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Title: From a Swedish Homestead
Author: Lagerlöf, Selma, 1858-1940
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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    _From a Swedish_ HOMESTEAD



    _From a SWEDISH_ HOMESTEAD

              _By_

         SELMA LAGERLÖF

         _Translated by_

         JESSIE BROCHNER

          [Illustration]

      GARDEN CITY      NEW YORK
      DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY
                 1916



      _Copyright, 1901, by_
    DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY



_A_ LIST _of the_ STORIES


                                             _Page_

  _The_ STORY _of a_ COUNTRY HOUSE              1

  _Queens at_ KUNGAHÄLLA                      135

    _On the_ SITE _of the Great_ KUNGAHÄLLA   135

    _The Forest_ QUEEN                        141

    SIGRID STORRÄDE                           157

    ASTRID                                    172

  _Old_ AGNETE                                219

  _The Fisherman's_ RING                      231

  _Santa_ CATERINA _of_ SIENA                 257

  _The Empress's_ MONEY-CHEST                 277

  _The_ PEACE _of_ GOD                        291

  _A_ STORY _from_ HALSTANÄS                  309

  _The_ INSCRIPTION _on the_ GRAVE            323

  _The_ BROTHERS                              339



  _From a Swedish_ HOMESTEAD

                I

  _The_ STORY _of a_ COUNTRY HOUSE



_The_ STORY _of a_ COUNTRY HOUSE


I

It was a beautiful autumn day towards the end of the thirties. There was
in Upsala at that time a high, yellow, two-storied house, which stood
quite alone in a little meadow on the outskirts of the town. It was a
rather desolate and dismal-looking house, but was rendered less so by
the Virginia-creepers which grew there in profusion, and which had crept
so high up the yellow wall on the sunny side of the house that they
completely surrounded the three windows on the upper story.

At one of these windows a student was sitting, drinking his morning
coffee. He was a tall, handsome fellow, of distinguished appearance. His
hair was brushed back from his forehead; it curled prettily, and a lock
was continually falling into his eyes. He wore a loose, comfortable
suit, but looked rather smart all the same.

His room was well furnished. There was a good sofa and comfortable
chairs, a large writing-table, a capital bookcase, but hardly any books.

Before he had finished his coffee another student entered the room. The
new-comer was a totally different-looking man. He was a short,
broad-shouldered fellow, squarely built and strong, ugly, with a large
head, thin hair, and coarse complexion.

'Hede,' he said, 'I have come to have a serious talk with you.'

'Has anything unpleasant happened to you?'

'Oh no, not to me,' the other answered; 'it is really you it concerns.'
He sat silent for a while, and looked down. 'It is so awfully unpleasant
having to tell you.'

'Leave it alone, then,' suggested Hede.

He felt inclined to laugh at his friend's solemnity.

'I can't leave it alone any longer,' said his visitor. 'I ought to have
spoken to you long ago, but it is hardly my place. You understand? I
can't help thinking you will say to yourself: "There's Gustaf Alin, son
of one of our cottagers, thinks himself such a great man now that he can
order me about."'

'My dear fellow,' Hede said, 'don't imagine I think anything of the
kind. My father's father was a peasant's son.'

'Yes, but no one thinks of that now,' Alin answered. He sat there,
looking awkward and stupid, resuming every moment more and more of his
peasant manners, as if that could help him out of his difficulty. 'When
I think of the difference there is between your family and mine, I feel
as if I ought to keep quiet; but when I remember that it was your father
who, by his help in days gone by, enabled me to study, then I feel that
I must speak.'

Hede looked at him with a pleasant smile.

'You had better speak out and have done with it,' he said.

'The thing is,' Alin said, 'I have heard people say that you don't do
any work. They say you have hardly opened a book during the four terms
you have been at the University. They say you don't do anything but play
on the violin the whole day; and that I can quite believe, for you never
wanted to do anything else when you were at school in Falu, although
there you were obliged to work.'

Hede straightened himself a little in his chair. Alin grew more and more
uncomfortable, but he continued with stubborn resolution:

'I suppose you think that anyone owning an estate like Munkhyttan ought
to be able to do as he likes--work if he likes, or leave it alone. If he
takes his exam., good; if he does not take his exam., what does it
matter? for in any case you will never be anything but a landed
proprietor and iron-master. You will live at Munkhyttan all your life. I
understand quite well that is what you must think.'

Hede was silent, and Alin seemed to see him surrounded by the same wall
of distinction which in Alin's eyes had always surrounded his father,
the Squire, and his mother.

'But, you see, Munkhyttan is no longer what it used to be when there was
iron in the mine,' he continued cautiously. 'The Squire knew that very
well, and that was why it was arranged before his death that you should
study. Your poor mother knows it, too, and the whole parish knows it.
The only one who does not know anything is you, Hede.'

'Don't you think I know,' Hede said a little irritably, 'that the
iron-mine cannot be worked any longer?'

'Oh yes,' Alin said, 'I dare say you know that much, but you don't know
that it is all up with the property. Think the matter over, and you will
understand that one cannot live from farming alone at Vesterdalarne. I
cannot understand why your mother has kept it a secret from you. But, of
course, she has the sole control of the estate, so she need not ask your
advice about anything. Everybody at home knows that she is hard up. They
say she drives about borrowing money. I suppose she did not want to
disturb you with her troubles, but thought that she could keep matters
going until you had taken your degree. She will not sell the estate
before you have finished, and made yourself a new home.'

Hede rose, and walked once or twice up and down the floor. Then he
stopped opposite Alin.

'But what on earth are you driving at, Alin? Do you want to make me
believe that we are not rich?'

'I know quite well that, until lately, you have been considered rich
people at home,' Alin said. 'But you can understand that things must
come to an end when it is a case of always spending and never earning
anything. It was a different thing when you had the mine.'

Hede sat down again.

'My mother would surely have told me if there were anything the matter,'
he said. 'I am grateful to you, Alin; but you have allowed yourself to
be frightened by some silly stories.'

'I thought that you did not know anything,' Alin continued obstinately.
'At Munkhyttan your mother saves and works in order to get the money to
keep you at Upsala, and to make it cheerful and pleasant for you when
you are at home in the vacations. And in the meantime you are here doing
nothing, because you don't know there is trouble coming. I could not
stand any longer seeing you deceiving each other. Her ladyship thought
you were studying, and you thought she was rich. I could not let you
destroy your prospects without saying anything.'

Hede sat quietly for a moment, and meditated. Then he rose and gave Alin
his hand with rather a sad smile.

'You understand that I feel you are speaking the truth, even if I _will_
not believe you? Thanks.'

Alin joyfully shook his hand.

'You must know, Hede, that if you will only work no harm is done. With
your brains, you can take your degree in three or four years.'

Hede straightened himself.

'Do not be uneasy, Alin,' he said; 'I am going to work hard now.'

Alin rose and went towards the door, but hesitated. Before he reached it
he turned round.

'There was something else I wanted,' he said. He again became
embarrassed. 'I want you to lend me your violin until you have commenced
reading in earnest.'

'Lend you my violin?'

'Yes; pack it up in a silk handkerchief, and put it in the case, and let
me take it with me, or otherwise you will read to no purpose. You will
begin to play as soon as I am out of the room. You are so accustomed to
it now you cannot resist if you have it here. One cannot get over that
kind of thing unless someone helps one; it gets the mastery over one.'

Hede appeared unwilling.

'This is madness, you know,' he said.

'No, Hede, it is not. You know you have inherited it from the Squire. It
runs in your blood. Ever since you have been your own master here in
Upsala you have done nothing else but play. You live here in the
outskirts of the town simply not to disturb anyone by your playing. You
cannot help yourself in this matter. Let me have the violin.'

'Well,' said Hede, 'before I could not help playing, but now Munkhyttan
is at stake; I am more fond of my home than of my violin.'

But Alin was determined, and continued to ask for the violin.

'What is the good of it?' Hede said. 'If I want to play, I need not go
many steps to borrow another violin.'

'I know that,' Alin replied, 'but I don't think it would be so bad with
another violin. It is your old Italian violin which is the greatest
danger for you. And besides, I would suggest your locking yourself in
for the first few days--only until you have got fairly started.'

He begged and begged, but Hede resisted; he would not stand anything so
unreasonable as being a prisoner in his own room.

Alin grew crimson.

'I must have the violin with me,' he said, 'or it is no use at all.' He
spoke eagerly and excitedly. 'I had not intended to say anything about
it, but I know that it concerns more than Munkhyttan. I saw a young girl
at the Promotion Ball in the spring who, people said, was engaged to
you. I don't dance, you know, but I liked to watch her when she was
dancing, looking radiant like one of the lilies of the field. And when I
heard that she was engaged to you, I felt sorry for her.'

'Why?'

'Because I knew that you would never succeed if you continued as you had
begun. And then I swore that she should not have to spend her whole life
waiting for one who never came. She should not sit and wither whilst
waiting for you. I did not want to meet her in a few years with
sharpened features and deep wrinkles round her mouth----'

He stopped suddenly; Hede's glance had rested so searchingly upon him.

But Gunnar Hede had already understood that Alin was in love with his
_fiancée_. It moved him deeply that Alin under these circumstances tried
to save him, and, influenced by this feeling, he yielded and gave him
the violin.

When Alin had gone, Hede read desperately for a whole hour, but then he
threw away his book.

It was not of much good his reading. It would be three or four years
before he could be finished, and who could guarantee that the estate
would not be sold in the meantime?

He felt almost with terror how deeply he loved the old home. It was like
witchery. Every room, every tree, stood clearly before him. He felt he
could not part with any of it if he were to be happy. And he was to sit
quietly with his books whilst all this was about to pass away from him.

He became more and more restless; he felt the blood beating in his
temples as if in a fever. And then he grew quite beside himself because
he could not take his violin and play himself calm again.

'My God!' he said, 'Alin will drive me mad. First to tell me all this,
and then to take away my violin! A man like I must feel the bow between
his fingers in sorrow and in joy. I must do something; I must get money,
but I have not an idea in my head. I cannot think without my violin.'

He could not endure the feeling of being locked in. He was so angry with
Alin, who had thought of this absurd plan, that he was afraid he might
strike him the next time he came.

Of course he would have played, if he had had the violin, for that was
just what he needed. His blood rushed so wildly, that he was nearly
going out of his mind.

Just as Hede was longing most for his violin a wandering musician began
to play outside. It was an old blind man. He played out of tune and
without expression, but Hede was so overcome by hearing a violin just at
this moment that he listened with tears in his eyes and with his hands
folded.

The next moment he flung open the window and climbed to the ground by
the help of the creepers. He had no compunction at leaving his work. He
thought the violin had simply come to comfort him in his misfortune.

Hede had probably never before begged so humbly for anything as he did
now, when he asked the old blind man to lend him his violin. He stood
the whole time with his cap in his hand, although the old man was blind.

The musician did not seem to understand what he wanted. He turned to the
young girl who was leading him. Hede bowed to the poor girl and repeated
his request. She looked at him, as if she must have eyes for them both.
The glance from her big eyes was so steady that Hede thought he could
feel where it struck him. It began with his collar, and it noticed that
the frills of his shirt were well starched, then it saw that his coat
was brushed, next that his boots were polished.

Hede had never before been subjected to such close scrutiny. He saw
clearly that he would not pass muster before those eyes.

But it was not so, all the same. The young girl had a strange way of
smiling. Her face was so serious, that one had the impression when she
smiled that it was the first and only time she had ever looked happy;
and now one of these rare smiles passed over her lips. She took the
violin from the old man and handed it to Hede.

'Play the waltz from "Freischütz," then,' she said.

Hede thought it was strange that he should have to play a waltz just at
that moment, but, as a matter of fact, it was all the same to him what
he played, if he could only have a bow in his hand. That was all he
wanted. The violin at once began to comfort him; it spoke to him in
faint, cracked tones.

'I am only a poor man's violin,' it said; 'but such as I am, I am a
comfort and help to a poor blind man. I am the light and the colour and
the brightness in his life. It is I who must comfort him in his poverty
and old age and blindness.'

Hede felt that the terrible depression that had cowed his hopes began to
give way.

'You are young and strong,' the violin said to him. 'You can fight and
strive; you can hold fast that which tries to escape you. Why are you
downcast and without courage?'

Hede had played with lowered eyes; now he threw back his head and looked
at those who stood around him. There was quite a crowd of children and
people from the street, who had come into the yard to listen to the
music. It appeared, however, that they had not come solely for the sake
of the music. The blind man and his companion were not the only ones in
the troupe.

Opposite Hede stood a figure in tights and spangles, and with bare arms
crossed over his chest. He looked old and worn, but Hede could not help
thinking that he looked a devil of a fellow with his high chest and long
moustaches. And beside him stood his wife, little and fat, and not so
very young either, but beaming with joy over her spangles and flowing
gauze skirts.

During the first bars of the music they stood still and counted, then a
gracious smile passed over their faces, and they took each other's hands
and began to dance on a small carpet. And Hede saw that during all the
equilibristic tricks they now performed the woman stood almost still,
whilst her husband did all the work. He sprang over her, and twirled
round her, and vaulted over her. The woman scarcely did anything else
but kiss her hand to the spectators.

But Hede did not really take much notice of them. His bow began to fly
over the strings. It told him that there was happiness in fighting and
overcoming. It almost deemed him happy because everything was at stake
for him. Hede stood there, playing courage and hope into himself, and
did not think of the old tight-rope dancers.

But suddenly he saw that they grew restless. They no longer smiled; they
left off kissing their hands to the spectators; the acrobat made
mistakes, and his wife began to sway to and fro in waltz time.

Hede played more and more eagerly. He left off 'Freischütz' and rushed
into an old 'Nixie Polka,' one which generally sent all the people mad
when played at the peasant festivals.

The old tight-rope dancers quite lost their heads. They stood in
breathless astonishment, and at last they could resist no longer. They
sprang into each other's arms, and then they began to dance a waltz in
the middle of the carpet.

How they danced! dear me, how they danced! They took small, tripping
steps, and whirled round in a small circle; they hardly went outside the
carpet, and their faces beamed with joy and delight. There was the
happiness of youth and the rapture of love over these two old people.

The whole crowd was jubilant at seeing them dance. The serious little
companion of the blind man smiled all over her face, and Hede grew much
excited.

Just fancy what an effect his violin could have! It made people quite
forget themselves. It was a great power to have at his disposal. Any
moment he liked he could take possession of his kingdom. Only a couple
of years' study abroad with a great master, and he could go all over the
world, and by his playing earn riches and honour and fame.

It seemed to Hede that these acrobats must have come to tell him this.
That was the road he should follow; it lay before him clear and smooth.
He said to himself: 'I will--I _will_ become a musician! I _must_ be
one! This is better than studying. I can charm my fellow-men with my
violin; I can become rich.'

Hede stopped playing. The acrobats at once came up and complimented him.
The man said his name was Blomgren. That was his real name; he had other
names when he performed. He and his wife were old circus people. Mrs.
Blomgren in former days had been called Miss Viola, and had performed on
horseback; and although they had now left the circus, they were still
true artists--artists body and soul. That he had probably already
noticed; that was why they could not resist his violin.

Hede walked about with the acrobats for a couple of hours. He could not
part with the violin, and the old artists' enthusiasm for their
profession appealed to him. He was simply testing himself. 'I want to
find out whether there is the proper stuff for an artist in me. I want
to see if I can call forth enthusiasm. I want to see whether I can make
children and idlers follow me from house to house.'

On their way from house to house Mr. Blomgren threw an old threadbare
mantle around him, and Mrs. Blomgren enveloped herself in a brown cloak.
Thus arrayed, they walked at Hede's side and talked.

Mr. Blomgren would not speak of all the honour he and Mrs. Blomgren had
received during the time they had performed in a real circus; but the
_directeur_ had given Mrs. Blomgren her dismissal under the pretence
that she was getting too stout. Mr. Blomgren had not been dismissed: he
had himself resigned his position. Surely no one could think that Mr.
Blomgren would remain with a _directeur_ who had dismissed his wife!

Mrs. Blomgren loved her art, and for her sake Mr. Blomgren had made up
his mind to live as a free artist, so that she could still continue to
perform. During the winter, when it was too cold to give performances in
the street, they performed in a tent. They had a very comprehensive
repertoire. They gave pantomimes, and were jugglers and conjurers.

The circus had cast them off, but Art had not, said Mr. Blomgren. They
served Art always. It was well worth being faithful to Art, even unto
death. Always artists--always. That was Mr. Blomgren's opinion, and it
was also Mrs. Blomgren's.

Hede walked quietly and listened. His thoughts flew restlessly from plan
to plan. Sometimes events happen which become like symbols, like signs,
which one must obey. There must be some meaning in what had now happened
to him. If he could only understand it rightly, it might help him
towards arriving at a wise resolution.

Mr. Blomgren asked the student to notice the young girl who was leading
the blind man. Had he ever before seen such eyes? Did he not think that
such eyes must mean something? Could one have those eyes without being
intended for something great?

Hede turned round and looked at the little pale girl. Yes, she had eyes
like stars, set in a sad and rather thin face.

'Our Lord knows always what He is about,' said Mrs. Blomgren; 'and I
also believe that He has some reason for letting such an artist as Mr.
Blomgren perform in the street. But what was He thinking about when He
gave that girl those eyes and that smile?'

'I will tell you something,' said Mr. Blomgren; 'she has not the
slightest talent for Art. And with those eyes!'

Hede had a suspicion that they were not talking to him, but simply for
the benefit of the young girl. She was walking just behind them, and
could hear every word.

'She is not more than thirteen years old, and not by any means too old
to learn something; but, impossible--impossible, without the slightest
talent! If one does not want to waste one's time, sir, teach her to sew,
but not to stand on her head. Her smile makes people quite mad about
her,' Mr. Blomgren continued. 'Simply on account of her smile she has
had many offers from families wishful to adopt her. She could grow up in
a well-to-do home if she would only leave her grandfather. But what does
she want with a smile that makes people mad about her, when she will
never appear either on horseback or on a trapeze?'

'We know other artists,' said Mrs. Blomgren, 'who pick up children in
the street and train them for the profession when they cannot perform
any longer themselves. There is more than one who has been lucky enough
to create a star and obtain immense salaries for her. But Mr. Blomgren
and I have never thought of the money; we have only thought of some day
seeing Ingrid flying through a hoop whilst the whole circus resounded
with applause. For us it would have been as if we were beginning life
over again.'

'Why do we keep her grandfather?' said Mr. Blomgren. 'Is he an artist
fit for us? We could, no doubt, have got a previous member of a
Hofkapell if we had wished. But we love that child; we cannot do without
her; we keep the old man for her sake.'

'Is it not naughty of her that she will not allow us to make an artist
of her?' they said.

Hede turned round. The little girl's face wore an expression of
suffering and patience. He could see that she knew that anyone who could
not dance on the tight-rope was a stupid and contemptible person.

At the same moment they came to another house, but before they began
their performance Hede sat down on an overturned wheelbarrow and began
to preach. He defended the poor little girl. He reproached Mr. and Mrs.
Blomgren for wishing to hand her over to the great, cruel public, who
would love and applaud her for a time, but when she grew old and worn
out, they would let her trudge along the streets in rain and cold. No;
he or she was artist enough, who made a fellow-being happy. Ingrid
should only have eyes and smiles for one, should keep them for one only;
and this one should never leave her, but give her a safe home as long as
he lived.

Tears came into Hede's eyes whilst he spoke. He spoke more to himself
than to the others. He felt it suddenly as something terrible to be
thrust out into the world, to be severed from the quiet home-life. He
saw that the great, star-like eyes of the girl began to sparkle. It
seemed as if she had understood every single word. It seemed as if she
again felt the right to live.

But Mr. Blomgren and his wife had become very serious. They pressed
Hede's hand and promised him that they would never again try and
persuade the little girl to become an artist. She should be allowed to
lead the life she wished. He had touched them. They were
artists--artists body and soul; they understood what he meant when he
spoke of love and faithfulness.

Then Hede parted from them and went home. He no longer tried to find any
secret meaning in his adventure. After all, it had meant nothing more
than that he should save this poor sorrowful child from always grieving
over her incapacity.


II

Munkhyttan, the home of Gunnar Hede, was situated in a poor parish in
the forests of Vesterdalarne. It was a large, thinly-populated parish,
with which Nature had dealt very stingily. There were stony,
forest-covered hills, and many small lakes. The people could not
possibly have earned a livelihood there had they not had the right to
travel about the country as pedlars. But to make up for it, the whole of
this poor district was full of old tales of how poor peasant lads and
lassies had gone into the world with a pack of goods on their backs, to
return in gilded coaches, with the boxes under the seats filled with
money.

One of the very best stories was about Hede's grandfather. He was the
son of a poor musician, and had grown up with his violin in his hand,
and when he was seventeen years old he had gone out into the world with
his pack on his back. But wherever he went his violin had helped him in
his business. He had by turns gathered people together by his music and
sold them silk handkerchiefs, combs, and pins. All his trading had been
brought about with music and merriment, and things had gone so well with
him that he had at last been able to buy Munkhyttan, with its mine and
ironworks, from the poverty-stricken Baron who then owned the property.
Then he became the Squire, and the pretty daughter of the Baron became
his wife.

From that time the old family, as they were always called, had thought
of nothing else but beautifying the place. They removed the main
building on to the beautiful island which lay on the edge of a small
lake, round which lay their fields and their mines. The upper story had
been added in their time, for they wanted to have plenty of room for
their numerous guests; and they had also added the two large flights of
steps outside. They had planted ornamental trees all over the
fir-covered island. They had made small winding pathways in the stony
soil, and on the most beautiful spots they had built small pavilions,
hanging like large birds'-nests over the lake. The beautiful French
roses that grew on the terrace, the Dutch furniture, the Italian violin,
had all been brought to the house by them. And it was they who had built
the wall protecting the orchard from the north wind, and the
conservatory.

The old family were merry, kind-hearted, old-fashioned people. The
Squire's wife certainly liked to be a little aristocratic; but that was
not at all in the old Squire's line. In the midst of all the luxury
which surrounded him he never forgot what he had been, and in the room
where he transacted his business, and where people came and went, the
pack and the red-painted, home-made violin were hung right above the old
man's desk.

Even after his death the pack and the violin remained in the same place.
And every time the old man's son and grandson saw them their hearts
swelled with gratitude. It was these two poor implements that had
created Munkhyttan, and Munkhyttan was the best thing in the world.

Whatever the reason might be--and it was probably because it seemed
natural to the place that one lived a good, genial life there, free from
trouble--Hede's family clung to the place with greater love than was
good for it. And more especially Gunnar Hede was so strongly attached to
it that people said that it was incorrect to say of him that he owned an
estate. On the contrary, it was an old estate in Vesterdalarne that
owned Gunnar Hede.

If he had not made himself a slave of an old rambling manor-house and
some acres of land and forest, and some stunted apple-trees, he would
probably have continued his studies, or, better still, gone abroad to
study music, which, after all, was no doubt his proper vocation in this
world. But when he returned from Upsala, and it became clear to him that
they really would have to sell the estate if he could not soon earn a
lot of money, he decided upon giving up all his other plans, and made up
his mind to go out into the world as a pedlar, as his grandfather before
him had done.

His mother and his _fiancée_ besought him rather to sell the place than
to sacrifice himself for it in this manner, but he was not to be moved.
He put on peasant's attire, bought goods, and began to travel about the
country as a pedlar. He thought that if he only traded a couple of years
he could earn enough to pay the debt and save the estate.

And as far as the latter was concerned he was successful enough. But he
brought upon himself a terrible misfortune.

When he had walked about with his pack for a year or so he thought that
he would try and earn a large sum of money at one stroke. He went far
north and bought a large flock of goats, about a couple of hundred. And
he and a comrade intended to drive them down to a large fair in
Vermland, where goats cost twice as much as in the north. If he
succeeded in selling all his goats, he would do a very good business.

It was in the beginning of November, and there had not yet been any
snow, when Hede and his comrade set out with their goats. The first day
everything went well with them, but the second day, when they came to
the great Fifty-Mile Forest, it began to snow. Much snow fell, and it
stormed and blew severely. It was not long before it became difficult
for the animals to make their way through the snow. Goats are certainly
both plucky and hardy animals, and the herd struggled on for a
considerable time; but the snow-storm lasted two days and two nights,
and it was terribly cold.

Hede did all he could to save the animals, but after the snow began to
fall he could get them neither food nor water. And when they had worked
their way through deep snow for a whole day they became very footsore.
Their feet hurt them, and they would not go any longer. The first goat
that threw itself down by the roadside and would not get up again and
follow the herd Hede lifted on to his shoulder so as not to leave it
behind. But when another and again another lay down he could not carry
them. There was nothing to do but to look the other way and go on.

Do you know what the Fifty-Mile Forest is like? Not a farmhouse, not a
cottage, mile after mile, only forest; tall-stemmed fir-trees, with bark
as hard as wood, and high branches; no young trees with soft bark and
soft twigs that the animals could eat. If there had been no snow, they
could have got through the forest in a couple of days; now they could
not get through it at all. All the goats were left there, and the men
too nearly perished. They did not meet a single human being the whole
time. No one helped them.

Hede tried to throw the snow to one side so that the goats could eat the
moss; but the snow fell so thickly, and the moss was frozen fast to the
ground. And how could he get food for two hundred animals in this way?

He bore it bravely until the goats began to moan. The first day they
were a lively, rather noisy herd. He had had hard work to make them all
keep together, and prevent them from butting each other to death. But
when they seemed to understand that they could not be saved their
nature changed, and they completely lost their courage. They all began
to bleat and moan, not faintly and peevishly, as goats usually do, but
loudly, louder and louder as the danger increased. And when Hede heard
their cries he felt quite desperate.

They were in the midst of the wild, desolate forest; there was no help
whatever obtainable. Goat after goat dropped down by the roadside. The
snow gathered round them and covered them. When Hede looked back at this
row of drifts by the wayside, each hiding the body of an animal, of
which one could still see the projecting horns and the hoofs, then his
brain began to give way.

He rushed at the animals, which allowed themselves to be covered by the
snow, swung his whip over them, and hit them. It was the only way to
save them, but they did not stir. He took them by the horns and dragged
them along. They allowed themselves to be dragged, but they did not move
a foot themselves. When he let go his hold of their horns, they licked
his hands, as if beseeching him to help them. As soon as he went up to
them they licked his hands.

All this had such a strong effect upon Hede that he felt he was on the
point of going out of his mind.

It is not certain, however, that things would have gone so badly with
him had he not, after it was all over in the forest, gone to see one
whom he loved dearly. It was not his mother, but his sweetheart. He
thought himself that he had gone there because he ought to tell her at
once that he had lost so much money that he would not be able to marry
for many years. But no doubt he went to see her solely to hear her say
that she loved him quite as much in spite of his misfortunes. He thought
that she could drive away the memory of the Fifty-Mile Forest.

She could, perhaps, have done this, but she would not. She was already
displeased because Hede went about with a pack and looked like a
peasant; she thought that for that reason alone it was difficult to love
him as much as before. Now, when he told her that he must still go on
doing this for many years, she said that she could no longer wait for
him. This last blow was too much for Hede; his mind gave way.

He did not grow quite mad, however; he retained so much of his senses
that he could attend to his business. He even did better than others,
for it amused people to make fun of him; he was always welcome at the
peasants' houses. People plagued and teased him, but that was in a way
good for him, as he was so anxious to become rich. And in the course of
a few years he had earned enough to pay all his debts, and he could have
lived free from worry on his estate. But this he did not understand; he
went about half-witted and silly from farm to farm, and he had no longer
any idea to what class of people he really belonged.


III

Raglanda was the name of a parish in the north of East Vermland, near
the borders of Dalarne, where the Dean had a large house, but the pastor
only a small and poor one. But poor as they were at the small parsonage,
they had been charitable enough to adopt a poor girl. She was a little
girl, Ingrid by name, and she had come to the parsonage when she was
thirteen years old.

The pastor had accidentally seen her at a fair, where she sat crying
outside the tent of some acrobats. He had stopped and asked her why she
was crying, and she had told him that her blind grandfather was dead,
and that she had no relatives left. She now travelled with a couple of
acrobats, and they were good to her, but she cried because she was so
stupid that she could never learn to dance on the tight-rope and help to
earn any money.

There was a sorrowful grace over the child which touched the pastor's
heart. He said at once to himself that he could not allow such a little
creature to go to the bad amongst these wandering tramps. He went into
the tent, where he saw Mr. and Mrs. Blomgren, and offered to take the
child home with him. The old acrobats began to weep, and said that
although the girl was entirely unfitted for the profession, they would
so very much like to keep her; but at the same time they thought she
would be happier in a real home with people who lived in the same place
all the year round, and therefore they were willing to give her up to
the pastor if he would only promise them that she should be like one of
his own children.

This he had promised, and from that time the young girl had lived at the
parsonage. She was a quiet, gentle child, full of love and tender care
for those around her. At first her adopted parents loved her very
dearly, but as she grew older she developed a strong inclination to lose
herself in dreams and fancies. She lived in a world of visions, and in
the middle of the day she could let her work fall and be lost in dreams.
But the pastor's wife, who was a clever and hard-working woman, did not
approve of this. She found fault with the young girl for being lazy and
slow, and tormented her by her severity so that she became timid and
unhappy.

When she had completed her nineteenth year, she fell dangerously ill.
They did not quite know what was the matter with her, for this happened
long ago, when there was no doctor at Raglanda, but the girl was very
ill. They soon saw she was so ill that she could not live.

She herself did nothing but pray to God that He would take her away from
this world. She would so like to die, she said.

Then it seemed as if our Lord would try whether she was in earnest. One
night she felt that she grew stiff and cold all over her body, and a
heavy lethargy fell upon her. 'I think this must be death,' she said to
herself.

But the strange thing was that she did not quite lose consciousness. She
knew that she lay as if she were dead, knew that they wrapped her in
her shroud and laid her in her coffin, but she felt no fear of being
buried, although she was still alive. She had but the one thought that
she was happy because she was about to die and leave this troublesome
life.

The only thing she was uneasy about was lest they should discover that
she was not really dead and would not bury her. Life must have been very
bitter to her, inasmuch as she felt no fear of death whatever.

But no one discovered that she was living. She was conveyed to the
church, carried to the churchyard, and lowered into the grave.

The grave, however, was not filled in; she had been buried before the
service on Sunday morning, as was the custom at Raglanda. The mourners
had gone into church after the funeral, and the coffin was left in the
open grave; but as soon as the service was over they would come back,
and help the grave-digger to fill in the grave.

The young girl knew everything that happened, but felt no fear. She had
not been able to make the slightest movement to show that she was alive,
even if she had wanted to; but even if she had been able to move, she
would not have done so; the whole time she was happy because she was as
good as dead.

But, on the other hand, one could hardly say that she was alive. She had
neither the use of her mind nor of her senses. It was only that part of
the soul which dreams dreams during the night that was still living
within her.

She could not even think enough to realize how terrible it would be for
her to awake when the grave was filled in. She had no more power over
her mind than has one who dreams.

'I should like to know,' she thought, 'if there is anything in the whole
wide world that could make me wish to live.'

As soon as that thought rushed through her it seemed to her as if the
lid of the coffin, and the handkerchief which had been placed over her
face, became transparent, and she saw before her riches and beautiful
raiment, and lovely gardens with delicious fruits.

'No, I do not care for any of these things,' she said, and she closed
her eyes for their glories.

When she again looked up they had disappeared, but instead she saw quite
distinctly a little angel of God sitting on the edge of the grave.

'Good-morning, thou little angel of God,' she said to him.

'Good-morning, Ingrid,' the angel said. 'Whilst thou art lying here
doing nothing, I would like to speak a little with thee about days gone
by.'

Ingrid heard distinctly every word the angel said; but his voice was not
like anything she had ever heard before. It was more like a stringed
instrument; it was not like singing, but like the tones of a violin or
the clang of a harp.

'Ingrid,' the angel said, 'dost thou remember, whilst thy grandfather
was still living, that thou once met a young student, who went with
thee from house to house playing the whole day on thy grandfather's
violin?'

The girl's face was lighted by a smile.

'Dost thou think I have forgotten this?' she said. 'Ever since that time
no day has passed when I have not thought of him.'

'And no night when thou hast not dreamt of him?'

'No, not a night when I have not dreamt of him.'

'And thou wilt die, although thou rememberest him so well,' said the
angel. 'Then thou wilt never be able to see him again.'

When he said this it was as if the dead girl felt all the happiness of
love, but even that could not tempt her.

'No, no,' she said; 'I am afraid to live; I would rather die.'

Then the angel waved his hand, and Ingrid saw before her a wide waste of
desert. There were no trees, and the desert was barren and dry and hot,
and extended in all directions without any limits. In the sand there
lay, here and there, objects which at the first glance looked like
pieces of rock, but when she examined them more closely, she saw they
were the immense living animals of fairy tales, with huge claws and
great jaws, with sharp teeth; they lay in the sand, watching for prey.
And between these terrible animals the student came walking along. He
went quite fearlessly, without suspecting that the figures around him
were living.

'But warn him! do warn him!' Ingrid said to the angel in unspeakable
fear. 'Tell him that they are living, and that he must take care.'

'I am not allowed to speak to him,' said the angel with his clear voice;
'thou must thyself warn him.'

The apparently dead girl felt with horror that she lay powerless, and
could not rush to save the student. She made one futile effort after the
other to raise herself, but the impotence of death bound her. But then
at last, at last, she felt her heart begin to beat, the blood rushed
through her veins, the stiffness of death was loosened in her body. She
arose and hastened towards him.


IV

It is quite certain the sun loves the open places outside the small
village churches. Has no one ever noticed that one never sees so much
sunshine as during the morning service outside a small, whitewashed
church? Nowhere else does one see such radiant streams of light, nowhere
else is the air so devoutly quiet. The sun simply keeps watch that no
one remains on the church hill gossiping. It wants them all to sit
quietly in church and listen to the sermon--that is why it sends such a
wealth of sunny rays on to the ground outside the church wall.

Perhaps one must not take it for granted that the sun keeps watch
outside the small churches every Sunday; but so much is certain, that
the morning Ingrid had been placed in the grave in the churchyard at
Raglanda, it spread a burning heat over the open space outside the
church. Even the flint stones looked as if they might take fire as they
lay and sparkled in the wheel-ruts. The short, down-trodden grass
curled, so that it looked like dry moss, whilst the yellow dandelions
which grew amongst the grass spread themselves out on their long stems,
so that they became as large as asters.

A man from Dalarne came wandering along the road--one of those men who
go about selling knives and scissors. He was clad in a long, white
sheep-skin coat, and on his back he had a large black leather pack. He
had been walking with this burden for several hours without finding it
too hot, but when he had left the highroad, and came to the open place
outside the church, he stopped and took off his hat in order to dry the
perspiration from his forehead.

As the man stood there bare-headed, he looked both handsome and clever.
His forehead was high and white, with a deep wrinkle between the
eyebrows; the mouth was well formed, with thin lips. His hair was parted
in the middle; it was cut short at the back, but hung over his ears, and
was inclined to curl. He was tall, and strongly, but not coarsely,
built; in every respect well proportioned. But what was wrong about him
was his glance, which was unsteady, and the pupils of his eyes rolled
restlessly, and were drawn far into the sockets, as if to hide
themselves. There was something drawn about the mouth, something dull
and heavy, which did not seem to belong to the face.

He could not be quite right, either, or he would not have dragged that
heavy pack about on a Sunday. If he had been quite in his senses, he
would have known that it was of no use, as he could not sell anything in
any case. None of the other men from Dalarne who walked about from
village to village bent their backs under this burden on a Sunday, but
they went to the house of God free and erect as other men.

But this poor fellow probably did not know it was a holy day until he
stood in the sunshine outside the church and heard the singing. He was
sensible enough at once to understand that he could not do any business,
and then his brain began to work as to how he should spend the day.

He stood for a long time and stared in front of him. When everything
went its usual course, he had no difficulty in managing. He was not so
bad but that he could go from farm to farm all through the week and
attend to his business, but he never could get accustomed to the
Sunday--that always came upon him as a great, unexpected trouble.

His eyes became quite fixed, and the muscles of his forehead swelled.

The first thought that took shape in his brain was that he should go
into the church and listen to the singing, but he would not accept this
suggestion. He was very fond of singing, but he dared not go into the
church. He was not afraid of human beings, but in some churches there
were such quaint, uncanny pictures, which represented creatures of which
he would rather not think.

At last his brain worked round to the thought that, as this was a
church, there would probably also be a churchyard, and when he could
take refuge in a churchyard all was well. One could not offer him
anything better. If on his wanderings he saw a churchyard, he always
went in and sat there awhile, even if it were in the middle of a
workaday week.

Now that he wanted to go to the churchyard a new difficulty suddenly
arose. The burial-place at Raglanda does not lie quite near the church,
which is built on a hill, but on the other side of the road; and he
could not get to the entrance of the churchyard without passing along
the road where the horses of the church-goers were standing tied up.

All the horses stood with their heads deep in bundles of hay and
nosebags, chewing. There was no question of their being able to do the
man any harm, but he had his own ideas as to the danger of going past
such a long row of animals.

Two or three times he made an attempt, but his courage failed him, so
that he was obliged to turn back. He was not afraid that the horses
would bite or kick. It was quite enough for him that they were so near
that they could see him. It was quite enough that they could shake their
bridles and scrape the earth with their hoofs.

At last a moment came when all the horses were looking down, and seemed
to be eating for a wager. Then he began to make his way between them. He
held his sheepskin cloak tightly around him so that it should not flap
and betray him, and he went on tiptoe as lightly as he could. When a
horse raised its eyelid and looked at him, he at once stopped and
curtsied. He wanted to be polite in this great danger, but surely
animals were amenable to reason, and could understand that he could not
bow when he had a pack full of hardware upon his back; he could only
curtsy.

He sighed deeply, for in this world it was a sad and troublesome thing
to be so afraid of all four-footed animals as he was. He was really not
afraid of any other animals than goats, and he would not have been at
all afraid of horses and dogs and cats had he only been quite sure that
they were not a kind of transformed goats. But he never was quite sure
of that, so as a matter of fact it was just as bad for him as if he had
been afraid of all kinds of four-footed animals.

It was no use his thinking of how strong he was, and that these small
peasant horses never did any harm to anyone: he who has become possessed
of such fears cannot reason with himself. Fear is a heavy burden, and it
is hard for him who must always carry it.

It was strange that he managed to get past all the horses. The last few
steps he took in two long jumps, and when he got into the churchyard he
closed the gate after him, and began to threaten the horses with his
clenched fist.

'You wretched, miserable, accursed goats!'

He did that to all animals. He could not help calling them goats, and
that was very stupid of him, for it had procured him a name which he did
not like. Everyone who met him called him the 'Goat.' But he would not
own to this name. He wanted to be called by his proper name, but
apparently no one knew his real name in that district.

He stood a little while at the gate, rejoicing at having escaped from
the horses, but he soon went further into the churchyard. At every cross
and every stone he stopped and curtsied, but this was not from fear:
this was simply from joy at seeing these dear old friends. All at once
he began to look quite gentle and mild. They were exactly the same
crosses and stones he had so often seen before. They looked just as
usual. How well he knew them again! He must say 'Good-morning' to them.

