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Title: On the Seaboard - A Novel of the Baltic Islands
Author: Strindberg, August, 1849-1912
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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August Strindberg's first literary productions were warmly received,
and would have aroused lasting enthusiasm and admiration had the young
author's prolific pen been less aggressive, in this, for his country,
a totally new style of novel. His intrepid sarcasm which emanated
from a physical disability, known only to a few of his most intimate
friends, called forth severe criticism from the old aristocrats and the
conservative element, which drove the gifted dramatist from his own
country to new spheres. Life's vicissitudes at Vierwaldstätter See, and
Berlin, also later on at Paris from whence his fame spread rapidly over
Europe, changed his realism to pessimism.

After years of ceaseless work, during which he dipped into almost every
branch of science, he suddenly determined to transfer his activities
to this side of the Atlantic, where he was desirous of becoming known.
For this purpose his most singular novel was chosen for translation;
meantime some invisible power drew him back to his birthplace,
Stockholm, and a new generation cheered his coming.

Later on critics called him "A demolisher and a reformer that came like
a cyclone, with his daring thought and daring words, which broke in
upon the everlasting tenets and raised Swedish culture."

His delineations are photographical exactness without retouch, bearing
always a strong reflection of his personality.

                                                    MAGNUS WESTERGREN.

Boston, Mass.
   April, 1913.



A fishing boat lay one May evening to beam-wind, out on Goosestone
bay. "Rokarna," known to all on the coast by their three pyramids,
were changing to blue, while upon the clear sky clouds were forming
just as the sun began to sink. Already there was dashing outside the
points, and a disagreeable flapping in the mainsail signified that the
land-breeze would soon break against newborn currents of air, from
above, from the sea and from aft.

At the tiller sat the Custom House Surveyor of the East Skerries, a
giant with black long full beard. Occasionally he exchanged a look with
two subordinates who were sitting in the bow, one of whom was tending
the clutch-pole, keeping the big square sail to the wind.

Sometimes the steersman cast a searching look at the little gentleman
who was crouching at the mast seemingly afraid and frozen, now and then
drawing his shawl closer round his body.

The surveyor must have found him ridiculous, for frequently he turned
leeward with a pretense of spitting tobacco juice to conceal a rising

The little gentleman was dressed in a beaver-colored spring coat under
which a pair of wide moss-green pants peeped out, flaring at the bottom
round a pair of crocodile shagreen shoes topped with brown cloth and
black buttons. Nothing of his under dress was visible, but round his
neck was twisted a cream-colored foulard, while his hands were well
protected in a pair of salmon-colored three-button glacé-gloves, and
the right wrist was encircled by a gold bracelet carved in the form of
a serpent biting its tail. Ridges upon the gloves showed that rings
were worn beneath. The face, as much as could be seen, was thin and
haggard; a small black mustache with ends curled upwards increased the
paleness and gave it a foreign expression. The hat was turned back,
exposing a black closely cut bang resembling a calotte.

What seemed most to attract the indefatigable attention of the
steersman was the bracelet, mustache and bang.

During the long voyage from Dalaro this man, who was a great humorist,
had tried to get up a cheery conversation with the Fish Commissioner,
whom he had in charge to take to the station at the East Skerries, but
the young doctor had shown an injured unsusceptibility to his witty
importunities which convinced the surveyor that the "instructor" was

Meanwhile the wind freshened as they passed Hanstone to windward and
the dangerous sail began to flutter. The fish commissioner, who had
been sitting with a navy chart in his hand, noting the answers to his
questions, placed it in his pocket and turned toward the man at the
tiller saying in a voice more like a woman's than a man's:

"Please sail more carefully!"

"Is the instructor afraid?" asked the helmsman scornfully.

"Yes, I am careful of my life and keep close hold of it," answered the

"But not of other's lives?" asked the helmsman.

"At least not so much as my own," returned the commissioner, "and
sailing is a dangerous occupation, especially with a square sail."

"So, sir, you have often sailed before with a square sail?"

"Never in my life, but I can see where the wind directs its power and
can reckon how much resistance the weight of the boat can make and well
judge when the sail will jibe."

"Well, take the tiller yourself then!" snubbingly remarked the surveyor.

"No! that is your place! I do not ride on the coachman's box when I
travel on the Crown's errands."

"Oh, you cannot manage a boat, of course."

"If I could not, it is certainly easy to learn, since every other
schoolboy can do it and every custom house subordinate, therefore I
need not be ashamed that I cannot, only sail carefully now as I would
not willingly have my gloves spoiled and get wet."

It was an order, and the surveyor, who was cock of the walk at the East
Skerries, felt himself degraded. After a movement on the tiller the
sail filled and the boat sped onward steadily towards the rock, with
its white custom house cottage brightly shining in the rays of the
setting sun.

The seaboard was vanishing, there was a feeling that all kindly
protection was left behind, when venturing out on the open boundless
water, with darkness threatening toward the east. There was no prospect
of crawling to leeward of islands or rocks, no possibility in case of
storm to lay up to and reef, out right into the middle of destruction,
over the black gulf, out to that little rock that looks no larger than
a buoy cast into the middle of the sea. The fish commissioner, as
signified before, held fast to his only life and was intelligent enough
to count his insignificant resistance against nature's superiority.
Now he felt depressed. He was too clear-sighted with his thirty-six
years to overestimate the insight and daring of the man at the tiller.
He did not look with reliance at his brown and whiskered visage, nor
would he believe that a muscular arm was equal to a wind which blew
with thousands of pounds pressure against a rocking sail. He viewed
such courage as founded upon faulty judgment. What stupidity, thought
he, to risk one's life in a little open boat when there exist deckers
and steamers. What incredible folly to hoist such a big sail on a
spruce mast, which bends like a bow when a strong wind strikes it. The
lee-shroud was hanging slack, likewise the forestay, and the whole wind
pressure was lying on the windward-shroud, which seemed rotten. Trust
to such an uncertain residue as a few flax ropes more or less cohesive,
he would not, and therefore he turned with the next gust of wind to
the subordinate who was sitting close to the halyard, and in a short
penetrating voice commanded, "Let the sail run!"

The two Inferiors looked toward the stern, awaiting the helmsman's
orders, but the fish commissioner repeated his command instantly and
with such emphasis that the sail sank.

The surveyor in the stern shrieked.

"Who the Devil commands the maneuvering of my boat?"

"I," answered the commissioner.

Whereupon he turned to the subordinates with the order.

"Put out the oars!"

The oars were put out and the boat gave a few rolls, for the surveyor
had left the tiller angrily at the command, exclaiming,

"Yes, then he can take the helm himself!"

The commissioner at once took his place in the stern and the tiller was
under his arm before the surveyor had ceased swearing.

The glacé-glove cracked instantly at the thumb, but the boat made even
speed while the surveyor sat with laughter in his whiskers, and one oar
ready to push out to give course to the boat. The commissioner had no
attention to bestow upon the doubting seaman, but stared attentively
windward and could soon discern a heaving sea with its swell many
meters long, from the surge with its short water fall, then after a
hasty glance astern he measured the leeway, and in the wake noted the
setting of the currents, it was perfectly clear what course must be
held not to drift past the East Skerries.

The surveyor, who had searched long to meet the black burning glances
that they might mark his laughter, became tired, for it looked as
though they would have no contact with anything that could soil or
disturb them. After a moment's beseeching the surveyor becoming absent
and dejected began to observe the maneuvering.

The sun had reached the horizon, the waves were breaking purple black
at the base, deep green at the side, and where the crests rose highest
they lighted up grass green. The foam sprouted and hissed red champagne
colored in the sun. The boat and men were now low down in the dusk,
or the next moment, on the crest of a wave, the four faces glowed and
instantly faded away.

Not every wave broke so high, some were only rocking slowly and
cradling the boat, lifting and sucking it forward. It seemed as
though the little man at the tiller could from a distance judge when
a gigantic wave would come, and with a slight push at the tiller held
firm or sneaked between the dreadful green walls, which threatened to
spring and form an arch over the boat.

The fact was that the danger had really increased through the sail
being furled, for the driving power had diminished and the sail's
lifting ability must be dispensed with, therefore the surveyor's
astonishment at the incredible fine maneuvering began to change to

He looked at the changing expression on the pale face and the
movement in the black eyes, and felt that inside there was a combined
calculation. Then not to seem superfluous himself he put out his
oar, for he felt the time had come, and acknowledged willingly the
superiority before it was wrung from him, thus:

"Oh, he has been at sea before!"

The fish commissioner, who was deeply occupied, and would have no
intercourse whatever, as he was afraid of being surprised and deceived
in a moment's weakness by the apparent external superiority of the
giant, made no response.

His right glove had cracked round the thumb, and the bracelet had
fallen over the hand. When the flame faded from the crest of the waves
and the day closed, he took out with his left hand a lorgnette and
placed it in his right eye, moving his head quickly to several points
of the compass as though he would sight land, where no land was to be
seen, and then threw this brief question forward.

"Have you no lighthouse on the East Skerries?"

"God knows we have not," answered the surveyor.

"Have we any shoals?"

"Deep water."

"Shall we sight Landsort or Sandham's lighthouse?"

"Not much of Sandham but more to Landsort," replied the surveyor.

"Sit still at your places and we shall come out all right," finished
the commissioner, who seemed to have taken a bearing by the heads of
the three men and some unknown firm point in the distance.

The clouds had flocked together and the May dusk had given place to
obscurity. It was like a swing forwards into some thin impenetrable
material, without light. The sea was rising only as darker shadows
against the shadowy sky, the heads of the waves struck the bottom of
the boat and lifting it up on their backs dived down on the other side
and rolled out. But now to separate friend from foe was difficult and
the calculation more uncertain. Two oars were out to leeward and one to
windward, which if applied with more or less power at the right moment
would keep the boat buoyant.

The commissioner, who soon could not see more than the two lighthouses
in north and south, must now compensate the loss of sight by the ear
and before he could become used to the sea's roaring, sighing, hissing
and spouting, or distinguish between a dashing or a surging wave, the
water had already come into the boat, so that to save his fine shoes he
placed his feet on a thwart.

Soon he had studied the harmony of the waves, and could even hear from
the regular beating of the swell the danger approaching, and feel on
the right ear-drum when the wind pressed the harder and threatened to
toss the water higher. It was as though he had improvised nautical and
meteorological instruments out of his susceptible senses from which the
conductors connected with his big brain battery, hidden by that little
ridiculous hat and the black bang.

The men who at the moment of the water's intrusion muttered rebellious
words, became silenced when they felt how the boat shot forward, and at
each word of command, windward, or leeward, they knew which way to pull.

The commissioner had taken his bearings on the two lighthouses and
used the lorgnette quadrangle glass as a distance measure, but the
difficulty of holding the course was that no light could be seen from
the windows of the cottages since they were in the lee of the hillock.
When the dangerous voyage had been continued an hour or more, a dark
rise was observed forward against the horizon. The helmsman, who would
not, to gain doubtful advice, disturb his own intuitions on which he
relied most, bore down on what he supposed to be the East Skerries
or some of their points, consoling himself that arriving at a firm
object, whatever it might be, was always better than hovering between
air and water. The dark wall approached with a speed greater than that
of the boat so that suspicion dawned in the commissioner's mind that
everything was not right in their course. In order to ascertain what
it could be and at the same time give a signal in case the obscure
object should be a vessel which had neglected to put its lights out,
he took up his box of storm matches and lighting them all, held them
up in the air a moment, then threw them up so that they illuminated
a few meters around the boat. The light penetrated the darkness for
only, a second, but the picture which appeared like a magic-lantern
view was fixed before his eyes for several seconds, and he saw drifting
ice heaved upon a rock, against which a wave broke like a cave over
a gigantic rock of limespar, and a flock of long-tailed ducks and
sea-gulls that arose with numerous shrieks and were drowned in the
darkness. The sight of the breaking wave affected the commissioner as
it does the condemned to look upon the coffin in which his decapitated
body shall rest, and he felt in a moment of imagination the double pang
of cold and smothering, but the agony which paralyzed his muscles awoke
on the other hand all the concealed powers of the soul, so that he, in
a fraction of a second, could make a sure estimate of how great the
danger was, and count out the only way of escape, whereupon he cried
out, "Hold all!"

The men who had been sitting with their backs toward the wave and had
not observed it, rested on their oars, and the boat was sucked into
the wave which might have been three or four meters high. It broke
over the boat, forming a green cupola and fell on the other side with
all its mass of water. The boat was disgorged half filled with water
and the occupants half smothered from the dreadful compression of air.
Three outcries as from sleepers who have the nightmare were heard at a
time, but the fourth, the man at the tiller, was silent. He made only a
gesture with his hand toward the rock where now a light was shimmering,
only a few cable lengths to leeward, and then sank in the stern sheets
and lay there.

The boat ceased pitching for it had come into smooth water, the oarsmen
were all sitting as if intoxicated, dipping the oars, which were now
unnecessary for the boat was slowly wafted into harbor by the fair wind.

"What have you in the boat, good folks?" greeted an old fisherman after
he had said "Good evening," which the wind swept away.

"It should be a fish instructor!" whispered the surveyor as he pulled
the boat upon the beach.

"So it is such a one who comes to spy out the nets! Well, he shall be
treated as he seeks to be," said fisherman Oman, who seemed to be head
man for the few poor population of the island.

The custom house surveyor waited for the instructor to go on shore,
but he saw no sign of movement in that little bundle which lay in the
stern so he climbed uneasily into the boat and clasped both arms round
the prostrate body and carried it to the beach.

"Is he gone?" asked Oman, not without a certain tremor of hope.

"There isn't much of him left," answered the surveyor as he carried his
wet load up to the cottage.

The sight reminded of a giant and a lilliputian when the imposing
surveyor entered his brother's kitchen where his sister-in-law stood at
the fire, and as he laid down the little body on the sofa an expression
of compassion for the weaker man gleamed from the low-browed,
dark-whiskered visage.

"Here we have the fish inspector, Mary," he greeted his sister-in-law,
placing his arm round her waist. "Help us now to get something dry upon
him and something wet into him and then let him go to his room."

The commissioner made a wretched and ridiculous figure as he lay on
the hard wooden sofa. The white standing collar twisted around his
neck like a dirty rag, all of the fingers of the right hand peeped out
of the cracked glove over which the softened cuffs hung sticking with
the dissolved starch. The small crocodile shoes had lost all shine and
shape, and it was with the greatest effort that the surveyor and his
sister-in-law could pull them off the feet.

When he was finally deprived of most of his clothing and covered with
quilts, they carried him boiled milk and schnapps, each shaking an
arm, after which the surveyor raised the little body and slowly poured
the milk into it. Beneath the closed eyes the mouth gaped, but when
the sister-in-law would give him a dram, the smell seemed to act like
a quick poison; with a gesture of the hand he pushed the glass back,
and opening his eyes wide awake as though just finishing a refreshing
sleep, he asked for his room.

Of course it was not in order but it would be in about an hour if he
would only lie still and wait.

The commissioner was lying there spending an intolerable hour with his
eyes flitting over the tiresome arrangements of the chamber and its
occupants. It was the government's cottage for the surveyor of that
little department of the custom house on the East Skerries. Everything
was scanty, merely a roof over the head. The white, bare walls were
as narrow as the Crown's ideas, four white rectangles which enclosed
a room covered by a white rectangle. Strange, hard as a hotel room,
which is not to dwell in, only for lodging. To put on wall papers
for his successor or for the Crown, neither the surveyor nor his
predecessors had the heart. In the midst of this dead whiteness stood
dark, poor, factory-made furniture, with half modern shapes. A round
dining table of knotted pine stained with walnut and marked with white
rings from dishes, chairs of the same material with high backs, and
tilting on three legs, a bed-sofa, manufactured like ready-made men's
clothing, from the cheapest and least possible material. Nothing seemed
to fulfill its purpose of inviting rest and comfort, everything was
useless, and therefore unsightly, notwithstanding its ornaments of
papier maché.

The surveyor placed his broad buttock on a rattan chair and rested his
mighty back against it, the maneuver was followed by annoying creaks
and a morose exhortation from the sister-in-law, to be careful of other
folk's things, whereupon the surveyor answered with an impudent patting
followed by a look which left no doubt as to the relations existing
between them.

The oppression which the whole room had caused in the commissioner
was increased by the discovery of this discord. As naturalist he had
not the current ideas about what was permissible and what was not
permissible, but he had strongly impressed instinct of the designs in
certain arrangements of nature's laws and suffered internally when he
saw nature's commands violated. This was to him as though he should
have found in his laboratory an acid which since the world's creation
had only united with one base but was now, against its nature, forming
a union with two.

His imagination was stirred in remonstrance over evolution from common
sensuality to monogamy, and he felt himself back in the dark ages
among wild herds of human beings, who lived a coral life and existed
in masses, before selection and variation were attained to ordain
individual personal being and consanguinity.

When he saw a two-years-old girl with too big a head and fish eyes
walking around the chamber with timid footsteps, as though afraid to be
seen, he comprehended at once that a doubtful birth had sown its seeds
of discord which were working dissolution and disturbance, and he could
easily understand that the moment must come when this living testimony
would pay all the penalties of being an involuntary witness.

In the midst of these thoughts the door opened and the husband entered.

It was the surveyor's brother who had thus far remained a subordinate.
He was physically even better endowed than the surveyor, but he was a
blond with an open and friendly look.

After a cheerful "Good evening," he sat down at the table beside his
brother and, taking the child on his lap, kissed it.

"We have a visitor," said the surveyor, pointing to the sofa where the
commissioner lay. "It is the fish instructor, who will live upstairs."

"So, it is he?" said Vestman, as he rose to greet him.

With the child on his arm he approached the sofa, because he was host
of the cottage, while his brother was unmarried and only boarded with
him. Therefore he found it his place to welcome the guest.

"We have it simply out here," added he after a few words of welcome,
"but my wife isn't entirely at a loss in preparing food, since she
has served in better houses before, and married me three years ago,
yet since we got this brat here she has a little more to think of.
Yes, anybody can get children if they help each other,--as a matter of
course I am not in need of help, as they say."

The commissioner was surprised at the sudden turn the long sentence had
taken, and asked himself if the man was cognizant of anything, or if he
had only a feeling that there was something out of order. He himself
had seen in ten minutes the way things stood.

How then was it possible that he who was interested in the question had
seen nothing in a couple of years?

He was overcome with loathing at the whole thing, and turned to the
wall to blind his eyes, and with mental pictures of a pleasant nature
let the remaining half hour pass.

He could not make himself deaf, and heard against his will the talk,
which a short time before had been lively, becoming broken as though
the words were measured with a rule before spoken, and when there was a
silence the husband filled it out as though from aversion, and fearing
to hear something he would not hear, and could not be calm before his
own stream of words intoxicated him.

When the hour was finally to an end and no order concerning the room
had been given, the commissioner rising asked if it was ready.

O yes, it was ready in a way, but--

Here the commissioner asked in a tone of command to be shown to his
room at once, reminding them in fitting words that he had not come to
share a room with them, or for hospitality, he was traveling on the
Crown's errands and only asked for his rights--and those he would have
because of a memorial from the Civil Department through the Internal
Revenue Office, which had been sent to the Royal Custom House in Dalaro.

This straightened affairs at once, and Vestman, with a candle in his
fist, followed the severe gentleman upstairs to the gable chamber,
where nothing in the arrangements could explain the requested hour's

It was an ordinary, large room with walls as white as those downstairs,
the big window opened on the longest wall as a black hole through which
streamed the darkness unimpeded by any curtains.

A bed stood there ready for use, simple, only an elevation of the floor
to prevent drafts, a table, two chairs and a washstand comprised the
furniture. The commissioner threw a look of despair about him, when
he, who was used to feast his eyes to satisfaction on luxuries, saw
only these scattered articles placed about in space, where the candle
battled with the darkness and where the big window seemed to consume
every beam of light which was produced by the burning tallow.

He felt lost, as though after battling upwards for half his maturity
to attain refinement, good position and luxuries, he had fallen to
poverty, moved down to a lower class. It was as though his love of
beauty and wisdom were imprisoned, deprived of their nourishment and
subject to banishment. Those naked walls were a middle age cloister
cell where asceticism in image, and emptiness in the middle hurried
the famined fantasy to gnaw itself and bring forth lighter or darker
fancies only to become extricated from nothing. The white, the
shapeless, the colorless nothing in the whitewashed walls raised an
activity of the imagination such as a savage's cave or a green bough
hut never could have evoked, or the forest with its ever changing
colors and moving outlines would have dispensed. An activity that not
the field, nor the heath with the clouds' and sky's rich coloring, nor
yet the never tiring sea, could call forth.

He felt at once a rising desire instantly to paint the walls full of
sunny landscapes with palms and parrots, to stretch a Persian rug over
the ceiling and throw hides of deer upon the plank floor covering the
ruled-ledger appearance, to place sofas in the corners with small
tables in front, to suspend a hanging lamp over a round table strewn
with books and magazines, stand a piano against the short wall and
dress the long wall with book shelves, and away in the corner of
the sofa set a little woman's figure, no matter which one!--Just as
the candle on the table fought against the darkness, so his fantasy
rebelled against the room's arrangements, and thus it lost its hold,
everything disappeared, and the dreadful surroundings frightened him to
bed. Quenching the light he drew the blankets over his head.

The wind shook the whole gable, and the water caraff rattled against
the drinking glasses. The draft passed through the room from window to
door and sometimes touched his locks of hair, which were dried from
the sea wind, so that he fancied someone stroked them with his hand,
while between the gusts of wind, like the striking of the kettledrum
in an orchestra, beat and boomed the big breakers against the caverned
rocks out on the south point. And when he had finally become used to
the monotonous sound of wind and wave, he heard, shortly before he fell
asleep, a man's voice in the room below teaching a child its evening


When the commissioner, after a dead sleep induced by the efforts of the
preceding day and the strong sea air, awoke the next morning and looked
out of the blankets, he observed first an incomprehensible silence, and
found that his ear caught slight sounds that otherwise he would have
paid no attention to. He could hear each little movement of the sheet
as it rose and fell from his respiration, the friction of his locks
of hair against the pillow-case, the pulsations in the neck arteries,
the rickety bed repeating the heart beat on a small scale. He felt the
silence because the wind had gone down, and only the swell beat against
the compressed air in the hollows of the strand and returned once every
half minute. From the bed which was placed opposite the window he saw,
through the lower pane, something like a blue draw-curtain, bluer than
the air, and it kept moving toward him slowly, as though it would come
in through the window and overflow the room. He knew it was the sea,
but it looked so small,--and it rose like a perpendicular wall instead
of expanding as a horizontal surface, because the long breakers were
fully lighted by the sun and cast no shadows from which the eye could
form a perspective image.

He arose, and partly dressing himself opened the window. The raw, moist
air in the chamber rushed out, and from the sea came a warm green-house
air, warmed several hours by the radiant May sun. Below the window he
saw only low, jagged rocks in the crevices of which lay small dusty
drifts of snow, and near by bloomed small white rye-flowers, well
protected in beds of moss, and the poor wild pansies, pale yellow as
from famine, and blue as from chill, hoisting their poor country's
poor colors to the first spring sun. Lower down crept the heath and
the crowberry vine, looking down over the precipice, below which lay a
windrow of white sand, pulverized by the sea, and in which were stuck
scattered sand-oat stalks; then came the kelp belt as a dark sash or
braid on the white sand, highest up it was almost ivory black from last
year's kelp in which were sticking shells, leaves of fir, twigs, fish
bones, and toward the sea it was olive-brown from the last fresh kelp,
which with its curled and knotted fronds formed a garniture like a
chenille cord. Inside on the sandy side walk lay the top of a barkless
pine, sand scrubbed, washed by the water, polished by the wind,
bleached by the sun, resembling the ribs of a mammoth skeleton, and
around it a whole osteologist's museum of like skeletons or fragments
of the same.

A beacon, which had shown ships the way for years, lay thrown up, and
with its thick end looked like the thigh bone and condyle of a giraffe;
in another place a juniper shrub, like the carcass of a drowned cat,
with its white small roots stretching out for the tail.

Outside the strand lay reefs and rocks which one moment glanced wet in
the sunshine, the next were submerged by the swell which passed over
them with a splash, or if it had not sufficient power, rose, burst, and
threw a water-fall of foam into the air.

Outside the island lay the shining sea, that great flat, as the
fishermen called it, and now in the morning hour it stretched like
a blue canvas without a wrinkle but undulating like a flag. The big
round surface would have been tiresome had not a red buoy been anchored
outside the reef, and brightened up the monotony of the surface with
its minium spot like the seal on a letter.

This was the sea, certainly nothing new to Commissioner Borg who had
seen several corners of the world. Still it was the desolate sea seen
as it were in a _tête-à-tête_. It did not terrify like the forest with
its gloomy hiding places, it was quieting like an open, big, faithful
blue eye. Everything could be seen at once, no ambush, no lurking
place. It flattered the spectator when he saw this circle round him,
where he himself ever remained the center. The big water surface was
as a corporeity radiating from the beholder existing only in and with
the beholder. As long as he stood on shore, he felt himself intimate
with the now harmless power and superior to its enormous might, for he
was beyond its reach. When he reminded himself of the dangers he had
undergone the evening before, the agony and wrath he had endured in his
combat against this brutal enemy, which he had succeeded in eluding,
he smiled in magnanimity toward the vanquished and beaten foe, which
was after all only a blind tool at the wind's service, and was now
stretching itself out to resume its rest in the sunlight.

This was East Skerries, the classical, for they have their old history,
have lived long, flourished, and declined, the old East Skerries that
in the Middle Ages were a great fishing port where that important
article stromling was caught, and for which a special law of guild
was given and is still maintained up to to-day. The stromling serve
the same purpose in middle Sweden and Norrland as the herring does on
the west coast and in Norway, being only a kind of herring, a product
of the Baltic Sea, and suited to its small resources. It was sought
during the time when herring were scarce and dear, and less sought
after when they were plentiful. It has been for ages the winter food
for middle Sweden, and was eaten so continually that a song is still
preserved from the days of Queen Christina's enticing Frenchmen into
the country, who complained of the eternal hard bread and infinite
stromling. A man's age ago the great land-owners paid their laborers'
wages in natural products which consisted mostly of herring; after
herring-fishing declined they substituted salt stromling. The price
rose and the fishing which previously had been managed moderately and
for domestic use, now became an eager speculation. The shoals of the
East Skerries which are the richest on the coast of Sodermanland, began
to be used on a large scale, the fish were disturbed during spawning
time, the meshes of the nets were made closer and closer, and as a
natural consequence the fish diminished, not so much from extermination
perhaps as from the fact that they left their former spawning places
and sought the depths where as yet no fisherman has had the resolution
to search for the flown prey.

The learned puzzled long with investigations over the cause of the
diminution of the stromling supply, but the Academy of Agriculture took
the initiative, by appointing skillful fish commissioners, both to
learn the cause and find a remedy.

This was now Commissioner Borg's mission at the East Skerries for the
summer. The place was not lively as the Skerries are not situated on
one of the main courses to Stockholm. The big vessels from the south
usually pass by Landsort, Dalaro and Vaxholm, those from the east,
and during certain winds, even those from the south, seek passage by
Sandham and Vaxholm, while the merchants' vessels from Norrland and
Finland pass between Furusund and Vaxholm.

The eastern route is mostly used in case of necessity by the
Esthonians, who as a rule come from south-east, and by others in case
of wind, current and storm, who lie over at Landsort and Sandham.
Therefore the place has only a third-class custom house station under
one surveyor, and a little department of pilots who are under control
of Dalaro.

It is the end of the world--quiet, still, abandoned, except during
fishing time, fall and spring, and if there comes only a single
pleasure yacht during mid-summer it is greeted as an apparition from
a lighter, gayer world; but fish commissioner Borg, who had come on
another errand--to "spy," as the people called it--was greeted with
a noticeable coolness which had found its first utterance in the
indifference of the past evening and now took its expression in a
miserable and cold coffee which was brought to his chamber.

Although gifted with a keen sense of taste, he had acquired through
strong exercise an ability to restrain unpleasant perceptions,
therefore he swallowed the drink at a draught and arising went down to
see his environment and greet the people.

When he passed the custom-house man's cottage everything was hushed
and it seemed as though the occupants would make themselves invisible
--they shut the doors, and stopped talking in order not to be betrayed.

With this unpleasant impression of being unwelcome, he continued his
promenade out on the rock and came down to the harbor. There was a
group of small huts all of the simplest construction just as though
piled from pickings of stone shingles with a little smattering of
mortar here and there; the chimney alone was of brick, rising above the
fireplace. At one corner was a patched-up wooden addition for storage,
at another only a shed of driftwood and twigs, a harbor for swine,
which were shipped here during the fishing season for fattening. The
windows seemed to have been taken from shipwrecks, and the roof was
covered with everything that had length and width, and would absorb or
shed rain--kelp, sand-oats, moss, peat, earth. These were the shelters
now standing deserted, each of which housed about twenty sleepers
during the big fishing season, when every hut was a kitchen bar.

Outside the most prominent shanty stood the head man of the island,
fisherman Oman, scratching out a flounder net with a whip. He did not
in the least consider himself beneath a fish commissioner, nevertheless
he felt a pressure from this presence and bristling up, prepared to
answer sharply.

"Is the fishing good?" greeted the instructor.

"Not yet, but it may be now that the government has come to do it,"
answered Oman impolitely.

"Where do the stromling shoals lie?" asked the commissioner,
relinquishing the government to its fate.

"Oh! we thought the instructor knew better than we did, as he is paid
to teach us," said Oman.

"See here, you only know where the shoals lie, but I know where the
stromling are, which is a straw nearer."

"So," rallied Oman. "If we dip into the sea we shall get fish!--well
one is never too old to learn."

The wife came out of the cottage and began a lively talk with her
husband, so that the commissioner found it unprofitable to confer
longer with the hostile fisherman, and started toward the harbor.

Some pilots were sitting on the pier who zealously increased their
conversation and seemed inclined not to notice him.

He would not turn back but continued toward the strand, leaving the
habitations behind. The naked rock lay waste, without a tree, without
a bush, for everything that fire could burn was destroyed. He walked
along the water's edge, sometimes in fine soft sand, sometimes on
stones. When he had continued an hour, always turning to the right,
he found himself in the same place from which he had started, with a
feeling of being in captivity. The hillock of the little island crushed
him, and the sea's horizontal circle oppressed him, the old feeling of
not having room enough came over him, and he climbed to the highest
plateau of the hillock, which was about fifty feet above the sea level.
There he lay down on his back and looked up into space. Now when his
eyes could behold nothing, neither land nor sea, and he saw only the
blue cupola over him, he felt free, isolated, as a cosmic particle
floating in the ether only obeying the law of gravitation. He fancied
he was perfectly alone upon the globe, the earth was only a vehicle in
which he rode on its orbit, and he heard in the wind's faint rustle
only the air draft that the planet in its speed would awake in the
ether, and in the din of the waves he perceived the splashing which
the liquid must make as the big reservoir rolled round its axle. All
reminiscences of fellow creatures, community, law, customs, had blown
away, now that he did not see a single fragment of the earth to which
he was bound. He let his thoughts run like calves let loose, dashing
over all obstacles, all considerations, and therewith intoxicated
himself to stupefaction, as the India navel reverencers, who forgot
both heaven and earth in contemplating an inferior external part of

Commissioner Borg was not a nature worshiper any more than were those
navel worshipers of India. On the contrary he was a self-conscious
being, standing highest in the terrestrial chain of creation and
entertained certain contempt for the lower forms of existence,
understanding very well that what the self-conscious spirit produces
is partly more subtle than that of the unconscious nature, and above
all else has more advantages to man, who creates his creations with
regard to the usefulness and beauty they may afford to their creator.
Out of nature he brought forth raw material for his work, and although
both light and air could be produced by machine, he preferred the sun's
unexcellable ether vibrations, and the atmosphere's inexhaustible well
of oxygen. He loved nature as an assistant, as an inferior who could
serve him, and it pleased him that he was able to fool this powerful
adversary to place its resources at his disposal.

After having lain an uncertain time and felt the great rest of
absolute solitude, freedom from influences, from pressure, he arose and
went down to seek his room.

When he entered his empty chamber it reëchoed his footsteps and he felt
himself entrapped. The white quadrant and rectangles that enclosed the
room where he must dwell, reminded him of human hands, but of a low
order, mastering only the simple forms of inorganic nature. He was
enclosed in a crystal, a hexaëdron or the like, and the straight lines
and the congruent surfaces, shaped his thoughts into squares, and ruled
his soul in lines, simplifying it from the organic life's liberty of
forms, and reduced his brain's rich tropical vegetation of changing
perceptions to nature's first childish attempt at classifying.

After he had called to the girl and let her bring in his chests, he
began at once the transformation of the room.

His first care was to regulate the entrance of light by a pair of heavy
garnet Persian curtains, that instantly gave the room a softer tone.
He opened the two leaves of the big dining table and the emptiness
of the big white floor was filled at once, but the white surface of
the table was still disturbing, so he concealed it under an oilcloth
of a solid warm moss-green color which harmonized with the curtains
and was restful. Then he placed his book shelves against the poorest
wall. This certainly was not an improvement as they only striped it in
columns like a time-table, and the white plastering contrasted more
against the black walnut colored wood, but he would first outline the
whole before he went into details.

From a nail in the ceiling he hung his bed curtains, this made as it
were, a room within the room, and the dormitory was separated from the
sitting room, as though under a tent.

The long white floor planks with their black: parallel cracks, where
dirt from shoes, dust from furniture and clothes, tobacco ashes,
scrubbing water and broom splinters, formed hot beds for fungi and
hiding places for wood worms, he covered here and there with rugs of
different colors and patterns, which lay like verdant blooming islets
on the big white flat.

Now that there was color and warmth added to the space he began to give
the finishing touches. He had first to create a forge, an altar to
labor which would be the center round which everything would be grouped
and radiating from it. Therefore he placed his big lamp on the writing
table, it was two feet high and rose like a lighthouse upon the green
cloth, its painted china stand with arabesques, flowers and animals,
which bore no resemblance to ordinary ones, but gave a cheerful
coloring and reminded with their ornaments, of the human spirit's
power to outrage nature's unchangeable shapes. Here had the painter
transformed a stiff spear thistle to a clinging vine, and forced a
rabbit to stretch himself out like a crocodile, and with a gun between
his fore paws with their tiger claw nails, to aim at a hunter with a
fox's head.

Round the lamp he placed a microscope, diopter, scales, plumb bobs, and
a sounding rod, whose varnished brasses diffused a warm sunlight yellow.

The inkstand, a big cube of glass cut in facets, which gave it the
faint blue light of water or ice, the penholders of porcupine quills
which suggested animal life with their indefinite oily coloring, sticks
of sealing wax in loud cinnabar, pen boxes with variegated labels,
scissors with cold steel glance, cigar dishes in lac and gold, paper
knife of bronze, all that mass of small trifles of use and beauty soon
filled the big table abundantly with points on which the eye could rest
a moment getting an impression, a memory, an impulse, keeping it always
active and never fatiguing.

Now for filling the spaces in the book shelves, and blow the breath
of life into the vacuum between the dark boards. There soon stood row
upon row a variegated collection of reference and handbooks, from
which the owner could get enlightenment on all that had happened in
the past and present time. Encyclopedias, which like an air telegraph
answered with a pressure on the right letter. Text-books in history,
philosophy, archeology, and natural sciences, journeys in all lands
with maps, all of Baedeker's handbooks so that the owner could sit at
home and plan the shortest and cheapest route to this or that place,
and decide which hotel, and know how much to give in drink money. But
as all of these works have an inevitable seed of decay, he had manned
a special shelf with an observation corps of scientific journals from
which he could immediately obtain reports concerning even the smallest
advancements of knowledge, even the slightest discoveries. And at
last a whole collection of skeleton keys to all present knowledge,
in bibliographical notices, publishers' catalogues, book-sellers'
newspapers, so that he, shut up in his room, could see precisely how
high or low the barometer stood with all the science that concerned him.

When he regarded the wall with the book shelf, it seemed to him as
though the room was now for the first time inhabited by living beings.
These books gave the impression of individuals for there were not two
works of the same exterior. One was a Baedeker in scarlet and gold,
like one who on a Monday morning leaves all behind him and travels away
from sorrow.

Others solemn, dressed in black, a whole procession, like the
Encyclopedia Britannica, and all the many paper covered ones in light,
gay, easy, spring coats, the salmon red Revue des deux Mondes, the
lemon yellow Comtemporaine, the rush green Fortnightly, the grass green
Morgenländische. From the backs big names saluted him as acquaintances
whom he had in his chamber, and here he had the best part of them, more
than they could give a traveler who came on a visit to trouble their
dinner naps or breakfast.

With the writing table and the book shelves placed in order, he felt
himself recovered after the voyage's disturbing influences; his soul
regained its strength since his implements were accessible, these
instruments and books which had grown fast to his being as new senses,
as other organs stronger and finer than those nature had given him as
an inheritance.

