood.]



CHAPTER XV.


When Clifford said good-bye to Knutty and passed out of sight into the
birch-woods, he had no intention of going in any definite direction. He
wished to get on to the heights somewhere and be alone with Nature, that
tender nurse who is ever waiting to hold out her healing hands to the
sick of body and of spirit. She had never failed him, and he knew that
she would not fail him now; that she would minister to him in her own
beautiful, strengthening way, until she had made him whole; putting balm
on stinging wounds, and exchanging his cup of bitterness for a phial of
courage. He had always loved her, always sought her out, always laid
everything before her, and learnt from her, over and over again, the
relative value and the actual size of the difficulties which life
presented to him. He had carried out to her some burden which seemed
enormous, and brought it back from her so shrunk that he would scarcely
have known it for his burden; rather for some one else's load, which is
always deemed lighter. So he went to seek her help. He strolled through
the birch-woods, scarcely noticing where he trod; gained the open
slopes, and then climbed slowly in the direction of a little isolated
Saeter which commanded a view of the fine Rondane mountains. He paused
now and then, and dug his stick into the springy moss and the stunted
juniper-bushes.

"The boy always loved me," he said bitterly. "And now?"

And Nature said:

"He will love you again."

"Ever since the little fellow could find his way about he wanted to be
with me," he said bitterly. "And now?"

And Nature said:

"He will want to be with you again."

"It is all so much worse than I thought," the man said bitterly. "At the
very worst I thought that he might have believed I had been unkind to
Marianne. But----"

And Nature said:

"He did not know what he did believe. The tiny cone of disbelief had
grown into one of my giant forest-trees. But now we have hewn down that
giant tree, used it to defeat itself, and made a strong bridge of it,
over which the boy passes to reach you again."

"Passes back to me as he was before?" the man asked.

And Nature said:

"No, no, passes forward, onward to meet you at another point. For you,
too, have passed on."

"Ah," cried the man, "I have been forgetting him. All my thoughts have
been for her--and this is my just punishment, that in the midst of my
selfish happiness I should be wounded in my tenderest affections, and
reminded of the bitter past--reminded of the manner of Marianne's death
and my share in it."

"Morbid conscientiousness, morbid conscientiousness," Nature said.
"Often have you and I fought out that battle together--fought it out at
midnight on the moors and on the mountains, and along the lonely country
roads. And now we must fight it out again; here, this very moment, with
the Rondane in front of us, and the snow-peaks in the distance, and the
great Gudbrandsdal spread out below us."

So they fought it out, and it was a hard battle, a hand-to-hand fight;
for the man was stubborn, and prepared to defend his fortress of
self-reproach and sadness to the bitter end. But Nature gathered
together all her forces--and conquered.

And when the dire battle was over, she held out her hands to him, and
ministered to him; at her bidding the bracing mountain air sent currents
of fresh life into the man's body; the great expanse sent a thrill of
freedom into his soul; the magnificence of earth and sky sent a thrill
of gratitude and gladness into his spirit.

"The earth is beautiful and life is splendid!" he cried, as he lifted up
his head and passed on his way.

"Ah," said Nature softly.

"The boy loves me!" he cried. "We shall have a closer friendship than
before."

"Ah," said Nature gently.

"I have the right to love her!" he cried. "I shall seek her out and
tell her everything."

"Ah," said Nature softly.

"Yes," the man cried. "I shall tell her everything about my poor
Marianne's death. She has a great heart and a noble mind. She will
understand. My beautiful love----"

"Ah," said Nature tenderly. "I can safely leave him now--conquered and
renewed."

And yet she paused for a moment, fearful to leave his side until she was
certain that the child whom she had always loved had reached a firm
foothold of healthy human instincts.

"My beautiful love!" he cried. "You understood from the very beginning,
and came to warn me of Mrs Stanhope's slanderous tongue. I little
guessed what she was capable of saying to my boy; but you knew, and did
not shrink from me."

Then, as his thoughts turned to Mrs Stanhope, anger and indignation took
possession of him.

"I will go and find her now," he cried. "I will find my way over the
mountains somehow, and see her face to face."

"Ah," said Nature, smiling, "I can leave him now in the safe keeping of
human love and healthy human anger."

So she left his immediate presence, and he became unconscious of his
surroundings, and tramped across the rough mountainous country
determined to reach Mrs Stanhope. He did not notice the signs in the
heavens; the gathering storm gave him no warning; or at least no warning
reached him. The storm broke loose at last, and aroused him to the
knowledge that he was miles away from the Gaard, lost on the mountains,
and alone with Nature in her wildest mood. The heavens were in raging
tumult; the thunder was terrific; the lightning appalling. At first
there was no rain. The man leaned against a rock and watched the awful
splendour of the scene; watched the opening of the clouds and the
passing of the lightning. It held him spellbound, entranced. He had
always loved to be out in a great storm. He stood there, an unconscious
target for its fury, and nothing harmed him; the lightning played around
him, tore up the ground within a few yards of his feet, withered up a
stunted juniper-bush within reach of his arm. Nature, working harm and
bringing sorrow in other directions, spared him to those who loved him
and were waiting for him.

So he stood, confronting the storm, with all personal thoughts and
emotions in abeyance. But when the rain poured down in torrents, he
began to think of finding shelter, and remembered that he had passed a
lonely little Saeter. He had only a vague idea of his bearings; and,
indeed, without knowing it, as he tried to retrace his steps he was
wandering farther away, both from that Saeter and from the Gaard.

He became distressed about the anxiety which his prolonged absence would
be causing to his friends: to dear old Knutty, who had seen him start
off so sadly: to his boy: to Katharine. He knew that they were waiting
for him, and wanting him, and that they were watching the storm, and
watching the evening fading into the night. He knew so well that Knutty
would pretend not to be troubled, and would scold every one who even
suggested that there might be cause for anxiety. He almost heard her
saying:

"He loves a thunderstorm. The silly fellow, I know him well!"

He smiled as he thought of her.

"My dear old Dane!" he said. "My dear old brick of a Dane!"

He wandered on and on trying to find the Saeter, changing his direction
several times, but in vain. But at last he caught sight of a habitation
at some distance, and made straight for it, thankful to have found a
haven. There was a light in the hut. Clifford knocked, and the door was
instantly opened. There was a fire in the stove.

"Ak," said the old woman who opened the door, "I thought it was my son.
But you are welcome. It is a fearful night. Many times I thought the hut
was struck. I am glad for company."

The son came in a few minutes afterwards, and she made hot coffee for
them both, whilst they dried themselves before the crackling logs. And
overcome by the genial warmth and his long wanderings, Clifford slept.

And he dreamed of Katharine. He dreamed that he, who had always found
speech difficult, was able to tell her the story of Marianne's death. He
dreamed that he went on telling her, and she went on listening; and it
was such an easy matter to tell, that he only wondered he had been
silent so long.

"And that is all," he said, and he waited for her to speak as she turned
her dear face towards him. But when she was beginning to speak, he
awoke.

He awoke, glad and strong. He who had come out broken and embittered,
was going back made whole and sound. He thought of his last words to
Knutty:

"I shall be better later."

They had come true. The long wrestle with morbid conscientiousness, his
defeat, his wanderings, the great storm, the safe arrival at a haven,
his dream, and now his glad awakening had made him whole.

The storm had died down about two in the morning, and it was nearly six
before he awoke. He could scarcely wait to drink the coffee which the
old woman prepared for him; scarcely wait to hear her directions for
getting back to the Gaard. He was off like some impatient boy before she
had finished telling him.

His step was brisk, his heart was light, his grave face was smiling. He
sang. He did not notice that the way was long and rough. Everything in
life seemed easy to him. He trod on air. At last, after several hours,
he saw the smoke of the Solli Gaard. He hastened through the
birch-woods, down the hillside, and into the courtyard. There was a
group of people standing round the carriage, which had evidently just
come back from a journey. Mor Inga and Gerda were helping Knutty out of
the carriage. Ejnar, Alan, and the Sorenskriver, Solli, Ragnhild, and
every one belonging to the Gaard, including old Kari, crowded round her.

"Thank God, thank God, it was not he," she was saying.

Then old Kari looked up and saw Clifford. She firmly believed him to be
dead and thought this was his ghost.

"Aa Jösses!"[Q] she cried, falling down on her knees and folding her
hands in prayer.

They all turned and saw him. Alan rushed forward to meet his father.

"Oh, father," the boy cried, "we thought you were dead--killed by the
lightning."

Then his pent-up feelings found their freedom in an outburst of
passionate, healing tears. Clifford folded him in his arms and
comforted him.

"And you cared so much?" the father asked, with a thrill of gladness.

"Yes, yes!" the boy whispered, clinging close to him.

Then arm-in-arm they came to Knutty, who in her unselfishness had stood
back, wanting her two icebergs to have their meeting to themselves.

"Dear one," she said, with tears in her eyes, "I have done all my
crying, and every one can tell you that I have behaved disgracefully.
And now I can do my scolding. How dared you give us so much anxiety? Ak,
it is all too much for me. I'm going to cry after all."

He stooped and kissed her hand.

"Don't scold me, and don't cry, dear Knutty," he said. "I have come back
from the mountains strong and glad."

They all pressed round him, greeting him warmly. Every one belonging to
the Gaard seemed to him to be there, except Katharine. And he hungered
for the sight of her.

"Knutty," he asked, "where is she--where is Miss Frensham?"

Knutty led him away and told him in broken words the history of the
morning, and their fearful anxiety, and Katharine's tender kindness.

"And she stayed there with the dead Englishman," Knutty said gently.
"She said she could not leave him alone, and that you would understand.
She said you would come down safely from the mountains, and the joy of
reunion would be ours, and that she would be with us in spirit. I know,
kjaere, she suffered greatly in staying behind."

The man's lip quivered.

"I will go to her," he said.

And the next moment he had prevailed on Solli to change the horses and
let Jens come with him. It was all done so quickly that Solli had no
time to relent. Clifford sprang in, signed to Alan to follow him, and
they were off. Old Kari, rather sullen at having been done out of the
ghost, retired crestfallen to the cowhouse.

But Gerda and Tante, Mor Inga and Ragnhild, stood watching the carriage
until it had wound round the hill and was out of sight.

"Nã," said Gerda, turning to Tante, "I begin to think that your
Englishman is going to fall in love with Fröken Frensham. Who would have
imagined such a thing?"

"Every one except you," replied Tante, giving her a hug.

"And why not myself?" asked Gerda.

"Because you are an unilluminated botanical duffer!" answered Tante.


[Footnote Q: Oh, Jesus.]



CHAPTER XVI.


Katharine lingered a little while longer at the Skyds-station to
comfort, by her sympathetic presence, the brother and friend of the dead
Englishman. To the end of their lives they remembered her ministration.
She gave out to them royally in generous fashion. It was nothing to her
that they were strangers; it was everything to her that they were in
trouble and needed a little human kindness. They themselves had
forgotten that they were strangers to her. It was a pathetic tribute to
her powers of sympathy that they both spoke of the dead man as if she
had known him.

"You remember," the brother said, "he never did care for fishing. It
always bored him, didn't it?"

"Yes," said Katharine gently.

"Do you remember him saying a few years ago," the friend said, "that he
should love to die on the mountains? He always loved the mountains."

"Yes," said Katharine gently.

She scarcely had the heart to leave them; but at last she rose to go,
telling them there was an Englishman at the Solli Gaard who spoke
Norwegian well, and who would come to help them.

"He is the one for whom we came to seek here," she said, looking away
from them. "We are not yet sure that he is safe; but if he comes down
from the mountains, I know he will hasten to help you about----"

They bowed their heads silently as she broke off.

"We shall take him home to England," the brother said.

"I am glad he will rest in his own country," Katharine answered.

The people of the Skyds-station fulfilled their promise to Solli, and
put Katharine in their best cariole. The two strangers helped her to get
in, and then stood watching her. They could not speak. But when she held
out her hand in farewell greeting, each man took it and reverently
kissed it. She was touched by their silent gratitude, and the tears
came into her eyes.

"I am so thankful I stayed behind," she said.

Then the driver, a little fellow of about twelve years old, whipped up
the yellow pony, and the Skyds-station was soon out of sight.

"And now, if indeed he has come back, I shall see him," Katharine
thought, with a thrill of happiness.

At the Skyds-station, when, by her own choice, she was left alone, she
had for the moment felt the bitterness of being outside everything. She
remembered her own words:

"He will come down from the mountains, and the joy of reunion will be
theirs, and I shall be outside of it--outside of it as always. Always
outside the heart of things."

That moment had been only one of the many times of passing sadness and
bitterness in Katharine's life, when she had said and felt that she was
outside everything: outside the inner heart of friendship which never
fails, outside ambitious achievement, outside the region of great gifts,
great talents, outside the magic world of imagination, outside love. Her
friend had died, her girlhood's lover had died, her brother had failed
her. She was alone, a solitary spectator of other people's close
friendships, passionate love, successful work, absorbing careers; alone,
outside the barrier which separates all restless yearning spirits from
that dim Land of Promise; alone, outside. She, ever unconscious of her
own genius of giving, had no means of knowing that, by a mysterious
dispensation, those who give of themselves royally, without measure, are
destined to go out alone into the darkness of the night; alone, outside
everything in life.

But no such sad reflections came to Katharine now, as she sped along the
narrow valley, by the side of the glacier-river. Her thoughts turned to
Clifford and Knutty and Alan in loving unselfishness.

"The boy will have seen his dear father, and will now be comforted," she
said.

"Knutty will have seen her Englishman, and will now raise her old head
again," she said.

"Ah, how I hope and hope he was there to receive them when they got back
to the Gaard," she said.

"And now I shall see him, and the joy of reunion will be mine," she
said.

But in the midst of her happy thoughts and yearnings, she did not forget
those two lonely compatriots and that silent companion in the bedroom of
the Skyds-station.

"My poor strangers," she said, "we will not forsake you."

They had come to the place where the sudden break in the valley had
cheered them during that terrible drive of the morning.

"Yes," thought Katharine, "that gave us hope this morning. I should
recognise this spot anywhere on earth. It was here I began to have a
strong belief that it could not be he lying dead at the Skyds-station."

"Oh," she thought, with a shudder, "if it had been he!--if it had been
he!"

And her own words echoed back to her as an answer:

"My womanhood would be buried with my girlhood."

Then she looked up and saw a carriage in the distance, in the far
distance. The boy also saw it. As it approached nearer he said:

"It is from the Solli Gaard. That is Jens driving."

Katharine's heart gave a sudden bound.

"Haste, haste!" she said excitedly to the boy; and he, moved by her
eagerness, urged on the little yellow pony, which rose to the occasion
and flew over the ground.