How nice it was in the churchyard! There were no animals about there,
and there were no people to make fun of him. It was best there, when it
was quite quiet as now; but even if there were people, they did not
disturb him. He certainly knew many pretty meadows and woods which he
liked still better, but there he was never left in peace. They could not
by any means compare with the churchyard. And the churchyard was better
than the forest, for in the forest the loneliness was so great that he
was frightened by it. Here it was quiet, as in the depths of the
forest; but he was not without company. Here people were sleeping under
every stone and every mound; just the company he wanted in order not to
feel lonely and strange.

He went straight to the open grave. He went there partly because there
were some shady trees, and partly because he wanted company. He thought,
perhaps, that the dead who had so recently been laid in the grave might
be a better protection against his loneliness than those who had passed
away long ago.

He bent his knees, with his back to the great mound of earth at the edge
of the grave, and succeeded in pushing the pack upwards, so that it
stood firmly on the mound, and he then loosened the heavy straps that
fastened it. It was a great day--a holiday. He also took off his coat.
He sat down on the grass with a feeling of great pleasure, so close to
the grave that his long legs, with the stockings tied under the knee,
and the heavy laced shoes dangled over the edge of the grave.

For a while he sat still, with his eyes steadily fixed upon the coffin.
When one was possessed by such fear as he was, one could not be too
careful. But the coffin did not move in the least; it was impossible to
suspect it of containing any snare.

He was no sooner certain of this than he put his hand into a side-pocket
of the pack and took out a violin and bow, and at the same time he
nodded to the dead in the grave. As he was so quiet he should hear
something pretty.

This was something very unusual for him. There were not many who were
allowed to hear him play. No one was ever allowed to hear him play at
the farms, where they set the dogs at him and called him the 'Goat'; but
sometimes he would play in a house where they spoke softly, and went
about quietly, and did not ask him if he wanted to buy any goat-skins.
At such places he took out his violin and treated them to some music;
and this was a great favour--the greatest he could bestow upon anybody.

As he sat there and played at the edge of the grave it did not sound
amiss; he did not play a wrong note, and he played so softly and gently
that it could hardly be heard at the next grave. The strange thing about
it was that it was not the man who could play, but it was his violin
that could remember some small melodies. They came forth from the violin
as soon as he let the bow glide over it. It might not, perhaps, have
meant so much to others, but for him, who could not remember a single
tune, it was the most precious gift of all to possess such a violin that
could play by itself.

Whilst he played he sat with a beaming smile on his face. It was the
violin that spoke and spoke; he only listened. Was it not strange that
one heard all these beautiful things as soon as one let the bow glide
over the strings? The violin did that. It knew how it ought to be, and
the Dalar man only sat and listened. Melodies grew out of that violin as
grass grows out of the earth. No one could understand how it happened.
Our Lord had ordered it so.

The Dalar man intended to remain sitting there the whole day, and let
the dear tunes grow out of the violin like small white and many-coloured
flowers. He would play a whole meadowful of flowers, play a whole long
valleyful, a whole wide plain.

But she who lay in the coffin distinctly heard the violin, and upon her
it had a strange effect. The tones had made her dream, and what she had
seen in her dreams caused her such emotion that her heart began to beat,
her blood to flow, and she awoke.

But all she had lived through while she lay there, apparently dead, the
thoughts she had had, and also her last dream--everything vanished in
the same moment she awoke to consciousness. She did not even know that
she was lying in her coffin, but thought she was still lying ill at home
in her bed. She only thought it strange that she was still alive. A
little while ago, before she fell asleep, she had been in the pangs of
death. Surely, all must have been over with her long ago. She had taken
leave of her adopted parents, and of her brothers and sisters, and of
the servants. The Dean had been there himself to administer the last
Communion, for her adopted father did not think he could bear to give it
to her himself. For several days she had put away all earthly thoughts
from her mind. It was incomprehensible that she was not dead.

She wondered why it was so dark in the room where she lay. There had
been a light all the other nights during her illness. And then they had
let the blankets fall off the bed. She was lying there getting as cold
as ice. She raised herself a little to pull the blankets over her. In
doing so she knocked her head against the lid of the coffin, and fell
back with a little scream of pain. She had knocked herself rather
severely, and immediately became unconscious again. She lay as
motionless as before, and it seemed as if life had again left her.

The Dalar man, who had heard both the knock and the cry, immediately
laid down his violin and sat listening; but there was nothing more to be
heard--nothing whatever. He began again to look at the coffin as
attentively as before. He sat nodding his head, as if he would say 'Yes'
to what he was himself thinking about, namely, that nothing in this
world was to be depended upon. Here he had had the best and most silent
of comrades, but had he not also been disappointed in him?

He sat and looked at the coffin, as if trying to see right through it.
At last, when it continued quite still, he took his violin again and
began to play. But the violin would not play any longer. However gently
and tenderly he drew his bow, there came forth no melody. This was so
sad that he was nearly crying. He had intended to sit still and listen
to his violin the whole day, and now it would not play any more.

He could quite understand the reason. The violin was uneasy and afraid
of what had moved in the coffin. It had forgotten all its melodies, and
thought only of what it could be that had knocked at the coffin-lid.
That is how it is one forgets everything when one is afraid. He saw
that he would have to quiet the violin if he wanted to hear more.

He had felt so happy, more so than for many years. If there was really
anything bad in the coffin, would it not be better to let it out? Then
the violin would be glad, and beautiful flowers would again grow out of
it.

He quickly opened his big pack, and began to rummage amongst his knives
and saws and hammers until he found a screw-driver. In another moment he
was down in the grave on his knees and unscrewing the coffin-lid. He
took out one screw after the other, until at last he could raise the lid
against the side of the grave; at the same moment the handkerchief fell
from off the face of the apparently dead girl. As soon as the fresh air
reached Ingrid, she opened her eyes. Now she saw that it was light. They
must have removed her. Now she was lying in a yellow chamber with a
green ceiling, and a large chandelier was hanging from the ceiling. The
chamber was small, but the bed was still smaller. Why had she the
sensation of her arms and legs being tied? Was it because she should lie
still in the little narrow bed? It was strange that they had placed a
hymn-book under her chin; they only did that with corpses. Between her
fingers she had a little bouquet. Her adopted mother had cut a few
sprigs from her flowering myrtle, and laid them in her hands. Ingrid was
very much surprised. What had come to her adopted mother? She saw that
they had given her a pillow with broad lace, and a fine hem-stitched
sheet. She was very glad of that; she liked to have things nice. Still,
she would rather have had a warm blanket over her. It could surely not
be good for a sick person to lie without a blanket. Ingrid was nearly
putting her hands to her eyes and beginning to cry, she was so bitterly
cold. At the same moment she felt something hard and cold against her
cheek. She could not help smiling. It was the old, red wooden horse, the
old three-legged Camilla, that lay beside her on the pillow. Her little
brother, who could never sleep at night without having it with him in
his bed, had put it in her bed. It was very sweet of her little brother.
Ingrid felt still more inclined to cry when she understood that her
little brother had wanted to comfort her with his wooden horse.

But she did not get so far as crying. The truth all at once flashed upon
her. Her little brother had given her the wooden horse, and her mother
had given her her white myrtle flowers, and the hymn-book had been
placed under her chin, because they had thought she was dead.

Ingrid took hold of the sides of the coffin with both hands and raised
herself. The little narrow bed was a coffin, and the little narrow
chamber was a grave. It was all very difficult to understand. She could
not understand that this concerned her, that it was she who had been
swathed like a corpse and placed in the grave. She must be lying all the
same in her bed, and be seeing or dreaming all this. She would soon find
out that this was no reality, but that everything was as usual.

All at once she found the explanation of the whole thing--'I often have
such strange dreams. This is only a vision'--and she sighed, relieved
and happy. She laid herself down in her coffin again; she was so sure
that it was her own bed, for that was not very wide either.

All this time the Dalar man stood in the grave, quite close to the foot
of the coffin. He only stood a few feet from her, but she had not seen
him; that was probably because he had tried to hide himself in the
corner of the grave as soon as the dead in the coffin had opened her
eyes and begun to move. She could, perhaps, have seen him, although he
held the coffin-lid before him as a screen, had there not been something
like a white mist before her eyes so that she could only see things
quite near her distinctly. Ingrid could not even see that there were
earthen walls around her. She had taken the sun to be a large
chandelier, and the shady lime-trees for a roof. The poor Dalar man
stood and waited for the thing that moved in the coffin to go away. It
did not strike him that it would not go unrequested. Had it not knocked
because it wanted to get out? He stood for a long time with his head
behind the coffin-lid and waited, that it should go. He peeped over the
lid when he thought that now it must have gone. But it had not moved; it
remained lying on its bed of shavings.

He could not put up with it any longer; he must really make an end of
it. It was a long time since his violin had spoken so prettily as
to-day, he longed to sit again quietly with it. Ingrid, who had nearly
fallen asleep again, suddenly heard herself addressed in the sing-song
Dalar dialect:

'Now, I think it is time you got up.'

As soon as he had said this he hid his head. He shook so much over his
boldness that he nearly let the lid fall.

But the white mist which had been before Ingrid's eyes disappeared
completely when she heard a human being speaking. She saw a man standing
in the corner, at the foot of the coffin, holding a coffin-lid before
him. She saw at once that she could not lie down again and think it was
a vision. Surely he was a reality, which she must try and make out. It
certainly looked as if the coffin were a coffin, and the grave a grave,
and that she herself a few minutes ago was nothing but a swathed and
buried corpse. For the first time she was terror-stricken at what had
happened to her. To think that she could really have been dead that
moment! She could have been a hideous corpse, food for worms. She had
been placed in the coffin for them to throw earth upon her; she was
worth no more than a piece of turf; she had been thrown aside
altogether. The worms were welcome to eat her; no one would mind about
that.

Ingrid needed so badly to have a fellow-creature near her in her great
terror. She had recognized the Goat directly he put up his head. He was
an old acquaintance from the parsonage; she was not in the least afraid
of him. She wanted him to come close to her. She did not mind in the
least that he was an idiot. He was, at any rate, a living being. She
wanted him to come so near to her that she could feel she belonged to
the living and not to the dead.

'Oh, for God's sake, come close to me!' she said, with tears in her
voice.

She raised herself in the coffin and stretched out her arms to him.

But the Dalar man only thought of himself. If she were so anxious to
have him near her, he resolved to make his own terms.

'Yes,' he said, 'if you will go away.'

Ingrid at once tried to comply with his request, but she was so tightly
swathed in the sheet that she found it difficult to get up.

'You must come and help me,' she said.

She said this, partly because she was obliged to do it, and partly
because she was afraid that she had not quite escaped death. She must be
near someone living.

He actually went near her, squeezing himself between the coffin and the
side of the grave. He bent over her, lifted her out of the coffin, and
put her down on the grass at the side of the open grave.

Ingrid could not help it. She threw her arms round his neck, laid her
head on his shoulder and sobbed. Afterwards she could not understand how
she had been able to do this, and that she was not afraid of him. It was
partly from joy that he was a human being--a living human being--and
partly from gratitude, because he had saved her.

What would have become of her if it had not been for him? It was he who
had raised the coffin-lid, who had brought her back to life. She
certainly did not know how it had all happened, but it was surely he who
had opened the coffin. What would have happened to her if he had not
done this? She would have awakened to find herself imprisoned in the
black coffin. She would have knocked and shouted; but who would have
heard her six feet below the ground? Ingrid dared not think of it; she
was entirely absorbed with gratitude because she had been saved. She
must have someone she could thank. She must lay her head on someone's
breast and cry from gratitude.

The most extraordinary thing, almost, that happened that day was, that
the Dalar man did not repulse her. But it was not quite clear to him
that she was alive. He thought she was dead, and he knew it was not
advisable to offend anyone dead. But as soon as he could manage, he
freed himself from her and went down into the grave again. He placed the
lid carefully on the coffin, put in the screws and fastened it as
before. Then he thought the coffin would be quite still, and the violin
would regain its peace and its melodies.

In the meantime Ingrid sat on the grass and tried to collect her
thoughts. She looked towards the church and discovered the horses and
the carriages on the hillside. Then she began to realize everything. It
was Sunday; they had placed her in the grave in the morning, and now
they were in church.

A great fear now seized Ingrid. The service would, perhaps, soon be
over, and then all the people would come out and see her. And she had
nothing on but a sheet! She was almost naked. Fancy, if all these people
came and saw her in this state! They would never forget the sight. And
she would be ashamed of it all her life.

Where should she get some clothes? For a moment she thought of throwing
the Dalar man's fur coat round her, but she did not think that that
would make her any more like other people.

She turned quickly to the crazy man, who was still working at the
coffin-lid.

'Oh,' she said, 'will you let me creep into your pack?'

In a moment she stood by the great leather pack, which contained goods
enough to fill a whole market-stall, and began to open it.

'You must come and help me.'

She did not ask in vain. When the Dalar man saw her touching his wares
he came up at once.

'Are you touching my pack?' he asked threateningly.

Ingrid did not notice that he spoke angrily; she considered him to be
her best friend all the time.

'Oh, dear good man,' she said, 'help me to hide, so that people will not
see me. Put your wares somewhere or other, and let me creep into the
pack, and carry me home. Oh, do do it! I live at the Parsonage, and it
is only a little way from here. You know where it is.'

The man stood and looked at her with stupid eyes. She did not know
whether he had understood a word of what she said. She repeated it, but
he made no sign of obeying her. She began again to take the things out
of the pack. Then he stamped on the ground and tore the pack from her.

However should Ingrid be able to make him do what she wanted?

On the grass beside her lay a violin and a bow. She took them up
mechanically--she did not know herself why. She had probably been so
much in the company of people playing the violin that she could not bear
to see an instrument lying on the ground.

As soon as she touched the violin he let go the pack, and tore the
violin from her. He was evidently quite beside himself when anyone
touched his violin. He looked quite malicious.

What in the world could she do to get away before people came out of
church?

She began to promise him all sorts of things, just as one promises
children when one wants them to be good.

'I will ask father to buy a whole dozen of scythes from you. I will lock
up all the dogs when you come to the Parsonage. I will ask mother to
give you a good meal.'

But there was no sign of his giving way. She bethought herself of the
violin, and said in her despair:

'If you will carry me to the Parsonage, I will play for you.'

At last a smile flashed across his face. That was evidently what he
wanted.

'I will play for you the whole afternoon; I will play for you as long as
you like.'

'Will you teach the violin new melodies?' he asked.

'Of course I will.'

But Ingrid now became both surprised and unhappy, for he took hold of
the pack and pulled it towards him. He dragged it over the graves, and
the sweet-williams and southernwood that grew on them were crushed under
it as if it were a roller. He dragged it to a heap of branches and
wizened leaves and old wreaths lying near the wall round the churchyard.
There he took all the things out of the pack, and hid them well under
the heap. When it was empty he returned to Ingrid.

'Now you can get in,' he said.

Ingrid stepped into the pack, and crouched down on the wooden bottom.
The man fastened all the straps as carefully as when he went about with
his usual wares, bent down so that he nearly went on his knees, put his
arms through the braces, buckled a couple of straps across his chest,
and stood up. When he had gone a few steps he began to laugh. His pack
was so light that he could have danced with it.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was only about a mile from the church to the Parsonage. The Dalar man
could walk it in twenty minutes. Ingrid's only wish was that he would
walk so quickly that she could get home before the people came back from
church. She could not bear the idea of so many people seeing her. She
would like to get home when only her mother and the maid-servants were
there.

Ingrid had taken with her the little bouquet of flowers from her adopted
mother's myrtle. She was so pleased with it that she kissed it over and
over again. It made her think more kindly of her adopted mother than she
had ever done before. But in any case she would, of course, think kindly
of her now. One who has come straight from the grave must think kindly
and gently of everything living and moving on the face of the earth.

She could now understand so well that the Pastor's wife was bound to
love her own children more than her adopted daughter. And when they were
so poor at the Parsonage that they could not afford to keep a nursemaid,
she could see now that it was quite natural that she should look after
her little brothers and sisters. And when her brothers and sisters were
not good to her, it was because they had become accustomed to think of
her as their nurse. It was not so easy for them to remember that she had
come to the Parsonage to be their sister.

And, after all, it all came from their being poor. When father some day
got another living, and became Dean, or even Rector, everything would
surely come right. Then they would love her again, as they did when she
first came to them. The good old times would be sure to come back again.
Ingrid kissed her flowers. It had not been mother's intention, perhaps,
to be hard; it was only worry that had made her so strange and unkind.

But now it would not matter how unkind they were to her. In the future
nothing could hurt her, for now she would always be glad, simply because
she was alive. And if things should ever be really bad again, she would
only think of mother's myrtle and her little brother's horse.

It was happiness enough to know that she was being carried along the
road alive. This morning no one had thought that she would ever again go
over these roads and hills. And the fragrant clover and the little birds
singing and the beautiful shady trees, which had all been a source of
joy for the living, had not even existed for her. But she had not much
time for reflection, for in twenty minutes the Dalar man had reached the
Parsonage.

No one was at home but the Pastor's wife and the maid-servants, just as
Ingrid had wished. The Pastor's wife had been busy the whole morning
cooking for the funeral feast. She soon expected the guests, and
everything was nearly ready. She had just been into the bedroom to put
on her black dress. She glanced down the road to the church, but there
were still no carriages to be seen. So she went once again into the
kitchen to taste the food.

She was quite satisfied, for everything was as it ought to be, and one
cannot help being glad for that, even if one is in mourning. There was
only one maid in the kitchen, and that was the one the Pastor's wife had
brought with her from her old home, so she felt she could speak to her
in confidence.

'I must confess, Lisa,' she said, 'I think anyone would be pleased with
having such a funeral.'

'If she could only look down and see all the fuss you make of her,' Lisa
said, 'she would be pleased.'

'Ah!' said the Pastor's wife, 'I don't think she would ever be pleased
with me.'

'She is dead now,' said the girl, 'and I am not the one to say anything
against one who is hardly yet under the ground.'

'I have had to bear many a hard word from my husband for her sake,' said
the mistress.

The Pastor's wife felt she wanted to speak with someone about the dead
girl. Her conscience had pricked her a little on her account, and this
was why she had arranged such a grand funeral feast. She thought her
conscience might leave her alone now she had had so much trouble over
the funeral, but it did not do so by any means. Her husband also
reproached himself, and said that the young girl had not been treated
like one of their own children, and that they had promised she should be
when they adopted her; and he said it would have been better if they had
never taken her, when they could not help letting her see that they
loved their own children more. And now the Pastor's wife felt she must
talk to someone about the young girl, to hear whether people thought she
had treated her badly.

She saw that Lisa began to stir the pan violently, as if she had
difficulty in controlling her anger. She was a clever girl, who
thoroughly understood how to get into her mistress's good books.

'I must say,' Lisa began, 'that when one has a mother who always looks
after one, and takes care that one is neat and clean, one might at
least try to obey and please her. And when one is allowed to live in a
good Parsonage, and to be educated respectably, one ought at least to
give some return for it, and not always go idling about and dreaming. I
should like to know what would have happened if you had not taken the
poor thing in. I suppose she would have been running about with those
acrobats, and have died in the streets, like any other poor wretch.'

A man from Dalarne came across the yard; he had his pack on his back,
although it was Sunday. He came very quietly through the open
kitchen-door, and curtsied when he entered, but no one took any notice
of him. Both the mistress and the maid saw him, but as they knew him,
they did not think it necessary to interrupt their conversation.

The Pastor's wife was anxious to continue it; she felt she was about to
hear what she needed to ease her conscience.

'It is perhaps as well she is gone,' she said.

'Yes, ma'am,' the servant said eagerly; 'and I am sure the Pastor thinks
just the same. In any case he soon will. And the mistress will see that
now there will be more peace in the house, and I am sure the master
needs it.'

'Oh!' said the Pastor's wife, 'I was obliged to be careful. There were
always so many clothes to be got for her, that it was quite dreadful. He
was so afraid that she should not get as much as the others that she
sometimes even had more. And it cost so much, now that she was grown
up.'

'I suppose, ma'am, Greta will get her muslin dress?'

'Yes; either Greta will have it, or I shall use it myself.'

'She does not leave much behind her, poor thing!'

'No one expects her to leave anything,' said her adopted mother. 'I
should be quite content if I could remember ever having had a kind word
from her.'

This is only the kind of thing one says when one has a bad conscience,
and wants to excuse one's self. Her adopted mother did not really mean
what she said.

The Dalar man behaved exactly as he always did when he came to sell his
wares. He stood for a little while looking round the kitchen; then he
slowly pushed the pack on to a table, and unfastened the braces and the
straps; then he looked round to see if there were any cats or dogs
about. He then straightened his back, and began to unfasten the two
leather flaps, which were fastened with numerous buckles and knots.

'He need not trouble about opening his pack to-day,' Lisa said; 'it is
Sunday, and he knows quite well we don't buy anything on Sundays.'

She, however, took no notice of the crazy fellow, who continued to
unfasten his straps. She turned round to her mistress. This was a good
opportunity for insinuating herself.

'I don't even know whether she was good to the children. I have often
heard them cry in the nursery.'

'I suppose it was the same with them as it was with their mother,' said
the Pastor's wife; 'but now, of course, they cry because she is dead.'

'They don't understand what is best for them,' said the servant; 'but
the mistress can be certain that before a month is gone there will be no
one to cry over her.'

At the same moment they both turned round from the kitchen range, and
looked towards the table, where the Dalar man stood opening his big
pack. They had heard a strange noise, something like a sigh or a sob.
The man was just opening the inside lid, and out of the pack rose the
newly-buried girl, exactly the same as when they laid her in the coffin.

And yet she did not look quite the same. She looked almost more dead now
than when she was laid in her coffin. Then she had nearly the same
colour as when she was alive; now her face was ashy-gray, there was a
bluish-black shadow round her mouth, and her eyes lay deep in her head.
She said nothing, but her face expressed the greatest despair, and she
held out beseechingly, and as if to avert their anger, the bouquet of
myrtle which she had received from her adopted mother.

This sight was more than flesh and blood could stand. Her mother fell
fainting to the ground; the maid stood still for a moment, gazing at the
mother and daughter, covered her eyes with her hands, and rushed into
her own room and locked the door.

'It is not me she has come for; this does not concern me.'

But Ingrid turned round to the Dalar man.

'Put me in your pack again, and take me away. Do you hear? Take me away.
Take me back to where you found me.'

The Dalar man happened to look through the window. A long row of carts
and carriages was coming up the avenue and into the yard. Ah, indeed!
then he was not going to stay. He did not like that at all.

Ingrid crouched down at the bottom of the pack. She said not another
word, but only sobbed. The flaps and the lids were fastened, and she was
again lifted on to his back and carried away. Those who were coming to
the funeral feast laughed at the Goat, who hastened away, curtsying and
curtsying to every horse he met.


V

Anna Stina was an old woman who lived in the depths of the forest. She
gave a helping hand at the Parsonage now and then, and always managed
opportunely to come down the hillside when they were baking or washing.
She was a nice, clever old woman, and she and Ingrid were good friends.
As soon as the young girl was able to collect her thoughts, she made up
her mind to take refuge with her.

'Listen,' she said to the Dalar man. 'When you get onto the highroad,
turn into the forest; then go straight on until you come to a gate;
there you must turn to the left; then you must go straight on until you
come to the large gravel-pit. From there you can see a house: take me
there, and I will play to you.'

The short and harsh manner in which she gave her orders jarred upon her
ears, but she was obliged to speak in this way in order to be obeyed; it
was the only chance she had. What right had she to order another person
about--she who had not even the right to be alive?

After all this she would never again be able to feel as if she had any
right to live. This was the most dreadful part of all that had happened
to her: that she could have lived in the Parsonage for six years, and
not even been able to make herself so much loved that they wished to
keep her alive. And those whom no one loves have no right to live. She
could not exactly say how she knew it was so, but it was as clear as
daylight. She knew it from the feeling that the same moment she heard
that they did not care about her an iron hand seemed to have crushed her
heart as if to make it stop. Yes, it was life itself that had been
closed for her. And the same moment she had come back from death, and
felt the delight of being alive burn brightly and strongly within her,
just at that moment the one thing that gave her the right of existing
had been torn from her.

This was worse than sentence of death. It was much more cruel than an
ordinary sentence of death. She knew what it was like. It was like
felling a tree--not in the usual manner, when the trunk is cut through,
but by cutting its roots and leaving it standing in the ground to die by
itself. There the tree stands, and cannot understand why it no longer
gets nourishment and support. It struggles and strives to live, but the
leaves get smaller and smaller, it sends forth no fresh shoots, the bark
falls off, and it must die, because it is severed from the spring of
life. Thus it is it must die.

At last the Dalar man put down his pack on the stone step outside a
little house in the midst of the wild forest. The door was locked, but
as soon as Ingrid had got out of the pack she took the key from under
the doorstep, opened the door, and walked in.

Ingrid knew the house thoroughly and all it contained. It was not the
first time she had come there for comfort; it was not the first time she
had come and told old Anna Stina that she could not bear living at home
any longer--that her adopted mother was so hard to her that she would
not go back to the Parsonage. But every time she came the old woman had
talked her over and quieted her. She had made her some terrible coffee
from roasted peas and chicory, without a single coffee-bean in it, but
which had all the same given her new courage, and in the end she had
made her laugh at everything, and encouraged her so much, that she had
simply danced down the hillside on her way home.

Even if Anna Stina had been at home, and had made some of her terrible
coffee, it would probably not have helped Ingrid this time. But the old
woman was down at the Parsonage to the funeral feast, for the Pastor's
wife had not forgotten to invite any of those of whom Ingrid had been
fond. That, too, was probably the result of an uneasy conscience.

But in Anna's room everything was as usual. And when Ingrid saw the
sofa with the wooden seat, and the clean, scoured table, and the cat,
and the coffee-kettle, although she did not feel comforted or cheered,
she felt that here was a place where she could give vent to her sorrow.
It was a relief that here she need not think of anything but crying and
moaning.

She went straight to the settle, threw herself on the wooden seat, and
lay there crying, she did not know for how long.

The Dalar man sat outside on the stone step; he did not want to go into
the house on account of the cat. He expected that Ingrid would come out
and play to him. He had taken the violin out long ago. As it was such a
long time before she came, he began to play himself. He played softly
and gently, as was his wont. It was barely possible for the young girl
to hear him playing.

Ingrid had one fit of shivering after the other. This was how she had
been before she fell ill. She would no doubt be ill again. It was also
best that the fever should come and put an end to her in earnest.

When she heard the violin, she rose and looked round with bewildered
glance. Who was that playing? Was that her student? Had he come at last?
It soon struck her, however, that it was the Dalar man, and she lay down
again with a sigh. She could not follow what he was playing. But as soon
as she closed her eyes the violin assumed the student's voice. She also
heard what he said; he spoke with her adopted mother and defended her.
He spoke just as nicely as he had done to Mr. and Mrs. Blomgren. Ingrid
needed love so much, he said. That was what she had missed. That was
why she had not always attended to her work, but allowed dreams to fill
her mind. But no one knew how she could work and slave for those who
loved her. For their sake she could bear sorrow and sickness, and
contempt and poverty; for them she would be as strong as a giant, and as
patient as a slave.

Ingrid heard him distinctly and she became quiet. Yes, it was true. If
only her adopted mother had loved her, she would have seen what Ingrid
was worth. But as she did not love her, Ingrid was paralyzed in her
efforts. Yes, so it had been.

Now the fever had left her, she only lay and listened to what the
student said. She slept a little now and then; time after time she
thought she was lying in her grave, and then it was always the student
who came and took her out of the coffin. She lay and disputed with him.

'When I am dreaming it is you who come,' she said.

'It is always I who come to you, Ingrid,' he said. 'I thought you knew
that. I take you out of the grave; I carry you on my shoulders; I play
you to sleep. It is always I.'

What disturbed and awoke her was the thought that she had to get up and
play for the Dalar man. Several times she rose up to do it, but could
not. As soon as she fell back upon the settle she began to dream. She
sat crouching in the pack and the student carried her through the
forest. It was always he.

'But it was not you,' she said to him.

'Of course it was I,' he said, smiling at her contradicting him. 'You
have been thinking about me every day for all these years; so you can
understand I could not help saving you when you were in such great
danger.'

Of course she saw the force of his argument; and then she began to
realize that he was right, and that it was he. But this was such
infinite bliss that she again awoke. Love seemed to fill her whole
being. It could not have been more real had she seen and spoken with her
beloved.

'Why does he never come in real life?' she said, half aloud. 'Why does
he only come in my dreams?'

She did not dare to move, for then love would fly away. It was as if a
timid bird had settled on her shoulder, and she was afraid of
frightening it away. If she moved, the bird would fly away, and sorrow
would overcome her.

When at last she really awoke, it was twilight. She must have slept the
whole afternoon and evening. At that time of the year it was not dark
until after ten o'clock. The violin had ceased playing, and the Dalar
man had probably gone away.

Anna Stina had not yet come back. She would probably be away the whole
night. It did not matter to Ingrid; all she wanted was to lie down again
and sleep. She was afraid of all the sorrow and despair that would
overwhelm her as soon as she awoke. But then she got something new to
think about. Who could have closed the door? who had spread Anna Stina's
great shawl over her? and who had placed a piece of dry bread beside her
on the seat? Had he, the Goat, done all this for her? For a moment she
thought she saw dream and reality standing side by side, trying which
could best console her. And the dream stood joyous and smiling,
showering over her all the bliss of love to comfort her. But life, poor,
hard, and bitter though it was, also brought its kindly little mite to
show that it did not mean to be so hard upon her as perhaps she thought.


VI

Ingrid and Anna Stina were walking through the dark forest. They had
been walking for four days, and had slept three nights in the Säter
huts. Ingrid was weak and weary; her face was transparently pale; her
eyes were sunken, and shone feverishly. Old Anna Stina now and then
secretly cast an anxious look at her, and prayed to God that He would
sustain her so that she might not die by the wayside. Now and then the
old woman could not help looking behind her with uneasiness. She had an
uncomfortable feeling that the old man with his scythe came stealthily
after them through the forest to reclaim the young girl who, both by the
word of God and the casting of earth upon her, had been consecrated to
him.

Old Anna Stina was little and broad, with a large, square face, which
was so intelligent that it was almost good-looking. She was not
superstitious--she lived quite alone in the midst of the forest without
being afraid either of witches or evil spirits--but as she walked there
by the side of Ingrid she felt as distinctly as if someone had told her
that she was walking beside a being who did not belong to this world.
She had had that sensation ever since she had found Ingrid lying in her
house that Monday morning.

Anna Stina had not returned home on the Sunday evening, for down at the
Parsonage the Pastor's wife had been taken very ill, and Anna Stina, who
was accustomed to nurse sick people, had stayed to sit up with her. The
whole night she had heard the Pastor's wife raving about Ingrid's having
appeared to her; but that the old woman had not believed. And when she
returned home the next day and found Ingrid, the old woman would at once
have gone down to the Parsonage again to tell them that it was not a
ghost they had seen; but when she had suggested this to Ingrid, it had
affected her so much that she dared not do it. It was as if the little
life which burnt in her would be extinguished, just as the flame of a
candle is put out by too strong a draught. She could have died as easily
as a little bird in its cage. Death was prowling around her. There was
nothing to be done but to nurse her very tenderly and deal very gently
with her if her life was to be preserved.

The old woman hardly knew what to think of Ingrid. Perhaps she was a
ghost; there seemed to be so little life in her. She quite gave up
trying to talk her to reason. There was nothing else for it but giving
in to her wishes that no one should hear anything about her being alive.
And then the old woman tried to arrange everything as wisely as
possible. She had a sister who was housekeeper on a large estate in
Dalarne, and she made up her mind to take Ingrid to her, and persuade
her sister, Stafva, to give the girl a situation at the Manor House.
Ingrid would have to be content with being simply a servant. There was
nothing else for it.

They were now on their way to the Manor House. Anna Stina knew the
country so well that they were not obliged to go by the highroad, but
could follow the lonely forest paths. But they had also undergone much
hardship. Their shoes were worn and in pieces, their skirts soiled and
frayed at the bottom, and a branch had torn a long rent in Ingrid's
sleeve.

On the evening of the fourth day they came to a hill from which they
could look down into a deep valley. In the valley was a lake, and near
the edge of the lake was a high, rocky island, upon which stood a large
white building. When Anna Stina saw the house, she said it was called
Munkhyttan, and that it was there her sister lived.

They made themselves as tidy as they could on the hillside. They
arranged the handkerchiefs which they wore on their heads, dried their
shoes with moss, and washed themselves in a forest stream, and Anna
Stina tried to make a fold in Ingrid's sleeve so that the rent could not
be seen.

The old woman sighed when she looked at Ingrid, and quite lost courage.
It was not only that she looked so strange in the clothes she had
borrowed from Anna Stina, and which did not at all fit her, but her
sister Stafva would never take her into her service, she looked so
wretched and pitiful. It was like engaging a breath of wind. The girl
could be of no more use than a sick butterfly.

As soon as they were ready, they went down the hill to the lake. It was
only a short distance. Then they came to the land belonging to the Manor
House.

Was that a country house?

There were large neglected fields, upon which the forest encroached more
and more. There was a bridge leading on to the island, so shaky that
they hardly thought it would keep together until they were safely over.
There was an avenue leading from the bridge to the main building,
covered with grass, like a meadow, and a tree which had been blown down
had been left lying across the road.

The island was pretty enough, so pretty that a castle might very well
have been built there. But nothing but weeds grew in the garden, and in
the large park the trees were choking each other, and black snakes
glided over the green, wet walks.

Anna Stina felt uneasy when she saw how neglected everything was, and
went along mumbling to herself: 'What does all this mean? Is Stafva
dead? How can she stand everything looking like this? Things were very
different thirty years ago, when I was last here. What in the world can
be the matter with Stafva?' She could not imagine that there could be
such neglect in any place where Stafva lived.

Ingrid walked behind her, slowly and reluctantly. The moment she put her
foot on the bridge she felt that there were not two walking there, but
three. Someone had come to meet her there, and had turned back to
accompany her. Ingrid heard no footsteps, but he who accompanied them
appeared indistinctly by her side. She could see there was someone.

She became terribly afraid. She was just going to beg Anna Stina to turn
back and tell her that everything seemed so strange here that she dare
not go any further. But before she had time to say anything, the
stranger came quite close to her, and she recognised him. Before, she
only saw him indistinctly; now she saw him so clearly that she could see
it was the student.

It no longer seemed weird and ghost-like that he walked there. It was
only strangely delightful that he came to receive her. It was as if it
were he who had brought her there, and would, by coming to welcome her,
show that it was.

He walked with her over the bridge, through the avenue, quite up to the
main building.

She could not help turning her head every moment to the left. It was
there she saw his face, quite close to her cheek. It was really not a
face that she saw, only an unspeakably beautiful smile that drew
tenderly near her. But if she turned her head quite round to see it
properly, it was no longer there. No, there was nothing one could see
distinctly. But as soon as she looked straight before her, it was there
again, quite close to her.

Her invisible companion did not speak to her, he only smiled. But that
was enough for her. It was more than enough to show her that there was
one in the world who kept near her with tender love.

She felt his presence as something so real, that she firmly believed he
protected her and watched over her. And before this happy consciousness
vanished all the despair which her adopted mother's hard words had
called forth.

Ingrid felt herself again given back to life. She had the right to live,
as there was one who loved her.

And this was why she entered the kitchen at Munkhyttan with a faint
blush on her cheeks, and with radiant eyes, fragile, weak, and
transparent, but sweet as a newly-opened rose.

She still went about as if in a dream, and did not know much about where
she was; but what surprised her so much that it nearly awakened her was
to see a new Anna Stina standing by the fireplace. She stood there,
little and broad, with a large, square face, exactly like the other. But
why was she so fine, with a white cap with strings tied in a large bow
under her chin, and with a black bombazine dress? Ingrid's head was so
confused, that it was some time before it occurred to her that this must
be Miss Stafva.

She felt that Anna Stina looked uneasily at her, and she tried to pull
herself together and say 'Good-day.' But the only thing her mind could
grasp was the thought that he had come to her.

Inside the kitchen there was a small room, with blue-checked covering on
the furniture. They were taken into that room, and Miss Stafva gave them
coffee and something to eat.

Anna Stina at once began to talk about their errand. She spoke for a
long time; said that she knew her sister stood so high in her
ladyship's favour that she left it to her to engage the servants. Miss
Stafva said nothing, but she gave a look at Ingrid as much as to say
that it would hardly have been left with her if she had chosen servants
like her.

Anna Stina praised Ingrid, and said she was a good girl. She had
hitherto served in a parsonage, but now that she was grown up she wanted
really to learn something, and that was why Anna Stina had brought her
to one who could teach her more than any other person she knew.

Miss Stafva did not reply to this remark either. But her glance plainly
showed that she was surprised that anyone who had had a situation in a
parsonage had no clothes of her own, but was obliged to borrow old Anna
Stina's.

Then old Anna Stina began to tell how she lived quite alone in the
forest, deserted by all her relatives. And this young girl had come
running up the hill many an evening and many an early morning to see
her. She had therefore thought and hoped that she could now help her to
get a good situation.

Miss Stafva said it was a pity that they had gone such a long way to
find a place. If she were a clever girl, she could surely get a
situation in some good family in their own neighbourhood.

Anna Stina could now clearly see that Ingrid's prospects were not good,
and therefore she began in a more solemn vein:

'Here you have lived, Stafva, and had a good, comfortable home all your
life, and I have had to fight my way in great poverty. But I have never
asked you for anything before to-day. And now you will send me away
like a beggar, to whom one gives a meal and nothing more.'

Miss Stafva smiled a little; then she said:

'Sister Anna Stina, you are not telling me the truth. I, too, come from
Raglanda, and I should like to know at what peasant's house in that
parish grow such eyes and such a face.'

And she pointed at Ingrid, and continued:

'I can quite understand, Anna Stina, that you would like to help one who
looks like that. But I do not understand how you can think that your
sister Stafva has not more sense than to believe the stories you choose
to tell her.'

Anna Stina was so frightened that she could not say a word, but Ingrid
made up her mind to confide in Miss Stafva, and began at once to tell
her whole story in her soft, beautiful voice.

And Ingrid had hardly told of how she had been lying in the grave, and
that a Dalar man had come and saved her, before old Miss Stafva grew red
and quickly bent down to hide it. It was only a second, but there must
have been some cause for it, for from that moment she looked so kind.

She soon began to ask full particulars about it; more especially she
wanted to know about the crazy man, whether Ingrid had not been afraid
of him. Oh no, he did no harm. He was not mad, Ingrid said; he could
both buy and sell. He was only frightened of some things.

Ingrid thought the hardest of all was to tell what she had heard her
adopted mother say. But she told everything, although there were tears
in her voice.

Then Miss Stafva went up to her, drew back the handkerchief from her
head, and looked into her eyes. Then she patted her lightly on the
cheek.

'Never mind that, little miss,' she said. 'There is no need for me to
know about that. Now sister and Miss Ingrid must excuse me,' she said
soon after, 'but I must take up her ladyship's coffee. I shall soon be
down again, and you can tell me more.'