The occasional attack of fear which was caused from isolation, solitude
and from being pent-up with enemies--for thus he considered the
fishermen, with reason--gave way before the quiet which the installment
must induce, and now, the headquarters being raised, he sat down as a
well-armed general to plan for the campaign.


The wind had shifted north-east during the night and the drifting ice
had floated down from Aland, when the commissioner took his boat to
make a preparatory investigation of the quality of the sea's bottom
depth of water, sea flora and sea fauna.

A pilot who was with him as oarsman, soon became tired of giving
explanations, when he saw that the commissioner by means of chart,
sounding lead and other different instruments, found out facts that
he had never thought of. Where the shoals lay was known to the pilot,
and he also knew on which shoal the stromling nets should be set, but
the commissioner was not satisfied with this and began to dredge at
different depths, taking up small creatures and vegetable slime on
which he believed the stromling fed. He lowered the lead to the bottom
and drew up samples of clay, sand, mud, mold and gravel, which he
assorted, numbered and placed in small glasses with labels.

Finally he took out a big spyglass which resembled a speaking trumpet,
and looked down into the sea. The pilot had never dreamed that one
could gaze into the water with an instrument and in his astonishment
asked permission to place his eye to the glass and look down into the

The commissioner on the one hand would not play wizard, and on the
other did not desire hastily to solve the problem which time would
clear up, or to inspire too high hopes about the results, he therefore
granted the pilot's entreaty and gave some popular explanation of the
living pictures which were unfolding down in the depths.

"Do you see that seaweed upon the shoal?" began the commissioner, "and
do you see that it is first olive yellow, lower down liver colored and
at the bottom red? That comes from the diminution of light!"

He took a few pulls at the oars, off the shallow, and kept constantly
to lee of the rock so as to keep free from the drifting ice.

"What do you see now?" he asked the man who lay on his stomach.

"Oh Jesus! I think it is stromling, and they are standing close, as
close as cards in a pack."

"Do you see now that the stromling go not on the shallows only, and do
you understand now that one could catch them from the depths, and do
you believe now when I tell you that one ought never to fish them on
the shallows where they only go up to spawn where the eggs are reached
by the sun's heat better than in deep water?"

The commissioner rowed on until he saw the water become greenish gray
on account of the nature of the clay bottom.

"What do you see now?" he continued, meanwhile resting on the oars.

"I believe, on my soul, there are serpents on the sea bottom! there
are real serpents' tails sticking out of the mud--and there are their

"They are eels, my boy!" informed the commissioner.

The pilot looked incredulous for he had never heard of eels in the
sea, but the commissioner would not give out his best card in advance
or lavish long explanations over intricate things, therefore he left
the oars and, taking his water telescope, leaned over the gunwale for

He seemed to seek something with uncommon ardor, something that must be
there, on this or that shoal but which he naturally had not seen there
before, never having investigated that water.

They rowed around for two hours as the commissioner indicated,
sometimes letting down his dredge, sometimes the lead line, and after
each haul lying face downwards and looking through the glass into the
water. His pale face contracted from the efforts and the eyes sunk
into his head while the hand which held the tube trembled and the arms
seemed stiff and numb as a stake. The cold, humid wind, which passed
through the pilot's jacket did not seem to bite the frail figure which
was only wrapped in a half-buttoned spring coat. His eyes watered
from the sea wind and the endeavor to look sharply down into the
half-impenetrable element which forms three-quarters of the earth's
surface, about the life of which the other quarter generally knows so
little and guesses so much.

Through the water telescope, which was not of his invention, but one he
had made from what he had heard from bridge builders and laborers in
marine blasting, he saw down into a lower world from which the great
creation above the waters had been evolved. The forest of seaweed which
had just advanced over the border from inorganic to organic life,
swayed in the cold bottom current and resembled whites of eggs just
coagulated, borrowing their shape from the surf and recalling frost
flowers, when water freezes on the window pane. Down in the depths
the kelp spread out like big parks with golden leaves, over which the
inhabitants of the sea bottom dragged themselves on their bellies
seeking cold and obscurity, concealing their shame of being behind
in their long wandering toward the sun and air. Lowest down in the
clay the flounder rests, partly dug into the ooze, lazy, immovable,
without inventive faculty to develop a swim-bladder with which to raise
himself, waiting a happy chance that leads the prey past his nose,
without the impulse of turning the random to his advantage, and from
pure laziness having twisted and stretched himself until his eyes for
convenience' sake have stopped on the right side of the twisted head.

The blenny has already put one pair of oars out forward, but is loaded
down by the stern and reminds one of the first trial at boat building,
showing between the kelp's heraldic foliage his architectonic stone
head with a Croat's mustache, lifting himself a moment from the mud to
sink again immediately into it.

The lump sucker with its seven ridges goes with a keel to the air,
the whole fish one enormous nose, smelling only for food and females,
lighting for a moment the blue-green water with its rose-colored
belly, spreading a faint aurora around him down in the gloom, and
hugging again quickly a stone with his sucker to await the issue of the
millions of years, which shall bring delivery to those left behind in
the endless path of evolution.

The dreadful sea scorpion, that fury incarnate, with malice expressed
in the spines of its face, whose swimming limbs are claws, but more
for torturing than for attack or defense, lying on one side pining for
enjoyment, and caressing his own body with his slimy tail.

Higher up in lighter and warmer water swims the handsome but profound
thinking perch, perhaps the most characteristic fish of the Baltic
Sea, well built and steady but still somewhat clumsy as a Koster boat,
bearing the peculiar blue-green color of the Baltic and a Norseman's
temper, part philosopher part pirate, a sociable hermit, a superficial
creature who likes to seek the depths, and sometimes reaches them, idle
and eccentric. He stands during long leisure moments and stares at the
stones on the beach until awakening he darts off like an arrow, tyrant
against his own but soon tamed, returns willingly to the same place,
and harbors seven intestinal worms.

And then the eagle of the sea, the king of Baltic fishes, the
light-built, cutter-rigged pike, who loves the sun and, as the
strongest, needs not shun the light, who stands with his nose at the
surface of the water, sleeping with the sun in his eyes, dreaming of
the flowery fields and birch pastures yonder, where he can never go,
and of the thin blue cupola which arches over his wet world, where he
would smother, and yet where the birds are swimming lightly with their
feathery pectoral-fins.

The boat had come between floating pieces of ice which cast moving
shadows over the kelp parks on the bottom, like scattered clouds. The
commissioner, who had searched several hours without finding what he
sought, lifted the telescope out of the water, dried it and laid it

Then he dropped upon the stern sheets and holding his hand before his
eyes as though to rest them from impression, seemed buried in sleep for
some minutes after which he gave the pilot a signal to row on.

The commissioner, who had given his attention the whole forenoon to the
depth seemed now for the first time to observe the grand panorama which
was unfolding on the sea surface. Ultra-marine blue the water segment
extended some distance ahead of the boat, until the drifting ice showed
a perfect arctic landscape. Islands, bays, coves, and sounds marked as
on a map, and where the ice rode up on the reef, mountains had formed,
through one block pressing down another and the following climbing
up on the preceding. Over the rocks the ice had likewise piled up,
made arches, formed caves and built towers, church-ruins, casemates,
bastions. The enchantment in these formations lay in the fact that
they seemed to have been shaped by an enormous human hand, for they
had not the unconscious nature's chance forms, they reminded of human
inventions in past historical periods. There had blocks piled into
Cyclopean walls, arranged themselves in terraces as the Assyrian-greek
temple, here had the waves through repeated impact dug out a Roman
barrel vault, and fretted a round arch, which had sunken to an Arabian
moresque, out of which the sunbeams and the spray from the waves had
hacked out stalactites and bicelles, and here out of an already heaped
wall, the whole wave front had eaten a line of arches of a Roman
aqueduct, there stood the foundation to a mediæval castle, marking the
remains of tumble down lancet arches, flying buttresses and pinnacles.

This fluctuation of thoughts between arctic landscapes and historicized
architecture brought the contemplator into a peculiar frame of mind,
out of which he was drawn by the noisy life which roving flocks of
birds were making all around on floating islands of ice and on the
clear blue waters.

In flocks of hundreds and hundreds floated the eider ducks, which
were resting here, while waiting for open water to Norrland. The
insignificant rust brown females were surrounded by the gorgeous
males, who floated high with their snow white backs, sometimes
rising for a short flight, exposing their soot black breasts. Loons
in small flocks showing their miniver breasts, their reptile necks
and drooping checkered wings. Legions of lively, long-tailed ducks
in black and white, swimming, diving, skimming. The guillemots and
sea parrots in small bands, mournful coal black scoters in marauding
parties, contrasting with goosanders and red-breasted mergansers, a
more brilliant retinue with panaches on their necks, and over the
whole diving and fluttering host of birds that live an amphibious life
hovered the mews and gulls, which had already selected the air for
their element, only using the water for fishing and bathing.

Smuggled into this industrial world of labor, on the point half hidden
sat a solitary crow, his low brow, his doubtful color, his thievish
manner, his criminal type, great shyness for water, and dirty look made
him an object of hatred to the strugglers who knew the nest plunderer,
the egg sucker.

From the whole of this winged world, whose throats could set
atmospheric air in vibration, above the heads of the mutes down in the
water, was heard an accordant sound, from the reptile's first faint
trial to utter wrath by hissing, up to the music from the harmonious
vocal organs of man. There hissed his mate as a viper when the eider
duck would bite her neck and trample her under the water, there quacked
the goosander as a frog, and the terns shrieked and mews cawed, the
gulls emitted childlike cries, the eider ducks cooed as male cats in
rut time, but highest over all and therefore the most charming, sounded
the long-tailed ducks' wonderful music, for as yet it was not a song.
An untuned triad in major, sounding as the herdsman's horn, no matter
how or when it struck in with the three notes of the others making
an incomplete accord, a canon for the hunting horn without end or
beginning, reminiscences from the childhood of the human race, from the
earliest ages of the herdsman and the hunter.

It was not with the poet's dreamy fancy, with gloomy and therefore
disquieting feelings and confused perceptions, that the contemplator
enjoyed the big drama. It was with the calm of the investigator,
the awakened thinker, that he viewed the relations in this seeming
confusion, and it was only through the accumulated vast material of
recollections that he could connect all these objects viewed with
each other. He searched for the causes of the mighty impression of
especially this nature, and when he found answers, he experienced
the immense enjoyment that the most highly developed in the chain of
creation must feel, when the veils are lifted from the occult, the
bliss which has followed every creature on the infinite course toward
light, and which perhaps constitutes the driving power forwards to
knowledge from dreaming, a bliss which must resemble that of a supposed
conscious creator who is cognizant of what he has done.

This landscape took him back to Primeval Ages, when the earth was
covered with water and the tops of the highest mountains were beginning
to rise above the surface. These islands around him still retained
their primeval character with the earliest formed crust of granite up
in daylight.

Down in the water, where the algæ of the period of cooling appeared,
swam the Primary Age fishes and among them their oldest descendant,
the herring, whilst on the islands still grew carboniferous ferns and
lichens. Farther in on the mainland, but first on the largest islets,
the Secondary Age's pines and reptiles would be found, and still
farther in, the deciduous trees and mammals of the Tertiary Age, but
out here in primeval formation whimsical nature seemed to have leaped
over the stratification periods and thrown seals and otters down in
primeval times, casting in the ice period on the morning of this day
in the quarto period, just as soil on primitive rocks, and he himself
was sitting as a representative of the historical times, undisturbed
by the evident confusion, enjoying these living pictures of creation
and raising the enjoyment through feeling himself the highest in this

The secret of the fascination of the landscape was that it, and only
it offered a historicized creation with exclusions and abbreviations,
where one in a few hours could roam through the series of formations
of the earth and finally stop at oneself; where one could refresh
himself with a resume of perceptions, that led the thoughts back to
the origin, resting in the past stages, relaxing the fatiguing tension
to win higher degrees on the scale of culture, just as to relapse into
a wholesome trance and feel one with nature. It was such moments that
he used as a compensation for the past-away religious enjoyments,
when thoughts of heaven were only an exchanged shape of incentive
forward and the feeling of immortality was disguised uttering of the
foreknowledge of the indestructibility of matter.

How serene to feel oneself at home on this earth, which was delineated
to him in childhood as the valley of lamentation, which was only to
be wandered through on the way to the unknown; how firm and full of
trust to have gained knowledge of what was unknown before, to have been
permitted to have seen into, to have looked through God's hitherto
secret counsel, as it was called, all those events which were regarded
impenetrable, and therefore at that time could not be penetrated.
Now man had reached perspicuity about human origin and purpose, but
instead of becoming weary and going to rest as one cultured nation
after another have done when they have thought until destroyed, the
now living generation had taken its part and acquiesced in finding
themselves to be the highest animals, and exerted themselves in a
judicious way actually realizing the heaven idea here, therefore the
present time was the best and greatest of all times, it has carried
humanity farther forward than centuries before had been able to do.

After these moments of devotional exercise in thoughts of his origin
and destiny, the commissioner let his mind run over his personal
evolution, as far back as he could trace it, just as though to search
for his own self, and in the past stages read his probable fate.

He saw his father, a deceased fortification major of that undecided
type of the beginning of the century, mixed as a conglomerate, and
cemented of fragments from preceding periods, picked at random after
the great eruption at the end of the past century, believing in nothing
because he had seen everything perish, everything taken up anew, all
forms of state tested, greeted with jubilee at reception, worsted
within a few years, brought forth again as new and greeted over again
as a universal discovery, he had at last stopped at the existing state
as the only palpable, it may have come from a leading will, which was
improbable, or from a combination of chances which was tolerably sure,
but dangerous to say. Through study at the university his father had
come into the pantheism of the young-Hegelians, which was a feint at
turning the current which had then reached its height, and individuals
had become the only reality and God became the comprehension of the
personal in humanity. The living idea about the intimate relation of
man to nature, that man himself stood highest in line in the chain of
the world's process, characterized an elite corps of personalities,
who silently despised the repeated attempts of political visionaries
to place themselves above the governing laws of nature, trying in an
artificial way to make new laws for the world through philosophical
systems and congressional decrees. Unobserved they passed on of
no use to either high or low, above they saw mediocrities through
natural selection amassing around a mediocre monarch, below they found
ignorance, credulity and blindness, while between these two classes the
burghers were bent on business interests so positively that those who
were not merchants themselves were unable to work together with them.
As they were qualified, prudent and trustworthy they were occasionally
promoted to positions of influence, but as they could not join with
any party and had no desire to make a useless individual opposition
and were not numerous enough to form a herd, besides as strong
individualists would not follow a bell-cow, they remained pretty quiet
carrying their discontent hidden under big crosses and decorations and
smiled as augurs when they met at the councilor's table or in the house
of noblemen, letting the world pass as it might.

The father belonged to certainly not a very old noble family, but
one which through civil merits in retrieving the mining business and
not: through doubtful exploits of war gained by the help of nature's
chances or an enemy's false step, had been rewarded by a coat of arms
and moderate privileges, such as to wear a nobleman's uniform and
unpaid to participate in one-fourth of the ponderous administration
of the country. He counted himself therefore a meritorious noble and
was conscious of having come from talented ancestors, which acted
as a spur down to their now living representative. Property legally
acquired through the qualities and labors of his ancestors gave him the
opportunity to perfect himself in his calling. He became a prominent
topographer, and had participated in the building of Gota canal and in
the first railroad constructions. This employment at a whole kingdom,
which he had become used to look at from above and to take in at one
glance on the map spread over a writing table, gave his mind gradually
the habit of seeing everything on a grand scale. There he sat with
a rule opening communication lines which would change the whole
physiognomy, of the landscape, leveling old cities and creating new,
changing the prices of products, seeking for new resources. The maps
should change, the old water ways be forgotten and the black straight
lines which indicated the new roads would be the determinative. The
heights should be just as fertile as the valleys, the combat of the
rivers should cease, frontiers between realms and countries should no
more be observed.

There followed a strong feeling of power through this handling of the
fates of lands and peoples, and he could not escape gradual seizures of
the propensity accompanying power, to overestimate himself. Everything
miraged in a bird's-eye-view, countries became maps and human beings
tin soldiers, and when the topographer in a few weeks ordered the
leveling of a height, which would have needed thousands of years to
be denuded by natural agencies, he felt something of the creator in
himself. When he ordered tunnels bored, transferred sand ridges to
lakes, and filled up marshes, he did not fail to perceive that he had
taken in hand a remodeling of the earth ball, throwing the natural
geological formations topsy-turvy, and therewith his personal feelings
swelled incredibly.

Hereto was added his position as officer with numerous subordinates,
whom he only communicated with as one in authority, and who
consequently were considered as service muscles to his big determining

With a military's physical courage and resolution, the profoundness
of a savant, the full deliberation of a thinker, the calm of one
financially independent, and the dignity and self-esteem of a man
of honor, he exhibited a type of the highest rank, where beauty and
prudence combined to produce a well-measured, harmonious personality.

In this father the son had both a prototype and a teacher, the mother
having died early. To spare the son the bitterness of miscalculations,
and disapproving the whole current method of education, which with
books of tales and terrifying histories, educated the children to
be children instead of men, he raised at once the whole curtain of
the temple of life and initiated the youth in the difficult art of
life; taught him the intimate connection between human beings and
the remainder of the creation, where certainly the human being stood
highest on his planet, but still continued to remain a part of the
creation, able in a measure to modify the action of the forces in
nature but nevertheless ruled by them, this was a rational nature
worship if nature signifies everything existing, and worshiping is an
acknowledgment of the dependency of the existing laws of nature. By
this he removed Christianity's mania for greatness of individuals, fear
of the unknown, death and God, and created a prudent man, watchful of
his actions and personally accountable for his deeds. The regulator
of the lower propensities of human beings he found in the organ,
which through its perfected form separates the human being from the
beasts, the cerebrum. Judgment, founded on liberal knowledge should
govern, and when necessary suppress the lower propensities to keep up
a higher type. Nourishment and propagation were the lowest impulses,
and therefore in common with the plants. The sensibilities, as the
animals? lower rudiments of thinking were called, because they were
localized in the arteries, spinal cord and other lower organs, must be
absolutely subordinate to the cerebrum in a human being of the highest
type, and the individuals, who could not regulate their lower impulses
but were thinking with their spinal cord, were of the lower form.
Therefore the old man warned against believing in youthful enchantment
and enthusiasm, which could just as easily lead to crime as to virtue.
This, however did not exclude the great passions of universal benefit,
which did not belong to the feelings but were powerful utterances of
the will toward good. All that youth could produce was completely
worthless, for as a rule it lacked originality, being only the pure
thoughts of older predecessors which the after-coming youths had
taken up as their own and with great gestures would spread abroad.
Originality could only be said to develop when the brain had matured,
just as true propagation with a following education of the offspring
could only take place when man had reached virility and had the ability
to provide means for existence and education of the children. A sure
sign of the immature brain's inability to judge was the constant
Grossenwahn, in which youth and women were living. Youth has its future
before it, as is habitually said, but that assertion is shattered
because manhood shows a less per cent, of mortality than youth, and
the unwitty reply that if youth is a fault it passes away in time,
does not overturn the precept, that youth is a present defect, an
imperfection, thus a fault, which is admitted by the acknowledgment
that it can pass away, for that which never existed cannot pass away.
All youthful attacks on the existing are hysterical spells of the
inability of the weak to bear pressure, an evidence of the same lack
of prudence as in the hornet when attacking a human being to its own
sure destruction. As a good illustration of the want of judgment and
syllogism in the youths he brought forth the book Robinson Crusoe,
which was written for the plain purpose of showing the inferiority of
a life under natural conditions and isolation, and yet for a century it
had regularly been misunderstood by youths as a psalm to savage life
while the book represented it as a punishment for the foolish youth who
abused culture's wealth like a savage. This little trait at the same
time showed of how much lower ontological form youth was, betraying it
in his sympathy for Indians and other rudimentary laggers-behind, just
as the feelings which eventually would be laid aside, like the thyroid
gland, which has come into disuse by human beings but still remains on
its old place.

When the son could not refute these bitter truths with rational
arguments, declaring that his feelings, yes his most sacred feelings,
rose against such a dry tenet, the father declared him to be a hornet
which was still thinking with ganglia, and he warned him against
dissolute fancies, or conclusions on insufficient ground and want of
great material, not to be mistaken for scientific quick-reasoning,
where from seemingly few premises--appearing few because the middle
terms were omitted--new conclusions could be drawn, when, as if by
a chemical union, two older ideas enter each other and form a new
thought. Ontogenism had shown how the human fœtus was developed through
all the earlier stages from the amœba through the frog and up to the
anthropomorphic, how then could the youth question but that the
spirit of a child must pass through the history of man through the
animal and the savage upward, as long as the body was growing and that
consequently man stood far ahead of youth! He warned him especially not
to let the lowest of all our propensities, the sexual impulse cloud
his judgment, for by its power it had so long dazzled sound reason,
that erudite men still bore the superstition that woman was as high
a type as man, yes even higher according to the opinion of some men,
whereas she really is but an intermediate form between man and child,
as is shown by the fœtal development, where the male at a certain
stage is female but the female never male. To warn the young man of
the danger of being over-powered by sexual impulses, was the same as
to cast a shadow on woman, and the son soon commenced to make what the
father called ganglionic conclusions, the bearing of which was that the
Lieutenant-Colonel was a woman hater. And how could he do otherwise,
when always hearing his father narrating how this or that man had
thrown away his future on affairs with women, and how great geniuses
had wasted their talents by procreation, and sacrificed happiness and
position for a wife, who had been faithless and children who died
before of mature age. Propagation was only for the lesser spirits, the
greater ones should live in their works, and so forth.

Under such guidance the son grew up. He was born an unusually delicate
child but with a harmoniously developed body; he had finely organized
senses, quick and sure perception, keen understanding and a nobility
of mind which manifested itself in forbearance and approachableness
to mankind. He understood early how to regulate his life, to suppress
the plant and animal propensities, and when he had accumulated a
vast material of observations and knowledge, he began to work it up.
His brain soon showed its prolific capacity--from a couple of known
quantities to find the wanted unknown, from old thoughts to produce new
ones, in a word the capacity of what is called originality. He was the
coming regenerator and possessed ability to see the inter-relations in
disorder, to discover the invisible force behind the phenomena, and
even the concealed and extremely compound motives in the actions of
men. Therefore his schoolmates looked upon him with suspicion, and the
teachers discerned in him a silent critic of what they communicated as
unalterable facts.

His arrival at the university occurred contemporarily with the great
popular movements which concerned the parliamentary reform. Borg
perceived well the defects of the representation by a four-class
system, while the state consists of at least twenty classes with
different interests and different abilities to judge in so complicated
a problem as that of the government of a people, but on the other hand
he could not consent to revert to the organization of the hord or tribe
where everybody had equally much or equally little to say. He perceived
at once that this simplifying of the method of governing, where the
multitude should do it was not a reform suited to the needs of the
time, moreover he had lately seen the right of universal suffrage
in France produce an Emperor and a sham representation of lawyers,
merchants and army officers, with the exclusion of laborers, farmers,
savants and scientific men, thus only three classes, arbitrarily
selected by the Emperor, were represented. He had calculated that the
most correct would be a perfect class representation with proportional
rights of representation, well balanced according to the interests of
the respective classes and with due consideration given to the highest
interests, or the higher right of the wise to own the preponderance,
as they promote progress more than the ignorant. This, to be sure,
the authors of the two chamber systems had already had in mind, when
they perceived the necessity of referring questions to committees
and disentangling certain questions by special committees, even
by committees of experts. To complete the assembly, so that all
interests would be guarded and all points taken and all information
of the condition of the realm made accessible, each class of people,
from the highest to the lowest, should elect representatives in
proportion partly to their numbers and partly to their importance
for the advancement of the country as a whole. Neglecting the Royal
Court, which together with the monarch ought to be assorted under the
foreign department, to which they properly belong, for the monarch is
only permitted to represent the nation before foreign powers, this
consultative, though not a legislative, class parliament would be
constructed as follows, viz., First class: land owners and renters,
tenants, overseers, foremen on farms and so forth. The second class:
operators of mines and quarries, manufacturers and their laborers.
Third class: merchants, mariners, pilots, hotel owners, porters,
hackmen, and all employed in banks, custom houses, postal service,
railroads and telegraphs. Fourth class: civil and military officers,
clergymen, with servants, janitors and privates. Fifth class:
savants, teachers, literateurs, and artists. Sixth class: physicians,
apothecaries, superintendents of poorhouses. Seventh class: house
owners, capitalists and rentiers.

In what proportion to elect from each class was the question, which
could not be solved off hand, but it was necessary that skillful men
with knowledge in the science of government should probe the new
order of representation, which would therefore only and always be
provisional. Over this consultative assembly should sit a council of
specialists in the science of government, who had been professionally
trained for that difficult calling, so that this most complicated of
all arts would not be pursued by bunglers and enterprising amateurs, as
had hitherto been done, and statesmen's accession to office would be
preceded by a careful investigation of their past life, their private
financial and social situation. This would spur youth to self-education
and heedfulness of what they were doing, and would form a body of
excellent men, while so called irreproachable conduct, or negative
virtue, without talents would not as hitherto be the short cut to
advancement. This would constitute the new nobility which would succeed
the old military and court nobility, and the fact that this nobility
established itself only through a natural selection of the fittest was
a guarantee that the country would be ruled in the best manner. The
Reichstag by only having to vote an opinion, not any decision, would
thus furnish a vast material of investigation, not a legionary army
that could be bribed and wheedled to commit voting outrages.

The young man, however, was too prudent to express his opinions, at
a period, when noblemen were synonymous with the degenerated, left
behind and blasé, and the masses were pushing so blindly forward that
the mechanics were the ones that worked mostly into the hands of their
coming class enemies, the peasants; a prudent man could only smile and
wait. And he waited until he saw the four-chamber system succeeded by a
one-class representation, when the realm was henceforth governed by the
former peasantry alone. These historical events had, however, a very
great influence in directing the young man's thoughts and development.
He had there seen in what terrible confusion the thought mechanism of
the majority was, and when he read the protocols of the Reichstag, and
noticed the speeches of the most influential and brilliant speakers,
he observed that what he called ganglionic reasoning, causing valvular
contraction and congestion of the heart, exerted the greatest influence
on the public opinion. It seemed to him sometimes as though it was not
the question of the fatherland or progress, but only the motionary's
triumph to gain his own will by fallacies, gross blunders in logic and
hideous distortions of facts. In him was aroused, through observation,
the great suspicion that everything was intended as a struggle for
power, for the enjoyment of using the power of the brain for putting
other brains into consonance, of sowing seeds of thought in the brain
bark of others, where they would grow as parasites like the mistletoe,
while the mother tree would proudly lift her shoulders at the thought
that the parasites up in the crown still were nothing but parasites.
This was the foundation of his ambition, to satisfy which required
knowledge and experience through study, travel and conversation with
learned and illustrious men. In the midst of this eternally movable
chaos of contending forces and interests, he sought a place of
anchorage for his being, the center of the sphere which reality threw
around him--in himself. Instead of, like weak Christians assuming an
external support in God, he took the real, palpable in his own self and
sought to create his personality to a perfect type of man whose life
and deeds would not violate anyone's rights, convinced that the fruit
of a well-nursed tree could not fail to be of use and rejoicing to
others. All the confusion and awkwardness that he saw in the struggles
of those who say they are living for others while in reality they only
live on others, on others' gratitude, others' opinion and others'
acknowledgment, he avoided, holding his own straight course convinced
that a single great and strong individual could not help doing more
good than these masses of thoughtless people whose numbers stand in
inverse ratio to their usefulness.

By this setting of his _ego_ he enforced a norm for his life, which
led him to a high degree of morality, for, instead of relinquishing
the final settlement to the uncertain hereafter, he regulated his
deeds so that he had nothing left unsettled, he did not shift the
blame from himself to an innocently suffering Christ, but in conscious
self-responsibility he committed no acts that would awaken the need of
a scapegoat.

Thereby he learned to rely only upon himself and never to take advice,
always reflecting on the probable consequences of an act. This did not
prevent him from suffering with nervousness like his generation, which
was born and brought up during the period of steam and electricity when
the vital activity was increased in speed. How could it be otherwise
considering that he must destroy millions of old brain cells, storages
for antiquated impressions, that every moment when he would form a
judgment, he must carefully sift out superannuated axioms, which tried
to come forward as premises. It was a work of total reconstruction
which caused these disorders in the nervous system which are all
laid to our ancestors' alcoholism and sexual excesses, but which
pathological symptom was an uttering of increased vitality accompanied
by extreme sensibility, like the crawfish when it shifts its shell, or
the bird when molting. It was the regeneration of a genus or at least
a variety of man which appeared to the old as diseased or unsound
because it was in a process of development, something that they were
disinclined to acknowledge as they themselves would be the norm and
called themselves sound, although they were in a state of decomposition.

This nervous sensibility of the growing youth was enhanced by
moderation in eating and drinking, and vigorous disciplining of
the sexual desires. He found it debasing to place oneself into the
ungovernable state of a lunatic or a savage through the use of
fermented drinks, and his soul was far too aristocratic to play a
moment's illicit love with a prostitute. With this, however, followed
an increasing acuteness of the senses and a sensibility to disagreeable
impressions which sometimes brought him disgust where others of a
coarser nature would have found enjoyment.

Thus he felt abased for a few hours when his morning coffee was not
strong enough, and a poorly painted billiard ball or a soiled cue
constrained him to turn away in search of another place. A badly
wiped glass raised his loathing and he felt the smell of human being
on a newspaper which another had read, while he could on others'
furniture see human grease deposited on the polish, and he always
opened the window when the maid had arranged the room. However, if he
was traveling and necessity constrained, then he could shut off, as it
were, all conduits from his organs of perceptions and harden himself
against all disagreeable sensations.

When he had completed his studies at the University, in natural
science, that least dependent of all sciences, because opinion plays
a lesser roll than a collection of material, he received a place as
assistant in the Royal Academy of Science.

He had applied for a situation here for the purpose of obtaining a
view of the kingdoms of nature, collected and classified in one place,
and if possible to read therein and discover the great connection if
there was any, or the universal confusion which probably was there. His
intentions soon became manifest, especially when he could no longer
avoid the danger of their enticing from him, his project to classify
the birds after an entirely different method than the current one. The
professors, who of course did not want to be lowered to collectors of
material for a young man, and were not willing to become obsolete with
their works, took an instinctive aversion to the scrutinizer. The first
obstacle to the intruder was made by placing him to detail work of a
subordinate character which was disgusting to his sense of beauty,
during six months he had to change alcohol in the fish collection;
at first he was retching from the nauseating odor, but after he had
overcome this disagreeable perception he turned furiously to the study
of the fishes, and as he worked rapidly he had inside of the half
year thoroughly studied the great material. He had been standing the
whole winter in a cold, dirty and semi-dark kitchen where he had been
smelling bad alcohol, frozen his hands and contracted a severe chronic

Afterwards he was set to writing labels for the algæ. As he had
received no instructions in calligraphy at the University and by nature
he had a wreak, unsteady hand, all the labels were discarded and he
gained the name of being useless.--He could not even write.--But in
two months, during which time he attended a writing school, and in
the evenings sat at home over writing book and copy, he acquired a
beautiful and legible hand and at the same time gained a more complete
knowledge of the algæ than he had before, while into the bargain he
learned the inestimable art of penmanship. The professors who had
thought he would reject such subordinate work soon saw what kind of
grit he had and that he understood how to use all adversities for his
benefit, increasing his knowledge while turning aside softly from the
leash and warding off the blows.

His improved penmanship was to be a new source of humiliations, for he
was now placed at copying office records and letters, sinking finally,
as they believed, to an ordinary copyist's rôle. Without complaining he
took the occupation and, at the same time learning foreign languages,
he had the opportunity of glancing into the secrets of all these great
men, which they thought would be worthless to him. Thus he saw the
scientific questions of the period, debated through correspondence and
he discovered the ways to the secret meetings of learned societies,
gained knowledge about the subterranean passages to distinction, and
the opportunities to make his investigations fruitful. Thus he was
unassailable, and just as they believed they had crushed him he arose

It was owing to this double quality of nobleman and independent
thinker, that he became isolated. His name did not sound scientific
and his fine and modern way of dressing was taken as a proof of
unscientific sense by those who remembered Berzelius' ragged pants; his
patient and apparent submission was taken as inferiority, and all his
meditations over science, as poetical effusions. Regretting to have
let him come behind the curtain, and in order to press him down again
they now placed him at another work which had been rejected by every
newcomer, and was called the proving stone. There was in the garret a
remnant collection of stones and minerals, which had come together
partly through gifts and legacies and partly through circumnavigations
and explorations, and as most of it had been discarded as duplicates,
at a time when geology was in its infancy, increasing knowledge
demanded that they again be overhauled and assorted. They were placed
in an attic room beneath the rooftiles and lay in a big heap decidedly
covered with dust and cobwebs. Borg who must now stand bent beneath
the heated rooftiles and inhale the dust, was about to give it up,
but when on the second day he found a new mineral which he suspected
to be unknown, he at once applied himself to the work and started
classifying. During this he made observations which shook his already
faint belief in the whole system of the science, and he commenced
seeing that the stones were not classified by nature but it was the
brain that classified the phenomena. Besides, everything might be
classified if one could only decide upon a basis of division, and
he soon saw that the basis employed here was not the most rational
one, the very foundation being an unsettled hypothesis; for instance,
that the primitive rocks had been formed through melting by fire,
contrasting with the stratified rocks which were positively regarded
as deposited in water; but some of the primitive rocks were also
stratified like the younger sedimentary formations; then he found
that all of it was twisted and guessed at and the whole system founded
on guess work. In the meanwhile he had analyzed his mineral and found
that it was hitherto unknown, whereupon he gave it to the professor
who sent it to the Berlin Academy and got his name attached to the
new mineral. Borg received no thanks, no mention, only a few taunting
words from the professor. Irritated thereby he undertook himself to
describe the next mineral which he found to be new and sent it to
Lyell; his paper was read in the Geological Society, of which he was
made a member. Comrades and superiors pretended to be ignorant of his
success, which was in a measure disparaging to the professor who had
overlooked the unknown mineral, and now repugnance grew into hate
which developed to persecution. But he turned aside, made himself
invisible and worked. This collection of minerals being gathered from
all countries in Europe, and as Borg understood how to give to each
discovery a touch of direct usefulness for the science of mining in the
respective countries, he succeeded in two years to gain membership in
most of the learned societies of Europe, and was decorated with badges
of the Italian Crown Order, the French "Instruction publique," the
Austrian Leopold order and the Russian St. Annae order, second class.
But nothing availed among his surroundings, and the laughter increased
at each mark of distinction which was nevertheless merited. When they
could not deny the facts, they underrated their value or pretended to
be ignorant of what had happened, which, however, did not prevent them
from using his trodden path in their own hunt.

When at last after seven years of tormenting service he inherited a
legacy from his father, who had died, and he retired from service
to travel abroad as a private man, he heard alternately that he
had failed in his calling and that it was a pity that he did not
become anything, or that he had been discharged from office. It was
with boundless disdain for human beings that he left his country to
continue his studies abroad. In hotels and pensions all over Europe
he met many, kinds of people with whom he formed acquaintances which
were soon broken by circumstances. But everywhere he saw how people
of the same period expressed the same mind about the same things,
pronounced the opinion of the majority as their own, spoke phrases
in place of thoughts, and he discovered thereby that it really was
the thoughts of a few spirits that were ruminated by the masses. Thus
he found that all geologists spoke Agassiz' and Lyell's ideas from
1830 and '40, all religious free thinkers exhaled Renan and Strauss,
all brisk politicians were living on Mill or Buckle, and all who
spoke up-to-date literature cast up Taine. It was then only a few
main batteries which had an annunciator and which could through the
conducting wires from their talents set all the small bells tinkling.
Through this he soon came to the domain of psychology, visited
spiritualists, hypnotizers and mind readers, saw behind these swindles
some new discoveries which would surely change humanity in its mode of
living thoughtlessly as cattle, perhaps contribute towards adjusting
the thought mechanism, and show that this whole battle about opinions
is only a strife for the power to set other people's brains in motion,
to force the masses to think as I. He had been a witness to scientific
encounters which had resulted in a conquest for the wrong opinion,
only because the victor had sufficient authority and was supported
by a majority. He had seen political and religious combats and in a
legislation directly contrary to sound reason and justice, founded on
approved errors, which were inherited by succeeding generations as
self-evident truths.