Carriage and cariole drew up at the same moment, and Katharine saw face
to face the man whom she loved.

"We came to fetch you," he said.



CHAPTER XVII.


Bedstefar had been dead for three days, and it had been arranged that
the funeral was to take place a week after the night of his death.
Preparations had been going steadily forward, interrupted only by the
anxiety and excitement caused by Clifford's long absence in the
mountains and his supposed death. Bedstemor herself had been much
troubled about him, and had spent a good deal of time watching for him.
But when he returned safely, she felt free to continue her persecutions
in the kitchen; and it took a great amount of Knutty's craftiness to
entice her into the porch and keep her there. Bedstemor was
astonishingly well, seemed in excellent spirits, and in answer to
questions as to how she felt, she always said briskly:

"Bra', bra,' meget bra'" (Well, very well).

Indeed, she was not a little gratified to be once more the central
figure of circumstances, as in the old days, before she and her husband
had retired to the dower-house. But, spite of her cheerfulness, she
looked a pathetic old figure wandering about, relieved from constant
attendance at her sick husband's bedside, and thus thrown on the little
outside world for distraction and company. Tante was endlessly kind to
her, but had many a secret laugh over the old widow's unfunereal
attitude of mind, and over her stubborn determination to go and bully
every one in the kitchen. Tante herself was in great form again. She had
recovered from her fears and tears, and had, so she told Katharine,
regained her usual Viking bearing.

"Never shall I forget your tenderness, dear one," she said to Katharine.
"If I loved him even a hundred times more than I do, I should not grudge
him to you. He loves you, and you are the right aura for him. And some
day he will tell you so, although it will not be very soon, stupid
fellow! He will try and try many times, and leave off suddenly. I know
him well, my prisoner of silence. These reserved people! What a nuisance
they are to themselves, and every one else! But to themselves--ak, ak,
poor devils!"

Katharine, who was standing at the time on Knutty's bedroom-balcony,
looked out into the distance. She herself had been somewhat silent
since that sad morning at the Skyds-station.

"The end of it all will be, dear one," Knutty continued recklessly,
"that you will have to help him. This sort of man always has to be
helped, otherwise he goes on beginning and leaving off suddenly until
Doomsday. I know the genus well."

Katharine went away.

"Aha," said Knutty to herself, "I have said too much. And, after all, it
is premature. Oh, these parish-clocks! Why, Marianne has only been dead
about a year. How like her, only to have been dead about a year! Oh, oh,
what a wicked old woman I am!"

She called Katharine, and Katharine came.

"Kjaere," she said, as she stroked Katharine's hand lovingly. "I have
always been a free-lance with my naughty old tongue. No one with any
sense takes any notice of me. And am I not funny and human too? All this
time I have only been thinking that you are the right aura for my
Clifford. Not once have I asked myself whether my Clifford were the
right aura for you! I should have been an ideal mother, always on the
alert to snatch up all the best things for those I loved, regardless of
other people's feelings and interests. Ah, that is right, you are
smiling, and not angry with your Viking friend. And, dear one, that
reminds me again of how you comforted me when I was not behaving like a
Viking. Do you remember assuring me that his absence, and Alan's
anxiety for him, were working for their complete reconciliation? Your
words have come beautifully true, haven't they? Well, you have the great
heart that knows."

They were a small party at the Gaard now. Ejnar had gone off to
Kongsvold in the Dovre mountains, a district specially interesting to
botanists as the habitat of certain plants not found elsewhere. Gerda
would have gone with him, but that she had sprained her ankle. She
fretted for her Ejnar, although she pretended that his absence was a
great relief.

"It is grand to be free at last!" she said to Tante. "Free at last. I
can now take a long breath."

"Yes," said Tante, smiling mischievously, "freedom is delightful when it
does not make your nose red and your eyes moist!"

Alan had gone off with Jens to a mountain-lake to catch trout for the
funeral, and would not be back for a day or two; and Clifford was away
at the Skyds-station, helping the two strangers to make the necessary
arrangements for taking their sad burden home to England. All the other
guests except the Sorenskriver had left, and he was in a thoroughly
disagreeable mood, grumbling about the food, and annoyed because there
was going to be a funeral at the Gaard.

"Then why not go away?" Katharine suggested on one occasion, when his
martyrdom had reached an acute stage.

"Thank you, I choose to stay," he answered in his gruffest tone of
voice.

Katharine laughed. She liked the Sorenskriver even at his worst.

"Read this German newspaper, with a whole column of abuse against
England," Katharine said, teasing him. "That will make you feel
cheerful, Sorenskriver."

"Sniksnak!" said the Sorenskriver, a little less roughly.

"Or come out for a walk with me and help me pick multebaer," she added.
"Mor Inga was saying she had not half enough as yet."

"Perhaps I will come," he answered, with a grim smile on his face. He
took pleasure in Katharine's company, and was secretly delighted that
Clifford was busy helping those Englishmen over at the Skyds-station. In
this way he got Katharine to himself, and he sat smoking his long pipe
in the porch, grumbling and disagreeable, but, in justice it must be
owned, gentle to Bedstemor. Tante declared that he was courting
Katharine.

"I am given to understand, dear one," she said, with a twinkle in her
eye, "that the Norwegian way of courting is to be extremely
disagreeable, and almost rude to the person whom you adore. In a day or
two you will have a proposal--and what then?"

"Tante thinks only about marriages," Gerda said reproachfully.

"Well, what else in the world is there to think about?" Tante asked
defiantly.

"Oh, Tante, you know you do not think that," Gerda said. "If you really
thought that, why didn't you get married yourself?"

"Because, kjaere, no one would have me, except a sea-captain, and he was
mad," Knutty answered. "And he killed his mate soon afterwards. I was
always glad I was not his mate!"

"It is not true," Gerda said, turning indignantly to Katharine. "She had
lots of admirers and lovers. You ask her Englishman. He knows."

"Ah," said Knutty, "perhaps I did have a few admirers in my time! You
may be sure no sane woman would ever say she had never had any, unless
there was some one at hand to deny her statement."

When Clifford came home that evening, Knutty herself broached the
subject again.

"Kjaere," she said, "did I have a few admirers in my time, or did I not?
I have forgotten. Not that a woman ever does forget, but tell me!"

"You had numbers, Knutty," Clifford answered, smiling at her; "and I was
jealous of them all. At nine I was jealous of the sea-captain, and at
ten I was jealous of the clergyman in Jutland, and at twelve of the
English architect, and at thirteen of the Swedish officer, and so on and
so on."

Later in the evening, when he and Katharine were sitting alone near the
great hay-barn, Katharine spoke of Knutty.

"She is the dearest old woman I have ever met," she said warmly. "I
don't wonder that you all love her."

"I can never tell you what she has been to me," he answered. "It was
always a great grief to me that----" He broke off.

"It was a great grief to me that----"

Again he broke off. He was trying to speak of Knutty's indifference to
Marianne; and even this was too hard for him to say. Up in the
mountains, he had felt that it would be easy for him to tell Katharine
everything that he had in his heart, beginning with the story of
Marianne and Marianne's death, and ending with himself and his love for
her. But now that he was near her, he could say nothing about his own
personal life and inner feelings. He could only bend forward and scratch
a hole in the ground with his stick. Katharine remembered how Knutty had
spoken of his "beginnings" and "breakings off," and she said:

"Knutty understands you through and through, Professor Thornton. Doesn't
she?"

"Yes," he answered simply. "But why should you say that just now?"

"Oh, I don't know," Katharine answered. "I was thinking of her, and it
came into my head. And I was so touched by her grief when she feared
that she--we--had lost you."

"I do not know what she and the boy would have done without you," he
said, still working with that stick.

Katharine was silent.

"And I cannot think what those men over at the Skyds-station would have
done without you," he said. "Their last words to me this afternoon
were, 'Tell her we shall always be wishing to serve her.'"

Katharine remained silent.

"There was this little packet which I was to give you," he said, after a
pause. "It was the poor fellow's South African service-medal. You were
to have it."

He watched her as she opened the packet and touched the medal. He
watched her as she put it in the palm of her hand and looked at it with
dim eyes. It would have been easy for him to have opened his heart to
her then and there, if he could only have known that she was saying to
him with speechless tongue:

"My own dear love, whilst I am looking at this soldier's medal, my heart
is giving thanks that the lightning spared you to me."

But he could not guess that, and the moment passed.

The next day, when they were again alone, he attempted to speak.

"Do you remember my saying up at the Saeter that I tried never to
dream?" he began.

"Yes," she said. "I have always wished to ask you why you should feel so
strongly about dreams."

"I should like to tell you," he said eagerly. "I want to tell you.
But----"

He broke off again, and turned to her with a pathetic smile on his face.

"Speech has never been easy to me," he said.



CHAPTER XVIII.

BEDSTEFAR'S FUNERAL.


The day before Bedstefar's funeral Jens and Alan came down from the
mountain-lake laden with nearly two hundred pounds of trout, and the
cotters' children finished their task of bringing in all the multebaer
they could find; for no Norwegian entertainment, taking place at this
season of the year, would have been considered complete without this
much-loved fruit; and certainly it would seem that multebaer had a
softening effect on the strange and somewhat hard Norwegian temperament.
As Tante said, from her own personal observations of the previous days,
multebaer spelt magic!

"Ibsen has not done justice to his country," she told Gerda. "He ought
at least once to have described them as being under the influence of
these berries. Then a softer side of their nature would have been made
apparent to all. Why, the Sorenskriver himself becomes a woolly lamb as
he bends over his plate of cloudberries-and-cream. He ought to have his
photograph taken. No one would recognise him, and that is what
photographs are for!"

They all helped to decorate the Gaard inside and out with branches of
firs and birches. Bedstefar's black house was decorated too, and the
whole courtyard was covered with sprigs of juniper and fir. A beautiful
arch of fir and birch was raised over the white gate through which he
would pass for the last time on his way down to the old church in the
valley.

Katharine, together with Ragnhild and Ingeborg, spent many hours making
strips of wreathing from twigs of the various berry-shrubs up in the
woods. Karl used these for lettering; so that stretched from side to
side of the arch ran the words, "Farvel, kjaere Bedstefar."

When he had finished, every one came out to see his work, and Mor Inga,
turning to Tante, said proudly:

"My Karl is clever, isn't he?"

And she whispered:

"Three years ago he did that for our eldest son, and bitterly we were
weeping then. I go about thinking of that now."

Then Tante and Mor Inga took a little stroll away from the others,
outside the gate and down the road towards the great cowhouse. Part of
this road, too, had been planted with tall fir-branches, so that
Bedstefar would pass under the archway and through an avenue of green
until he reached the outer white gate, which was the entrance to the
Gaard enclosure. And here Mor Inga and Tante lingered, whilst the proud
Norwegian heart gave vent to its sadness, and the kindly Danish heart
beat in understanding sympathy, and the dead son's dog Jeppe came and
whined softly in token that he too was mourning in remembrance of the
past.

So the night, the bright Norwegian night, beginning to realise that its
brightness was being threatened, seeing that the birches were counting
their yellow leaves, even as we, no longer young and not yet old, count
our grey hairs, this summer night passed almost imperceptibly into
morning, and the activities of the next day began early.

Bedstemor, reinstated in her former _rôle_ of leading lady of the Gaard,
was in a state of feverish excitement. She was dressed in black, and
wore over her bodice a fine black silk shawl one hundred years old. Her
head was encased in a sort of black silk night-cap, edged with old white
lace: so that her pretty face was framed in white. A slight flush on her
cheeks made her look strangely youthful. She sat in the porch waiting to
receive the guests; and by special request of Mor Inga and Solli
himself, Tante, Gerda, and Katharine sat there too. They felt awkward
at first, knowing themselves to be there in the capacity of sightseers
rather than that of mourners; but Bedstemor's cheerful spirits put them
at their ease. She was much interested in Katharine's dress-material,
feeling the texture and comparing it with her own.

"It is very good," she said thoughtfully, "but not so good as mine!"

All the same, that dress-material worried her; she fingered it several
times, nodded mysteriously, and seemed lost in thought; whether about
Bedstefar or the dress-material, no one could of course decide. But,
later, she spoke of some wreaths which had been sent, and she said
quaintly:

"Min mand did not want any flowers. But it does not matter much what he
wanted. He won't know, stakkar, will he?"

At last the guests began to arrive, some in carioles, some in
stol-kjaerres, and some few in ordinary carriages. They all brought
funeral-cakes in large painted baskets. As each conveyance drove up into
the courtyard, one of the daughters, either Ragnhild, or Ingeborg, or
Helga, went out to meet it, greeted the guests, and bore away the cake
into the kitchen. It seemed to be the etiquette that the cake should be
received in person by one of the family. The horses, most of them the
knowing little Norwegian yellow Nordfjord pony, or else the somewhat
bigger Gudbrandsdal black horse, were unharnessed and led away by the
cotters. The guests advanced awkwardly to the porch, greeted Bedstemor,
and turned to the strangers shyly, but were at once reassured by Tante's
genial bearing and Katharine's friendly smile. Gerda, too, was at her
best, and was feeling so cheerful that Tante feared she was going to
break into song. Quaint, strange-looking people crossed that threshold,
shook hands with every one in the porch, and passed into the house to
find Bedstemor, who had disappeared into the hall, and was seated in a
corner drinking port wine with an old friend. Wine and coffee were
served at once, as a sign of welcome to the Gaard. The flag, which had
been lowered to half-mast since Bedstefar's death, was now hoisted
full-mast to welcome the guests to the proud Solli homestead. The women,
some of them beautiful in feature, were ungraceful in form and bearing;
they dressed no longer in the picturesque Gudbrandsdal costume, but were
all clothed in ill-fitting black dresses, with no remnant of the
picturesque anywhere: queenly-looking women, some of them born, one
would think, to be mothers of Vikings; and most of them with proud
pedigrees which would excite envy in many a royal breast: shy and
awkward, most of them, even with each other. The men had perhaps a
little more _savoir faire_, but it was easy to see that they all led
lonely lives, and were part and parcel of that lonely land on which
Nature has set a seal of mystic melancholy. Some of the men were fine
fellows, but none as handsome as Solli, Karl, and Jens; but the Solli
tribe had long been celebrated for their good looks, and old Bedstefar
in his time had been voted the best-looking man in the whole of the
Gudbrandsdal. The guests were nearly all Bönder (landowners),
representing the best blood in the valley; most of them having the
largest Gaards, and the best-decorated pews in the churches of the
different districts. Then there was the Lensmand (bailiff), a weird old
man, rather feeble of gait, but acute in wit. He seemed much taken with
Katharine, and came several times to shake hands with her, pretending to
be a newcomer each time. But he had to keep more in the background when
his superior officer, the Foged (under-magistrate), appeared on the
scene. This gentleman was, of course, a local personage, and he brought
a very large wreath and wore an important black satin waistcoat. There
was also the doctor, Distriktslaege[R] Larsen, famous for his rough ways
and disagreeable temper, but also for his skill in mending broken arms
and legs during the "ski" season. He seemed rather scornful of the whole
scene, but not of the port wine. And there was a Tandlaege[S] (dentist),
from Christiania, a nephew of the Sollis, who wore a very long black
frock-coat and the most fashionable pointed boots. He was their
representative man of the world and fashion, and they prized him
greatly. There were yet two other precious persons--a member of the
Storthing,[T] Bedstemor's nephew, and his wife, rather a fine lady, who
at first kept herself in 'splendid isolation,' but soon forgot that she
was a Storthingsmand's wife with a Parisian dress, and threw her lot in
with her un-Parisian-clothed relations. She was a little suspicious of
the Englishwoman, perceiving indeed a formidable rival in well-cut
garments; but directly Katharine and she began to speak to each other in
an ingenious mixture of German and broken English, suspicions gave way
to approbation, and she said to her husband:

"Surely the English cannot be such brutes if this is a specimen of
them?"