When she returned, she said she had told her ladyship about the young
girl who had lain in the grave, and now her mistress wanted to see her.

They were taken upstairs, and shown into her ladyship's boudoir.

Anna Stina remained standing at the door of the fine room. But Ingrid
was not shy; she went straight up to the old lady and put out her hand.
She had often been shy with others who looked much less aristocratic;
but here, in this house, she did not feel embarrassed. She only felt so
wonderfully happy that she had come there.

'So it is you, my child, who have been buried,' said her ladyship,
nodding friendlily to her. 'Do you mind telling me your story, my child?
I sit here quite alone, and never hear anything, you know.'

Then Ingrid began again to tell her story. But she had not got very far
before she was interrupted. Her ladyship did exactly the same as Miss
Stafva had done. She rose, pushed the handkerchief back from Ingrid's
forehead and looked into her eyes.

'Yes,' her ladyship said to herself, 'that I can understand. I can
understand that he must obey those eyes.'

For the first time in her life Ingrid was praised for her courage. Her
ladyship thought she had been very brave to place herself in the hands
of a crazy fellow.

She _was_ afraid, she said, but she was still more afraid of people
seeing her in that state. And he did no harm; he was almost quite right,
and then he was so good.

Her ladyship wanted to know his name, but Ingrid did not know it. She
had never heard of any other name but the Goat. Her ladyship asked
several times how he managed when he came to do business. Had she not
laughed at him, and did she not think that he looked terrible--the Goat?
It sounded so strange when her ladyship said 'the Goat.' There was so
much bitterness in her voice when she said it, and yet she said it over
and over again.

No; Ingrid did not think so, and she never laughed at unfortunate
people. The old lady looked more gentle than her words sounded.

'It appears you know how to manage mad people, my child,' she said.
'That is a great gift. Most people are afraid of such poor creatures.'
She listened to all Ingrid had to say, and sat meditating. 'As you have
not any home, my child,' she said, 'will you not stay here with me? You
see, I am an old woman living here by myself, and you can keep me
company, and I shall take care that you have everything you want. What
do you say to it, my child? There will come a time, I suppose,'
continued her ladyship, 'when we shall have to inform your parents that
you are still living; but for the present everything shall remain as it
is, so that you can have time to rest both body and mind. And you shall
call me "Aunt"; but what shall I call you?'

'Ingrid--Ingrid Berg.'

'Ingrid,' said her ladyship thoughtfully. 'I would rather have called
you something else. As soon as you entered the room with those star-like
eyes, I thought you ought to be called Mignon.'

When it dawned upon the young girl that here she would really find a
home, she felt more sure than ever that she had been brought here in
some supernatural manner, and she whispered her thanks to her invisible
protector before she thanked her ladyship, Miss Stafva, and Anna Stina.

       *       *       *       *       *

Ingrid slept in a four-poster, on luxurious featherbeds three feet high,
and had hem-stitched sheets, and silken quilts embroidered with Swedish
crowns and French lilies. The bed was so broad that she could lie as she
liked either way, and so high that she must mount two steps to get into
it. At the top sat a Cupid holding the brightly-coloured hangings, and
on the posts sat other Cupids, which held them up in festoons.

In the same room where the bed stood was an old curved chest of drawers
inlaid with olive-wood, and from it Ingrid might take as much
sweetly-scented linen as she liked. There was also a wardrobe containing
many gay and pretty silk and muslin gowns that only hung there and
waited until it pleased her to put them on.

When she awoke in the morning there stood by her bedside a tray with a
silver coffee-set and old Indian china. And every morning she set her
small white teeth in fine white bread and delicious almond-cakes; every
day she was dressed in a fine muslin gown with a lace fichu. Her hair
was dressed high at the back, but round her forehead there was a row of
little light curls.

On the wall between the windows hung a mirror, with a narrow glass in a
broad frame, where she could see herself, and nod to her picture, and
ask:

'Is it you? Is it really you? How have you come here?'

In the daytime, when Ingrid had left the chamber with the four-poster,
she sat in the drawing-room and embroidered or painted on silk, and when
she was tired of that, she played a little on the guitar and sang, or
talked with the old lady, who taught her French, and amused herself by
training her to be a fine lady.

But she had come to an enchanted castle--she could not get away from
that idea. She had had that feeling the first moment, and it was always
coming back again. No one arrived at the house, no one left it. In this
big house only two or three rooms were kept in order; in the others no
one ever went. No one walked in the garden, no one looked after it.
There was only one man-servant, and an old man who cut the firewood. And
Miss Stafva had only two servants, who helped her in the kitchen and in
the dairy.

But there was always dainty food on the table, and her ladyship and
Ingrid were always waited upon and dressed like fine ladies of rank.

If nothing thrived on the old estate, there was, at any rate, fertile
soil for dreams, and even if they did not nurse and cultivate flowers
there, Ingrid was not the one to neglect her dream-roses. They grew up
around her whenever she was alone. It seemed to her then as if red
dream-roses formed a canopy over her.

Round the island where the trees bent low over the water, and sent long
branches in between the reeds, and where shrubs and lofty trees grew
luxuriantly, was a pathway where Ingrid often walked. It looked so
strange to see so many letters carved on the trees, to see the old seats
and summer-houses; to see the old tumble-down pavilions, which were so
worm-eaten that she dared not go into them; to think that real people
had walked here, that here they had lived, and longed, and loved, and
that this had not always been an enchanted castle.

Down here she felt even more the witchery of the place. Here the face
with the smile came to her. Here she could thank him, the student,
because he had brought her to a home where she was so happy, where they
loved her, and made her forget how hardly others had treated her. If it
had not been he who had arranged all this for her, she could not
possibly have been allowed to remain here; it was quite impossible.

She knew that it must be he. She had never before had such wild fancies.
She had always been thinking of him, but she had never felt that he was
so near her that he took care of her. The only thing she longed for was
that he himself should come, for of course he would come some day. It
was impossible that he should not come. In these avenues he had left
behind part of his soul.

       *       *       *       *       *

Summer went, and autumn; Christmas was drawing near.

'Miss Ingrid,' said the old housekeeper one day, in a rather mysterious
manner, 'I think I ought to tell you that the young master who owns
Munkhyttan is coming home for Christmas. In any case, he generally
comes,' she added, with a sigh.

'And her ladyship, who has never even mentioned that she has a son,'
said Ingrid.

But she was not really surprised. She might just as well have answered
that she had known it all along.

'No one has spoken to you about him, Miss Ingrid,' said the housekeeper,
'for her ladyship has forbidden us to speak about him.'

And then Miss Stafva would not say any more.

Neither did Ingrid want to ask any more. Now she was afraid of hearing
something definite. She had raised her expectations so high that she was
herself afraid they would fail. The truth might be well worth hearing,
but it might also be bitter, and destroy all her beautiful dreams. But
from that day he was with her night and day. She had hardly time to
speak to others. She must always be with him.

One day she saw that they had cleared the snow away from the avenue. She
grew almost frightened. Was he coming now?

The next day her ladyship sat from early morning in the window looking
down the avenue. Ingrid had gone further into the room. She was so
restless that she could not remain at the window.

'Do you know whom I am expecting to-day, Ingrid?'

The young girl nodded; she dared not depend upon her voice to answer.

'Has Miss Stafva told you that my son is peculiar?'

Ingrid shook her head.

'He is very peculiar--he--I cannot speak about it. I cannot--you must
see for yourself.'

It sounded heartrending. Ingrid grew very uneasy. What was there with
this house that made everything so strange? Was it something terrible
that she did not know about? Was her ladyship not on good terms with her
son? What was it, what was it?

The one moment in an ecstasy of joy, the next in a fever of uncertainty,
she was obliged to call forth the long row of visions in order again to
feel that it must be he who came. She could not at all say why she so
firmly believed that he must be the son just of this house. He might,
for the matter of that, be quite another person. Oh, how hard it was
that she had never heard his name!

It was a long day. They sat waiting in silence until evening came.

The man came driving a cartload of Christmas logs, and the horse
remained in the yard whilst the wood was unloaded.

'Ingrid,' said her ladyship in a commanding and hasty tone, 'run down
to Anders and tell him that he must be quick and get the horse into the
stable. Quick--quick!'

Ingrid ran down the stairs and on to the veranda; but when she came out
she forgot to call to the man. Just behind the cart she saw a tall man
in a sheepskin coat, and with a large pack on his back. It was not
necessary for her to see him standing curtsying and curtsying to
recognise him. But, but----She put her hand to her head and drew a deep
breath. How would all these things ever become clear to her? Was it for
that fellow's sake her ladyship had sent her down? And the man, why did
he pull the horse away in such great haste? And why did he take off his
cap and salute? What had that crazy man to do with the people of this
house?

All at once the truth flashed upon Ingrid so crushingly and
overwhelmingly that she could have screamed. It was not her beloved who
had watched over her; it was this crazy man. She had been allowed to
remain here because she had spoken kindly of him, because his mother
wanted to carry on the good work which he had commenced.

The Goat--that was the young master.

But to her no one came. No one had brought her here; no one had expected
her. It was all dreams, fancies, illusions! Oh, how hard it was! If she
had only never expected him!

But at night, when Ingrid lay in the big bed with the brightly-coloured
hangings, she dreamt over and over again that she saw the student come
home. 'It was not you who came,' she said. 'Yes, of course it was I,'
he replied. And in her dreams she believed him.

       *       *       *       *       *

One day, the week after Christmas, Ingrid sat at the window in the
boudoir embroidering. Her ladyship sat on the sofa knitting, as she
always did now. There was silence in the room.

Young Hede had been at home for a week. During all that time Ingrid had
never seen him. In his home, too, he lived like a peasant, slept in the
men-servants' quarters, and had his meals in the kitchen. He never went
to see his mother.

Ingrid knew that both her ladyship and Miss Stafva expected that she
should do something for Hede, that at the least she would try and
persuade him to remain at home. And it grieved her that it was
impossible for her to do what they wished. She was in despair about
herself and about the utter weakness that had come over her since her
expectations had been so shattered.

To-day Miss Stafva had just come in to say that Hede was getting his
pack ready to start. He was not even staying as long as he generally did
at Christmas, she said with a reproachful look at Ingrid.

Ingrid understood all they had expected from her, but she could do
nothing. She sewed and sewed without saying anything.

Miss Stafva went away, and there was again silence in the room. Ingrid
quite forgot that she was not alone; a feeling of drowsiness suddenly
came over her, whilst all her sad thoughts wove themselves into a
strange fancy.

She thought she was walking up and down the whole of the large house.
She went through a number of rooms and salons; she saw them before her
with gray covers over the furniture. The paintings and the chandeliers
were covered with gauze, and on the floors was a layer of thick dust,
which whirled about when she went through the rooms. But at last she
came to a room where she had never been before; it was quite a small
chamber, where both walls and ceiling were black. But when she came to
look more closely at them, she saw that the chamber was neither painted
black, nor covered with black material, but it was so dark on account of
the walls and the ceiling being completely covered with bats. The whole
room was nothing but a huge nest for bats. In one of the windows a pane
was broken, so one could understand how the bats had got in in such
incredible numbers that they covered the whole room. They hung there in
their undisturbed winter sleep; not one moved when she entered. But she
was seized by such terror at this sight that she began to shiver and
shake all over. It was dreadful to see the quantity of bats she so
distinctly saw hanging there. They all had black wings wrapped around
them like cloaks; they all hung from the walls by a single long claw in
undisturbable sleep. She saw it all so distinctly that she wondered if
Miss Stafva knew that the bats had taken possession of a whole room. In
her thoughts she then went to Miss Stafva and asked her whether she had
been into that room and seen all the bats.

'Of course I have seen them,' said Miss Stafva. 'It is their own room. I
suppose you know, Miss Ingrid, that there is not a single old country
house in all Sweden where they have not to give up a room to the bats?'

'I have never heard that before,' Ingrid said.

'When you have lived as long in the world as I have, Miss Ingrid, you
will find out that I am speaking the truth,' said Miss Stafva.

'I cannot understand that people will put up with such a thing,' Ingrid
said.

'We are obliged to,' said Miss Stafva. 'Those bats are Mistress Sorrow's
birds, and she has commanded us to receive them.'

Ingrid saw that Miss Stafva did not wish to say anything more about that
matter, and she began to sew again; but she could not help speculating
over who that Mistress Sorrow could be who had so much power here that
she could compel Miss Stafva to give up a whole room to the bats.

Just as she was thinking about all this, she saw a black sledge, drawn
by black horses, pull up outside the veranda. She saw Miss Stafva come
out and make a low curtsy. An old lady in a long black velvet cloak,
with many small capes on the shoulders, alighted from the sledge. She
was bent, and had difficulty in walking. She could hardly lift her feet
sufficiently to walk up the steps.

'Ingrid,' said her ladyship, looking up from her knitting, 'I think I
heard Mistress Sorrow arrive. It must have been her jingle I heard. Have
you noticed that she never has sledge-bells on her horses, but only
quite a small jingle? But one can hear it--one can hear it! Go down
into the hall, Ingrid, and bid Mistress Sorrow welcome.'

When Ingrid came down into the front hall, Mistress Sorrow stood talking
with Miss Stafva on the veranda. They did not notice her.

Ingrid saw with surprise that the round-backed old lady had something
hidden under all her capes which looked like crape; it was put well up
and carefully hidden. Ingrid had to look very closely before she
discovered that they were two large bat's wings which she tried to hide.
The young girl grew still more curious and tried to see her face, but
she stood and looked into the yard, so it was impossible. So much,
however, Ingrid did see when she put out her hand to the
housekeeper--that one of her fingers was much longer than the others,
and at the end of it was a large, crooked claw.

'I suppose everything is as usual here?' she said.

'Yes, honoured Mistress Sorrow,' said Miss Stafva.

'You have not planted any flowers, nor pruned any trees? You have not
mended the bridge, nor weeded the avenue?'

'No, honoured mistress.'

'This is quite as it should be,' said the honoured mistress. 'I suppose
you have not had the audacity to search for the vein of ore, or to cut
down the forest which is encroaching on the fields?'

'No, honoured mistress.'

'Or to clean the wells?'

'No, nor to clean the wells.'

'This is a nice place,' said Mistress Sorrow; 'I always like being here.
In a few years things will be in such a state that my birds can live all
over the house. You are really very good to my birds, Miss Stafva.'

At this praise the housekeeper made a deep curtsy.

'How are things otherwise at the house?' said Mistress Sorrow. 'What
sort of a Christmas have you had?'

'We have kept Christmas as we always do,' said Miss Stafva. 'Her
ladyship sits knitting in her room day after day, thinks of nothing but
her son, and does not even know that it is a festival. Christmas Eve we
allowed to pass like any other day--no presents and no candles.'

'No Christmas tree, no Christmas fare?'

'Nor any going to church; not so much as a candle in the windows on
Christmas morning.'

'Why should her ladyship honour God's Son when God will not heal her
son?' said Mistress Sorrow.

'No, why should she?'

'He is at home at present, I suppose? Perhaps he is better now?'

'No, he is no better. He is as much afraid of things as ever.'

'Does he still behave like a peasant? Does he never go into the rooms?'

'We cannot get him to go into the rooms; he is afraid of her ladyship,
as the honoured mistress knows.'

'He has his meals in the kitchen, and sleeps in the men-servants'
room?'

'Yes, he does.'

'And you have no idea how to cure him?'

'We know nothing, we understand nothing.'

Mistress Sorrow was silent for a moment; when she spoke again there was
a hard, sharp ring in her voice:

'This is all right as far as it goes, Miss Stafva; but I am not quite
satisfied with you, all the same.'

The same moment she turned round and looked sharply at Ingrid.

Ingrid shuddered. Mistress Sorrow had a little, wrinkled face, the under
part of which was so doubled up that one could hardly see the lower jaw.
She had teeth like a saw, and thick hair on the upper lip. Her eyebrows
were one single tuft of hair, and her skin was quite brown.

Ingrid thought Miss Stafva could not see what she saw: Mistress Sorrow
was not a human being; she was only an animal.

Mistress Sorrow opened her mouth and showed her glittering teeth when
she looked at Ingrid.

'When this girl came here,' she said to Miss Stafva, 'you thought she
had been sent by God. You thought you could see from her eyes that she
had been sent by Our Lord to save him. She knew how to manage mad
people. Well, how has it worked?'

'It has not worked at all. She has not done anything.'

'No, I have seen to that,' said Mistress Sorrow. 'It was my doing that
you did not tell her why she was allowed to stay here. Had she known
that, she would not have indulged in such rosy dreams about seeing her
beloved. If she had not had such expectations, she would not have had
such a bitter disappointment. Had disappointment not paralyzed her, she
could perhaps have done something for this mad fellow. But now she has
not even been to see him. She hates him because he is not the one she
expected him to be. That is my doing, Miss Stafva, my doing.'

'Yes; the honoured mistress knows her business,' said Miss Stafva.

Mistress Sorrow took her lace handkerchief and dried her red-rimmed
eyes. It looked as if it were meant for an expression of joy.

'You need not make yourself out to be any better than you are, Miss
Stafva,' she said. 'I know you do not like my having taken that room for
my birds. You do not like the thought of my having the whole house soon.
I know that. You and your mistress had intended to cheat me. But it is
all over now.'

'Yes,' said Miss Stafva, 'the honoured mistress can be quite easy. It is
all over. The young master is leaving to-day. He has packed up his pack,
and then we always know he is about to leave. Everything her ladyship
and I have been dreaming about the whole autumn is over. Nothing has
been done. We thought she might at least have persuaded him to remain at
home, but in spite of all we have done for her, she has not done
anything for us.'

'No, she has only been a poor help, I know that,' said Mistress Sorrow.
'But, all the same, she must be sent away now. That was really what I
wanted to see her ladyship about.'

Mistress Sorrow began to drag herself up the steps on her tottering
legs. At every step she raised her wings a little, as if they should
help her. She would, no doubt, much rather have flown.

Ingrid went behind her. She felt strangely attracted and fascinated. If
Mistress Sorrow had been the most beautiful woman in the world, she
could not have felt a greater inclination to follow her.

When she went into the boudoir she saw Mistress Sorrow sitting on the
sofa by the side of her ladyship, whispering confidentially with her, as
if they were old friends.

'You must be able to see that you cannot keep her with you,' said
Mistress Sorrow impressively. 'You, who cannot bear to see a flower
growing in your garden, can surely not stand having a young girl about
in the house. It always brings a certain amount of brightness and life,
and that would not suit you.'

'No; that is just what I have been sitting and thinking about.'

'Get her a situation as lady's companion somewhere or other, but don't
keep her here.'

She rose to say good-bye.

'That was all I wanted to see you about,' she said. 'But how are you
yourself?'

'Knives and scissors cut my heart all day long,' said her ladyship. 'I
only live in him as long as he is at home. It is worse than usual, much
worse this time. I cannot bear it much longer.' . . .

Ingrid started; it was her ladyship's bell that rang. She had been
dreaming so vividly that she was quite surprised to see that her
ladyship was alone, and that the black sledge was not waiting before the
door.

Her ladyship had rung for Miss Stafva, but she did not come. She asked
Ingrid to go down to her room and call her.

Ingrid went, but the little blue-checked room was empty. The young girl
was going into the kitchen to ask for the housekeeper, but before she
had time to open the door she heard Hede talking. She stopped outside;
she could not persuade herself to go in and see him.

She tried, however, to argue with herself. It was not his fault that he
was not the one she had been expecting. She must try to do something for
him; she must persuade him to remain at home. Before, she had not had
such a feeling against him. He was not so very bad.

She bent down and peeped through the keyhole. It was the same here as at
other places. The servants tried to lead him on in order to amuse
themselves by his strange talk. They asked him whom he was going to
marry. Hede smiled; he liked to be asked about that kind of thing.

'She is called Grave-Lily--don't you know that?' he said.

The servant said she did not know that she had such a fine name.

'But where does she live?'

'Neither has she home nor has she farm,' Hede said. 'She lives in my
pack.'

The servant said that was a queer home, and asked about her parents.

'Neither has she father nor has she mother,' Hede said. 'She is as fine
as a flower; she has grown up in a garden.'

He said all this with a certain amount of clearness, but when he wanted
to describe how beautiful his sweetheart was he could not get on at all.
He said a number of words, but they were strangely mixed together. One
could not follow his thoughts, but evidently he himself derived much
pleasure from what he said. He sat smiling and happy.

Ingrid hurried away. She could not bear it any longer. She could not do
anything for him. She was afraid of him. She disliked him. But she had
not got further than the stairs before her conscience pricked her. Here
she had received so much kindness, and she would not make any return.

In order to master her dislike she tried in her own mind to think of
Hede as a gentleman. She wondered how he had looked when he wore good
clothes, and had his hair brushed back. She closed her eyes for a moment
and thought. No, it was impossible, she could not imagine him as being
any different from what he was. The same moment she saw the outlines of
a beloved face by her side. It appeared at her left side wonderfully
distinct. This time the face did not smile. The lips trembled as if in
pain, and unspeakable suffering was written in sharp lines round the
mouth.

Ingrid stopped half-way up the stairs and looked at it. There it was,
light and fleeting, as impossible to grasp and hold fast as a sun-spot
reflected by the prism of a chandelier, but just as visible, just as
real. She thought of her recent dream, but this was different--this was
reality.

When she had looked a little at the face, the lips began to move; they
spoke, but she could not hear a sound. Then she tried to see what they
said, tried to read the words from the lips, as deaf people do, and she
succeeded.

'Do not let me go,' the lips said; 'do not let me go.'

And the anguish with which it was said! If a fellow-creature had been
lying at her feet begging for life, it could not have affected her more.
She was so overcome that she shook. It was more heart-rending than
anything she had ever heard in her whole life. Never had she thought
that anyone could beg in such fearful anguish. Again and again the lips
begged, 'Do not let me go!' And for every time the anguish was greater.

Ingrid did not understand it, but remained standing, filled with
unspeakable pity. It seemed to her that more than life itself must be at
stake for one who begged like this, that his very soul must be at stake.

The lips did not move any more; they stood half open in dull despair.
When they assumed this expression she uttered a cry and stumbled. She
recognised the face of the crazy fellow as she had just seen it.

'No, no, no!' she said. 'It cannot be so! It must not! it cannot! It is
not possible that it is he!'

The same moment the face vanished. She must have sat for a whole hour on
the cold staircase, crying in helpless despair. But at last hope sprang
up in her, strong and fair. She again took courage to raise her head.
All that had happened seemed to show that she should save him. It was
for that she had come here. She should have the great, great happiness
of saving him.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the little boudoir her ladyship was talking to Miss Stafva. It
sounded so pitiful to hear her asking the housekeeper to persuade her
son to remain a few days longer. Miss Stafva tried to appear hard and
severe.

'Of course, I can ask him,' she said; 'but your ladyship knows that no
one can make him stay longer than he wants.'

'We have money enough, you know. There is not the slightest necessity
for him to go. Can you not tell him that?' said her ladyship.

At the same moment Ingrid came in. The door opened noiselessly. She
glided through the room with light, airy steps; her eyes were radiant,
as if she beheld something beautiful afar off.

When her ladyship saw her she frowned a little. She also felt an
inclination to be cruel, to give pain.

'Ingrid,' she said, 'come here; I must speak with you about your
future.'

The young girl had fetched her guitar and was about to leave the room.
She turned round to her ladyship.

'My future?' she said, putting her hand to her forehead. 'My future is
already decided, you know,' she continued, with the smile of a martyr;
and without saying any more she left the room.

Her ladyship and Stafva looked in surprise at each other. They began to
discuss where they should send the young girl. But when Miss Stafva came
down to her room she found Ingrid sitting there, singing some little
songs and playing on the guitar, and Hede sat opposite her, listening,
his face all sunshine.

       *       *       *       *       *

Ever since Ingrid had recognised the student in the poor crazy fellow,
she had no other thought but that of trying to cure him; but this was a
difficult task, and she had no idea whatever as to how she should set
about it. To begin with, she only thought of how she could persuade him
to remain at Munkhyttan; and this was easy enough. Only for the sake of
hearing her play the violin or the guitar a little every day he would
now sit patiently from morning till evening in Miss Stafva's room
waiting for her.

She thought it would be a great thing if she could get him to go into
the other rooms, but that she could not. She tried keeping in her room,
and said she would not play any more for him if he did not come to her.
But after she had remained there two days, he began to pack up his pack
to go away, and then she was obliged to give in.

He showed great preference for her, and distinctly showed that he liked
her better than others; but she did not make him less frightened. She
begged him to leave off his sheepskin coat, and wear an ordinary coat.
He consented at once, but the next day he had it on again. Then she hid
it from him; but he then appeared in the man-servant's skin coat. So
then they would rather let him keep his own. He was still as frightened
as ever, and took great care no one came too near him. Even Ingrid was
not allowed to sit quite close to him.

One day she said to him that now he must promise her something: he must
give over curtsying to the cat. She would not ask him to do anything so
difficult as give up curtsying to horses and dogs, but surely he could
not be afraid of a little cat.

Yes, he said; the cat was a goat.

'It can't be a goat,' she said; 'it has no horns, you know.'

He was pleased to hear that. It seemed as if at last he had found
something by which he could distinguish a goat from other animals.

The next day he met Miss Stafva's cat.

'That goat has no horns,' he said; and laughed quite proudly.

He went past it, and sat down on the sofa to listen to Ingrid playing.
But after he had sat a little while he grew restless, and he rose, went
up to the cat, and curtsied.

Ingrid was in despair. She took him by his arm and shook him. He ran
straight out of the room, and did not appear until the next day.

'Child, child,' said her ladyship, 'you do exactly as I did; you try the
same as I did. It will end by your frightening him so that he dare not
see you any more. It is better to leave him in peace. We are satisfied
with things as they are if he will only remain at home.'

There was nothing else for Ingrid to do but wring her hands in sorrow
that such a fine, lovable fellow should be concealed in this crazy man.

Ingrid thought again and again, had she really only come here to play
her grandfather's tunes to him? Should they go on like that all through
life? Would it never be otherwise?

She also told him many stories, and in the midst of a story his face
would lighten up, and he would say something wonderfully subtle and
beautiful. A sane person would never have thought of anything like it.
And no more was needed to make her courage rise, and then she began
again with these endless experiments.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was late one afternoon, and the moon was just about to rise. White
snow lay on the ground, and bright gray ice covered the lake. The trees
were blackish-brown, and the sky was a flaming red after the sunset.

Ingrid was on her way to the lake to skate. She went along a narrow path
where the snow was quite trodden down. Gunnar Hede went behind her.
There was something cowed in his bearing that made one think of a dog
following its master.

Ingrid looked tired; there was no brightness in her eyes, and her
complexion was gray.

As she walked along she wondered whether the day, which was now so
nearly over, was content with itself--if it were from joy it had
lighted the great flaming red sunset far away in the west.

She knew she could light no bonfire over this day, nor over any other
day. In the whole month that had passed since she recognised Gunnar Hede
she had gained nothing.

And to-day a great fear had come upon her. It seemed to her as if she
might perhaps lose her love over all this. She was nearly forgetting the
student, only for thinking of the poor fellow. All that was bright and
beautiful and youthful vanished from her love. Nothing was left but
dull, heavy earnest.

She was quite in despair as she walked towards the lake. She felt she
did not know what ought to be done--felt that she must give it all up.
Oh, God, to have him walking behind her apparently strong and hale, and
yet so helplessly, incurably sick!

They had reached the lake, and she was putting on her skates. She also
wanted him to skate, and helped him to put on his skates; but he fell as
soon as he got on to the ice. He scrambled to the bank and sat down on a
stone, and she skated away from him.

Just opposite the stone upon which Gunnar Hede was sitting was an islet
overgrown with birches and poplars, and behind it the radiant evening
sky, which was still flaming red. And the fine, light, leafless tops of
the trees stood against the glorious sky with such beauty that it was
impossible not to notice it.

Is it not a fact that one always recognises a place by a single feature?
One does not exactly know how even the most familiar spot looks from
all sides. And Munkhyttan one always knew by the little islet. If one
had not seen the place for many years, one would know it again by this
islet, where the dark tree-tops were lifted towards the sunset.

Hede sat quite still, and looked at the islet and at the branches of the
trees and at the gray ice which surrounded it.

This was the view he knew best of all; there was nothing on the whole
estate he knew so well, for it was always this islet that attracted the
eye. And soon he was sitting looking at the islet without thinking about
it, just as one does with things one knows so well. He sat for a long
time gazing. Nothing disturbed him, not a human being, not a gust of
wind, no strange object. He could not see Ingrid; she had skated far
away on the ice.

A rest and peace fell upon Gunnar Hede such as one only feels in home
surroundings. Security and peace came to him from the little islet; it
quieted the everlasting unrest that tormented him.

Hede always imagined he was amongst enemies, and always thought of
defending himself. For many years he had not felt that peace which made
it possible for him to forget himself. But now it came upon him.

Whilst Gunnar Hede was sitting thus and not thinking of anything, he
happened mechanically to make a movement as one may do when one finds
one's self in accustomed circumstances. As he sat there with the shining
ice before him and with skates on his feet, he got up and skated on to
the lake, and he thought as little of what he was doing as one thinks of
how one is holding fork or spoon when eating.

He glided over the ice; it was glorious skating. He was a long way off
the shore before he realized what he was doing.

'Splendid ice!' he thought. 'I wonder why I did not come down earlier in
the day. It is a good thing I was more here yesterday,' he said. 'I will
really not waste a single day during the rest of my vacation.'

No doubt it was because Gunnar Hede happened to do something he was in
the habit of doing before he was ill that his old self awakened within
him.

Thoughts and associations connected with his former life began to force
themselves upon his consciousness, and at the same time all the thoughts
connected with his illness sank into oblivion.

It had been his habit when skating to take a wide turn on the lake in
order to see beyond a certain point. He did so now without thinking, but
when he had turned the point he knew he had skated there to see if there
was a light in his mother's window.

'She thinks it is time I was coming home, but she must wait a little;
the ice is too good.'

But it was mostly vague sensations of pleasure over the exercise and the
beautiful evening that were awakened within him. A moonlight evening
like this was just the time for skating; he was so fond of this peaceful
transition from day to night. It was still light, but the stillness of
night was already there, the best both of day and of night.

There was another skater on the ice; it was a young girl. He was not
sure if he knew her, but he skated towards her to find out. No; it was
no one he knew, but he could not help making a remark when he passed her
about the splendid ice.

The stranger was probably a young girl from the town. She was evidently
not accustomed to be addressed in this unceremonious manner; she looked
quite frightened when he spoke to her. He certainly was queerly dressed;
he was dressed quite like a peasant.

Well, he did not want to frighten her away. He turned off and skated
further up the lake; the ice was big enough for them both.

But Ingrid had nearly screamed with astonishment. He had come towards
her skating elegantly, with his arms crossed, the brim of his hat turned
up, and his hair thrown back, so that it did not fall over his ears.

He had spoken with the voice of a gentleman, almost without the
slightest Dalar accent. She did not stop to think about it. She skated
quickly towards the shore. She came breathless into the kitchen. She did
not know how to say it shortly and quickly enough.

'Miss Stafva, the young master has come home!'

The kitchen was empty; neither the housekeeper nor the servants were
there. Nor was there anybody in the housekeeper's room. Ingrid rushed
through the whole house, went into rooms where no one ever went. The
whole time she cried out, 'Miss Stafva, Miss Stafva! the young master
has come home!'

She was quite beside herself, and went on calling out, even when she
stood on the landing upstairs, surrounded by the servants, Miss Stafva,
and her ladyship herself. She said it over and over again. She was too
much excited to stop. They all understood what she meant. They stood
there quite as much overcome as she was.

Ingrid turned restlessly from the one to the other. She ought to give
explanations and orders, but about what? That she could so lose her
presence of mind! She looked wildly questioning at her ladyship.

'What was it I wanted?'

The old lady gave some orders in a low, trembling voice. She almost
whispered.

'Light the candles and make a fire in the young master's room. Lay out
the young master's clothes.'

It was neither the place nor the time for Miss Stafva to be important.
But there was all the same a certain superior ring in her voice as she
answered:

'There is always a fire in the young master's room. The young master's
clothes are always in readiness for him.'

'Ingrid had better go up to her room,' said her ladyship.

The young girl did just the opposite. She went into the drawing-room,
placed herself at the window, sobbed and shook, but did not herself
know that she was not still. She impatiently dried the tears from her
eyes, so that she could see over the snowfield in front of the house. If
only she did not cry, there was nothing she could miss seeing in the
clear moonlight. At last he came.

'There he is! there he is!' she cried to her ladyship. 'He walks
quickly! he runs! Do come and see!'

Her ladyship sat quite still before the fire. She did not move. She
strained her ears to hear, just as much as the other strained her eyes
to see. She asked Ingrid to be quiet, so that she could hear how he
walked. Ah, yes, she would be quiet. Her ladyship should hear how he
walked. She grasped the window-sill, as if that could help her.

'You _shall_ be quiet,' she whispered, 'so that her ladyship can hear
how he walks.'

Her ladyship sat bending forward, listening with all her soul. Did she
already hear his steps in the court-yard? She probably thought he would
go towards the kitchen. Did she hear that it was the front steps that
creaked? Did she hear that it was the door to the front hall that
opened? Did she hear how quickly he came up the stairs, two or three
steps at a time? Had his mother heard that? It was not the dragging step
of a peasant, as it had been when he left the house.

It was almost more than they could bear, to hear him coming towards the
door of the drawing-room. Had he come in then, they would no doubt both
have screamed. But he turned down the corridor to his own rooms.

Her ladyship fell back in her chair, and her eyes closed. Ingrid thought
her ladyship would have liked to die at that moment. Without opening her
eyes, she put out her hand. Ingrid went softly up and took it; the old
lady drew her towards her.

'Mignon, Mignon,' she said; 'that was the right name after all. But,'
she continued, 'we must not cry. We must not speak about it. Take a
stool and come and sit down by the fire. We must be calm, my little
friend. Let us speak about something else. We must be perfectly calm
when he comes in.'

Half an hour afterwards Hede came in; the tea was on the table, and the
chandelier was lighted. He had dressed; every trace of the peasant had
disappeared. Ingrid and her ladyship pressed each other's hands.

They had been sitting trying to imagine how he would look when he came
in. It was impossible to say what he might say or do, said her ladyship.
One never had known what he might do. But in any case they would both be
quite calm. A feeling of great happiness had come over her, and that had
quieted her. She was resting, free from all sorrow, in the arms of
angels carrying her upwards, upwards.

But when Hede came in, there was no sign of confusion about him.

'I have only come to tell you,' he said, 'that I have got such a
headache, that I shall have to go to bed at once. I felt it already when
I was on the ice.'

Her ladyship made no reply. Everything was so simple; she had never
thought it would be like that. It took her a few moments to realize that
he did not know anything about his illness, that he was living somewhere
in the past.

'But perhaps I can first drink a cup of tea,' he said, looking a little
surprised at their silence.

Her ladyship went to the tea-tray. He looked at her.

'Have you been crying, mother? You are so quiet.'

'We have been sitting talking about a sad story, I and my young friend
here,' said her ladyship, pointing to Ingrid.

'I beg your pardon,' he said. 'I did not see you had visitors.'

The young girl came forward towards the light, beautiful as one would be
who knew that the gates of heaven the next moment would open before her.

He bowed a little stiffly. He evidently did not know who she was. Her
ladyship introduced them to each other. He looked curiously at Ingrid.

'I think I saw Miss Berg on the ice,' he said.

He knew nothing about her--had never spoken to her before.

       *       *       *       *       *

A short, happy time followed. Gunnar Hede was certainly not quite
himself; but those around him were happy in the belief that he soon
would be. His memory was partly gone. He knew nothing about certain
periods of his life; he could not play the violin; he had almost
forgotten all he knew; and his power of thinking was weak; and he
preferred neither to read nor to write. But still he was very much
better. He was not frightened; he was fond of his mother; he had again
assumed the manners and habits of a gentleman. One can easily understand
that her ladyship and all her household were delighted.

Hede was in the best of spirits--bright and joyous all day long. He
never speculated over anything, put to one side everything he could not
understand, never spoke about anything that necessitated mental
exertion, but talked merrily and cheerfully. He was most happy when he
was engaged in bodily exercise. He took Ingrid out with him sledging and
skating. He did not talk much to her, but she was happy to be with him.
He was kind to Ingrid, as he was to everyone else, but not in the least
in love with her. He often wondered about his _fiancée_--wondered why
she never wrote. But after a short time that trouble, too, left him. He
always put away from him anything that worried him.

Ingrid thought that he would never get really well by doing like this.
He must some time be made to think--to face his own thoughts, which he
was afraid of doing now. But she dared not compel him to do this, and
there was no one else who dared. If he began to care for her a little,
perhaps she might dare. She thought all they now wanted, every one of
them, was a little happiness.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was just at that time that a little child died at the Parsonage at
Raglanda where Ingrid had been brought up; and the grave-digger was
about to dig the grave.

The man dug the grave quite close to the spot where the previous summer
he had dug the grave for Ingrid. And when he had got a few feet into the
ground he happened to lay bare a corner of her coffin. The grave-digger
could not help smiling a little to himself. Of course he had heard that
the dead girl lying in this coffin had appeared. She was supposed to
have unscrewed her coffin-lid on the very day of her funeral, risen from
the grave, and appeared at the Parsonage. The Pastor's wife was not so
much liked but that people in the parish rather enjoyed telling this
story about her. The grave-digger thought that people should only know
how securely the dead were lying in the ground, and how fast the
coffin-lids. . . .

He interrupted himself in the midst of this thought. On the corner of
the coffin which was exposed the lid was not quite straight, and one of
the screws was not quite fast. He did not say anything, he did not think
anything, but stopped digging and whistled the whole reveille of the
Vermland Regiment--for he was an old soldier. Then he thought he had
better examine the thing properly. It would never do for a grave-digger
to have thoughts about the dead which might come and trouble him during
the dark autumn nights. He hastily removed some more earth. Then he
began to hammer on the coffin with his shovel. The coffin answered quite
distinctly that it was empty--empty.

Half an hour after the grave-digger was at the Parsonage. There was no
end to the questionings and surmises. So much they were all agreed
upon--that the young girl had been in the Dalar man's pack. But what had
become of her afterwards?

Anna Stina stood at the oven in the Parsonage and looked after the
baking, for of course there was baking to be done for the new funeral.
She stood for a long time listening to all this talk without saying a
word. All she took care of was that the cakes were not burnt. She put
sheet-tins in and took sheet-tins out, and it was dangerous to approach
her as she stood there with the long baker's shovel. But suddenly she
took off her kitchen-apron, wiped the worst of the sweat and the soot
from her face, and was talking with the Pastor in his study almost
before she knew how it had come about.

After this it was not so very wonderful that one day in March the
Pastor's little red-painted sledge, ornamented with green tulips, and
drawn by the Pastor's little red horse, pulled up at Munkhyttan. Ingrid
was of course obliged to go back with the Pastor home to her mother. The
Pastor had come to fetch her. He did not say much about their being glad
that she was alive, but one could see how happy he was. He had never
been able to forgive himself that they had not been more kind to their
adopted daughter. And now he was radiant at the thought that he was
allowed to make a new beginning and make everything good for her this
time.