Yes, surely it concerned only how to make one's own will valid, and the
whole driving power behind the vindication of opinions were interest
and passion. Interest, it was nothing else than need, a need of food
and love, and to gain these required a certain amount of power. Whoever
did not strive for power was a weak one, whose desire of life was
attenuated, therefore the weak was always heard to demand rights,
the rights of the weak, while there was only a mathematical justice
given, an arithmetical truth, for the calculating of which was required
a strong mind capable of emancipating itself from the delusions of
interest and passions. When he searched his inner self and compared
himself with a great many others, he found that through a strict
self-education he had freed his judgment to a high degree, and that in
him was a specially developed thrift to seek abstract justice, that
truth which consists in the actual conditions, the pith of fact, why
he called himself a friend of truth in the highest sense, although not
prompted thereby to tell all his thoughts abroad nor prevented from
replying to importunate questions, when need be, with a prevarication.

In order to trace more closely the organization of the man-brute he
designed a special study of the mental faculties of all the lower
animals and thus guided himself up to man. He then made a ledger
over all the individuals that came in his way, from relatives,
nurses, maids, to schoolmates, university comrades, society friends
and superiors, in one word all who came within the circle of his
observation. This he completed through a collection of personalia,
baptismal certificates, and the testimonies of their acquaintances; he
wrote down their equation and tried a solution of the problem of their
life. It was an incredible amount of working material. When he had
straightened out the confusion he saw that the human beings could be
divided just as the animals and plants into large classes, orders and
families according to the basis chosen. By taking several bases he came
pretty near to the truth and threw the fullest illumination upon the
object of his observation.

Among other things he made a diagram of the human beings, with three
subdivisions, conscious, self-deceivers and unconscious. The conscious
or initiated stood highest, had discerned the deceit and believed in
nothing and nobody, and were usually called skeptics, feared and hated
by the self-deceivers, but recognized each other at once and usually
parted with the word rascal, and reciprocal accusations of bad motives.
As self-deceivers he counted all religious believers, hypnotic mediums,
prophets, party chiefs, politicians, charity spirits, and the whole
swarm of weak ambitious ones who pretend to live for others. To the
unconscious belonged children, most criminals, most women and some
idiots, all of whom still live on the semi-mammalian plane without the
ability to distinguish between subject and object.

Proceeding from another basis, or by ontogenesis from the fœtus up to
the highest standard of man, he got as the result, children, youths,
women and men.

He also used to search among his countrymen for ancestral race marks,
distinguished the central Swedes from the southern Swedes, could see
the Norwegian in the Vermlanders and Bohus-landers, pointed out the
Finn in some of the Norrlanders, kept record of immigrated Germans,
Wallons, Shemites and gypsies, which often gave him the key to various
traits in otherwise inexplicable characters.

He also had another basis for a division of characters according to
the dominant, as he called it, and he got the nutritive as the lowest
group including epicures, drunkards and the avaricious, the sexualic
or licentious, the affective or sensitive, and the intellectual or
thinkers who stood highest.

This science he developed to a high degree, and after some time
acquired the ability to judge human beings and give their equations. To
verify the truth of his observations he used himself as a psychological
preparation, cut himself up bodily, experimented with himself and
grafted fistulas and fontanelles, subjecting himself to unnatural
and often repulsive spiritual diet, but carefully guarded faults of
observation, and avoided forming a norm for others by his own sayings
and doings.

When he had finally become weary of traveling abroad, and his soul
was longing for its _milieu_, he returned home to seek a sphere of
activity. As it was immaterial to him what his occupation might be he
applied for the position of fish commissioner. As they were not anxious
to have him too near he was appointed as the first man of the inlet to

       *       *       *       *       *

Here he awoke from the review of his evolution, from which he used
to regenerate himself by hastily living his life over again, thereby
tracing, as it were, his standpoint and, calculating his resources, he
cleared his course onward to his probable destiny and his prospects of
succeeding in his enterprises.

The pilot, who in the meantime had rowed the boat behind the rocks and
in lee of the ice cakes, had already decided that the Doctor, who was
sitting with introverted, expressionless eyes, was a little freaky,
took the occasion to ask if they should turn toward the harbor, whereto
the commissioner nodded consent.

Once more he glanced at the magnificent panorama yonder, where the ice
floes were driven onward, rent asunder, packed themselves, crowded
together, pushed over each other, turned on edge, changed their
horizontal position to big upheavals and tilting of the strata, forming
mountains, dales and hills. It seemed to him as though he beheld the
earth's crust being born, when on the incandescent sea the first hard
cake was broken to pieces, driven forward, pushed on edge, piled in
heaps to form the primitive mountains, skerries, rocks, islets, which
were but enormous packs of ice, icebergs, although formed from another
mineral than water. Over this repetition of the history of creation
vibrated the primitive, undivided white light of the ice beside the
deep blue of air and water, the first breaking of the darkness, and
here the God of the saga of creation who separated light from darkness,
came forth as a sensible explanation to his investigating mind. Once
again the first attempt at harmonious sounds of the reptiles, now
transformed into birds, rang out over the watery circle, the limitation
of himself, which must be the center wherever he went....

The boat floated into harbor, the smoke was rising from the chimneys,
it was dinner time.


One Sunday forenoon the fish commissioner sat at his open window; the
early summer had just come, there was a light blue color on the water
and a faint verdure in the crevices of the rocks, on the insignificant
remains of lichens and mosses. The flocks of birds had gone north and
only segregated pairs of eider ducks were swimming, two by two, in
the coves. The great solitude, as he called the Baltic Sea, impressed
him this day as he saw one vessel after another steering southward
under foreign flags with lively colors, perhaps coming accidentally,
perhaps regularly, all of these flags more luminous than the poor
blue and tawny yellow which is so easily soiled. He saw the exciting
tricolor on a brig which was lumber laden from Norrland, where it had
recently been with wine and oranges and was now passing down to more
sunny and populous coasts. The enfeebled dannebrog on a butter schooner
lay in the wake of a great German mail steamer carrying white bunting
with mourning border and the Crown mark like the ace of spades, above
something of red color. England's blood red standard, the Spanish
awning cloth, America's King cotton ticking, each of these was a
greeting from so many foreign nations to which he felt more affianced
than to those strangers whom he was condemned to call countrymen,
for he had a right to carry all of these colors on his gala coat but
not his own country's. And to-day, it seemed, these reminders of his
cosmopolitan citizenship came to him more invigorating than usual,
as during the last few days of his exile in this place he had been
surrounded by a full and open enmity. He had recently undertaken to
enforce a law adopted several years ago, though never applied, about
a certain measure of the meshes in nets and seines, and had thereby
encountered an opposition and open defiance which finally forced him
to send for the sheriff who confiscated the nets. He had, however,
first shown thoroughly how the interference of the government was
only prompted by concern for the welfare of the people, he had held
before them how they, while not wishing to divide a farm, preferring
to have one son prosperous and the family maintainer, still contrived,
by indiscriminate fishing, to make their children dependent of the
almshouse for their support. All to no avail. All these measures and
steps were regarded as the evil contrivance of a pack of idle officers
who were salaried with the people's money, for the special purpose of
tormenting them. He retorted in vain, that it was the farmers in the
Reichstag who had voted this law, whereupon the fishermen turned their
hate towards the farmers and government alike.

He observed that these fishing people really represent a remnant of
the aboriginal community, careless and inconsiderate, without the
peasant's forethought for the morrow and next year. They were like
the savage who hunts two days and sleeps eight, and like the savage
they possessed certain negative faculties to do without, and endure,
but lacked the positive ability to improve their situation through
investigation, having a decided and instinctive dislike for innovation,
thereby betraying their inability to adapt themselves to a higher
stage of culture. All these fishermen were bottom sediments of the
country's population; when the battle over fertile river valleys and
lake margins was going on they could not maintain their own, and fled
or were pressed out to the headlands where the soil ceased and only
the uncertain water left its winnings. Like gamblers they were as
unreliable as fortune, unscrupulous in their dealings, drawing small
advances beforehand from the ever expected great fishing, which a lucky
shipwreck might bring them. Therefore their hate immediately kindled
towards the new comer, and in their blindness they could not see
how he would if from ambition only improve their condition and free
them from labor. For instance, one duty of the head pilot was to make
meteorological reports; for him he had constructed a self-regulating
wind measure from cleft sardine boxes, which, however, was not accepted
but placed in the garret. He had offered to assist in cases of sickness
but had been rejected. He had offered to teach the wives how to prevent
the stoves from smoking, by the application of a stromling barrel as
a flue at the top of the chimney, but they had made grimaces at him
and continued to lament over the irremediable smoke. He would teach
a fisherman, who had tried to raise potatoes unsuccessfully, how to
fertilize the sandy strand with seaweed and the refuse from fish, as he
had seen the people on the coast of England do with marked success; all
was in vain. When he saw how the surplus of the big stromling fishing
of the spring lay decaying for lack of salt, he would teach them the
Faroe-islanders' method of salting with the ashes of seaweed in case
of necessity and for domestic use, this same preservative being always
used by said islanders in the manufacture of cheese.

The result of all his endeavors to teach them useful things, was that
he received the nickname of Doctor Know-all, was regarded as a fool,
and became the laughing stock of the coffee gatherings, and drinking
bouts. Even the children made faces as he passed by.

The incongruity between what he was, and what he was taken to be,
impressed him at the beginning as comical, but afterwards when the
hostilities succeeded the coldness he marked an unfavorable influence
on his mental state. It was as though a thundercloud of unequal
electricities hung over him, irritating his nerve current, trying to
annihilate it through neutralization. He felt as though the thoughts
directed towards him from these many would have the power to gradually
drag him down, cramp his opinion of his own value, so that the moment
would come when he could no longer rely upon himself and his mental
superiority, and finally their views that he was the idiot and they the
sound would grasp his brain and force him to agree with them.

Meanwhile as his thoughts wandered here and there a new object came
within the forty-five degrees of the horizon, which he commanded at
a glance from his window. A gunboat came to lee of the rock at half
speed, clewed up its sails and dropped anchor. Through the marine
glass he saw the sailors move about apparently in a hurly-burly, but
without crowding; each one hurried to his belaying pin, his line,
and his halyard, when the executive officer's whistle sounded. The
vessel's straight sides, the extended stem where the iron plates seemed
to sprawl asunder but combined their concentrated force In a forward
direction, radiating out as it were at the bowsprit, the exhaust
pipe and the smokestack's energetic smoking, the masts striving with
stay and shroud, the round circle of the cannon's mouth, everything
indicated an array of forces, regulated, curbing each other, reacting
and cooperating, the contemplation of which put him into a harmonic
state of mind. It was to him as though power and order streamed forth
from the wedge-shaped iron hull, where purpose, limitation and measure,
united into a unit of beauty, and conveyed a deeper enjoyment by
reflection than a handsome work of art commonly affords the superficial
observer by the way of feeling.

Something else came to him through reflecting on this little floating
community surrounded by water. He felt strengthened, as though he
had a support in this symbol of power, that was authorized by the
people's assembly and the royal government, with the appliance of
all the means of culture and science, and which protected the higher
developed against the pressure of barbarism from beneath; he saw with
satisfaction how a couple of the most knowing, who had been qualified
by due examinations, guided with a whistle this hundred of half
savages, who did not dare to pretend to understand, that which they
did not understand. He had never been beguiled to commit the modern
fault of observation of believing that the lower classes suffered from
their subordinate position and coarse food. He knew well that they were
precisely on the plane they should be, and that they suffered just
as little from their station as the fishes beneath would suffer from
not having been developed into amphibians, and as far as their coarse
food was concerned he knew from experience when he had invited a few
fishermen to dinner how they rejected all but that which filled the
belly; yes, he had seen them select the poor rye in the bread basket,
instead of the fine wheat. He had never believed in the talk about lack
of food excepting when misfortune came and then only accidentally, for
there existed state laws for the poor which are so often misused by
sluggards and the shrewd, who feign sickness and force the community
to support them. He had never adored the small, never needed to kneel
to the insignificant, notwithstanding that he himself was cast out
from the upper camp which during the common period of decay tricked
itself up with stolen reputations and lay pressing down that which
should grow. He did not even now let this induce him to overestimate
this approximate picture of the upper stratum, which in the shape of a
man-of-war inspired his admiration from a certain point of view, but
on the other hand was a reminder of a system of state, which executed
outrages on the minds with compressed gas and Bessemer cylinders.

Downstairs his host's door banged, and the tongues began to wag at the
entrance of Oman, whose net had been confiscated. The gin glasses rang
and the clamor rose at the repetition of yesterday's drunken spree.

"Idiots and destroyers of the people, who believe they know more than
sensible fishermen and who lie on the sofa and read books, and get
two thousand a year, snots, who would teach their father how to fish,
a pack of thieves and cigarette heroes who go about with sow's tails
under their noses...."

And now a wave broke against Vestman's elucidation of facts that he had
gleaned on board the "Jacob Bagge" about the commissioner's extraction,
his father's irregular sexual relations, his mother's low descent, and
he alluded to the commissioner's discharge from his first office and so

The listener tried to make himself deaf, and indifferent as usual, but
the words cut him, soiled him, hurt him against his will. Old doubts
about his father's integrity began to awaken, doubts of his own value
were aroused and fears as to the possibility of keeping himself dry in
this rain of mud, and to avoid a fight where he perhaps would fail from
nicety in choice of weapons.

Now struck the bell on the man-of-war, a drum whir rolled, and the
summer wind carried the tunes of a hymn from a hundred throats out
over the water, solemn, rhythmically arranged, submissive, all while
the clamor and threats from downstairs rumbled as from the cages in a
menagerie, and in the psalm's ferment rose to a howl, for a quarrel had
arisen between the parties, at the question of taking back the net by

The commissioner, who regarded churches as archaeological collections
or interesting pagoda buildings from past times was reminded
involuntarily of the utterance which a young clergyman let fall one
night when at a discussion of the Christian cult.

"I do not believe in Christ's divinity and all that, but believe me,
the mob must be scared!" "The mob must be scared," repeated he to
himself silently, but dropped the thread immediately when he heard the
fray break out downstairs. Chairs were knocked over, heels were braced
and kicked against the furniture and roaring as from cattle was mixed
with hissing as from reptiles while during all this a woman's voice
sputtered and produced several hundred words a minute.

At this instant the steamer whistled, weighed anchor and hoisted sail,
the smokestack sent a soot cloud toward the blue summer sky. It was
with a feeling of regret and anxiety that he saw the steamer and its
beautiful cannon disappear southward; he felt as though he had lost a
support and as if the hate closed round him like a sack, he would flee,
out, anywhere.

Now a child cried, if from fear or pain he could not hear, for under
the tumult he had stolen down the staircase and reached the harbor,
cast off his painter and rowed out from the land as quickly as he could.

The rock he was in quest of was the eastern-most of a little
archipelago, which he had never paid attention to before, but now for
the first time when in need to be alone, he sought it. A hater of
strong body movements, which he found partly superfluous while there
existed locomotion by machinery, and partly detrimental to his nerve
and thought life for the fine tool which the brain capsule enclosed
could just as little stand jars as the house where the astronomer's
instruments of precision are kept. He had never learned how to row but
his sense of time and his well-weighed motion centers made him at once
a clever oarsman, and his studies of physics taught him how to improve
the old invention so that by raising the seat he economized arm power.

As he now saw the skerries receding from the stern of his boat he began
to breathe easier, and when he shortly landed on the first rock he was
seized by an irrepressible feeling of happiness. It was a sunny, long,
low islet whose strand rocks of gray gneiss formed a little harbor
into which the boat sped. The water near the beach was transparent
as condensed limpid air, and the soft color of the kelp shone at the
bottom as though molten into a mass of glass. The stones on the beach
lay washed, dried and polished, offering a variation in colors that
never tired, for there were no two alike, while between them the velvet
grass and sedges had sought hold for their tufts. Slowly the ledge
rose upward and in depressions in the moss lay the mews' eggs, three
by three, coffee brown with black spots, while their owners cried and
cawed above his head. He climbed higher up to where a pile of stones
had been laid up by marine surveyors, and were whitewashed by the
gulls, mews and terns. A few juniper bushes spread out as carpets
and beneath them a profusion of the white, subtle star flower had
improvised its bed, a connection of Middle Europe's highlands and the
shade of northern forests.

The little turnstone daring and gay fluttered uneasily around the
disturber of the peace to mislead him from her nest.

Not a shrub, not a tree pointed over the half naked ledges, and this
absence of shadows from coverts, gave the visitor a lighter and gayer
mood. Everything was open, overlooked at once, sunlit on this ledge
of rock, and the water which separated him from his lately left home
among the savages, seemed to surround him with an insurmountable limit
of pure transparency. The half arctic, half alpine landscape with its
primeval formation refreshed and rested him. When he had become rested,
he took the boat and rowed on further. He passed three polished rocks,
resembling three petrified waves, naked as a hand, without a trace of
organic life and which only aroused a scientific, geological interest
concerning their origin; he grazed a flat rock of reddish gneiss;
on its lee side stood a hundred years' mountain ash, solitary, moss
bedecked, gnarled, and in its ragged trunk a white wagtail hatched its
brood for lack of rooftile or stone wall. The little charming bird dove
down among the strand stones and would make the foe believe that in no
wise there existed a nest or gray white eggs there.

The solitary mountain ash stood on a grassy carpet of a few square feet
and looked so lonely, but so unusually strong in lack of competition,
and could better defy storm, salt water and cold than with jealous
equals wrangling over earth crumbs. He felt attracted to the lonely
veteran and longed, during a transitory moment, to raise a hut at its
feet, but he passed on and the feeling blew away.

A dark cliff came to view behind the last point, it was coal black
from the volcanic mineral diorite, and, as he approached it, he became
depressed. The black crystallized mass seemed to have been cast up
from the sea bottom, and after hardening had come into a terrible
fight with water or a thundercloud and had cracked into eight parts,
which had afterwards been carried away by the sea and ice or dragged
down into the depth. Steep, perpendicular stood the black glittering
wall out along the little harbor, and when the boat landed below it
he felt as though he was down in a coal mine or a sooty blacksmith's
shop. It depressed and awed him, he climbed up on the cliff, there
rose as a landmark a pole with a white painted keg at the top. This
trace of human beings out here where no people were to be seen, was a
mixed reminder of gibbet, shipwreck, coal, a crude contrast between
the unmixed colorless colors, black and white, of barren violent
nature devoid of organic life, there being no lichens or moss on the
whole body of the rock; further, this carpentry work without vegetable
transition between primeval nature and human hand work, was irritating,
disquieting and brutal. In the great Sunday stillness he heard beneath
his feet, where stones had rattled down and formed a roof over a
crevice, how the long breakers sucked in half way under the point, and
pressed the air forward with muffled sound, then drew back again with a
hissing and hollow sighing.

He stood a moment enjoying the oppression, while his thoughts wandered
back to old memories which always brought him loathing. He smelt coal
gas, saw manufactories, sooty, discontented people, heard machinery,
city rumbling and human voices, which spoke words that would eat their
way through his ears into his brain and sow seeds that would spring
up as weeds smothering his own sowing; transforming the field he had
cultivated with so much pains to a wild meadow like those of the others.

He climbed into his boat and turned his back on the gloomy sight; again
he enjoyed the infinite purity of the waters, the empty blue which
like an unwritten slate lay soothingly before him, for it did not
raise any memories, develop any inspirations, or call forth any strong
sensations. And now when he approached a larger island, he greeted it
as a new acquaintance who should tell him something else and efface the
recent impressions. New points and rocks were passed, each offering its
surprise, its special physiognomy, often with such small differences
that it required a sharply trained eye to see them. These small
cliffs, which seemed so naked, so tiresomely alike when viewed from a
passing boat, offered at nearer view the most changeable scenery, just
as variance of the same coins only to the numismatist betray their

He now landed on a somewhat larger islet whose irregular jagged
appearance had allured him, especially when he saw protruding over the
tops of the rocks the crowns of trees with dense foliage. When he had
climbed up on the northern point, the black base of which was polished
smooth by the waves, he saw that the island was a cluster of at least
four others, that seemed to have been drifted together by different
winds, and by the congestion of different geological formations,
forming a whole conglomerate of landscape pictures, brought from every
zone. The northern part was composed of a cone of hornblende schist
which, down on the strand, was cleft in enormous blocks that had
fallen from the rocky wall, and was as yet unpolished by the water,
while between these cubes grew strangely, as though allured by secret
sympathy, an immense number of black currant shrubs, dusky in color
and harmonizing in tone with the black sparkling stones. It was so
unexpected to find these cultured deserters from the garden out here
in the wilderness that it appeared as a joke of nature, perhaps laid
in the bill of a wounded black-cock that had flown out here to die,
carrying the seeds of dawning culture. Farther up in the rock pile
stood a grove of deciduous trees with light verdure, but with cut tops
and white trunks, as though whitewashed with lime by fostering human
hand. He tried from a distance to guess their species, but they were
so different from all others he had seen in this latitude that his
thoughts revolved between acacias, beeches and Japan varnish trees, so
common in southern Europe, and when he finally heard the well known
rustle of the common aspen he would not believe his ears. He quickly
shunned a viper, which ran down between two stones like a stream of
water, and coming nearer, he saw that he had heard aright. It was the
slender and trim aspen of the groves and pastures, that the northern
wind, stony ground, drifting ice and salt water had pruned and trained
to this unrecognizable variety, and which in the battle against tempest
and cold had turned gray and lost its top, and therefore only consisted
of frozen sprouts that were continually shooting out indefatigably
renewing themselves, while the goats had peeled off the protecting bark
and let the sap run out. There was eternal youth in those soft light
green shoots on the gray whiskered branchless trunk, old age without
maturity, an abnormality which was refreshing because it was new and
transcended the banal.

When he had climbed up between the sharp stones and reached the height
it was as if he had ascended a field in ten minutes. The region of
deciduous trees lay below him, and upon the plateau appeared already
the alpine flora, with the field form of the juniper, and close by the
veritable northern cloud berry in the white moss of the moist crevices,
and here and there the little civilized cornel, perhaps the only
Swedish shrub on the seaboard. He slowly descended the southern slope,
through cowberry and bearberry vines, hair grass, sedges, cotton grass
and springy mosses, until suddenly he stood on a ravine, where the
islet had cracked and formed a channel between the black rocky walls.

With wild shrieks the saucy auks flew up as he stepped on a natural
stone bridge across the shallow channel, climbed another cliff of
lighter formations, and reached a new section of this wonderful islet.

The light elegant eurite, in which faint rose-colored feldspar was
mingled with a delicate blue-green quartz while mica was only betrayed
through a glistening like microscopical hoar frost, gave the little
landscape a gay aspect, and being cleft infinitely, it offered sofas
and real armchairs at every step. A compact vein of granular white
limestone passed as a belt straight through the rocky mass, and the
fertile gravel from this which had crumbled from rain and frost, was
amassed below between the rocky walls. And here a ravine began to
present such an enchanting view that he stopped amazed and sat down on
one of the stone stools to enjoy the surprising fairy scenery.

Before him, between the perpendicular walls whose bases disappeared
in the soil, there unfolded a grassy carpet interwoven with endless
flowers, choicer and more thrifty than those on the mainland. The blood
red geranium had stepped from the rock and sought moisture down here,
the honey white grass of Parnassus from the wet sedgy mead had here
met with the forest's blue yellow lily of the valley, and the southern
orchids, perhaps wind driven from the vineland Gotland, had fled here,
the hyacinth like orchis-sambucina, the pompous orchis militaris, the
stately cephalanthera, a kind of embellished lily of the valley, had
sought their nursery here in the forcing lime and moist sea air between
protecting walls in the most luxurious grass.

And far in the distance the walls of the cliffs were hidden by birch
and alder trees, which rose modestly in the air without daring to raise
their tops to the wind; self-sown here and there stood the cranberry
trees in the midst of the grassy carpet, with their white snowballs
hanging to the grapelike leaf; the dark green buckthorn leaned like an
espalier against the precipice and its glossy leaves faintly reminded
of the orange so famed in song, but were more juicy, more varied in
color, finer in design and more delicate structure.

It was a park with the characteristics of the mainland floating out
here, and when through a rent or depression in the rocks he saw a blue
horizontal streak of the sea, the contrast in the wonderful scenery
struck him.

After he had sat a moment and listened to the chaffinch's spring
time song, which was interrupted by the gulls' and guillemots' caws
and shrieks, and he felt the solitude enwrap him like a slumber, and
when the birds for a moment were hushed and only the faint sea breeze
rustled in the birch tops without reaching farther down, he heard
unexpectedly a cough. He started and looked around but saw no trace of

The painful hollow sound from the chest of a human being in the midst
of this quiet nature awoke him suddenly and brought a disagreeable
feeling of loathing. Was it a lonely one like himself who sought
rest, or a nest plunderer? In either case he would free himself from
uneasiness, and find out who this was that disturbed him. Therefore he
climbed the rocky wall on natural steps in the limestone dyke and he
beheld now the third section of this polyp-like islet. Over a low stone
wall, apparently to protect the blooming field from grazing cattle,
he passed to a pine tree region on gneiss, walked under the branches,
trampled knee deep in ferns which formed an underbrush beneath the pine
trees and resembled dwarf palms but of fresher green and more elegant
foliage, while at their feet were seen the blushing strawberries.

When he came up out of the ravine he saw a cove with rushes where some
abandoned pole hooks were driven in the mud. He stopped to listen, and
soon he heard a voice which came from the other side of the knoll.
It rang high and soft as a child's and sank again so that he thought
it was some young yachtsman who had ventured out here. But the words
fell so passively, attractively, winningly, and invitingly, and he was
surprised to hear a boy expressing himself in so careful language. The
vocabulary was small and the language was that of ordinary conservation
in cultured society, but without force or diversity of expression,
and the objects spoken of were called by incorrect terms. The speaker
talked about the verdure of the trees without naming them, called the
mews gulls, the chaffinch a bird, gneiss granite and the bulrush a reed.

It might be a youth that insisted upon being heard and spoke so long
without allowing himself to be interrupted by the slow mumbling voice
of an old man, who every now and then muttered an objection or
information. Now the youthful voice laughed, a laughter without cause,
to judge from the conversation, a laughter to let the beautiful voice
be heard or show a set of white teeth, a laughter without merriment, a
succession of ringing sounds without other meaning than to jealously
divert the attention from something real, which would come between. A
signal, a bird call! There was no doubt, it was a young woman's voice.

He stepped unresistingly up onto the last knoll after having felt
of his necktie and hat, and he now saw beneath him a picture, whose
details ever after remained in his memory. On a little upland meadow,
under a group of old white beam trees around a white linen damask
tablecloth, in the center of which was a butter dish of Kolmord marble,
surrounded by the contents of a lunch basket, sat an old lady with
beautiful gray hair and a well fitting gown, and close beside her stood
a fisherman in his shirt sleeves with a sandwich in his hand, while
before him stood a young lady holding in her hand a glass of beer,
which she with a merry curtesy and the ripples of a dying laughter on
her lips, reached to the embarrassed boatman.

He was captivated at once by the young woman's looks, and although
his reflection at once whispered that she coquetted with the churl,
he felt an irresistible attraction in the dark olive complexion, the
black eyes, and the stately figure. It certainly was not the first
woman which had attracted him at once, but she belonged to that class
of women which never failed to attract him to them. The solitude and
absence of others was not the reason of the quick selection, because
he felt exactly the same as when he sought a color for a necktie and
after walking dejectedly from store to store without experiencing the
pleasant feeling that the article sought after would give, he finally
stopped before a show window where the right one was, and in the same
moment felt free from pressure as he quietly said to himself, this is
_the one_!

After having hesitated a moment whether to step forward and introduce
himself, or turn back, he made a movement which betrayed him. The girl
observed him first, her arms fell to her sides and she looked with the
expression of a frightened child at the unexpected appearance, which at
once gave the intruder courage to step forward and reassure the group
with an explanation.

Raising his hat with a low bow he stepped up to them.


Half an hour later the commissioner sat in the little company's
sailboat with his own dory in tow, he was already installed in the
position of guide to the two ladies, who had for their health sought
a resort for the summer on Fish Skerry and would consequently be
his neighbors. The conversation ran agreeably between the three new
acquaintances with a somewhat precipitate ardor to compete and show
their readiness and best side which is called forth in all who meet for
the first time. The one who made the least effort was the elderly lady,
who had introduced herself as mother of the young beauty. She seemed to
have reached a perfect harmony and resignation, worn off all corners
and was living in her memories and semi-indifferently regarding what
was going on around her, expecting nothing from others, prepared for
everything that life could offer her of good or ill and charming with
her even mild disposition.

An affinity had already arisen between the young man and the young
woman, and she seemed to enjoy receiving, and he, who had so long
waited to give, felt his powers growing now that the long-accumulated
surplus had found an outlet. And he gave for half an hour with lavish
hand from all he had stored of information that could be of interest
to them who were unacquainted with the conditions which would surround
them for awhile. He delineated all the resources of the skerry and its
deficiencies, depicted the life very alluringly as it at this moment
appeared to him to become, now when he was no longer alone. And the
young woman, who had never seen the skerry, received her first actual
impression of the same from his description. In imagination she saw
the red cottage where she was going to live with her mother, so neat
and cosy just as he wished that she would see it in order to feel at
home and tarry there. While he spoke it seemed to him as though he
received in return something good and strong, as though he heard new
thoughts, new points of view spoken by her lips which stood half open,
not as though to swallow what he reached her, but as though they spoke
themselves, and when her two big, faithful eyes looked admiringly
and surprisedly up to him he believed that all he said was true and
felt with rising esteem for himself new powers awakened, and old ones
growing in strength and tenacity. He felt so really thankful when the
boat touched land, just as after having received benefices when in
need, that he involuntarily thanked them heartily as he helped the
ladies out of the boat and carried their heavy valises on shore.

The young girl returned the politeness with "not at all," but as though
out of her treasures she had really given a trifle compared with what
she had in reserve.

When the commissioner had escorted the ladies to their new home which
turned out to be Oman's cottage, the young girl broke out into a flow
of rapture, being still under the influence of Borg's enchanting
description. The dilapidated house had something unusually picturesque
in its exterior, for there was not a single straight line. Storms, salt
water, frost and rain had destroyed every straight outline, and since
the mortar had fallen from the chimney it looked like a big tufa. Still
more agreeably surprising was the really homelike interior with its
old-fashioned comfort. The two rooms were located one on each side of
the hall, with a kitchen between them at the end; the best room was
spacious, with dark brown paper, which from smoke and age had assumed
a pleasing, quiet, even brown tone with which every color harmonized.
The low ceiling, which left no vacant space to be peopled by fancies,
showed the beams on which rested the attic floor. Two small windows,
with panes about half a foot square discolored by age, allowed a view
of the harbor and the sea, and the mass of light from outside was
pleasantly subdued by the white lace curtains which protected against
glances from outside without shutting out the daylight, and hung like
light summer clouds down over balsam and geraniums in English faience
mugs with Queen Victoria and Lord Nelson in yellow and green. The
furniture comprising a big white folding table, a Gustavian bedstead
on which were piled numerous eiderdown beds, a white painted wooden
sofa, a clock of Mora make that struck the hours, a bureau of birch
with its mirror frame veneered with the root of the alder, draped with
a bridal veil and loaded with porcelain knickknacks. On the bureau
stood a mounted parrot under a glass case, and on the wall hung colored
lithographic pictures from the Old Testament, among which the two
over the bed seemed to have been placed with questionable purpose,
one representing Samson and Delilah in a very unveiled delineation,
the other was Joseph and Potiphar's wife. In one corner was an open
fireplace which occupied considerable space and would have been
dreadful had not the black gap been covered by a white draw curtain.

It was homelike, idyllic and cleanly.

The other chamber was like the first, but had two beds and a commode;
the floor was covered with a rag carpet which with its variegated
colors formed an album of memories, from grandfather's jacket,
grandmother's blouse, mother's cotton gown and father's pilot uniform.
There were the red garters of the girls and the yellow gallows of the
land-wehr boys, blue bathing suits of the summer guests, beaver and
corduroy, cotton and baize, wool and crash, from all fashions and
wardrobes, poor men's and rich men's.

In this room stood a big white cupboard with fancy paintings on the
door panels, framed in ivy, wreaths painted with mosaic bronze,
wonderful small landscapes with dark blue coves, banks of rushes and
sailboats, trees of unknown species, from paradise or the carboniferous
age, turbulent seas with waves straight as furrows in a potato field,
a lighthouse like a column on a rocky ledge, everything as naïve as
a child's simple comprehension of rich nature's infinite variety of
shapes and colors, which only the highly trained eye can discern.

In all this old-fashioned simplicity lay the essential part of the cure
for a tired brain, which would seek rest in the past. The worn movement
of the watch would lay unwound awhile and let the spring be relieved
of tension to regain its spent powers. The association with the lower
classes which did not entice to battle for the morsel of power, but
themselves involuntarily every day and hour reminded those of the upper
class of their dearly earned position, would diminish the stimulus
and quiet those desirous of power by the thought that there already
existed passed by periods.

The commissioner had already prepared the minds of the visitors to
see and know all this, and neither of the ladies tired of expressing
their satisfaction with the new quarters and were so occupied by
investigating the location that they did not observe that their guide
had retreated to leave them undisturbed.

       *       *       *       *       *

The commissioner sat at his window on this Sunday afternoon and watched
the two ladies put things in order down in their cottage. When he
followed with his eyes their soft, but irregular movements, it was to
him as though he heard music. The same modulations that a series of
harmonizing tones develop on the ear drum and communicate to the nerve
system, the same mild vibrations were now produced through the eye, and
rang through the white strings which stretched from the cranium shell
out over the sounding board of the chest and transmitted the vibrations
through the foundation of his soul. A feeling of general pleasure
streamed through his being, when he saw these women's hands moving in
waving lines, as they picked trifles from their trunks and laid them on
the table and chairs, the rising and sinking of the hips and shoulders
imperceptible to the untrained eye, but still so elastic. And when the
young woman passed through the room, there arose no straight line, no
corners or edges when she turned, no angles when she bent over.

He was perfectly captivated in regarding this, so that for a moment he
did not notice the noise in the garret and the creaking of the stairs
and the raising of latches.

He was deeply occupied regarding the young lady whose exterior seemed
to him perfectly beautiful except in one point, which deficiency he
would try and accustom his eyes not to see. Her chin was a few lines
too big and indicated a lower jaw unnecessarily developed in one who
had ceased to catch, hold and tear uncooked meat, and when he saw it in
profile he could picture the coming witch physiognomy, when the time
came that the old woman's teeth loosened, the lips sunk and formed an
obtuse angle and the nose dropped down over the prominent chin. But he
must overcome this reminder of a beast of prey, and he pursued her face
with his glance and reshaped it in his fancy, forced his eyes when they
were fixed upon her face to see it in its entirety.

Now he heard footsteps and shouts down on the hill, and in a wild
rage Oman's wife appeared with a swarm of women, who were carrying in
triumph the rescued net down to the beach.

He instantly felt his authority infringed on, and taking his hat
went down to the surveyor to demand his help as he was in the Crown's
service and in duty bound to assist him.

In the room sat the custom house man at the coffee table, and as usual,
when Vestman was out fishing, he had his arm around the waist of his
sister-in-law. At the entrance of the commissioner he dropped his hold
and under influence of the fear of being discovered he showed a greater
officiousness than he otherwise would have done. He put on his uniform
cap and went out and in a hasty desire to be a just man he stormed
against the women and caught hold of the net.

"Damned old women, don't you know it is penitentiary to break the
Crown's lock and seal!"

The women answered in a chorus of imputations, which alluded to both
the commissioner and surveyor, the principal ones being that they did
not care and that the devil might take the Crown's lock and seal, and
that both gentlemen were of such characters that they could be put in
penitentiary at any time.

Whereupon the surveyor became enraged and cried to a subordinate to
bring the sheriff.

At the word sheriff the people gathered, crawled out of every hole and
corner like ants, when one scratches in an ant-hill.

The people seemed ready at once to take part with the women,
threatening words were uttered. The commissioner found it time for
him to interfere to avoid coming under a subordinate's protection.
Therefore he went up to the crowd and asked what they wanted.

But he received no answer, and turning to the women he spoke to them in
a polite but stern manner, saying:

"As I before informed you, the Reichstag or your own elected
representatives decided for the sake of your children and descendants
that the fishing must be protected through prohibiting the use of such
implements as spoil it without bringing you any advantage, and when you
have had three years to wear out your old nets, but are still making
new ones against the law, I have in the name of the Crown been forced
to confiscate the unlawful implements. Nevertheless and in spite of
the statute law you have broken the Crown's lock and seal, which can
be punished with penitentiary. Still I will use clemency instead of
justice if you comply and obey, therefore I ask you for the last time,
if you will willingly give back the nets."

To this the women answered with new shriek and a new shower of epithets.

"Well," finished the commissioner, "as I am not a policeman, and you
are the multitude, I beg the custom house surveyor to send for the
sheriff and his assistants and at the same time I will solicit an
order from the provincial governor to arrest Oman's wife."

As he spoke the last word, he felt two soft, warm hands grasp his right
hand, and two big childish eyes looked into his, while a falling voice
like that of a mother who begged for the life of her child, said:

"In the name of Heaven have compassion on a poor unhappy woman and
don't do her any ill;" it was the supplication of the young girl who
had at the beginning of the scene come out of the cottage.