"Pyt!" he said scornfully. "They are barbarians and brutes, all of
them."

Nevertheless he found his way over to the Englishwoman, and was not at
all eager to leave her company to join the cheerful contingents of
guests who were now strolling over to the black house to take leave of
poor Bedstefar's face. When at last he was obliged to go, he even asked
her to come too; but as Tante bravely said, they had all seen poor dead
Bedstefar often enough to satisfy the most punctilious Gaard etiquette.
Soon the Praest arrived, a short man, with a kindly, uninspired
countenance. He was accompanied by his wife and two daughters and the
Klokker (clerk), who carried in a bag the Calvin ruff and gown still
used by the Norwegian and Danish clergymen. For it was due to the
position and dignity of the Sollis that most of the funeral service
should be conducted in the Gaard itself. If Bedstefar had been of no
special standing, he would have been taken without any preliminaries to
the churchyard, and in the absence of the clergyman, the clerk would
have said the prayers and sung the hymns, and when the clergyman had
returned from his parochial duties in some other quarter, he would have
thrown the earth and said the final words of committal over perhaps five
or six patiently waiting coffins. But Bedstefar being who and what he
was, had all possible honour shown him in his death, as in his marriage
and at his birth.

The Praest took port wine, chatted with his friends, and went with
Bedstemor to say farewell to Bedstefar. And then, at last, at last the
coffin was closed and borne through the great hall into the inner
sitting-room, preceded by the Praest, now in his vestments, and
Bedstemor, who walked bravely by his side. The nearest relations were
grouped round the coffin. The women-guests sat in the outer room; the
men stood together in the hall. The cotters, their wives, and the
servants of the house stood, some on the stairs, and some in the porch.
Tante, Katharine, and Gerda, not remembering the custom that the men and
women should be separate, sat in the hall, and were able to see through
into the inner room, where Bedstemor, still gallantly comporting
herself, joined in the dismal singing led by the clerk, and Mor Inga,
thinking of the last time that the clerk led the singing in that very
room, wept silently, and drew little Helga closer to her side. When the
singing and prayers were over, the Praest gave a long funeral discourse,
dwelling on poor Bedstefar's virtues, which he was known not to have
possessed in overflowing measure: nevertheless tears flowed, and grim
old men said, "Ja, ja," and the Praest was considered to have preached
appropriately, and Bedstemor seemed gratified. Then the cotters raised
the coffin, bore it out, and placed it on the low cart which had been
painted black for the occasion; and Svarten, the clever black horse who
never slipped, never failed in duty or intelligence, and knew every inch
of that winding and awkward way down to the valley, Svarten drew his
burden through the decorated gate.

"Farvel, Bedstefar," said every one.

Bedstemor stepped briskly into the carriage, together with the Praest,
Solli, and Mor Inga. The daughters remained at home to preside over the
final preparations for the feasting. The sons followed in a cariole, and
all the other men-guests helped to harness their horses and started off
leisurely in the procession, a long, straggling, dust-raising line of
about fifty conveyances. The women stayed behind, drank coffee, and
strolled about the house, examining everything, as Ragnhild predicted;
peering into the huge old painted and decorated chests full of fine
linen, looking at the old painted sledge and cradle, dating back from
1450, precious Solli possessions, and casting an eye on the old silver
tankards, and on the famous old carved door and sides of a pulpit,
formerly belonging to an old church which had been swept away by the
falling of an avalanche some hundred and fifty years previously. Then
there were the old painted cupboards and the queer-shaped old Norwegian
chairs and stools, and the old-fashioned, richly-carved mangles, and the
old-world slit of a recess in the wall for the Langeleik, and a fine old
Hardanger violin which Bedstefar was reported to have played with
uncommon skill; having been specially clever at giving descriptive
improvisations of Nature in her many moods, and of things mystic, such
as the song of the Huldre, and things human, such as the ringing of
marriage-bells. Alas, alas, that old-world ways were dying out and
old-world music too! Still there was much of the old atmosphere in the
Solli Gaard, and no other homestead in the whole valley could boast of
so many old-time treasures curiously mixed up with modern importations.
So that the lady funeral-guests had much with which to amuse themselves,
and they roamed into the different bedrooms, examined Tante's
possessions, and Katharine's belongings, and did not seem at all abashed
when Tante and Katharine discovered them in the very act. Of course not,
for it was a day of entertainment; and as a sweet little old lady, a
pocket edition of Bedstemor, said, with a twinkle in her eye:

"Thou knowest we are here to enjoy ourselves. We have come a long way.
And there have not been many funerals or weddings in the valley lately."

Knutty of course understood perfectly, and exerted herself heroically to
amuse every one, drinking coffee with every one in a reckless fashion,
and even flirting with the one man who was left behind, an aged
Gaardmand (landowner) of about ninety years. So the time passed away
cheerily for all; and when Bedstemor, Solli, and the Praest arrived home
from the churchyard, followed in due time by the others, the feasting
began. It seemed to be the etiquette that the women should eat
separately from the men. They gathered together in the parlour, where
rich soup was served to them sitting; and after this opening ceremony,
they were expected to stroll into the great dining-room, where a huge
table, beautifully decorated with leaves, was spread with every kind of
food acceptable to the Norwegian palate: trout, cooked in various ways;
beef, mutton, veal, sauces, gravies, potatoes, even vegetables (a great
luxury in those parts), _compots_, and of course the usual accompaniment
of smoked mysteries. The plates, knives, and forks were arranged in
solid blocks, and the guests were supposed to wait on themselves and
take what they wished. They walked round the table on a voyage of
inspection and reflection, carrying a plate and a fork; and having into
this one plate put everything that took their fancy, they retired to
their seats, and ate steadily in a business-like fashion. There was
scarcely any talking. When the women were served, the men came and
helped themselves in the same way, retiring with their booty either into
the hall or the adjoining room. All of them made many journeys to the
generous table, returning each time with a heaped-up plate in their
hands, and in their minds a distinct, though silent, satisfaction that
the Sollis were doing the thing in a suitable style. Every one made a
splendid square meal; but Bedstemor took the prize for appetite. She was
very happy and excited. Hers was the only voice heard. As Knutty said,
it was refreshing to know that there was at least one cheerful person
amongst those solemn one hundred and twenty guests! Knutty herself rose
to the occasion with characteristic readiness. She ate nobly
without intermission, as though she had been attending Norwegian
peasant-funerals all her life; and she gave a mischievous wink to Gerda
and Katharine every time Bedstemor rose from her seat and strode
masterfully to the table in search of further fodder. No one offered any
courtesy to any one else. It seemed to be the custom that each person
should look after herself; and there was a look of puzzled amusement on
some of the faces when Katharine attempted to wait on one or two of the
guests. Nevertheless, the attention, once understood, was vaguely
appreciated; and the pretty little old lady whom Katharine had found in
her bedroom, soon allowed herself to be petted and spoiled by the
visitors. Indeed she abandoned all her relatives, and always sat with
Knutty.

This meal came to an end about four o'clock, when there was another
relay of coffee. Some of the guests strolled about and picked
red-currants off the bushes in Bedstemor's garden. Knutty found her way
to the cowhouse and learnt from her favourite Mette that all the
servants and cotters were having a splendid meal too.

"Ja, ja," Mette said, "I have eaten enough to last for two years. And
the young ox tasted lovely! Didst thou eat of him? Ak, there is old Kari
crying her heart out because the young ox had to be killed. Thou knowest
she was fond of him. Ak, nobody has cried for Bedstefar as much as old
Kari has cried for the young ox. And she wouldn't eat an inch of
him--only think of that, Fröken, isn't it remarkable?"

"It certainly is," said Knutty, with a twinkle in her eye. "For most of
us generally do eat up the people we love best--beginning with the
tenderest part of them."

For one moment Mette looked aghast, and then light broke in upon her.

"Nei da," she said brightly, "but as long as we don't really eat them,
it doesn't matter, does it?"

"It is supposed not to matter," answered Knutty, moving off to comfort
old Kari, who was not only mourning for the young black ox, but also
continuing to feel personally aggrieved over her disappointment about
Clifford's ghost.

"Ak, ak, the young black ox!" cried Kari, when she saw her Danish
friend. "Eat him? Not I, dear Fröken, I was fond of him. Ak, ak!"

"Be comforted, Kari," said Knutty soothingly. "You loved him and were
good to him and didn't eat him up. What more do you want?"

"Will you tell me whether he tasted good?" asked Kari softly. "I should
like to know that he was a success."

"He was delicious," said Knutty, "and I heard the Praest and the doctor
speaking in praise of him. Of course they must know."

Kari nodded as if reassured, and disappeared into the cowhouse, Tante's
concert-room, wiping her moist eyes with her horny hands. She came back
again, and stood for a moment in the doorway.

"I cannot believe that it was not the Englishman's ghost," she said,
shaking her head mysteriously. "I felt it was a ghost. I trembled all
over, and my knees gave way."

"But you surely believe now that my Englishman is alive, don't you,
Kari?" asked Tante, who was much amused.

"I cannot be sure," replied Kari, and she disappeared again; but Tante,
knowing that she always carried on a conversation in this weird manner,
waited for her sudden return.

"That is Ragnhild's sweetheart," she said in a whisper, pointing to a
tall fair young man who had come down with another guest to take a look
at the horses. "Nei, nei, don't you tell her I told you. He is a rich
Gaardmand from the other side of the valley."

"But I have seen them together, and they don't speak a word to each
other," Knutty said.

"Why should they?" asked old Kari. "There is nothing to say."

And she disappeared finally.

"My goodness!" thought Knutty, "if all nations only spoke when there was
anything worth saying, what a gay world it would be."

Then Tante took a look at the guests' horses, some of them in the
stable, and others tethered outside, and all eating steadily of the
Sollis' corn. For the hospitality of the Gaard extended to the animals
too; and it would have been a breach of etiquette if any of the guests
had brought with them sacks of food for the horses; just as it would
have been a breach of etiquette not to have contributed to the
collection of funeral-cakes which were now being arranged on the table
in the dining-room, together with jellies, fancy creams, and many kinds
of home-made wines. Alan was sent by Mor Inga to summon Tante to a
private view of this remarkable show. Some of the cakes had crape
attached to them and bore Bedstefar's initials in icing. They were of
all imaginable shapes, and looked rich and tempting. Tante's mouth
watered.

"Ak," she cried, "if I could only eat them all at one mouthful!"

Every right-minded guest had the same desire when the room was thrown
open to the public. And all set to work stolidly to fulfil a portion of
their original impulse. Bedstemor again distinguished herself; but Alan
ran her very close. Katharine and Gerda did not do badly. In fact, no
one did badly at this most characteristic part of the day's feasting.
Then every one went up and thanked Solli and Mor Inga, saying, "Tak for
Kagen" (Thanks for the cakes). Indeed, one had to go up and say "Tak"
for everything: after wine and coffee, dinner, dessert, and supper,
which began about nine o'clock. No sooner was one meal finished than
preparations were immediately made for the next, etiquette demanding
that variety should be the order of the day. The supper-table was
decorated with fresh leaves arranged after a fresh scheme, the centre
being occupied by all the funeral gifts of butter, some of them in
picturesque shapes of Saeters and Staburs.

Cold meats, dried meats of every kind, cold fish, dried fish, smoked
fish, and cheeses innumerable were the menu of this evening meal. The
guests did astonishing justice to it in their usual business-like
fashion; perhaps here and there Knutty remarked 'an appetite that
failed,' but, on the whole, there was no falling off from the excellent
average. Bedstemor was tired, and was persuaded to go to bed. But she
said up to the very end that she was bra', bra', and had had a happy
day. Her old face looked a little sad, and Knutty thought that perhaps
she was fretting for Bedstefar after all. Perhaps she was.

So the first day's feasting in honour of Bedstefar came to an end. The
second day was a repetition of the first, except that the guests began
to be more cheerful. Those who lived in the actual neighbourhood, had
gone away over night and returned in the morning; but most of them had
been quartered in the Gaard itself. Knutty talked to every one, and
continued her flirtation with the ancient Gaardmand of ninety years,
who, so she learnt, had been noted as an adept at the Halling dance.
She had made him tell her of the good old times and ancient customs,
and once she succeeded in drawing him on to speak of the Huldre. She had
to use great tact in her questionings; but, as she always said to
herself, she had been born with some tact, and had acquired a good deal
more in dealing with two generations of icebergs. So she sat amongst
these reserved Norwegians, and little by little, with wonderful patience
and perseverance, dug a hole in their frozen heart-springs. They liked
her. They said to Mor Inga:

"The fat old Danish lady is bra', bra'."

And Mor Inga whispered to her:

"Thou art a good one. They all like thee. There was a calf born last
night. We have settled to call it after thy name--Knuttyros."

"I am sure I do not deserve such an honour," Tante said, trying to be
humble.

"Yes, thou dost," Mor Inga answered with grave dignity, as she went off
to her duties as hostess.

But Tante did not understand until Clifford explained to her that a
great mark of Norwegian approval had been bestowed on her.

"Then I suppose it is like your new order of merit in England," she
said; "'honour without insult.' Ah, Clifford, I hope some day, in the
years to come, that your name will be found amongst the favoured few."

"Not very likely, Knutty," he said. "I belong only to the rank and file
of patient workers and gropers, whose failures and mistakes prepare the
way for the triumph of brighter spirits."