They did not speak a word about the reason why she had run away. It was
of no use bringing that up again so long after. But Ingrid understood
that the Pastor's wife had had a hard time, and had suffered many pangs
of conscience, and that they wanted to have her back again in order to
be good to her. She felt that she was almost obliged to go back to the
Parsonage to show that she had no ill-feeling against her adopted
parents.

They all thought it was the most natural thing that she should go to the
Parsonage for a week or two. And why should she not? She could not make
the excuse that they needed her at Munkhyttan. She could surely be away
for some weeks without it doing Gunnar Hede any harm. She felt it was
hard, but it was best she should go away, as they all thought it was the
right thing.

Perhaps she had hoped they would ask her not to go away. She took her
seat in the sledge with the feeling that her ladyship or Miss Stafva
would surely come and lift her out of it, and carry her into the house
again. It was impossible to realize that she was actually driving down
the avenue, that she was turning into the forest, and that Munkhyttan
was disappearing behind her.

But supposing it was from pure goodness that they let her go? They
thought, perhaps, that youth, with its craving for pleasure, wanted to
get away from the loneliness of Munkhyttan. They thought, perhaps, she
was tired of being the keeper of a crazy man. She raised her hand, and
was on the point of seizing the reins and turning the horse. Now that
she was several miles from the house it struck her that that was why
they had let her go. She would have liked so much to have gone back and
asked them.

In her utter loneliness she felt as if she were groping about in the
wild forest. There was not a single human being who answered her or
advised her. She received just as much answer from fir and pine, and
squirrel and owl, as she did from any human being.

It was really a matter of utter indifference to her how they treated her
at the Parsonage. They were very kind to her, as far as she knew, but it
really did not matter. If she had come to a palace full of everything
one could most desire, that would likewise have been the same to her. No
bed is soft enough to give rest unto one whose heart is full of longing.

In the beginning she had asked them every day, as modestly as she could,
if they would not let her go home, now that she had had the great
happiness of seeing her mother and her brothers and sisters. But the
roads were really too bad. She must stay with them until the frost had
disappeared. It was not a matter of life and death, they supposed, to go
back to that place.

Ingrid could not understand why it annoyed people when she said she
wanted to go back to Munkhyttan. But this seemed to be the case with her
father and her mother and everybody else in the parish. One had no
right, it appeared, to long for any other place in the world, when one
was at Raglanda.

She soon saw it was best not to speak about her going away. There were
so many difficulties in the way whenever she spoke about it. It was not
enough that the roads were still in the same bad condition; they
surrounded her with walls and ramparts and moats. She would knit and
weave, and plant out in the forcing-frames. And surely she would not go
away until after the large birthday party at the Dean's? And she could
not think of leaving till after Karin Landberg's wedding.

There was nothing for her to do but to lift her hands in supplication to
the spring, and beg it to make haste with its work, beg for sunshine and
warmth, beg the gentle sun to do its very best for the great border
forest, send small piercing rays between the fir-trees, and melt the
snow beneath them. Dear, dear sun! It did not matter if the snow were
not melted in the valley, if only the snow would vanish from the
mountains, if only the forest paths became passable, if only the Säter
girls were able to go to their huts, if only the bogs became dry, if
only it became possible to go by the forest road, which was half the
distance of the highroad.

Ingrid knew one who would not wait for carriage, or ask for money to
drive, if only the road through the forest became passable. She knew one
who would leave the Parsonage some moonlight night, and who would do it
without asking a single person's permission.

She thought she had waited for the spring before. That everybody does.
But now Ingrid knew that she had never before longed for it. Oh no, no!
She had never before known what it was to long. Before she had waited
for green leaves and anemones, and the song of the thrush and the
cuckoo. But that was childishness--nothing more. They did not long for
the spring who only thought of what was beautiful. One should take the
first bit of earth that peeped through the snow, and kiss it. One should
pluck the first coarse leaf of the nettle simply to burn into one that
now the spring had come.

Everybody was very good to her. But although they did not say anything,
they seemed to think that she was always thinking of leaving them.

'I can't understand why you want to go back to that place and look after
that crazy fellow,' said Karin Landberg one day. It seemed as if she
could read Ingrid's thoughts.

'Oh, she has given up thinking of that now,' said the Pastor's wife,
before the young girl had time to answer.

When Karin was gone the Pastor's wife said:

'People wonder that you want to leave us.'

Ingrid was silent.

'They say that when Hede began to improve perhaps you fell in love with
him.'

'Oh no! Not after he had begun to improve,' Ingrid said, feeling almost
inclined to laugh.

'In any case, he is not the sort of person one could marry,' said her
adopted mother. 'Father and I have been speaking about it, and we think
it is best that you should remain with us.'

'It is very good of you that you want to keep me,' Ingrid said. And she
was touched that now they wanted to be so kind to her.

They did not believe her, however obedient she was. She could not
understand what little bird it was that told them about her longing.
Now her adopted mother had told her that she must not go back to
Munkhyttan. But even then she could not leave the matter alone.

'If they really wanted you,' she said, 'they would write for you.'

Ingrid again felt inclined to laugh. That would be the strangest thing
of all, should there be a letter from the enchanted castle. She would
like to know if her adopted mother thought that the King of the Mountain
wrote for the maiden who had been swallowed by the mountain to come back
when she had gone to see her mother?

But if her adopted mother had known how many messages she had received
she would probably have been even more uneasy. There came messages to
her in her dreams by nights, and there came messages to her in her
visions by day. He let Ingrid know that he was in need of her. He was so
ill--so ill!

She knew that he was nearly going out of his mind again, and that she
must go to him. If anyone had told her this, she would simply have
answered that she knew it.

The large star-like eyes looked further and further away. Those who saw
that look would never believe that she meant to stay quietly and
patiently at home.

It is not very difficult either to see whether a person is content or
full of longing. One only needs to see a little gleam of happiness in
the eyes when he or she comes in from work and sits down by the fire.
But in Ingrid's eyes there was no gleam of happiness, except when she
saw the mountain stream come down through the forest, broad and strong.
It was that that should prepare the way for her.

It happened one day that Ingrid was sitting alone with Karin Landberg,
and she began to tell her about her life at Munkhyttan. Karin was quite
shocked. How could Ingrid stand such a life?

Karin Landberg was to be married very soon. And she was now at that
stage when she could speak of nothing but her lover. She knew nothing
but what he had taught her, and she could do nothing without first
consulting him.

It occurred to her that Oluf had said something about Gunnar Hede which
would help to frighten Ingrid if she had begun to like that crazy
fellow. And then she began to tell her how mad he had really been. For
Oluf had told her that when he was at the fair last autumn some
gentlemen had said that they did not think the Goat was mad at all. He
only pretended to be in order to attract customers. But Oluf had
maintained that he was mad, and in order to prove it went to the market
and bought a wretched little goat. And then it was plain enough to see
that he was mad. Oluf had only put the goat in front of him on the
counter where his knives and things lay, and he had run away and left
both his pack and his wares, and they had all laughed so awfully when
they saw how frightened he was. And it was impossible that Ingrid could
care for anyone who had been so crazy.

It was, no doubt, unwise of Karin Landberg that she did not look at
Ingrid whilst she told this story. If she had seen how she frowned, she
would perhaps have taken warning.

'And you will marry anyone who could do such a thing!' Ingrid said. 'I
think it would be better to marry the Goat himself.'

This Ingrid said in downright earnest, and it seemed so strange to Karin
that she, who was always so gentle, should have said anything so unkind,
that it quite worried her. For several days she was quite unhappy,
because she feared Oluf was not what she would like him to be. It simply
embittered Karin's life until she made up her mind to tell Oluf
everything; but he was so nice and good, that he quite reassured her.

It is not an easy task to wait for the spring in Vermland. One can have
sun and warmth in the evening, and the next morning find the ground
white with snow. Gooseberry-bushes and lawns may be green, but the trees
of the birch-forest are bare, and seem as if they will never spring out.

At Whitsuntide there was spring in the air, but Ingrid's prayers had
been of no avail. Not a single Säter girl had taken up her abode in the
forest, not a fen was dry; it was impossible to go through the forest.

On Whit-Sunday Ingrid and her adopted mother went to church. As it was
such a great festival, they had driven to church. In olden days Ingrid
had very much enjoyed driving up to the church in full gallop, whilst
people along the roadside politely took off their hats, and those who
were standing on the road rushed to the side as if they were quite
frightened. But at the present moment she could not enjoy anything.
'Longing takes the fragrance from the rose, and the light from the full
moon,' says an old proverb.

But Ingrid was glad for what she heard in church. It did her good to
hear how the disciples were comforted in their longing. She was glad
that Jesus thought of comforting those who longed so greatly for Him.

Whilst Ingrid and the rest of the congregation were in church a tall
Dalar man came walking down the road. He wore a sheepskin coat, and had
a large pack on his back, like one who cannot tell winter from summer,
or Sunday from any other day. He did not go into the church, but stole
timidly past the horses that were tied to the railings, and went into
the churchyard.

He sat down on a grave and thought of all the dead who were still
sleeping, and of one of the dead who had awakened to life again. He was
still sitting there when the people left the church. Karin Landberg's
Oluf was one of the first to leave the church, and when he happened to
look across the churchyard he discovered the Dalar man. It is hard to
say whether it was curiosity or some other motive that prompted him, but
he went up to talk to him. He wanted to see if it were possible that he
who was supposed to have been cured had become mad again.

And it was possible. He told him at once that he sat there waiting for
her who was called Grave-Lily. She was to come and play to him. She
played so beautifully that the sun and the stars danced.

Then Karin Landberg's Oluf told him that she for whom he was waiting was
standing outside the church. If he stood up, he could see her. She
would, no doubt, be glad to see him.

The Pastor's wife and Ingrid were just getting into the carriage, when a
tall Dalar man came running up to them. He came at a great pace in spite
of all the horses he must curtsy to, and he beckoned eagerly to the
young girl.

As soon as Ingrid saw him she stood quite still. She could not have told
whether she was most glad to see him again or most grieved that he had
again gone out of his mind; she only forgot everything else in the
world.

Her eyes began to sparkle. In that moment she saw nothing of the poor
wretched man. She only felt that she was once again near the beautiful
soul of the man for whom she had longed so terribly.

There were a great many people about, and they could not help looking at
her. They could not take their eyes from her face. She did not move; she
stood waiting for him. But those who saw how radiant she was with
happiness must have thought that she was waiting for some great and
noble man, instead of a poor, half-witted fellow.

They said afterwards that it almost seemed as if there were some
affinity between his soul and hers--some secret affinity which lay so
deeply hidden beneath their consciousness that no human being could
understand it.

But when Hede was only a step or two from Ingrid her adopted mother took
her resolutely round the waist and lifted her into the carriage. She
would not have a scene between the two just outside the church, with so
many people present. And as soon as they were in the carriage the man
sent his horses off at full gallop.

A wild, terrified cry was heard as they drove away. The Pastor's wife
thanked God that she had got the young girl into the carriage.

It was still early in the afternoon when a peasant came to the Parsonage
to speak with the Pastor. He came to speak about the crazy Dalar man. He
had now gone quite raving mad, and they had been obliged to bind him.
What did the Pastor advise them to do? What should they do with him?

The Pastor could give them no other advice but to take him home. He told
the peasant who he was, and where he lived.

Later on in the evening he told Ingrid everything. It was best to tell
her the truth, and trust to her own common-sense.

But when night came it became clear to her that she had not time to wait
for the spring. The poor girl set out for Munkhyttan by the highroad.
She would no doubt be able to get there by that road, although she knew
that it was twice as long as the way through the forest.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was Whit-Monday, late in the afternoon. Ingrid walked along the
highroad. There was a wide expanse of country, with low mountains and
small patches of birch forest between the fields. The mountain-ash and
the bird-cherry were in bloom; the light, sticky leaves of the aspen
were just out. The ditches were full of clear, rippling water which made
the stones at the bottom glisten and sparkle.

Ingrid walked sorrowfully along, thinking of him whose mind had again
given way, wondering whether she could do anything for him, whether it
was of any use that she had left her home in this manner.

She was tired and hungry; her shoes had begun to go to pieces. Perhaps
it would be better for her to turn back. She could never get to
Munkhyttan.

The further she walked, the more sorrowful she became. She could not
help thinking that it could be of no use her coming now that he had gone
quite out of his mind. There was no doubt it was too late now; it was
quite hopeless to do anything for him.

But as soon as she thought of turning back she saw Gunnar Hede's face
close to her cheek, as she had so often seen it before. It gave her new
courage; she felt as if he were calling for her. She again felt hopeful
and confident of being able to help him.

Just as Ingrid raised her head, looking a little less downcast, a queer
little procession came towards her.

There was a little horse, drawing a little cart; a fat woman sat in the
cart, and a tall, thin man, with long, thin moustaches walked by the
side of it.

In the country, where no one understood anything about art, Mr. and
Mrs. Blomgren always went in for looking like ordinary people. The
little cart in which they travelled about was well covered over, and no
one could suspect that it only contained fireworks and conjuring
apparatus and marionettes.

No one could suspect that the fat woman who sat on the top of the load,
looking like a well-to-do shopkeeper's wife, was formerly Miss Viola,
who once sprang through the air, or that the man who walked by her side,
and looked like a pensioned soldier, was the same Mr. Blomgren who
occasionally, to break the monotony of the journey, took it into his
head to turn a somersault over the horse, and play the ventriloquist
with thrushes and siskins that sang in the trees by the roadside, so
that he made them quite mad.

The horse was very small, and had formerly drawn a roundabout, and
therefore it would never go unless it heard music. On that account Mrs.
Blomgren generally sat playing the Jews'-harp, but as soon as they met
anyone, she put it in her pocket, so that no one should discover they
were artists, for whom country people have no respect whatever. Owing to
this they did not travel very fast, but they were not in any hurry
either.

The blind man, who played the violin, had to walk some little distance
behind the others in order not to betray the fact of his belonging to
the company. The blind man was led by a little dog; he was not allowed
to have a child to lead him, for that would always have reminded Mr.
and Mrs. Blomgren of a little girl who was called Ingrid. That would
have been too sad.

And now they were all in the country on account of the spring. For
however much money Mr. and Mrs. Blomgren were making in the towns, they
felt they _must_ be in the country at that time of the year, for Mr. and
Mrs. Blomgren were artists.

They did not recognise Ingrid, and she went past them without taking any
notice of them, for she was in a hurry; she was afraid of their
detaining her. But directly afterwards she felt that it was heartless
and unkind of her, and turned back.

If Ingrid could have felt glad about anything, she would have been glad
by seeing the old people's joy at meeting her. You may be sure they had
plenty to talk about. The little horse turned its head time after time
to see what was wrong with the roundabout.

Strangely enough, it was Ingrid who talked the most. The two old people
saw at once that she had been crying, and they were so concerned that
she was obliged to tell them everything that had happened to her.

But it was a relief to Ingrid to speak. The old people had their own way
of taking things; they clapped their hands when she told them how she
had got out of the grave and how she had frightened the Pastor's wife.
They caressed her and praised her because she had run away from the
Parsonage. For them nothing was dull or sad, but everything was bright
and hopeful. They simply had no standard by which to measure reality,
and therefore its hardness could not affect them. They compared
everything they heard with the pieces from marionette theatres and
pantomimes. Of course, one also put a little sorrow and misery into the
pantomime, but that was only done to heighten the effect. And, of
course, everything would end well. In the pantomimes it always ended
well.

There was something infectious in all this hopefulness. Ingrid knew they
did not at all understand how great her trouble was, but it was cheering
all the same to listen to them.

But they were also of real help to Ingrid. They told her that they had
had dinner a short time since at the inn at Torsäker, and just as they
were getting up from the table some peasants came driving up with a man
who was mad. Mrs. Blomgren could not bear to see mad people, and wanted
to go away at once, and Mr. Blomgren had consented. But supposing it was
Ingrid's madman! And they had hardly said the words before Ingrid said
that it was very likely, and wanted to set off at once.

Mr. Blomgren then asked his wife in his own ceremonious manner if they
were not in the country solely on account of the spring, and if it were
not just the same where they went. And old Mrs. Blomgren asked him
equally ceremoniously in her turn if he thought she would leave her
beloved Ingrid before she had reached the harbour of her happiness.

Then the old roundabout horse was turned, and conversation grew more
difficult, because they again had to play on the Jews'-harp. As soon as
Mrs. Blomgren wished to say anything, she was obliged to hand the
instrument to Mr. Blomgren, and when Mr. Blomgren wanted to speak, he
gave it back again to his wife. And the little horse stood still every
time the instrument passed from mouth to mouth.

The whole time they did their best to comfort Ingrid. They related all
the fairy tales they had seen represented at the dolls' theatre. They
comforted her with the 'Enchanted Princess,' they comforted her with
'Cinderella,' they comforted her with all the fairy tales under the sun.

Mr. and Mrs. Blomgren watched Ingrid when they saw that her eyes grew
brighter. 'Artist's eyes,' they said, nodding contentedly to each other.
'What did we say? Artist's eyes!'

In some incomprehensible manner they had got the idea that Ingrid had
become one of them, an artist. They thought she was playing a part in a
drama. It was a triumph for them in their old age.

On they went as fast as they could. The old couple were only afraid that
the madman would not be at the inn any longer. But he was there, and the
worst of it was, no one knew how to get him away.

The two peasants from Raglanda who had brought him had taken him to one
of the rooms and locked him in whilst they were waiting for fresh
horses. When they left him his arms had been tied behind him, but he had
somehow managed to free his hands from the cord, and when they came to
fetch him he was free, and, beside himself with rage, had seized a
chair, with which he threatened to strike anyone who approached him.
They could do nothing but beat a hasty retreat and lock the door. The
peasants now only waited for the landlord and his men to return and help
them to bind him again.

All the hope which Ingrid's old friends had reawakened within her was,
however, not quenched. She quite saw that Gunnar Hede was worse than he
had ever been before, but that was what she had expected. She still
hoped. It was not their fairy tales, it was their great love that had
given her new hope.

She asked the men to let her go to the madman. She said she knew him,
and he would not do her any harm; but the peasants said they were not
mad. The man in the room would kill anybody who went in.

Ingrid sat down to think. She thought how strange it was that she should
meet Mr. and Mrs. Blomgren just to-day. Surely that meant something. She
would never have met them if it had not been for some purpose. And
Ingrid thought of how Hede had regained his senses the last time. Could
she not again make him do something which would remind him of olden
days, and drive away his mad thoughts? She thought and thought.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. and Mrs. Blomgren sat on a seat outside the inn, looking more
unhappy than one would have thought was possible. They were not far from
crying.

Ingrid, their 'child,' came up to them with a smile--such a smile as
only she could have--and stroked their old, wrinkled cheeks, and said
it would please her so much if they would let her see a performance like
those she used to see every day in the olden time. It would be such a
comfort to her.

At first they said no, for they were not at all in proper artist humour,
but when she had expended a few smiles upon them they could not resist
her. They went to their cart and unpacked their costumes.

When they were ready they called for the blind man, and Ingrid selected
the place where the performance was to be held. She would not let them
perform in the yard, but took them into the garden belonging to the inn,
for there was a garden belonging to this inn. It was mostly full of beds
for vegetables which had not yet come up, but here and there was an
apple-tree in bloom. And Ingrid said she would like them to perform
under one of the apple-trees in bloom.

Some lads and servant-girls came running when they heard the violin, so
there was a small audience. But it was hard work for Mr. and Mrs.
Blomgren to perform. Ingrid had asked too much of them; they were really
much too sad.

And it was very unfortunate that Ingrid had taken them out into the
garden. She had evidently not remembered that the rooms in the inn faced
this way. Mrs. Blomgren was very nearly running away when she heard a
window in one of the rooms quickly opened. Supposing the madman had
heard the music, and supposing he jumped out of the window and came to
them?

But Mrs. Blomgren was somewhat reassured when she saw who had opened
the window. It was a young gentleman with a pleasant face. He was in
shirt-sleeves, but otherwise very decently dressed. His eye was quiet,
his lips smiled, and he stroked his hair back from his forehead with his
hand.

Mr. Blomgren was working, and was so taken up with the performance that
he did not notice anything. Mrs. Blomgren, who had nothing else to do
but kiss her hands in all directions, had time to observe everything.

It was astonishing how radiant Ingrid suddenly looked. Her eyes shone as
never before, and her face was so white that light seemed to come from
it. And all this radiancy was directed towards the man in the window.

He did not hesitate long. He stood up on the window-sill and jumped down
to them, and he went up to the blind man and asked him to lend him his
violin. Ingrid at once took the violin from the blind man and gave it to
him.

'Play the waltz from "Freischütz,"' she said.

Then the man began to play, and Ingrid smiled, but she looked so
unearthly that Mrs. Blomgren almost thought that she would dissolve into
a sunbeam, and fly away from them. But as soon as Mrs. Blomgren heard
the man play she knew him again.

'Is that how it is?' she said to herself. 'Is it he? That was why she
wanted to see two old people perform.'

       *       *       *       *       *

Gunnar Hede, who had been walking up and down his room in such a rage
that he felt inclined to kill someone, had suddenly heard a blind man
playing outside his window, and that had taken him back to an incident
in his former life.

He could not at first understand where his own violin was, but then he
remembered that Alin had taken it away with him, and now the only thing
left for him to do was to try and borrow the blind man's violin to play
himself quiet again; he was so excited. And as soon as he had got the
violin in his hand he began to play. It never occurred to him that he
could not play. He had no idea that for several years he had only been
able to play some poor little tunes.

He thought all the time he was in Upsala, outside the house with the
Virginia-creepers, and he expected the acrobats would begin to dance as
they had done last time. He endeavoured to play with more life to make
them do so, but his fingers were stiff and awkward; the bow would not
properly obey them. He exerted himself so much that the perspiration
stood on his forehead.

At last, however, he got hold of the right tune--the same they had
danced to the last time. He played it so enticingly, so temptingly, that
it ought to have melted their hearts. But the old acrobats did not begin
to dance. It was a long time since they had met the student at Upsala;
they did not remember how enthusiastic they were then. They had no idea
what he expected them to do.

Gunnar Hede looked at Ingrid for an explanation why they did not dance.
When he looked at her there was such an unearthly radiance in her eyes
that in his astonishment he gave up playing. He stood a moment looking
round the small crowd. They all looked at him with such strange, uneasy
glances. It was impossible to play with people staring at him so. He
simply went away from them. There were some apple-pears in bloom at the
other end of the garden, so he went there.

He saw now that nothing fitted in with the ideas he had just had that
Alin had locked him in, and that he was at Upsala. The garden was too
large, and the house was not covered with red creepers. No, it could not
be Upsala. But he did not mind very much where he was. It seemed to him
as if he had not played for centuries, and now he had got hold of a
violin. Now he would play. He placed the violin against his cheek, and
began. But again he was stopped by the stiffness in his fingers. He
could only play the very simplest things.

'I shall have to begin at the beginning,' he said.

And he smiled and played a little minuet. It was the first thing he had
learnt. His father had played it to him, and he had afterwards played it
from ear. He saw all at once the whole scene before him, and he heard
the words:

'The little Prince should learn to dance, but he broke his little leg.'

Then he tried to play several other small dances. They were some he had
played as a school boy. They had asked him to play at the
dancing-lessons at the young ladies' boarding-school. He could see the
girls dance and swing about, and could hear the dancing-mistress beat
the time with her foot.

Then he grew bolder. He played first violin in one of Mozart's
quartettes. When he learnt that, he was in the Sixth Form at the Latin
school at Falun. Some old gentlemen had practised this quartette for a
concert, but the first violin had been taken ill, and he was asked to
take his part, young as he was. He remembered how proud he had been.

Gunnar Hede only thought of getting his fingers into practice when he
played these childish exercises. But he soon noticed that something
strange was happening to him. He had a distinct sensation that in his
brain there was some great darkness that hid his past. As soon as he
tried to remember anything, it was as if he were trying to find
something in a dark room; but when he played, some of the darkness
vanished. Without his having thought of it, the darkness had vanished so
much that he could now remember his childhood and school life.

Then he made up his mind to let himself be led by the violin; perhaps it
could drive away all the darkness. And so it did, for every piece he
played the darkness vanished a little. The violin led him through the
one year after the other, awoke in him memories of studies, friends and
pleasures. The darkness stood like a wall before him, but when he
advanced against it, armed with the violin, it vanished step by step.
Now and then he looked round to see whether it closed again behind him.
But behind him was bright day.

The violin came to a series of duets for piano and violin. He only
played a bar or two of each. But a large portion of the darkness
vanished; he remembered his _fiancée_ and his engagement. He would like
to have dwelt a little over this, but there was still much darkness left
to be played away. He had no time.

He glided into a hymn. He had heard it once when he was unhappy. He
remembered he was sitting in a village church when he heard it. But why
had he been unhappy? Because he went about the country selling goods
like a poor pedlar. It was a hard life. It was sad to think about it.

The bow went over the strings like a whirlwind, and again cut through a
large portion of the darkness. Now he saw the Fifty-Mile Forest, the
snow-covered animals, the weird shapes, the drifts made of them. He
remembered the journey to see his _fiancée_, remembered that she had
broken the engagement. All this became clear to him at one time.

He really felt neither sorrow nor joy over anything he remembered. The
most important thing was that he did remember. This of itself was an
unspeakable pleasure. But all at once the bow stopped, as if of its own
accord. It would not lead him any further. And yet there was more--much
more--that he must remember. The darkness still stood like a solid wall
before him.

He compelled the bow to go on. And it played two quite common tunes, the
poorest he had ever heard. How could his bow have learned such tunes?
The darkness did not vanish in the least for these tunes. They really
taught him nothing; but from them came a terror which he could not
remember having ever felt before--an inconceivable, awful fear, the mad
terror of a doomed soul.

He stopped playing; he could not bear it. What was there in these
tunes--what was there? The darkness did not vanish for them, and the
awful thing was, that it seemed to him that when he did not advance
against the darkness with the violin and drive it before him, it came
gliding towards him to overwhelm him.

He had been standing playing, with his eyes half closed; now he opened
them and looked into the world of reality. He saw Ingrid, who had been
standing listening to him the whole time. He asked her, not expecting an
answer, but simply to keep back the darkness for a moment:

'When did I last play this tune?'

But Ingrid stood trembling. She had made up her mind, whatever happened,
now he should hear the truth. Afraid she was, but at the same time full
of courage, and quite decided as to what she meant to do. He should not
again escape her, not be allowed to slip away from her. But in spite of
her courage she did not dare to tell him straight out that these were
the tunes he had played whilst he was out of his mind; she evaded the
question.

'That was what you used to play at Munkhyttan last winter,' she said.

Hede felt as if he were surrounded by nothing but mysteries. Why did
this young girl say '_du_' to him? She was not a peasant girl.[A] Her
hair was dressed like other young ladies', on the top of the head and
in small curls. Her dress was home-woven, but she wore a lace collar.
She had small hands and a refined face. This face, with the large,
dreamy eyes, could not belong to a peasant girl. Hede's memory could not
tell him anything about her. Why did she, then, say '_du_' to him? How
did she know that he had played these tunes at home?

  [A] The peasants in the Dalar district used formerly to address
  everybody by the pronoun _du_ (thou), even when speaking to the King;
  this custom is now, however, not so general.--I.B.

'What is your name?' he said. 'Who are you?'

'I am Ingrid, whom you saw at Upsala many years ago, and whom you
comforted because she could not learn to dance on the tight-rope.'

This went back to the time he could partly remember. Now he did remember
her.

'How tall and pretty you have grown, Ingrid!' he said. 'And how fine you
have become! What a beautiful brooch you have!'

He had been looking at her brooch for some time. He thought he knew it;
it was like a brooch of enamel and pearls his mother used to wear. The
young girl answered at once.

'Your mother gave it to me. You must have seen it before.'

Gunnar Hede put down the violin and went up to Ingrid. He asked her
almost violently:

'How is it possible--how can you wear her brooch? How is it that I don't
know anything about your knowing my mother?'

Ingrid was frightened. She grew almost gray with terror. She knew
already what the next question would be.

'I know nothing, Ingrid. I don't know why I am here. I don't know why
you are here. Why don't I know all this?'

'Oh, don't ask me!'

She went back a step or two, and stretched out her hands as if to
protect herself.

'Won't you tell me?'

'Don't ask! don't ask!'

He seized her roughly by the wrist to compel her to tell the truth.

'Tell me! I am in my full senses! Why is there so much I can't
remember?'

She saw something wild and threatening in his eyes. She knew now that
she would be obliged to tell him. But she felt as if it were impossible
to tell a man that he had been mad. It was much more difficult than she
had thought. It was impossible--impossible!

'Tell me!' he repeated.

But she could hear from his voice that he would not hear it. He was
almost ready to kill her if she told him. Then she summoned up all her
love, and looked straight into Gunnar Hede's eyes, and said:

'You have not been quite right.'

'Not for a long time?'

'I don't quite know--not for three or four years.'

'Have I been out of my mind?'

'No, no! You have bought and sold and gone to the fairs.'

'In what way have I been mad?'

'You were frightened.'

'Of whom was I frightened?'

'Of animals.'

'Of goats, perhaps?'

'Yes, mostly of goats.'

He had stood clutching her by the wrist the whole time. He now flung her
hand away from him--simply flung it. He turned away from Ingrid in a
rage, as if she had maliciously told him an infamous lie.

But this feeling gave way for something else which excited him still
more. He saw before his eyes, as distinctly as if it had been a picture,
a tall Dalar man, weighed down by a huge pack. He was going into a
peasant's house, but a wretched little dog came rushing at him. He
stopped and curtsied and curtsied, and did not dare to go in until a man
came out of the house, laughing, and drove the dog away.

When he saw this he again felt that terrible fear. In this anguish the
vision disappeared, but then he heard voices. They shouted and shrieked
around him. They laughed. Derision was showered upon him. Worst and
loudest were the shrill voices of children. One word, one name came over
and over again: it was shouted, shrieked, whispered, wheezed into his
ear--'The Goat! the Goat!' And that all meant him, Gunnar Hede. All that
he had lived in. He felt in full consciousness the same unspeakable fear
he had suffered whilst out of his mind. But now it was not fear for
anything outside himself--now he was afraid of himself.

'It was I! it was I!' he said, wringing his hands. The next moment he
was kneeling against a low seat. He laid his head down and cried, cried:
'It was I!' He moaned and sobbed. 'It was I!' How could he have courage
to bear this thought--a madman, scorned and laughed at by all? 'Ah! let
me go mad again!' he said, hitting the seat with his fist. 'This is more
than a human being can bear.'

He held his breath a moment. The darkness came towards him as the
saviour he invoked. It came gliding towards him like a mist. A smile
passed over his lips. He could feel the muscles of his face relax, feel
that he again had the look of a madman. But that was better. The other
he could not bear. To be pointed at, jeered at, scorned, mad! No, it was
better to be so again and not to know it. Why should he come back to
life? Everyone must loathe him. The first light, fleeting clouds of the
great darkness began to enwrap him.

Ingrid stood there, seeing and hearing all his anguish, not knowing but
that all would soon be lost again. She saw clearly that madness was
again about to seize him. She was so frightened, so frightened, all her
courage had gone. But before he again lost his senses, and became so
scared that he allowed no one to come near him, she would at least take
leave of him and of all her happiness.

Gunnar Hede felt that Ingrid came and knelt down beside him, laid her
arm round his neck, put her cheek to his, and kissed him. She did not
think herself too good to come near him, the madman, did not think
herself too good to kiss him.

There was a faint hissing in the darkness. The mist lifted, and it was
as if serpents had raised their heads against him, and now wheezed with
anger that they could not reach to sting him.

'Do not be so unhappy,' Ingrid said. 'Do not be so unhappy. No one
thinks of the past, if you will only get well.'

'I want to be mad again,' he said. 'I cannot bear it. I cannot bear to
think how I have been.'

'Yes, you can,' said Ingrid.

'No; that no one can forget,' he moaned. 'I was so dreadful! No one can
love me.'

'I love you,' she said.

He looked up doubtfully.

'You kissed me in order that I should not go out of my mind again. You
pity me.'

'I will kiss you again,' she said.

'You say that now because you think I am in need of hearing it.'

'Are you in need of hearing that someone loves you?'

'If I am--if I am? Ah, child,' he said, and tore himself away from her,
'how can I possibly bear it, when I know that everyone who sees me
thinks: "That fellow has been mad; he has gone about curtsying for dogs
and cats."'

Then he began again. He lay crying with his face in his hands.

'It is better to go out of one's mind again. I can hear them shouting
after me, and I see myself, and the anguish, the anguish, the
anguish----'

But then Ingrid's patience came to an end.

'Yes, that is right,' she cried; 'go out of your mind again. I call that
manly to go mad in order to escape a little anguish.'

She sat biting her lips, struggling with her tears, and as she could
not get the words out quickly enough, she seized him by the shoulder and
shook him. She was enraged and quite beside herself with anger because
he would again escape her, because he did not struggle and fight.

'What do you care about me? What do you care about your mother? You go
mad, and then you will have peace.' She shook him again by the arm. 'To
be saved from anguish, you say, but you don't care about one who has
been waiting for you all her life. If you had any thought for anyone but
yourself, you would fight against this and get well; but you have no
thought for others. You can come so touchingly in visions and dreams and
beg for help, but in reality you will not have any help. You imagine
that your sufferings are greater than anyone else's, but there are
others who have suffered more than you.'

At last Gunnar Hede raised his eyes, and looked her straight in the
face. She was anything but beautiful at this moment. Tears were
streaming down her cheeks, and her lips trembled, whilst she tried to
get out the words between her sobs. But in his eyes her emotion only
made her more beautiful. A wonderful peace came over him, and a great
and humble thankfulness. Something great and wonderful had come to him
in his deepest humiliation. It must be a great love--a great love.

He had sat bemoaning his wretchedness, and Love came and knocked at his
door. He would not merely be tolerated when he came back to life;
people would not only with difficulty refrain from laughing at him.

There was one who loved him and longed for him. She spoke hardly to him,
but he heard love trembling in every single word. He felt as if she were
offering him thrones and kingdoms. She told him that whilst he had been
out of his mind he had saved her life. He had awakened her from the
dead, had helped her, protected her. But this was not enough for her;
she would possess him altogether.

When she kissed him he had felt a life-giving balm enter his sick soul,
but he had hardly dared to think that it was love that made her. But he
could not doubt her anger and her tears. He was beloved--he, poor
wretched creature! he who had been held in derision by everybody! and
before the great and humble bliss which now filled Gunnar Hede vanished
the last darkness. It was drawn aside like a heavy curtain, and he saw
plainly before him the region of terror through which he had wandered.
But there, too, he had met Ingrid; there he had lifted her from the
grave; there he had played for her at the hut in the forest; there she
had striven to heal him.

But only the memory of her came back: the feelings with which she had
formerly inspired him now awoke. Love filled his whole being; he felt
the same burning longing that he had felt in the churchyard at Raglanda
when she was taken from him.

In that region of terror, in that great desert, there had at any rate
grown one flower that had comforted him with fragrance and beauty, and
now he felt that love would dwell with him forever. The wild flower of
the desert had been transplanted into the garden of life, and had taken
root and grown and thriven, and when he felt this he knew he was saved;
he knew that the darkness had found its master.

Ingrid was silent. She was tired, as one is tired after hard work; but
she was also content, for she felt she had carried out her work in the
best possible manner. She knew she had conquered.

At last Gunnar Hede broke the silence.

'I promise you that I will not give in,' he said.

'Thank you,' Ingrid answered.

Nothing more was said.

Gunnar Hede thought he would never be able to tell her how much he loved
her. It could never be told in words, only shown every day and every
hour of his life.



  _From a Swedish_ HOMESTEAD

                II

  _Queens at_ KUNGAHÄLLA



_Queens at_ KUNGAHÄLLA

_On the_ SITE _of the Great_ KUNGAHÄLLA


Should a stranger who had heard about the old city of Kungahälla ever
visit the site on the northern river where it once lay, he would
assuredly be much surprised. He would ask himself whether churches and
fortifications could melt away like snow, or if the earth had opened and
swallowed them up. He stands on a spot where formerly there was a mighty
city, and he cannot find a street or a landing-stage. He sees neither
ruins nor traces of devastating fires; he only sees a country seat,
surrounded by green trees and red outbuildings. He sees nothing but
broad meadows and fields, where the plough does its work year after year
without being hindered either by brick foundations or old pavements.

He would probably first of all go down to the river. He would not expect
to see anything of the great ships that went to the Baltic ports or to
distant Spain, but he would in all likelihood think that he might find
traces of the old ship-yards, of the large boat-houses and
landing-stages. He presumes that he will find some of the old kilns
where they used to refine salt; he will see the worn-out pavement on the
main street that led to the harbour. He will inquire about the German
pier and the Swedish pier; he would like to see the Weeping Bridge where
the women of Kungahälla took leave of their husbands and sons when they
went to distant lands, but when he comes down to the river's edge he
sees nothing but a forest of waving reeds. He sees a road full of holes
leading down to the ferry; he sees a couple of common barges and a
little flat-bottomed ferryboat that is taking a peasant cart over to
Hisingen, but no big ships come gliding up the river. He does not even
see any dark hulls lying and rotting at the bottom of the river.

As he does not find anything remarkable down at the harbour, he will
probably begin to look for the celebrated Convent Hill. He expects to
see traces of the palisading and ramparts which in olden days surrounded
it. He is hoping to see the ruins of the high walls and the long
cloisters. He says to himself that anyhow there must be ruins of that
magnificent church where the cross was kept--that miracle-working cross
which had been brought from Jerusalem. He thinks of the number of
monuments covering the holy hills which rise over other ancient cities,
and his heart begins to beat with glad expectation. But when he comes to
the old Convent Hill which rises above the fields, he finds nothing but
clusters of murmuring trees; he finds neither walls, nor towers, nor
gables perforated with pointed arched windows. Garden seats and benches
he will find under the shadow of the trees, but no cloisters decorated
with pillars, no hewn gravestones.

Well, if he has not found anything here, he will in any case try to
find the old King's Hall. He thinks about the large halls from which
Kungahälla is supposed to have derived its name. It might be that there
was something left of the timber--a yard thick--that formed the walls,
or of the deep cellars under the great hall where the Norwegian kings
celebrated their banquets. He thinks of the smooth green courtyard of
the King's Hall, where the kings used to ride their silver-shod
chargers, and where the queens used to milk the golden-horned cows. He
thinks of the lofty ladies' bower; of the brewing-room, with its large
boilers; of the huge kitchen, where half an ox at a time was placed in
the pot, and where a whole hog was roasted on the spit. He thinks of the
serfs' house, of the falcon's cages, of the great pantries--house by
house all round the courtyard, moss-grown with age, decorated with
dragons' heads. Of such a number of buildings there must be some traces
left, he thinks.

But should he then inquire for the old King's Hall, he will be taken to
a modern country-house, with glass veranda and conservatories. The
King's seat has vanished, and with it all the drinking-horns, inlaid
with silver, and the shields, covered with skin. One cannot even show
him the well-kept courtyard, with its short, close grass, and with
narrow paths of black earth. He sees strawberry-beds and hedges of
rose-trees; he sees happy children and young girls dancing under apple
and pear trees. But he does not see strong men wrestling, or knights
playing at ball.