The commissioner would free himself and turned away from the big eyes,
whose glance he could not endure, but he felt his hand clasped harder
and finally pressed against a soft bosom, heard words in melting tones,
and, completely vanquished, he whispered to the beauty, "Let me go and
I will drop the whole affair."

The girl loosened her hold, and the commissioner who made his plan
in half a minute caught the surveyor by his arm and led him up to
the custom house cottage, just as though he would give him some
orders. When they reached the door, the commissioner said shortly and
decisively as though he had come to a new conclusion.

"I shall communicate with the provincial governor myself in writing.
However, I thank you for your assistance."

Thereupon he went up to his room.

When he was alone and had collected his thoughts, he was obliged to
acknowledge that his last act had been dictated by lower motives, as
his sexual impulses had prevailed to such a high degree that he had
been fooled into an act contrary to the law, for one could not speak
of pity, for people who were comparatively well off, as they were
owners of houses, fishing grounds, boats and implements valued at many
hundreds of dollars, also owners of seal rookeries and bird islets,
and, besides, paid taxes on capital and a few small places that they
rented out. The false idea that a woman had vanquished him, however,
did not hold a place in his thoughts, for he knew very well, conscious
as he was in all points that he had fallen by his own propensity or
interest to gain something from this woman. But before the throng of
people his authority was ended, his reputation shaken and hereafter
there would not be an old woman or a boy but felt themselves above him.
This, to be sure, might be immaterial for it made no difference to
him whether he had power or not over these poor wretches. What seemed
worse to him was that this woman whom he now felt he must be bound to
in order to be happy, should from the first moment inure herself in the
belief that she had gained a conquest of him and thus the equilibrium
in a future union would be disturbed.

He had had many fancies for and engagements with women before, but his
distinct consciousness of man's superiority over the intermediate form
between man and child, which is called woman, had made it impossible
for him to conceal it long, and therefore his engagements had had but
short duration. He would be loved by a woman, who should look up to
him as the stronger, he would be the adored, not the adorer, he would
be the main trunk on which the frail shoot should be grafted, but he
was born at a period which was full of spiritual pestilence, when
womankind was devastated by an epidemic mania for greatness, produced
by degenerated, sickly men, and by political pygmies, who were in need
of the masses to vote. Therefore he had been obliged to live alone.
Well he knew that in love, man must give, must let himself be fooled
and that the only way to approach a woman was on all fours. And he had
crawled at intervals, and as long as he crawled everything had gone
well, but when he had finally straightened up, that was the end of it,
always with a multitude of reproaches that he had been false, that he
had dissembled submission, that he had never loved, and so on.

Moreover, as a possessor of the highest intellectual enjoyments, and
feeling himself an exceptional being, he had not harbored a lively
desire after the lower affections, never desired to be the supporter
of a parasite, never longed to feed competitors, and his stronger self
had rebelled against being the instrument of propagation for a woman's
lineage, the rôle he had seen most men of his age play.

But now he stood in just such a dilemma again, to assimilate a woman by
allowing himself to be assimilated. To dissemble or let his exterior
express what he did not feel, he could not, but he had a great ability
for adapting himself to his associations, and comprehending other
people's way of thinking and suffering, for he had never found in
the lives of others anything but past stages that he himself had
lived through, and consequently he had only to draw from memory or
experience, letting go his hold, and diminishing the tension onward. He
had always found pleasure in woman's company as a rest and diversion on
exactly the same ground and from the same reason that keeping company
with children makes one grow younger and is a strengthening amusement,
when it is not continued too long or becomes an effort.

Now he had felt the desire growing in him to own this woman, but
notwithstanding he was an investigator and knew that man was a mammal,
it was perfectly clear to him that human love had developed as
everything else, and has taken up the elements of a higher spiritual
quality without leaving the sensual foundation. He knew precisely
how much of unsound heavenliness sneaked in with the reaction of
Christianity against the purely brutish, should be eliminated, and
he did not believe in a primness which conceded matters that could
not be shown, just as little as he admitted that the only purpose of
the conjugal state was the bedfellowship. He wished for an intimate,
complete union as to body and soul, where he as the stronger acid
would neutralize the passive base, but not as in chemistry form a new
neutral body, but, on the contrary, would leave a surplus of free acid,
which would always give the union its character and lie in readiness
to neutralize any attempt of the combination to liberate itself, for
human love was not a chemical union, but a physical and organic, which
resembled the former in certain respects without being identical
with the same. He did not expect any augmentation of his own self,
no addition to his strength, only an increase of his vitality, and
instead of searching for a support he offered himself as a support to
learn his strength and feel the enjoyment of measuring out his power,
strewing with open hands his soul without being weakened thereby or
made destitute.

During these thoughts he glanced out of the window and saw at once what
he sought, for the young girl was standing on the door stoop receiving
hand shakings from women and men, patting the children on their heads
and seemed overcome by feelings, which so much public sympathy had

"What a peculiar sympathy for criminals," thought the commissioner;
"what a love for the mentally poor! And how well they understood each
other's propensities, which they boasted of as feelings and which they
believed to be something more than clear, mature thoughts."

The whole scene was such a tangle of absurdities, that it could not be
cleared, reflecting the chaotic in the first weak attempt at reasoning,
by these brains and spinal cords.

There stood she who had fooled him into violating the law, and received
worship like an angel. Even now if his violation of the law was from
their point of view a fine noble action, then he who gave pardon
instead of justice ought to have the thanks. The opinion of the horde
was that he should not, for they well knew that the motive for his
action was not kindness towards them, but perhaps tender feelings for a
young girl, gallantry, or the hope of winning her. Yes, but the motive
for her appearance might then be to gain the good will of the crowd, to
become beloved and popular, and receive hand shakes; the horde here
played the same role as the society of the ballroom, the promenaders on
the street or in the square. And she had fooled him through personal
contact, innocently, perhaps, possibly with calculations, probably half
of each, to commit a weak action, for which she was worshiped.

But now he must win her, therefore he pocketed all of his reflections;
he saw in an instant that through this medium he could pass his ideas
and schemes down to the horde, that through this conductor he could
move the masses and force upon them his benefactions, make them his
vassals, and that he could afterwards sit and smile like a God at their
foolishness, when they believed that they themselves had created their
happiness, but were only pregnant with his thoughts, his schemes, were
eating the dregs from his great brewage, the strong malt drink which
would never reach their lips. For what did he care if these deserted
skerries supported a half starving, superfluous population or not. What
compassion could he feel for his natural enemies who represented the
inert mass, that had lain smothering his life, impeding his growth, who
were themselves lacking in every trace of pity for each other, and who
with the fury of wild beasts persecuted their benefactors whose only
revenge was new benedictions.

It would be his great and strong enjoyment to sit unobserved, regarded
as an idiot, and guide these peoples' fates, while they believed that
they had subdued him, cut off his connections, tied his hands. He would
strike them with blindness, pervert the vision of the fools, that they
should believe themselves to be his superiors and he their servant.

While these thoughts gathered and grew into a strong decision, there
was a knock at the door, and at the Commissioner's "come in," the
surveyor appeared to deliver an invitation to tea from the ladies.

The commissioner accepted it, and sent his thanks.

After he had arranged his toilet and thought over what to say and what
not to say, he went down.

On the porch he was met by Miss Mary, who with an excessive warmth took
his hands and pressed them, saying with emotion: "Thanks for what you
did for the poor woman! It was noble, it was grand!"

"No, madam, it was neither," replied the commissioner hastily; "for on
my side it was a bad action which I regret and it was dictated only
from politeness to you."

"You malign yourself from pure politeness, and I should appreciate much
more a little sincerity," replied the lady, and at the same moment the
mother appeared.

"Oh! You are a good child," interrupted the mother in a tone of the
most immovable conviction, and bade the commissioner step into the best
room where tea was ready to serve.

To avoid engaging in an endless conversation he went in. He saw at a
glance how the plain furniture of the fisherman's cottage had been
mixed with remnants of worn city luxury. On the bureau had been placed
alabaster vases yellowish from age, photographs in the windows between
the flowers; on one side of the fireplace stood an arm chair with
figured cretonne and brass tacks, a few books on a center table round a
parlor lamp.

It was neatly arranged, but with a careful mathematical exactness,
everything symmetrical but still a little awry and askance where it
was intended to be straight. The tea set of old Saxony china with
gold edges and cherry red monograms was cracked here and there and
the teapot cover had been mended with clasps. After he had studied
the portrait of the deceased father of the family without daring to
ask what position he had held, he saw that he had been a government
official, and he understood that here was _pauvres honteux_. In further
looking around the room, he noticed a knapsack left under a table and
bearing a tag which indicated that the old lady was the widow of a
councilor of the exchequer.

At first the conversation touched the objects that presented themselves
to the eyes, and then passed on to the event of the day, coming
finally to the people. The commissioner saw at once that the ladies
were interested in the affairs of other people and lived in a morbid
uneasiness for the welfare of the lower classes. As he had observed
that his sincerity had offended and the purpose of his visit was not
to hurt their feelings by giving them his ideas, he laid to and let
himself drift. Sometimes his resentment was aroused and he would
venture a little remark or information, but he felt at once as though
soft hands were placed on his mouth, and round arms wound about his
neck, so that the words were smothered. Besides, the views here were
so rooted, everything so fixed, and all questions settled, that they
only smiled in a friendly way, with mild forbearings, when they read
a doubt in him regarding their axioms. Then the conversation turned
to the moral and spiritual condition of the population, and here the
commissioner perfectly agreed with them. He delineated with fervor the
rudeness of the forenoon with its drunkenness and fray, pitying the
want of enlightenment, and finally narrating scenes which betrayed
complete paganism. He spoke of how the fishermen cast offerings on
stones, loaded their guns with lead from church windows, how they
talked about Thor's bucks when it thundered, and of Oden's wild hunt
when the gray geese came in the spring, and how those on the inner
islands let the magpies destroy the chickens for the people did not
dare to tear down the nests from fear of unknown avengers.

"Yes," completed the old lady, "it isn't their fault, and if they were
not so far from the church, it would be entirely different."

Thither the commissioner's thoughts had not gone, but in an instant he
saw what a great power he would get as an ally, and developing the seed
of thought he had got in the morning from observing the divine service
on board the navy steamer, he burst out with real rapture:

"Well, but one can build a meeting house at small cost. Just think of
it, if I should address a letter to the Home Mission Institute."

The ladies embraced the subject with the greatest ardor and promised
themselves to write to that institution and some societies and
projected a fair, but recollected that here was no dancing public.

The commissioner removed all difficulties by offering to advance the
money and provide the building, which could be bought ready made at
the factory, if the ladies would only find a preacher. "Yet," added
he, "one ought to select for this place now at the beginning, one of
the stern kind, who can lay hold of the people and produce a revival
movement of the most earnest nature, for no half measures will do here."

The ladies made mild objections and recommended charitable means, but
the commissioner showed, how fear was the elementary foundation on
which to build a first education; afterwards one could come with love.

A great common interest had welded these souls together, while
they overheated themselves at the great fire of love, and worked
themselves up to an overflowing omni-benevolence towards every living
thing, pressed each other's hands and separated with blessings and
congratulations that fate had brought together three good people, who
would work unanimously for the good of humanity.

When the commissioner came out, he shook himself, as though to clear
off some dust, and felt as when he had visited a flour mill, and taken
delight in seeing all objects coated with the soft, white tone of
flour, which harmonized Iron, wood, linen and glass in one accord, and
the same feeling of subdued pleasure as in touching locks, banisters
and sacks powdered with a soft dust of flour, but had at the same
time found it hard to breathe, obliged to cough and to take out a

Nevertheless it had been a pleasant evening. This imperceptible
radiation of warmth from the mother which thawed the frigid thoughts,
this atmosphere of cordiality and childishness in the young woman,
which made him grow young again, this childish belief in that which
in his youth was the naïve idea of the day to lift up that which
was cast down, to protect what was dwarfed, sick and frail, all of
which he now knew was directly against everything that could promote
humanity's happiness and increase, and which he hated from instinct,
when he saw how all strength, every burst of originality was persecuted
by the unfortunate. And now he would form an alliance with them
against himself, work to his own destruction, lower himself to their
level, dissemble feeling for the enemy, bestow the war cash on the
antagonists. The thought of the enjoyment these proofs of power would
give intoxicated him, and he turned his footsteps towards the beach
that in the solitude he might recall himself. And when he now in the
still, mild summer night wandered on the sand, where he recognized
his own footsteps from previous days, where he knew every stone and
could tell where this or that herb grew, he noticed that everything
looked differently, had assumed a new form and gave entirely different
impressions than when he had walked there the day before. A change had
occurred, something new had intervened. He could no longer evolve the
great feeling of solitude, where he had felt as though alone before
nature and humanity, for somebody stood at his side or behind him. The
isolation was abolished, and he was soldered to the little banal life,
threads had been spun round his soul, considerations began to bind
his thoughts, and the cowardly fear of harboring other thoughts than
those his friends harbored clutched him. To build happiness on a false
foundation he dared not, for if he had it all hewn even to the ridge
pole it might sometime tumble, and then the fall would be greater, the
grief deeper, and still it must come to pass if he would own her, and
that he would do with all the mighty power of a mature man. Lift her
up to him? But how to do it? Not that he could make her from woman to
man, or redeem her from the uncurable propensities her sex had given
her. Not that he could give her his own education which had taken him
thirty years to acquire, nor could he give her the same evolution he
had passed through, the experiences and the knowledge he had battled
for and won. Therefore he must sink down to her, but the thought of
this sinking tormented him as the greatest possible evil, as sinking,
going down, beginning over again, which besides was impossible. It only
remained for him to make himself double, split himself in two, create
a personality, intelligible and easy of access to her, play the duped
lover, learn to admire her inferiority, get used to a role as she liked
to have it, and so in silence live the other half of his life in secret
and to himself, sleep with one eye and keep the other open.

He had mounted the skerry without observing it. And now he saw the
lights down in the fishing village and heard wild shrieks, the cries
of jubilee over the beaten foe, who would raise their children and
their children's children from poverty, save them labor, give them
new enjoyments. Once again there awoke in him the desire to see these
savages tamed, to see these worshipers of Thor kneeling for the white
Christ, the giants falling before the pale Asas. The barbarian must
pass through Christianity as a purgatory, learn veneration for the
power of the spirit in the frail bundles of muscles, the remainder of
the wandering tribes must have their middle age before they can reach
the renaissance of thinking and revolution of action.

Here should the chapel be raised on the highest ridge of the skerry
and its little spire point upwards over the look-out and flag pole to
greet the sailors at long distance as a reminder of.... Here he stopped
and reflected. With a look of scorn on his pale face, he bent over and
picked up four gneiss scales, which he laid in a rectangle from east
to west, after having measured thirty steps in length and twenty in

"What an excellent landmark for the sailors!" he thought as he
descended the hill and went home to bed.


The commissioner had confined himself to his room two days to work,
and when on the morning of the third day he went out for a stroll on
the beach, he met by chance the widow of the deceased officer of the
exchequer. She had an anxious look, and when the commissioner inquired
after her daughter's health, he learned that she was indisposed.

"It is lack of entertainment," said he at random.

"Yes, but what shall one do in this solitude?" responded the anxious

"The lady must go out to sea, fishing and yachting and get exercise,"
prescribed he without thinking of what he said.

"Oh, yes," continued the mother; "but my poor Mary cannot go alone."

As there was only one reply, he answered:

"If it would please the ladies to have my company I shall be glad to be
of service to you."

The mother found him very good and accepted the offer, saying that she
would at once tell Mary to dress.

The commissioner went down to the harbor to outfit the boat, and on the
way his steps began to falter, as though going down hill, where the
weight pushed him faster than he would go. He felt reluctant at having
been so suddenly put in motion by an outside power, before he had had
time for deliberation, and now he would make resistance but could not.
It was too late and he let himself drift, conscious that nevertheless
he would always tend the rudder and determine the course.

He had hoisted the jib on his Bleking boat, shipped the rudder and
loosened the bowline ready to be cast off, when Mademoiselle and her
mother appeared on the beach. The girl was dressed in an ultra-marine
blue gown with white trimmings and wore a blue scotch woolen cap which
was very becoming and gave her something of a boyish, brisk expression,
totally unlike the angelic one she had shown a few days before.

As the commissioner greeted her and asked after her health, he offered
his hand to help them on board. The girl took the outstretched hand
and with a light bound was in the boat, where she was placed in the
stern at the tiller, but when afterwards the same hand was reached to
the mother, she explained that she could not accompany them as she
must prepare the dinner. The commissioner, who was suddenly surprised,
felt again the desire to make resistance against this soft power
which led him where he would not go, but was kept from doing so by the
fear of seeming ill-bred; so after a short regret that he must spare
the agreeable company of the mother, he threw off the bowline and
commanding Miss Mary to throw over the tiller, he put the main sheet in
her hand and hoisted the sail.

"But I cannot manage a boat," cried the girl; "I have never had my hand
on a tiller!"

"It is no art! Do only as I tell you and you will at once be able to
navigate a boat," replied the commissioner as he placed himself in
front of the girl and helped her with the maneuvering.

A light soft breeze was blowing and the boat glided out of the harbor
with the wind abeam.

The commissioner held the jib sheet and began by instructing the
beautiful navigator, grasping every now and then her wrists and
pressing the tiller to windward, until they were clear of land, had
speedway and were lying on the tack they were to keep to until they
reached the skerries.

The responsibility, the effort and the feeling of controlling the boat
which held two lives, awoke the numb powers in the woman's frail form,
and her eyes which attentively followed the position of the sails were
glowing with courage and reliance, when she saw how the boat obeyed
the slightest pressure of the hand. If she committed a fault, he
corrected it with a kind word, gave her courage to continue by praising
her watchfulness, removed difficulties through explaining the whole
proceeding as something that clears itself.

She was radiant with happiness, and commenced to talk of the past, of
her thirty-four years of life, how she had believed life and the desire
of living was past, how she felt herself young again, how she had
always dreamed of a life of activity, of manly activity above all else,
and to devote her powers to humanity, to others. She knew that she as a
woman was a pariah....

The commissioner listened to the whole as to well-known secrets,
formulas of an absurd struggle to make that equal which nature had
made purposely as unequal as possible, to spare humanity labor, but
to answer this now he regarded as without reward and he stuck to his
role as an appreciative listener, allowing her to give vent to her
diseased imaginations which the fresh wind would blow away. Instead
of taking out a knife and cutting off the tangled skeins which her
confused thoughts offered to him, he would simply pretend not to notice
them, but tuck them under and through gathering impressions which he
purposely developed, wind on the old tangles and use them as bobbins,
which should only serve as an underlayer for the new yarn, spun out
from his rich distaff.

In haste he improvised a scheme, how using the material which the
skerries afforded for object lessons, he would in living pictures,
without her observing it, in a few hours let her pass through
sensations which she should believe came from without, and in such a
manner he would smuggle his soul's net over her, and tune her strings
in harmony to his instrument. With a movement of the head he now
signified that the boat should tack, he slacked the sheet a little, and
the boat cleared land and dashed out on the open sea. The wide horizon,
the infinite sea of light where no object intervened, threw a light
over her beautiful face, the small lineaments were as magnified, half
perceptible wrinkles were smoothed out, the whole expression assumed
the character of freedom from daily cares, paltry thoughts, and the eye
that in one moment could overlook such a big part of the earth's body
seemed to see on a grand scale, so that the little self swelled and
felt its relative power, and when now the long sea waves slowly raised
and lowered the boat in powerful rhythm, he saw how transport was mixed
with a grain of fear, which kept it in check.

The commissioner, who observed that the grand scenery did not fail in
its impression, concluded now to place the text under the frail music
of the swells of the senses, and guide her dawning thoughts out on the
great highway, he would loosen the tegument on the swelling seed, so
that the plantlet would push out.

"It has the effect of a planet!" improvised he. "The earth, the banal,
the tiresome, the moldy, becomes a celestial body. Do we not feel as
though we were already participants of heaven, when the opposition
is dissolved, the false opposition between heaven and earth, which
are one, like the part and the whole. Don't you observe how you grow
instead of shrink when you outwit the wind and make it take you to the
right when it wants to go to the left? Don't you feel what great power
is within you, as you ride upon a wave, when it with a thousand pounds
of weight would press you down into its depth? He, who is supposed to
have created the wings of the birds, and who needed fifty thousand
years to make a flyer out of a creeper, was less quick than he who for
the first time put canvas on a pole and instantly invented navigation.

"Is it then so strange if man created God out of his own image,
conceiving from his ingenuity one still more ingenious?"

The girl having listened attentively to his effusion, regarded his
face uninterruptedly as if she had turned her own towards a fire to
warm it. The unusual words she heard seemed to have sunk into her
mind and acted as a leaven. Benumbed, lulled by the soft, persuading
intonation, she received without deliberation the new views he gave to
her previously lifeless and monotonous landscape, of the origin of life
and its meaning, and without seeing that her own religious conviction
was buried before dissolution, she took up the new and piled it upon
the old.

"I never before heard anyone speak as you do," she said dreamily;
"speak more!"

He kept silent and with a new motion he gave the boat another course.

They approached Svartbodan's sinister volcanic formation. The black
sparkling diorite with its death-white landmark, called "the white
mare," looked still more strikingly awful in the sun's rays, which in
vain tried to lighten the extreme tones of its black and white.

A cloud passed over the girl's face, her expression shrunk, the
eyebrows contracted in rolls as though they would drop down and shut
out the depressing picture. A visible movement on the tiller signified
that she would fall off from the skerry, but he gave the boat its
course forwards, and with the wind's compressed power sped it into
the ravine between the black cliffs where the sighing waves sucked it

It became silent in the boat, and the commissioner would not try to
guess at the gloomy recollection that awoke in his companion, but
limited himself to pointing to the bleached white skeleton of a long
tailed duck, which was still left on the black ledge.

And the wind took the sails again, filled them and wafted the boat out
onto the open sea.

They passed the rock with its single mountain ash and its wagtail and
approached Sword Island where he for the first time had seen her.
There they landed and he guided her the same way that he had passed
that Sunday morning, and let her receive the same impressions that he
had felt, led her down into the blooming field and showed her where,
looking between the wild buckthorns, he had seen her for the first time.

She was now in a wanton mood because all these small observations, even
the details of the circumstances, had remained in his memory and must
signify that he was smitten. She laughed when he spoke of the first
time he had heard her cough, and in a playful humor she told him to go
down to the same place and speak and she would guess who it was that

He obeyed, and jumping down from the rocky footstool placed himself
behind the white beam trees and imitated the bellowing of a bull.

"Nay, how beautiful he can sing," joked the girl. "It is surely a
Hottentot actor."

The commissioner, who found pleasure in her childishness and had
not played with children for many years, continued the role and
stepping out on the green field with his coat turned inside out
and the lorgnette hanging on one ear, he improvised a savage dance
accompanied by a song that he had heard Hottentots sing in the Jardin

The girl seemed both surprised and amused.

"Do you know," said she, "I much prefer you like that when I see that
you can be human for a moment and put aside that philosophical face?"

"Is a Hottentot then more of a human being in your eyes than a
philosopher?" let fall the commissioner, but at once regretting that
he had aroused her to consciousness, he broke a branch from the white
beam tree, and wove a wreath and gave it to the girl who had become
sober when she saw she had betrayed herself by committing such extreme

"Now you shall wreathe the victim, Miss Mary," said the commissioner as
a cover. "I wish instead of one I were a hundred and permitted to go as
a hecatomb to the slaughter for you."

Kneeling he received the wreath from the pacified beauty, whereupon he
started on a run towards the beach with the girl after him.

Down at the water's edge they stopped.

"Shall we throw skipping stones?" proposed she.

"If you please," answered he and selected a flat stone.

They threw stones out over the water a few moments until they became

"Shall we take a bath?" suddenly exclaimed the girl, as if she had for
a long time hatched the thought which must now come out.

The commissioner did not know where He was, whether it was a joke or a
project coming in earnest, with the mental reservation of keeping on
part of the clothing, or for one of the parties to withdraw.

"You take a bath and I will go on farther," he found this the only
thing to answer.

"Don't you bathe then?" asked the girl.

"No, I have no bathing suit with me," answered the commissioner; "and
besides, I do not bathe in cold water."

"Ha, ha, ha!" rang a cold, disagreeable, scornful laugh from the girl's
throat. "You, afraid of cold water," sneered she; "perhaps you cannot

"Cold water is too coarse for my fine nerves. If you will take a cold
bath here I will go to the northern point and take a warm one."

The girl had already pushed off her shoes and throwing a look of
disdain and injured vanity at him, she said:

"I suppose you cannot see me from there?"

"Not unless you swim out too far," answered the commissioner and went

When he had reached the northern slope of the islet, he searched for
a cleft in the rock, which was protected from the northern wind by a
rocky wall about fifty feet high. The black hornblende gneiss was as
polished as agate by the waves and curved in frail delicate rolls which
resembled the muscles of the human body and clung to the bare feet soft
as a bolster. No breath of wind reached here, and the sun had burned
six hours against the dark ledge so that the air was heated several
degrees above body temperature, and the stones almost burned beneath
his feet. He had been down to the boat and brought an ax with which he
now cut oft the driest heath and sand oats and made up a blazing fire
on the rock; in the meantime he undressed. When the fire had quickly
burned out he swept the ledge clean as a baker's oven, and with a
bailer poured the crystal sea water over the heated stones and let the
vapors lap his nude body. Then he placed himself in one of the arm
chairs which the sea had sculptured from the cliffs, wrapped a blanket
round him and with his knees crouched under his chin shut his eyes and
seemed to fall asleep. But he did not sleep; he used this method as
he called it to wind himself up and for a few moments let his brain
rest and resume its elasticity. For it was too much of an effort to
fit himself into companionship with the confused thoughts of others.
His mechanism of thought suffered by contact with others, so that it
wavered and became unreliable as the compass needle in the presence
of iron. Each time he would think clearly about something or form a
conclusion, he placed his soul in harmonious numbness by a warm bath,
extinguished consciousness in a half slumber for a brief moment by
not thinking, during which time all the received observation material
seemed to become melted, and afterwards when he extinguished the fire
and awoke himself to consciousness the alloy welled up.

When he had sat a moment and the sun had warmed him through, he
suddenly arose and stood as though awakened after having slept a whole
night. His thoughts labored again, and he looked happy, just as though
he had solved a problem.

"She is thirty-four years," he thought; "this I had forgotten under the
impression of her youthful beauty, therefore this chaos of past stages,
these parts of roles she has successively played in life, this mass of
shifting reflexes from men that she had tried to win and fit herself
to. Now lately she must have been wrecked in some love affair. _He_,
who had held together all these rag pieces of a soul, had turned aside,
the sack had rent and now the whole thing lay as a pile of ragpicker's
rubbish. She had shown sample pieces of the romantic parsonage of 1850
with a regurgitation from the beginning of the century for saving
humanity, zealous faith from 'The Dove's Voice,' and 'The Pietist's'
streams of conjuncture, cynicisms from George Sand and the androgynal
period. To search the bottom of this sieve through which so many soups
had passed, to solve the enigma which was not one, he was too prudent
to spend time on. Here only remained to pick out of the heap of bones
that which was suitable to form the skeleton, which he would afterwards
cover with living flesh and blow his breath into. But this she must not
observe for then she would not permit it. She must never see how she
was held by him for that would only raise hate and resistance. He would
grow underneath the ground as the rhizome, and graft her on himself
that she would shoot up, show herself to the world and bear the flower
which humanity should admire."

Now he heard the mew's cry and understood that she had swam out from
shore. Therefore he dressed quickly and after he had gathered up his
belongings he took from under the sheets of the boat material for a
small breakfast and laid it out on the moss under an arborescent pine
which resembled an Italian stone pine.

There was not a great variety, but everything was costly, choice
and served on the remnants of a collection of porcelain which he
at one time had begun to gather. The butter shone egg yellow in a
serpentine dish with screw cover that stood in a fragment of Henry
II faience filled with ice, the crackers lay on a lattice-braided
dish of Marieberg and the sardels were on a saucer of blue mottled
Nevers. Fear of the general banality breaking forth in arts, industry
and daily life, had urged the owner to the modern search after the
unusual, the dreadful triviality of the present age and its hate of
originality had forced him like so many others into superrefinement
to try to save his personality from being ground among the bowlders
in the big glacial flow. His finely developed senses did not search
after frugal beauty in shape and color, which so easily grows old; he
would see history and memories of exploits from the world in that which
surrounded him. This fragment of Henry II faience, with its cream white
pipe-clay incrusted with red, black and yellow, aroused memories of
the beautiful Loire landscape with its renaissance castles, while its
ornamental bookbinding style reminded of Madame Hélène de Genlis and
her librarian, who together with a potter pressed out a style, purely
personal, which still could not escape the coloring of the century of
chivalry, when beauty in life was venerated and even the trade was
subordinate to science and art, realizing the advantageousness of a
system of intellectual rank.

When he had spread breakfast and looked at his work it was to him as
though he had placed a piece of culture up here in this semi-arctic
wilderness, sardels from Brittany, chestnuts from Andalusia, caviare
from Volga, cheese from the Gruyère alps, wurst from Thuringia,
crackers from Britain and oranges from Asia Minor. There was a flask in
basket work of Chianti wine from Tuscany to be served in goblets with
Frederick I's monogram in gold. All were topsy-turvy without a savor of
collector or museum; there were slight touches of color thrown in here
and there, like flowers pressed as souvenirs between the leaves of a
guide book but not in a herbarium.

Now hearing the voice of the girl cry from her bathing place a halloo,
he answered, and immediately she stepped out of the shrubs, straight,
brisk and radiating with health and the joy of living. When she saw
the breakfast spread she raised her cap jokingly with a bow, impressed
against her will by the aristocratic in the arrangement.

"You are a wizard," said she; "permit me to bow!"

"Not for so little," answered the commissioner.

"Yes, you indicate that you can do more, but to rule nature as you
lately chattered about, that will be beyond you," opposed the girl in
a superior motherly tone.

"My lady! I did not express myself so categorically; I only reminded
you that we have partly learned how to subdue the powers of nature,
by which we are partly controlled--observe the little important word
partly--and that it is in our power to both change a landscape's
character and the whole soul life of its inhabitants."

"Good! Conjure up an Italian landscape, with marble cottages and stone
pines, out of this dreadful granite _paysage_!"

"I am certainly no juggler, but if you challenge me I promise you by
your birthday, in three weeks to transform this fresh piece of nature,
whose equal you may search after through all Europe, to a treeless,
scorched cabbage landscape to your taste."

"Well! Let us wager! And if after three weeks I lose, what then?"

"Then I win--but what?"

"We will see then!"

"We will see! But will you attend to my duty during that time?"

"Your duty! What is that? To lie on the sofa and smoke cigarettes?"

"Yes, if you can as I attend to my duty on the sofa,--with pleasure.
But you cannot do that and now you shall learn the reason and meaning
of my stay on this skerry! But first take a glass of wine with your

He poured a glass of the dark red Chianti wine and passed it to the
girl who emptied it at a draught.

"You know," began the commissioner, "that my official commission here
at this fishing port is to teach the population how to fish."

"It must be a nice one, you who brag that you have never had a tackle
in your hand."

"Don't interrupt me--I shall not teach them how to fish with tackle.
You see, things are thus, that these lingerers are conservative as all

"What language is this?" interrupted the girl again.

"Plain language! However! From indiscretion and conservatism these
aboriginals go on undermining their own interests as fish eating
mammals, and therefore the state must place them under guardians. The
stromling--God bless the fish!--that constitutes the most important
livelihood of these autochthones, threatens to come to an end.
Certainly I don't care at all, if a few hundred ichthyophageus more
or less increase or diminish a superfluous horde of people, it is
completely Immaterial. But now they shall live since the Academy of
Agriculture wishes it, and therefore I shall hinder them from fishing
their scanty supply. Is this acknowledged logic?"

"It is inhuman, but you are made of material for a hangman!"

"For this reason I have on my own accord, without asking for the
decoration of Vasa or any kind of thanks, found out a new means of
sustenance which shall replace the old, for even if the stromling
should shoal for half a man's age after the fishermen have emigrated,
still this means of sustenance is threatened by a competition, which
after a hundred years of rest has again arisen more formidable than
ever. Do you know that the herring will return to the coast of Bohus in
the fall?"

"No, I haven't had any letter from them for a long time!"

"They do so at any rate. Therefore we must stop the stromling fishing
and fish for salmon instead."

"Salmon? In the depth of the sea?"

"Yes! It shall be found there, although I haven't seen it. Yet you
shall find it out!"

"But if it isn't there?"

"I told you that it was there! You shall only catch the first one and
then salmon fishing is open."

"But how do you know salmon exists when you haven't seen it?" argued
the girl.

"By a mass of investigations too complicated to explain in
conversation, partly done at sea....

"Only once!"

"I work as quickly as twenty, thanks to my superior
intelligence--partly on my sofa but mostly in books. Anyway, will you
insist to destroy the people, first with salmon and afterwards with a
mission house which you have forgotten?"

"You are a demon, a devil!" exclaimed the girl between scorn and

The commissioner, who only from a caprice had turned into skepticism,
and now saw that just this made the most impression, found it best to
continue this role.

"Surely you do not believe in God?" asked the girl with an air, as
though she would eternally despise him if he answered in the negative.

"No, I do not."

"And you would be an Ansgarius and introduce Christianity on the

"And the salmon! Yes, I will be a demoniac Ansgarius! But will you
also let down the salmon trawl and be blessed by the revisors of the

"Yes, I shall work for these people whom I believe in, I shall devote
my feeble powers for the oppressed, and I shall show you that you are a
blasé, a roué and a scorner.... No, you are not, but you make yourself
out worse than you are for you are a good child anyway, I saw that last

She said a good child, as if with a sure calculation that he would snap
at the bait, and place himself under her care as the child, no matter
whether a good or bad one. But now he had already formed a fancy for
the demon as being superior and more interesting, therefore he held to
the more grateful task. Surely he knew from experience that the easiest
way to insinuate oneself into a woman's favor was to let her play the
mother with all the freedom changed to intimacy, but it was a worn-out
play and could so easily lead to an inextirpable hectoring on her part.
Better then to give her the more grateful part of a redeemer, where
nothing that was absolutely superior entered, only the mother of God's
intervening purpose, where she was mediator between two equally strong

But the transition was not easily found, and in a moment of loathing
at the whole play, which was still necessary if he would win her, and
that he would, he pretended to go down and see if the boat was safely
moored, as a breeze was beginning to blow.

Upon reaching the beach he drew a long breath as though he had been
exerting himself beyond his strength. He unbuttoned his vest as though
he had been wearing a coat of iron, and cooling his head he threw a
longing glance out over the free water. Now he would have given much
to have been alone, to shake off the chaff which had fallen upon his
soul during his contact with a lower spirit. In this moment he hated
her, would be free from her, own himself again, but it was too late!
Cobwebs had fastened to his face, soft as silk, slimy, invisible and
impossible to remove. At the same time--when he turned back and saw her
as she sat peeling a chestnut with her long fingers and sharp teeth--he
was reminded of a mandrill he had seen in a menagerie, and was seized
with an infinite compassion, and a wave of sadness, such as the more
fortunate feels when he looks upon the lowly. He immediately thought
of her delight at seeing him as a Hottentot, and became vexed again,
but calming himself with the self-possession of a man of the world he
approached her, and to speak the first cloaked word he reminded her
that it was time to go, as the wind had risen. However she had observed
the tired and absent-minded look upon his face and with a sharpness,
which completely calmed his feeling for an instant, she responded:

"You are tired of my company! Let us go."

When he did not answer with a courtesy, she resumed with feeling, which
it was difficult to judge whether real or pretended.

"Excuse me, I am naughty! I have grown so, and I am ungrateful! Never
mind it!"

She wiped her eyes and began with a house-wife's trained care to put
the dishes together.

And now, when she bowed down, leaning over the remainder of the
unwashed dishes with the tablecloth tied round her waist for an apron
and started to carry the service to the beach to wash it, he hastened
to relieve her of the load, urged by an irresistible desire not to see
her in a servant's place, and feeling the sting of being served by one
whom he would raise far above himself at the same time she was to look
up to him as one that had granted her the power over him.

At this pretended combat that arose over which one should serve the
other, the girl dropped the dishes. She gave a cry, but when she looked
at the pieces, her face cleared up.

"Fortunately they were all old! My God, I was so frightened!"

He suppressed his paltry thoughts of the loss by at once placing
himself on the side of her who had had the misfortune, and glad to have
a noisy ending to the various feelings that rent him, he threw the
shivers of porcelain like skipping stones out over the bay and rounded
off the pointed situation with a jocose,

"Now we do not need to wash dishes, Miss Mary!"