"Sniksnak!" said Knutty contemptuously. "Don't pretend to me that you
are content with that. And don't talk to me about patience. I hate the
word. It is almost as bad as balance and self-control. Balanced people,
self-controlled people, patient people indeed! Get along with them! The
only suitable place for them is in a herbarium amongst the other dried
plants."

"But, Tante," said Gerda, who always took Knutty seriously, "there would
and could be no science without patience."

"And a good thing too!" replied Knutty recklessly, winking at Katharine.

"Tante's head is turned by the unexpected honour of being chosen as
god-mother to a Norwegian cow," Clifford said. "We must bear with her."

Knutty laughed. She was always glad when her Englishman teased her. She
watched him as he went back into the hall and sat down near the doctor
and clergyman.

"My Clifford begins to look younger again," she thought.

She watched him when Alan came and stood by him for a moment, and then
went off with Jens.

"Yes," she thought, "it is all right with my icebergs now."

She glanced across to Katharine, who was doing her best to make friends
with the women in the parlour.

"Dear one," she thought, "will you remember, I wonder, that I told you
he will never be able to speak unless you help him?"

She watched her when Alan came in his shy way and sat down near her.

"Dear one," she thought, "the other iceberg is in love with you too, and
I am not jealous. What a wonderful old woman I am! Or is it you who are
wonderful, bringing love and happiness to us all? Ah, that's it!"

So the second day's feasting in honour of Bedstefar came to an end; and
on the third day the men played quoits in the courtyard, and smoked and
drank more lustily. The Sorenskriver, who had had various quiet disputes
on the previous days with the doctor, the Foged, and the Storthingsmand,
now broke forth into violent discussions with the same opponents, and
was pronounced by Knutty to be at the zenith of happiness because he was
at the zenith of disagreeableness! All the men were enjoying themselves
in one way or another; but the women sat in the big parlour looking a
little tired and bored. It was Katharine who suggested that Gerda should
sing to them.

"Sing to them their own songs," she said. "You will make them so happy.
If I could do anything to amuse them, I would. But if one does not know
the language, what can one do?"

"You have your own language, kjaere," Gerda answered, "the language of
kindness, and they have all understood it. If Tante was not so
conceited, she would know that you have really been sharing with her the
approval of the company."

"Nonsense," laughed Katharine. "Why, they think I am a barbarian woman
from a country where there are no mountains and no Saeters! Come now,
sing to them and to me. I love to hear your voice."

"So does my Ejnar," said Gerda. "Ak, I wish he were here! He would
pretend not to care; but he would listen on the sly. Well, well, it is
good to be without him. One has one's freedom."

So she sat down and sang. She began with a little Swedish song:

"Om dagen vid mitt arbete" ("At daytime when I'm working").

AT DAYTIME WHEN I'M WORKING.

    At the day-time when I'm working, Thou reignest in my thoughts;
    At night when I am sleeping, Thou reignest in my dreams;
    At dawn when I a-wak-en, I yearn with long-ing sore,
    For my be-lov-ed sweet-heart, So far, so far a-way.

[Illustration: Sheet music of 'At day-time when I'm working.']

"That is one of my Ejnar's favourites," she said, turning to Katharine.

The company began to be mildly interested. It was not the Norwegian
habit of mind to be interested at once. Still, one or two faces betrayed
a faint sign of pleasure; and one of the men peeped in from the hall.
Then she sang another Swedish song, "Oh, hear, thou young Dora." It was
so like Gerda to feel in a Swedish mood when she ought to have been
feeling Norwegian.

The company seemed pleased. They nodded at each other.

Another man peeped in from the hall. Bedstemor strode masterfully into
the room, and sat down near the little pocket edition of herself.

"That is another of my Ejnar's favourites," Gerda whispered, turning to
Katharine again.

She paused for a moment, thinking. No one spoke.

Then she chose a Norwegian song--Aagot's mountain-song. This was it:

AAGOT'S MOUNTAIN-SONG.

    O'er the hills the sun now glides, Shad-ows lengthen out;
    Night will soon come back a-gain, Fold-ing me in her embrace;
    In the sta-ble stand the cat-tle, At the Sae-ter door stand I.

[Illustration: Sheet music of 'Aagot's mountain-song.']

There was a stir of pleasure in the company. Mor Inga and Solli slipped
in. Then she sang one of Kjerulf's songs, "Over de höje Fjelde."[U]

    "Fain would I know what the world may be
        Over the mountains high.
    Mine eyes can nought but the white snow see,
      And up the steep sides the dark fir-tree,
    That climbs as if yearning to know.
      Ah! what if one ventured to go!"

    "Up, heart, up! and away!
        Over the mountains high.
    For my courage is young and my soul will be gay,
      If no longer bound straitly and fettered I stay,
    But seeking yon summit to gain,
      No more beat my wings here in vain."

The Sorenskriver came in and sat down by Katharine.

"Yes," he said, more to himself than to her, "I remember having those
thoughts when I was a young boy. What should I find over the mountains?
Ak, and what does one find in exchange for all one's yearning?"

Gerda had sung this beautifully. The natural melancholy of her voice
suited to perfection the weird sadness of Norwegian music. The company
was gratified. They knew and loved that song well, and some of them
joined in timidly at the end of the last verse. The old Gaardmand crept
into the room and sat near Knutty.

"I could sing as finely as I could dance the Halling," he said to
Knutty, with a grim smile.

"Thou shouldst have heard me sing," said Bedstemor to Knutty. "I had a
beautiful voice."

"And so had I," said the pocket edition of Bedstemor, clutching at
Knutty's dress.

"Yes," answered Knutty sympathetically, "I can well believe it."

And she added to herself:

"We all had a voice, or think we had. It amounts to the same when the
past is past. A most convenient thing, that past--that kind of past
which only crops up when you want it!"

Then Gerda sang:

"Come haul the water, haul the wood."

This time the audience which, unbeknown to Gerda, had grown to large
proportions, joined in lustily, led by Bedstemor's cracked old voice.
She beat time, too, still playing the _rôle_ of leading lady. Katharine,
sitting by Gerda's side, but a little in front of the piano, saw that
the hall was full of eager listeners, and that at the back of the guests
were the servants of the Gaard, including Thea and the dramatic Mette,
and some of the cotters, and old Kari. The music which they knew and
loved had gathered them all together from courtyard, kitchen, and
cowhouse. There was no listlessness on any face now: an unwilling
animation, born of real pleasure, lit up the countenances of both men
and women--an animation all the more interesting, so Katharine thought,
because of its reluctance and shyness. It reminded her of Alan's
shyness, of Clifford's too; she remembered that Clifford had said to her
several times:

"I believe I am a Norwegian in spirit if not in body; I have always
loved the North and yearned after it."

She glanced at him and caught him looking fixedly at her. He was
thinking:

"To-morrow, when she and I go off to Peer Gynt's home together, shall I
be able to speak to her as I spoke to her in my dream up at the Saeter?"

He turned away when he met her glance, and retired at once into himself.

Then Gerda sang other Norwegian songs, every one joining in with
increasing enjoyment and decreasing shyness: songs about cows, pastures,
Saeters, sweethearts, and Huldres, a curious mixture of quaint, even
humorous words, and melancholy music.

Finally the Sorenskriver, scarcely waiting until the voices had died
away, stood up, a commanding figure, a typical rugged Norwegian, and
started the national song:

"Yes, we cherish this our country."

Long afterwards Katharine remembered that scene and that singing.

No voice was silent, no heart was without its thrill, no face without
its sign of pride of race and country.


[Footnote R: _Laege_, doctor (leech).]

[Footnote S: _Tandlaege_, tooth leech.]

[Footnote T: _Storthing_, National Assembly.]

[Footnote U: Björnson's words from Arne, translated by Walter Low. By
kind permission of Mr. William Heinemann.]



CHAPTER XIX.

PEER GYNT'S STUE.


The next morning all the guests went away. They were packed in their
carioles, gigs, and carriages, and their cake-baskets were returned to
them, etiquette demanding that each guest should take away a portion of
another guest's funeral-cake offering. Ragnhild's sweetheart was the
last to go. Knutty watched with lynx eyes to see if there was going to
be any outward and visible sign of the interest which they felt in each
other; but she detected none.

"Well, they must be very much in love with each other," she said to
Gerda, "for there is not a single flaw in their cloak of sulkiness. Ak,
ak, kjaere, I am glad the funeral is over. I have not borne up as
bravely as Bedstemor; but then, of course, I have not lost a husband.
That makes a difference. Now don't look shocked. I know quite well I
ought not to have said that. All the same, Bedstemor's strength and
spirits and appetite have been something remarkable. I believe she would
like a perpetual funeral going on at the Gaard. And how lustily she sang
last evening! That reminds me, you sang beautifully yesterday, and were
most kind and gracious to the whole company. I think Mor Inga ought to
have made you the godmother of the calf. I was proud of my Gerda. I am
proud of my Gerda, although I do tease her."

"Never mind," said Gerda, "was sich liebt, sich neckt. And I am not
jealous about the calf. I am a little jealous about the Englishwoman
sometimes. Tante loves her."

"Yes," said Tante simply, "I love her, but quite differently from the
way in which I love my botanical specimens. My botanists have their own
private herbarium in my heart."

Gerda smiled.

"I like her too, Tante," she said. "You know I was not very jealous of
her when my Ejnar began to pay her attentions."

"Because you knew they would not last," laughed Knutty. "You need never
be anxious about him. He is not a sensible human being. He won't do
anything worse than elope with a plant. Any way, he cannot elope with
Miss Frensham just now, as he is safe in the Dovre mountains making love
to the Ranunculus glacialis!"

"She told me she was going to Peer Gynt's stue with the Kemiker," Gerda
said after a pause. "I wish I could have gone too. But my ankle is too
bad."

"Ah, what a good thing!" remarked Knutty. "That gives them a chance.
How I wish he would elope with her! But he won't, the silly fellow. I
know him. If you see him, tell him I said he was to elope with her
instantly. I am going off to the cowhouse to have a talk with my
dramatic Mette and to learn the cowhouse gossip about the funeral-feast.
So farewell for the present."

"I cannot think why Mette is such a favourite with you, Tante," Gerda
said. "You know she isn't a respectable girl at all."

"Kjaere, don't wave the banner; for pity's sake, don't wave the banner,"
Tante said. "Who is respectable, I should like to know? I am sure I am
not, and you are not. That is to say, we may be respectable in one
direction; but that does not make up the sum-total. There, go and think
that over, and be sure and keep your ankle bad; and if you see Alan,
tell him to follow me to the cowhouse, for I want him to do something
for me."

And so it came to pass that Clifford and Katharine were able to steal
off alone to Peer Gynt's stue. They had tried several times during the
funeral-feasting to escape from the company; but Mor Inga liked to have
all the guests around her, and it would have seemed uncourteous if any
of them had deliberately withdrawn themselves. But now they were free to
go where they wished without breaking through the strict Norwegian
peasant etiquette. They had long since planned this Peer Gynt
expedition. It was Bedstemor who originally suggested it to Clifford.
She was always saying that he must go to Peer Gynt's stue; and her
persistence led him to believe that there really was some old house in
the district which local tradition claimed to be Peer Gynt's childhood's
home; where, as in Ibsen's wonderful poem, he, a wild, idle, selfish
fellow from early years upwards, lived with his mother Ãse. Clifford had
not been able to find out to his entire satisfaction whether or not this
particular stue had been known as Peer Gynt's house before the
publication of Ibsen's poem. Bedstemor had always known it as such, and
gave most minute instructions for finding it. The old Gaardmand with
whom Knutty had flirted said he had always known it as Peer Gynt's
actual home; and even old Kari, when questioned, said, "Ja, Peer Gynt
lived up over there." Bedstemor had a few vague stories to tell about
Peer Gynt, and she ended up with, "Ja, ja, he was a wild fellow, who did
wild things, and saw and heard wonderful things."

So apparently Peer Gynt was a real person who had had his home somewhere
in this part of the great Gudbrandsdal; and Ibsen had probably caught up
some of the stories about the real man, and woven them into the network
of his hero's character. But, as Knutty said, the only thing which
really mattered was the indisputable fact that Ibsen had placed the
scene of three acts of his poem in the Gudbrandsdal and the mountains
round about, and that they--herself, Clifford, Katharine, every one of
them--were there in the very atmosphere, mental and physical, of the
great poem itself.

"And the stue stands for an idea if not for a fact," she said, "like
Hamlet's grave in my belovèd Elsinore. Go and enjoy; and forget, for
once, to be accurate."

He thought of Knutty's words as he and Katharine left the Gaard and
began to climb down the steep hillside on their way to the valley; for
Peer Gynt's home was perched on another mountain-ridge, and they had
first to descend from their own heights, gain the valley, walk along by
the glacier-river, and pass by the old brown church before they came to
the steep path which would lead them up to their goal. He said to
himself:

"Yes, Peer Gynt's stue stands for an idea in more senses than one. Day
after day, when I have not been able to open my heart to her, I have
thought that perhaps I should be able to break through my silence on our
pilgrimage to Peer Gynt's stue."

The morning was fair and fresh; summer was passing; there was a touch of
crispness in the air which suggested frost and 'iron nights,' dreaded by
the peasants before the harvest should have been gathered in. Katharine
and Clifford kept to the course of the stream, which was a quick, though
a steep, way down to the saw-mill, beautifully situated near a foss of
the glacier-river, the roar and rush of which they heard up at the Solli
Gaard. There was a bridge across this river, and they stood there
watching the tumbling mass of water, and recalling the morning when they
had passed over to the other side on their way to the Saeters. The
little Landhandleri across the bridge was being besieged by no less than
four customers. Their carioles were fastened to a long rail outside the
queer little shop which contained everything mortal man could want,
from rough butter-boxes and long china pipes to dried cod and overalls.

"I never see these places without thinking of the isolated shops dumped
down in lonely districts out in the west of America," Katharine said.
"Some of them were kept by Norwegians too."

"They have had their training in isolation here, you see," Clifford
said, "and so go out knowing how to cater for isolated people. And they
make a small fortune quickly and return. At least some of them return,
those in whom the love of country outweighs everything else in life."

"I should be one of those," Katharine said. "I should always yearn to
return."

"I remember your saying you would like to bring all the broken-hearted
exiles home," he said.

"Yes," she said, "I would."

"You have a heart of pity," he said, turning to her.

"I am sorry for those who have lost their country," she said. "I have
seen them suffer. If I were a millionaire, I would find out some of the
worst cases, and give them back their country and the means to enjoy it,
or the opportunity of dying in it."