Perhaps he asks about the great oak on the Market Place, beneath which
the Kings sat in judgment, and where the twelve stones of judgment were
set up. Or about the long street, which was said to be seven miles long!
Or about the rich merchants' houses, separated by dark lanes, each
having its own landing-stage and boathouse down by the river. Or about
the Marie Church in the Market Place, where the seamen brought their
offerings of small, full-rigged ships, and the sorrowful, small silver
hearts.

But there is nothing left to show him of all these things. Cows and
sheep graze where the long street used to be. Rye and barley grow on the
Market Place, and stables and barns stand where people used to flock
round the tempting market-stalls.

How can he help feeling disappointed? Is there not a single thing to be
found, he says, not a single relic left? And he thinks perhaps that they
have been deceiving him. The great Kungahälla can never have stood here,
he says. It must have stood in some other place.

Then they take him down to the riverside, and show him a roughly-hewn
stone block, and they scrape away the silver-gray lichen, so that he can
see there are some figures hewn in the stone. He will not be able to
understand what they represent; they will be as incomprehensible to him
as the spots in the moon. But they will assure him that they represent a
ship and an elk, and that they were cut in the stone in the olden days
to commemorate the foundation of the city.

And should he still not be able to understand, they will tell him what
is the meaning of the inscription on the stone.



_The Forest_ QUEEN


Marcus Antonius Poppius was a Roman merchant of high standing. He traded
with distant lands; and from the harbour at Ostia he sent well-equipped
triremas to Spain, to Britain, and even to the north coast of Germany.
Fortune favoured him, and he amassed immense riches, which he hoped to
leave as an inheritance to his only son. Unfortunately, this only son
had not inherited his father's ability. This happens, unfortunately, all
the world over. A rich man's only son. Need one say more? It is, and
always will be, the same story.

One would almost think that the gods give rich men these incorrigible
idlers, these dull, pale, languid fools of sons, to show man what
unutterable folly it is to amass riches. When will the eyes of mankind
be opened? When will men listen to the warning voice of the gods?

Young Silvius Antonius Poppius, at the age of twenty, had already tried
all the pleasures of life. He was also fond of letting people see that
he was tired of them; but in spite of that, one did not notice any
diminution in the eagerness with which he sought them. On the contrary,
he was quite in despair when a singularly persistent ill-luck began to
pursue him, and to interfere with all his pleasures. His Numidian horses
fell lame the day before the great chariot race of the year; his
illicit love affairs were found out; his cleverest cook died from
malaria. This was more than enough to crush a man whose strength had not
been hardened by exertion and toil. Young Poppius felt so unhappy that
he made up his mind to take his own life. He seemed to think that this
was the only way in which he could cheat the God of Misfortune who
pursued him and made his life a burden.

One can understand that an unhappy creature commits suicide in order to
escape the persecution of man; but only a fool like Silvius Antonius
could think of adopting such means to flee from the gods. One recalls
involuntarily the story of the man who, to escape from the lion, sprang
right into its open jaws.

Young Silvius was much too effeminate to choose a bloody death. Neither
had he any inclination to die from a painful poison. After careful
consideration, he resolved to die the gentle death of the waves.

But when he went down to the Tiber to drown himself he could not make up
his mind to give his body to the dirty, sluggish water of the river. For
a long time he stood undecided, staring into the stream. Then he was
seized by the magic charm which lies dreamily over a river. He felt that
great, holy longing which fills these never-resting wanderers of nature;
he would see the sea.

'I will die in the clear blue sea, through which the sun's rays
penetrate right to the bottom,' said Silvius Antonius. 'My body shall
rest upon a couch of pink coral. The foamy waves which I set in motion
when I sink into the deep shall be snow-white and fresh; they shall not
be like the sooty froth which lies quivering at the river-side.'

He immediately hurried home, had his horses harnessed and drove to
Ostia. He knew that one of his father's ships was lying in the harbour
ready to sail. Young Poppius drove his horses at a furious pace, and he
succeeded in getting on board just as the anchor was being weighed. Of
course he did not think it necessary to take any baggage with him. He
did not even trouble to ask the skipper for what place the craft was
bound. To the sea they were going, in any case--that was enough for him.

Nor was it very long before the young suicide reached the goal of his
desire. The trirema passed the mouth of the Tiber, and the Mediterranean
lay before Silvius Antonius, its sparkling waves bathed in sun. Its
beauty made Silvius Antonius believe in the poet's assertion that the
swelling ocean is but a thin veil which covers the most beautiful world.
He felt bound to believe that he who boldly makes his way through this
cover will immediately reach the sea-god's palace of pearls. The young
man congratulated himself that he had chosen this manner of death. And
one could scarcely call it that; it was impossible to believe that this
beautiful water could kill. It was only the shortest road to a land
where pleasure is not a delusion, leaving nothing but distaste and
loathing. He could only with difficulty suppress his eagerness. But the
whole deck was full of sailors. Even Silvius could understand that if he
now sprang into the sea the consequence would simply be that one of his
father's sailors would quickly spring overboard and fish him out.

As soon as the sails were set and the oarsmen were well in swing, the
skipper came up to him and saluted him with the greatest politeness.

'You intend, then, to go with me to Germany, my Silvius?' he said. 'You
do me great honour.'

Young Poppius suddenly remembered that this man used never to return
from a voyage without bringing him some curious thing or other from the
barbarous countries he had visited. Sometimes it was a couple of pieces
of wood with which the savages made fire; sometimes it was the black
horn of an ox, which they used as a drinking-vessel; sometimes a
necklace of bear's teeth, which had been a great chief's mark of
distinction.

The good man beamed with joy at having his master's son on board his
ship. He saw in it a new proof of the wisdom of old Poppius, in sending
his son to distant lands, instead of letting him waste more time amongst
the effeminate young Roman idlers.

Young Poppius did not wish to undeceive him. He was afraid that if he
disclosed his intention the skipper would at once turn back with him.

'Verily, Galenus,' he said, 'I would gladly accompany you on this
voyage, but I fear I must ask you to put me ashore at Bajæ. I made up my
mind too late. I have neither clothes nor money.'

But Galenus assured him that that need was soon remedied. Was he not
upon his father's well-appointed vessel? He should not want for
anything--neither warm fur tunic when the weather was cold, or light
Syrian clothing of the kind that seamen wear when they cruise in fair
weather in the friendly seas between the islands.

       *       *       *       *       *

Three months after their departure from Ostia, Galenus's trirema rowed
in amongst a cluster of rocky islands. Neither the skipper nor any of
his crew were quite clear as to where they really were, but they were
glad to take shelter for a time from the storms that raged on the open
sea.

One could almost think that Silvius Antonius was right in his belief
that some deity persecuted him. No one on the ship had ever before
experienced such a voyage. The luckless sailors said to each other that
they had not had fair weather for two days since they left Ostia. The
one storm had followed upon the other. They had undergone the most
terrible sufferings. They had suffered hunger and thirst, whilst they,
day and night, exhausted and almost fainting from want of sleep, had had
to manage sails and oars. The fact of the seamen being unable to trade
had added to their despondency. How could they approach the coast and
display their wares on the shore to effect an exchange in such weather?
On the contrary, every time they saw the coast appear through the
obstinate heavy mist that surrounded them, they had been compelled to
put out to sea again for fear of the foam-decked rocks. One night, when
they struck on a rock, they had been obliged to throw the half of their
cargo into the sea. And as for the other half, they dared not think
about it, as they feared it was completely spoiled by the breakers
which had rolled over the ship.

Certain it was that Silvius Antonius had proved himself not to be lucky
at sea either. Silvius Antonius was still living; he had not drowned
himself. It is difficult to say why he prolonged an existence which
could not be of any more pleasure to him now than when he first made up
his mind to cut it short. Perhaps he had hoped that the sea would have
taken possession of him without he himself doing anything to bring it
about. Perhaps his love for the sea had passed away during its bursts of
anger; perhaps he had resolved to die in the opal-green perfumed water
of his bath.

But had Galenus and his men known why the young man had come on board,
they would assuredly have bitterly complained that he had not carried
out his intention, for they were all convinced that it was his presence
which had called forth their misfortunes. Many a dark night Galenus had
feared that the sailors would throw him into the sea. More than one of
them related that in the terrible stormy nights he had seen dark hands
stretching out of the water, grasping after the ship. And they did not
think it was necessary to cast lots to find out who it was that these
hands wanted to draw down into the deep. Both the skipper and the crew
did Silvius Antonius the special honour to think that it was for his
sake these storms rent the air and scourged the sea.

If Silvius during this time had behaved like a man, if he had taken his
share of their work and anxiety, then perhaps some of his companions
might have had pity upon him as a being who had brought upon himself the
wrath of the gods. But the young man had not understood how to win their
sympathy. He had only thought of seeking shelter for himself from the
wind, and of sending them to fetch furs and rugs from the stores for his
protection from the cold.

But for the moment all complaints over his presence had ceased. As soon
as the storm had succeeded in driving the trirema into the quiet waters
between the islands, its rage was spent. It behaved like a sheep-dog
that becomes silent and keeps quiet as soon as it sees the sheep on the
right way to the fold. The heavy clouds disappeared from the sky; the
sun shone. For the first time during the voyage the sailors felt the
joys of summer spreading over Nature.

Upon these storm-beaten men the sunshine and the warmth had almost an
intoxicating effect. Instead of longing for rest and sleep, they became
as merry as happy children in the morning. They expected they would find
a large continent behind all these rocks and boulders. They hoped to
find people, and--who could tell?--on this foreign coast, which had
probably never before been visited by a Roman ship, their wares would no
doubt find a ready sale. In that case they might after all do some good
business, and bring back with them skins of bear and elk, and large
quantities of white wax and golden amber.

Whilst the trirema slowly made its way between the rocks, which grew
higher and higher and richer with verdure and trees, the crew made haste
to decorate it so that it could attract the attention of the
barbarians. The ship, which, even without any decoration, was a
beautiful specimen of human handiwork, soon rivalled in splendour the
most gorgeous bird. Recently tossed about by storms and ravaged by
tempests, it now bore on its topmast a golden sceptre and sails striped
with purple. In the bows a resplendent figure of Neptune was raised, and
in the stern a tent of many-coloured silken carpets. And do not think
the sailors neglected to hang the sides of the ship with rugs, the
fringes of which trailed in the water, or to wind the long oars of the
ship with golden ribbons. Neither did the crew of the ship wear the
clothes they had worn during the voyage, and which the sea and the storm
had done their best to destroy. They arrayed themselves in white
garments, wound purple scarves round their waists, and placed glittering
bands in their hair.

Even Silvius Antonius roused himself from his apathy. It was as if he
was glad of having at last found something to do which he thoroughly
understood. He was shaved, had his hair trimmed, and his whole person
rubbed over with fragrant scents. Then he put on a flowing robe, hung a
mantle over his shoulders, and chose from the large casket of jewels
which Galenus opened for him rings and bracelets, necklaces, and a
golden belt. When he was ready he flung aside the purple curtains of the
silken tent, and laid himself on a couch in the opening of the tent in
order to be seen by the people on the shore.

During these preparations the sea became narrower and narrower, and the
sailors discovered that they were entering the mouth of a river. The
water was fresh, and there was land on both sides. The trirema glided
slowly onwards up the sparkling river. The weather was brilliant, and
the whole of nature was gloriously peaceful. And how the magnificent
merchantman enlivened the great solitude!

On both sides of the river primeval forests, high and thick, met their
view. Pine-trees grew right to the water's edge. The river in its
eternal course had washed away the earth from the roots, and the hearts
of the seamen were moved with solemn awe at the sight, not only of these
venerable trees, but even more by that of the naked roots, which
resembled the mighty limbs of a giant. 'Here,' they thought, 'man will
never succeed in planting corn; here the ground will never be cleared
for the building of a city, or even a farmstead. For miles round the
earth is woven through with this network of roots, hard as steel. This
alone is sufficient to make the dominion of the forest everlasting and
unchangeable.'

Along the river the trees grew so close, and their branches were so
entangled, that they formed firm, impenetrable walls. These walls of
prickly firs were so strong and high that no fortified city need wish
for stronger defences. But here and there there was, all the same, an
opening in this wall of firs. It was the paths the wild beasts had made
on their way to the river to drink. Through these openings the strangers
could obtain a glimpse of the interior of the forest. They had never
seen anything like it. In sunless twilight there grew trees with trunks
of greater circumference than the gate-towers on the walls of Rome.
There was a multitude of trees, fighting with each other for light and
air. Trees strove and struggled, trees were crippled and weighed down by
other trees. Trees took root in the branches of other trees. Trees
strove and fought as if they had been human beings.

But if man or beast moved in this world of trees they must have other
modes of making their way than those which the Romans knew, for from the
ground right up to the top of the forest was a network of stiff bare
branches. From these branches fluttered long tangles of gray lichen,
transforming the trees into weird beings with hair and beard. And
beneath them the ground was covered with rotten and rotting trunks, and
one's feet would have sunk into the decayed wood as into melting snow.

The forest sent forth a fragrance which had a drowsy effect upon the men
on board the ship. It was the strong odour of resin and wild honey that
blended with the sickly smell from the decayed wood, and from
innumerable gigantic red and yellow mushrooms.

There was no doubt something awe-inspiring in all this, but it was also
elevating to see nature in all its power before man had yet interfered
with its dominion. It was not long before one of the sailors began to
sing a hymn to the God of the Forest, and involuntarily the whole crew
joined in. They had quite given up all thought of meeting human beings
in this forest-world. Their hearts were filled with pious thoughts;
they thought of the forest god and his nymphs. They said to themselves
that when Pan was driven from the woods of Hellas he must have taken
refuge here in the far north. With pious songs they entered his kingdom.

Every time there was a pause in the song they heard a gentle music from
the forest. The tops of the fir-trees, vibrating in the noonday heat,
sang and played. The sailors often discontinued their song in order to
listen, if Pan was not playing upon his flute.

The oarsmen rowed slower and slower. The sailors gazed searchingly into
the golden-green and black-violet water flowing under the fir-trees.
They peered between the tall reeds which quivered and rustled in the
wash of the ship. They were in such a state of expectation that they
started at the sight of the white water-lilies that shone in the dark
water between the reeds.

And again they sang the song, 'Pan, thou ruler of the forest!' They had
given up all thoughts of trading. They felt that they stood at the
entrance to the dwelling of the gods. All earthly cares had left them.
Then, all of a sudden, at the outlet of one of the tracks, there stood
an elk, a royal deer with broad forehead and a forest of antlers on its
horns.

There was a breathless silence on the trirema. They stemmed the oars to
slacken speed. Silvius Antonius arose from his purple couch.

All eyes were fixed upon the elk. They thought they could discern that
it carried something on its back, but the darkness of the forest and
the drooping branches made it impossible to see distinctly.

The huge animal stood for a long time and scented the air, with its
muzzle turned towards the trirema. At last it seemed to understand that
there was no danger. It made a step towards the water. Behind the broad
horns one could now discern more distinctly something light and white.
They wondered if the elk carried on its back a harvest of wild roses.

The crew gently plied their oars. The trirema drew nearer to the animal,
which gradually moved towards the edge of the reeds.

The elk strode slowly into the water, put down its feet carefully, so as
not to be caught by the roots at the bottom. Behind the horns one could
now distinctly see the face of a maiden, surrounded by fair hair. The
elk carried on its back one of those nymphs whom they had been
expectantly awaiting, and whom they felt sure would be found in this
primeval world.

A holy enthusiasm filled the men on the trirema. One of them, who hailed
from Sicily, remembered a song which he had heard in his youth, when he
played on the flowery plains around Syracuse. He began to sing softly:

    'Nymph, amongst flowers born, Arethusa by name,
    Thou who in sheltered wood wanders, white like the moon.'

And when the weather-beaten men understood the words, they tried to
subdue the storm-like roar in their voices in order to sing:

    'Nymph, amongst flowers born, Arethusa by name.'

They steered the ship nearer and nearer the reeds. They did not heed
that it had already once or twice touched the bottom.

But the young forest maiden sat and played hide-and-seek between the
horns. One moment she hid herself, the next she peeped out. She did not
stop the elk; she drove it further into the river.

When the elk had gone some little distance, she stroked it to make it
stop. Then she bent down and gathered two or three water-lilies. The men
on the ship looked a little foolishly at each other. The nymph had,
then, come solely for the purpose of plucking the white water-lilies
that rocked on the waters of the river. She had not come for the sake of
the Roman seamen.

Then Silvius Antonius drew a ring from off his finger, sent up a shout
that made the nymph look up, and threw her the ring. She stretched out
her hand and caught it. Her eyes sparkled. She stretched out her hands
for more. Silvius Antonius again threw a ring.

Then she flung the water-lilies back into the river and drove the elk
further into the water. Now and again she stopped, but then a ring came
flying from Silvius Antonius, and enticed her further.

All at once she overcame her hesitation. The colour rose in her cheeks.
She came nearer to the ship without it being necessary to tempt her. The
water was already up to the shoulders of the elk. She came right under
the side of the vessel.

The sailors hung over the gunwales to help the beautiful nymph, should
she wish to go on board the trirema.

But she saw only Silvius Antonius, as he stood there, decked with pearls
and rings, and fair as the sunrise. And when the young Roman saw that
the eyes of the nymph were fastened upon him, he leant over even further
than the others. They cried to him that he should take care, lest he
should lose his balance and fall into the sea. But this warning came too
late. It is not known whether the nymph, with a quick movement, drew
Silvius Antonius to her, or how it really happened, but before anyone
thought of grasping him, he was overboard.

All the same, there was no danger of Silvius Antonius drowning. The
nymph stretched forth her lovely arms and caught him in them. He hardly
touched the surface of the water. At the same moment her steed turned,
rushed through the water, and disappeared in the forest. And loudly rang
the laugh of the wild rider as she carried off Silvius Antonius.

Galenus and his men stood for a moment horror-stricken. Then some of the
men involuntarily threw off their clothes to swim to the shore; but
Galenus stopped them.

'Without doubt this is the will of the gods,' he said. 'Now we see the
reason why they have brought Silvius Antonius Poppius through a thousand
storms to this unknown land. Let us be glad that we have been an
instrument in their hands; and let us not seek to hinder their will.'

The seamen obediently took their oars and rowed down the river, softly
singing to their even stroke the song of Arethusa's flight.

       *       *       *       *       *

When one has finished this story, surely the stranger must be able to
understand the inscription on the old stone. He must be able to see both
the elk with its many-antlered horns, and the trirema with its long
oars. One does not expect that he shall be able to see Silvius Antonius
Poppius and the beautiful queen of the primeval forest, for in order to
see them he must have the eyes of the relaters of fairy-tales of bygone
days. He will understand that the inscription hales from the young Roman
himself, and that this also applies to the whole of the old story.
Silvius Antonius has handed it down to his descendants word for word. He
knew that it would gladden their hearts to know that they sprang from
the world-famed Romans.

But the stranger, of course, need not believe that any of Pan's nymphs
have wandered here by the river's side. He understands quite well that a
tribe of wild men have wandered about in the primeval forest, and that
the rider of the elk was the daughter of the King who ruled over these
people; and that the maiden who carried off Silvius Antonius would only
rob him of his jewels, and that she did not at all think of Silvius
Antonius himself, scarcely knew, perhaps, that he was a human being like
herself. And the stranger can also understand that the name of Silvius
Antonius would have been forgotten long ago in this country had he
remained the fool he was. He will hear how misfortune and want roused
the young Roman, so that from being the despised slave of the wild men
he became their King. It was he who attacked the forest with fire and
steel. He erected the first firmly-timbered house. He built vessels and
planted corn. He laid the foundation of the power and glory of great
Kungahälla.

And when the stranger hears this, he looks around the country with a
more contented glance than before. For even if the site of the city has
been turned into fields and meadows, and even if the river no longer
boasts of busy craft, still, this is the ground that has enabled him to
breathe the air of the land of dreams, and shown him visions of bygone
days.



SIGRID STORRÄDE


Once upon a time there was an exceedingly beautiful spring. It was the
very spring that the Swedish Queen Sigrid Storräde summoned the
Norwegian King Olaf Trygveson to meet her at Kungahälla in order to
settle about their marriage.

It was strange that King Olaf would marry Queen Sigrid; for although she
was fair and well-gifted, she was a wicked heathen, whilst King Olaf was
a Christian, who thought of nothing but building churches and compelling
the people to be baptized. But maybe the King thought that God the
Almighty would convert her.

But it was even more strange that when Storräde had announced to King
Olaf's messenger that she would set out for Kungahälla as soon as the
sea was no longer ice-bound, spring should come almost immediately. Cold
and snow disappeared at the time when winter is usually at its height.
And when Storräde made known that she would begin to equip her ships,
the ice vanished from the fjords, the meadows became green, and although
it was yet a long time to Lady-day, the cattle could already be put out
to grass.

When the Queen rowed between the rocks of East Gothland into the Baltic,
she heard the cuckoo's song, although it was so early in the year that
one could scarcely expect to hear the lark.

And great joy prevailed everywhere when Storräde proceeded on her way.
All the trolls who had been obliged to flee from Norway during King
Olaf's reign because they could not bear the sound of the church bells
came on the rocks when they saw Storräde sailing past. They pulled up
young birch-trees by the roots and waved them to the Queen, and then
they went back to their rocky dwellings, where their wives were sitting,
full of longing and anxiety, and said:

'Woman, thou shalt not be cast down any longer. Storräde is now sailing
to King Olaf. Now we shall soon return to Norway.'

When the Queen sailed past Kullen, the Kulla troll came out of his cave,
and he made the black mountain open, so that she saw the gold and silver
veins which twisted through it, and it made the Queen happy to see his
riches.

When Storräde went past the Holland rivers, the Nixie came down from his
waterfall, swam right out to the mouth of the river, and played upon his
harp, so that the ship danced upon the waves.

When she sailed past the Nidinge rocks, the mermen lay there and blew
upon their seashell horns, and made the water splash in frothy pillars.
And when the wind was against them, the most loathsome trolls came out
of the deep to help Storräde's ship over the waves. Some lay at the
stern and pushed, others took ropes of seaweed in their mouth and
harnessed themselves before the ship like horses.

The wild heathen, whom King Olaf would not allow to remain in the
country on account of their great wickedness, came rowing towards the
Queen's ship, with sails furled, and with their pole-axes raised as if
for attack. But when they recognised the Queen, they allowed her to pass
unhurt, and shouted after her:

'We empty a beaker to thy wedding, Storräde.'

All the heathen who lived along the coast laid firewood upon their stone
altars, and sacrificed both sheep and goats to the old gods, in order
that they should aid Storräde in her expedition to the Norwegian King.

When the Queen sailed up the northern river, a mermaid swam alongside
the ship, stretched her white arm out of the water, and gave her a large
clear pearl.

'Wear this, Storräde,' she said; 'then King Olaf will be so bewitched by
thy beauty that he will never be able to forget thee.'

When the Queen had sailed a short distance up the river, she heard such
a roar and such a rushing noise that she expected to find a waterfall.
The further she proceeded, the louder grew the noise. But when she rowed
past the Golden Isle, and passed into a broad bay, she saw at the
riverside the great Kungahälla.

The town was so large, that as far as she could see up the river there
was house after house, all imposing and well timbered, with many
outhouses. Narrow lanes between the gray wooden walls led down to the
river; there were large courtyards before the dwelling-houses,
well-laid pathways went from each house down to its boathouse and
landing-stage.

Storräde commanded her men to row quite slowly. She herself stood on the
poop of the ship and looked towards the shore.

'Never before have I seen the like of this,' she said.

She now understood that the roar she had heard was nothing but the noise
of the work which went on at Kungahälla in the spring, when the ships
were being made ready for their long cruises. She heard the smiths
hammering with huge sledge-hammers, the baker's shovel clattered in the
ovens; beams were hoisted on to heavy lighters with much crashing noise;
young men planed oars and stripped the bark from the trees which were to
be used for masts.

She saw green courtyards, where handmaidens were twining ropes for the
seafaring men, and where old men sat mending the gray wadmal sails. She
saw the boat-builders tarring the new boats. Enormous nails were driven
into strong oaken planks. The hulls of the ships were hauled out of the
boathouses to be tightened; old ships were done up with freshly-painted
dragon-heads; goods were stowed away; people took a hurried leave of
each other; heavily-filled ships' chests were carried on board. Ships
that were ready to sail left the shore. Storräde saw that the vessels
rowing up the river were heavily laden with herrings and salt, but those
making for the open sea were laden high up the masts with costly oak
timber, hides, and skins.

When the Queen saw all this she laughed with joy. She thought that she
would willingly marry King Olaf in order to rule over such a city.
Storräde rowed up to the King's Landing-Stage. There King Olaf stood
ready to receive her, and when she advanced to meet him he thought that
she was the fairest woman he had ever seen.

They then proceeded to the King's Hall, and there was great harmony and
friendship between them. When they went to table Storräde laughed and
talked the whole time the Bishop was saying grace, and the King laughed
and talked also, because he saw that it pleased Storräde. When the meal
was finished, and they all folded their hands to listen to the Bishop's
prayer, Storräde began to tell the King about her riches. She continued
doing this as long as the prayer lasted, and the King listened to
Storräde, and not to the Bishop.

The King placed Storräde in the seat of honour, whilst he sat at her
feet; and Storräde told him how she had caused two minor kings to be
burnt to death for having had the presumption to woo her. The King was
glad at hearing this, and thought that all minor kings who had the
audacity to woo a woman like Storräde should share the same fate.

When the bells rang for Evensong, the King rose to go to the Marie
Church to pray, as was his wont. But then Storräde called for her bard,
and he sang the lay of Brynhild Budles-dotter, who caused Sigurd
Fofnersbane to be slain; and King Olaf did not go to church, but instead
sat and looked into Storräde's radiant eyes, under the thick, black,
arched eyebrows; and he understood that Storräde was Brynhild, and that
she would kill him if ever he forsook her. He also thought that she was
no doubt a woman who would be willing to burn on the pile with him. And
whilst the priests were saying Mass and praying in the Marie Church at
Kungahälla, King Olaf sat thinking that he would ride to Valhalla with
Sigrid Storräde before him on the horse.

That night the ferryman who conveyed people over the Göta River was
busier than he had ever been before. Time after time he was called to
the other side, but when he crossed over there was never anybody to be
seen. But all the same he heard steps around him, and the boat was so
full that it was nearly sinking. He rowed the whole night backwards and
forwards, and did not know what it could all mean. But in the morning
the whole shore was full of small footprints, and in the footprints the
ferryman found small withered leaves, which on closer examination proved
to be pure gold, and he understood they were the Brownies and Dwarfs who
had fled from Norway when it became a Christian country, and who had now
come back again. And the giant who lived in the Fortin mountain right to
the east of Kungahälla threw one big stone after the other at the Marie
Church the whole night through; and had not the giant been so strong
that all the stones went too far and fell down at Hisingen, on the other
side of the river, a great disaster would assuredly have happened.

Every morning King Olaf was in the habit of going to Mass, but the day
Storräde was at Kungahälla he thought he had not the time. As soon as he
arose, he at once wanted to go down to the harbour, where her ship lay,
in order to ask her if she would drink the wedding-cup with him before
eventide.

The Bishop had caused the bells to be rung the whole morning, and when
the King left the King's Hall, and went across the Market Place, the
church doors were thrown open, and beautiful singing was heard from
within. But the King went on as if he had not heard anything. The Bishop
ordered the bells to be stopped, the singing ceased, and the candles
were extinguished.

It all happened so suddenly that the King involuntarily stopped and
looked towards the church, and it seemed to him that the church was more
insignificant than he had ever before thought. It was smaller than the
houses in the town; the peat roof hung heavily over its low walls
without windows; the door was low, with a small projecting roof covered
with fir-bark.

Whilst the King stood thinking, a slender young woman came out of the
dark church door. She wore a red robe and a blue mantle, and she bore in
her arms a child with fair locks. Her dress was poor, and yet it seemed
to the King that he had never before seen a more noble-looking woman.
She was tall, dignified, and fair of face.

The King saw with emotion that the young woman pressed the child close
to her, and carried it with such care, that one could see it was the
most precious thing she possessed in the world.

As the woman stood in the doorway she turned her gentle face round and
looked back, looked into the poor, dark little church with great longing
in look and mien. When she again turned round towards the Market Place
there were tears in her eyes. But just as she was about to step over the
threshold into the Market Place her courage failed her. She leant
against the doorposts and looked at the child with a troubled glance, as
if to say:

'Where in all the wide world shall we find a roof over our heads?'

The King stood immovable, and looked at the homeless woman. What touched
him the most was to see the child, who lay in her arms free from sorrow,
stretch out his hand with a flower towards her, as if to win a smile
from her. And then he saw she tried to drive away the sorrow from her
face and smile at her son.

'Who can that woman be?' thought the King. 'It seems to me that I have
seen her before. She is undoubtedly a high-born woman who is in
trouble.'

However great a hurry the King was in to go to Storräde, he could not
take his eyes away from the woman. It seemed to him that he had seen
these tender eyes and this gentle face before, but where, he could not
call to mind. The woman still stood in the church door, as if she could
not tear herself away. Then the King went up to her and asked:

'Why art thou so sorrowful?'

'I am turned out of my home,' answered the woman, pointing to the little
dark church.

The King thought she meant that she had taken refuge in the church
because she had no other place to go to. He again asked:

'Who hath turned thee out?'

She looked at him with an unutterably sorrowful glance.

'Dost thou not know?' she asked.

But then the King turned away from her. He had no time to stand guessing
riddles, he thought. It appeared as if the woman meant that it was he
who had turned her out. He did not understand what she could mean.

The King went on quickly. He went down to the King's Landing-Stage,
where Storräde's ship was lying. At the harbour the Queen's servants met
the King. Their clothes were braided with gold, and they wore silver
helmets on their heads.

Storräde stood on her ship looking towards Kungahälla, rejoicing in its
power and wealth. She looked at the city as if she already regarded
herself as its Queen. But when the King saw Storräde, he thought at once
of the gentle woman who, poor and sorrowful, had been turned out of the
church.

'What is this?' he thought. 'It seems to me as if she were fairer than
Storräde.'

When Storräde greeted him with smiles, he thought of the tears that
sparkled in the eyes of the other woman. The face of the strange woman
was so clear to King Olaf that he could not help comparing it, feature
for feature, with Storräde's. And when he did that all Storräde's
beauty vanished. He saw that Storräde's eyes were cruel and her mouth
sensual. In each of her features he saw a sin. He could still see she
was beautiful, but he no longer took pleasure in her countenance. He
began to loathe her as if she were a beautiful poisonous snake.

When the Queen saw the King come a victorious smile passed over her
lips.

'I did not expect thee so early, King Olaf,' she said. 'I thought thou
wast at Mass.'

The King felt an irresistible inclination to contradict Storräde, and do
everything she did not want.

'Mass has not yet begun,' he said. 'I have come to ask thee to go with
me to the house of my God.'

When the King said this he saw an angry look in Storräde's eyes, but she
continued to smile.

'Rather come to me on my ship,' she said, 'and I will show thee the
presents I have brought for thee.'

She took up a sword inlaid with gold, as if to tempt him; but the King
thought all the time that he could see the other woman at her side, and
it appeared to him that Storräde stood amongst her treasures like a foul
dragon.

'Answer me first,' said the King, 'if thou wilt go with me to church.'

'What have I to do in thy church?' she asked mockingly.

Then she saw that the King's brow darkened, and she perceived that he
was not of the same mind as the day before. She immediately changed her
manner, and became gentle and submissive.

'Go thou to church as much as thou likest, even if I do not go. There
shall be no discord between us on that account.'

The Queen came down from the ship and went up to the King. She held in
her hand a sword and a mantle trimmed with fur which she would give him.
But in the same moment the King happened to look towards the harbour. At
some distance he saw the other woman; her head was bowed, and she walked
with weary steps, but she still bore the child in her arms.

'What art thou looking so eagerly after, King Olaf?' Storräde asked.

Then the other woman turned round and looked at the King, and as she
looked at him it appeared to him as if a ring of golden light surrounded
her head and that of the child, more beautiful than the crown of any
King or Queen. Then she immediately turned round and walked again
towards the town, and he saw her no more.

'What art thou looking so eagerly after?' again asked Storräde.

But when King Olaf now turned to the Queen she appeared to him old and
ugly, and full of the world's sin and wickedness, and he was terrified
at the thought that he might have fallen into her snares.

He had taken off his glove to give her his hand; but he now took the
glove and threw it in her face instead.

'I will not own thee, foul woman and heathen dog that thou art!' he
said.

Then Storräde drew backwards. But she soon regained the command over
herself, and answered:

'That blow may prove thy destruction, King Olaf Trygveson.'

And she was white as Hél when she turned away from him and went on board
her ship.

       *       *       *       *       *

Next night King Olaf had a strange dream. What he saw in his dream was
not the earth, but the bottom of the sea. It was a grayish-green field,
over which there were many fathoms of water. He saw fish swimming after
their prey; he saw ships gliding past on the surface of the water, like
dark clouds; and he saw the disc of the sun, dull as a pale moon.

Then he saw the woman he had seen at the church-door wandering along the
bottom of the sea. She had the same stooping gait and the same worn
garments as when he first saw her, and her face was still sorrowful. But
as she wandered along the bottom of the sea the water divided before
her. He saw that it rose into pillars, as if in deep reverence, forming
itself into arches, so that she walked in the most glorious temple.

Suddenly the King saw that the water which surrounded the woman began to
change colour. The pillars and the arches first became pale pink; but
they soon assumed a darker colour. The whole sea around was also red, as
if it had been changed into blood.

At the bottom of the sea, where the woman walked, the King saw broken
swords and arrows, and bows and spears in pieces. At first there were
not many, but the longer she walked in the red water the more closely
they were heaped together.

The King saw with emotion that the woman went to one side in order not
to tread upon a dead man who lay stretched upon the bed of green
seaweed. The man, who had a deep cut in his head, wore a coat of mail,
and had a sword in his hand. It seemed to the King that the woman closed
her eyes so as not to see the dead man. She moved towards a fixed goal
without hesitation or doubt. But he who dreamt could not turn his eyes
away.

He saw the bottom of the sea covered with wreckage. He saw heavy
anchors, thick ropes twined about like snakes, ships with their sides
riven asunder; golden dragon-heads from the bows of ships stared at him
with red, threatening eyes.

'I should like to know who has fought a battle here and left all this as
a prey to destruction,' thought the dreamer.

Everywhere he saw dead men. They were hanging on the ships' sides, or
had sunk into the green seaweed. But he did not give himself time to
look at them, for his eyes were obliged to follow the woman, who
continued to walk onwards.

At last the King saw her stop at the side of a dead man. He was clothed
in a red mantle, had a bright helmet on his head, a shield on his arm,
and a naked sword in his hand.

The woman bent over him and whispered to him, as if awaking someone
sleeping:

'King Olaf! King Olaf!'

Then he who was dreaming saw that the man at the bottom of the sea was
himself. He could distinctly see that he was the dead man.

As the dead did not move, the woman knelt by his side and whispered into
his ear:

'Now Storräde hath sent her fleet against thee and avenged herself. Dost
thou repent what thou hast done, King Olaf?'

And again she asked:

'Now thou sufferest the bitterness of death because thou hast chosen me
instead of Storräde. Dost thou repent? dost thou repent?'

Then at last the dead opened his eyes, and the woman helped him to rise.
He leant upon her shoulder, and she walked slowly away with him.

Again King Olaf saw her wander and wander, through night and day, over
sea and land. At last it seemed to him that they had gone further than
the clouds and higher than the stars. Now they entered a garden, where
the earth shone as light and the flowers were clear as dewdrops.

The King saw that when the woman entered the garden she raised her head,
and her step grew lighter. When they had gone a little further into the
garden her garments began to shine. He saw that they became, as of
themselves, bordered with golden braid, and coloured with the hues of
the rainbow. He saw also that a halo surrounded her head that cast a
light over her countenance.

But the slain man who leant upon her shoulder raised his head, and
asked:

'Who art thou?'

'Dost thou not know, King Olaf?' she answered; and an infinite majesty
and glory encompassed her.

But in the dream King Olaf was filled with a great joy because he had
chosen to serve the gentle Queen of Heaven. It was a joy so great that
he had never before felt the like of it, and it was so strong that it
awoke him.

       *       *       *       *       *

When King Olaf awoke his face was bathed in tears, and he lay with his
hands folded in prayer.



ASTRID


I

In the midst of the low buildings forming the old Castle of the Kings at
Upsala towered the Ladies' Bower. It was built on poles, like a
dovecote. The staircase leading up to it was as steep as a ladder, and
one entered it by a very low door. The walls inside were covered with
runes, signifying love and longing; the sills of the small loopholes
were worn by the maidens leaning on their elbows and looking down into
the courtyard.

Old Hjalte, the bard, had been a guest at the King's Castle for some
time, and he went up every day to the Ladies' Bower to see Princess
Ingegerd, and talk with her about Olaf Haraldsson, the King of Norway,
and every time Hjalte came Ingegerd's bondwoman Astrid sat and listened
to his words with as much pleasure as the Princess. And whilst Hjalte
talked, both the maidens listened so eagerly that they let their hands
fall in their laps and their work rest.

Anyone seeing them would not think much spinning or weaving could be
done in the Ladies' Bower. No one would have thought that they gathered
all Hjalte's words as if they were silken threads, and that each of his
listeners made from them her own picture of King Olaf. No one could
know that in their thoughts they wove the Bard's words each into her own
radiant picture.

But so it was. And the Princess's picture was so beautiful that every
time she saw it before her she felt as if she must fall on her knees and
worship it. For she saw the King sitting on his throne, crowned and
great; she saw a red, gold-embroidered mantle hanging from his shoulders
to his feet. She saw no sword in his hand, but holy writings; and she
also saw that his throne was supported by a chained troll. His face
shone for her, white like wax, surrounded by long, soft locks, and his
eyes beamed with piety and peace. Oh, she became nearly afraid when she
saw the almost superhuman strength that shone from that pale face. She
understood that King Olaf was not only a King, she saw that he was a
saint, and the equal of the angels.

But quite different was the picture which Astrid had made of the King.
The fair-haired bondwoman, who had experienced both hunger and cold and
suffered much hardship, but who all the same was the one who filled the
Ladies' Bower with merriment and laughter, had in her mind an entirely
different picture of the King. She could not help that every time she
heard him spoken about she saw before her the wood-cutter's son who at
eventide came out of the wood with the axe over his shoulder.

'I can see thee--I can see thee so well,' Astrid said to the picture, as
if it were a living being. 'Tall thou art not, but broad of shoulders
and light and agile, and because thou hast walked about in the dark
forest the whole long summer day thou takest the last few steps in one
spring, and laughest when thou reachest the road. Then thy white teeth
shine, and thy hair flies about, and that I love to see. I can see thee;
thou hast a fair, ruddy face and freckles on thy nose, and thou hast
blue eyes, which become dark and stern in the deep forest; but when thou
comest so far that thou seest the valley and thy home, they become light
and gentle. As soon as thou seest thine own hut down in the valley, thou
raisest thy cap for a greeting, and then I see thy forehead. Is not that
forehead befitting a King? Should not that broad forehead be able to
wear both crown and helmet?'