Whereupon he reached her his hand and helped her into the boat, which
was already pulling at the painter under the increasing dash of the


A bright, sunny summer morning the commissioner is sitting with his
pupil up in the wooden pavilion, which he has had set up on the highest
point of the skerry close to the newly laid foundation of the mission
house. Down in the harbor lies a schooner, from which the frame for
the new building is being unloaded and carried up to its place to be
joined together by the foreman and his laborers. Therefore it has been
unusually lively on the skerry for some time and small skirmishes have
already arisen between the fishermen and the city workmen, in which the
latter have treated the former with insolence, which has given rise
to a series of feasts of atonement followed by drunkenness and new
frays, attacks of immorality and appropriation of other's property.
Therefore the commissioner and the elderly lady have a momentary
regret at having undertaken the civilization of these people, when the
first steps already showed such a sad result; so much more so as the
nightly noises, singing, crying and complaining disturbed all work and
all rest for them, who had come out here solely for the purpose of
seeking quiet. The commissioner, who had lost all reputation by once
yielding a little of his authority, could not restore the peace, but
Miss Mary on the other hand succeeded better and understood how by a
prompt appearance, and a good word now and then, to suppress the storm.
This she would not impute to her beauty and agreeable manner; she had
credited herself with a higher degree of strength and understanding
than she possessed, and thus imbued herself in the belief of having an
unusual faculty of mind, so that even now, when she sat as a pupil with
her teacher, she received his instruction as though she were already
acquainted with them, and answered with remarks more pointed than
sagacious, seeming to correct and explain rather than to learn.

The mother, who was sitting beside her embroidering an altar cloth for
the new mission house, seemed occasionally amazed at her daughter's
penetrating insight and great knowledge, as she with a simple question
nonplussed her teacher.

"See here, Miss Mary," lectured the commissioner, always deceiving
himself with the hope of being able to educate her; "the untrained
eye has a propensity to see everything simple; the untrained ear to
hear everything simple. You see here around you only gray granite,
and the painter and the poet see the same. Therefore they paint and
depict everything so monotonously; therefore they find the skerries so
monotonous. And yet, look at this geological map of the surroundings
and then throw a glance out over the landscape. We are sitting on the
red gneiss region. Look at this stone you call granite, how rich is the
variety; it is the baking together of the black mica, the white quartz
and the pinkish feldspar."

He had taken a sample from the pile which the foundation layers
had blasted from the skerry and laid in a heap for the building's

"And look, here is another. It is called eurite! See what fine shades
of color, from salmon red towards flint blue. And here is white marble
of primeval limestone."

"Is there marble here?" asked the girl, her imagination stirred at the
mention of this valuable stone.

"Yes, there exists marble here, although it looks gray on the surface
without being gray. For, if you observe it closer you will find what an
infinite variety of color there is in the lichens. What a scale of the
finest colors from the ramaline lichen India-ink black to the crottle's
ash-gray, the ground liverwort's leather-brown, the parmelia lichen
seal-green, the tree lungwort's spotted copper-green and the wall moss
egg-yellow. Look closer out over the skerries as they are now lit by
the sun, you will see that the rocks have different colors, and that
the people who are used to seeing them, even give them names after
the scale of colors, which they are acquainted with without knowing
it. Do you see that the Black Rock is darker than the others, because
it consists of the dark: hornblende; that the Red Rock is red, because
it is composed of red gneiss, and the white skerries of clean washed
eurite? Is it not more to know why, than to know that a thing is so;
and still less to see nothing but an even gray, as the painter, who
paints all the skerries with a mixing of black and white? Hear now the
roaring of the waves, as the poets summarily call this symphony of
sound. Close your eyes for a moment and you will hear better while I
analyze this harmony in simple notes. You at first hear a buzzing which
resembles the noise heard in a machine shop or a big city. It is the
masses of water dashing against each other; next you hear a hissing;
it is the lighter, smaller water particles which are lashed to foam.
And now a grating as of a knife against a grindstone; it is the wave
tearing against the sand. And now a rattling like the dumping of a
load of gravel; it is the sea heaving up small stones. Then a muffled
thud as when you clap the hollow of your hand to the ear, it is the
wave which presses the air before it into a cavern; and lastly this
murmuring as from distant thunder, it is big bowlders, rolling on the
stony bottom."

"Yes, but this is to spoil nature for us!" said the girl.

"It is to make nature intimate with us! It gives me composure to know
it, and thereby frees me from the poet's half-hidden fear of the
unknown, which is nothing else than memories from the time of savage
fiction, when explanations were sought but could not be found quickly;
and in the emergency the fable of the mermaids and the giants was
caught at. But now we pass on to the fishing, which shall be retrieved,
leaving the salmon for some other time, and try new methods for
stromling fishing. In two months the great fishing begins, and if I
have not calculated wrongly it is going to be a failure in the autumn."

"How can you foretell that from your sofa?" asked the girl more
cuttingly than inquisitive.

"I foretell it by the facts that I have seen--from my sofa--how the
drifting ice in the spring scraped the shoals clear of kelp and
other algæ, in which the stromling go to spawn. I foretell it by the
scientific fact that the small crustaceans--no matter what they are
called--on which the stromling feed, have stayed away from the banks
since the seaweed was scraped away. What shall we do then? We shall try
to fish in the deep water I If the fish don't come to me then I must
go to the fish. And therefore we shall try with nets drifting after a
floating boat. It is simple!"

"It is grand!" said Miss Mary.

"It is old," protested the commissioner, "and it isn't my discovery!
But now we shall as prudent beings think of a last resort, for even if
we get stromling and don't get a price for it on account of herring
being caught again on the west coast, we must have something else In

"It is the salmon?"

"It is the salmon, which must be found here, but I haven't seen it."

"You have told me this much before, but now I should like to know how
you can know it."

"I shall reduce the fraction and in a few words tell the reason of my
stay here. The salmon wander as do the other migrating birds."

"The salmon a bird?"

"Certainly, a perfect migratory bird. It is to be found near the rivers
of Norrland, and has been caught twice in nets round the islands of
the north passage. It has been taken near Gotland and in the whole
southward passage; therefore it must pass by here. Now it is your task
to trace it out with floating trails. Have you the desire to do it, in
the capacity of my assistant, to obtain my salary?"

The last word came suddenly, but with calculation, and did not fail in
its intent.

"I shall make money, mamma," cried Miss Mary in a playful tone,
intended to hide the joy she really felt. "But," added she, "what will
you do then?"

"I shall lie on my sofa, and spoil nature for you."

"What are you going to do?" asked the mother, who believed she had not
heard aright.

"I shall make an Italian landscape for Miss Mary," answered the
commissioner, "and now I will leave you, my ladies, and make the

Therewith he arose and making a polite bow walked down to the beach.

"He is an odd being," said the mother, when the commissioner was out of

"An unusual being at the least," answered the girl; "but I don't
believe he is perfectly sane. He seems to have principles, and on the
whole is a kind man. What have you to say about him?"

"Hand me my yarn, child," said the mother.

"No, but say something ... tell me whether you like him or not,"
continued the girl.

The mother only answered with a half sad and half resigned glance,
which expressed indifference.

       *       *       *       *       *

Meanwhile the commissioner had gone down to the harbor and taken his
boat to row out among the skerries. The summer heat had lasted out here
a month, so that the air was hot; but drifting ice still coming from
the north, where an unusually severe winter on the coast had caused
bottom freezing, was now drifting southward, cooling the water, so
that the lower air strata had greater density than the upper ones.
The consequent refraction disfigured the aspect of the skerries and
had caused the most magnificent mirages during the past few days.
This scenery had given rise to long continued disputes between the
commissioner and the ladies in which the fishing population had been
summoned as judges, being the most competent because they had seen
these phenomena of nature from childhood. And when on a morning the
light red gneiss skerries through refraction stretched upwards and
by the varying density in the strata of air seemed stratified as
the cliffs of Normandy, Miss Mary argued that it really was those
limestone cliffs, which were reflected as far up as the Baltic Sea,
through a law of nature still unsolved by science. At the same time
the white swell of the breakers in the strand stones was magnified
and multiplied through refraction so that it really looked as though
a flotilla of Normandy fishing boats were beating the wind under the
cliffs. The commissioner, who had tried in vain to give the only
correct explanation, in order to take away the supernatural, the
more so as the people saw in the phenomena predictions, of course,
of coming misfortunes; belief In ill luck, which acted as a damper
on their enterprise, now found himself obliged to appear first as a
wizard to win the ear of the populace, with the intention, however, to
subsequently remove the mystery by telling them how he made his magic.

Therefore he asked the believers, whether they would also believe
themselves to see a mirage of Italy, if they should see an Italian
landscape, and when they answered, "Yes," he decided to combine the
useful with the pleasant and by a few small changes fulfil his promise
to form an exotic landscape for Miss Mary's birthday, so that by the
next mirage it would loom up against the horizon on a grand scale when
seen through the colossal magnifying glass, that the different density
of the air strata afforded.

Sitting in his boat, he aimed towards the Sword-islet with his diopter,
the lenses of which he had considerably increased in power. Now the
first question was how to get the most characteristic features of the
formation, viz., the stratified rocks, to come forth, and this nature
had partly done. After this he needed a stone pine, a cypress, a marble
palace and a terrace with oranges on espaliers.

After scanning and outlining the skerry, he had the scheme clear and
soon landed with his boat in which was stowed a crow bar, a ship
scraper, a roll of zinc wire and a bucket of yellow ocher with a
big tar brush, besides an ax, a saw, nails and a stock of dynamite

When he had landed and packed up his belongings, he felt himself a
Robinson Crusoe, who had taken up a battle with nature, but much
sharper and surer of victory as he had brought along the means of
culture. After he had placed the plane table on a tripod and upon this
the alidade, he started to work.

The mountain ridge, whose tilted folds happily imitated the southern
sedimentary strata, needed only to be scraped so as to remove the
lichens, where there were any, leaving some horizontal stripes darker
than the folds. It was not heavy work; the ship scraper glided over the
smooth surface as a retouching brush on the scene painter's big canvas.

Sometimes he felt with disgust that he was throwing time and power away
on childish things, but the bodily exertion sent the blood to his head,
so that he saw small things bigger than they were; felt something of a
Titan, who stormed the universe, corrected our Maker's mistakes, and
wriggled the earth's axis so that the south came a little northward.

After he had striped the rocky wall, for a few meters, which was all
that was needed as it was to be multiplied by the air strata, he went
to manufacture the stone pine. On the hillock's crest stood a group of
low arborescent pines, which together only miraged as the border of a
forest. The thing was to cut down half a dozen trees to isolate the
best one which would be silhouetted against the sky.

To saw down the supernumerary trees was the work of half an hour. The
one that was left was slender with all its vegetative energy gathered
at the top, because the others standing so close had hindered the
formation of branches on the trunk. But now he must thin the crown with
an ax so that the characteristic umbrella frame with its ribs came
out. It was easily done, but when he afterwards looked at his creation
with the diopter he still saw that the style was not perfect and that
the top branches must be stretched upwards with zinc wire and the side
branches somewhat downwards and outwards. When the stone pine was
completed, he took a glass of wine and selected the material for the
cypresses. This soon presented itself in the form of a pair of pointed
junipers, which he only needed to select so that they rose against the
sky, and trim them with an ax and the knife. But as they were somewhat
too light, he took a pail of water and stirred some ivory-black in it
and sprinkled them with the wash until they had a perfect churchyard

When he contemplated his work, he became dejected, and recollected a
dark story of the girl who stepped on the loaf of bread; and when the
white mews gave forth dreadful cries above his head, he thought of the
two black ravens which came from heaven to take her soul down to hell.

After he had sat a moment and the blood had returned to his brain, he
smiled at his work and at his childish fear. If nature herself had not
gone exactly so hastily to work with the origin of species it was not
lack of good will, only lack of ability.

Now to make a marble palace; and as that had been his starting point
and he had planned it all at home on his sofa, this work was not more
difficult than the other.

The limestone ledge stood perfectly vertical, ready for a facade; true
there were only a few square meters of it but no more was needed, and
it was only to loosen the eurite slabs, which from weathering had
cracked from the limestone. The crowbar proved sufficient at first, but
at the base he found it necessary to use a dynamite cartridge in the

At the report of the cartridge and the raining down of shivers he felt
something of the poet's longing to dump all at once the ammunition of
the standing armies into a volcano and relieve humanity of the pain of
existence and the trouble of development.

Now the marble slab was cleared and the crystals of the limestone
sparkled like loaf sugar in the sunbeams. With his paint buckets he
marked out a rustic base and outlined two small quadrangular windows.
On the rocky ledge above he drove two poles and laid a third one
across, tying them so that the whole formed a pergola. Afterwards he
needed only to lift up the bearberry vines, which were a couple of
yards long, and twine them round the poles; thus the grapevine was in
place, and hanging down in festoons.

At last he retouched the soil with a gallon of muriatic acid diluted
with as much water, whereby a brilliant variegation of colors was
produced on the grassy carpet, to represent patches of Bellis or
Galanthus which flowers he had found characteristic of the Roman
Campagna at the coming of the "second spring" in October after the wine
harvest has ended.

And therewith his work was completed!

But it had taken him until evening. In order that the miracle should
have a proper effect there remained, however, to announce its
appearance in advance and best if he could predetermine the day.
He knew that there had been great heat in the south of Europe, and
therefore it would not be long before a north wind would come. It had
been from the east for some time now, while the barometric pressure in
the North Sea had been low. According to reports, drifting ice lay off
Arholma, and as soon as the wind would veer a few points to northward
the ice drift must follow the current which passes to the west of
Aland, where the Gulf of Bothnia empties into the Baltic Sea. If he
could only get a north wind in the evening of some day then he was sure
it would last a couple of days, and as it is always accompanied by
clear air he would be able to foretell the appearance of the phenomenon
at least one day in advance, and if he got that far it would be an easy
matter to tell the hour, for the mirage only appeared a few hours after
sunrise, usually between ten and twelve o'clock.

As he entered his chamber, he locked the door to devote himself to
his work, his great work, which he had been planning for the last ten
years and expected to complete when he was fifty; this was the goal,
which had inspired his life and which he carried as his secret. He
enjoyed the thought of owning himself for a few hours, for during the
weeks which had passed since the arrival of the two ladies, he had
been occupied every evening with keeping them company, and that, which
should have been a rest and a pleasure, had become a constraint, a
labor. He loved the young girl and would live with her in wedlock, in
complete unification, when leisure moments would afford unpremeditated
confidences and rest; but this state of semi-familiarity where he
at fixed hours must appear whether he was disposed to converse or
not, pained him as a duty. She had caught hold of him and never
tired of receiving as he possessed the ability to be always new and
entertaining; but he who never received anything, could in time find
the need of renewing himself. But when he then stayed away, she became
uneasy, nervous and tortured him with questions whether she was too
importunate, to which he as a well-bred man could not answer in the

Now he opened his manuscript case, where the cartons lay arranged with
notes, small slips of paper with improvised thoughts on observations,
stuck on half sheets as in a herbarium, and which it amused him to
arrange and rearrange after new classifications in order to find
out whether the phenomena could be arranged in as many ways as the
brain willed, or they really could be arranged according to only one
classification, viz., as nature had placed them, if indeed nature
in its operations had followed any particular law and order. This
occupation awakened in him the idea that he was the real arranger
of chaos, who separated light from darkness; and that the chaos
first ceased with the evolution of the discriminating organ of
self-consciousness, at a time when light and darkness in reality were
not yet separated. He intoxicated himself with this thought, felt
how his ego was growing, how the brain cells germinated, burst their
capsules, multiplied and formed new species of concepts, which should
in time crop out in thoughts, and fall into the brain substance of
others as yeast plants and cause millions after his death, if not
before, to serve as hot beds for his seeds of thought....

There was a knock at the door, and with an excited voice, as though he
had been disturbed in a secret meeting, he asked who it was.

It was a greeting from the ladies and an inquiry if the commissioner
would come down.

This he answered by returning his regards, but he had no time this
evening because he must work, unless some urgent circumstances required
his presence.

There was silence for a moment. As he thought he surely knew what would
follow he left his interrupted work and placed his manuscript in order;
he had just completed this when he heard the mother's step on the
staircase. Instead of waiting for her to knock he opened the door and
greeted her with the question, "Miss Mary is sick?"

The mother started, but recovered herself at once and asked the doctor
to come down and see her as it was impossible to get a physician.

The commissioner was not a physician but he had acquired the elements
of pathology and therapeutics; had observed himself and all the sick
that had come within his circle; had philosophized over the nature of
diseases and their remedies, and finally, made up a therapy, that he
applied to himself. Therefore he promised to come in about half an hour
and bring the medicine with him as he heard the girl lay in convulsions.

It certainly was not difficult for him to guess the nature of her
sickness. As the first messenger had said nothing about illness, it
must have occurred between the two messages and had been caused by
his refusal to go. It was a psychical indisposition, which he so well
recognized and which passed under the yet undefined name of hysteria.
A little pressure on the will, a thwarted wish, a cross plan, and at
once followed a general depression under which the soul tried to place
the pains within the body without being able to localize them. He had
so often seen in the pharmacodynamics beside the names of remedies and
their action small cautious remarks as "acts in a yet unexplained way,"
or "action not yet fully known," and he believed that he had found by
observation and speculation, that just because of the unity of mind and
matter the remedy acted both chemico-dynamically and psychically at
the same time. Recent medical ideas had left out the medicine or the
material basis and assumed in hypnotism a purely psychical, or in diet
and physical exercise a vulgar and often detrimental mechanical method.
These exaggerations he regarded as necessary and beneficial transition
forms, although their trial had demanded its victims as, for instance,
when one with cold water excites a nervous person instead of soothing
them with warm baths, or tired out the weak with violent exercises in
the raw air.

He believed he had found that the old remedies could still be of
service as a kind of instruction material, to use the popular
expression, in order to awaken and change impressions, and just as the
group of astringents really cause a contracting of the stomach, just so
do they cause a concentrating of the soul's scattered powers, which the
dissipated drinker knows from experience when he in the morning winds
up his run down movement with an "Angostura."

This woman felt herself bodily indisposed without directly being so.
Therefore he now composed a series of remedies, of which the first
would cause a real physical ailment whereby the patient should be urged
to leave the sickly condition of the soul and localize it definitely
in the body. To this purpose he took from his family medicine case
the most nauseating of all drugs, asafœtida, which could best develop
a condition of general illness, and in such great doses that actual
convulsions would result; that means, the whole physique with the
senses of smell and taste should rise in revolt against this strange
substance in the body, and all the functions of the soul should direct
their attention to its removal. Thereby the imaginary pains would
be forgotten, and it would only remain then to cause in succession
transitions from the one nauseating sensation down through less
unpleasant ones, until finally the release from the last stage, by
means of an upward grade of cooling, covering, softening, mitigating
remedies, should awaken a complete sensation of vivacity as after
having passed through troubles and dangers, which are delightful to

After having dressed himself in a white sack coat of cashmere and tied
on a cream colored necktie with pale amethyst stripes, he for the
first time since the arrival of the ladies put on his bracelet. Why
all this he could not explain, but he did it under the influence of an
impression, brought from the sick bed he was to visit, and which he
produced in himself. And when he looked in the mirror without observing
his face, he noticed that his exterior gave a mild sympathetic
impression, but also with a touch of the unusual and that it would
attract attention, without exciting a nervous person.

After this he collected his requisites like a magician who is going to
perform, and went to the sick bed.

When he was shown into the chamber, he saw the girl lying on the sofa,
with disheveled hair and dressed in a Persian morning-gown. Her eyes
were unnaturally big and stared contemptuously at the intruder.

The commissioner felt for a moment embarrassed, but only for a moment,
and then he stepped forwards and grasped her hand.

"How is it with you, Miss Mary?" asked he sympathetically.

She looked at him piercingly, as though she would penetrate him, but
did not answer.

He took out his watch and, counting her pulse, said:

"You have fever."

Here he lied, but he must gain her confidence, that was part of the

The expression on the girl's face changed immediately.

"If I have fever! Oh, I believe I shall burn up!"

She was allowed to complain, and the hostile mood against the visitor
had passed so that contact closing the current could occur.

"Do you promise to obey my orders? If so, I will cure you," the
commissioner began, meantime laying his hand on her forehead.

At the word obey he felt how the patient twitched as though she would
not obey at all, but at the same moment his bracelet slipped below the
cuff and the resistance of the imaginary sick ceased.

"Do with me as you please," answered she submissively; meanwhile her
eyes were fastened on the golden serpent which fascinated her and
aroused her fears of something unknown.

"I am no physician by profession, as you know, but I have studied the
art, and know all that is necessary for this occasion. Here I have
a drug which is very diagreeable to take, but is infallible in its
action. It is no secret and I shall tell you what I am giving you. This
is a resinous gum which is prepared from the root of a perennial herb
which grows in stony Arabia."

At the word Arabia the girl listened, for it probably aroused some
thoughts of incense, which could not hide Lady Macbeth's foul crimes.

Therefore she took the spoon and smelt of its contents; but at the same
moment she threw her head backwards and cried: "I cannot take it!"

He placed his arm round her neck, firmly and gently, and reached the
spoon to her once more and coaxingly said:

"Show now that you are a good child!" Thereupon he poured the drug into
her mouth, before she could make resistance.

She fell backwards upon the sofa pillows and her body writhed under
the pains and nauseating effects which the resin with its smell of
white onion had produced, and her face expressed a horror as though
all things bad and disgusting in this world had piled upon her. With a
supplicating voice she beseeched him for a glass of water to free her
from her agony.

This he would not give her; she must lie down and, whether she would or
not, submit to the disagreeable feelings the remedy caused.

Now when he saw her melted by disgust, he took up his drug number two.

"Now, Miss Mary, the wandering in stony Arabia's desert is ended and
you shall go up on the Alps and inhale the mountain air, concentrated
in the vigorous gentian's bitter root, yellow as sum light," said the
commissioner in an encouraging, manly voice.

The girl received the bitter drug unresistingly and shrank as though
stabbed with a knife; but directly after she aroused as though her
scattered powers had rushed together and her energy had returned.
The violent remedy had taken away the previous obnoxious taste but
irritated the mucous membranes of the stomach by its sharpness, and
increased the pulse.

"Now we shall put out the fire with quilts," continued the
commissioner. "And let us go to Brittany's seashore to fetch balsam in
the mild Carrageen alga. Do you feel how soft the mucilage lays itself
protectingly over the irritated lining of the stomach and do you notice
the odor of the sea salts?"

A quiet calm spread over the patient's heated face, and as the
physician now considered her strong enough to listen to him, he began
with reminiscences of the coast of Brittany, the yachting on the
Atlantic, the life with the fishermen in Quimper, and the hunting for
seabirds at Sarzeau.

She followed his narrative, but still seemed somewhat tired, so he
broke off and gave her a symphony, as he called it, which was composed
of the classical route, well known as the wine spice of bridal parties
in the Middle Ages; the heavenly Angelica, the spearmint with its
household odor and a little touch of _Carbenia benedicta_ to preserve
vigor, and a grain of juniper oil to tell of the forest.

It was as though he rubbed her with impressions, snatched her away from
sickly thoughts by letting her travel in fancy from place to place;
make the tour of the whole old and new world, get visions of all kinds
of landscapes, all races of people, all climates. When she seemed tired
he gave her a spoonful of lemon juice with a little sugar, which cooled
and eased her, so that after a dreadful half-hour passed she received
this simple refreshment as a great enjoyment, that made her smile.

"Turn now towards the wall," said the commissioner, "and pretend to
sleep for five minutes while I go out and speak to your mother."

The commissioner, who felt his powers failing, was obliged to go out
into the fresh air to recover. And now he need only to throw a glance
out over the half lighted evening sky, out over the steel blue sea,
shut his eyes and try not to think, to feel, how the disordered,
brain regained its place again and continued its accelerating motion
forwards, after having been turned backwards awhile.

While he stood thus with his arms on his chest, half asleep, he heard a
thought still buzzing in one ear: a child of thirty-four years!

Thus he awoke and went into the cottage again.

Miss Mary was sitting on the sofa with her hair loosened and thrown
gracefully around her, but otherwise looked perfectly well and cheerful.

The commissioner took from his basket a bottle of Syracuse wine and a
package of Russian cigarettes.

"Now you shall pretend you are well," said he, "and that we have met
after a long journey, upon which you shall drink a glass of sweet
Sicilian wine and smoke a cigarette, for it is part of the cure."

The girl seemed to make an effort to hide her secret suffering, and
drank the wine while she kept her eyes on the bracelet.

The commissioner broke the silence with, "You look at my bracelet?"

"No, I did not," denied the girl.

"I got it from a woman who of course is dead, as I have not returned

"Have you been in love?" asked the girl with a strong doubt.

"Yes, but with open eyes! When one usually considers it commendable
to use sense, why quench it when one is going to take one of the most
important steps in life?"

"So, one should be calculating in love?"

"Strongly, incredibly calculating when it is to let loose one of the
wildest propensities!"


"Propensities! Yes!"

"You don't believe In love?"

"You propose questions which have no answer! Believe in love in
general? What do you mean by that? There exists a mass of species of
love, as much contrasted as black and white! I cannot believe in two of
them at the same time, or all of them at once."

"And the highest species?"

"The intellectual; in three stories but as the English house. Above is
the study, beneath the sleeping room and in the basement the kitchen."

"So practical! But love, a great love, is not calculating, that I have
imagined as the highest, as a storm, a lightning stroke, a cataract!"

"As a rude, uncurbed power of nature? So it appears to the animals and
the lower varieties of human beings...."

"Lower? Are not all human beings alike?"

"Oh, yes! All beings are alike as two berries, youths and old men, men
and women, Hottentots and Frenchmen, certainly they are alike! Look
at us two only! Perfectly alike, the only difference is that I have a
beard! Pardon, my lady, now I see that you have recovered I will leave
you. A pleasant sleep!"

He had arisen and taken his hat, but the next moment the girl stood at
his side with both his hands clasped in hers and with the same glances
with which she for the first time had vanquished him, she begged him to

Under these burning glances and hand pressures he felt something as he
thought a young girl might feel when she stood under the influence of
a seducer's passionate attack. He became perturbed and inwardly there
arose a feeling of violated bashfulness, and injured manliness. He
freed his hands, drew himself back and said in a calm voice, cutting in
its affected coldness:


"Stay, or I shall seek you in your room!" rang the excited voice of
the girl, which seemed to imply a threat from which there was no appeal.

"Then I shall lock my door!"

"Are you a man, you?" rang the challenge with a hard laugh.

"Yes, in such a high degree that I will be both the selector and
attacker, and I do not like to be seduced!"

With this he went out and heard behind him a noise as from a human body
falling and striking against furniture.

After he was out he felt like turning back, for through mental strain
he was in a condition of weakness that made him susceptible to
impressions of the sufferings of others. But after having been alone
for a few seconds and collected himself, so that his powers returned,
he firmly decided to break this engagement, which threatened to usurp
his whole soul-life; and in time cut off all relation with a woman,
who had showed so plainly that it was only his body she desired, while
she ejected his soul, which he would pour into this lifeless image of
flesh. She enjoyed the sound of his voice, but the thoughts she did
not receive only in such cases as when they were of direct benefit.
He had often caught her looking at the lines of his figure, and she
used sometimes thoughtlessly to grasp his arm whose swelling muscles
formed a ridge beneath the soft cloth. He remembered now these many
overtures at the bath, on yachting; on going up to the lookout, which
he never visited because it upset his nerve system to stand on a bluff
without sufficient support. And now this evening, when he had seen
this eruption of uncontrollable passion, he saw with fear that this
woman was not of the developed race, which could individualize its
love to a certain one, and that he to her only played the rôle of the
indispensable opposite sex in general.

He had strolled down to the strand for a breeze, but the night was
sultry. The sea had ceased to roll, and in the northwest the heaven was
a faint melon color, while out in the east over the water rested the
night. The strand cliffs were still warm, and he placed himself down on
one of the many arm chairs, that the cold had blasted out and the waves
had polished smooth.

The events he had just lived through passed before him, and now, when
his senses were cooled off, he saw them in another light. His dream had
always been that he should awaken a woman's love to such a degree that
she should come begging, crawling to him, saying, "I love you, deign
to love me!" Such was the order of nature, that the weaker approach
the stronger with a submissive mind and not vice versa, although the
latter still was the case with those who were living with a trace of
superstitious ideas about something supernaturally exalted in woman,
notwithstanding that investigation had made it manifest that the
mysterious was only confusion and the exalted only a collection of
poems by the suppressed desires of male propensity.

Now she had come as he had dreamed it, the woman of the new time free
from prejudice, had shown all her inward incandescent nature, and he
had recoiled! Why? Perhaps tradition and conventional habits still
governed him! For there was nothing bold in her effusion, no trace of
the harlot offering, no immodest behavior or impudent mien! She loved
him in her way. What more could he desire, and with such a love he
could safely bind himself to her, for perhaps not many men could boast
of having lighted such a flame. But he felt no pride over having gained
her, for he felt his own value, and rather a pressing responsibility
which he would get rid of; and therefore he must depart from the island.

In thought now he sat and packed his belongings. He gathered the things
from the writing table and saw the green empty spread, took away the
lamp that shed light in the evening and sparkled colors in the daytime,
and there was a vacuum. Stripped the walls of their pictures and
draperies, and the white, sad, mathematical figure came forth. He took
the books from their shelves, and the dreadful solitude faced him,
monotony, nudeness, poverty!

And then came the fatigue from bodily efforts, fear of traveling and
its tiring effects; anxiety of the unknown where he now might be cast,
deprived of his accustomed surroundings and her company. And he saw
the young girl in her childish but still majestic beauty; heard her
complain, saw her whitened cheeks, which another would cause to blush
again as time passed.

Thus he suffered all the pangs of separation through a whole quarter
of an hour, which had seemed to him as long as hours, when in the dusk
of the summer night, he saw a woman's figure up on the rock outlined
against the light sky. The splendid contours, that he knew so well,
assumed still nobler proportions against the now pale yellow sky,
which could just as well be the end of a sunset as the beginning of
sunrise. She seemed to have come from the custom house cottage, and to
be searching for someone. Bareheaded and with her hair still hanging
over her shoulders, turning her head to spy, she seemed suddenly to
discover what she sought, and with brisk steps she hurried down to the
beach where the object of her search was sitting, immovable, without
the power to flee, without the will to proclaim himself. And when she
reached him she fell down and laid her head in his lap and talked
wildly, modestly, beseechingly, as though she was annihilated with
shame without being able to hold her tongue in check.

"Don't go away," sobbed she. "Despise me, but have mercy! Love me, love
me or I will go where I shall never return!"

There now awoke in him the mature man's intense longing for love. And
when he saw the woman at his feet, it aroused the inherent chivalry
of man, who would see in its mate the mistress not the slave; and he
arose, lifted her up, placed his arm round her waist and pressed her to

"At my side, Mary, not at my feet," said he. "You love me, for you knew
that I loved you, and now you belong to me for life. And you will never
leave me alive, do you hear! For our whole life long. And now I place
you on my throne and give you the power over me and my belongings, my
name and my property, my honor and my actions, but if you forget that
it is I who gave you the power, and if you misuse or give it away, then
as a tyrant I will overthrow you to such a depth that you shall never
see the sunlight more! But you cannot do it, for you love me, is it not
true that you love me?"

He had placed her on the stone stool, and kneeling he laid his head in
her bosom.

"I lay my head in your lap," continued he, "but do not cut off my hair
meanwhile I sleep on your bosom. Let me uplift you but do not drag
me down. Become better than I am, for you can when I protect you from
contact with the world's corruption and misery, in which I must delve.
Ennoble yourself with great faculties which I do not possess, so that
we together shall become a perfect whole."

His feelings began to take the cooler tone of reason and seemed to
quench her exaltation, so that she interrupted him by placing her
glowing face to his, and when he did not answer her caress, she pressed
a burning kiss on his lips.

"You child," said she, "don't you dare to kiss when nobody can see it?"

Then he sprang up, clasped her round the neck and kissed her throat
repeatedly until she freed herself from him with a laugh and stood
erect before him.

"You are a perfect little savage," scolded she.

"The savage is there, be careful!" answered he, and grasping her round
the waist they wandered onwards on the warm sands which whispered round
their feet.

And now the lighthouse in the distance blinked, as the air had cooled
off and the dew had fallen. Out from the rookeries they heard the cries
of the seals as from the shipwrecked.

They wandered an hour or more, and spoke of their first meeting, about
their secret thoughts from time to time; about the future, about the
coming winter; about traveling in foreign countries; meantime they came
out on the point where the pile of stones with a cross was selected in
memory of a shipwreck with loss of life.

Suddenly they caught a glimpse of two shadows that sneaked away and

"It is Vestman and his sister-in-law," said Borg. "Fie! If I were her
husband I would sink her!"

"Not him?" came from the girl more hastily than she intended.

"He is not married!" answered Borg shortly; "that is the difference!"

There was a silence, a disagreeable silence, such as makes one seek
for a topic for conversation; and meantime whispered the thoughts, now
untied from the enchantment: and he already longed for the enchantment
again, for the intoxication, which blinded him, which turned gray to
rose color, which built pedestals; which placed gilded edges on cracked

At this they turned from the rocky wall to go home. The wind which had
been quite asleep, now began to waft against them and in his anxiety
the awakened lover felt how freshly it blew. It was the north wind
which he had waited for, and which he now greeted as a rescuer. For in
a second when the girl's contradiction in a serious matter had just as
though broken something in him, so that he felt that her being could
only be soldered to his, not melted together with it, unless he gave up
resisting and delivered himself to her wholly and fully, he now grasped
the opportunity to raise himself again without treading upon her.

"Why do the people hate me?" asked he suddenly.

"Because you are superior to them," slipped from the girl without her
observing the confession she made.

"I do not believe it," answered he, "for their intellect is not
sufficient to value my superiority."

"Their hate can pervert their vision!"

"Superbly answered! But if they should see the miracle, would their
eyes open?"

"Perhaps! If the wonder aroused fear."

"Well, they shall have the miracle! To-morrow at ten o'clock it will


"That which I have promised you!"

The girl looked into his face with amazement as though she did not
believe what he said. After which she laughingly interposed:

"If it should be cloudy weather then?"

"But it won't be," answered the commissioner with decision. "However,
now we have already come so far as to speak about weather, we can even
think of what your mother will say about us."

"She won't trouble herself about it," answered the girl at once.

"It is astonishing that a mother does not pay any attention to what man
her daughter is to bind herself in relationship, and whose name she is
to carry! Can that be immaterial to her?"

"Good night, now!" interrupted Miss Mary and reached her mouth for a
kiss. "To-morrow morning you will come and visit us! Is it not so?"

"Certainly," answered he, "certainly!"

She walked away.

But he still stood on the same place and saw her slender figure rise
against the now sulphur yellow sky as she stepped upwards on the
hillock, and when she came to the highest point she turned back and
threw a kiss to him, and then she seemed to sink behind the slope
until he only saw her head with its loose hair which fluttered in the
northern wind.


When the commissioner sat the following morning at breakfast with his
betrothed, after having been received without comment as the future
son-in-law, he felt again the combined impression of a great calm at
having been received in a little circle, where common interests formed
a tie to unbounded confidence; and at the same time an anxiety over the
necessity of giving himself up for these manifold considerations which
sympathy and relationship bring. The past evening had rushed into his
life mixing great and small, as life offers it, his whole history of
love, which he had dreamed of with open eyes, had passed with his eyes
purposely blindfolded. He had closed his eyes to the girl's pretended
or imaginary illness; closed them completely, so that he had deceived
himself into taking it seriously; for if he had not done so, and
instead had said plainly from the first moment: rise up and be well,
you are only sick in imagination, then she would have hated him for
life; and his aim was to win her love. Now he had gained her love,
perhaps because she believed that she had deluded him; therefore his
love stood in direct relation to his credulity; and when now in the
morning he repeated to himself again and again the question: Do you
believe in your Mary? his rested reason translated it thus: Am I sure
I can delude you? No, there does not exist a love with open eyes; and
to gain a woman by frankness is impossible; to approach her with raised
head, and with plain words is to drive her away. He had begun with lies
and must go on with dissembling. However, now while the conversation
drifted between trifling things and effusive expressions of feelings,
it gave no time for worry, and the pleasure of being in a home between
two women made everything so bright and soft, that he delivered himself
up to the enjoyment of being the petted one, the child, the little one,
the son of the mother-in-law; and he did not observe that the daughter,
who had already outgrown her mother, treating her as though she the
mother was her child, by simple syllogism gradually took authority
over him, who called her equal "mother-in-law." It amused him, this
reversing of nature's order, and he had always before him the image of
the giant, who let the children pull out three hairs from his beard,
but only three. As they were sitting at their coffee and chatting,
there was heard a murmuring from the people down on the beach.

From the window they saw them gathered on the landings, sometimes
standing immovable, with hands shading their eyes: sometimes rocking on
both feet, as though the ground was burning beneath them, or as if they
could not stand still from fear.