So they talked or were silent as the mood seized them. They were happy,
and frankly glad to be together alone. They left the bridge, passed
along the main road, through fragrant fir-woods, and came to a most
picturesque spot where two rivers, one of them the glacier-river, met
and rushed on together as one. They crossed this long bridge, and found
themselves on the other side of the main valley. Here they looked back
and could discern the big Solli Gaard, perched proudly on the opposite
mountain-ridge. Then their way lay along the easy road by the winding
river. It retreated from them, returned, retreated. The sun jewelled the
clear part of it with diamonds, and the strange milky glacier part of it
with opals. Finally it left them, and they could scarcely reconcile
themselves to its departure, but strolled back once more to enjoy its
gracious company. But at last they said farewell to it, and went on to
the old brown church, at the back of which they expected, from
Bedstemor's instructions, to find the steep path leading up to Peer
Gynt's stue. They halted, to see the sunburnt old church, and to rest.
Katharine was struck by its beautiful proportions. Rough and without any
features of special architectural interest, it presented a harmony in
itself which was arresting. She made the remark; and Clifford, who knew
many things about the North, was able to tell her that this was
characteristic of the Norwegian churches of the seventeenth and
eighteenth centuries. The date of this church was the middle of the
eighteenth century. It was rather a rich, well-cared-for church from a
Norwegian point of view, and it was full of interest for strangers. The
painted and decorated pews, with the rich peasants' names in floriated
design, attracted Katharine. The Sollis' pew was, of course, one of
them. The pulpit was elaborately carved, and was painted and gilded in
generous fashion. There was a rood-screen which bore the arms of Norway,
painted also in flamboyant style; and a shelf on the top supported eight
or ten figures of personages in Scripture lore, with their symbols.
Some of these figures were almost grotesque. It was difficult to believe
that they were of the same recent date as the church. The altarpiece,
the Last Supper, carved and painted, bore the date 1740; yet in
conception it looked like a piece of work from the Middle Ages, and
Dutch in character. Quainter still were the weird pictures hanging on
the walls, all of them gifts of pious people. The subjects were of
course religious ones: Jacob wrestling with the Angel, the Passage of
the Red Sea, the Garden of Gethsemane. They all dated back to the early
part of the eighteenth century, and were most primitive in idea and
execution, testifying silently, not only to the piety of the donors, but
to the uninfluenced isolation of the interior of Norway. One of them had
the inscription, "To the honour of God and for the ornament of the
church is this picture given by a rich and pious girl at a cost of three
dollars of the realm!"

Katharine and Clifford examined these queer things, and finally sat down
in the Sollis' grand pew. The world was beginning to be even as this old
brown church--empty, save for them. He was thinking, as he sat by her
side, how little she, with her free, open-hearted nature, could guess at
the grim and almost insurmountable difficulties of a prisoner of silence
like himself. She would never know how many times he had tried to begin
the story which he wished passionately to tell her. But each time that
he had failed, he at least knew that he was gaining courage. He did not
realise that Katharine had retreated into herself since that anxious day
at the Skyds-station; for Mrs Stanhope's words up at the Saeter had been
echoing in her ears. She was not the woman to allow her own impulses to
be checked by the opinion of Mrs Stanhope. Her most accentuated feeling
about Mrs Stanhope was indignation; nevertheless, the malignant words of
that bigot had engendered a vague shyness in Katharine's mind, which
held her back from helping Clifford. And also, she was passing through a
phase of emotional passiveness, which Nature, in her wisdom, insists on,
after any great and generous giving out of sympathy, love, and anxious
concern. At such moments even the most reckless spendthrifts of self can
give nothing. They wait. And if no one ministers to them, they pass out
into the darkness of the night to find recovery. So Katharine waited;
and they sat on together in the Sollis' decorated pew, cut off from the
outside world, and silent. The moment of liberty did not come to the
prisoner then in the old brown church. It almost came, but not quite.

When they left the church, they took the steep path accurately described
by Bedstemor. It was steep and rough, and Clifford turned to help
Katharine over some of the difficult bits; but she was as active as he,
and not at all breathless. She was astonished that there should be no
easier road than this one up to several old Gaards which they skirted in
their ascent. It seemed impossible for the farm-people to bring any
heavy loads up or down such a rough path. Clifford told her that it was
characteristic of the Norwegians of a previous generation.

"In former days," he said, "they made a road, any kind of road, straight
to their goal, over and through any difficulties. The Sorenskriver
thinks it a bad sign that they now make easy and circuitous ones. He
would like this uncompromising one. He would think that there still
remained some of the old rugged stubbornness in the Norwegian character,
and some of its simple hardihood."

"We can tell him about it," Katharine said, smiling at the thought of
the Sorenskriver. She was thinking what great good luck they had had in
getting off without him!

So they mounted higher and higher, pausing now and then to look down at
the valley, which on this side had a different appearance from that to
which they were now affectionately accustomed from the Solli Gaard. Here
the valley was much narrower, and the view, though beautiful, was less
comprehensive, but more intimate. From the Solli Gaard they saw the
great Gudbrandsdal as a vision. From the hillside behind the old brown
church they saw it as a human reality. They noticed, too, that the land
was more encumbered with rocks and stones in this district than in the
region round about the Solli Gaard; although there also were outward and
visible signs of the patient labour with which the Norwegians struggled
against a hard nature to make their country productive. But here the
battle proclaimed itself even more eloquently; and Katharine, who
noticed everything, spoke of it.

"No wonder they are a melancholy people, if they have had to struggle so
hard to get so little," she said.

"It is not that which has made them melancholy," Clifford replied. "It
is the loneliness."

He was silent for a moment, and then went on:

"Certain nations seem set apart for loneliness, even as certain people.
Nature has willed it so. Have you not seen how in active bustling
communities there are always several detached persons who prefer to go
away into the wilderness? They belong there. It is their native soil,
even if they have been born in crowded cities. I believe my father was
one of those persons."

"I have seen them out in Colorado," Katharine said. And she added
impulsively:

"But you are not one of them."

"No," he said without looking up at her; "I am not one of them. I was
forced into my wilderness."

And again she could not help him. For the very life of her, she could
not have said to him:

"Tell me about your wilderness, and I will tell you about mine."

In a few minutes they came to a Gaard hanging over the hillside, which
Clifford thought, from Bedstemor's description, must be Peer Gynt's
homestead. He hurried on to inquire, and soon came back to the great
rock where Katharine was resting.

"Yes," he said, "we have reached our destination. And that is supposed
to be Peer Gynt's house--that old stue there. The other buildings making
up the Gaard are newer, as you can see. The Gaardmand's wife says many
people come to visit it."

So there they were, at last, at Peer Gynt's home, perched up on high,
looking straight down on the valley and the river--a wild, isolated
spot, fit abode for a wild, restless spirit. The Gaardmand's wife showed
them over the old stue, which was very much like others they had seen,
built of great tree-trunks, and black with age outside, and mouldy with
age within; and when they had looked and looked, each of them
remembering Knutty's injunction to enjoy, believe, and to be seized by
the "spirit of place," she took them into the courtyard, and pointed out
another old building used as stables.

"Peer Gynt was buried here," she said. "He was too wicked to be buried
in the churchyard."

They lingered there for a long time, held in very truth by the spirit of
place. Clifford knew his 'Peer Gynt' well, and Katharine, who had read
it in English, understood a little of its real significance. He, knowing
its whole scope from beginning to end, was able to make the poem real to
her. He told her that Peer Gynt, brought up by his mother Ãse on legends
and fairy tales, was typical to Ibsen's mind of the Norwegian nation,
brought up on Sagas, and at the moment when the poem was written, not
able to put away phantasms, and awake to the realities of life. He
admired the poem intensely, and seemed delighted that she was interested
in all he had to tell her about it. And he was moved at being in its
very atmosphere. He had forgotten his doubts about the genuineness of
the place.

"Cannot you see him coming down from the mountains after one of his
escapades," he said, "his mother standing scolding him, and then
listening entranced to his fantastic stories? Can't you see him seizing
his mother when she was a nuisance to him, carrying her over the river
and putting her on the grass-roof of the corn-house, where she could not
interfere with him? Was there ever such a fellow? And there is the
river--the very river!"

He pointed to it with almost a child's eagerness.

"He must have crossed there, you see, on his way to the wedding at which
he stole the bride and took her away into the mountains," he said. "And
where was it, I wonder, that he used to lie in the woods, dreaming his
dreams of action and achievement which never came to anything? Perhaps
yonder, sometimes, in that little copse over there."

Then he turned once more to the stue.

"And to think that there, actually there, poor Ãse died," he said.
"Don't you remember how, even at her deathbed, he could not face the
reality of the moment, but buoyed her and himself up with pitiful
romancing? I can see the whole scene as I never saw it before."

It was a long time before they tore themselves away, and then they did
not go far. They sat down by some stones outside the Gaard enclosure,
still talking about Peer Gynt.

"The poem always stirs me," said Clifford. "I know nothing in literature
which ever took a greater hold on me. It may be partly because Knutty
taught me to know and understand the Northern mind. But the more I read
it, the more I see that it is not typical of the Northern temperament
only. Peer Gynt stands for us all, whether we hail from the North, the
South, the East, the West; for all of us who cover up realities with
fantasies."

"But do we not all have to help ourselves with make-believe, more or
less?" Katharine said. "If we went through life doing nothing but facing
facts, we should be intolerable to ourselves and other people. Surely
now and then we need to rest on fantasy?"

She was silent a moment, and then went on:

"We make a fantastic picture to ourselves that we are wanted in the
world, that we have work to do, a call to answer, things and people
needing us, and us only. If we did not do that where should we be?"

He turned to her suddenly:

"Have you felt that too?" he said.

"Yes," she answered.

"So have I," he said.

"But you had, and have always had, your work," Katharine said, "your own
definite career, which no one, nothing, could take from you."

And as soon as the words had left her lips, she remembered that Knutty
was always saying that if ever a man had had his career marred and
checked by others, that man was Clifford Thornton. She could have bitten
her tongue out. She did not know that she had helped him by what she had
said.

He drew a little nearer to her.

"There is a passage from 'Peer Gynt' which has always haunted me," he
said:

    "'We are thoughts,
    Thou shouldst have thought us....'
    'We are a riddle,
    Thou shouldst have solved us....'
    'We are songs,
    Thou shouldst have sung us....
    A thousand times hast thou
    Crushed and choked us.
    In thy heart-depths
    We have lain and waited
    Vainly for thy summons....'

That is the true picture of my career."

"Every humble-hearted person with gifts would think that," Katharine
said impulsively.

It was as though she were defending him from some accuser; as though she
imperiously wished to sweep all regrets and grievings out of his
horizon. He felt her tender sympathy enfolding him, and it gave him
courage. With one tremendous effort he broke down the wall of reserve.
The long-imprisoned thoughts came tumbling out. At first they freed
themselves with effort, and then with natural ease. Katharine listened
wonder-struck. He spoke of the years which had gone, of Marianne, of her
strange attitude to his work, of the battle which he had always been
fighting between bitterness and self-reproach, of the inroad which it
had made on his powers of thought and concentration, of his contempt for
himself that he had not been able to deal more successfully with
difficulties which spoilt her life and his.

Katharine, knowing from Knutty something of the daily difficulties
which had beset him, was touched by his gentle chivalry of heart and
spirit; for he did not say one single ungentle word of Marianne, nor
give expression to one single ungenerous criticism. His criticism was of
himself, not her. He said repeatedly that if he had cared enough to find
the key to a good understanding, it could have been found.

"I can tell you all this so easily now that I have once begun," he said.
"I have been longing to lay it all before you; time after time I have
tried to speak to you of my poor Marianne, of her death, of the boy's
disbelief in me, of my own disbelief in myself, of the secret trouble
which has gnawed at my heart, and which, in spite of reason, will gnaw
at my heart until I have told it to you. You are the only one in all
eternity to whom I could tell it."

"Tell it," Katharine said gently.

Then he told her.

And as he told her Peer Gynt's stue faded from her eyes--the river: the
birch-wood: the distant mountains: the valley: Norway. She was back in
England once more. She saw a lonely man sitting dreaming by his
fireside. She saw him go slowly up the staircase and hasten his step as
he heard Marianne's voice calling to him in alarm. She saw the
expression of shock and pain on Marianne's face. She heard him saying:

"It was only a dream--your dream and my dream--let it go the way of all
dreams."

She saw him go down to the stable and saddle his horse. She saw him ride
out into the darkness of the night. She saw him throw himself on the
bed, worn out in body and spirit. She heard Alan calling to his father.
She saw Marianne leaning back, dead, and with that terrible look of
shock and pain on her poor dead face.

The very simplicity and directness of the man's story added to its
significance. That he could tell it at all, showed his terrible need of
telling it. That he could tell it thus unreservedly, showed his entire
trust in her, and his entire freedom from any desire to give the
impression that he had suffered without having inflicted suffering.

The directness was almost more than Katharine could bear. More than once
she could have cried out to him to stop. But she had not the heart to
check him; and on he went, his intensity, his frankness increasing the
whole time.

"Yes," he said, "she left me; she died in that terrible way, and I was
alive to fight with and face the possibility that I had caused her
death. Hundreds of times I said that if I could have tuned myself to be
more in harmony with the best that was in her and in me, my dreaming
thoughts of her would never have broken through the bounds of kindness,
would never have attained to that fierce acuteness which penetrated to
her so ruthlessly in her own defenceless state of dreaming. By what
force, by what process they reached her, I, in my ignorance, cannot
pretend to know. I only know that our minds met each other then as they
had never met in normal life."

He paused a moment. Katharine thought that he had come to the end of his
power of telling. But before she had finished thinking that brief
thought, he had begun again.

He said he had been tortured and puzzled by that dream until his reason
nearly left him. There was no one to whom he could have confided it. He
could not have told it to Knutty, for he never had been able to speak
with her about Marianne. He could not talk it out with any one who might
have given time and serious thought to such phenomena. Perhaps that
might have helped him more than anything at the time: to have talked it
out, analysed it, found the relative meaning of it, and satisfied his
intelligence about it by means of some one else's intelligence. But that
was an impossibility to him; and so it remained locked in his heart,
gnawing at his heart whilst he battled with it alone.

"When the boy began to turn from me, it gnawed more and more," he said.
"When I learned that Marianne's friend was openly condemning my conduct
to her, it gnawed more and more. For I said to myself, 'If the boy knew
the awful thought which is haunting me, if Mrs Stanhope knew it, if they
all knew it, what then?' So I kept my secret to myself. I had the sense
to know that I was justified in doing that. And I turned to my work and
tried to forget. I turned to my work, which had always been a haven when
I was able to keep it uninvaded by--by outside influences. It was
invaded now. I could not forget. I went as usual to my study and
laboratory, and I tried to continue my neglected investigations; but I
failed from the first. Time after time I tried. You would scarcely
believe how often--and always in vain. For my mind was filled with the
one imperious thought from which there was no escape--not even for a
moment: Was I guilty of Marianne's death? Time after time I found myself
saying aloud, 'Have I killed Marianne, or have I not killed Marianne?'"