But however different these two pictures were, one thing is certain:
just as much as the Princess loved the holy picture she had conjured
forth, so did the poor bondwoman love the bold swain whom she saw coming
from the depths of the forest to meet her.

And had Hjalte the Bard been able to see these pictures he would have
assuredly praised them both. He would assuredly have said that they both
were like the King. For that is King Olaf's good fortune, he would have
been sure to say, that he is a fresh and merry swain at the same time
that he is God's holy warrior. For old Hjalte loved King Olaf, and
although he had wandered from court to court he had never been able to
find his equal.

'Where can I find anyone to make me forget Olaf Haraldsson?' he was
wont to say. 'Where shall I find a greater hero?'

Hjalte the Bard was a rough old man and severe of countenance. Old as he
was, his hair was still black, he was dark of complexion, and his eyes
were keen, and his song had always tallied with his appearance. His
tongue never uttered other words than those of strife; he had never made
other lays than songs of war.

Old Hjalte's heart had hitherto been like the stony waste outside the
wood-cutter's hut; it had been like a rocky plain, where only poor ferns
and dry mugworts could grow. But now Hjalte's roving life had brought
him to the Court at Upsala, and he had seen the Princess Ingegerd. He
had seen that she was the noblest of all the women he had met in his
life--in truth, the Princess was just as much fairer than all other
women as King Olaf was greater than all other men.

Then the thought suddenly arose within Hjalte that he would try to
awaken love between the Swedish Princess and the Norwegian King. He
asked himself why she, who was the best amongst women, should not be
able to love King Olaf, the most glorious amongst men? And after that
thought had taken root in Hjalte's heart he gave up making his stern
war-songs. He gave up trying to win praise and honour from the rough
warriors at the Court of Upsala, and sat for many hours with the women
in the Ladies' Bower, and one would never have thought that it was
Hjalte who spoke. One would never have believed that he possessed such
soft and fair and gentle words which he now used in speaking about King
Olaf.

No one would have known Hjalte again; he was entirely transformed ever
since the thought of the marriage had arisen within him. When the
beautiful thought took root in Hjalte's soul, it was as if a blushing
rose, with soft and fragrant petals, had sprung up in the midst of a
wilderness.

       *       *       *       *       *

One day Hjalte sat with the Princess in the Ladies' Bower. All the
maidens were absent except Astrid. Hjalte thought that now he had spoken
long enough about Olaf Haraldsson. He had said all the fair words he
could about him, but had it been of any avail? What did the Princess
think of the King? Then he began to lay snares for the Princess to find
out what she thought of King Olaf.

'I can see from a look or a blush,' he thought.

But the Princess was a high-born lady; she knew how to conceal her
thoughts. She neither blushed nor smiled, neither did her eyes betray
her. She would not let Hjalte divine what she thought.

When the Bard looked into her noble face he was ashamed of himself.

'She is too good for anyone to take her by stealth,' he said; 'one must
meet her in open warfare.' So Hjalte said straight out: 'Daughter of a
King, if Olaf Haraldsson asked thee in marriage of thy father, what
wouldst thou answer?'

Then the young Princess's face lit up, as does the face of a man when he
reaches the mountain-top and discovers the ocean. Without hesitation she
replied at once:

'If he be such a King and such a Christian as thou sayest, Hjalte, then
I consider it would be a great happiness.'

But scarcely had she said this before the light faded from her eyes. It
was as if a cloud rose between her and the beautiful far-off vision.

'Oh, Hjalte,' she said, 'thou forgettest one thing. King Olaf is our
enemy. It is war and not wooing we may expect from him.'

'Do not let that trouble thee,' said Hjalte. 'If thou only wilt, all is
well. I know King Olaf's mind in this matter.'

The Bard was so glad that he laughed when he said this; but the Princess
grew more and more sorrowful.

'No,' she said, 'neither upon me nor King Olaf does it depend, but upon
my father, Oluf Skötkonung, and you know that he hates Olaf Haraldsson,
and cannot bear that anyone should even mention his name. Never will he
let me leave my father's house with an enemy; never will he give his
daughter to Olaf Haraldsson.'

When the Princess had said this, she laid aside all her pride and began
to lament her fate.

'Of what good is it that I have now learnt to know Olaf Haraldsson,' she
said, 'that I dream of him every night, and long for him every day?
Would it not have been better if thou hadst never come hither and told
me about him?'

When the Princess had spoken these words, her eyes filled with tears;
but when Hjalte saw her tears, he lifted his hand fervent and eager.

'God wills it,' he cried. 'Ye belong to one another. Strife must
exchange its red mantle for the white robe of peace, that your happiness
may give joy unto the earth.'

When Hjalte had said this, the Princess bowed her head before God's holy
name, and when she raised it, it was with a newly awakened hope.

       *       *       *       *       *

When old Hjalte stepped through the low door of the Ladies' Bower, and
went down the narrow open corridor, Astrid followed him.

'Hjalte,' she cried, 'why dost thou not ask me what I would answer if
Olaf Haraldsson asked for my hand?'

It was the first time Astrid had spoken to Hjalte; but Hjalte only cast
a hurried glance at the fair bondwoman, whose golden hair curled on her
temples and neck, who had the broadest bracelets and the heaviest
ear-rings, whose dress was fastened with silken cords, and whose bodice
was so embroidered with pearls that it was as stiff as armour, and went
on without answering.

'Why dost thou only ask Princess Ingegerd?' continued Astrid. 'Why dost
thou not also ask me? Dost thou not know that I, too, am the Svea-King's
daughter? Dost thou not know,' she continued, when Hjalte did not
answer, 'that although my mother was a bondwoman, she was the bride of
the King's youth? Dost thou not know that whilst she lived no one dared
to remind her of her birth? Oh, Hjalte, dost thou not know that it was
only after she was dead, when the King had taken to himself a Queen,
that everyone remembered that she was a bondwoman? It was first after I
had a stepmother that the King began to think I was not of free birth.
But am I not a King's daughter, Hjalte, even if my father counts me for
so little, that he has allowed me to fall into bondage? Am I not a
King's daughter, even if my stepmother allowed me to go in rags, whilst
my sister went in cloth of gold? Am I not a King's daughter, even if my
stepmother has allowed me to tend the geese and taste the whip of the
slave? And if I am a King's daughter, why dost thou not ask me whether I
will wed Olaf Haraldsson? See, I have golden hair that shines round my
head like the sun. See, I have sparkling eyes; I have roses in my
cheeks. Why should not King Olaf woo me?'

She followed Hjalte across the courtyard all the way to the King's Hall;
but Hjalte took no more heed of her words than a warrior clad in armour
heeds a boy throwing stones. He took no more notice of her words than if
she had been a chattering magpie in the top of a tree.

       *       *       *       *       *

No one must think that Hjalte contented himself with having won Ingegerd
for his King. The next day the old Icelander summoned up his courage and
spoke to Oluf Skötkonung about Olaf Haraldsson. But he hardly had time
to say a word; the King interrupted him as soon as he mentioned the name
of his foe. Hjalte saw that the Princess was right. He thought he had
never before seen such bitter hatred.

'But that marriage will take place all the same,' said Hjalte. 'It is
the will of God--the will of God.'

And it really seemed as if Hjalte were right. Two or three days later a
messenger came from King Olaf of Norway to make peace with the Swedes.
Hjalte sought the messenger, and told him that peace between the two
countries could be most firmly established by a marriage taking place
between Princess Ingegerd and Olaf Haraldsson.

The King's messenger hardly thought that old Hjalte was the man to
incline a young maiden's heart to a stranger; but he thought, all the
same, that the plan was a good one; and he promised Hjalte that he would
lay the proposal of the marriage before King Oluf Skötkonung at the
great Winter Ting.

Immediately afterwards Hjalte left Upsala. He went from farm to farm on
the great plain; he went far into the forests; he went even to the
borders of the sea. He never met either man or woman without speaking to
them about Olaf Haraldsson and Princess Ingegerd. 'Hast thou ever heard
of a greater man or of a fairer woman?' he said. 'It is assuredly the
will of God that they shall wander through life together.'

Hjalte came upon old Vikings, who wintered at the seashore, and who had
formerly carried off women from every coast. He talked to them about the
beautiful Princess until they sprang up and promised him, with their
hand on the hilt of their sword, that they would do what they could to
help her to happiness.

Hjalte went to stubborn old peasants who had never listened to the
prayers of their own daughters, but had given them in marriage as
shrewdness, family honour, and advantage required, and he spoke to them
so wisely about the peace between the two countries and the marriage
that they swore they would rather deprive the King of his kingdom than
that this marriage should not come to pass.

But to the young women Hjalte spoke so many good words about Olaf
Haraldsson that they vowed they would never look with kindly eyes at the
swain who did not stand by the Norwegian King's messenger at the Ting
and help to break down the King's opposition.

Thus Hjalte went about talking to people until the Winter Ting should
assemble, and all the people, along snow-covered roads, proceeded to the
great Ting Hills at Upsala.

When the Ting was opened, the eagerness of the people was so great that
it seemed as if the stars would fall down from the sky were this
marriage not decided upon. And although the King twice roughly said 'No'
both to the peace and to the wooing, it was of no avail. It was of no
avail that he would not hear the name of King Olaf mentioned. The people
only shouted: 'We will not have war with Norway. We will that these two,
who by all are accounted the greatest, shall wander through life
together.'

What could old Oluf Skötkonung do when the people rose against him with
threats, strong words, and clashing of shields? What was he to do when
he saw nothing but swords lifted and angry men before him? Was he not
compelled to promise his daughter away if he would keep his life and his
crown? Must he not swear to send the Princess to Kungahälla next summer
to meet King Olaf there?

In this way the whole people helped to further Ingegerd's love. But no
one helped Astrid to the attainment of her happiness; no one asked her
about her love. And yet it lived--it lived like the child of the poor
fisherman's widow, in want and need; but all the same it grew, happily
and hopefully. It grew and thrived, for in Astrid's soul there were, as
at the sea, fresh air and light and breezy waves.


II

In the rich city of Kungahälla, far away at the border, was the old
castle of the kings. It was surrounded by green ramparts. Huge stones
stood as sentinels outside the gates, and in the courtyard grew an oak
large enough to shelter under its branches all the King's henchmen.

The whole space inside the ramparts was covered with long, low wooden
houses. They were so old that grass grew on the ridges of the roofs. The
beams in the walls were made from the thickest trees of the forest,
silver-white with age.

In the beginning of the summer Olaf Haraldsson came to Kungahälla, and
he gathered together in the castle everything necessary for the
celebration of his marriage. For several weeks peasants came crowding up
the long street, bringing gifts: butter in tubs, cheese in sacks, hops
and salt, roots and flour.

After the gifts had been brought to the castle, there was a continual
procession of wedding guests through the street. There were great men
and women on side-saddles, with a numerous retinue of servants and
serfs. Then came hosts of players and singers, and the reciters of the
Sagas. Merchants came all the way from Venderland and Gardarike, to
tempt the King with bridal gifts.

When these processions for two whole weeks had filled the town with
noise and bustle they only awaited the last procession, the bride's.

But the bridal procession was long in coming. Every day they expected
that she would come ashore at the King's Landing-Stage, and from there,
headed by drum and fife, and followed by merry swains and serious
priests, proceed up the street to the King's Castle. But the bride's
procession came not.

When the bride was so long in coming, everybody looked at King Olaf to
see if he were uneasy. But the King always showed an undisturbed face.

'If it be the will of God,' the King said, 'that I shall possess this
fair woman, she will assuredly come.'

And the King waited, whilst the grass fell for the scythe, and the
cornflowers blossomed in the rye. The King still waited when the flax
was pulled up, and the hops ripened on the poles. He was still waiting,
when the bramble blackened on the mountain-side, and the nip reddened
on the naked branch of the hawthorn.

       *       *       *       *       *

Hjalte had spent the whole summer at Kungahälla waiting for the
marriage. No one awaited the arrival of the Princess more eagerly than
he did. He assuredly awaited her with greater longing and anxiety than
even King Olaf himself.

Hjalte no longer felt at his ease with the warriors in the King's Hall.
But lower down the river there was a landing-stage where the women of
Kungahälla were wont to assemble to see the last of their husbands and
sons, when they sailed for distant lands. Here they were also in the
habit of gathering during the summer, to watch for the vessels coming up
the river, and to weep over those who had departed. To that bridge
Hjalte wended his way every day. He liked best to be amongst those who
longed and sorrowed.

Never had any of the women who sat waiting at Weeping Bridge gazed down
the river with more anxious look than did Hjalte the Bard. No one looked
more eagerly at every approaching sail. Sometimes Hjalte stole away to
the Marie Church. He never prayed for anything for himself. He only came
to remind the Saints about this marriage, which must come to pass, which
God Himself had willed.

Most of all Hjalte liked to speak with King Olaf Haraldsson alone. It
was his greatest happiness to sit and tell him of every word that had
fallen from the lips of the King's daughter. He described her every
feature.

'King Olaf,' he said to him, 'pray to God that she may come to thee.
Every day I see thee warring against ancient heathendom which hides like
an owl in the darkness of the forest, and in the mountain-clefts. But
the falcon, King Olaf, will never be able to overcome the owl. Only a
dove can do that, only a dove.'

The Bard asked the King whether it was not his desire to vanquish all
his enemies. Was it not his intention to be alone master in the land?
But in that he would never succeed. He would never succeed until he had
won the crown which Hjalte had chosen for him, a crown so resplendent
with brightness and glory that everyone must bow before him who owned
it.

And last of all he asked the King if he were desirous of gaining the
mastery over himself. But he would never succeed in overcoming the
wilfulness of his own heart if he did not win a shield which Hjalte had
seen in the Ladies' Bower at the King's Castle at Upsala. It was a
shield from which shone the purity of heaven. It was a shield which
protected from all sin and the lusts of the flesh.

       *       *       *       *       *

But harvest came and they were still waiting for the Princess. One after
the other the great men who had come to Kungahälla for the marriage
festivities were obliged to depart. The last to take his leave was old
Hjalte the Bard. It was with a heavy heart he set sail, but he was
obliged to return to his home in distant Iceland before Christmas came.

Old Hjalte had not gone further than the rocky islands outside the mouth
of the northern river before he met a galley. He immediately ordered his
men to stop rowing. At the first glance he recognised the dragon-headed
ship belonging to Princess Ingegerd. Without hesitation Hjalte told his
men to row him to the galley. He gave up his place at the rudder to
another, and placed himself with joyous face at the prow of the boat.

'It will make me happy to behold the fair maiden once more,' the Bard
said. 'It gladdens my heart that her gentle face will be the last I
shall see before sailing for Iceland.'

All the wrinkles had disappeared from Hjalte's face when he went on
board the dragon-ship. He greeted the brave lads who plied the oars as
friendlily as if they were his comrades, and he handed a golden ring to
the maiden, who, with much deference, conducted him to the women's tent
in the stern of the ship. Hjalte's hand trembled when he lifted the
hangings that covered the entrance to the tent. He thought this was the
most beautiful moment of his life.

'Never have I fought for a greater cause,' he said. 'Never have I longed
so eagerly for anything as this marriage.'

But when Hjalte entered the tent, he drew back a step in great
consternation. His face expressed the utmost confusion. He saw a tall,
beautiful woman. She advanced to meet him with outstretched hand. But
the woman was not Ingegerd.

Hjalte's eyes looked searchingly round the narrow tent to find the
Princess. He certainly saw that the woman who stood before him was a
King's daughter. Only the daughter of a King could look at him with such
a proud glance, and greet him with such dignity. And she wore the band
of royalty on her forehead, and was attired like a Queen. But why was
she not Ingegerd? Hjalte angrily asked the strange woman:

'Who art thou?'

'Dost thou not know me, Hjalte? I am the King's daughter, to whom thou
hast spoken about Olaf Haraldsson.'

'I have spoken with a King's daughter about Olaf Haraldsson, but her
name was Ingegerd.'

'Ingegerd is also my name.'

'Thy name can be what thou likest, but thou art not the Princess. What
is the meaning of all this? Will the Svea-King deceive King Olaf?'

'He will not by any means deceive him. He sends him his daughter as he
has promised.'

Hjalte was not far from drawing his sword to slay the strange woman. He
had his hand already on the hilt, but he bethought himself it was not
befitting a warrior to take the life of a woman. But he would not waste
more words over this impostor. He turned round to go.

The stranger with gentle voice called him back.

'Where art thou going, Hjalte? Dost thou intend to go to Kungahälla to
report this to Olaf Haraldsson?'

'That is my intention,' answered Hjalte, without looking at her.

'Why, then, dost thou leave me, Hjalte? Why dost thou not remain with
me? I, too, am going to Kungahälla.'

Hjalte now turned round and looked at her.

'Hast thou, then, no pity for an old man?' he said. 'I tell thee that my
whole mind is set upon this marriage. Let me hear the full measure of my
misfortune. Is Princess Ingegerd not coming?'

Then the Princess gave over fooling Hjalte.

'Come into my tent and sit down,' she said, 'and I will tell thee all
that thou wouldest know. I see it is of no use to hide the truth from
thee.'

Then she began to tell him everything:

'The summer was already drawing to a close. The blackcock's lively young
ones had already strong feathers in their cloven tails and firmness in
their rounded wings; they had already begun to flutter about amongst the
close branches of the pine-forest with quick, noisy strokes.

'It happened one morning that the Svea-King came riding across the
plain; he was returning from a successful chase. There hung from the
pommel of his saddle a shining blue-black blackcock, a tough old fellow,
with red eyebrows, as well as four of his half-grown young ones, which
on account of their youth were still garbed in many-coloured hues. And
the King was very proud; he thought it was not every man's luck to make
such a bag with falcon and hawk in one morning.

'But that morning Princess Ingegerd and her maidens stood at the gates
of the castle waiting for the King. And amongst the maidens was one,
Astrid by name; she was the daughter of the Svea-King just as much as
Ingegerd, although her mother was not a free woman, and she was
therefore treated as a bondmaiden. And this young maiden stood and
showed her sister how the swallows gathered in the fields and chose the
leaders for their long journey. She reminded her that the summer was
soon over--the summer that should have witnessed the marriage of
Ingegerd--and urged her to ask the King why she might not set out on her
journey to King Olaf; for Astrid wished to accompany her sister on the
journey. She thought that if she could but once see Olaf Haraldsson, she
would have pleasure from it all her life.

'But when the Svea-King saw the Princess, he rode up to her.

'"Look, Ingegerd," he said, "here are five blackcocks hanging from my
saddle. In one morning I have killed five blackcocks. Who dost thou
think can boast of better luck? Have you ever heard of a King making a
better capture?"

'But then the Princess was angered that he who barred the way for her
happiness should come so proudly and praise his own good luck. And to
make an end of the uncertainty that had tormented her for so many weeks,
she replied:

'"Thou, father, hast with great honour killed five blackcocks, but I
know of a King who in one morning captured five other Kings, and that
was Olaf Haraldsson, the hero whom thou hast selected to be my husband."

'Then the Svea-King sprang off his horse in great fury, and advanced
towards the Princess with clenched hands.

'"What troll hath bewitched thee?" he asked. "What herb hath poisoned
thee? How hath thy mind been turned to this man?"

'Ingegerd did not answer; she drew back, frightened. Then the King
became quieter.

'"Fair daughter," he said to her, "dost thou not know how dear thou art
to me? How should I, then, give thee to one whom I cannot endure? I
should like my best wishes to go with thee on thy journey. I should like
to sit as guest in thy hall. I tell thee thou must turn thy mind to the
Kings of other lands, for Norway's King shall never own thee."

'At these words the Princess became so confused that she could find no
other words than these with which to answer the King:

'"I did not ask thee; it was the will of the people."

'The King then asked her if she thought that the Svea-King was a slave,
who could not dispose of his own offspring, or if there were a master
over him who had the right to give away his daughters.

'"Will the Svea-King be content to hear himself called a breaker of
oaths?" asked the Princess.

'Then the Svea-King laughed aloud.

'"Do not let that trouble thee. No one shall call me that. Why dost thou
question about this, thou who art a woman? There are still men in my
Council; they will find a way out of it."

'Then the King turned towards his henchmen who had been with him to the
chase.

'"My will is bound by this promise," he said to them. "How shall I be
released from it?"

'But none of the King's men answered a word; no one knew how to counsel
him.

'Then Oluf Skötkonung became very wrath; he became like a madman.

'"So much for your wisdom," he shouted again and again to his men. "I
will be free. Why do people laud your wisdom?"

'Whilst the King raged and shouted, and no one knew how to answer him,
the maiden Astrid stepped forward from amongst the other women and made
a proposal.

'Hjalte must really believe her when she told him that it was only
because she found it so amusing that she could not help saying it, and
not in the least because she thought it could really be done.

'"Why dost thou not send me?" she had said. "I am also thy daughter. Why
dost thou not send me to the Norwegian King?"

'But when Ingegerd heard Astrid say these words, she grew pale.

'"Be silent, and go thy way!" she said angrily. "Go thy way, thou
tattler, thou deceitful, wicked thing, to propose such a shameful thing
to my father!"

'But the King would not allow Astrid to go. On the contrary! on the
contrary! He stretched out his arms and drew her to his breast. He both
laughed and cried, and was as wild with joy as a child.

'"Oh," he shouted, "what an idea! What a heathenish trick! Let us call
Astrid Ingegerd, and entrap the King of Norway into marrying her. And
afterwards when the rumour gets abroad that she is born of a bondwoman,
many will rejoice in their hearts, and Olaf Haraldsson will be held in
scorn and derision."

'But then Ingegerd went up to the King, and prayed:

"Oh, father, father! do not do this thing. King Olaf is dear at heart to
me. Surely thou wilt not grieve me by thus deceiving him."

'And she added that she would patiently do the bidding of her royal
father, and give up all thought of marriage with Olaf Haraldsson, if he
would only promise not to do him this injury.

'But the Svea-King would not listen to her prayers. He turned to Astrid
and caressed her, just as if she were as beautiful as revenge itself.

'"Thou shalt go! thou shalt go soon--to-morrow!" he said. "All thy
dowry, thy clothes, my dear daughter, and thy retinue, can all be
collected in great haste. The Norwegian King will not think of such
things; he is too taken up with joy at the thought of possessing the
high-born daughter of the Svea-King."

'Then Ingegerd understood that she could hope for no mercy. And she went
up to her sister, put her arm round her neck, and conducted her to the
hall. Here she placed her in her own seat of honour, whilst she herself
sat down on a low stool at her feet. And she said to Astrid that from
henceforth she must sit there, in order to accustom herself to the place
she should take as Queen. For Ingegerd did not wish that King Olaf
should have any occasion to be ashamed of his Queen.

'Then the Princess sent her maidens to the wardrobes and the pantries to
fetch the dowry she had chosen for herself. And she gave everything to
her sister, so that Astrid should not come to Norway's King as a poor
bondwoman. She had also settled which of the serfs and maidens should
accompany Astrid, and at last she made her a present of her own splendid
galley.

'"Thou shalt certainly have my galley," she said. "Thou knowest there
are many good men at the oars. For it is my will that thou shalt come
well dowered to Norway's King, so that he may feel honoured with his
Queen."

'And afterwards the Princess had sat a long time with her sister, and
spoken with her about King Olaf. But she had spoken of him as one speaks
of the Saints of God, and not of kings, and Astrid had not understood
many of her words. But this much she did understand--that the King's
daughter wished to give Astrid all the good thoughts that dwelt in her
own heart, in order that King Olaf might not be so disappointed as her
father wished. And then Astrid, who was not so bad as people thought
her, forgot how often she had suffered for her sister's sake, and she
wished that she had been able to say, "I will not go!" She had also
spoken to her sister about this wish, and they had cried together, and
for the first time felt like sisters.

'But it was not Astrid's nature to allow herself to be weighed down by
sorrow and scruples. By the time she was out at sea she had forgotten
all her sorrow and fear. She travelled as a Princess, and was waited
upon as a Princess. For the first time since her mother's death she was
happy.'

When the King's beautiful daughter had told Hjalte all this she was
silent for a moment, and looked at him. Hjalte had sat immovable whilst
she was speaking, but the King's daughter grew pale when she saw the
pain his face betrayed.

'Tell me what thou thinkest, Hjalte,' she exclaimed. 'Now, we are soon
at Kungahälla. How shall I fare there? Will the King slay me? Will he
brand me with red-hot irons, and send me back again? Tell me the truth,
Hjalte.'

But Hjalte did not answer. He sat and talked to himself without knowing
it. Astrid heard him murmur that at Kungahälla no one knew Ingegerd, and
that he himself had but little inclination to turn back.

But now Hjalte's moody face fell upon Astrid, and he began to question
her. She had wished, had she not, that she could have said 'No' to this
journey. When she came to Kungahälla, the choice lay before her. What
did she, then, mean to do! Would she tell King Olaf who she was?

This question caused Astrid not a little embarrassment. She was silent
for a long while, but then she began to beg Hjalte to go with her to
Kungahälla and tell the King the truth. She told Hjalte that her maidens
and the men on board her ship had been bound to silence.

'And what I shall do myself I do not know,' she said. 'How can I know
that? I have heard all thou hast told Ingegerd about Olaf Haraldsson.'

When Astrid said this she saw that Hjalte was again lost in thought. She
heard him mutter to himself that he did not think she would confess how
things were.

'But I must all the same tell her what awaits her,' he said.

Then Hjalte rose, and spoke to her with the utmost gravity.

'Let me tell thee yet another story, Astrid, about King Olaf, which I
have not told thee before:

'It was at the time when King Olaf was a poor sea-king, when he only
possessed a few good ships and some faithful warriors, but none of his
forefathers' land. It was at the time when he fought with honour on
distant seas, chastised vikings and protected merchants, and aided
Christian princes with his sword.

'The King had a dream that one night an angel of God descended to his
ship, set all the sails, and steered for the north. And it seemed to the
King that they had not sailed for a longer time than it takes the dawn
to extinguish a star before they came to a steep and rocky shore, cut up
by narrow fjords and bordered with milk-white breakers. But when they
reached the shore the angel stretched out his hand, and spoke in his
silvery voice. It rang through the wind, which whistled in the sails,
and through the waves surging round the keel.

'"Thou, King Olaf," were the angel's words, "shalt possess this land for
all time."

'And when the angel had said this the dream was over.'

Hjalte now tried to explain to Astrid that like as the dawn tempers the
transition from dark night to sunny day, so God had not willed that King
Olaf should at once understand that the dream foretold him of superhuman
honour. The King had not understood that it was the will of God that he
from a heavenly throne should reign forever and ever over Norway's land,
that kings should reign and kings should pass away, but holy King Olaf
should continue to rule his kingdom for ever.

The King's humility did not let him see the heavenly message in its
fulness of light, and he understood the words of the angel thus--that he
and his seed should forever rule over the land the angel had shown him.
And inasmuch as he thought he recognised in this land the kingdom of his
forefathers, he steered his course for Norway, and, fortune helping him,
he soon became King of that land.

'And thus it is still, Astrid. Although everything indicates that in
King Olaf dwells a heavenly strength, he himself is still in doubt, and
thinks that he is only called to be an earthly King. He does not yet
stretch forth his hand for the crown of the saints. But now the time
cannot be far distant when he must fully realize his mission. It cannot
be far distant.'

And old Hjalte went on speaking, whilst the light of the seer shone in
his soul and on his brow.

'Is there any other woman but Ingegerd who would not be rejected by Olaf
Haraldsson and driven from his side when he fully understands the words
of the angel, that he shall be Norway's King for all time? Is there
anyone who can, then, follow him in his holy walk except Ingegerd?'

And again Hjalte turned to Astrid and asked with great severity:

'Answer me now and tell me whether thou wilt speak the truth to King
Olaf?'

Astrid was now sore afraid. She answered humbly:

'Why wilt thou not go with me to Kungahälla? Then I shall be compelled
to tell everything. Canst thou not see, Hjalte, that I do not know
myself what I shall do? If it were my intention to deceive the King,
could I not promise thee all thou wishest? All that I needed was to
persuade thee to go on thy way. But I am weak; I only asked thee to go
with me.'

But hardly had she said this before she saw Hjalte's face glow with
fierce wrath.

'Why should I help thee to escape the fate that awaits thee?' he asked.

And then he said that he did not think he had any cause to show her
mercy. He hated her for having sinned against her sister. The man that
she would steal, thief as she was, belonged to Ingegerd. Even a hardened
warrior like Hjalte must groan with pain when he thought of how Ingegerd
had suffered. But Astrid had felt nothing. In the midst of all that
young maiden's sorrow she had come with wicked and cruel cunning, and
had only sought her own happiness. Woe unto Astrid! woe unto her!

Hjalte had lowered his voice; it became heavy and dull; it sounded to
Astrid as if he were murmuring an incantation.

'It is thou,' he said to her, 'who hast destroyed my most beautiful
song.' For the most beautiful song Hjalte had made was the one in which
he had joined the most pious of all women with the greatest of all men.
'But thou hast spoiled my song,' he said, 'and made a mockery of it; and
I will punish thee, thou child of Hél. I will punish thee; as the Lord
punisheth the tempter who brought sin into His world, I will punish
thee. But do not ask me,' he continued, 'to protect thee against thine
own self. I remember the Princess, and how she must suffer through the
trick thou playest on King Olaf. For her sake thou shalt be punished,
just as much as for mine. I will not go with thee to betray thee. That
is my revenge, Astrid. I will not betray thee. Go thou to Kungahälla,
Astrid; and if thou dost not speak of thine own accord, thou wilt become
the King's bride. But then, thou serpent, punishment shall overtake
thee! I know King Olaf, and I know thee. Thy life shall be such a burden
that thou wilt wish for death every day that passes.'

When Hjalte had said this he turned away from her and went his way.

Astrid sat a long time silent, thinking of what she had heard. But then
a smile came over her face. He forgot, did old Hjalte, that she had
suffered many trials, that she had learnt to laugh at pain. But
happiness, happiness, that she had never tried.

And Astrid rose and went to the opening of the tent. She saw the angry
Bard's ship. She thought that far, far away she could see Iceland,
shrouded in mist, welcoming her much-travelled son with cold and
darkness.


III

A sunny day late in the harvest, not a cloud in the sky; a day when one
thinks the fair sun will give to the earth all the light she possesses!
The fair sun is like a mother whose son is about to set out for a
far-off land, and who, in the hour of the leave-taking, cannot take her
eyes from the beloved.

In the long valley where Kungahälla lies there is a row of small hills
covered with beech-wood. And now at harvest-time the trees have garbed
themselves in such splendid raiment that one's heart is gladdened. One
would almost think that the trees were going a-wooing. It looks as if
they had clothed themselves in gold and scarlet to win a rich bride by
their splendour.

The large island of Hisingen, on the other side of the river, had also
adorned itself. But Hisingen is covered with golden-white birch-trees.
At Hisingen the trees are clad in light colours, as if they are little
maidens in bridal attire.

But up the river, which comes rushing down towards the ocean as proudly
and wildly as if the harvest rain had filled it with frothy wine, there
passes the one ship after the other, rowing homewards. And when the
ships approach Kungahälla they hoist new white sails, instead of the old
ones of gray wadmal; and one cannot help thinking of old fairy-tales of
kings' sons who go out seeking adventures clothed in rags, but who throw
them off when they again enter the King's lofty hall.

But all the people of Kungahälla have assembled at the landing-stages.
Old and young are busy unloading goods from the ships. They fill the
storehouses with salt and train-oil, with costly weapons, and
many-coloured rugs. They haul large and small vessels on to land, they
question the returned seamen about their voyage. But suddenly all work
ceases, and every eye is turned towards the river.

Right between the big merchant vessels a large galley is making its way,
and people ask each other in astonishment who it can be that carries
sails striped with purple and a golden device on the prow; they wonder
what kind of ship it can be that comes flying over the waves like a
bird. They praise the oarsmen, who handle the oars so evenly that they
flash along the sides of the ship like an eagle's wings.

'It must be the Swedish Princess who is coming,' they say. 'It must be
the beautiful Princess Ingegerd, for whom Olaf Haraldsson has been
waiting the whole summer and harvest.'

And the women hasten down to the riverside to see the Princess when she
rows past them on her way to the King's Landing-Stage. Men and boys run
to the ships, or climb the roofs of the boathouses.

When the women see the Princess standing in gorgeous apparel, they begin
to shout to her, and to greet her with words of welcome; and every man
who sees her radiant face tears his cap from his head and swings it high
in the air. But on the King's Landing-Stage stands King Olaf himself,
and when he sees the Princess his face beams with gladness, and his eyes
light up with tender love.

And as it is now so late in the year that all the flowers are faded, the
young maidens pluck the golden-red autumnal leaves from the trees and
strew them on the bridge and in the street; and they hasten to deck
their houses with the bright berries of the mountain-ash and the
dark-red leaves of the poplar.

The Princess, who stands high on the ship, sees the people waving and
greeting her in welcome. She sees the golden-red leaves over which she
shall walk, and foremost on the landing-stage she sees the King awaiting
her with smiles. And the Princess forgets everything she would have said
and confessed. She forgets that she is not Ingegerd, she forgets
everything except the one thing, that she is to be the wife of Olaf
Haraldsson.

       *       *       *       *       *

One Sunday Olaf Haraldsson was seated at table, and his beautiful Queen
sat by his side. He was talking eagerly with her, resting his elbow on
the table, and turning towards her, so that he could see her face. But
when Astrid spoke the King lowered his eyes in order not to think of
anything but her lovely voice, and when she had been speaking for a long
time he began to cut the table with his knife without thinking of what
he was doing. All King Olaf's men knew that he would not have done this
if he had remembered that it was Sunday; but they had far too great a
respect for King Olaf to venture to remind him that he was committing a
sin.

The longer Astrid talked, the more uneasy became his henchmen. The Queen
saw that they exchanged troubled glances with each other, but she did
not understand what was the matter.

All had finished eating, and the food had been removed, but King Olaf
still sat and talked with Astrid and cut the top of the table. A whole
little heap of chips lay in front of him. Then at last his friend Björn,
the son of Ogur from Selö, spoke.

'What day is it to-morrow, Eilif?' he asked, turning to one of the
torch-bearers.

'To-morrow is Monday,' answered Eilif in a loud and clear voice.

Then the King lifted his head and looked up at Eilif.

'Dost thou say that to-morrow is Monday?' he asked thoughtfully.

Without saying another word, the King gathered up all the chips he had
cut off the table into his hand, went to the fireplace, seized a burning
coal, and laid it on the chips, which soon caught fire. The King stood
quite still and let them burn to ashes in his hand. Then all the
henchmen rejoiced, but the young Queen grew pale as death.

'What sentence will he pronounce over me when he one day finds out my
sin,' she thought, 'he who punishes himself so hardly for so slight an
offence?'

       *       *       *       *       *

Agge from Gardarike lay sick on board his galley in Kungahälla harbour.
He was lying in the narrow hold awaiting death. He had been suffering
for a long time from pains in his foot, and now there was an open sore,
and in the course of the last few hours it had begun to turn black.

'Thou needest not die, Agge,' said Lodulf from Kunghälla, who had come
on board to see his sick friend. 'Dost thou not know that King Olaf is
here in the town, and that God, on account of his piety and holiness,
has given him power to heal the sick? Send a message to him and ask him
to come and lay his hand upon thee, and thou wilt recover.'

'No, I cannot ask help from him,' answered Agge. 'Olaf Haraldsson hates
me because I have slain his foster-brother, Reor the White. If he knew
that my ship lay in the harbour, he would send his men to kill me.'

But when Lodulf had left Agge and gone into the town, he met the young
Queen, who had been in the forest gathering nuts.

'Queen,' Lodulf cried to her, 'say this to King Olaf: "Agge from
Gardarike, who has slain thy foster-brother, lies at the point of death
on his ship in the harbour."'

The young Queen hastened home and went immediately up to King Olaf, who
stood in the courtyard smoothing the mane of his horse.

'Rejoice, King Olaf!' she said. 'Agge from Gardarike, who slew thy
foster-brother, lies sick on his ship in the harbour and is near death.'

Olaf Haraldsson at once led his horse into the stable; then he went out
without sword or helmet. He went quickly down one of the narrow lanes
between the houses until he reached the harbour. There he found the ship
which belonged to Agge. The King was at the side of the sick man before
Agge's men thought of stopping him.

'Agge,' said King Olaf, 'many a time I have pursued thee on the sea, and
thou hast always escaped me. Now thou hast been struck down with
sickness here in my city. This is a sign to me that God hath given thy
life into my hands.'

Agge made no answer. He was utterly feeble, and death was very near.
Olaf Haraldsson laid his hands upon his breast and prayed to God.

'Give me the life of this mine enemy,' he said.

But the Queen, who had seen the King hasten down to the harbour without
helmet and sword, went into the hall, fetched his weapons and called for
some of his men. Then she hurried after him down to the ship. But when
she stood outside the narrow hold, she heard King Olaf praying for the
sick man.

Astrid looked in and saw the King and Agge without betraying her
presence. She saw that whilst the King's hands rested upon the forehead
and breast of the dying man, the deathly pallor vanished from his face;
he began to breathe lightly and quietly; he ceased moaning, and at last
he fell into a sound sleep.

Astrid went softly back to the King's Castle. She dragged the King's
sword after her along the road. Her face was paler than the dying man's
had been. Her breathing was heavy, like that of a dying person.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was the morning of All Saints' Day, and King Olaf was ready to go to
Mass. He came out of the King's Hall and went across the courtyard
towards the gateway. Several of the King's henchmen stood in the
courtyard to accompany him to Mass. When the King came towards them,
they drew up in two rows, and the King passed between them.

Astrid stood in the narrow corridor outside the Women's Room and looked
down at the King. He wore a broad golden band round his head, and was
attired in a long mantle of red velvet. He went very quietly, and there
was a holy peace over his face. Astrid was terrified to see how much he
resembled the Saints and Kings that were carved in wood over the altar
in the Marie Church.

At the gateway stood a man in a broad-brimmed hat, and wearing a big
mantle. When the King approached him he threw off his mantle, lifted a
drawn sword, which he had hidden under it, and rushed at the King. But
when he was quite close to him, the mild and gentle glance of the King
fell upon him, and he suddenly stopped. He let his sword fall to the
ground, and fell on his knees.

King Olaf stood still, and looked at the man with the same clear glance;
the man tried to turn his eyes away from him, but he could not. At last
he burst into tears and sobs.

'Oh, King Olaf! King Olaf!' he moaned. 'Thine enemies sent me hither to
slay thee; but when I saw thy saintly face my sword fell from my hand.
Thine eyes, King Olaf, have felled me to the ground.'

Astrid sank upon her knees where she stood.

'Oh God, have mercy upon me, a sinner!' she said. 'Woe unto me, because
by lying and deceit I have become the wife of this man.'