"It is the miracle!" cried the girl, and hastened out accompanied by
her mother and her betrothed.

Coming out on the slope the ladies stopped as though struck by fright,
when on this clear sunny morning, they saw a corpse-white colossal moon
rising above a graveyard with black cypress, floating on the sea.

The commissioner, who had not calculated the effect at this point
of view, did not see quickly enough the relation of things, and
stood deathly pale from the shock which follows something monstrous
and unexpected in the otherwise law-bound nature. He hastened past
the ladies who stood petrified and unable to move, and came down
to the strand where the people were gathered. In a moment he found
the solution of the riddle. His intended marble palace had become
involuntarily framed between a projecting, rounded cliff on one side
and a pine top on the other, so that the limestone slab showed as a
round circle and, with the two windows which were too faintly painted,
it imitated the map of the moon's disk.

The people who had been posted as to the exact hour when the miracle
would appear, as promised by the commissioner, regarded the approaching
man with frightened but venerating glances and the men contrary to what
had been their habit to him raised their hats and caps.

"Now what do you say about my mirage?" asked he jokingly.

Nobody answered, but the head pilot, who was the most courageous,
pointed northwest towards the heavens, where the real moon was hanging
pale in its first quarter.

The miracle thus was crushing, and the strong impressions which the
two moons had already produced was too deep to be effaced with an
explanation. And when the commissioner made an attempt to the beginning
of which nobody listened and the people stood infatuated just as though
enamored of the fear of the inexplicable, he ceased trying to remove
their belief. He had wished to give them a proof that neither he nor
nature could break laws, and, nevertheless, chance had made him a

When he turned back he found his betrothed in an ecstatic state
restrained by her mother, but when he appeared, she freed herself and
falling on her knees she cried with half insane gestures, and words
which seemed to have been borrowed from some spiritualistic circle.

"Mighty spirit, we fear thee! Take away our fear, that we may love

The case had already assumed a hazardous turn and the commissioner
tried with all his art to explain the involuntary miracle, but in vain.
The enjoyment of being infatuated, the numbness of fear and, behind it,
the lurking feeling of ambition not to admit the confusion of senses,
had so taken possession of the young girl's mind that no remonstrances
or assurances availed. The mother with her unchanging, even temperament
did not seem to know where she was and had forgotten the whole
phenomenon of nature through her daughter's disquieting behavior.

But now the mass of people on the beach had, through Miss Mary's
cries and gesticulations, turned their attention from the performance
out on the sea towards her, and when they saw the young woman on her
knees before the white dressed man, with his deep dark glances and
bare head, out here on the rock, there must have passed before them
some reminiscences from the Bible history about a young man who did
miracles; for they crowded together in haste and began to whisper,
while at the exhortation of the head pilot one of the women hastened
into the nearest cottage and returned with a three-years-old child
which had a foul ulcer on its cheek.

With the ability to call forth a mirage there should also follow a
supernatural knowledge of healing.

The role which was thrown on the commissioner, began to trouble him
beyond measure, and when he saw the fishing population, pilots and
custom house men, leave their work, and carpenters and finishers leave
the building of the chapel to listen to his words as to prophesies with
miraculous power, he became afraid as though before a power of nature
that he had conjured up, but could not check. The moment, however, had
come when he must express himself exactly, plainly, and turn them away.

"Good people," commenced he. But silently the reflection came: how to
go on, what words to use, when each expression required an explanation
which again presupposed foreknowledge, which was lacking. And during
the second he meditated over the distance that lay between him and
them, he heard steps approaching, and turning around, he saw a man who
resembled an old sailor on his leave.

The man lifted a round felt hat and looked somewhat timorous at first,
but coming nearer he straightened himself up and was just going to say
something, when the commissioner relieved him from his embarrassment by
the question:

"Perhaps you are the Home Mission preacher whom we expect?"

"I am the same!" answered the newcomer.

"Will you not say a few words to the people here, who are in a state
of tumult on account of a phenomenon of nature which they do not wish
to have explained and which I at this moment cannot elucidate"--the
commissioner grasped at this in his eagerness to get out of his false

The preacher at once declared himself prepared. Stroking his long chin
whiskers he took a Bible from his pocket.

When the people saw the black book a tremor passed through them and
some of the men uncovered their heads.

The preacher turned the pages a moment and finally stopped, cleared his
throat and began to read.

"And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a
great earthquake; and the sun became black as sack cloth of hair, and
the moon became as blood. And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth,
even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a
mighty wind. And the heavens departed as a scroll when it is rolled
together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.
And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men,
and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bond man, and
every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the
mountains. And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide
us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath
of the Lamb. For the great day of His wrath has come; and who shall be
able to stand?"

The commissioner, who at once observed the dangerous turn the affair
had taken, had drawn his betrothed half forcibly from the dangerous
neighborhood, and got her down to the beach so that he could give her
the right views and show, that it was no moon which had fallen from
the heaven, that it was only the Italian landscape he had promised to
arrange for her birthday.

But now it was too late. The girl's inner eye had already seen the
vision in its first form, and the preacher's exciting interpretation
had etched in that first delusion. He had toyed with the spirits of
nature, conjured a foe to help him, as he believed, and then all had
gone over to the foe so that he now stood alone.

While Mary's glances were still riveted to the preacher on the rock, he
turned, as a trial, to the mother and whispered:

"Help us out of this. Follow me out to the skerry and see that it is
only a plaything, a birthday joke."

"I cannot judge in these things," answered the mother, "and will not
judge. But I believe ... that you should be married soon."

It was an advice, sober, prosaic, but from this old lady, who was
herself a mother, it sounded so prudent, especially as it agreed
with his own sharp understanding, he found, however, the explanation
somewhat simplified. And after the hint he had received he went
straight to the girl, and placing his arm round her waist, looked into
her eyes with a smile, which she could not fail to understand, and
kissed her lips.

At the same moment the girl seemed released from the wizard up on the
rock, and without resistance she clung to her friend's arm and followed
him almost dancing to her mother's cottage.

"Thanks," whispered she as she glanced into his eyes, "I thank you that
you--how shall I say it?"

"Delivered you from the hobgoblin," filled in Borg.

"Yes, from the goblins!"

And she turned to look at the passed danger.

"Do not look back!" warned her betrothed as he pulled Mary through the
cottage door, while fragments from the preacher's flow of words were
wafted down to him by the wind.


When the commissioner awoke one morning eight days later after a night
of perfect rest, his first clear thought was that he must leave the
skerry, go anywhere to be alone, collect himself, find himself again.
The preacher's arrival had the desired effect in one way, namely to
"scare the mob," so that the tumult and rudeness ceased; but on the
other hand the commissioner had not been able to enjoy the newly
gained peace, for the exalted condition of his betrothed obliged
him to keep her always in his sight. So he had accompanied her, and
formally guarded her from morning to night; and by endless talk upon
the questions of religion tried to keep her aloof from the preacher's
seducing talk. All these matters which he had fought through in his
youth, he now had to fight over again; and as new counter-proofs had
been brought forth since then, he must reedit his whole apology. He
improvised psychological explanations of God, faith, miracles, eternity
and prayer; and he imagined that the girl understood him. But when
after three days he found that she held the same position and that
this matter of feeling lay outside the conversation, he dropped the
whole subject and sought by awakening the erratical with its new sphere
of feeling to drive away the first. But this he must soon give up,
for to speak of that which should be lived only excited the girl's
feelings still more, and he soon observed that there existed secret
bridges between the religious ecstasy and the sensual one. From the
love of Christ she ran so easily over to love of the man on that broad
drawbridge the love of one's neighbor, and from abstinence one could
trip over the footbridge renunciation to its neighbor penance; a little
contention awakened the disagreeable feeling of debt which must be
resolved in a lustful feeling--the reconciliation.

In his need he must first tear up the bridges, place her face to
face with carnal desire, awake her avidity for the temporal, which
he delineated in glowing colors. But when he had so succeeded
and retreated at the last moment, there arose the coldness of
disappointment in her, and when he then tried to cultivate her
feelings, and lead them out to the thoughts of offspring and family,
she withdrew and explained to him with determination, that she would
not have any children. She could even use a phraseology which is
current among a certain group of women, saying that she would not be
the womb which he lacked; or carry his heirs, whom she must with danger
to her life bring to the world for him.

Then he felt that nature had placed something between them which he did
not yet understand. He consoled himself by imagining that it was only
the butterfly's fear to lay its eggs and die, the flower's suspicion
that its beauty would fade away with the setting of its seed.

But he had worn himself out in these eight days; his fine wheels of
thought had begun to halt in their pivot holes, and the spring in the
movement had become relaxed.

After such a day of exertion, when he would have worked for a couple
of hours, his head was filled with trifles. Small words repeated
themselves almost audibly to his ear; gesticulations and mannerisms,
that she had used in their conversation, miraged themselves,
suggestions how he ought to have answered now and then, and the
recollection of an appropriate repartee which he had made gave him a
momentary pleasure. In a word, his head was full of bagatelles, and now
he observed that he had tried to straighten out a chaos; that he had
conversed as a schoolboy instead of exchanging thoughts with a mature
woman; that he had given out from himself masses of power without
getting anything in return; that he had placed a dry sponge in the
center of his soul, and that the sponge had swelled, while he himself
had become dry.

He loathed everything; was tired, and longed to get out for a moment;
for be free forever he could not.

When he now looked out through the window, about five o'clock in the
morning, he saw only a dense fog which stood immovable notwithstanding
a light breeze from the south. But far from being discouraged thereby,
he felt attracted by this light, white obscurity, which would hide him
and seclude him from the little fragment of the earth, where he now
felt himself tied down.

The barometer and weather vane told him that there would be sunshine
later in the day, and therefore he stepped into his boat without long
preparations; only provided with chart and compass, on which, however,
he did not intend to rely, as he could hear the whistling buoy three
miles out at sea, just in the direction in which he would seek a

He therefore put full sail on and was soon in the fog. Here, where
the eyes were free from all impressions of color and form, he felt
first the pleasure of isolation from the medley of an outer world. He
had as it were his own atmosphere around him, soaring onwards alone
as on another celestial body, in a medium, which was not air but
water vapors, more agreeable and more refreshing to inhale than the
exsiccating air with its superfluous seventy-nine per cent of nitrogen,
which had remained without evident purpose, when the elements of the
earth emerged from the chaos of gases.

It was not an obscure, smoke colored mist, through which the sunlight
shone. It was light, like newly melted silver. Warm as wadding it lay
healingly round his tired ego, protecting it from jars and pressure.
He enjoyed for a moment this fully-awake rest of the senses, without
sound, without color, without smell, and he felt how his pained head
was soothed by this safety from contact with others. He was sure of not
being questioned; needed not to answer, nor talk. The apparatus was
standing still a moment, now that all conducts had been cut off; and
so he began again to think clearly, systematically over all that had
passed. But what he had just gone through was so inferior, so trifling,
that he must first let the bilge water run off before the fresh came in.

In the distance he heard the whistling buoy cry at intervals of several
minutes, and guided by the sound he steered his course right into the

It became silent again, and only the splashing of the boat at the bow
and the purling aft in the wake made him conscious that he was moving
forwards. Immediately after he heard a sea gull cry in the fog, and at
the same time it seemed to him that he heard the dashing and rustle
about the prow of a boat coming abaft, and when he shouted to avoid the
danger, he received no answer, but heard only the hissing of the water
as when a boat is falling off.

After a moment of sailing he observed to windward the top of a mast
with mainsail and jib, but nothing was to be seen of the hull or
helmsman for they were hidden by the high swells of the sea.

This occurrence under other circumstances would not have disturbed
his thought, but now it made an impression which was momentarily
inexplicable, and which caused a fear, which was only one step removed
from thoughts of persecution. The newly awakened suspicions were
further aroused, when he shortly after caught sight of the haunting
boat which shot by him on the lee side, as though painted on the mist,
without his being able to get sight of the helmsman who was hidden by
the mainsail.

He now hailed again, but instead of an answer he saw only the boat fall
off so much that he observed that the stern sheet was empty; and then
the apparition vanished in the all devouring mist.

Accustomed to free himself from fear of the unknown, he at once formed
suggestions to explain it, but stopped finally at the question, why the
helmsman hid himself, for that there must be a helmsman on a sailboat,
which did not drift, he had no doubt. Why did he not want to be seen?
In usual cases one does not want to be seen when going on a bad errand,
wishing to be by oneself, or intending to frighten somebody. That the
unknown sailor did not seek solitude was probable, as he held the
same course, and if he would frighten an intrepid person, who was not
susceptible to superstition, he could find some better way. However he
held his course onward towards the buoy, incessantly, doggedly pursued
by the haunting boat to the leaward, still at such a distance, that it
appeared only as condensed fog.

Upon coming farther out where the wind was stronger the mist seemed
to grow somewhat thinner, and like long silver bullion lay the
fog-silvered sunlight on the crests of the waves. With the rising of
the wind the crying of the buoy increased, and now he steered straight
into the sunlight where the mist had parted, and ran at highest speed
towards the buoy. There it lay swinging on the wave, cinnabar-red
and shining, moist as a taken-out lung with its great black windpipe
pointed slanting upwards into the air. And when the wave next time
compressed the air, it raised a cry, as though the sea roared after the
sun, the bottom chain clinked until it had run out, and now when the
waves sank and sucked back the air, there arose a roaring out of the
depth as from the giant proboscis of a drowning mastodon.

It was the first mighty impression he had had after a month of prattle
and trivialities.

He admired the genius of man, that had hung this buoy on the insidious
wolf, the sea, that it should itself caution its defenseless victims.
He envied this hermit, who was permitted to lie fettered to a bottom
rock in the middle of the sea and with its roaring to beat the wind and
wave day and night so that it could be heard miles around; to be the
first to give the voyager a welcome to his land; and to wail forth its
pain and be heard.

The sight was quickly passed, and the demi-darkness again closed round
the boat, which now fell off towards the skerry for which he had
started to rest. For half an hour he lay on the same tack until he
heard the breakers beating on the strand; then he fell off to leeward
and soon sped into a cove where he could land.

It was the last skerry outside the channel and consisted of a couple
of acres of red gneiss without any vegetation other than a few lichens
on places where the drifting ice had not scraped the rocks perfectly
clean. Only sea gulls and mews had their resting place here, and now as
the commissioner moored his boat and stepped up on the highest point of
the skerry they gave forth cries of alarm. Here he wrapped himself in
his blanket, and placed himself in a well-polished crevice, which made
him a comfortable arm chair. Here, without witness, without auditors,
he gave himself up to thoughts and let them loose, confessed himself,
scrutinized himself inwardly and heard his own voice from within.
Only two months of rubbing against other beings, and he had through
the law of accommodation lost the better part of himself, had become
used to acquiescing to avoid disputes, drilled himself to yield to
avoid a break, and developed into a characterless, malleable, sociable
fellow; with his head full of bagatelles and being urged to speak in an
abbreviated, simplified vocabulary, he felt that his scale of language
had lost its semi-tones, and that his thoughts had been switching
in on old worn rails, which led back to the ballast place. Old lax
sophisms about respecting others' belief, that everybody will be happy
in his grime, had crept back into him, and he had from pure politeness
performed as a wizard and finally got a dangerous competitor on his
hands, who every moment threatened to liberate the only soul he would
unite with his own.

A smile crossed his lips when he thought of how he had fooled these
people, who believed they had fooled him: and with a subdued voice he
involuntarily ejaculated, "asses," which made him start, frightened at
the thought that somebody might have heard him.

And so the silent thoughts continued: They believed they had caught
his soul, and he had caught them! They imagined that he went their
errands, and they did not know that he used them as a gymnastical
exercise for his soul and to feel the enjoyment of power.

But these thoughts, which he had not dared to acknowledge before as
his own, proclaimed themselves now as the children of his soul, big,
healthy children, whom he acknowledged as his own. And what had he done
otherwise than the others had willed to do, but could not! And this
young woman, who believed she had turned a hand organ for herself, did
not suspect that she was selected to the sounding board of his soul....

At this moment he jumped up, and interrupted the course of his
dangerous thoughts, for he plainly heard footsteps on the flat rocks
in the fog, and although he at once guessed that it was an error of
hearing, caused by the solitude and fear of being taken unawares,
he turned his steps towards his boat. But when he found it in good
condition, he decided to go around the skerry to search for the other
boat, for there must be one here, since another being had come over. He
climbed on the strand bowlders and soon found behind the next point on
the lee side a boat with the same sprit sail rig, as he had seen out on
the sea. It was thus evident that the sailor must be on the skerry, and
now the commissioner began a razzia in the fog, but always kept in the
neighborhood of the boats, so that he could cut off retreat. When after
having cried out several times without getting an answer he finally saw
that he must leave the boats in order to catch the mysterious being, he
went down to the boats, and took off the tillers to make every escape
impossible, and so he went into the mist again. He heard steps before
him and followed them by the sound, but soon heard them in an entirely
other direction. Tired of the hunt and provoked by the fruitlessness of
the endeavors, he decided to make a short ending to the scene, as he
had no mind to wait until the fog had disappeared.

With as loud a voice as he could command, he cried:

"If there is anybody there, answer, for I am going to shoot."

"Lord Jesus! Do not shoot!" was heard in the fog.

The commissioner seemed to have heard this voice before, but a very
long time ago, perhaps in his youth. And now when he approached the
place, where the unknown stood, and saw its silhouette outlines gray
to gray, there awoke old memories of these contours of a human being.
The inward bowed knees, the arms all too long and the deformed left
shoulder had a counterpart picture in memory's storage of a schoolmate
in the third class in the high school. But when he caught sight of the
colporteur's American whiskers appearing through the mist, the picture
did not correspond longer, and he only saw the man upon the rock, who
had applied the Revelation to the mirage.

With a raised cap and a frightened look he approached the commissioner,
who did not feel himself safe with this sneaking pursuer, for in
reality he carried no firearms. To disguise his uncertainty he assumed
a sharp tone, when he asked:

"Why do you hide from me?"

"I have not hidden myself, the mist did it," answered the preacher
softly and insinuatingly.

"But why were you not sitting at the tiller in your boat?"

"Hm, I did not know that one was obliged to sit on the stern sheet and
therefore I sat to windward to keep the boat buoyant! For you see I had
a sheet on the end of the tiller such as we use up in Roslagen."

The explanations were acceptable, but still did not answer the
question, why he followed the commissioner out here. And he felt now,
that here must be a close fight of souls, for it was not by chance that
they had met out here.

"What do you seek out here so early in the morning?" the commissioner
took up the broken thread.

"Yes, how shall I say it, I feel sometimes, as though I am in need
of being alone with myself." The answer found a certain echo in the
questioner, and at the expression of sympathy, which the preacher could
read in his face, he added:

"For, you see, when I search myself in meditation and prayer and find
myself, even so I find my God."

A naïve confession lay in these words, but the commissioner would not
translate the involuntary heresy and draw such conclusions as: God is
thus my own self or in my own self, because he held a certain esteem
for this man, who could be alone with a fiction, and thus to a certain
degree alone.

While the commissioner regarded the preacher's face, which was
overgrown with long brown whiskers except on the upper lip as sailors
and colporteurs usually wear them, probably to let out the spoken word
and still resemble an apostle, he seemed to perceive a face behind this
face, and annoyed by this labor which his memory had unconsciously
undertaken, he asked bluntly:

"Have we not met each other before?"

"Yes, certainly we have," answered the preacher; "and you, sir
commissioner, have, perhaps without knowing it, had such a great
influence on my life, that it might be said you determined my path."

"Oh, no! Tell me about it, for I do not remember it!" said the
commissioner, and placing himself on the rock, he invited the other to
sit down.

"Yes, it is certainly about twenty-five years ago that we were together
in the third class at school ...

"What was your name then?" interrupted the commissioner.

"At that time I was called Olsson and nick-named Ox-Olle, because my
father was a farmer and I was dressed in homespun clothes."

"Olsson? Wait a moment! You could reckon best of us all."

"Yes, so it was! But there came a day, and it was the principal's
fiftieth birthday. We had dressed the school with leaves and flowers,
and after the lessons were ended someone proposed that the boys in our
class should take the bouquets and carry them home to the principal's
wife and daughter. I remember that you thought it unnecessary as
the family of the principal had nothing to do with the school, but
often encroached on its affairs in a disturbing manner. However, you
went--and so did I. As I walked up the steps, you caught sight of my
homespun clothes I presume, and noticing that I carried the nicest
bouquet, you burst out: 'Is Saul also among the prophets!'"

"That I have entirely forgotten," said the commissioner very shortly.

"But I never forgot it," responded the preacher with trembling voice.
"I had had it thrown in my face, that I was the scabby sheep, the
intruder, who could never seriously extend homage to a woman of
station. I quit school in order to devote myself to business and
thereby gain money and fine clothes quickly, and learn manners and
refined language. But I never gained a first class position. My
exterior, my language, my appearance were against me. Then I began to
go alone by myself, and in the solitude I found powers growing in me
which I had never suspected. Clergy-man I had first thought to be, but
now it was too late. The solitude gave me fears of human beings, and
these fears of human beings made me entirely alone, so alone that I
must search for my only acquaintance in God, and in the Saviour of the
neglected, the scabby, the outcasts, Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ.
This I have to thank you for!"

The last words were spoken with a certain bitterness, and the
commissioner found it prudent to have fair play and broke out.

"Then you have gone on hating me for twenty-five years?"

"Excessively! But no longer since I have left the revenge to God."

"So, you have a God who revenges! Do you believe that He selects you
for an implement, or do you think that he will let His electric spark
strike me, or that He is going to blow over my boat or mark me with the

"The ways of the Lord are past knowing, but the ways of iniquity are
manifest to everybody!"

"Do you see such gross iniquity in a boy's thoughtless talk, that God
should persecute him a whole man's age? I wonder if that revenging
God is not in your heart, where you lately insisted that you made
appointments with Him?"

Snared by his own words the preacher could not longer control himself.

"You blaspheme! Now I know who you are! The apple does not fall far
from the tree! Now I understand the whole craft of Satan. You build the
Lord a house for a brothel as an offering to a harlot! You play wizard
and magician to get people to fall down and worship the denier. But the
Lord says: 'Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may
have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into
the city. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and
murderers, and idolators, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie!'"

The last words he had thrown out with an incredible volubility and
exaltation, without seeking for them elsewhere than on his lips, and
just as though he feared a crushing answer which would weaken their
impression, he turned his back and went down to his boat.

Meantime the mist had lifted, and the sea spread its pure blue water
soothingly and acquittingly.

The commissioner remained awhile in his rocky chair, and meditated on
the subjection of the soul under the same laws that govern the physical
forces. The wind tore up a wave down on Esthonia; that wave chased
another, and the last which transmitted the motion to the Swedish
coast, removed a small pebble, which had afforded support to a rock;
and after a man's age the results would be shown in the tumbling down
of the rock; and this would be followed by a new undermining of the
uncovered rock which now lay exposed.

His brain twenty-five years ago had thrown out what was to him a
meaningless word, that word had penetrated an ear and put a brain
into such a strong agitation that it still vibrated after having
given direction to the whole life of a human being. And who knows,
if this innervation current had not again been reënforced by contact
and friction, so that it once more with invigorated force would
unload itself and bring other counter forces into action, producing
disturbances and destruction in the lives of others!

Now when the preacher's boat sped into sight round the point, bearing
down to East Skerry, the commissioner got such a sure feeling that
there sat a foe who was marching down to his forts, that he arose and
went to his boat, to go home and place himself on the defensive.

       *       *       *       *       *

When he was well seated in the boat and calmed by the gentle rocking of
the waves, he was seized by a strong desire to still tarry a few hours
on the sea in perfect solitude and let the last disquieting impressions
blow away.

Why should he even fear this man's influence on his betrothed, as she
would still show herself unsuited to a union for life, if she sunk back
to a level with the uneducated. But nevertheless it grieved him that
there existed this fear. It reminded of the behavior of those men, who
were living in the fear of losses and which is stamped with the name
jealousy. Was it the feeling of an inability to keep, which betrayed
a frailness in him? Or was it not rather a frailness in her not to
be able to retain a hold, when the balloon should ascend, leaving
the sheet anchor religion, and throwing away the sacks of ballast,
the feelings? Certainly the latter would have been the better way,
notwithstanding they had got a certain authority with those, who had
nothing to lose.

He now tacked and lay oft the skerry to south-east, a point from which
he had not seen his prison before. Highest up on the hill he saw the
skeleton of the unfinished chapel with its staging, but he did not see
any laborers, although the morning was far advanced. He did not even
notice any boats out fishing. There was on the whole a great stillness
on the skerry, and no people were to be seen even by the custom house
cottage or the pilots' outlook. He turned and stood on another tack
to sail round the skerry. But when he came outside of the same, the
sea became higher and he gained only a little by the tack, so it took
a whole hour before he could scud down to the harbor. Now he saw the
cottage where the ladles lived, and as soon as he had sped by the point
of the harbor, he observed all the inhabitants of the island gathered
round the house, on the porch of which the preacher stood bare-headed,

With a clear insight, that here impended a battle, he landed, furled
the sail and went up to his chamber.

Through the open window he heard the people singing a hymn.

He would have liked now to sit down to his work, but the thought that
maybe he would soon be interrupted, hindered him from beginning it.

A painful half hour passed during which he learned more plainly than
ever before, that he did not own himself longer, did not rule over two
square meters, on which he could lock himself up to avoid the touch of
souls, which like barnacles on the whale's hide fastened themselves
there to finally by their mass impede his motion.

The door opened now after a short knock, and Miss Mary stood before
him, with a new expression in her face, resembling pained reproach and
superior compassion.

She came besides with the feeling of being backed by the universal
opinion of the people, and therefore felt strong against this solitary

He let her speak first so as to have a point to start from.

"Where have you been?" commenced she with an attempt not to sound too

"I have been out for a sail!"

"Without inviting me?"

"I did not know that you were particular about that!"

"Yes, you did know it, but surely you would be alone with your dark


"Certainly! Don't you think that I have observed it? Don't you believe
that I have seen how you are becoming tired of me?"

"Have I proved tired of you, I who follow you day in and day out,
though on a morning, when you usually are asleep, I took the liberty to
sail for a couple of hours? But maybe you have become tired of learning
to fish, for I have not seen you once out at sea."

"It is not the time to fish now as you well know," answered Miss Mary
fully persuaded that she spoke the truth.

"No, I see that!" interposed the commissioner with the purpose of
approaching the very mine, with the risk of an explosion. "I see how
the people abandon their work to listen to sermons...."

Now an eruption was ready.

"Was it not you, who wished to have a church out here?"

"Yes, Sundays. Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh go to
church. Here no work is done any day, but there is preaching every day.
And instead of making themselves and families an honest income here
on this earth, they all race after such an uncertain thing as heaven.
The very laborers on the chapel have left their work, so that we shall
never see a roof on that church, and I expect every moment to hear that
poverty has broken out, so that we must be prepared for charity...."

"That is just what I was going to speak about," interrupted Miss Mary,
glad to have avoided taking up the subject herself, still overlooking
that it was exhausted in advance by the commissioner.

"I have not come here to exercise charity; I am here to teach the
people how to get along without charity."

"You are at the bottom a heartless person, although you appear to be

"And you would show your big heart at my expense without being willing
to offer a yard of the trimming from your gown."

"I hate you! I hate you!" burst out the girl with a hideous expression
on her face. "Surely I know who you are, I know all, all, all!"

"Well, why not leave me then?" asked the commissioner in a steel cold

"I shall leave you! I shall!" cried she and approached the door, but
without going.

The commissioner, who had taken a seat at the table, took up a pen and
began to write to avoid all temptation of taking up a conversation,
which was ended, as everything had been said.

He heard, as in a dream, sobbing and how the door closed, how steps
sounded in the hall, and squeakings of the stairs.

When he awoke and read the paper, over which his pen had been flying,
he saw that the word Pandora was written there so many times, that he
could calculate that a long while had passed since the scene was ended.

But the word struck him, and his inquisitiveness awoke as to its
meaning, which he during the lapse of years had forgotten, although he
had a faint memory about it from the mythology. He took his dictionary
from the table, opened it and read:

"Pandora, the Eve of the ancients, the earth's first woman. Sent by the
gods for revenge on account of Prometheus having stolen the fire, and
given it to human beings, with all its misfortunes, after which they
inhabitated the earth. Represented in poesy under the form of something
good, which is an evil illusion, a creation, intended for deceit and

This was mythology like the tale of Eve, who debarred human beings
from Paradise. But when the tale was confirmed from century to century
and he had learned himself, how the presence of a woman on this little
piece of earth out in the sea had already made dusk, where he would
spread light, then there must have lain an idea in the Hellenic and
Jewish poet's figurative style.

That she hated him, that he felt and knew, as she took sides with the
low crowd down there, but, nevertheless he would not doubt her love,
even if this love only consisted of the dandelion's attraction to the
sun to borrow beams of light for a poor imitation of the yellow disk.
But there existed besides something low as in that which is base,
something evil with the desire to injure, a battle for power, which was
out of place, as his aim was a victory over the irrational. To tell
her this, yes, that would be to break the relation when this depended
on his submission or at least his acknowledging her superiority, and
this would be to build a life on a white lie, which would grow, wax and
perhaps smother all possibility of an honest cohabitation. Just in this
lay the deepest reason of all the relative misfortunes of marriage,
that the man goes into the union sometimes with a willful lie, often
the prey of an hallucination, when he fancies his ego into the being
whom he would assimulate. Of this illusion; _second sight,_ Mill had
become infatuated to such a degree, that he believed he got all his
sharp thoughts from the simple woman whom he had lifted up to himself.

It was love's prize from time immemorial, that the man should conceal
what the woman was, and on this secrecy centuries had built a chaos
of lies, which science did not dare to disturb, which the bravest
statesmen did not dare to touch and which cause the theologian to deny
his Paul, when it comes to "women in the churches."

But his love had just begun and taken fire, when he saw her look up to
him with beseeching glances; and that love had fled, when she came with
the vanquishing smile of stupidity after having trampled down what he
would have formed for her happiness and that of many others.

"Ended!" said he to himself, arose and locked the door.

Ended with his youthful hopes of finding the woman he sought. "That
woman, who was born with the sense to see her sex's inferiority to the
other sex."

He had certainly now and then met one or another, who admitted the
fact, but who finally and always reserved themselves as to the reason
of the fact, laying the blame on a non-existing oppression, and
promising themselves that with greater liberty they would soon surpass
the men; and then the battle was in full sway.

He would not wear out his intelligence in an uneven fight with
mosquitoes, whom he could not hit with a cane, because they were too
small and too many, therefore there must now be an end forever to this
fruitless searching after the non-existing. He would let all his power
go out in labor, lay aside kin, family, home and sexual impulses and
leave the multiplying to other "reproductive animals."

The feeling of being free placed his soul at rest, and it seemed to
him as though a pall had lost its hold in his brain, which began to
operate without concern. The thought that he did not need more to
make his exterior agreeable, caused him to lay aside a certain kind
of collar which annoyed him, but which his bethrothed had explained
to be _chic._ He arranged his hair in a more comfortable manner and
observed how it calmed his nerves, for he had been in constant strife
about the coiffure his betrothed liked best. The tobacco pipe which
he loved as an old acquaintance and which he had been obliged to lay
aside, was taken out again, the dressing gown and moccasins, that he
had not dared to use for a long time, again gave freedom from pressure,
which reminded of a more airy medium In which he could breathe without
difficulty, and think without restriction.

And now, freed from all these accommodation constraints, he observed
what tyranny even in small details he had lived through. He could walk
in his room without the fear of being embarrassed by a knock at the
door, deliver himself up to his thoughts without feeling himself false.

He had not long enjoyed the newly gained liberty, when somebody rapped
at the door. His body jarred as though some mooring still held him, and
when he heard the mother's voice, the oppressing thought struck him
like a club, that it was not ended, that it must begin over again.

His first intention was to let the door remain closed, but a sense of
propriety, the fear of being regarded as a coward determined him to
open it. And when he saw the old lady's cheerful, prudent eye, as she
with a kind smile and a roguish shake of her head stepped in, it was to
him as though the last half hour's scene had been only a dream after
which he had awakened glad that it was past.

"Have we now squabbled again?" commenced the old lady, taking away the
disagreeableness of the remark by the familiar _we_. "You must get
married, children, before there is a rupture I Believe an old woman's
word; and don't think that you test your hearts as engaged, for the
longer you are engaged, the worse it will become!"

"But after that it is too late to break it," answered the commissioner.
"And when one has already discovered such a difference in disposition
and opinions, so...."

"What are these opinions? You cannot have different opinions, no,
though the girl did have it lonesome when Axel was away, and therefore
she run after the colporteur. And as far as disposition is concerned,
it comes and goes, according to the condition of the nerves. And Axel,
who is such a knowing man, ought to know how women are!"

He could have kissed her hand at the first enchantment of finding that
woman, who knew her own sex, but then he remembered that he had heard
this manner of speaking ill about other women each time a woman would
gain him, and that it was more of flattery than an admission, for
when it came to earnestness, the utterance was always taken back with
interest. Therefore he limited himself to answering:

"Let time pass, little mother! Get married out here I cannot, but let
us only return to the city in the fall ... supposing that Mary shows
more sympathy in my work and less repugnance to my way of seeing the
world and living."

"Axel is so dreadfully profound, and if a poor girl cannot always
follow it, why it is nothing to be astonished at."

"Yes, but if she cannot follow me upwards, I cannot on the other hand
follow her downwards; but the latter seems to be her precise will, so
precise, that it appears to me to-day, as though there lay a hidden
hate behind it."

"Hate? It is only love, my friend! Come down now and say something
friendly, and she will be all right again."

"Never, after the words we exchanged to-day! For either these words
mean something and then we are foes, or they mean nothing, and then one
of the party is irresponsible."

"Yes, she is irresponsible, but Axel should well know that a woman is a
child until she becomes a mother. Come now, my friend, and play with'
the child, otherwise she will select other playthings, which may be
more dangerous."

"Yes, but, dearest, I cannot play the whole day without being tired,
and I do not believe either that Mary is pleased to be treated as a

"Yes, she is, only it don't look so! Ah, what a child Axel is in such

Again a politeness, which from anyone but a mother-in-law would have
been an insult! And when she now took his hand to lead him out, he felt
all resistance cease. She had by leaving his argument unanswered led
the conversation away from the question; she had blown at the skein
instead of untangling it, caressed his doubts to rest and stroked away
the disquiet and by her womanly atmosphere, her motherly manner got him
to lay aside his will and personal liberty.

And after he had changed his coat, he followed obediently, almost
with pleasure the incessantly chatting old lady down the staircase to
continue the play and put on handcuffs.

Upon reaching the hall he met the preacher, who delivered a letter to
him with the Academy of Agriculture's stamp.

The commissioner broke the seal on the spot, and put the letter in
his pocket, as though glad he had got something, a substitute for
conversation, a lightning rod; he burned to communicate the news to the
mother who was waiting.

"We are going to have a visitor," said he.

"The officials have sent me a young man who wants to learn to fish."

"So, it is delightful that Axel is going to have some man for company,"
said the mother with true sincerity.

And the commissioner went with light steps down to his waiting
betrothed, sure that with a novelty on hand he could immediately pass
over the most disagreeable of explanations.


A few days later, the commissioner had been out sailing alone to lay
down salmon trails secretly, and now after having delayed his dinner
hour as he went up from the harbor, he heard chatting and laughter from
the porch of the ladies cottage. Without intending to listen he went
thither, and when he reached the westerly gable wall, he saw through
the two windows in the large chamber, which were in the angle of the
cottage corner, that the two ladies were eating dinner on the porch and
had a male visitor at the table. He took a step forwards and caught
sight of Miss Mary, who with sparkling eyes raised a glass of wine
to pass it over the table to the guest, of whom he only saw a pair
of broad shoulders. Suddenly it came to him, that he had seen these
movements and expressions before in the girl's eyes, and he remembered
her first appearance on the islet, when she treated the boatman to a
glass of beer, and he had thought she coquetted with the churl! But now
he was astonished, that he had never seen this expression in her eyes,
when she looked at him. Could her glances only have reflected his? Or
did she always hide her inner-most thoughts from him, who should be her

He regarded her for a moment, and the longer he looked, the more
strange seemed the expression in the girl's face, so strange, that
he became frightened, as when one discovers a deceit in his nearest

When one can see so much, when not seen, what then shall one not hear?
he thought and stopped behind the corner to listen.

The mother arose now and went into the kitchen, so that the young
couple were left alone.

At the same time they lowered their voices, and Miss Mary's glances
became humid, while she listened to the stranger's passionately spoken

"Jealousy is the dirtiest of all vices, and in love there does not
exist any right of ownership...."

"Thanks for these words! A thousand thanks!" said Miss Mary, and raised
her glass, while her eyes were moist with some half-shed tears. "You
are a real man, although you are young, for you believe in woman."