Katharine had been leaning forward gazing fixedly into the distance, but
she stood up now, and turned to him.

"Don't go on," she said in a stifled voice. "I cannot bear any more."

Then he saw the keen distress on her face.

"Oh," he cried in an agony of remorse, "I have been thinking only of
myself--forgive me----"

"No, no, it isn't that," she said. "But you have suffered so much, and
you are suffering now in telling me, and I cannot bear it."

"Forgive me, forgive me," he pleaded almost inaudibly. "It was my soul's
necessity to tell you--to lay it all before you--so that you might know
me and judge me."

"Judge you!" she cried.

And there was a world of love and understanding in her eyes, in her
voice, and on her face.

She turned to him with outstretched hands; but as she turned, she saw a
vision of Marianne leaning back in the arm-chair, dead, and with that
expression of alarm on her poor dead face.

Katharine's hands fell.

"Let us go home," she said in a voice which was full of pain.

So in silence they descended the steep hillside.

In silence they went along by the river, and over the bridge, through
the fir-woods, and up towards the Solli Gaard.



CHAPTER XX.


Katharine went straight to her room and threw herself on her bed. All
her thoughts were of Clifford. Her heart was flooded with love and pity
for him, a hundredfold intensified now that she knew his secret history.
The manner of Marianne's death and the long-continued silent suffering
of the man appalled her. She had known from the beginning that he had
suffered acutely; but when she had called him the man with the broken
spirit, she had little realised the torture which his gentle and
chivalrous spirit was undergoing day by day, hour by hour. He had fought
and conquered. She knew that. She knew that she, coming into his
wilderness, had helped him to do that; even as he, coming into her
wilderness of loneliness, had brought her a new life and a new outlook.

Judge him--judge him! The words rang in the air and echoed back to her.

"My belovèd!" she cried, "I shall yet be able to tell you all that is in
my heart. You suffered--and she suffered too--that poor Marianne--and I
saw her face before me when I turned to you--and, oh, my belovèd, we
could only go home in silence."

Her genius of sympathy did not leave that poor Marianne out in the cold.
Marianne's turbulent temperament, Marianne's jealous rages, all the
impossibilities resulting from a wrong aura, were reverently garnered
into Katharine's tender understanding. For she knew Marianne had
suffered too; and that in that strange dream, that heart-breaking final
communication between husband and wife, Marianne had learnt the truth,
and the truth had killed her. She had gone to her death with a knowledge
which was too much for her life. The truth and not Clifford had killed
her: the truth, spoken in a defenceless moment.

In the midst of her serious musings there came a knock at the door.
Katharine answered, "Come in," and Alan appeared. His manner was, as
usual, shy, and he blushed a little. He was always greatly pleased to
see Katharine. He brought two English letters for her. His young face
and young presence broke in upon her as a song of spring.

"Don't go," she said, holding out her hand to him. "What have you got
there?"

"Oh, it's only a drawing I've been doing of the cowhouse," he said in
his shy way. "Knutty wanted it. She says it isn't bad."

"It is very good, I think," Katharine said. "I wish it were for me."

"Oh, I am going to do something ripping good for you before I go back to
school," he said. "I've begun it."

She smiled her thanks to him.

"Shall you be glad to go back to school?" she asked, as she broke open
her letters.

"I shall not like to leave father," he said, without looking up. "But he
has promised to come and see me."

"Ah, that's right," Katharine said, and she glanced at one of the
letters.

"Will you come and see me?" Alan said with a jerk.

"Of course I will," she said.

Then she turned to her letters. Alan did not go away. He sat in the
window recess cutting at a model of a Laplander's pulk (sledge) which
the Sorenskriver had given him. Katharine forgot about him, forgot for
the moment about everything, except the contents of her letters.

Ronald wrote in great trouble begging for her return. As she had
guessed, money matters had been going wrong with him; he had been
gambling on the Stock Exchange, had lost heavily, had taken money from
the business, crippled it, compromised it, compromised himself,
compromised her, but he could and would retrieve everything if she
would stand by him.

"Stand by you; of course I'll stand by you," she said staunchly.

In his hour of happiness he had shut her out; and now in his hour of
need he opened the door to her, and she went in gladly, without a
thought of bitterness in her heart.

"Stand by you; of course I'll stand by you," she repeated. "Poor old
fellow! In trouble, and through your own fault entirely--the worst kind
of trouble to bear, too, because there is no one to blame except your
own self."

The other letter was from Margaret Tonedale, Willy's sister. She wrote
that Willy had been very ill from pneumonia, and they had nearly lost
him. He was still ill and dreadfully low, and asked repeatedly for
Katharine. His intense and unsatisfied yearning to see her was retarding
his recovery, and Margaret felt that she must let Katharine know, so
that if she were thinking of returning soon, she might perhaps be
inclined to hasten her steps homewards.

And the letter ended with these words:

"Although you do not want to marry him, Kath, you love and prize him, as
we all do, and I know you would wish to help him and us."

"Dear old Willy," she said. "Faithful old fellow. Of course, I must go
and see after you."

She had been living her own personal life, focusing on the present and
the sad and sweet circumstances of the present, slipping away for the
time from home affairs, home ties, deliberately pushing aside any
passing uneasy thoughts about Ronald's extravagant mode of life, letting
herself go forward untrammelled into a new world of hopes and fears.

But now voices from the old world of a few short weeks ago, the old
world grown strangely older in a few swift days, loved voices, with all
the irresistible, exacting persuasion of the past, called to her.

She rose, determined to go home at once, and then she saw Alan.

"Alan," she said, "I must go and find out about the trains and the boat.
I must return at once."

"Go away from us?" the boy asked. And he looked as though he heard of
some great calamity.

It was he who broke the news to his father.

"Father," he said, "she is going away. Can't we go too?"

Clifford made no answer. He seemed stunned. His face was ashen when he
sought Katharine out, and said in a voice that trembled:

"Is it I who am driving you away?"

"No, no," she answered. "I shall write to you. I shall write to you. I
cannot trust myself to speak. If I began, I----"

It was she who broke off this time.

"I have so much I want to say to you," she went on. "Up at Peer Gynt's
stue, when I turned towards you, I----"

She broke off again.

       *       *       *       *       *

The news spread about that the Englishwoman was returning to England the
very next morning. It caused general dissatisfaction.

"Going away!" said Bedstemor. "Why doesn't she stay in Norway? That is
the only place to live in."

"Going to leave the Gaard!" said Solli reproachfully; "before the
harvest is gathered in too."

"Going to England!" said the Sorenskriver sulkily; "to that barbarous
country, which scarcely exists on the map."

"Going away!" exclaimed old Kari, "and before the cows come down from
the mountains."

"Going away!" said Gerda, "before my Ejnar brings us 'the Ranunculus
glacialis.'"

"Going to England!" said Knutty, "leaving us all in the lurch here,
alone, without you. Leaving me, my icebergs, and my botanists--and for
the sake of a brother and a sick friend: people whom you've known all
your life! I never heard of anything so inhuman. Brothers indeed; sick
friends indeed! Let them take care of themselves. Bah, these relations!
They always choose the wrong time for crises; and as for friends, they
are always sick when you want them to be well, and well when you want
them to be sick. Ignore them all, kjaere, and stay with us."

But in spite of their loving protests, Katharine tore herself away:
from the beautiful Gudbrandsdal, from the quaint and simple peasant
life, from the surroundings which were hallowed for ever in her memory.

       *       *       *       *       *

Her departure took place so quietly that no one realised that she had
gone. Knutty sat on the verandah trying to work at the Danish
translation; but, discovering that her nerves were out of order, she
found it a relief to pick a quarrel with the Sorenskriver, who had
sulkily refused to go to the station, and then was angry with himself
and consequently with the whole world.

At last Clifford came back from the station. He sat down by Knutty's
side.

"Knutty, she has gone," he said forlornly.

"Kjaere," she said, comforting him as she put her hand on his head. "My
poor iceberg."

Alan came. He, too, sat down by Knutty's side.

"Knutty, she has gone," the boy said sadly.

"Kjaere," Knutty said, and she put her hand on his head too. "My poor
other iceberg."

Then she turned to them with a smile on her face.

"I see daylight!" she cried. "Go after her!"



PART III.

IN ENGLAND.



CHAPTER I.


"Maccaroni of my native land!" said Signor Luigi one day whilst sitting
in Katharine's private room at the organ-factory--"Maccaroni of my
native land! And so the Signorina have become a real business-personage,
helping 'brother' to build the best organs in the world. But the
Signorina must not work too hard. She must not depart the roses from her
cheeks. And she must eat her lunch lentissimo largissimo, as now. Ha,
this coffee is very good. And the rolls and butter is adorable."

Katharine laughed, and poured out another cup of coffee for the merry
little Italian.

"No," he repeated, "she must not depart the adorable roses from her
cheeks."

"Oh, I am not too tired," Katharine said. "Of course it was a little
trying at first to get accustomed to routine work. But after a time it
goes swimmingly, Signor Luigi; and I assure you I should be quite lost
now if I did not come down to the factory every day. Let me see. I have
been at it three months. You all said I should give it up after three
days."

"We all thought the Signorina were made to have all the time to herself
and to command her faithful servants," the little violoncellist answered
gallantly.

"But I can still command my faithful servants, I suppose?" Katharine
asked with a smile.

"Always, always!" he replied, waving his spoon in the air.

"You see," Katharine continued, nodding at him approvingly, "I was bent
on filling up my life with something which was worth doing. Even before
I left England, I had got tired of the ordinary leisured woman's life.
And when I came home again and went amongst my friends and
acquaintances, I saw it was going to be impossible to me to take such a
life up once more and even pretend to myself that I was enjoying it.
The whole thing bored me, wearied me. But here I am not bored. Moreover,
I am delighted with myself, and proud to find myself developing all
sorts of unexpected abilities!"

"I have always said that the Signorina have the abilities of all the
cleverest and beautifullest personages in all the centuries and all the
countries," said Signor Luigi. "Light of mine eyeballs, light of mine
eyeballs! I have always said she could build organs for 'brother,' play
on the trombone, on the adorable drums, do anything and
everything--except one thing."

"And what is that?" Katharine said.

"The Signorina could not leave off being her adorable self although she
have become the busy, busy business-personage," he answered, with a
nourish of the coffee-cup. "But now I go. I dare not stay one leetle
minute longer. I have not the wish to be deported like the Pomeranian
dog. Ah, he have gone away with the other grand things of 'brother's'
grand house. But 'brother' looks happier. And every month 'brother' will
be happier. Not so many illustrious expenses, not so much animato
agitato of the spirits! I know. I am calmer since I cut down the half of
my native maccaroni. For the times is bad, Signorina. No one is pining
himself to learn the violoncello or listen to it. No, he prefer to dash
away in a motor-car, and the poor musician--well, he must cut down his
maccaroni and play to himself and give lessons to himself. Or he must
change his profession and be motor-car driver. I have the serious
thoughts about it, Signorina. But I will not drive you and 'brother'
till I have practised on other people. Ha, here is 'brother.'"

Ronald came in looking pleased.

"We have got the order for that organ in Natal," he said, nodding to
Signor Luigi. "I am awfully glad about it. Don't go, Luigi."

"Noble 'brother,' I must go," the little Italian answered. "I have a
pupil at twelve o'clock, and it is now two. She go out in the motor-car,
and I allow her three whole hours for being late for her lesson. Ah, the
times has indeed changed. The enthusiasms has gone to sleep. Never mind.
Vive le quartette! Remember, 'brother,' there is a meeting next week at
Herr Edelhart's, and an audience of one is expected."

He looked at Katharine as he spoke, put his hand to his heart, and was
gone. But he returned immediately, and added:

"Monsieur Gervais begged the Signorina would be careful not to get the
brain fevers over her hard work. He will come next week to pay his
compliments. He says he now has the inflammations of the lungs himself."

Ronald, left alone with Katharine, put his hand on her arm.

"Kath," he said gently, "you must not work too hard. You are looking
tired. I know well that my shameful behaviour has ploughed into you
awfully. You have been a brick to me, old girl. You shall never regret
that you stood by me with your money and your kindness. I shall never
forget how you hurried back from Norway, and came to the rescue, and
saved me and the good name of the firm. I can't say much about it to you
now, for I am still too ashamed. But----"

"We went through bad times, Ronald, you and I and Gwendolen," Katharine
answered; "but we are coming out of it with our chins well up in the air
and a better understanding in our hearts. I had lost you, Ronnie; but I
have found you again. I had never won Gwendolen, but--but I am winning
her. And there is nothing to thank me for. This crisis in your affairs
was my salvation. I never forget that. There are other crises than
business crises, Ronnie. And I have been very thankful to turn away from
inner troubles to outside difficulties. I begin to see why life is far
easier to men than to women. The fight with the outer world braces men
up. They go forth, and pass on strengthened. But the women are chained
to circumstance--or chain themselves."

"You are in trouble, Kath, and have not told me?" he asked
reproachfully.

"There was nothing to tell, dearest," she said, touched by his old
loving manner.

"In the old days you would have told me that nothing," he said
sorrowfully.

She looked up from the letters which she had suddenly begun to arrange.
There were tears in her eyes. There was a grey sadness spread over her
face. She was not the old Katharine of a few months ago.

"Kath," he said, "I have been thinking only of myself. I have not been
noticing. But I see you are in trouble. May not a selfish fellow know
even at the eleventh hour?"

She shook her head as she took his hand and fondled it.

"Some day, Ronnie," she said, almost in a whisper; "not just now."

She could not tell him. She could not tell any one. She owed it to her
own self-respect, her own wounded pride, to keep silent about Clifford
Thornton's strange silence to her. When she had left the Gaard, she had
come home by the overland route, _viâ_ Copenhagen and Hamburg. At
Hamburg she had rested for a few hours, and in the hotel facing the lake
she had written to Clifford. She poured her whole heart, all her longing
and love, all her understanding tenderness into that letter. She wrote
it feverishly, with emotional abandonment of all restraint. She loved
him, believed in him, and what she could not tell him face to face up at
Peer Gynt's stue she told him in that letter. And she received no answer
to it. More than three months had passed since she wrote it, and still
no sign had come from him, no signal across the vast, nothing. She had
offered all she could offer, her best self--and his answer was silence.
She suffered. She did not regret her impulsiveness. Throughout her life
Katharine had been willing to take the consequences of her emotional
temperament. She had never shrunk from paying the due price exacted by
life from those who do not pause to think and weigh. Nevertheless her
heart was chilled, her pride was wounded. But she said to herself time
after time that she would not willingly have written one sentence, one
word less. She was impelled to write that letter in that way. No other
way would have been possible to her. But she believed that, from his
point of view, she had said too much, let herself go too far, frightened
the reserved man, lost his respect perhaps, touched him perhaps too
roughly on the painful wounds which the chances of life had inflicted on
him.