IV

On the evening of All Saints' Day the moon shone bright and clear. The
King had gone the round of the castle, had looked into stables and barns
to see that all was well; he had even been to the house where the serfs
dwelt to ascertain if they were well looked after. When he went back to
the King's Hall, he saw a woman with a black kerchief over her head
stealing towards the gateway. He thought he knew her, and therefore
followed her. She went out of the gateway, over the Market Place, and
stole down the narrow lanes to the river.

Olaf Haraldsson went after her as quietly as he could. He saw her go on
to one of the landing-stages, stand still, and look down into the water.
She stretched out her arms towards heaven, and, with a deep sigh, she
went so near the edge that the King saw she meant to spring into the
river.

The King approached her with the noiseless steps which a life full of
danger had taught him. Twice the woman lifted her foot to make the
spring, but she hesitated. Before she could make a new attempt, King
Olaf had his arm round her waist and drew her back.

'Thou unhappy one!' he said. 'Thou wouldest do that which God hath
prohibited.'

When the woman heard his voice she held her hands before her face as if
to hide it. But King Olaf knew who she was. The rustle of her dress, the
shape of her head, the golden rings on her arms had already told him
that it was the Queen. The first moment Astrid had struggled to free
herself, but she soon grew quiet, and tried to make the King believe
that she had not intended to kill herself.

'King Olaf, why dost thou secretly come behind a poor woman who hath
gone down to the river to see how she is mirrored in the water? What
must I think of thee?'

Astrid's voice sounded composed and playful. The King stood silent.

'Thou hast frightened me so that I nearly fell into the river,' Astrid
said. 'Didst thou think, perhaps, that I would drown myself?'

The King answered:

'I know not what to believe; God will enlighten me.'

Astrid laughed and kissed him.

'What woman would take her life who is as happy as I am? Doth one take
one's life in Paradise?'

'I do not understand it,' said King Olaf, in his gentle manner. 'God
will enlighten me. He will tell me if it be through any fault of mine
that thou wouldest commit so great a sin.'

Astrid went up to him and stroked his cheek. The reverence she felt for
King Olaf had hitherto deterred her from showing him the full tenderness
of her love. Now she threw her arms passionately around him and kissed
him countless times. Then she began to speak to him in gentle, bird-like
tones.

'Wouldest thou know how truly my heart clings to thee?' she said.

She made the King sit down on an overturned boat. She knelt down at his
feet.

'King Olaf,' she said, 'I will no longer be Queen. She who loves as
greatly as I love thee cannot be a Queen. I wish thou wouldest go far
into the forest, and let me be thy bondwoman. Then I should have leave
to serve thee every day. Then I would prepare thy food, make thy bed,
and watch over thy house whilst thou slept. None other should have leave
to serve thee, except I. When thou returnest from the chase in the
evening, I would go to meet thee, and kneel before thee on the road and
say: "King Olaf, my life is thine." And thou wouldest laugh, and lower
thy spear against my breast, and say: "Yes, thy life is mine. Thou hast
neither father nor mother; thou art mine, and thy life is mine."'

As Astrid said this, she drew, as if in play, King Olaf's sword out of
its sheath. She laid the hilt in the King's hand, but the point she
directed towards her own heart.

'Say these words to me, King Olaf,' she said, 'as if we were alone in
the forest, and I were thy bondwoman. Say: "Thy life is mine."'

'Thy life is God's,' said the King.

Astrid laughed lightly.

'My life is thine,' she repeated, in the tenderest voice, and the same
moment King Olaf felt that she pressed the point of the sword against
her breast.

But the King held the sword with a firm hand, even when in play. He drew
it to him before Astrid had time to do herself any harm. And he sprang
up. For the first time in his life he trembled from fear. The Queen
would die at his hand, and she had not been far from attaining her wish.
At the same moment he had an inspiration, and he understood what was the
cause of her despair.

'She has committed a sin,' he thought. 'She has a sin upon her
conscience.'

He bent down over Astrid.

'Tell me in what manner thou hast sinned,' he said.

Astrid had thrown herself down on the rough planks of the bridge, crying
in utter despair.

'No one free from guilt would weep like this,' thought the King. 'But
how can the honourable daughter of the King have brought such a heavy
burden upon her?' he asked himself. 'How can the noble Ingegerd have a
crime upon her conscience?'

'Ingegerd, tell me how thou hast sinned,' he asked again.

But Astrid was sobbing so violently that she could not answer, but
instead she drew off her golden arm and finger rings, and handed them to
the King with averted face. The King thought how unlike this was to the
gentle King's daughter of whom Hjalte had spoken.

'Is this Hjalte's Ingegerd that lies sobbing at my feet?' he thought.

He bent down and seized Astrid by the shoulder.

'Who are thou? who art thou?' he said, shaking her arm. 'I see that thou
canst not be Ingegerd. Who art thou?'

Astrid was still sobbing so violently that she could not speak. But in
order to give the King the answer he asked for, she let down her long
hair, twisted a lock of it round her arms, and held them towards the
King, and sat thus bowed and with drooping head. The King thought:

'She wishes me to understand that she belongs to those who wear chains.
She confesses that she is a bondwoman.'

A thought again struck the King; he now understood everything.

'Has not the Svea-King a daughter who is the child of a bondwoman?' he
asked suddenly.

He received no answer to this question either, but he heard Astrid
shudder as if from cold. King Olaf asked still one more question.

'Thou whom I have made my wife,' he said, 'hast thou so low a mind that
thou wouldest allow thyself to be used as a means of spoiling a man's
honour? Is thy mind so mean that thou rejoicest when his enemies laugh
at his discomfiture?'

Astrid could hear from the King's voice how bitterly he suffered under
the insult that had been offered him. She forgot her own sufferings, and
wept no more.

'Take my life,' she said.

A great temptation came upon King Olaf.

'Slay this wicked bondwoman,' the old Adam said within him. 'Show the
Svea-King what it costs to make a fool of the King of Norway.'

At that moment Olaf Haraldsson felt no love for Astrid. He hated her for
having been the means of his humiliation. He knew everybody would think
it right when he returned evil for evil, and if he did not avenge this
insult, he would be held in derision by the Bards, and his enemies would
no longer fear him. He had but one wish: to slay Astrid, to take her
life. His anger was so violent that it craved for blood. If a fool had
dared to put his fool's cap upon his head, would he not have torn it
off, torn it to pieces, thrown it on the ground, trampled upon it? If he
now laid Astrid a bloody corpse upon her ship, and sent her back to her
father, people would say of King Olaf that he was a worthy descendant of
Harald Haarfager.

But King Olaf still held his sword in his hand, and under his fingers he
felt the hilt, upon which he had once had inscribed: 'Blessed are the
peacemakers,' 'Blessed are the meek,' 'Blessed are the merciful.' And
every time he, in this hour of anguish, grasped his sword firmly in
order to slay Astrid, he felt these words under his hand. He thought he
could feel every letter. He remembered the day when he had first heard
these words.

'This I will write in letters of gold on the hilt of my sword,' he had
said, 'so that the words may burn in my hand every time I would swing my
sword in fury, or for an unjust cause.'

He felt that the hilt of the sword now burnt in his hand. King Olaf said
aloud to himself:

'Formerly thou wert the slave of many lusts; now thou hast but one
master, and that is God.'

With these words he put back the sword into its sheath, and began to
walk to and fro on the bridge. Astrid remained lying in the same
position. King Olaf saw that she crouched in fear of death every time he
went past her.

'I will not slay thee,' he said; but his voice sounded hard from hatred.

King Olaf continued for awhile to walk backwards and forwards on the
bridge; then he went up to Astrid, and asked her in the same hard voice
what her real name was, and that she was able to answer him. He looked
at this woman whom he had so highly treasured, and who now lay at his
feet like a wounded deer--he looked down upon her as a dead man's soul
looks with pity at the poor body which was once its dwelling.

'Oh, thou my soul,' said King Olaf, 'it was there thou dwelt in love,
and now thou art as homeless as a beggar.' He drew nearer to Astrid,
and spoke as if she were no longer living or could hear what he said.
'It was told me that there was a King's daughter whose heart was so pure
and holy that she endued with peace all who came near her. They told me
of her gentleness, that he who saw her felt as safe as a helpless child
does with its mother, and when the beautiful woman who now lies here
came to me, I thought that she was Ingegerd, and she became exceeding
dear to me. She was so beautiful and glad, and she made my own heavy
thoughts light. And did she sometimes act otherwise than I expected the
proud Ingegerd to do, she was too dear to me to doubt her; she stole
into my heart with her joyousness and beauty.'

He was silent for a time, and thought how dear Astrid had been to him
and how happiness had with her come to his house.

'I could forgive her,' he said aloud. 'I could again make her my Queen,
I could in love take her in my arms; but I _dare_ not, for my soul would
still be homeless. Ah, thou fair woman,' he said, 'why dost lying dwell
within thee? With thee there is no security, no rest.'

The King went on bemoaning himself, but now Astrid stood up.

'King Olaf, do not speak thus to me,' she said; 'I will rather die.
Understand, I am in earnest.'

Then she tried to say a few words to excuse herself. She told him that
she had gone to Kungahälla not with the intention of deceiving him, but
in order to be a Princess for a few weeks, to be waited upon like a
Queen, to sail on the sea. But she had intended to confess who she was
as soon as she came to Kungahälla. There she expected to find Hjalte and
the other great men who knew Ingegerd. She had never thought of
deceiving him when she came, but an evil spirit had sent all those away
who knew Ingegerd, and then the temptation had come to her.

'When I saw thee, King Olaf,' she said, 'I forgot everything to become
thine, and I thought I would gladly suffer death at thine hand had I but
for one day been thy wife.'

King Olaf answered her:

'I see that what was deadly earnest to me was but a pastime to thee.
Never hast thou thought upon what it was to come and say to a man: "I am
she whom thou most fervently desirest; I am that high-born maiden whom
it is the greatest honour to win." And then thou art not that woman;
thou art but a lying bondwoman.'

'I have loved thee from the first moment I heard thy name,' Astrid said
softly.

The King clenched his hand in anger against her.

'Know, Astrid, that I have longed for Ingegerd as no man has ever longed
for woman. I would have clung to her as the soul of the dead clings to
the angel bearing him upwards. I thought she was so pure that she could
have helped me to lead a sinless life.'

And he broke out into wild longings, and said that he longed for the
power of the holy ones of God, but that he was too weak and sinful to
attain to perfection.

'But the King's daughter could have helped me,' he said; 'she the
saintly and gentle one would have helped me. Oh, my God,' he said,
'whichever way I turn I see sinners, wherever I go I meet those who
would entice me to sin. Why didst Thou not send me the King's daughter,
who had not a single evil thought in her heart? Her gentle eye would
have found the right path for my foot. Whenever I strayed from it her
gentle hand would have led me back.'

A feeling of utter helplessness and the weariness of despair fell upon
Olaf Haraldsson.

'It was this upon which I had set my hopes,' he said--'to have a good
woman at my side, not to wander alone amongst wickedness and sin
forever. Now I feel that I must succumb; I am unable to fight any
longer. Have I not asked God,' he exclaimed, 'what place I shall have
before His face? To what hast Thou chosen me, Thou Lord of souls? Is it
appointed unto me to become the equal of apostles and martyrs? But now,
Astrid, I need ask no longer; God hath not been willing to give me that
woman who should have assisted me in my wandering. Now I know that I
shall never win the crown of the Saints.'

The King was silent in inconsolable despair; then Astrid drew nearer to
him.

'King Olaf,' she said, 'what thou now sayest both Hjalte and Ingegerd
have told me long ago, but I would not believe that thou wert more than
a good and brave knight and noble King. It is only now that I have
lived under thy roof that my soul has begun to fear thee. I have felt
that it was worse than death to appear before thee with a lie upon my
lips. Never have I been so terrified,' Astrid continued, 'as when I
understood that thou wast a Saint. When I saw thee burn the chips in
thine hand, when I saw sickness flee at thy bidding, and the sword fall
out of thine enemy's hand when he met thee, I was terrified unto death
when I saw that thou wast a Saint, and I resolved to die before thou
knewest that I had deceived thee.'

King Olaf did not answer. Astrid looked up at him; she saw that his eyes
were turned towards heaven. She did not know if he had heard her.

'Ah,' she said, 'this moment have I feared every day and every hour
since I came hither. I would have died rather than live through it.'

Olaf Haraldsson was still silent.

'King Olaf,' she said, 'I would gladly give my life for thee; I would
gladly throw myself into the gray river so that thou shouldst not live
with a lying woman at thy side. The more I saw of thy holiness the
better I understood that I must go from thee. A Saint of God cannot have
a lying bondwoman at his side.'

The King was still silent, but now Astrid raised her eyes to his face;
then she cried out, terror-stricken:

'King Olaf, thy face shines.'

Whilst Astrid spoke, God had shown King Olaf a vision. He saw all the
stars of heaven leave their appointed places, and fly like swarming
bees about the universe. But suddenly they all gathered above his head
and formed a radiant crown.

'Astrid,' said he, with trembling voice, 'God hath spoken to me. It is
true what thou sayest. I shall become a Saint of God.'

His voice trembled from emotion, and his face shone in the night. But
when Astrid saw the light that surrounded his head, she arose. For her
the last hope had faded.

'Now I will go,' she said. 'Now thou knowest whom thou art. Thou canst
never more bear me at thy side. But think gently of me. Without joy or
happiness have I lived all my life. In rags have I gone; blows have I
endured. Forgive me when I am gone. My love has done thee no harm.'

When Astrid in silent despair crossed over the bridge, Olaf Haraldsson
awoke from his ecstasy. He hastened after her.

'Why wilt thou go?' he said. 'Why wilt thou go?'

'_Must_ I not go from thee when thou art a Saint?' she whispered
scarcely audibly.

'Thou shalt not go. Now thou canst remain,' said King Olaf. 'Before, I
was a lowly man and must fear all sin; a poor earthly King was I, too
poor to bestow on thee my grace; but now all the glory of Heaven has
been given to me. Art thou weak? I am the Lord's knight. Dost thou fall?
I can lift thee up. God hath chosen me, Astrid. Thou canst not harm me,
but I can help thee. Ah! what am I saying? In this hour God hath so
wholly and fully shed the riches of His love in my heart that I cannot
even see thou hast done wrong.'

Gently and tenderly he lifted up the trembling form, and whilst lovingly
supporting her, who was still sobbing and who could hardly stand
upright, he and Astrid went back to the King's Castle.



  _From a Swedish_ HOMESTEAD

                III

  _Old_ AGNETE



_Old_ AGNETE


An old woman went up the mountain-path with short, tripping steps. She
was little and thin. Her face was pale and wizened, but neither hard nor
furrowed. She wore a long cloak and a quilled cap. She had a Prayer-Book
in her hand and a sprig of lavender in her handkerchief.

She lived in a hut far up the high mountain where no trees could grow.
It was lying quite close to the edge of a broad glacier, which sent its
river of ice from the snow-clad mountain peak into the depths of the
valley. There she lived quite alone. All those who had belonged to her
were dead.

It was Sunday, and she had been to church. But whatever might be the
cause, her going there had not made her happy, but sorrowful. The
clergyman had spoken about death and the doomed, and that had affected
her. She had suddenly begun to think of how she had heard in her
childhood that many of the doomed were tormented in the region of
eternal cold on the mountain right above her dwelling. She could
remember many tales about these wanderers of the glaciers--these
indefatigable shadows which were hunted from place to place by the icy
mountain winds.

All at once she felt a great terror of the mountain, and thought that
her hut was dreadfully high up. Supposing those who moved about
invisibly there wandered down the glaciers! And she who was quite alone!
The word 'alone' gave to her thoughts a still sadder turn. She again
felt the full burden of that sorrow which never left her. She thought
how hard it was to be so far away from human beings.

'Old Agnete,' she said aloud to herself, as she had got into the habit
of doing in the lonely waste, 'you sit in your hut and spin, and spin.
You work and toil all the hours of the day so as not to perish from
hunger. But is there anyone to whom you give any pleasure by being
alive? Is there anyone, old Agnete? If any of your own were
living----Yes, then, perhaps, if you lived nearer the village, you might
be of some use to somebody. Poor as you are, you could neither take dog
nor cat home to you, but you could probably now and then give a beggar
shelter. You ought not to live so far away from the highroad, old
Agnete. If you could only once in a while give a thirsty wayfarer a
drink, then you would know that it was of some use your being alive.'

She sighed, and said to herself that not even the peasant women who gave
her flax to spin would mourn her death. She had certainly striven to do
her work honestly and well, but no doubt there were many who could have
done it better. She began to cry bitterly, when the thought struck her
that his reverence, who had seen her sitting in the same place in church
for so many, many years, would perhaps think it a matter of perfect
indifference whether she was dead or not.

'It is as if I were dead,' she said. 'No one asks after me. I would just
as well lie down and die. I am already frozen to death from cold and
loneliness. I am frozen to the core of the heart, I am indeed. Ah me! ah
me!' she said, now she had been set a-thinking; 'if there were only
someone who really needed me, there might still be a little warmth left
in old Agnete. But I cannot knit stockings for the mountain goats, or
make the beds for the marmots, can I? I tell Thee,' she said, stretching
our her hands towards heaven, 'something Thou must give me to do, or I
shall lay me down and die.'

At the same moment a tall, stern monk came towards her. He walked by her
side because he saw that she was sorrowful, and she told him about her
troubles. She said that her heart was nearly frozen to death, and that
she would become like one of the wanderers on the glacier if God did not
give her something to live for.

'God will assuredly do that,' said the monk.

'Do you not see that God is powerless here?' old Agnete said. 'Here
there is nothing but an empty, barren waste.'

They went higher and higher towards the snow mountains. The moss spread
itself softly over the stones; the Alpine herbs, with their velvety
leaves, grew along the pathway; the mountain, with its rifts and
precipices, its glaciers and snow-drifts, towered above them, weighing
them down. Then the monk discovered old Agnete's hut, right below the
glacier.

'Oh,' he said, 'is it there you live? Then you are not alone there; you
have company enough. Only look!'

The monk put his thumb and first finger together, held them before old
Agnete's left eye, and bade her look through them towards the mountain.
But old Agnete shuddered and closed her eyes.

'If there is anything to see up there, then I will not look on any
account,' she said. 'The Lord preserve us! it is bad enough without
that.'

'Good-bye, then,' said the monk; 'it is not certain that you will be
permitted to see such a thing a second time.'

Old Agnete grew curious; she opened her eyes and looked towards the
glacier. At first she saw nothing remarkable, but soon she began to
discern things moving about. What she had taken to be mist and vapour,
or bluish-white shadows on the ice, were multitudes of doomed souls,
tormented in the eternal cold.

Poor old Agnete trembled like an aspen leaf. Everything was just as she
had heard it described in days gone by. The dead wandered about there in
endless anguish and pain. Most of them were shrouded in something long
and white, but all had their faces and their hands bared.

They could not be counted, there was such a multitude. The longer she
looked, the more there appeared. Some walked proud and erect, others
seemed to dance over the glacier; but she saw that they all cut their
feet on the sharp and jagged edges of the ice.

It was just as she had been told. She saw how they constantly huddled
close together, as if to warm themselves, but immediately drew back
again, terrified by the deathly cold which emanated from their bodies.

It was as if the cold of the mountain came from them, as if it were they
who prevented the snow from melting and made the mist so piercingly
cold.

They were not all moving; some stood in icy stoniness, and it looked as
if they had been standing thus for years, for ice and snow had gathered
around them so that only the upper portion of their bodies could be
seen.

The longer the little old woman gazed the quieter she grew. Fear left
her, and she was only filled with sorrow for all these tormented beings.
There was no abatement in their pain, no rest for their torn feet,
hurrying over ice sharp as edged steel. And how cold they were! how they
shivered! how their teeth chattered from cold! Those who were petrified
and those who could move, all suffered alike from the snarling, biting,
unbearable cold.

There were many young men and women; but there was no youth in their
faces, blue with cold. It looked as if they were playing, but all joy
was dead. They shivered, and were huddled up like old people.

But those who made the deepest impression on her were those frozen fast
in the hard glacier, and those who were hanging from the mountain-side
like great icicles.

Then the monk removed his hand, and old Agnete saw only the barren,
empty glaciers. Here and there were ice-mounds, but they did not
surround any petrified ghosts. The blue light on the glacier did not
proceed from frozen bodies; the wind chased the snowflakes before it,
but not any ghosts.

Still old Agnete was certain that she had really seen all this, and she
asked the monk:

'Is it permitted to do anything for these poor doomed ones?'

He answered:

'When has God forbidden Love to do good or Mercy to solace?'

Then the monk went his way, and old Agnete went to her hut and thought
it all over. The whole evening she pondered how she could help the
doomed who were wandering on the glaciers. For the first time in many
years she had been too busy to think of her loneliness.

Next morning she again went down to the village. She smiled, and was
well content. Old age was no longer so heavy a burden. 'The dead,' she
said to herself, 'do not care so much about red cheeks and light steps.
They only want one to think of them with a little warmth. But young
people do not trouble to do that. Oh no, oh no. How should the dead
protect themselves from the terrible coldness of death did not old
people open their hearts to them?

When she came to the village shop she bought a large package of candles,
and from a peasant she ordered a great load of firewood; but in order to
pay for it she had to take in twice as much spinning as usual.

Towards evening, when she got home again, she said many prayers, and
tried to keep up her courage by singing hymns. But her courage sank more
and more. All the same, she did what she had made up her mind to do.

She moved her bed into the inner room of her hut. In the front room she
made a big fire and lighted it. In the window she placed two candles,
and left the outer door wide open. Then she went to bed.

She lay in the darkness and listened.

Yes, there certainly was a step. It was as if someone had come gliding
down the glacier. It came heavily, moaning. It crept round the hut as if
it dared not come in. Close to the wall it stood and shivered.

Old Agnete could not bear it any longer. She sprang out of bed, went
into the outer room and closed the door. It was too much; flesh and
blood could not stand it.

Outside the hut she heard deep sighs and dragging steps, as of sore,
wounded feet. They dragged themselves away further and further up the
icy glacier. Now and again she also heard sobs; but soon everything was
quiet.

Then old Agnete was beside herself with anxiety. 'You are a coward, you
silly old thing,' she said. 'Both the fire and the lights, which cost so
much, are burning out. Shall it all have been done in vain because you
are such a miserable coward?' And when she had said this she got out of
bed again, crying from fear, with chattering teeth, and shivering all
over; but into the other room she went, and the door she opened.

Again she lay and waited. Now she was no longer frightened that they
should come. She was only afraid lest she had scared them away, and that
they dared not come back.

And as she lay there in the darkness she began to call just as she used
to do in her young days when she was tending the sheep.

'My little white lambs, my lambs in the mountains, come, come! Come down
from rift and precipice, my little white lambs!'

Then it seemed as if a cold wind from the mountain came rushing into the
room. She heard neither step nor sob, only gusts of wind that came
rushing along the walls of the hut into the room. And it sounded as if
someone were continually saying:

'Hush, hush! Don't frighten her! don't frighten her! don't frighten
her!'

She had a feeling as if the outside room was so overcrowded that they
were being crushed against the walls, and that the walls were giving
way. Sometimes it seemed as if they would lift the roof in order to gain
more room. But the whole time there were whispers:

'Hush, hush! Don't frighten her! don't frighten her!'

Then old Agnete felt happy and peaceful. She folded her hands and fell
asleep. In the morning it seemed as if the whole had been a dream.
Everything looked as usual in the outer room; the fire had burnt out,
and so had the candles. There was not a vestige of tallow left in the
candlesticks.

As long as old Agnete lived she continued to do this. She spun and
worked so that she could keep her fire burning every night. And she was
happy because someone needed her.

Then one Sunday she was not in her usual seat in the church. Two
peasants went up to her hut to see if there was anything the matter. She
was already dead, and they carried her body down to the village to bury
it.

When, the following Sunday, her funeral took place, just before Mass,
there were but few who followed, neither did one see grief on any face.
But suddenly, just as the coffin was being lowered into the grave, a
tall, stern monk came into the churchyard, and he stood still and
pointed to the snow-clad mountains. Then they saw the whole
mountain-ridge shining in a red light as if lighted with joy, and round
it wound a procession of small yellow flames, looking like burning
candles. And these flames numbered as many as the candles which old
Agnete had burned for the doomed. Then people said: 'Praise the Lord!
She whom no one mourns here below has all the same found friends in the
solitude above.'



  _From a Swedish_ HOMESTEAD

                IV

  _The Fisherman's_ RING



_The Fisherman's_ RING


During the reign of the Doge Gradenigos there lived in Venice an old
fisherman, Cecco by name. He had been an unusually strong man, and was
still very strong for his age, but lately he had given up work and left
it to his two sons to provide for him. He was very proud of his sons,
and he loved them--ah, signor, how he loved them!

Fate had so ordered it that their bringing up had been almost entirely
left to him. Their mother had died early, and so Cecco had to take care
of them. He had looked after their clothes and cooked their food; he had
sat in the boat with needle and cotton and mended and darned. He had not
cared in the least that people had laughed at him on that account. He
had also, quite alone, taught them all it was necessary for them to
know. He had made a couple of able fishermen of them, and taught them to
honour God and San Marco.

'Always remember,' he said to them, 'that Venice will never be able to
stand in her own strength. Look at her! Has she not been built on the
waves? Look at the low islands close to land, where the sea plays
amongst the seaweed. You would not venture to tread upon them, and yet
it is upon such foundation that the whole city rests. And do you not
know that the north wind has strength enough to throw both churches and
palaces into the sea? Do you not know that we have such powerful
enemies, that all the princes in Christendom cannot vanquish them?
Therefore you must always pray to San Marco, for in his strong hands
rests the chains which hold Venice suspended over the depths of the
sea.'

And in the evening, when the moon shed its light over Venice,
greenish-blue from the sea-mist; when they quietly glided up the Canale
Grande and the gondolas they met were full of singers; when the palaces
shone in their white splendour, and thousands of lights mirrored
themselves in the dark waters--then he always reminded them that they
must thank San Marco for life and happiness.

But oh, signor! he did not forget him in the daytime either. When they
returned from fishing and glided over the water of the lagoons,
light-blue and golden; when the city lay before them, swimming on the
waves; when the great ships passed in and out of the harbour, and the
palace of the Doges shone like a huge jewel-casket, holding all the
world's treasure--then he never forgot to tell them that all these
things were the gift of San Marco, and that they would all vanish if a
single Venetian were ungrateful enough to give up believing in and
adoring him.

Then, one day, the sons went out fishing on the open sea, outside Lido.
They were in company with several others, had a splendid vessel, and
intended being away several days. The weather was fine, and they hoped
for a goodly haul.

They left the Rialto, the large island where the city proper lies, one
early morning, and as they passed through the lagoons they saw all the
islands which, like fortifications, protect Venice against the sea,
appear through the mist of the morning. There were La Gindecca and San
Giorgio on the right, and San Michele, Muracco and San Lazzaro on the
left. Then island followed upon island in a large circle, right on to
the long Lido lying straight before them, and forming, as it were, the
clasp of this string of pearls. And beyond Lido was the wide, infinite
sea.

When they were well at sea, some of them got into a small boat and rowed
out to set their nets. It was still fine weather, although the waves
were higher here than inside the islands. None of them, however, dreamt
of any danger. They had a good boat and were experienced men. But soon
those left on the vessel saw that the sea and the sky suddenly grew
darker in the north. They understood that a storm was coming on, and
they at once shouted to their comrades, but they were already too far
away to hear them.

The wind first reached the small boat. When the fishermen suddenly saw
the waves rise around them, as herds of cattle on a large plain arise in
the morning, one of the men in the boat stood up and beckoned to his
comrades, but the same moment he fell backwards into the sea.
Immediately afterwards a wave came which raised the boat on her bows,
and one could see how the men, as it were, were shaken from off their
seats and flung into the sea. It only lasted a moment, and everything
had disappeared. Then the boat again appeared, keel upwards. The men in
the vessel tried to reach the spot, but could not tack against the wind.

It was a terrific storm which came rushing over the sea, and soon the
fishermen in the vessel had their work set to save themselves. They
succeeded in getting home safely, however, and brought with them the
news of the disaster. It was Cecco's two sons and three others who had
perished.

Ah me! how strangely things come about! The same morning Cecco had gone
down to the Rialto to the fish-market. He went about amongst the stands
and strutted about like a fine gentleman because he had no need to work.
He even invited a couple of old Lido fishermen to an asteri and stood
them a beaker of wine. He grew very important as he sat there and
bragged and boasted about his sons. His spirits rose high, and he took
out the zecchine--the one the Doge had given him when he had saved a
child from drowning in Canale Grande. He was very proud of this large
gold coin, carried it always about him, and showed it to people whenever
there was an opportunity.

Suddenly a man entered the asteri and began to tell about the disaster,
without noticing that Cecco was sitting there. But he had not been
speaking long before Cecco threw himself over him and seized him by the
throat.

'You do not dare to tell me that they are dead!' he shrieked--'not my
sons!'

The man succeeded in getting away from him, but Cecco for a long time
went on as if he were out of his mind. People heard him shout and groan;
they crowded into the asteri--as many as it could hold--and stood round
him in a circle as if he were a juggler.

Cecco sat on the floor and moaned. He hit the hard stone floor with his
fist, and said over and over again:

'It is San Marco, San Marco, San Marco!'

'Cecco, you have taken leave of your senses from grief,' they said to
him.

'I knew it would happen on the open sea,' Cecco said; 'outside Lido and
Malamocco, there, I knew it would happen. There San Marco would take
them. He bore them a grudge. I have feared it, boy. Yes,' he said,
without hearing what they said to quiet him, 'they once laughed at him,
once when we were lying outside Lido. He has not forgotten it; he will
not stand being laughed at.'

He looked with confused glances at the bystanders, as if to seek help.

'Look here, Beppo from Malamocca,' he said, stretching out his hand
towards a big fisherman, 'don't you believe it was San Marco?'

'Don't imagine any such thing, Cecco.'

'Now you shall hear, Beppo, how it happened. You see, we were lying out
at sea, and to while away the time I told them how San Marco had come to
Venice. The evangelist San Marco was first buried in a beautiful
cathedral at Alexandria in Egypt. But the town got into the possession
of unbelievers, and one day the Khalifa ordered that they should build
him a magnificent palace at Alexandria, and take some columns from the
Christian churches for its decoration. But just at that time there were
two Venetian merchants at Alexandria who had ten heavily-laden vessels
lying in the harbour. When these men entered the church where San Marco
was buried and heard the command of the Khalifa, they said to the
sorrowful priests: "The precious body which you have in your church may
be desecrated by the Saracens. Give it to us; we will honour it, for San
Marco was the first to preach on the Lagoon, and the Doge will reward
you." And the priests gave their consent, and in order that the
Christians of Alexandria should not object, the body of another holy man
was placed in the Evangelist's coffin. But to prevent the Saracens from
getting any news of the removal of the body, it was placed at the bottom
of a large chest, and above it were packed hams and smoked bacon, which
the Saracens could not endure. So when the Custom-house officers opened
the lid of the chest, they at once hurried away. The two merchants,
however, brought San Marco safely to Venice; you know, Beppo, that this
is what they say.'

'I do, Cecco.'

'Yes; but just listen now,' and Cecco half arose, and in his fear spoke
in a low voice. 'Something terrible now happened. When I told the boys
that the holy man had been hidden underneath the bacon, they burst out
laughing. I tried to hush them, but they only laughed the louder.
Giacomo was lying on his stomach in the bows, and Pietro sat with his
legs dangling outside the boat, and they both laughed so that it could
be heard far out over the sea.'

'But, Cecco, surely two children may be allowed to laugh.'

'But don't you understand that is where they have perished to-day--on
the very spot? Or can you understand why they should have lost their
lives on that spot?'

Now they all began to talk to him and comfort him. It was his grief
which made him lose his senses. This was not like San Marco. He would
not revenge himself upon two children. Was it not natural that when a
boat was caught in a storm this would happen on the open sea and not in
the harbour?

Surely his sons had not lived in enmity with San Marco. They had heard
them shout, '_Eviva San Marco!_' as eagerly as all the others, and had
he not protected them to this very day. He had never, during the years
that had passed, shown any sign of being angry with them.

'But, Cecco,' they said, 'you will bring misfortune upon us with your
talk about San Marco. You, who are an old man and a wise man, should
know better than to raise his anger against the Venetians. What are we
without him?'

Cecco sat and looked at them bewildered.

'Then you don't believe it?'

'No one in his senses would believe such a thing.'

It looked as if they had succeeded in quieting him.

'I will also try not to believe it,' he said. He rose and walked towards
the door. 'It would be too cruel, would it not?' he said. 'They were
too handsome and too brave for anyone to hate them; I will not believe
it.'

He went home, and in the narrow street outside his door he met an old
woman, one of his neighbours.

'They are reading a Mass in the cathedral for the souls of the dead,'
she said to Cecco, and hurried away. She was afraid of him; he looked so
strange.

Cecco took his boat and made his way through the small canals down to
Riva degli Schiavoni. There was a wide view from there; he looked
towards Lido and the sea. Yes, it was a hard wind, but not a storm by
any means; there were hardly any waves. And his sons had perished in
weather like this! It was inconceivable.

He fastened his boat, and went across the Piazetta and the Market Place
into San Marco. There were many people in the church, and they were all
kneeling and praying in great fear; for it is much more terrible for the
Venetians, you know, than any other people when there is a disaster at
sea. They do not get their living from vineyards or fields, but they are
all, everyone of them, dependent on the sea. Whenever the sea rose
against any one of them they were all afraid, and hurried to San Marco
to pray to him for protection.

As soon as Cecco entered the cathedral he stopped. He thought of how he
had brought his little sons there, and taught them to pray to San Marco.
'It is he who carries us over the sea, who opens the gates of Byzance
for us and gives us the supremacy over the islands of the East,' he
said to them. Out of gratitude for all this the Venetians had built San
Marco the most beautiful temple in the world, and no vessel ever
returned from a foreign port without bringing a gift for San Marco.

Then they had admired the red marble walls of the cathedral and the
golden mosaic ceiling. It was as if no misfortune could befall a city
that had such a sanctuary for her patron Saint.

Cecco quickly knelt down and began to pray, the one _Paternoster_ after
the other. It came back, he felt. He would send it away by prayers. He
would not believe anything bad about San Marco.

But it had been no storm at all. And so much was certain, that even if
the Saint had not sent the storm, he had, in any case, not done anything
to help Cecco's sons, but had allowed them to perish as if by accident.
When this thought came upon him he began to pray; but the thought would
not leave him.

And to think that San Marco had a treasury in this cathedral full of all
the glories of fairyland! To think that he had himself prayed to him all
his life, and had never rowed past the Piazetta without going into the
cathedral to invoke him!

Surely it was not by a mere accident that his sons had to-day perished
on the sea! Oh, it was miserable for the Venetians to have no one better
to depend upon! Just fancy a Saint who revenged himself upon two
children--a patron Saint who could not protect against a gust of wind!

He stood up, and he shrugged his shoulders, and disparagingly waved his
hand when he looked towards the tomb of the Saint in the chancel.

A verger was going about with a large chased silver-gilt dish,
collecting gifts for San Marco. He went from the one person to the
other, and also came to Cecco.

Cecco drew back as if it were the Evil One himself who handed him the
plate. Did San Marco ask for gifts from him? Did he think he deserved
gifts from him?

All at once he seized the large golden zecchine he had in his belt, and
flung it into the plate with such violence that the ring of it could be
heard all over the church. It disturbed those who were praying, and made
them turn round. And all who saw Cecco's face were terrified; he looked
as if he were possessed of evil spirits.

Cecco immediately left the church, and at first felt it as a great
relief that he had been revenged upon the Saint. He had treated him as
one treats a usurer who demands more than he is entitled to. 'Take this
too,' one says, and throws his last gold piece in the fellow's face so
that the blood runs down over his eyes. But the usurer does not strike
again--simply stoops and picks up the zecchine. So, too, had San Marco
done. He had accepted Cecco's zecchine, having first robbed him of his
sons. Cecco had made him accept a gift which had been tendered with such
bitter hatred. Would an honourable man have put up with such treatment?
But San Marco was a coward--both cowardly and revengeful. But he was not
likely to revenge himself upon Cecco. He was, no doubt, pleased and
thankful he had got the zecchine. He simply accepted it and pretended
that it had been given as piously as could be.

When Cecco stood at the entrance, two vergers quickly passed him.

'It rises--it rises terribly!' the one said.

'What rises?' asked Cecco.

'The water in the crypt. It has risen a foot in the last two or three
minutes.'

When Cecco went down the steps, he saw a small pool of water on the
Market Place close to the bottom step. It was sea-water, which had
splashed up from the Piazetta. He was surprised that the sea had risen
so high, and he hurried down to the Riva, where his boat lay. Everything
was as he had left it, only the water had risen considerably. It came
rolling in broad waves through the five sea-gates; but the wind was not
very strong. At the Riva there were already pools of sea-water, and the
canals rose so that the doors in the houses facing the water had to be
closed. The sky was all gray like the sea.

It never struck Cecco that it might grow into a serious storm. He would
not believe any such thing. San Marco had allowed his sons to perish
without cause. He felt sure this was no real storm. He would just like
to see if it would be a storm, and he sat down beside his boat and
waited.

Then suddenly rifts appeared in the dull-gray clouds which covered the
sky. The clouds were torn asunder and flung aside, and large
storm-clouds came rushing, black like warships, and from them scourging
rain and hail fell upon the city. And something like quite a new sea
came surging in from Lido. Ah, signor! they were not the swan-necked
waves you have seen out there, the waves that bend their transparent
necks and hasten towards the shore, and which, when they are pitilessly
repulsed, float away again with their white foam-hair dispersed over the
surface of the sea. These were dark waves, chasing each other in furious
rage, and over their tops the bitter froth of the sea was whipped into
mist.

The wind was now so strong that the seagulls could no longer continue
their quiet flight, but, shrieking, were thrust from their course. Cecco
soon saw them with much trouble making their way towards the sea, so as
not to be caught by the storm and flung against the walls. Hundreds of
pigeons on San Marco's square flew up, beating their wings, so that it
sounded like a new storm, and hid themselves away in all the nooks and
corners of the church roof.

But it was not the birds alone that were frightened by the storm. A
couple of gondolas had already got loose, and were thrown against the
shore, and were nearly shattered. And now all the gondoliers came
rushing to pull their boats into the boathouses, or place them in
shelter in the small canals.

The sailors on the ships lying in the harbour worked with the
anchor-chains to make the vessels fast, in order to prevent them
drifting on to the shore. They took down the clothes hanging up to dry,
pulled their long caps well over their foreheads, and began to collect
all the loose articles lying about in order to bring them below deck.
Outside Canale Grande a whole fishing-fleet came hurrying home. All the
people from Lido and Malamocco who had sold their goods at the Rialto
were rushing homewards, before the storm grew too violent.

Cecco laughed when he saw the fishermen bending over their oars and
straining themselves as if they were fleeing from death itself. Could
they not see that it was only a gust of wind? They could very well have
remained and given the Venetian women time to buy all their cattle,
fish, and crabs.