"I believe in woman as the most magnificent the creation has brought
forth, the best and the truest," continued the young man with rising

"And I believe in her, because I believe in God!"

"You believe in God?" Miss Mary continued.

"It shows that you are also intelligent, for it is only stupidity that
denies the creator!"

The commissioner considered that he had heard enough, and to see at
the same time how great the power of dissimulation his chosen friend
for life could possess, he stepped forth suddenly, after he had gained
control of all his facial muscles and assumed a beaming expression, as
though he was charmed to see again his desired one.

The girl retained the expression of enchanted revelry in her face, and
with the same fire as the just expressed confession of faith in women
had produced she received her betrothed's embrace and returned it with
a kiss, more burning than ever before.

Thereafter she jokingly introduced Assistant Blom, who had arrived
early in the morning and had gained all hearts on the skerry, being a
fisherman unequaled before.

"And we were just talking about the herring off Bohus, when you came
and disturbed us!" the girl ended the presentation with.

The commissioner let the lie, and the dangerous word "disturbed"
and the challenge "all hearts" pass, while he reached his hand to a
giant youth of about twenty and some years, who had less ability to
dissimulate, and with a guilty look grasped the outstretched hand, and
stuttered a few incomprehensible words.

At the same time the mother came out, greeted her future son-in-law and
began to arrange the table.

A conversation was soon started, and Miss Mary, very likely in the
feeling of having a support, began to joke at her betrothed's toilet.

"That veil there, is precious you know," joked she; "you should also
have a parasol when you are sitting at the helm."

"That will come, that will come," answered the commissioner, hiding the
disagreeable impression which this exposure before a subordinate and a
stranger had made on him.

The assistant, who already felt himself above the considerate foreman,
but still could not help feeling uncomfortable at the cruel treatment
he received, was seized with a tactless compassion, and drumming with
his long fingers on the veil, which the commissioner wore on his hat,
he said:

"Yes, but this here is very practical!" And hastily falling again into
the flirting manner he had begun at the first moment, he added: "And if
Miss Mary were just as careful of her beautiful complexion...."

"As you about your beautiful hands--" slipped from the girl, while she
touched the hand that rested on the table and which was rolling balls
from bread; and she seemed at once to be back in the humor, which her
betrothed could guess had prevailed the whole forenoon.

Feeling himself ridiculous like one who is eating alone in the presence
of those who are satisfied, he needed all his nerve power to disguise
the depression which the overheard conversation had produced. "They
already compliment each other's members in my presence," thought he
with loathing. But perceived at once, that he would be lost if he
showed a single sign of discontent over the improper behavior, which
discontent would immediately be stamped as that dirty vice, he had
lately heard spoken of.

"The assistant has indeed an unusually beautiful hand bespeaking
intelligence," said he, as with the mien of a connoisseur he examined
the object of his betrothed's admiration.

But she, who did not wish for this agreement with her views, switched
aside and searched for a new lash for his supposed stupidity.

"One cannot speak of intelligent hands," she broke out with a laugh,
which sounded somewhat tipsy.

"Therefore I use the more correct expression of bespeaking

"Oh, you philosopher!" scornfully laughed the girl. "You dream, so that
you do not see that we have eaten up all the radishes from you."

"I am glad that the traveler has a relish, and I see with pleasure
that you have forestalled me in caring for his well being," said the
commissioner, unconstrainedly. "Permit me to give you a welcome,
Assistant Blom, and wish you much pleasure from your sojourn here in
the solitude. And now I leave you in Miss Mary's care, she can give
you all the preliminary explanations about fishing affairs; meantime I
go up and rest myself. Farewell, my dove," he turned to the girl; "now
take care of the young man and lead him in the right path. Good night,
mama," he addressed to the widow of the exchequer officer and kissed
her hand.

His sortie had come entirely unexpected, while its adequate motive
and rounded form, leaving no trace of ill feeling, had saved him from
protests and at the same time gave him the last word and a superiority
which was grudged him.

       *       *       *       *       *

Upon reaching his chamber, he had only time to be astonished that "the
fear of loss" could bring him such incredible ability to dissimulate,
suppress disagreeable perceptions, to harden himself, before he was
lying on the sofa with a blanket over his head and sleeping without
dreams. When he awoke after a couple of hours, he arose with a resolve,
which he felt that he would hold fast to for life, to free himself from
this woman.

But just as she through habit had eaten her way into his soul, so she
could only be gnawed out the same way again, and the vacant place that
he would leave in her, must first be filled by another. By him, whose
soul had seemed to set her on fire at the first encounter.

His thoughts were interrupted by a knock at the door.

It was the preacher, who with many excuses stepped in and with some
abashment tried to grind out what he had to say.

"Has not the commissioner," began he, "noticed anything like that the
people out here have less conscience."

"That I observed at once," answered the commissioner. "What is it that
has happened now?"

"Yer, see the laborer on the chapel say, they, have lost boards, so
that there isn't enough to finish it."

"This does not surprise me, but what have I to do with that?"

"Yer, see, the commissioner was for it and procured what was necessary!"

"That was then! Now I have regretted it, since I have seen that your
preaching has taken the people from their work and indirectly made them

"One cannot directly say...."

"No, therefore I said indirectly! But if you want money, go to
somebody else. Tell me one thing; who is the new assistant here?"

"Yer, he has been a sea cadet, they say, you know, and now he would
learn fishing as his father is rich, they say, you know."

The commissioner had placed himself at the window, when the
conversation commenced, and witnessed now how Miss Mary and the
assistant were playing lawn tennis. He had even seen how her gown
had lifted in the front every time she leaned backwards to serve the
other's ball. Now he saw how the assistant jokingly bent down when the
skirt drew up, just as though by gesture and mien to indicate that he
saw something.

"Listen now," he said, "I have long thought that it would be of great
service for the people's best economy, if there was a provision store,
so that the people need not row to the city for their purchases,
and it might even be possible, that the merchant could advance them
provisions, and sell their fish. What does Mr. Olsson say about it?"

The preacher stroked his long chin whiskers, while his face expressed a
mass of shifting desires and changes of mind.

The commissioner now saw through the window, how the assistant had
climbed the pole of the lookout and swung horizontally out by his arms,
while Miss Mary clapped her hands below him.

"Yes, say, Mr. Olsson, if one could get a provision store here, it
would only do good."

"But see, the commonwealth will hardly permit it, unless one could get
a storekeeper that could be relied on, I mean a person who...."

"We will take a religious man and let a share in the benefit go to the
chapel fund; thus we get both the commonwealth and the home mission on
our side."

The face of the preacher now cleared up.

"Yes, in such a way it may work!"

"Yes, think of the subject and try to get a suitable person, who will
not fleece the people nor wrong the church. Think of it awhile. Now to
another subject: I think I have observed that morality stands somewhat
low here on the skerry. Has Mr. Olsson seen or suspected, that matters
are not as they ought to be down at Vestman's?"

"Hm! Yes, they say, of course, that there is something, but that one
does not know! And I do not believe that one need to mix in it!"

"Do you say that! But I wonder, if one ought not to interfere in time,
before they betray themselves, for such things generally end ill out

The preacher did not seem at all willing to stir in the case; either he
did not find it worth talking about, or he would not offend the people.
Besides, his sickly looks seemed to absorb all his thoughts in his own
suffering, so that he with a thwart turn took up his real errand.

"Yes, and so I should like to ask if the commissioner had something
to give me, for I think I have got the fever and ague out here in the

"Ague? Let me see!"

On the impulse of the moment and without forgetting for an instant,
that it was a foe who challenged, the commissioner examined the
patient's pulse, looked at his tongue and the whites of his eyes and
was ready with his prescription.

"Have you poor board at Oman's?"

"Yes, it is wretched," answered the preacher.

"You have malnutrition and shall have food from my table. Have you
sworn off all strong drinks?"

"Oh, yes; however, I take a glass of beer...."

"Yes, here you have a preparation of china to commence with, which you
are to take three times a day. When it is gone let me know."

Therewith he gave him a bottle of china bitters, after which he took
the preacher's hand and said:

"You shall not hate me, Mr. Olsson, for we have great common interests,
although we go different ways. If I can be of any service to you, I am
ready whenever you wish it."

Such a simple manner as a little plausible good will was enough to
pervert the sight of the simple man, so that he believed he had found
a friend. With sincere feeling he reached out his hand and stammered:

"You have done me ill once, but God has turned it to good, and now I
say thanks for everything and beg the commissioner not to forget about
the provision store and the commonwealth."

"I shall not forget that!" finished the commissioner and made a gesture
for him to go.

After having collected himself for a moment he went down on the hill to
search for the assistant, whom he found engaged in a fencing exercise
with Miss Mary, whose wrist and upper arm he took great pains to render
as flexible as necessary for a nice guard position.

The commissioner after having complimented them begged to apologize for
having troubled them, but he must speak with the assistant about his

"There does not exist any vacant chamber on the whole skerry except the
attic room over the ladies' rooms," said he with a daring, as though he
had made every effort to find another.

"No, that won't do!" cried Miss Mary.

"Why not?" argued the commissioner. "What is the obstacle? There is
only that room; in case Mr. Blom should have mine, then I must live in
the same house as the ladies, and that would not do at all."

As there was no other choice, the matter was settled, and the
assistant's baggage was carried up.

"Now to duty!" continued the commissioner, after it had become calm
again. "The stromling have come, and in eight days the fishing will
commence. Therefore the assistant must at once, preferably to-night,
while this wind continues, go out and try the drifting nets, as he
already knows how."

"May I go too?" begged Miss Mary, imitating a child's squeaking voice.

"Certainly you may do that, my angel," answered the commissioner, "if
Mr. Blom has nothing against it. But you must excuse me that I leave
you alone now, for I must write reports the whole night. At one o'clock
you must be out. You can take the coffeepot with you."

"Oh, won't that be fun, such fun!" exulted the girl, who seemed to have
become ten years younger.

"And now I go to order a boat equipped and get the nets ready. Look out
and go to bed early to-night, so that you will not oversleep."

Therewith he went away, surprised over the incredulous surety, with
which he forced his own will, since he had left an impossible defense
and gone over to the offensive.

For the first time he entered the cottage of the hostile fisherman Oman.

He noticed at once that there was a coldness and repugnance, but he was
so precise in his questions and orders, that everything bent before
him. He threw in some kindly questions about the children; promised
that there would soon be better times on the skerry, and he would
undertake all the risk himself, threw in a word about the provision
store, and reminded the people to keep barrels and salt in readiness,
and if they had not the money to buy with, they could have it advanced.
He left as a friend to all and must promise at once to send down some
strong medicine to the father who had taken cold.

Thereafter he went down to the boat houses and selected nets with
strong floats and strings. Examined the best boat, and ordered out two
able boys.

When he had finished the preparatory work, the bell rang for supper in
the ladies' cottage.

At the supper table he spoke with the mother, while the young people,
as he now called them, were devouring each other with their eyes;
squabbling and pushing, as if their bodies were irresistibly attracted
towards each other.

"Should you leave the two alone like that?" whispered the mother to
him, when he had said good night to retire.

"Why not? If I show myself dissatisfied, then I become ridiculous, and
if I do not show dissatisfaction..."

"So you will be still more ridiculous!"

"Thus; in either case. It is immaterial consequently what stand I take!
Good night, mama!"


It had rained for eight days after the first trial with the drifting
nets, which had passed without other results than a little scene
between the engaged pair. The commissioner, who very well knew that
there were no fish to get, as he had purposely led the young folks
astray, had gone down to the beach to receive the home-coming fishers
and had then been called idiot by his betrothed, who was entirely worn
out by being up all night. When the boatmen snickered at this secretly,
the commissioner, who feared a storm, had come between with a joke. At
the dinner table the sport at the new method of fishing had taken wider
range, and the commissioner had played deep humiliation so that Mr.
Blom had several times regarded it his duty to defend him in a manner
extremely wounding.

The rainy days following this had kept the company in doors, whereby an
extremely intimate intercourse had formed down in the ladies' cottage,
where the assistant had introduced the habit of reading aloud from the
Swedish poets. The commissioner had at the beginning listened to it,
but finally left with the explanation that Swedish poesy was written
for confirmation classes and ladies and that he would wait, until there
came a poet, who would write for men. He had then by common vote been
declared unpoetical, at which he was satisfied, as it relieved him from
the duty of being present at the seances.

The rainy weather had caused even the work on the chapel to stop, and
the laborers were sitting in the cottages and furnishing the gin to
what coffee they could get.

The colporteur, who could not gather the people out on the slope,
passed the first days in the kitchen and would have read out of the
Bible, but was received with indifference and fell into dispute
with the laborers, who were mostly free thinkers. Whereupon he had
withdrawn to his chamber, explaining that he was sick and he sent to
the commissioner for the china preparation, as his bottle was emptied.
Suddenly he had disappeared and it was said that he had gone with a
steamer to the city.

He had now returned, the evening before, to the skerry, accompanied by
a man, whom he called his brother and who brought a boat load of divers
articles, mostly beer, which was packed up in a boat house, in the
open door of which a plank on two barrels served as a counter, as the
commonwealth wealth had permitted the opening of a provision store.

During the past few days fishing folks had commenced to gather from the
islands near the mainland. And now the boat houses were opened where
whole families were harbored, the cottages were filled with relations
and acquaintances, and on the whole skerry there was a life, which
strangely contrasted with the usual solitude.

As the skerry and the fishing waters belonged to a private individual
in on the mainland, every boat paid a certain duty which was collected
by an overseer who was sent here. With this overseer the commissioner
had at once got on a bad footing, when he would speak about fishing
with drifting nets, which would be followed by the abandoning of the
shoals, and thereby the water tax would cease. But even this apparently
unfavorable circumstance he had known how to turn to his benefit; for
the overseer, when opposing the new method, was urged to propagate the
old system by means of gin and would thereby against his will form the
dark background, against which the effects of fishing with drifting
nets would stand out in bolder magnificence. And the commissioner
was perfectly sure of his victory, as night and day he had been
sampling the water, dredging, fishing, and with his water telescope
investigating the depths to find out where the shoals of fish were

All these details, however, had no other interest to him, than that
they served to exercise his energy for coming battles, to restore in
him that feeling of power, without which nobody can endure, who has
unusual abilities, which are easily lost, unless used.

And during the time, which had passed since the arrival of the
assistant, the daily hectoring from the side of the young folks had by
and by accustomed him to the role of an inferior, so that he was on the
way to live this role himself, especially as he himself did not wish
to break the engagement but found it necessary to cause the break to
be made by her. Between the two young people there existed a complete
sympathy on all subjects, and he had witnessed how the ripe woman was
at once on a level with the unripe man, all of whose immature thoughts,
all improvised notions she accepted as the height of wisdom. And each
of his attempts to refute a stupidity stranded against their inability
to keep together the threads of a discourse, because they were thinking
exclusively under the influence of the desire to own each other. To
take up some competition in acrobatic dexterity or praise of the lower
sex he would not, for it was his exact purpose to be erased and make a
capital end to the tie, which threatened his whole future existence.
And this biandri, in which he was living, when he, for an occasional
moment alone with his betrothed, only received reflexes from the other
man, felt, as it were, his spirit on her lips, heard his childishness
reëchoed from her mouth, all this had ended in giving him loathing for
a state, which reminded of a _ménage à trois_.

The young man's conceit had no limit, and he had fallen into the
ridiculous idea that he was superior to the commissioner, because he
was _al pari_ with Miss Mary, who also gave the illusion of being above
the commissioner; according to the perfectly correct formula: if A
is greater than B, and C is equal to A, then C is also greater than
B,--without, however, first examining whether A really was greater than

He had never before expected to find youth's secret so openly exposed
as he got it here gratuitously presented on a waiter, and how well he
recognized himself from a past stage.

How had he not cried of hunger and rut? Experienced Weltschmerz of
envy for elders, who had already gained what he was struggling for and
who then made him feel dejected, whereby also his sympathy for all
oppressed and small had been aroused. This inability to judge one's
powers, based on anticipation of that, which it would be possible
to accomplish in this long life, if thought of as concentrated in
a single act! All this sentimentality, caused only by unsatisfied
desires. This over-estimating of woman, while memories from the nursery
and of the mother were still fresh. These lax half-thoughts of the
still soft brain under pressure from blood vessels and testicles.

He even recognized these faint signs of good sense, which under the
form of primitive, animal slyness and discrimination of means so often
believed themselves to be the highest prudence, but were only the fox's
simple attempt to be shrewd, and which therefore wonderfully resembled
the reputed women's artifice, priest shrewdness, and lawyers' trickery.

The young man had even tried mind reading on the commissioner, thereby
betraying that he suspected the latter of carrying some dangerous
secrets as he was unlike other beings. But in this he had acted so
clumsily, that the commissioner had found out all that was thought and
said about him by the ladies; instead of giving any information he
had by his answers so mystified the young man, that he began to doubt
whether his rival was a blockhead or of a demoniac nature. By demoniac
he meant a conscious person, who under pretext of the greatest naivete
acted with full calculation, always awake and leading the fates of
other beings according to his plans. And as the idea of calculation,
which was a virtue, always had a bad significance to the young, who
could not calculate the consequences of an act, so his envy assumed the
inferior's passionate desire to tear down and trample under the feet.

Thus matters stood, when the great day came that was to decide the
fishermen's whole existence for the coming winter.

       *       *       *       *       *

The August evening was hanging bed warm over the skerry, all of whose
cliffs and stones were still warm after the sun had gone down, so warm,
that the dew could not fall on them. The sea outside spread itself
smooth and lavender gray where the full moon copper red slowly emerged
and was just now half hidden by a brig, which seemed to sail right on
the satellite's _mare serenitatis_. Nearer the strand were seen all
the floats of the laid out nets lying in rows like flocks of sea birds
floating on the swell.

And while the people were awaiting the break of day to look at the
nets, they had camped on the strands around campfires with coffeepots
and gin bottles; in the boat house, where the provision dealer was
selling beer, the preacher had taken place beside his brother to assist
him with the lively traffic, and with a blue apron round his hips he
was seen opening beer bottles like an old expert saloon keeper.

The commissioner, who had come out to observe the direction of the
currents, the temperature and barometric pressure, now wandered on the
sandy beach to rest from his thoughts. Here and there he surprised
a couple, who had sought solitude. Their unintelligible naivete in
behavior made him only turn his back on them with a sneer and loathing.
Coming further out on the point, he climbed out on the cliffs to find
his seat, where he used to meditate. It was one of the arm chairs which
had been perfectly polished by the waves, and was still warm as a stove
from the burning sun of the day.

He had been sitting a moment half asleep lulled by the sighing of the
surf, when he heard the sand creak below on the edge of the beach.
There was a rustle in the dry wrack, and he saw the assistant and his
betrothed coming slowly walking with their arms around each other's
waist. They halted between the invisible beholder and the moonlight's
street on the water, so that he could see their figures outlined
as sharply, as though he had had them between the objective of a
microscope and the reflecting mirror. And he saw now with antipathy's
sharpened glance her profile like that of a bird of prey leaning
towards the other's big ape's head with the enormous cheeks, useless
to all but buglers, and the narrow tapering skull without a forehead.
He observed now the superfluous mass of flesh in the man's figure,
whose ignoble outlines with too large hips reminded of a woman like the
Farnesian Hercules. A manly ideal of the period of the semi-brutes,
when the fist still ruled over the big brain, which was not completed.

Disgraced, as though he had been engaged to a centaur, he felt that his
soul through marriage with a retrogressive type, was standing before
the beginning of a crime, which, completed, would falsify his lineage
for all time to come, which should allure him to offer his only life
for another's child, on which he should squander his best feelings and,
after a time grown fast to it, drag his humiliation as a block about
his feet unable to free himself. Jealousy "this dirty vice," what else
is it than the healthy, strong fear of the tribal instinct lest it
should be hindered in its praiseworthy egotism to perpetuate the best
in the individual? And who lacks in this sound passion but the sterile
family sustainer, the wife panderer, the weak fool, the cicisbeo, the
gynecolater, who believes in platonic love?

He was jealous, but when the first anger over the affront had subsided,
there awoke an unrestrained desire to possess this woman without
wedlock. The gauntlet was thrown, the liberty in choice was proclaimed,
and he felt a desire to take up the battle, break the band and appear
as the lover in order that he with gained victory should be able to
go calmly onwards, conscious that he was not the one who had been
neglected by nature, who had been pushed aside in the battle of love.
Here was no longer a question of honest contest with loyal means, it
was an insidious battle between burglars. The challenger had selected
the simple weapon, skeleton keys, and the combat was about stealing!
With a woman as the prize all hesitation disappeared. The animal had
awakened, and the wild instincts, which hid themselves under the great
name of love, were as furious as the powers of nature let loose.

He arose from the rock unobserved and turned his steps homewards to
arrange his fate, as he called it.


There was a gloomy silence on the skerry about seven o'clock the next
morning, for the fishing on the shoals had been a failure on account
of the reasons stated by the commissioner. The fishermen were sitting
dejectedly in their boats and straightening out their nets, and now and
then picking out a solitary stromling, which was thrown on shore.

The traffic at the provision store had become less with the sinking
credit, and the preacher had laid aside his blue apron and with book
in hand had gathered a little group of despairing women around him in
a cottage. With an incomprehensible, but not unusual, logic among his
class he spoke of how Jesus fed five thousand men with five loaves and
two fishes. There was an approximate _à propos_ for so far as this case
was concerned there were many mouths and few fishes, but how these few
fishes could fill so many, that he could not indicate. Now that there
was no help, he must try and explain, why the miracle could not be done
again, and he found the reason in the prevailing unbelief. If they only
had faith as a grain of mustard seed, the miracle would be repeated.
And faith could only be gained by prayer.

Therefore he exhorted the community to pray.

Although none of those present believed in the miracle of the two
fishes, while the most of them had never heard of it, because they had
not read that story, they followed the example and repeated the Lord's
Prayer, which they had learned passably for the first holy communion.

But when they were half through, they were suddenly disturbed by a
noise from the harbor. Those who were sitting nearest the window now
saw a fishing boat, which had just furled its mainsail, and come up to
the pier. In the bow stood Miss Mary with fluttering hair beneath the
blue Scotch cap, and at the tiller sat the assistant waving his hat as
a sign of success. The boat was overloaded with nets, through the dark
meshes of which glittered fish upon fish.

"Come here, you shall have stromling," cried the girl with the
conqueror's munificence.

"If I am only permitted to measure them first, the people shall have
them," interposed the commissioner, who from his window had observed
the return of the boat and had therefore come down to see the result of
his labors.

"What good will that do?" said Miss Mary over-bearingly.

"It is for the statistics, my gracious lady," answered the commissioner
with no sign of discomposure, for he knew that the result of the
fishing had depended upon the information he had given, founded on
current, depth, temperature of the water and the condition of the

"You with your statistics," joked Miss Mary with an expression of
deepest disgust.

"Take it, then, but only let me know afterwards how much there was,"
the commissioner finished the discussion with and went home.

"He is envious of us," remarked Miss Mary to the assistant.

"Perhaps jealous?" said he.

"That he surely cannot be," replied the girl half aloud as to herself,
thereby betraying that which she had hidden for several days, namely
her being provoked at her betrothed's incredible indifference towards
his rival which she had taken as an offending over-confidence in his
power to charm.

The prayer meeting had been broken up, and all the islanders gathered
around the returned fishing boat.

"Yes, see Miss Mary, you are a perfect man!" flatteringly said the
preacher, getting the chance of sowing a little seed of variance as he

"A sitting crow gets nothing," joked the custom house surveyor.

"One who lies on his sofa, he means," whispered the assistant to Miss

The girl swelled at the praise, and distributed the fish with full
hands to those who stood on the pier, who never tired of breaking forth
in praise and blessings over the angel rescuer.

But it was not gratitude for benevolence received, which called forth
this beautiful emotion, it was a hearty desire to evade confessing
themselves wrong towards the commissioner, whose way of fishing they
had joked about. It was the reverse side of a hatred towards their real
benefactor, for whom they would not bow in gratitude.

When the fish was taken from the nets and distributed between the
poorest, there proved to be ten barrels, which were at once bought by
the provision dealer and salted down. The money was transferred at once
into coffee, sugar and beer. For they felt sure they could take their
own stromling for the winter out of the sea, since Miss Mary had given
them all the information regarding the new way of fishing with drifting

When the commissioner reached his room, he found a letter, which had
been brought by a coast guardsman returning home. It contained an
invitation for the commissioner and his betrothed to honor the ball of
the officers on board the corvette _Loke_, which would anchor beside
the skerry at eight o'clock of the same day.

He saw at once that the moment had come in which to make an end to the
engagement, for now to take the mistress of another into society and
introduce her as his future wife, naturally he would not. Therefore
he pulled off his engagement ring, and put it in a letter, which he
had composed the night before to the widow of the exchequer officer,
and in which he with the strongest expressions of despair regretted
that his engagement with Miss Mary must come to an end, because of a
former liaison, which he had recklessly entered into with a woman,
who had borne him children, and who now appeared with a lawful claim
which, if it could not compel him into a marriage with the plaintiff,
still had the power to prevent his union with another. As a gentleman,
but without intending to offend, he explained that he was prepared to
assist the innocently injured girl who was perhaps placed in distress,
both as far as the saving of her honor and her subsistence were

This fiction he had found to be the only possible way to make a final
ending, as it protected the honor of both parties, but mostly that of
the girl, and must be irrevocable without the hope of reparation, being
an inevitable fate.

When he had sealed the letter, he whistled to his orderly, and gave
it to him telling him to carry it to the widow of the officer of the

Thereafter he lighted a cigarette and placed himself at the window to
see how the shot would strike. On the porch stood the old lady shaking
a mat, when the man stopped to deliver the letter. She received it
with some astonishment, which increased, when she with her left hand
squeezed the envelope to feel what it contained. Thereupon she turned
round and went into the cottage.

A moment thereafter Miss Mary's figure was seen to move to and fro
behind the lace curtains in the dining room. She seemed to walk
vehemently backwards and forwards, sometimes stopping and gesticulating
with her arms, as though she would defend herself against reproaches,
which were thrown at her.

This lasted about an hour, after which she was seen out on the porch,
throwing a revengeful glance up towards the commissioner's window.
After which she beckoned to the assistant, who was coming from the

When they had both gone into the cottage and been invisible for half an
hour, they appeared again and went into the woodshed, from whence they
brought out a trunk and a knapsack.

So, they had considered it, and found that to tarry on the skerry
longer was impossible.

After a moment the assistant again appeared, this time carrying with
him his own trunk, which the commissioner recognized by its trimmings
of brass.

Thus he also intended to go.

Soon the owners of the cottage appeared with servants, and the whole
house seemed to be turned upside down.

Towards noon, after the commissioner had passed away the time with
reading, he saw the assistant and Miss Mary step out onto the porch,
and engage in a lively conversation, which became more so and was
followed by gestures, indicating a controversy.

"They must know each other pretty well, as they are quarreling
already," thought the commissioner.

In the afternoon the old lady and the assistant were on the pilot's
boat being taken out to an inward bound steamer. Why Miss Mary stayed,
he could not understand clearly. Perhaps with the hope of a renewal,
perhaps with a desire to show her spite or may be something else.

However, she placed herself at the window, so that she could be seen
from the custom house cottage. And there she sat most of the time,
sometimes drumming on the window pane, sometimes reading a book and now
and then raising her handkerchief to her face.

About seven o'clock in the evening the corvette was seen stealing
from Landsort's passage and going to anchor at once between Norsten
and East Skerries. When it signaled with the steam whistle for pilots,
the girl arose and came out to see what was going on; and as she now
stood on the slope, regarding the fine vessel, which was adorned for a
feast with flags on all stays and with colored awnings amidships, the
commissioner could see how she became fascinated by the alluring sight.
She stood with her hands behind her back in an unbecoming attitude,
until the wind brought to the skerry the tunes of a festival march,
when her feet began to move on the spot. Slowly the slender body bent
forwards, as if it was attracted by the tones of music, and then, at
once, the whole figure collapsed, the hands covered the face and the
girl rushed precipitately into the cottage, in despair like a child,
who had lost an expected pleasure.

The commissioner now dressed for the ball; on the black dress coat with
the doctor's insignia embroidered in black silk on the velvet collar,
he hung his six decorations of knighthood on a chain and put on his
bracelet, which he had not worn since the day of his engagement.

When he had finished his toilet and had still an hour left, before the
boat would come for him, he decided to make a farewell visit to Miss
Mary, mostly because he would not be suspected of cowardice, but also
because he was longing to test his power over his own feelings. As he
came into the hall he made a noise to give the girl time to pose in
order that he from this pose might learn the reason of her stay and
what her intentions were.

After knocking he entered and found Miss Mary sitting with sewing work,
something he had never seen in her hands before. Her face expressed
humiliation, regret and submission, although with an effort to look
indifferent and aristocratic.

"Will you see me, Miss Mary, or shall I go?" commenced the
commissioner. And he felt again the inexplicable desire to lift her
above himself as a woman, when she appeared with a woman's attributes
and leaned towards him, just as he otherwise felt an irresistible
desire to push her down, when she came with manly pretensions and
manners. At this moment she seemed more beautiful to him than he had
seen her for a long time, so that he gave way to his feelings, and
without making resistance he became approachable.

"I have caused you grief, Miss Mary...."

When she heard the softness in his voice she at once straightened up
and snapped:

"But you were too cowardly to come and tell me, yourself."

"Considerate, Miss Mary! It is not so easy for me as it is for you to
slap people's faces. And you see now, that I have the courage to show
myself, as well as you to receive me."

The last was ambiguous, with the purpose of hearing whether she
believed in his motive for breaking the engagement.

"Did you believe that I feared you?" asked she and took a stitch with
her needle.

"I did not know how you would take my explanation, although I thought I
knew that the sorrow which it might cause you would be easily consoled."

There lay something in the words "easily consoled," which seemed to
cut the girl as an allusion to the young consoler, but neither of them
seemed to have the desire to betray themselves; one feared to show
jealousy, and the other was anxious to learn, if he had seen anything.

The girl, who had sat at her work, now looked up to read the expression
in the face of her opponent and observed with a wonder which she could
not hide the many orders on the lapel of his dress coat. And with a
childish pettishness, which only hides envy, she sneered:

"How fine you are!"

"I shall be so at the ball!"

The girl's face twitched, twitched so terribly that the commissioner
felt the reflection of her pain and took hold of her hand at the same
moment that she broke out with a terrible cry. And when he leaned
towards her, she drew her head towards his chest and cried, so that she
shook as in a fever.

"Child!" the commissioner said soothingly.

"Yes, I am a child! Therefore you should have indulgence with me!"
sobbed the girl.

"Listen! How far shall one have indulgence with a child?"


"No! I have never heard that! There is a perfectly determined limit,
where dissoluteness approaches criminal action."

"What do you mean?"

And now she jumped up.

"You know what I mean, I see that," answered the commissioner, who was
again free from the enchantment, for as soon as she became hard, at the
same moment she became ugly.

"Jealous, thus!" sneered the girl, who believed she had caught him.

"No, for jealousy is an uncalled for suspicion, sometimes a measure
of prudence, but my apprehensions have proved to be well founded.
Therefore I am not jealous!"

"And of a boy! A whelp, that you are standing so far above," continued
the girl without taking the explanation into consideration.

"So much the more ignominious for yourself!"

"Thus the whole story was a falsehood," she threw between to escape
being hit by the affront.

"From beginning to end! But I would not cause your mother sorrow and
yourself shame! Do you understand the delicacy?"

"Yes, I understand it! But I do not understand myself!"

"That I should be able to do, if you gave me a part of your past life!"

"My past life! What do you mean?"

"There exists then a past in your life! It was this I always suspected."

"You allow yourself to make insinuations...."

"As I have nothing further to do, with who you are or what you have
been, so ... Now I must say farewell!" the commissioner broke off, as
he saw a gunner out on the hill coming for him.

"Don't go away yet!" begged the girl and grasped his hand, looking into
his eyes with drowning glances. "Do not go away, for then I do not know
what I might do."

"Why torment ourselves longer, when separation is inevitable?"

"We will not torment ourselves! You shall stay with me this evening, so
that we can talk before we separate; I will narrate to you all that
you wish to know, and after that you will judge me differently."

The commissioner, who from this utterance believed he knew all and
was sure that he had escaped the misfortune of binding himself to the
mistress of one or more, now came to a decision. He went to the window,
and dismissed the gunner, saying that he would come later in his own

When this was done, he sat down on the sofa for the starting of a

But after the girl was relieved of her uneasiness, she relaxed and
became almost speechless, so that finally there was perfect silence.
They had nothing to say to each other, and the fear of stirring up
storm birds oppressed more and more the feelings, so that tiresomeness
faced them.

The commissioner began to thumb the books, which were left on the
center table, and caught sight of one on which the assistant's name was

"The story of a young woman, I believe I Have you read it?" asked he.

"No, I haven't had time yet. What is there about the book?"

"Well, it is remarkable because it was written by a woman and yet is

"So! What is its contents then?"

"Its contents are about free love. There is a young scientist, who
becomes engaged to a girl free from prejudice; and while he is on an
expedition, she lends herself to an artist, while expecting later to
marry her betrothed."

"So? What does the authoress say about that?"

"She only laughs at that, of course."

"Fie!" said the girl and rose to go after a bottle of wine.

"Why so? No right of ownership in love! And, besides, her betrothed was
tiresome, at least in her company, to judge by the delineation in the

"Now we are beginning to be tiresome, also," interrupted Miss Mary, as
she filled the glasses.

"What shall we amuse ourselves with then?" asked the lover with an
amorous smile, which could not be misunderstood. "Come now and sit down
here by me."

Instead of being offended at the coarse tone and gesture, which
accompanied the invitation, the girl seemed to look up to the man with
a certain admiration where before she had almost despised him for his
over-respectful manners.

The twilight had fallen, and the moon in its last quarter threw only a
yellow-green stripe in onto the floor, silhouetting the shadow of the

Through the open window came the subdued tones of the first waltz,
"The Queen of the Ball," as a reproach, a greeting from the lost
Paradise, and at the same time sustained the hope that all was not

And in the hope of binding him by a memory of the highest bliss she
made the last concession after a stormy explanation of love on his


Three days later the commissioner landed on East Skerries after having
been to Dalaro. When he learned that the young lady had left never
to return, he felt an inexpressible easiness, as though the air was
rarefied and purer. Going up to his room, he rested before the open
window to smoke, and in memory pass through the changeful sensations of
the past days.

When he at midnight had torn himself from the girl's embrace, he had
placed himself in the boat with a certain satisfaction; as though he
had fulfilled a pressing duty. It was now as though the equilibrium
had been replaced. His rights had been violated in such a case, where
the law did not give redress, and therefore he must procure right for
himself, and he had acted only upon the principles which the opponents
themselves had promulgated.

Afterwards when he had gone aboard the corvette and met people, with
whom he could converse in a cultured language, and had discussed with
the surgeon learned subjects, it at first acted as an intoxicant. He
did not need to suppress his brain for childish talk, nor make himself
semi-stupid in order to be understood; and when he only expressed
himself by inference or with hints, he was understood at once. Then
he felt that he had been living three months in barbarism, which by
and by had imperceptibly drawn him down into trifling battles, which
had placed his thought life beneath the effective and vegetative; had
elevated the act of reproduction to be the main thing, and allured him
to enter as a competitor in a strife as between stallions, from which
very likely he would have come out victorious. And so he understood why
the guardians of the universal Christian church, who were sent to carry
civilization out to the savages of all nations, were once forbidden
to found a family, or to bind themselves to woman or children, and he
understood that there could lay a rational significance in fasting and
renunciation, for those who would live a higher spiritual life. It was
not for self-gratification that the anchorite sought solitude, for
just as when dropped at random on fallow ground, the solitary grain of
wheat could raise sixty spears, while that in the wheat field only gave
two, where the seed was crowded between millions on fertilized ground,
so could that individual, who struggled for a richer development over
others, only grow in the desert.

Three days' experience had corroborated this, for when he on board the
corvette and at the bathing resort was dragged from circle to circle,
he had observed every night when he went to bed, that during the course
of the day he had ground off his edges, whereby he had, like a precious
stone, gained in appearance but lost in carats. This subserviency,
developed by common sympathy for the human being and by the tendency of
adaption in society had deluded him to such a degree, that the opinions
which he had improvised in society stuck to him and were subsequently
recollected by him with the claim of being his inner-most thoughts. And
he had finally become loath and felt himself at last a false being,
who said one thing and thought another; he began to blush for himself
and observed that with increasing esteem he gained in society for his
affable manners, he lost all esteem for himself.

To avoid sinking he isolated himself again, and the regained solitude
acted upon his spirit as a steam bath, or a swim in the sea, where
liberty from all pressure, all contact with solid material had ceased;
and he decided to stay on the skerry through the winter.