It was great good luck for her that she had work to do, and pressing
matters and anxieties which demanded her time and intelligence. She
turned herself into a business woman with that remarkable adaptability
which men are only beginning to recognise and appreciate in the other
sex. From her pretty flat across the water she sallied forth day after
day to the organ-factory. The manager and the workmen welcomed her. They
were willing to teach her. She was willing to learn. Her quick brain
dealt with difficulties in a surprising fashion. Mr Barlow, the manager,
had always believed in her business capacities; and it was encouraging
to her to know that he was not disappointed. Moreover, she had stepped
into the thick of things at a serious crisis, and by her generous action
had safeguarded the honour and position of the firm; for she had sold
out many of her own investments to meet Ronald's Stock Exchange debts,
which otherwise might have been enforced against him as a partner of the
firm. She had covered up his extravagant recklessness and his
indifferent husbanding of their united interests. She knew that he had
yielded to dishonourable recklessness as many another man had yielded
before--for love of, and at the importunity of, a woman. She knew that
as the months had gone on, he must have been increasingly harassed and
torn between his passionate love for Gwendolen and his own natural
feelings of what was upright in his business relationships. She was very
pitiful with him: yearning as a mother over him. But on one point she
was adamant. Ronald had sent Gwendolen to rich friends in the North.
Katharine insisted that she should return and take her part at once in
Ronald's altered circumstances; for the luxurious house in South
Kensington had to be given up, and a more modest home sought for and
found in Chelsea. Ronald fought this. He wished to spare his goddess.

"She has never been accustomed to having things in a small way," he
said.

"Then she must learn," Katharine answered determinedly.

"You are hard on your own sex," Ronald had said, stung by her decided
manner.

"I believe in my own sex," Katharine replied, flushing. "Most women are
bricks, Ronnie, if men will allow them to be so. You men make fools of
women in the early days of your passionate love, and then later, when it
is too late, expect them to behave as sane and reasonable human beings.
Gwendolen must come, and at once."

It was in vain that he pleaded.

"She is so young and beautiful, Kath, and she is having such a happy
time up North," he said. "I cannot bear to bring her back to worries."

"She must come," Katharine answered.

So Gwendolen came rustling back in her silks and satins, and astonished
every one, including herself, by her delighted behaviour.

"Dear old Kath!" she said. "You did not think I was a monster of
selfishness and iniquity, but believed in me. You will see how fearfully
economical I shall be in the future. I shall sell all my jewels, dress
in brown holland, and take in all the darning of the neighbourhood!"

So Katharine had reason to be a little comforted. If she had lost some
joys in life, she had gained others.

But she fretted. She had not much leisure, but in her spare time she
went down to the Natural History Museum and hung over the cases in the
Mineral Department. That was a mournful sort of consolation to her: to
be where she had been with Clifford. Once or twice she started off to
see Alan. But she turned back. If the father had given no sign, it was
not fitting for her to seek out the boy. Several times she wrote long
letters to Knutty, and tore them up. The letters she did send to Knutty
contained no allusion to Clifford. When the old Dane read them, she
said, "Great powers! Is she becoming an iceberg too, or am I mad?"

She sat constantly in the Abbey. She listened to the organ, to the
singing. She thought of the gracious day in the summer when Clifford and
she had passed along by the glacier-river, and stopped to rest in the
old brown church where they sat silently. There was no organ. There was
no singing. The music was in their own hearts.

One day she met Herr Edelhart in the Poet's Corner. He was looking
grave.

"Yes," he said, "the times are wunderbar bad for great souls, great
artistes like mineself. No one wishes to hear me play. And, lieber
Himmel, when I think of it, what a tone I have! In this Abbey I could
make my little violino into a great orchestra. Ach, Fräulein, but you
know. You, with the wunderbar charm, know. But you yourself are sad.
'Brother's' troubles have been too much for you?"

Katharine smiled to herself.

"Poor 'brother'!" she thought. "I am letting him be held responsible for
all my sadness."

Willy Tonedale was the only one who did not think Ronald entirely
responsible for Katharine's altered manner. He questioned her about
Clifford Thornton, and could get nothing from her in the way of
confidence. He found her reading weird books about dreams, their meaning
and their relationship to normal consciousness. She spent long hours
over that subject, and could make nothing of it.

"I did not know you went in for this sort of game, Kath," he said one
day.

"Oh, I do not go in for it," she said, with a slight laugh. "But I was
curious to see what had been written about it. The books are
disappointing. They record such trivial incidents."

Willy looked at her uneasily.

"I believe you are going to become a scholar as well as a business
woman, Kath," he said.

He shook his head. He seemed to think that she was in a very bad way.

A few days afterwards he found her studying a scientific book, "Outlines
of Organic Chemistry." It was true that she had it upside down; but, as
he remarked, that only added to the abstruseness of the subject.

"Good heavens, Kath!" he said, as he took up the book gingerly, treating
it as if it were an explosive, "what on earth have you got here? Didn't
know you went in for chemistry too. What in the name of all the Caesars
does an asymmetric atom of carbon mean? I never heard of the beasty
before."

"Nor did I," answered Katharine, with a hopeless smile. That book had
really been too much for her. Yet she loved to have it. It was only one
of the many scientific books she had been buying since she returned from
Norway. Willy saw them on the shelf. They were nearly all lives of great
chemists, or handbooks on chemistry. He examined them one by one, and
then turned to her.

"Kath," he said gently, "don't forget that you trusted me before."



CHAPTER II.


But Katharine could tell him nothing; and he, seeing that she wished to
keep her own counsel, asked her nothing. But he insisted that she should
spend some of her leisure time in his home; and when she was there, he
tried to be, so he said, his brightest and quickest self, in order to
cheer her and chase away all bad effects of business and culture. One
Sunday when she went, he was in great spirits. He had sold his picture
of Mary, Queen of Scots.

"You now see the advantage of working slowly," he said in a grandiose
manner. "I have taken sixteen years of continuous thought and study to
paint that immortal picture. One year less would not have done the
trick! By Jove! Kath, won't that look well in the papers? All the
fellows I know paint six pictures a-year, or write twelve books a-month.
But I, Willy Tonedale, the much-abused slow one, have painted one
picture in sixteen years. I admit that an artist does not become rich on
one picture in sixteen years. But reflect, I beg you, on the thought,
the patient historic research involved, and the reward reached after
long, long years of toil! What a good thing I didn't die over that
pneumonia affair! I should have gone spark out if you had not come over
from Norway and called me back to life. I began to get better directly
you returned, Kath, and directly mother left off engaging the Christian
Science creature to heal me. Of course mother makes out that I was
cured by Christian Science; but I say I was cured by Katharine Science.
Smart of me, isn't it? But then I am getting awfully sharp! I'm amazed
at myself. Seems to me, though, that as I become sharper, every one I
know becomes duller. Margaret is quite flattened out with Causes, and
wears sandals. Mother is a weird mixture of depression and superiority
from Christian Science and the Salisbury treatment; even my belovèd
cousin Julia looks devitalised and chastened. She only speaks in a
whisper, and her face is the colour of artichoke-soup. She says she had
a fright in Norway."

Katharine laughed.

"I should think she did have a fright in Norway," Katharine said,
brightening up. And she told Willy something of what had happened up at
the Saeter.

"And what are you going to do to her when you see her?" he asked.

"Nothing," Katharine answered. "I do not mind what she thinks of me. I
know you do not think I ever behaved badly to you."

"I know what I am going to do to her when I see her again," he said.

"Don't do anything stupid," Katharine said. "It isn't worth while."

"What will Professor Thornton do to her?" Willy asked slowly, after a
pause.

"I could not say," replied Katharine quietly. "Probably nothing."

"Haven't you seen him lately?" Willy asked.

"No," she replied, turning away from him. She could not bear to talk of
Clifford, and yet she wished to make the effort in return for all
Willy's gentle kindness.

Willy waited. She turned to him again with her old impulsiveness, and
there were tears in her eyes.

"I think he did not care for me after all, Willy," she said almost in a
whisper. "That is all there is to tell you."

"It would not be possible for him not to care," Willy answered; and this
time it was he who turned away.

"But, all the same, Kath," he went on when he had recovered himself,
"you must not work too hard at business. Ronnie is a duffer and doesn't
see, and Gwendolen wouldn't notice if any one were ill except herself.
But I know you are overdoing it. I don't half like your being down at
the factory."

"It is most curious how I seem to have to apologise to my friends for
taking up some serious work," Katharine said. "No one would have any
criticism to make if I were tiring myself over pleasure. And yet I
assure you that dealing with pipes and reeds and bellows and
sounding-boards and pedals, and even clergymen, is far less tiring than
the ordinary routine of leisured pleasure, and much more interesting."

"I always understood clergymen were tiring persons," Willy suggested.

"They may be tiring in their pulpits," Katharine answered, "but not when
they come to order organs! At any rate, one can put up with them then.
Then, the price is worth the preaching!"

"Ah," he said, "there is a bit of your old fun again. Your friends will
not mind what you do, if only you keep your old bright happiness; we'll
allow you to be as business-like, as cultured, as learned--yes, Kath--as
scientific as you please, only you must not be unhappy. I'm not going to
be unhappy. I am going to begin another picture to-morrow. I shall get
cousin Julia to sit for me as Lucretia Borgia in a chastened mood. Do
you remember my saying that you were made for happiness? As I am a
living artist of great but slow genius, I mean it, Kath. You'll get your
heart's desires. I know you will. Believe my word. I am never mistaken.
And as for cousin Julia, you are right, we will not bother about her:
she will have to sit for Lucretia Borgia."

"I think that ought to be a severe enough punishment," Katharine
answered. "To sit to you for--sixteen weary years!"

At that moment the door opened, and the servant announced Mrs Stanhope.

Mrs Stanhope, who was looking pale, came into the studio. She glanced at
Katharine, and seemed confused; for since her return from Norway she had
been haunted by fears of prosecutions for slander and other terrors of
the law.

Katharine made no sign, no movement. She appeared not to see Mrs
Stanhope. But Willy, without any hesitation, went forward to greet his
cousin Julia.

"Cousin Julia," he said, with his peculiar drawl, which was always
accentuated when he was particularly stirred, "I am glad you have come.
I have been hearing that up on a Norwegian mountain, you made the
statement that Katharine Frensham played with me--and threw me over.
Yes, she has played with me. We've played together ever since I can
remember; and even as little children, we were proud of our jolly good
understanding. But she never threw me over. And, by Jove, I hope she
never will."

"I am glad I was mistaken, Willy," Mrs Stanhope said, with a touch of
diluted sarcasm.

"Yes, I daresay you are," he answered. "But I rather advise you not to
make any more mistakes of that sort. Might be awkward for you. Can't
help being sorry for you though, cousin Julia. I believe Professor
Thornton intends----"

Mrs Stanhope turned paler.

"Where is your mother?" she asked hurriedly.

"Gone to a Christian Science or Salisbury Service," he replied. "Don't
know which. I always mix up those two services."

Then Mrs Stanhope, with another glance at Katharine, who still ignored
her presence, hastened away.

"By Jove, Kath!" Willy said when they were alone again, "I never saw you
so still or so quiet before. You didn't move a muscle."

"If I had moved a muscle, I should have whipped her!" Katharine answered
with some of her old spirit.

"Ah," said Willy, nodding his head approvingly, "I perceive you won't
die yet. You are still human."



CHAPTER III.


It was the 19th of December. Clifford was sitting in his study at
"Falun" when the letters were brought to him. He did not look up from
his work. The postman could bring him nothing that he cared to have that
day; for he had already heard from Alan, who was still at school; he
knew that all was well with the boy, and that he would be home for the
holidays on the 21st.

For nearly four months he had waited and longed for a letter from
Katharine. But now he had given up hoping. He believed that he had
alienated her by his merciless outspokenness up at Peer Gynt's stue; not
at the moment, for he remembered the ring in her voice and the
expression on her face when she said, "_Judge you_--_judge you_," but
later, when, quietly by herself, in her own surroundings, away from him,
she was able to think things out and measure them. She had judged
him--and left him. He suffered. He dared not attempt to approach her. He
had told her all--and her answer was silence. He haunted Westminster and
Stangate; but he never met her once. He walked up and down Westminster
Bridge, knowing that if he did see her in the distance, he would be
constrained to turn away. For he had told her all; and since her answer
was silence, he had no right to force himself on her.

"Love has passed me by," he said to himself sadly.

He made no accusation on life.

"I was not worthy of it," he said.

"I had to tell her all," he said. "I had to lay it all before her."

"Love was so near to me," he said. "I almost reached it. And now I have
to pass on alone."

He went two or three times during the term to see Alan. Alan was well
and happy. But he was disappointed that Katharine had not been to see
him.

"She promised, father," he said. "And I've looked for her week after
week. But I believe that she will still come."

"Do you?" asked Clifford eagerly.

"Yes," the boy answered. "She was not the sort of chum to break her
word."

"She promised to write to me," Clifford said. "But I have not heard."

"Oh, you'll hear," Alan said staunchly.

But that was several weeks before Christmas; and now Christmas had
nearly come, and Katharine's promised visit to Alan had not been paid,
nor her promised letter to Clifford been received.

And the man had given up expecting it. So now he did not look up from
his work. He had looked up many times on other occasions and been
disappointed. He had gone back to his work many times with a sore
feeling of personal bereftness, as though fate had put him outside the
inner heart of things. So now he bent over his desk, immersed in some
abstruse calculation. After an hour, he rose and went to his laboratory
to give some instructions to his new assistant, a young Welshman from
Aberystwith, who had arrived that morning. A case of glass apparatus had
just been brought in. He lingered to see if they were in good condition.
He came out, and then went back to fetch his notebook, which he had left
on the bench. He stood for a moment looking at the enlargements which he
had carried out since his return from Norway.

"Alan and Knutty will be pleased," he said.

"I had hoped that she too would--would see them," he thought. "I
hoped--ah, I don't know what I hoped. I was mad."

He returned to his study and closed the door. He stood leaning against
the mantelpiece, thinking. His grave face looked sad. He had reconquered
his power of working. Peace was in his house; but sore loneliness and
longing were in his heart. Still, he was working, and with satisfaction
to that part of his nature which had been so greatly harassed by poor
Marianne's merciless turbulence.

"After all, I only asked to work and to be at peace," he said aloud, as
if in answer to some insistent disputant.

"But----" began that inner voice.

"I only asked to work and be at peace," he answered again sternly.

Then he went to the table by the door and looked at his letters. One was
from Knutty.

"No," he said, as he fingered it; "Knutty asks an impossibility of me.
She does not know all--she does not see all around. Katharine Frensham
has shown by her silence that...."

He opened Knutty's letter. There was one enclosed, addressed in a
gallant handwriting: "Clifford Thornton, Esq., Solli Gaard,
Gudbrandsdal, Norway." It was old and stained. On a slip of paper Knutty
had written: "Solli has this moment sent this letter to me. He says it
must have been to many Sollis all over the Gudbrandsdal, until the
Norwegian post-office got tired. You see there is no district mentioned,
and Solli is as common as Smith. Ragnhild Solli found it reposing in the
Otta post-office, waiting, no doubt, for next year's tourists."

Clifford's hands trembled. A great pain had seized his beating heart. He
sank down into his chair, broke open the letter, and read with dim eyes
the following lines:--



CHAPTER IV.


"Judge you, judge you. Oh, my dearest, my dearest, if I could have told
you what was in my heart when you said those words to me, up at Peer
Gynt's stue, then I should not be writing this letter to you, though I
want to write it, want to write down everything that is in my heart,
everything that sprang into flower at the moment when I first saw you.
For I love you, and I am holding out my arms to you, have been holding
them out ever since I first saw you. Does it seem overbold that I say
this to you? Why should not a woman say it? Anyway, I say it, and am not
ashamed. I love you, and I am waiting for you. I have loved you with
tears in my heart from the very beginning, grieving over you as over one
whom I had known all my life, and with whom I had the right to
sympathise with all the sympathy of my best nature.

"You know, dearest, I had been away from England for three years. You
remember that I told you I went away when my brother married. I can
never describe to you how I had dreaded my home-coming. There was
nothing and no one to come back for. Twice I turned back. I had not the
courage to face the loneliness which, with my mind's eyes, I saw
stretched before me like some desolate plain. But one day I felt a
sudden irresistible impulse to return. When I saw you that evening, I
knew that I had returned to find you. And I knew that in some strange
way you recognised me and claimed me in your heart of hearts, as I
claimed you. From that moment my life changed.

"Is it not wonderful, my belovèd, how one rises up and goes forth to
meet love: how time and space become annihilated, and all barriers of
mind and circumstance are swept away as by an avalanche? Yes, from that
moment my life changed, and yours changed too. But I knew that I had to
wait. I knew that you had to free yourself in your own way from the
memories which were encompassing you. And all the time I was yearning to
say to you: 'Do not fight with the past. Do not try to push the past on
one side. It can never be forgotten, never be ignored. But something
better can be done with it. It can be faced, understood, and then
gathered up with the present and the future. Let me help you to do it. I
will gather it up with a tenderness never dreamed of before in the whole
world of love.'

"All this I yearned to say to you before I knew the whole history of
your troubled life. And now that you have told me the whole history,
what shall I say to you? I will say to you that my love for you is a
thousandfold greater than before: that as I learn to know the depth of
your suffering and sadness, I shall learn to make my love deeper still
to reach those depths: that I am waiting for you, with arms
outstretched, a thousandfold more eagerly than before: that my love for
you is the love of a woman for a man, the sore yearning of one kindred
spirit for another kindred spirit, the tender sympathy of friend with
friend, the frank understanding of comrade with comrade,--this is my
love for you.

"Take it, my belovèd. It is yours. If it were worthier of you, I should
be more joyous still in offering it. But, side by side with you, the
best and the worst in me will become better. This is my answer to you.
This is the answer I longed to give you up at Peer Gynt's stue.
Everything that I have been telling you now was in my heart then. But I
could not, dared not, tell you then. You knew why I was silent? Let us
speak of it, dearest. I saw your poor Marianne's face. And that moment,
the moment of my life, when the story had been told to the very end, and
your barrier had been broken down--that moment was consecrated to her.
I shall always feel deeply thankful that I, an impulsive, impetuous
woman, was able to be silent then--was able to turn from you then....

"And now, my Clifford, I want to speak to you of Marianne's death. There
will come times when you will be assailed by this old wrongful belief
that you were responsible for her sad end. You and I will fight those
times out together. I have no fear of them; I have no fear of that poor
Marianne; I have no fear of anything. You and I will work through those
cruel hours. You must and shall learn to be just to yourself. You spoke
of Marianne's defenceless state of dreaming. I remember those were your
very words. I remember that my heart and mind cried out to you, 'And
your own defenceless state of dreaming? May no one plead that to you?'

"I plead it now. I plead it with my heart, my brain, my spirit. My
belovèd, I entreat of you to give yourself bare justice; nothing more. I
would not wish you to sacrifice one inch of the gentle chivalry of your
nature. If I were asking you to do that, I should indeed be asking you
an unworthy thing. If I were asking you to do that, I should be asking
you to injure that which I love and adore in you. But bare justice: a
cold, stern, reluctant measuring-out. That is all I entreat of you to
give yourself. Will you do this? Will you trust me? You may trust me. If
I had my doubts, it would not be possible for me to keep them back. I
might try, and I should fail. I am not a prisoner of silence. My words
and thoughts come tumbling out recklessly. You may trust me. I should
tell you, and risk losing you and breaking my heart--because I could not
help myself.

"Lose you now that I have found you. No, no, that can never be. I am
yours, you are mine. We dare not lose each other now that we have found
each other. We have found each other not very early in life, but what
does that matter? What does Time matter to you and me? I never yet knew
the time of day, the day of the month, the month of the year, nor cared
to know. But I knew full well when spring had come. I know that spring
has come now. I rise up from the darkness of winter to meet the glorious
days which you and I will live through together. You have made my life
splendid for me already, and I will make your life splendid for you. You
shall love and work, and work and love. Your career shall be a glory to
me. You shall go on and on, and be all things you want to be, and do all
the things you want to do, and take your rightful place in your own
world--my world, because it is yours. And I, who know nothing of
science, will become a woman of science--because I love you. Ah, I can
see a smile on your grave face. You are thinking that the paths to
science are long and arduous. Long and arduous indeed! I shall find the
short cut--because I love you.

"And, oh, my dearest, we will not shut others out in the cold because we
love. I have been out in the cold. I have been freezing there until you
came into my life. Great love and great sorrow are apt to shut the whole
world out of the Cathedral. Let us keep the doors wide open. Then those
who love us can come in.

"My dearest, my belovèd, if you only knew, it has not been easy for me
to tear myself away from Norway, from you, from Alan, from Knutty, from
the beautiful surroundings where our love has grown apace. But my
brother was in trouble, and, you see, the Cathedral doors had to be
opened at once. And if I had spoken to you and told you all that this
letter tells you, I could not have left you. But it tears my heart to be
away from you. All the time I have wanted passionately to turn back and
come to you and say, 'I am yours, and you are mine.' But I went on and
on, in spite of myself, farther away from you, and yet getting nearer
every minute--that has been my consolation: that I was getting nearer to
you, because--because at a distance I dared to open my heart to
you--because--the moment of silence up at Peer Gynt's stue was past--not
forgotten, not ignored--but gathered up tenderly, tenderly. So I get
nearer to you all the time. That is why I am writing this long letter to
you. Every word has sped me quicker on my joyous way to you. When I
began it I was near to you, my belovèd. Now that I am ending it, I am by
your side. There is no space between us.

"But before I end it, there is something else I want to tell you. I want
to tell you how I love and admire you for not having become bitter. It
is so easy to become bitter. You must have lifted the cup of bitterness
to your lips many a time, and then put it resolutely down. Will you
forgive me if I speak of this? It is only because I want you to know
that I have always prized that power ever since I can remember; striven
after it myself; failed lamentably; but shall not fail now, because of
you.

"Yes, and there is still something else I must tell you. Do you remember
that I did not come back to the Gaard, but stayed behind at the
posting-station? Oh, my dearest, you can never know what it cost me not
to be there, with Knutty and Alan, to receive you if by chance you
should have returned. You can never know what it would have cost me if I
had lost you.

"Lost you. No, no. It was impossible, once having found you. It is
impossible. I should find you, over the mountains, over the
sea--anywhere.

"Oh, my dearest, Norway will always be the fairest land in the whole
world to me: the land where the barrier was broken down between you and
me.

"KATHARINE FRENSHAM."



CHAPTER V.


The letter fell from Clifford's hands. He leaned over his desk, and
covered his face with his hands. The tears streamed down his cheeks.
Then he took the letter, pressed it to his heart, kissed it
passionately, kissed the signature, read it all over again with dim
eyes, pressed it to his heart again--and was made whole.

When he had recovered himself, he rang the bell, ordered the trap,
caught the train to Waterloo, and ran up the stairs to Katharine's flat.

Katharine had come home rather earlier than usual from business. She had
finished tea, and was standing by the window of her pretty drawing-room,
watching the lights on the river. She was in one of her sad, lonely
moods; she was feeling outside everything.

"Mercifully I have my work," she said to herself. "If any one had told
me ten years ago that I should be thankful to go down to business every
day at the same hour, I could not have believed it."

Some one had sent her Matthew Arnold's poems as a Christmas present. She
took the volume now, and opened it at these words:--


    "Yes, in the sea of life enisled,
      With echoing straits between us thrown,
    Dotting the shoreless watery wild,
      We mortal millions live alone.
    The islands feel the enclasping flow,
      And then their endless bounds they know."

She read them through again. Then she leaned against the mantelshelf and
stared into the fire, still holding the book in her hand.

The bell rang. Katharine did not hear. The thought in those words was
holding her. The door opened. Katharine did not hear. Gerda's Swedish
song had suddenly come into her remembrance, "The lover whom thou lov'st
so well, thou shalt reach him never."

She recalled the time when she had first heard it. She saw the great
Gudbrandsdal spread out before her, and the hillside opposite the Solli
Gaard, where Gerda was strolling, singing as she went. She remembered
Knutty's words, "But that is not true for you. You will reach him; I
know you will reach him." She remembered that when she turned round, she
saw that Clifford had come back from over the seas.

Something impelled her to turn round now--and she saw him.

"Katharine, my belovèd," he said in a voice that thrilled through her,
"I have only just had your letter."

And he folded her in his arms.

Long and silently they stood thus, whilst outside in the great world,
the noise of the traffic went on unheeded, the barges passed down the
river, the lights of Westminster shone out, Big Ben rang the hour of the
evening, stars crowned the towers of the Abbey, the moon rose above the
Houses of Parliament.

So they had found each other at last.

The lonely wilderness of their inner hearts became a fair and gracious
garden.

And when their long embrace was over, and the moment for speech had
come, they sat near together as lovers, friends, comrades of all time,
talking frankly and fearlessly of the sad past which was to be gathered
up with sane and tender understanding into the present and the future,
talking of their love for each other: of their first meeting: of their
separation: of their longings after each other: of their companionship
in Norway: of this three months' desolation in England: of Knutty's
impatient admonitions that they should break through all reserve and
seek each other out: of Alan's love and trust restored and strengthened:
of their new life, in which he would grow up to manhood in gladness and
happiness: of Mrs Stanhope, made of no account by reason of their great
joy: of Knutty's unselfish anxiety on their behalf: of her tenderness
and all her dear quaint ways: and of Alan's criticism of Katharine, "She
is not the sort of chum to break her word."

"And I will not break it," Katharine said joyously. "We can go together
to-morrow and fetch him back."

Suddenly there came a loud knock at the hall-door. And when it was
opened, an excited voice with a slight foreign accent asked impatiently
for Miss Frensham.

Clifford and Katharine heard it. They looked at each other.

"It's Knutty!" they cried together; and they ran out into the hall.

"Knutty! Knutty!" they cried. "Welcome! welcome!"

"Dear ones," she answered, gasping. "Oh, what stairs! I hope I shan't
die from apoplexy, but I feel very much like it now. Talk about
sea-sickness indeed! Stair-sickness is much worse! Ak, ak! Give me some
aqua vitae or some mysost instantly! Ak, ak, why did I ever come? Oh
yes, I know why I came. No use writing and inquiring. Could have got no
news out of an iceberg. So I came to see for myself. And what do I see?
By St Olaf! I see daylight--full daylight! Gerda and Ejnar said I was
not to interfere. Interfere! Of course I shall! It is the duty of every
woman not to mind her own business! Oh, those stairs! I believe there
were nearly a hundred of them! Dear ones, dear ones, what a happy old
woman I am! If I don't die from apoplexy, I shall cry from happiness!
What it is to be a Viking...!"

THE END.


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Life of Lord Russell of Killowen.

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Life of Alexander Hamilton. F. S. OLIVER.

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From the Cape to Cairo. E. S. GROGAN.

An extraordinary journey, practically all on foot. The book is full of
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hardships.



Transcriber's Notes:


Inconsistently-hyphenated words have been left as printed. The printed
text used both "deucèd" and "deuced".


Minor changes to punctuation that do not affect the meaning have been
made. Typographical errors have been corrected and are shown below.
William in the original was referred to as 'Willy' and 'Willie'
interchangeably. All instances of 'Willie' have been changed to 'Willy'
to avoid confusion. Blank pages in the original were numbered.

'dynamite-look disappeared from Ejna's gentle face, and'
'dynamite-look disappeared from Ejnar's gentle face, and'

'That makes twelve pair for those brave English'
'That makes twelve pairs for those brave English'

'knew whether Herr and Fru Ebbesen could receive her.'
'knew whether Herr and Frue Ebbesen could receive her.'

'ever heard of in Norwegian lore. Don't be anrgy'
'ever heard of in Norwegian lore. Don't be angry'

'that she was unmericful, but only ignorant,'
'that she was unmerciful, but only ignorant,'

'Blomros (red nose), and Fjeldros (mountain rose) responded'
'Blomros (red rose), and Fjeldros (mountain rose) responded'

'"Tak!" they said, turning round and waving to her.'
'"Tack!" they said, turning round and waving to her.'

'than the Scotch firs--"Grantraer," as the Norwegians'
'than the Scotch firs--"Grantraeer," as the Norwegians'

'saeter-girls (saeter-gjenter) were busily stirring the contents'
'saeter-girls (saeter-jenter) were busily stirring the contents'

'Every right-minded guests had the same desire when'
'Every right-minded guest had the same desire when'

'was not very jealous of her when my Ejnar began to'
'was not very jealous of her when my Enjar began to'

'She had been living her own personal life, focussing on'
'She had been living her own personal life, focusing on'

'platinum dishes, your carbon compounds, your assymmetric'
'platinum dishes, your carbon compounds, your asymmetric'





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About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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