For this purpose he rented for his own use the cottage, where the
ladies had dwelt, and began to install himself the same day. The one
big room he took for a library and laboratory, the other for dining
room and parlor; the attic he fixed up for a bedroom.

When he awoke the next morning in his new domicile, after a dreamless
sleep, he found a new pleasure in having a house alone to himself,
where he need not have forced upon him suggestions from others, nor
receive other impressions than those he himself determined on.

When he had drunk his coffee, he sat down in the library, after having
given orders that he would not receive visitors before three o'clock in
the afternoon.

Now he took up an old plan of exploring Europe's present ethnography,
in a way that would save all useless travel. On printed circulars,
issued in a fictitious name, he now filled in the addresses, and
professional titles and put them into stamped envelopes. To get
the most complete record of the measurements of the craniums and
the dimensions of the body he had decided that circulars sent to
hat makers, makers of coffins, shirt and hosiery manufacturers in
Europe's principal cities asking for information as to the sizes
mostly called for in the respective countries, would procure for him
the desired results. The circulars pretended to be Issued with the
view of exportation of said stuffs at wholesale with high profits. In
addition to this another circular was sent to the great as well as the
smaller book dealers in the capitals of Europe and other cities, with
a request for photographs of all kinds. These were to be paid for in
advance at the highest price by postal order. He also placed himself
in communication with a technicist, who bought photographs to utilize
the silver in them. With this and the thousand of portraits, which he
had cut out of foreign illustrated papers, he intended to commence his

When he had finished this work, it was dinner time. He went out of
doors to eat it, and he observed that a letter was in the mail box on
the door. The writing was familiar to him, and when he had assured
himself it was from Miss Mary, he did not open it, he let it lay beside
him on the table; meantime he ate his simple dinner in great haste.
That the letter did not contain anything agreeable, that he understood
as he had broken his promise to come back the next day to say good-by,
and now because he would save himself all disagreeable impressions he
laid the letter aside in the table drawer without opening it.

But when he had slept an hour after his dinner and the heat from labor
and food had disappeared, he observed, that his thoughts did not turn
to books, they turned towards that table drawer. And now he began
to wander up and down the floor, the prey of vehement and fatiguing

It was as though he had a part of her soul locked up in this drawer;
she existed in the room, and the spirit of her power of attraction lay
under the white envelope, on which a red seal lightened as a kiss. He
saw her sitting there on the same sofa, heard her whisperings, felt
her eyes glowing in the dusk, and his flesh began to burn again. How
stupid, he thought, to let life's highest bliss go out of one's hands.
When love was a mutual deceit, why not deceive then! Nothing for
nothing I And when a perfect happiness did not exist, why then not be
content with the imperfect?

Now he felt that he would have crawled to her, lied that he was her
slave and acknowledged himself vanquished. He could have frightened
away the rival; and with her alone in perfect union it would have been
easy to have bound her with the band of habit and interest, and finally
she would not take the enjoyment from someone else.

But so came the fear, that this letter would disperse his last hope,
which still was better than nothing, and he would not read it. He had
placed himself at his laboratory table, and almost without thinking of
what he did, he opened an iron retort, put in the letter and lit the
blast lamp under it. After a moment the smoke puffed out through the
neck of the retort, and when it ceased he lighted the gas with a match.
A little blue-yellow flame burned for a few minutes with a whistling
sound like a bat's cry.

The spirit of the letter, as an alchemist would have said! A mass of
paper which was consumed and gave the same products of combustion,
carbon and hydrogen, as a burning soul in a living body. Carbon and
hydrogen! It was all, and the same!

The flame fluttered, decreased, disappeared in the neck, and it was
dark again in the room!

It had again grown cloudy out over the sea, and the waves were
going before the east wind, beating towards the strand, sighing,
hissing, and the wind split at the corners like the waves against
the stem of a boat; but through all these sounds of lamentation was
heard the whistling buoy's crying out on the sea, rhythmetic as a
tragic comedian, when he recites, and with pauses, just as though to
recover his breath or let the last word die out; before he lets a
new one stream forth. It was a solo for Titan with the storm for an
accompaniment, a giant organ, where the east wind tread the bellows.

The room became too sultry for him, and he took his cloak to go out
into the storm and let his mood blow away. Attracted against his will
by the light of a lantern in the provision store, he steered his steps
thither. As the fishing with drifting nets had been remunerative, the
store had a lively patronage, and hidden by darkness he could come
close to the talking fishermen without being seen.

"And so the assistant swiped the girl from him," said old Oman; "and so
she got a real man instead of that one...."

"Yes, he is not as a human being should be," threw in the unmarried
Vestman, "for to-day he wrote as good as hundreds of letters for the
mail. And what he is boiling in there and is busy with, no mortal can
tell, but I think, what I think! And we must have our eyes open, for
such ones as lock themselves in and boil, we know them."

"Oh, the devil!" the married Vestman followed with. "Let him brew his
drop himself; it cannot turn out worse with him than old Soderlund, who
mashed out on the rocks and lost his still! This here I think we won't
meddle with."

"Yes, if it is only that," replied Oman, "then let him go on with it,
but see I never can forget that he would have taken the net from me
that time, and if I catch him by the fin, I don't let him slip until I
have him in the cauf...."

"Yes, a wicked man is he who has no God!" ended the colporteur. "That
is sure!"

Without having the slightest trace of an illusion in regard to their
thankfulness, the commissioner could not help feeling an uneasiness
at being surrounded in the desert by downright enemies and the most
dangerous of the dangerous, who believed that they saw in him an idiot
or a criminal. They believed that he was distilling gin to save twenty
cents on a gallon! They suspected him of mixing poisons for them. If
any misfortunes happened here, he would be blamed for it. And if they
used their unlawful nets, he would not dare to seize them without
himself dreading a more or less scandalous charge, or something worse
than that--their revenge.

It was a dangerous company, dangerous to life as stupidity. And
although he knew that at any moment he would he could gain all of them
for his friends, if he treated them to a gallon of gin and stayed with
them himself and helped drink it, he never thought to do this for one
moment. Their enmity kept him free; their friendship would have dragged
him down into their filth. Their hate could only act as an annunciator
for his power, but their affections would have neutralized it, even if
their spirits never could enter into contact with his. And the very
danger had its pleasure, because it kept his spirit awake and elastic,
gave him something to counteract, for exercise. Besides the danger out
here among these savages was not less than that in the upper circles,
which he had lately left, and where the power to do real harm was
greater. Had not the surgeon on board the corvette regarded him as
sick, when he spoke of the necessity of finding a method to utilize
the enormous quantity of nitrous oxide, which was wasted in the
manufacture of commercial sulphuric acid, while at the same time the
expensive saltpeter is imported from Chile to compensate for the soil's
losses of nitrogen. Or when he projected something about utilizing the
smoke from the chimneys for technical purposes, had not this friend
advised him to take a sojourn at a watering place and reside among
human beings.

Rather stay in absolute solitude and pass for an idiot among redskins
than be condemned to a civil death by equals with authority and
decision without appeal.

After he had wandered a moment in the darkness, he returned to his
cottage and lighted the candles and lamps in his two rooms and opened
the doors onto the porch, whereby he lessened the impression of being
locked in.

When he now looked at his watch it was only eight o'clock. The long
evening and night which were coming frightened him, for his head was
too tired to work, but not sufficiently so to enable him to sleep. The
wind blew fiercely round the house corners, the din of the waves and
the roaring of the whistling buoy made him nervous. To free himself
from the suggestions of these sounds, to which he would not be a slave,
he placed in "sleeping bullets" which were small steel balls he had
bought in Germany, which when placed in the ears, prevented every
sound from penetrating and being perceived.

But when he thus had shut off perhaps the greatest line of
communication with the outer world, his fantasy began to labor at a
higher pressure. A mad curiosity to know what the burned letter could
have contained, gripped him irresistibly, so that he opened the retort
to try to read in the ashes. But even the ink was destroyed by fire,
and there was no trace to be seen of the writing. Now the field was
open for all kinds of doubts and guesses. Sometimes he believed he
could draw conclusions as to what the letter had contained from all
that had passed, sometimes he rejected this, remembering the girl's
illogical way to think and act.

So finally he stopped at the decision that it was impossible to reason
it out, and he decided not to worry over it any more. But his brain had
become unrestrainable and was worrying on its own account, grinding and
sifting, until he became completely exhausted, without being able to
sleep. And with the increasing feebleness in the organ of thought the
lower propensities awoke.

Enraged that his soul could not hold out in the battle with a fragile
body, he finally undressed and took a dose of potassium bromide, and
at once the brain stopped in its wild career, fantasies banished, the
consciousness was stunned, and he fell asleep as heavily as though


The autumn had advanced, but on the skerry could not be seen that the
summer had gone, for there was not a deciduous tree to turn yellow,
and the lichens on the rocks had become more luxuriant, and swelled
by the moisture, the heath and the crowberry vines had taken on a new
verdure, the juniper and the dwarf pines, the eternally green trees of
the north, were freshened and freed from dust by rain.

The fishermen had flown, as their labor for the fall was ended; the
silence had again returned, and the provision store was closed. The
wooden frame of the chapel became more naked, as the boards had been
picked off for firewood and carpenter's lumber, so that there was only
the studdings to be seen, which resembled a complex of gibbets.

The preacher was seldom seen now, for since he had become an abstainer,
he had misused the china wine, which was a compound containing brandy,
and he already had buzzings in his ears, palpitation of the heart and
was sleeping most of the time.

The commissioner after a month of labor had succeeded in curing his
soul of the shot wound he had received at the game of love. With
potassium iodide and low diet he had subdued the desires, and when the
tristesse of the solitude took him, he generated a portion of laughing
gas from ammonium nitrate, for he had found a long time previous that
intoxication from alcohol was vile and succeeded by greater dejection
with mania for suicide. At first the wonderous nitrous oxide had
cheered him up and made him laugh, but the banal giggle had dissolved
all his great thoughts and struggles into a nothing, at which he
laughed, but when he had found himself down among the gigglers, who had
giggled at him, he felt the need of raising himself up again above his
former self, and he missed his sorrows and his griefs.

But when he had isolated himself completely, so that the chambermaid
was only permitted to clean the room and bring in food, while he
locked himself up in the attic room, all the memories from the summer
commenced to haunt him. He remembered now without wishing it, every
word that had been said. And now the appearance of the preacher in the
mist on the islet appeared as something that had been planned. The
words which he had uttered concerning his father and his circumstances
compared with those of Miss Mary, that she knew who he was, now took
root, grew and became big. There must exist some secret in his life,
which everybody knew except himself. And soon he saw in the appearance
of the preacher that of a planned spying, sustained by someone who
wished to persecute him. He did not believe this in calmer moments, for
he knew very well that the mania of persecution was the first symptom
of that infirmity, which accompanies isolation. Human beings formed
a great electrical battery of many elements, and when an element is
isolated, it loses its power. The induction coil of copper wire was
lame at the same moment the soft iron rod was taken out, and he was on
the way to be lame, since his iron rod had become tempered steel.

Yes, but that was not that sickly mania of persecution, which comes
from bodily infirmity, for he had in fact been persecuted, opposed
from the very moment, that he in the school bespoke that he would be
a power, a former of a species, that would be able to break from its
kindred and like the differentiating herb beget for itself a name of
its own, perhaps the name of a new genus. He had been persecuted,
instinctively from below by inferiors and above by the mediocre, which
latter sat as gauges and determined the standard, by which greatness
should be judged. He had been hated and picked at as the yellow
high-bred bird of the Canary islands, when it had flown out of its
cage and come among green-finches out in the forest, where its too
splendid attire provoked the wild birds.

But nature, in which he had sought company before, now became dead to
him, for the intermediary, the human being, was wanting. The sea, which
he had worshiped and which he sought as the only grandeur in his paltry
country with its petty, trivial summer cottage landscapes seemed to him
to become narrow, as his ego swelled. This blue, turpentine-green, gray
circle enclosed him as a prison yard, and the uniformity of the little
landscape brought the same pain, as prison cells might cause, by their
want of variety. To travel away from the whole he could not, for he sat
with his roots In the earth, in his little impressions, his diet, and
he could not be removed with the root. It was the Norseman's tragic,
which uttered itself in longing for the south.

It was then that he commenced to think out a plan for connecting the
country, the island country,--for that it had a connection by Lapland
did not change the case--with the mainland. First there should be a six
hours' lightning train to Helsingborg and communication with a steam
ferry boat across the sound making the capital of Denmark the center of
the North. Ice free harbors on Djuro and Nynas with ice breakers should
keep commerce and navigation alive the whole year round; the northern
winter sleep would thereby be retrenched, and the national character,
unsteadiness, which is said to be owing to that six months interruption
of all activity, should change nature. The Russian commerce to England
should go through Stockholm and Gothenborg, and the old scheme of
Charles XI and Charles XII, to get the Persia and India trade over
Russia and Sweden would be realized.

Sweden should become a country for tourists, and foreigners would be
allured to her. He would change Stockholm to a seaport by closing the
lake Mälar at the North Bridge and the Sluice, and give it another
outlet through a system of canals leading to the cove of Trosa. Thereby
the salt water would come up to Stockholm, which would change the
atmosphere conditions and consequently the inhabitants.

But he remembered the time when Sweden, still belonging to the great,
universal Christian church, stood in direct communication with Rome
and thereby was of some account to Europe. He would, if it was shown
that religion could not be abandoned by the multitude, again introduce
this our forefathers' faith, which we with fire and sword had been
urged to abjure, and whose martyrs, Hans Brask, Olaus and Johannes
Magnus, Nils Dacke, and Ture Jonsson have become so shamefully soiled
in history. And Catholicism, the Roman legacy, the first promulgator
of the idea of Europeism had conquered all Europe. Bismarck had fallen
in the combat of culture, gone to Canossa and selected the Pope for
an arbitrator, as he had commenced to believe in arbitrations without
steel cannons. Denmark had built Catholic cathedrals, and the young
Danes had already lent their pens to the cause. The germanization of
the North like that of North Germany was only a relapse into barbarism
after the Hun battles of 1870 the consequences of which have become
manifest in persecution against Latin, and in French hate, which is
uttered in wars of extermination against French literature, in North
Germany family politics and Lutheran inquisition with prisons for
heretics and a general lowering of the level of intelligence.

Lutherism, that was the foe! Teutonic culture; bourgeois religion
in black pants, sectaristic narrowness, particularism, sundering,
intrenchment and spiritual death!

No, Europe should be one again, and the peoples' way be over Rome, the
way of intelligence over Paris!

The Swedish peasant should again feel himself as cosmopolitan and
leave his position in the under class, again get that glimpse of the
culture of beauty which the church formerly offered in pictures and
tunes; his divine service should be a true hymn in the Roman language,
composed by poets, and not compounded by hymn book makers and of which
he should understand exactly as little, as would awaken his highest
ideas about that which he nevertheless would not comprehend. His high
mass should be performed by real ministers, who devoted their life to
religion and the care of souls, and not to agriculture, dairy business,
whist playing and office work; and then the peasant's wife would get
a guardian of her soul, to whom she at confession could intrust her
sorrows instead of running into the kitchen of the parsonage and
gossiping about it to the servants.

And with the re-installment of Latin every Upsala student's
dissertation could be read as of old by the learned of Europe and every
Swedish investigator feel himself a member of the great universal
corporation of the intelligence under the pontificate in Paris.

This and other thoughts he put down on paper and laid it in the table
drawer, for he had not a newspaper, that would print them, least of all
the patriots who "from envy had no desire to receive projects for the
elevation of the country."

He had now got the answers to his circulars and had the attic room
filled with materials for his European ethnography. But now the subject
had lost its interest, and his soul had become sick in earnest, so
that he did not even dare go out. The aspect of a human being awoke
such a loathing, that he turned back home, if he only saw one. At the
same time grew the contemporary need of hearing his own voice and to
unload his over-productive brain by contact with another being, to feel
himself exerting influence on the life of others and to have company.
He had thought for a moment to get a dog, but to lay down deposits from
his soul and his feelings in an animal body was to graft grapes onto
thistles and he had never been allured by the sympathy of dirty, food
courting animals.

There was only one man for whom he felt a certain attraction, and
that was the married man of the custom house, Vestman, whose wife was
living in bigamy, without her husband's knowing it. He had an honest
look and an awakened intellect, and with him the commissioner had bound
the companionship by presenting him with a salmon trawl with hooks.
He had at the beginning of the summer lent him books and taught him
how to write after a copy, but since the fishing had been in force and
navigation had become lively, their paths had separated.

But in order to get the man to really place out the trawl the
commissioner would not tell him that it was for salmon, for then the
conservative fisherman would never concern himself with what was
according to his idea an absurd exploit without reward; therefore he
was left in the belief that the question was about a new remunerative
cod fishing; where the biggest fishes should be caught.

When the commissioner now after a month of isolation rowed out on the
sea with Vestman and he heard his own voice again, he observed that
from lack of use it had changed its tone and become thinner, so that
he fancied he heard a stranger talk. And now he intoxicated himself
with talking. His brain, which had only labored and produced by hand
and pen, broke now through the sluices of the windpipe, and all his
thoughts flowed out as in a stream, giving new births on the way,
and when he had got the chance to speak to a human being's ear for a
sounding board without being interrupted, without being questioned,
it was to him as though he had a comprehending listener before him.
And after their first outing he felt sure that Vestman was the most
intelligent person he had met for a long time.

Now he kept on for eight days and narrated during their excursions
about all the secrets of nature, explained the influence of the moon on
the surface of the water, and warned him not to believe that all that
the eyes saw was as it looked to be. Narrated, for example, that the
moon was pear shaped, although it looked like a bowl, and that one,
therefore, had no surety that the earth was ball shaped....

Here Vestman made a face and dared to raise an objection for the first

"Yes, but it says so in my almanac anyhow."

The commissioner found that he had gone out too far and must return,
but it was too late, because to give a demonstration of the latest
investigations regarding the shape of the earth as being a three axled
ellipsoid, required knowledge in the listener, and therefore he must
change to another subject. He spoke of the mirage and used the occasion
to ask if they had visited Sword Island and seen what he had done there.

"Surely we have seen that something has been going on there, but nobody
lands there more, and both the draughting of nets and the pasturing of
sheep are spoiled," answered Vestman perfectly in accordance with truth.

After this confession the commissioner drew back, ashamed at having
been the victim of the delusion that his listener had understood what
he said. Fie had spoken against a wall and taken his own echo for the
other's voice.

       *       *       *       *       *

Eight days later there was a great stir on the skerry, for Vestman had
caught a salmon of twenty-six pounds. And as he believed he was the
discoverer of this method of fishing, there was soon a notice in the
newspaper about a new livelihood for fishermen, now that the stromling
had begun to decrease. The happy fisherman, Eric Vestman of the custom
house service, had thereby made himself deserving of the esteem and
gratitude of his fellow citizens....

Shortly afterwards there occurred in a periodical for the people a
defamatory article about fish commissioners, who understand nothing,
but believe they have everything to teach.

Hereafter a writing soon followed from the Academy of Agriculture
to the commissioner with the request for a complete report of the
management of the fishing, especially the salmon fishing, to which the
commissioner only answered by handing in his resignation.

Without further interest for the population and without that little
support, which his former official position had given him, he soon
learned how the savages, who thought that he had "been discharged,"
commenced a perfect war of extermination against him. First they began
to cast his boat loose, under the pretense that there was no place on
the bridge, and it drifted to land and was broken to pieces.

During the next rainy weather he observed, that the rain came into the
attic room. And after he had complained to Oman it began to rain into
the other rooms, without his discovering a failing rooftile.

Shortly after this, one night, a burglary occurred in the cellar, and
the offenders were said to be Esthonians.

That their purpose was to drive him away was perfectly clear, but now
it amused him to defy them, and this he did by not making any further
remarks, and bearing everything.

But now when he was surrounded by real enemies and had in earnest
stepped out of the community, the fear of the banished came over him
with double force.

He slept poorly nights, notwithstanding he sought to regulate his
dreams by giving himself strong suggestions before sleeping. But
when he awoke, he had dreamed that he was a whistling buoy that had
torn lose, and drifted and drifted seeking a strand upon which to be
thrown. And in his sleep he had unconsciously sought support against
the sideboard of the bed to feel contact with some object, even if a
dead one. Sometimes he dreamed, that he fluttered in the air and could
neither go up nor down; and when he finally awoke after a fainting
attack he had grasped his hands round the pillow on which he had lain
his head. Now the memory of his dead mother began to come up, and he
awoke often from dreaming that he had lain as a child on her breast.
His soul was plainly in retrogression, and the memory of the mother the
source, the link between unconscious and conscious life, the consoler,
the interceder, came forth. Childhood's thoughts of meeting again in
another world came up, and his first plan of suicide expressed itself
as an irresistible longing to find again his mother somewhere in
another world, which he did not believe in.

All science was useless to a spirit going downwards, and which had
lost all interest in life; the brain had battled, until tired, and the
fantasy labored without a regulator.

Still he kept up until it was near Christmas; but he ate little and
took only ether at night. The whole life disgusted him, and he smiled
now at his former ambitions. The rain had destroyed his books and
papers; the apparatus had corroded and rusted.

The care of his own person had lessened, so that his whiskers had
grown, his hair remained unkempt, and he shunned water. He had not sent
his linen to be laundried for a long time, and he had lost the ability
to see dirt.

His clothes lacked buttons, and his coat was always spotted in front
from things spilt, for the hand that managed knife and fork no longer
obeyed the will.

When he went out sometimes, the children stood and made faces at him
and called him nicknames.

One morning he had the whole swarm of children around him. They pulled
his coat, and when he turned back, a stone was thrown, which hit his
chin so that the blood ran. Then he began to weep and begged them not
to be cross with him.

"Yes, you shall go away, you devilish fool," cried a boy of twelve
years, "lest we shall get you to the almshouse."

And so they all threw stones. But then Oman's maid came out and took
the boy by the hair, and when she had chastised him, she went to the
assailed and wiped the blood from his face with her apron.

"Poor little man!" said she.

Then he leaned his head towards her full bosom and said:

"I will sleep with you."

"Oh, shame!" snubbed the maid and pushed him away from her.

He replied, "How coarse your thoughts are! Fie!"

One evening some days later Vestman's maid ran down and begged
the Doctor to come up and see Vestman's wife, who was dying. The
request seemed somewhat unexpected to the commissioner, but with the
clear-sightedness which during intervals of light accompanied his
sickness, he perceived that here a murder had been committed and
that they would use his name and title instead of a legal medical
examination. The case was immaterial to him, but it aroused him for a
moment. Something had happened, and the unusual had made a long needed
impression. He therefore went up to the custom house cottage and was
received by both brothers, who showed him into the sick room with a
politeness, which seemed to the commissioner extremely suspicious.
But he said nothing, asked nothing, for he would draw out the vague
confession by constraining the husband to speak first, sure that he
would betray himself at the first word.

By a tallow candle sat the child eating a cookie, which had not been
given her without an object, and she was dressed in her best clothes,
probably so that she should feel solemn and appear in a constrained

After the commissioner had looked around the room and observed that
Vestman's brother had sneaked out, he stepped up to the bed where the
woman lay.

He saw at once that she was dead, and by the contracted muscles of her
face he understood that some violence had been committed, and when he
also observed that her hair was carefully combed over the top of her
head, he understood at once that the old, good way with the nail had
been used.

But he would have the man speak first, and with half open lips and
questioning eyes, just as though he would ask something, he turned to
Vestman. This at once put him off his guard, and relying, that he need
no longer be sly with one who was insane, he said:

"Can't the Doctor testify that she is gone, so that we shall be
permitted to bury her at once, for you see, we poor cannot afford to
call a physician out here."

More was not needed to give half a surety. But instead of answering the
commissioner turned half whispering towards the man who was perfectly
calm after he had delivered his errand:

"Where is the hammer?"

At first the man flew backwards two steps, as if he would strangle his
opponent, who still disarmed him by casting a glance at the girl, after
which the husband stood still shivering.

"You do not know where the hammer is, but I know where the nail is
driven," the commissioner continued with an immovable calm. "Over
prudent asses, who cannot invent anything new, and like children always
hide on the same place, when they play goal. I am convinced that this
nailing the brain was invented by a nobleman or a priest during the
Middle Ages and has now sunk down to the under class, where it is dug
up as a sample of the peoples' craftiness. Everything comes from above,
salmon, arsenic, nails, accidental shootings, revolutions, personal
liberty, financial well being, ballads, folk-lore, farmers' almanacs,
anthropological museums, but they are first stolen, for you mob prefer
to steal rather than take a gift, for you are too paltry to be willing
to give thanks. And therefore you place your benefactors in an asylum,
and your noblemen on the scaffold. Place me now in an asylum, and you
will escape prison!"

Coming down to the cottage he remembered that the pleasure of speaking
what he thought had allured him to an imprudent act, and with knowledge
of the peoples' character he knew that self-defense against a dangerous
witness might determine the murderer to put him to silence. He slept,
therefore, during the night with a revolver in the bed and was awakened
by bad dreams.

The following day he remained locked in and saw how white sheets hung
at the windows in the custom house cottage. The third day the body was
brought out and taken away on a boat, and the fourth day the men came
back again. He did not sleep any more now, and insomnia completed the
work of destruction. The fear of becoming insane and being placed in an
asylum, mixed with the apprehension of being assassinated at any time,
confirmed his decision to step out of life voluntarily. Now, when death
approached and the end of life, of a family, stood forth in its gloom,
it was as though the propensity of generation sprang up, and found
utterance in the longing to own a child. But to go the whole trite
way to search for a woman, and bind himself by family to the earth
and community, was against him more than ever, and in his frail, torn
condition he speculated out a shorter way, which would give him family
pleasure, if only for a few hours.

In a roundabout way, at which his sense of delicacy would have revolted
a few months before, he procured after some waiting the seed of a human
being, and then he constructed a _couveuse,_ under the microscope which
could be kept at a temperature from thirty-six to forty-one degrees
Celsius. When fecundation had taken place, he saw how the males were
swarming round the immovable female, which he imagined he saw blushing.
And now they crowded, pushed, whipped each other in the battle to give
impetus to a generation to propagate his talents, inoculating his rich,
productive spirit on a buxom, rank, wild substratum. But it was not
the largest, those with big, stupid heads and thick tails, it was the
quickest, the agile, the most fiery, who first penetrated the membrane
to push into the nucleus.

With the screw of the alcohol lamp under his thumb and one eye on the
thermometer he looked at this unveiled mystery of love for a couple
of hours. Saw, how the cells commenced to cleave, how the division
of labor between the different segments had already taken place and
he waited with uneasiness for the anterior end of the medullary tube
to swell into a bulb, which would constitute the primary brain; he
dreamed that he could see this forge of thought arching beautifully,
and he felt for a moment a pride at his creation, which solved the
problem of Homunculus, when a movement on the screw of the lamp
caused the white of the egg to coagulate and the spark of life to be

He had lived so intensely this other being's life during these moments,
that now, when he saw the round, dull, white spot on the glass, it was
to him, as if he beheld the sunken eye of death, and magnified in his
sickly senses the grief grew to sorrow, the sorrow over his dead child:
the band between this and the future was severed, and he no longer had
power to do it over.

When he awoke and came to his senses, he felt a strong warm hand
grasping his right hand, and he remembered having dreamed, how he was a
stranded vessel, which was tossed on the waves--between sky and water,
until he finally felt the anchor chain pulling and perceived a calm, as
if again bound to firm earth.

Without looking up he pressed the firm hand to feel the attachment
with a living being, and he imagined that he observed, how powers were
transferred to him through the frailer nerve currents fastening onto
the stronger.

"How is it with you?" he heard the preacher's voice above his head.

"If thou wert a woman instead, I should live again, for woman is man's
root in the earth," answered the sick man, using thou for the first
time to his old comrade.

"Thank fortune, that you have lost the rotten root!"

"Without root we cannot grow and bloom."

"But with such a woman, Borg!"

"Such a one? Do you know who she was? I have never found out."

"Yes, then you only need to know, that she was such a one, that a man
never marries. But now she is engaged anyhow...."

"To him?"

"To him! It was in yesterday's paper."

After a moment's silence the preacher would arise and go, but the sick
man held him fast.

"Tell me a fairy tale," said he in a childish, touching voice.

"Hm! A fairy tale?"

"Yes, a fairy tale! About sprites, for example. Do this, I beg of you!"

The preacher sat down again, and when he saw that the sick man was in
earnest, he let him have his way and narrated.

The commissioner listened with the greatest attention, but when the
preacher, faithful to his habit, would give some moral erudition, he
was interrupted by the sick man, who begged him to keep to the text.

"It is so good to hear old tales," said he; "it is like rest and to
sink back into best memories of the time, when one was a little animal
and loved the useless, the nonsensical, the meaningless. Repeat the
Lord's Prayer for me now!"

"You don't believe in the Lord's Prayer?"

"No, not more than in the fairy tales: but it will do just as much good
anyhow and when death approaches and one is going back again, one loves
the old and becomes conservative. Repeat the Lord's Prayer. You shall
have what I leave and your note back, if you repeat it."

The preacher hesitated a moment. Then he began to read.

The sick man at first listened quietly, afterwards his lips followed
the sound in motion and finally spoke aloud and with a prayerful tone.

When they had finished, the colporteur said: "It is good to pray, I

"It is like medicine. The words, the old words, awake memories and give
powers, the same powers as they formerly gave to the powerless, who
sought God outside himself. Do you know what God is? It is Archimedes
wishing for a fixed point outside, by the support of which he could
lift the earth. It is the imagined magnet in the earth, without which
the movement of the needle would be unexplainable. It is that ether,
which must be invented so that the vacant space can be filled. It is
the molecule, without which the laws of chemistry would be miracles.
Give me a little more hypotheses before anything else the fixed point
outside myself, for I am entirely loose."

"Do you wish me to speak of Jesus?" asked the preacher, who believed
that the sick man was irrational.

"No, not of Jesus! It is either a tale or a Hypothesis. It is a
device of revengeful slaves and evil women; it is the God of the
mollusks opposed to the vertebrates ... but wait, am I not myself a
mollusk. Speak of Jesus! Tell of how he accompanied custom house men
and dissolute women, as I have been obliged to do. Speak of how the
spiritually poor shall own heaven, because they had no power on earth;
and how he taught artisans to waste the time and, beggars, sluggards,
prodigal sons, who owned nothing, to share with the industrious, who
owned something."

"No. You blasphemer, I am not sitting here as a fool for you!"
interrupted the preacher and arose in earnest.

"Do not go, do not go!" cried the sick man. "Hold my hand and let me
hear your voice. Speak what you please! Read! Read in the almanac or
the Bible, it is immaterial to me. _Horror vacui_, fear of the empty
nothing must away!"

"See thou, that thou hast a fear of death?"

"Surely I have that just as every living thing, which without the fear
of death never would have lived, but the doom, you see, I do not fear,
for the work judges the master, and I have not created myself."

The colporteur had gone!

       *       *       *       *       *

It was the day before Christmas eve, when he after a stormy night,
during which he believed he had heard cannon shots and cries of human
beings, went out to walk on the newly fallen snow. The heavens were
blue black as an iron sheet, and the waves were heaving against the
strand While the whistling buoy cried in a single uninterrupted howl,
as if it called for help.

And now he saw out on the sea to the south-east a big, black steamer,
with cinnabar red bottom shining as a torn and bloody breast. The
funnel with its white ring lay broken on one side, and in the masts and
yards dark figures were hanging, twisted as angleworms on hooks.

From a crack midships could be seen how the waves tore out chests,
parcels, bales, boxes and sunk the heaviest, but carried the lighter
ones to shore.

With an indifference for the fate of the shipwrecked, such as that one
must feel, who regards it lucky to die, he went forwards on the strand
and came out on the point, where the pile of stones and the cross
stood. There the waves foamed more furiously than elsewhere, and on the
green water he saw scattered objects of strange shape and color, over
which the mews circled with spiteful cries, as though they had been
deceived in their greedy waiting for prey.

After he had regarded the curious objects, which came nearer, he saw
that they resembled very small children, very finely dressed. Some had
blond bangs, others black, their cheeks were rose and white, and their
big, open blue eyes, glanced up to the black sky, immovable and without
winking. But when they came nearer the strand, he observed, that when
they swung on the wave, the eyes of some of them moved, as if they
signaled to him, that he should rescue them. And on the next wave five
were thrown upon the strand.

He had his desire so fixed to own a child and so rooted in his soft
brain, that he was not led to the thought, that they were dolls, which
the delayed and stranded vessel had brought for the Christmas season,
and he collected his arms full of the small orphan children, whom the
sea, the great mother, gave him. And with his wet protégées pressed
to his breast he hurried back to the cottage to dry them. But he had
nothing to make a fire with, for the people had said they had no wood
to sell. He himself did not feel the cold, but his little Christmas
company should have it warm, and therefore he broke a book shelf to
pieces, and made a flaming fire in the big fireplace, pulled out the
sofa and placed the five little ones in a row before the fire. After he
comprehended that they could not dry without being undressed, he began
to take off their clothes, but when he saw that they were all girls, he
left their small chemises on.

Now he washed their feet and hands with his sponge, and afterwards
combed their hair, dressed them and laid them to sleep.

It was as though he had company in the cottage, and he walked on tiptoe
not to wake them.

He had found something to live for, something to cherish, to give his
sympathy to, and when he regarded the small sleepers a moment and saw
that they lay with open eyes, he thought that the light pained them,
therefore he let the window shades down.

When it became dusk in the room, there came over him a heavy desire to
sleep, which was caused from hunger, although he could not now place
the cause of the sensation in the right place and thus did not know,
when he was hungry or thirsty. However, as the sofa was occupied by
the little ones, he laid down on the floor and slept.

When he awoke, it was dark in the room, but the door was open, and a
woman stood with a lighted lantern on the threshold.

"Heavenly father, he is lying on the floor," Oman's maid was heard to
break out. "But, dear sir, don't you know it is Christmas eve to-day?"

He had slept a day and a night and into the next day.

Unconsciously he arose, missing something, for the custom house men had
been down and confiscated the strand goods, but he could not remember
what he missed. He felt only a dreadful emptiness as though under a
great sorrow.

"Now he shall come up to Oman's and eat the Christmas rice pap, for one
is still a Christian being on Christmas eve. Oh, heavenly father, such

And the girl began to cry.

"To see a human being so wrecked, is enough to make one shed tears of
blood! Come now! Come now!"

The half insane man made only a sign that he would come, if she would
go first.

When she had gone, he tarried a moment in the cottage, took the lantern
she had left and went to the looking glass. When he saw his face,
which resembled a savage's, his understanding seemed to light up, and
his will expand for a last effort.

Leaving the lantern, he went out.

The wind had turned west and slackened somewhat, the air was clear, and
the stars of heaven sparkled. Guided by the lights from the cottages he
went down to the harbor, sneaked into a boat house and took out sails
to a boat.

After he had hoisted the sail, he threw the painter loose, took the
tiller and kept for aft-wind straight out to sea.

He made a tack to look once more on the little fragment of the earth,
where he had last suffered, and when he saw a three branched candle in
the custom house window, where the murderer celebrated the birthday
of Jesus, the forgiver, the idol of all criminals and wretches, who
licensed everything wicked that the civil law punished, he turned back
and spat, pulled the sheet and made full sail. With his back towards
land he steered out under the great starry map and took bearings
from a star of the second magnitude between the Lyre and Corona in
the east. It seemed to him that it shone brighter than any other,
and when he searched in memory, there came a glimpse of something
about the Christmas star, the guiding star to Bethlehem, where three
dethroned kings pilgrimaged as fallen great ones to worship their
own insignificance in the smallest child of human being and which
afterwards became the declared god of all little ones. No, it could
not be that star, for as a punishment to the Christian wizards for
having spread darkness over the earth, not a single dot of light on the
arch of heaven bears the name of any one of them, and therefore they
celebrated the darkest time of the year--so sublimely ridiculous!--to
light wax tapers! Now as his memory cleared up--it was the star _Beta_
in Hercules. Hercules, Hella's moral ideal, the god of vigor and
prudence, who killed the Lernean hydra with its hundred heads, who
cleaned Augias' stable, captured Diomedes' bullocks which devoured
human beings, who tore the girdle from the Amazon queen, fetched
Cerebus up from Hades, to finally fall for a woman's stupidity, who
poisoned him from pure love, after he in lunacy had served the nymph
Omphale for three years....

Out towards the one that at least had been placed in heaven, who never
let anyone strike him or spit in his face without man-like to strike
and spit back, out towards the self-destroyer, who could only fall
by his own strong hand without begging for mercy from the chalice,
out towards Hercules, who freed Prometheus, the light giver, who was
himself the son of a god and a woman, and who was afterwards falsified
by savages to be the son of a virgin, whose birth was greeted by milk
drinking shepherds and braying asses.

Out to the new Christmas star led the way, out over the sea, the mother
of all, from the womb of whom life's first spark was kindled, the
inexhaustible spring of fecundity and love, life's origin and life's


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