He was certainly not going to pull his boat into shelter, although the
storm was now violent enough for any ordinary man to have taken notice
of it. The floating bridges were lifted up high and cast on to the
shore, whilst the washerwomen hurried home shrieking. The broad-brimmed
hats of the signors were blown off into the canals, from whence the
street-boys fished them out with great glee. Sails were torn from the
masts, and fluttered in the air with a cracking sound; children were
knocked down by the strong wind; and the clothes hanging on the lines in
the narrow streets were torn to rags and carried far away.

Cecco laughed at the storm--a storm which drove the birds away, and
played all sorts of pranks in the street, like a boy. But, all the same,
he pulled his boat under one of the arches of the bridge. One could
really not allow what that wind might take it into its head to do.

In the evening Cecco thought that it would have been fun to have been
out at sea. It would have been splendid sailing with such a fresh wind.
But on shore it was unpleasant. Chimneys were blown down; the roofs of
the boathouses were lifted right off; it rained tiles from the houses
into the canals; the wind shook the doors and the window-shutters,
rushed in under the open loggias of the palaces and tore off the
decorations.

Cecco held out bravely, but he did not go home to bed. He could not take
the boat home with him, so it was better to remain and look after it.
But when anyone went by and said that it was terrible weather he would
not admit it. He had experienced very different weather in his young
days.

'Storm!' he said to himself--'call this a storm? And they think,
perhaps, that it began the same moment I threw the zecchine to San
Marco. As if he can command a real storm!'

When night came the wind and the sea grew still more violent, so that
Venice trembled in her foundations. Doge Gradenigo and the Gentlemen of
the High Council went in the darkness of the night to San Marco to pray
for the city. Torch-bearers went before them, and the flames were spread
out by the wind, so that they lay flat, like pennants. The wind tore the
Doge's heavy brocade gown, so that two men were obliged to hold it.

Cecco thought this was the most remarkable thing he had ever seen--Doge
Gradenigo going himself to the cathedral on account of this bit of a
wind! What would those people have done if there had been a real storm?

The waves beat incessantly against the bulwarks. In the darkness of the
night it was as if white-headed wresters sprang up from the deep, and
with teeth and claws clung fast to the piles to tear them loose from the
shore. Cecco fancied he could hear their angry snorts when they were
hurled back again. But he shuddered when he heard them come again and
again, and tear in the bulwarks.

It seemed to him that the storm was far more terrible in the night. He
heard shouts in the air, and that was not the wind. Sometimes black
clouds came drifting like a whole row of heavy galleys, and it seemed as
if they advanced to make an assault on the city. Then he heard
distinctly someone speaking in one of the riven clouds over his head.

'Things look bad for Venice now,' it said from the one cloud. 'Soon our
brothers the evil spirits will come and overthrow the city.'

'I am afraid San Marco will not allow it to happen,' came as a response
from the other cloud.

'San Marco has been knocked down by a Venetian, so he lies powerless,
and cannot help anyone,' said the first.

The storm carried the words down to old Cecco, and from that moment he
was on his knees, praying San Marco for grace and forgiveness. For the
evil spirits had spoken the truth. It did indeed look bad for Venice.
The fair Queen of the Isles was near destruction. A Venetian had mocked
San Marco, and therefore Venice was in danger of being carried away by
the sea. There would be no more moonlight sails or her sea and in her
canals, and no more barcaroles would be heard from her black gondolas.
The sea would wash over the golden-haired signoras, over the proud
palaces, over San Marco, resplendent with gold.

If there was no one to protect these islands, they were doomed to
destruction. Before San Marco came to Venice it had often happened that
large portions of them had been washed away by the waves.

At early dawn San Marco's Church bells began to ring. People crept to
the church, their clothes being nearly torn off them.

The storm went on increasing. The priests had resolved to go out and
adjure the storm and the sea. The main doors of the cathedral were
opened, and the long procession streamed out of the church. Foremost the
cross was carried, then came the choir-boys with wax candles, and last
in the procession were carried the banner of San Marco and the Sacred
Host.

But the storm did not allow itself to be cowed; on the contrary, it was
as if it wished for nothing better to play with. It upset the
choir-boys, blew out the wax candles, and flung the baldachin, which was
carried over the Host, on to the top of the Doge's palace. It was with
the utmost trouble that they saved San Marco's banner, with the winged
lion, from being carried away.

Cecco saw all this, and stole down to his boat moaning loudly. The whole
day he lay near the shore, often wet by the waves and in danger of being
washed into the sea. The whole day he was praying incessantly to God and
San Marco. He felt that the fate of the whole city depended upon his
prayers.

There were not many people about that day, but some few went moaning
along the Riva. All spoke about the immeasurable damage the storm had
wrought. One could see the houses tumbling down on the Murano. It was as
if the whole island were under water. And also on the Rialto one or two
houses had fallen.

The storm continued the whole day with unabated violence. In the evening
a large multitude of people assembled at the Market Place and the
Piazetta, although these were nearly covered with water. People dared
not remain in their houses, which shook in their very foundations. And
the cries of those who feared disaster mingled with the lamentations of
those whom it had already overtaken. Whole dwellings were under water;
children were drowned in their cradles. The old and the sick had been
swept with the overturned houses into the waves.

Cecco was still lying and praying to San Marco. Oh, how could the crime
of a poor fisherman be taken in such earnest? Surely it was not his
fault that the saint was so powerless! He would let the demons take him
and his boat; he deserved no better fate. But not the whole city!--oh,
God in heaven, not the whole city!

'My sons!' Cecco said to San Marco. 'What do I care about my sons when
Venice is at stake! I would willingly give a son for each tile in danger
of being blown into the canal if I could keep them in their place at
that price. Oh, San Marco, each little stone of Venice is worth as much
as a promising son.'

At times he saw terrible things. There was a large galley which had torn
itself from its moorings and now came drifting towards the shore. It
went straight against the bulwark, and struck it with the ram's head in
her bows, just as if it had been an enemy's ship. It gave blow after
blow, and the attack was so violent that the vessel immediately sprang a
leak. The water rushed in, the leak grew larger, and the proud ship went
to pieces. But the whole time one could see the captain and two or three
of the crew, who would not leave the vessel, cling to the deck and meet
death without attempting to escape it.

The second night came, and Cecco's prayers continued to knock at the
gate of heaven.

'Let me alone suffer!' he cried. 'San Marco, it is more than a man can
bear, thus to drag others with him to destruction. Only send thy lion
and kill me; I shall not attempt to escape. Everything that thou wilt
have me give up for the city, that will I willingly sacrifice.'

Just as he had uttered these words he looked towards the Piazetta, and
he thought he could no longer see San Marco's lion on the granite
pillar. Had San Marco permitted his lion to be overthrown? old Cecco
cried. He was nearly giving up Venice.

Whilst he was lying there he saw visions and heard voices all the time.
The demons talked and moved to and fro. He heard them wheeze like wild
beasts every time they made their assaults on the bulwarks. He did not
mind them much; it was worse about Venice.

Then he heard in the air above him the beating of strong wings; this
was surely San Marco's lion flying overhead. It moved backwards and
forwards in the air; he saw and yet he did not see it. Then it seemed to
him as if it descended on Riva degli Schiavoni, where he was lying, and
prowled about there. He was on the point of jumping into the sea from
fear, but he remained sitting where he was. It was no doubt he whom the
lion sought. If that could only save Venice, then he was quite willing
to let San Marco avenge himself upon him.

Then the lion came crawling along the ground like a cat. He saw it
making ready to spring. He noticed that it beat its wings and screwed
its large carbuncle eyes together till they were only small fiery slits.

Then old Cecco certainly did think of creeping down to his boat and
hiding himself under the arch of the bridge, but he pulled himself
together and remained where he was. The same moment a tall, imposing
figure stood by his side.

'Good-evening, Cecco,' said the man; 'take your boat and row me across
to San Giorgio Maggiore.'

'Yes, signor,' immediately replied the old fisherman.

It was as if he had awakened from a dream. The lion had disappeared, and
the man must be somebody who knew him, although Cecco could not quite
remember where he had seen him before. He was glad to have company. The
terrible heaviness and anguish that had been over him since he had
revolted against the Saint suddenly vanished. As to rowing across to
San Giorgio, he did not for a moment think that it could be done.

'I don't believe we can even get the boat out,' he said to himself.

But there was something about the man at his side that made him feel he
must do all he possibly could to serve him; and he did succeed in
getting out the boat. He helped the stranger into the boat and took the
oars.

Cecco could not help laughing to himself.

'What are you thinking about? Don't go out further in any case,' he
said. 'Have you ever seen the like of these waves? Do tell him that it
is not within the power of man.'

But he felt as if he could not tell the stranger that it was impossible.
He was sitting there as quietly as if he were sailing to the Lido on a
summer's eve. And Cecco began to row to San Giorgio Maggiore.

It was a terrible row. Time after time the waves washed over them.

'Oh, stop him!' Cecco said under his breath; 'do stop the man who goes
to sea in such weather! Otherwise he is a sensible old fisherman. Do
stop him!'

Now the boat was up a steep mountain, and then it went down into a
valley. The foam splashed down on Cecco from the waves that rushed past
him like runaway horses, but in spite of everything he approached San
Giorgio.

'For whom are you doing all this, risking boat and life?' he said. 'You
don't even know whether he can pay you. He does not look like a fine
gentleman. He is no better dressed than you are.'

But he only said this to keep up his courage, and not to be ashamed of
his tractability. He was simply compelled to do everything the man in
the boat wanted.

'But in any case not right to San Giorgio, you foolhardy old man,' he
said. 'The wind is even worse there than at the Rialto.'

But he went there, nevertheless, and made the boat fast whilst the
stranger went on shore. He thought the wisest thing he could do would be
to slip away and leave his boat, but he did not do it. He would rather
die than deceive the stranger. He saw the latter go into the Church of
San Giorgio. Soon afterwards he returned, accompanied by a knight in
full armour.

'Row us now to San Nicolo in Lido,' said the stranger.

'Ay, ay,' Cecco thought; 'why not to Lido?' They had already, in
constant anguish and death, rowed to San Giorgio; why should they not
set out for Lido?

And Cecco was shocked at himself that he obeyed the stranger even unto
death, for he now actually steered for the Lido.

Being now three in the boat, it was still heavier work. He had no idea
how he should be able to do it. 'You might have lived many years yet,'
he said sorrowfully to himself. But the strange thing was that he was
not sorrowful, all the same. He was so glad that he could have laughed
aloud. And then he was proud that he could make headway. 'He knows how
to use his oars, does old Cecco,' he said.

They laid-to at Lido, and the two strangers went on shore. They walked
towards San Nicolo in Lido, and soon returned accompanied by an old
Bishop, with robe and stole, crosier in hand, and mitre on head.

'Now row out to the open sea,' said the first stranger.

Old Cecco shuddered. Should he row out to the sea, where his sons
perished? Now he had not a single cheerful word to say to himself. He
did not think so much of the storm, but of the terror it was to have to
go out to the graves of his sons. If he rowed out there, he felt that he
gave the stranger more than his life.

The three men sat silently in the boat as if they were on watch. Cecco
saw them bend forward and gaze into the night. They had reached the gate
of the sea at Lido, and the great storm-ridden sea lay before them.

Cecco sobbed within himself. He thought of two dead bodies rolling about
in these waves. He gazed into the water for two familiar faces. But
onward the boat went. Cecco did not give in.

Then suddenly the three men rose up in the boat; and Cecco fell upon his
knees, although he still went on holding the oars. A big ship steered
straight against them.

Cecco could not quite tell whether it was a ship or only drifting mist.
The sails were large, spread out, as it were, towards the four corners
of heaven; and the hull was gigantic, but it looked as if it were built
of the lightest sea-mist. He thought he saw men on board and heard
shouting; but the crew were like deep darkness, and the shouting was
like the roar of the storm.

However it was, it was far too terrible to see the ship steer straight
upon them, and Cecco closed his eyes.

But the three men in the boat must have averted the collision, for the
boat was not upset. When Cecco looked up the ship had fled out to sea,
and loud wailings pierced the night.

He rose, trembling to row further. He felt so tired that he could hardly
hold the oars. But now there was no longer any danger. The storm had
gone down, and the waves speedily laid themselves to rest.

'Now row us back to Venice,' said the stranger to the fisherman.

Cecco rowed the boat to Lido, where the Bishop went on shore, and to San
Giorgio, where the knight left them. The first powerful stranger went
with him all the way to the Rialto.

When they had landed at Riva degli Schiavoni he said to the fisherman:

'When it is daylight thou shalt go to the Doge and tell him what thou
hast seen this night. Tell him that San Marco and San Giorgio and San
Nicolo have to-night fought the evil spirits that would destroy Venice,
and have put them to flight.'

'Yes, signor,' the fisherman answered, 'I will tell everything. But how
shall I speak so that the Doge will believe me?'

Then San Marco handed him a ring with a precious stone possessed of a
wonderful lustre.

'Show this to the Doge,' he said, 'then he will understand that it
brings a message from me. He knows my ring, which is kept in San Marco's
treasury in the cathedral.'

The fisherman took the ring, and kissed it reverently.

'Further, thou shalt tell the Doge,' said the holy man, 'that this is a
sign that I shall never forsake Venice. Even when the last Doge has left
Palazzo Ducali I will live and preserve Venice. Even if Venice lose her
islands in the East and the supremacy of the sea, and no Doge ever again
sets out on the Bucintoro, even then I will preserve the city beautiful
and resplendent. It shall always be rich and beloved, always be lauded
and its praises sung, always a place of joy for men to live in. Say
this, Cecco, and the Doge will not forsake thee in thine old age.'

Then he disappeared; and soon the sun rose above the gate of the sea at
Torcello. With its first beautiful rays it shed a rosy light over the
white city and over the sea that shone in many colours. A red glow lay
over San Giorgio and San Marco, and over the whole shore, studded with
palaces. And in the lovely morning radiant Venetian ladies came out on
to the loggias and greeted with smiles the rising day.

Venice was once again the beautiful goddess, rising from the sea in her
shell of rose-coloured pearl. Beautiful as never before, she combed her
golden hair, and threw the purple robe around her, to begin one of her
happiest days. For a transport of bliss filled her when the old
fisherman brought San Marco's ring to the Doge, and she heard how the
Saint, now, and until the end of time, would hold his protecting hand
over her.



  _From a Swedish_ HOMESTEAD

                V

  _Santa_ CATERINA _of_ SIENA



_Santa_ CATERINA _of_ SIENA


At Santa Caterina's house in Siena, on a day towards the end of April,
in the week when her fête is being celebrated, people come to the old
house in the Street of the Dyers, to the house with the pretty loggia
and with the many small chambers, which have now been converted into
chapels and sanctuaries, bringing bouquets of white lilies; and the
rooms are fragrant with incense and violets.

Walking through these rooms, one cannot help thinking that it is just as
if she were dead yesterday, as if all those who go in and out of her
home to-day had seen and known her.

But, on the other hand, no one could really think that she had died
recently, for then there would be more grief and tears, and not only a
quiet sense of loss. It is more as if a beloved daughter had been
recently married, and had left the parental home.

Look only at the nearest houses. The old walls are still decorated as if
for a fête. And in her own home garlands of flowers are still hanging
beneath the portico and loggia, green leaves are strewn on the staircase
and the doorstep, and large bouquets of flowers fill the rooms with
their scent.

She cannot possibly have been dead five hundred years. It looks much
more as if she had celebrated her marriage, and had gone away to a
country from which she would not return for many years, perhaps never.
Are not the houses decorated with nothing but red table-cloths, red
trappings, and red silken banners, and are there not stuck red-paper
roses in the dark garlands of oak-leaves? and the hangings over the
doors and the windows, are they not red with golden fringes? Can one
imagine anything more cheerful?

And notice how the old women go about in the house and examine her small
belongings. It is as if they had seen her wear that very veil and that
very shirt of hair. They inspect the room in which she lived, and point
to the bedstead and the packets of letters, and they tell how at first
she could not at all learn to write, but that it came to her all at once
without her having learnt it. And only look at her writing--how good and
distinct! And then they point to the little bottle she used to carry at
her belt, so as always to have a little medicine at hand in case she met
a sick person, and they utter a blessing over the old lantern she held
in her hand when she went and visited the sick in the long weary nights.
It is just as if they would say: 'Dear me--dear me! that our little
Caterina Benincasa should be gone, that she will never come any more and
look after us old people!' And they kiss her picture, and take a flower
from the bouquets to keep as a remembrance.

It looks as if those who were left in the home had long ago prepared
themselves for the separation, and tried to do everything possible to
keep alive the memory of the one who had gone away. See, there they
have painted her on the wall; there is the whole of her little history
represented in every detail. There she is when she cut off her beautiful
long hair so that no man could ever fall in love with her, for she would
never marry. Oh dear--oh dear! how much ridicule and scoffing she had
suffered on that account! It is dreadful to think how her mother
tormented her and treated her like a servant, and made her sleep on the
stone floor in the hall, and would not give her any food, all because of
her being so obstinate about that hair. But what was she to do when they
continually tried to get her married--she who would have no other
bridegroom than Christ? And there she is when she was kneeling in
prayer, and her father coming into the room without her knowing it saw a
beautiful white dove hovering over her head whilst she was praying. And
there she is on that Christmas Eve when she had gone secretly to the
Madonna's altar in order the more fully to rejoice over the birth of the
Son of God, and the beautiful Madonna leaned out of her picture and
handed the Child to her that she might be allowed to hold it for a
moment in her arms. Oh, what a joy it had been for her!

Oh dear, no; it is not at all necessary to say that our little Caterina
Benincasa is dead. One need only say that she has gone away with the
Bridegroom.

In her home one will never forget her pious ways and doings. All the
poor of Siena come and knock at her door because they know that it is
the marriage-day of the little virgin, and large piles of bread lie in
readiness for them as if she were still there. They have their pockets
and baskets filled; had she herself been there, she could not have sent
them away more heavily laden. She who had gone away had left so great a
want that one almost wonders the Bridegroom had the heart to take her
away with him.

In the small chapels which have been arranged in every corner of the
house they read Mass the whole day, and they invoke the bride and sing
hymns in her praise.

'Holy Caterina,' they say, 'on this the day of thy death, which is thine
heavenly wedding-day, pray for us!'

'Holy Caterina, thou who hadst no other love but Christ, thou who in
life wert His affianced bride, and who in death wast received by Him in
Paradise, pray for us!'

'Holy Caterina, thou radiant heavenly bride, thou most blessed of
virgins, thou whom the mother of God exalted to her Son's side, thou who
on this day wast carried by angels to the kingdom of glory, pray for
us!'

       *       *       *       *       *

It is strange how one comes to love her, how the home and the pictures
and the love of the old and the poor seem to make her living, and one
begins to wonder how she really was, whether she was only a saint, only
a heavenly bride, and if it is true that she was unable to love any
other than Christ. And then comes to one's mind an old story which
warmed one's heart long ago, at first quite vague and without shape, but
whilst one is sitting there under the loggia in the festively decorated
home and watching the poor wander away with their full baskets, and
hearing the subdued murmur from the chapels, the story becomes more and
more distinct, and suddenly it is vivid and clear.

       *       *       *       *       *

Nicola Tungo was a young nobleman of Perugia, who often came to Siena on
account of the races. He soon found out how badly Siena was governed,
and often said, both at the festive gatherings of the great and when he
sat drinking in the inns, that Siena ought to rise against the Signoria
and procure other rulers.

The Signoria had not been in power for more than half a year; they did
not feel particularly firm in their office, and did not like the
Perugian stirring up the people. In order promptly to put a stop to it,
they had him imprisoned, and after a short trial he was sentenced to
death. He was placed in a cell in the Palazzo Publico whilst
preparations were being made for his execution, which was to take place
the next morning in the Market Place.

At first he was strangely affected. To-morrow he would no more wear his
green velvet doublet and his beautiful sword; he would no more walk down
the street in his cap with the ostrich-feather and attract the glances
of the young maidens, and he had a feeling of painful disappointment
that he would never ride the new horse which he bought yesterday, and
which he had only tried once.

Suddenly he called the gaoler, and asked him to go to the gentlemen of
the Signoria and tell them that he could not possibly allow himself to
be killed; he had no time. He had far too much to do. Life could not do
without him. His father was old, and he was the only son; it was through
his descendants that the family should be continued. It was he who
should give away his sisters in marriage, he who should build the new
palace, he who should plant the new vineyard.

He was a strong young man; he did not know what sickness was, had
nothing but life in his veins. His hair was dark and his cheeks red. He
could not realize that he should die.

When he thought of their wanting to take him away from pleasure and
dancing, and the carnival, and from the races next Sunday, and from the
serenade he was going to sing to the beautiful Giulietta Lombardi, he
became furiously angry, and his wrath was roused against the councillors
as though they were thieves and robbers. The scoundrels--the scoundrels
that would take his life from him!

But as time went on his longings grew deeper; he longed for air and
water and heaven and earth. He felt he would not mind being a beggar by
the wayside; he would gladly suffer sickness and hunger and cold if only
he were allowed to live.

He wished that everything might die with him, that nothing would be left
when he was gone; that would have been a great consolation.

But that people should go to the Market Place and buy and sell, and that
the women would fetch water from the well, and that the children would
run in the streets the next day and all days, and that he would not be
there to see, that he could not bear. He envied not only those who
could live in luxury and pleasure, and were happy; he envied quite as
much the most miserable cripple. What he wanted was life, solely life.

Then the priests and the monks came to see him. It made him almost
happy, for now he had someone upon whom he could wreak his anger. He
first allowed them to talk a little. It amused him to hear what they had
to say to a man so deeply wronged as he was, but when they said that he
ought to rejoice that he was permitted to leave this life and gain the
bliss of heaven in the fulness of his youth, then he started up and
poured forth his wrath upon them. He scoffed at God and the joys of
heaven--he did not want them. He would have life, and the world, and its
pomps and vanities. He regretted every day in which he had not revelled
in earthly enjoyment; he regretted every temptation he had resisted. God
need not trouble Himself in the least about him; he felt no longing for
His heaven.

The priests continued to speak; he seized one of them by the throat, and
would have killed him had not the gaoler thrown himself between them.
They now bound and gagged him, and then preached to him; but as soon as
he was allowed to speak he raged as before. They talked to him for many
hours, but they saw that it was of no avail.

When they could think of nothing else to do, one of them suggested they
should send for the young Caterina Benincasa, who had shown great power
in subduing defiant spirits. When the Perugian heard the name he
suddenly ceased his abuse. In truth, it pleased him. It was something
quite different, having to do with a young, beautiful maiden.

'By all means send for the maiden,' he said.

He knew that she was the young daughter of a dyer, and that she went
about alone and preached in the lanes and streets of the town. Some
thought she was mad, others said that she had visions. For him she
might, anyhow, be better company than these dirty monks, who made him
completely beside himself.

The monks then went their way, and he was alone. Shortly afterwards the
door was again opened, but if she for whom they had sent had really
entered the cell, she must have walked with very light footsteps, for he
heard nothing. He lay on the floor just as he had thrown himself down in
his great anger; now he was too tired to raise himself, or make a
movement, or even to look up. His arms were tied together with ropes,
which cut deep into his flesh.

He now felt that someone began to loosen his bands; a warm hand touched
his arm, and he looked up. Beside him lay a little figure in the white
dress of the Dominicans, with head and neck so shrouded in a white veil
that there was not more of her face to be seen than of that of a knight
in helmet and closed visor.

She did not look so meek by any means; she was evidently a little
annoyed. He heard her murmur something about the gaolers who had
tightened the bands. It did not appear as if she had come for any other
purpose than these knots. She was only taken up with loosening them so
that they did not hurt. At last she had to bite in them, and then she
succeeded. She untied the cord with a light hand, and then took the
little bottle which was suspended from her belt and poured a few drops
upon the chafed skin.

He lay the whole time and looked at her, but she did not meet his
glance; it appeared as if she could think of nothing else but what she
had between her hands. It was as if nothing were further from her
thoughts than that she was there to prepare him for death. He felt so
exhausted after his passion, and at the same time so quieted by her
presence, that he only said:

'I think I will sleep.'

'It is a great shame that they have not given you any straw,' she said.

For a moment she looked about undecided. Then she sat down upon the
floor, and placed his head in her lap.

'Are you better now?' she said.

Never in his whole life had he felt such a rest. Yet sleep he could not,
but he lay and looked up in her face, which was like wax, and
transparent. Such eyes he had never seen before. They were always
looking far, far away, gazing into another world, whilst she sat quite
motionless, so as not to disturb his sleep.

'You are not sleeping, Nicola Tungo,' she said, and looked uneasy.

'I cannot sleep,' he replied, 'because I am wondering who you can be.'

'I am a daughter of Luca Benincasa the dyer, and his wife Lapa,' she
said.

'I know that,' he said, 'and I also know that you go about and preach in
the streets. And I know that you have attired yourself in the dress of
a nun, and have taken the vows of chastity. But yet I don't know who you
are.'

She turned her head away a little. Then she said, whispering like one
who confesses her first love:

'I am the Bride of Christ.'

He did not laugh. On the contrary, he felt quite a pang in his heart, as
from jealousy.

'Oh, Christ!' he said, as if she had thrown herself away.

She heard that his tone was contemptuous, but she thought he meant that
she had spoken too presumptuously.

'I do not understand it myself,' she said, 'but so it is.'

'Is it an imagination or a dream?' he said.

She turned her face towards him. The blood rose red behind the
transparent skin. He saw suddenly that she was fair as a flower, and she
became dear to him. He moved his lips as if to speak, but at first no
sound came.

'How can you expect me to believe that?' he said defiantly.

'Is it not enough for you that I am here in the prison with you?' she
asked, raising her voice. 'Is it any pleasure for a young girl like me
to go to you and other evil-doers in their gloomy dungeons? Is it usual
for a woman to stand and preach at the street corners as I do, and to be
held in derision? Do I not require sleep as other people? And yet I must
rise every night and go to the sick in the hospitals. Am I not timid as
other women? And yet I must go to the high-born gentlemen at their
castles and reason with them, I must go to the plague-smitten, I must
see all vice and sin. When have you seen another maiden do all this? But
I am obliged to do it.'

'Poor thing!' he said, and stroked her hand gently--'poor thing!'

'For I am not braver, or wiser, or stronger than others,' she said. 'It
is just as hard for me as for other maidens. You can see that. I have
come here to speak with you about your soul, but I do not at all know
what I shall say to you.'

It was strange how reluctantly he would allow himself to be convinced.

'You may be mistaken all the same,' he said. 'How do you know that you
can call yourself the Bride of Christ?'

Her voice trembled, and it was as if she should tear out her heart when
she replied:

'It began when I was quite young; I was not more than six years old. It
was one evening when I was walking with my brother in the meadow below
the church of the Dominicans, and just as I looked up at the church I
saw Christ sitting on a throne, surrounded by all His power and glory.
He was attired in shining white garments like the Holy Father in Rome.
His head was surrounded by all the splendour of Paradise, and around Him
stood Pietro Paolo and the Evangelist Giovanni. And whilst I gazed upon
Him my heart was filled with such a love and holy joy that I could
hardly bear it. He lifted His hand and blessed me, and I sank down on
the meadow, and was so overcome with bliss, that my brother had to take
me in his arms and shake me. And ever since that time, Nicola Tungo, I
have loved Jesus as a bridegroom.'

He again objected.

'You were a child then. You had fallen asleep in the meadow and were
dreaming.'

'Dreaming?' she repeated. 'Have I been dreaming all the time I have seen
Him? Was it a dream when He came to me in the church in the likeness of
a beggar and asked for alms? Then I was wide awake, at any rate. And do
you think that for the sake of a dream only I could have borne all the
worries I have had to bear as a young girl because I would not marry?'

Nicola went on contradicting her because he could not bear the thought
that her heart was filled with love to another.

'But even if you do love Christ, maiden, how do you know that He loves
you?'

She smiled her very happiest smile and clapped her hands like a child.

'Now you shall hear,' she said. 'Now I will tell you the most important
of all. It was the last night before Lent. It was after my parents and I
had been reconciled, and I had obtained their permission to take the vow
of chastity and wear the dress of a nun, although I continued to live in
their house; and it was night, as I told you, the last night of the
carnival, when everybody turns night into day. There were fêtes in every
street. On the walls of the big palaces hung balconies like cages,
completely covered with silken hangings and banners, and filled with
noble ladies. I saw all their beauty by the light of the red torches in
their bronze-holders, the one row over the other quite up to the roof;
and in the gaily decorated streets there was a train of carriages, with
golden towers, and all the gods and goddesses, and all the virtues and
beauties went by in a long procession. And everywhere there was such a
play of masks and so much merriment that I am sure that you, sir, have
never taken part in anything more gay. And I took refuge in my chamber,
but still I heard laughter from the street, and never before have I
heard people laugh like that; it was so clear and bell-like that
everyone was obliged to join in it. And they sang songs which, I
suppose, were wicked, but they sounded so innocent, and caused such
pleasure, that one's heart trembled. Then, in the middle of my prayers,
I suddenly began to wonder why I was not out amongst them, and the
thought fascinated and tempted me, as if I were dragged along by a
runaway horse; but never before have I prayed so intensely to Christ to
show me what was His will with me. Suddenly all the noise ceased, a
great and wonderful silence surrounded me, and I saw a great meadow,
where the Mother of God sat amongst the flowers, and on her lap lay the
Child Jesus, playing with lilies. But I hurried thither in great joy,
and knelt before the Child, and was at the same moment filled with peace
and quietness, and then the Holy Child placed a ring on my finger, and
said to me, "Know, Caterina, that to-day I celebrate My betrothal with
thee, and bind thee to Me by the strongest faith."'

'Oh, Caterina!'

The young Perugian had turned himself on the floor, so that he could
bury his face in her lap. It was as if he could not bear to see how
radiant she was whilst she was speaking, and now her eyes became bright
as stars. A shadow of pain passed over him. For whilst she spoke a great
sorrow had sprung up in his heart. This little maiden, this little white
maiden, he could never win. Her love belonged to another; it could never
be his. It was of no use even to tell her that he loved her; but he
suffered; his whole being groaned in love's agony. How could he bear to
live without her? It almost became a consolation to remember that he was
sentenced to death. It was not necessary for him to live and do without
her.

Then the little woman beside him sighed deeply, and came back from the
joys of heaven in order to think of poor human beings.

'I forgot to speak to you about your soul,' she said.

Then, he thought: 'This burden, at any rate, I can lighten for her.'

'Sister Caterina,' he said, 'I do not know how it is, but heavenly
consolation has come to me. In God's name I will prepare for death. Now
you may send for the priests and monks; now I will confess to them. But
one thing you must promise me before you go: you must come to me
to-morrow, when I shall die, and hold my head between your hands as you
are doing now.'

When he said this she burst into tears, from a great feeling of relief,
and an unspeakable joy filled her.

'How happy you must be, Nicola Tungo!' she said. 'You will be in
Paradise before I am;' and she stroked his face gently.

He said again:

'You will come to me to-morrow in the Market Place? Perhaps I shall
otherwise be afraid; perhaps I cannot otherwise die with steadfastness.
But when you are there I shall feel nothing but joy, and all fear will
leave me.'

'You do not seem to me any more as a poor mortal,' she said, 'but as a
dweller of Paradise. You appear to me radiant with life, surrounded by
incense. Bliss comes to me from you, who shall so soon meet my beloved
Bridegroom. Be assured I shall come.'

She then led him to confession and the Communion. He felt the whole time
as if he were asleep. All the fear of death and the longing for life had
passed away from him. He longed for the morning, when he should see her
again; he thought only of her, and of the love with which she had
inspired him. Death seemed to him now but a slight thing compared with
the pain of the thought that she would never love him.

The young maiden did not sleep much during the night, and early in the
morning she went to the place of execution, to be there when he came.
She invoked Jesu, Mother, Marie, and the Holy Caterina of Egypt, virgin
and martyr, incessantly with prayers to save his soul. Incessantly she
repeated: 'I will that he shall be saved--I will, I will.' But she was
afraid that her prayers were unavailing, for she did not feel any longer
that ecstasy which had filled her the evening before; she only felt an
infinite pity for him who should die. She was quite overcome with grief
and sorrow.

Little by little the Market Place filled with people. The soldiers
marched up, the executioner arrived, and much noise and talking went on
around her; but she saw and heard nothing. She felt as if she were quite
alone.

When Nicola Tungo arrived, it was just the same with him. He had no
thought for all the others, but saw only her. When he saw at the first
glance that she was entirely overcome with sorrow, his face beamed, and
he felt almost happy. He called loudly to her:

'You have not slept much this night, maiden?'

'No,' she said; 'I have watched in prayer for you; but now I am in
despair, for my prayers have no power.'

He knelt down before the block, and she knelt so that she could hold his
head in her hands.

'Now I am going to your Bridegroom, Caterina.'

She sobbed more and more.

'I can comfort you so badly,' she said.

He looked at her with a strange smile.

'Your tears are my best comfort.'

The executioner stood with his sword drawn, but she bade him with a
movement stand on one side, for she would speak a few words with the
doomed man.

'Before you came,' she said, 'I laid my head down on the block to try if
I could bear it; and then I felt that I was still afraid of death, that
I do not love Jesus enough to be willing to die in this hour; and I do
not wish you to die either, and my prayers have no power.'

When he heard this he thought: 'Had I lived I should have won her'; and
he was glad he should die before he had succeeded in drawing the radiant
heavenly bride down to earth. But when he had laid his head in her
hands, a great consolation came to them both.

'Nicola Tungo,' she said, 'I see heaven open. The angels descend to
receive your soul.'

A wondering smile passed over his face. Could what he had done for her
sake make him worthy of heaven? He lifted his eyes to see what she saw;
the same moment the sword fell.

But Caterina saw the angels descend lower and lower, saw them lift his
soul, saw them carry it to heaven.

       *       *       *       *       *

All at once it seemed so natural that Caterina Benincasa has lived all
these five hundred years. How could one forget that gentle little
maiden, that great loving heart? Again and again they must sing in her
praise, as they are now singing in the small chapels:

    'Pia Mater et humilis,
    Naturæ memor fragilis,
    In hujus vitæ fluctibus
    Nos rege tuis precibus.
    Quem vidi, quem amavi,
    In quem credidi, quem dilexi,
        Ora pro nobis.
    Ut digni efficiamur promessionibus Christi!
    Santa Caterina, ora pro nobis!'[B]

  [B] Pious and gentle Mother, thou who knowest our weak nature, guide
  us by thy prayers through this life's vicissitudes. Thou, whom I saw
  and loved, in whom I believed and whom I adored, pray for us, that we
  may be worthy of Christ's promises. Holy Caterina, pray for us!



  _From a Swedish_ HOMESTEAD

                VI

  _The Empress's_ MONEY-CHEST



_The Empress's_ MONEY-CHEST


The Bishop had summoned Father Verneau to appear before him. It was on
account of a somewhat unpleasant matter. Father Verneau had been sent to
preach in the manufacturing districts around Charleroi, but he had
arrived there in the midst of a strike, when the workmen were rather
excited and unmanageable. He informed the Bishop that he had immediately
on his arrival in the Black Country received a letter from one of the
leaders of the men to the effect that they were quite willing to hear
him preach, but if he ventured to mention the name of God either
directly or indirectly, there would be a disturbance in the church.

'And when I went up into the pulpit and saw the congregation to whom I
should preach,' said the Father, 'I felt no doubt but that the threat
would be carried out.'

Father Verneau was a little dried-up monk. The Bishop looked down upon
him as being of a lower order. Such an unshaven, not too clean monk,
with the most insignificant face, was, of course, a coward. He was,
probably, also afraid of the Bishop.

'I have been informed,' said the Bishop, 'that you carried out the
workmen's wishes. But I need not point out----'

'Monseigneur,' interrupted Father Verneau in all humility, 'I thought
the Church, if possible, would avoid everything that might lead to a
disturbance.'

'But a Church that dare not mention the name of God----'

'Has Monseigneur heard my sermon?'

The Bishop walked up and down the floor to calm himself.

'You know it by heart, of course?' he said.

'Of course, Monseigneur.'

'Let me hear it, then, as it was delivered, Father Verneau, word for
word, exactly as you preached it.'

The Bishop sat down in his arm-chair. Father Verneau remained standing.

'"Citizens and citizenesses," he began in the tone of a lecturer.

The Bishop started.

'Yes, that is how they will be addressed, Monseigneur.'

'Never mind, Father Verneau, only proceed.'

The Bishop shuddered slightly; these two words had suddenly shown him
the whole situation. He saw before him this gathering of the children of
the Black Country, to whom Father Verneau had preached. He saw many wild
faces, many rags, much coarse merriment. He saw these people for whom
nothing had been done.

'"Citizens and citizenesses," began Father Verneau afresh, "there is in
this country an Empress called Maria Theresa. She is an excellent ruler,
the best and wisest Belgium has ever had. Other rulers, my
fellow-citizens, other rulers have successors when they die, and lose
all power over their people. Not so the great Empress Maria Theresa.
She may have lost the throne of Austria and Hungary; Brabant and Limburg
may now be under other rulers, but not her good province of West
Flanders. In West Flanders, where I have lived the last few years, no
other ruler is known to this very day than Maria Theresa. We know King
Leopold lives in Brussels, but that has nothing to do with us. It is
Maria Theresa who still reigns here by the sea, more especially in the
fishing villages. The nearer one gets to the sea, the mightier becomes
her power. Neither the great Revolution, nor the Empire, nor the Dutch
have had the power to overthrow her. How could they? They have done
nothing for the children of the sea that can compare with what she has
done. But what has she not done for the people on the dunes! What an
invaluable treasure, my fellow-citizens, has she not bestowed upon them!

'"About one hundred and fifty years ago, in the early part of her reign,
she made a journey through Belgium. She visited Brussels and Bruges, she
went to Liege and Louvain, and when she had at last seen enough of large
cities and profusely ornamented town-halls, she went to the coast to see
the sea and the dunes.

'"It was not a very cheering sight for her. She saw the ocean, so vast
and mighty that no man can fight against it. She saw the coast, helpless
and unprotected. There lay the dunes, but the sea had washed over them
before, and might do so again. There were also dams, but they had fallen
down and were neglected.

'"She saw harbours filled with sand; she saw marshes overgrown with
rushes and weeds; she saw, below the dunes, fishing-huts ravaged by the
wind--huts looking as if they had been thrown there, a prey for the sea;
she saw poor old churches that had been moved away from the sea, lying
between quicksands and lyme-grass, in desolate wastes.

'"The great Empress sat a whole day by the sea. She was told all about
the floods and the towns that had been washed away; she was shown the
spot where a whole district had sunk under the sea; she was rowed out to
the place where an old church stood at the bottom of the sea; and she
was told about all the people who had been drowned, and of all the
cattle that had been lost, the last time the sea had overflowed the
dunes.

'"The whole day through the Empress sat thinking: 'How shall I help
these poor people on the dunes? I cannot forbid the sea to rise and
fall; I cannot forbid it to undermine the shore; nor can I stay the
storm, or prevent it from upsetting the fishermen's boats; and still
less can I lead the fish into their nets, or transform the lyme-grass
into nutritious wheat. There is no monarch in the world so mighty that
he can help these poor people in their need.'

'"The next day it was Sunday, and the Empress heard Mass at
Blankenberghe. All the people from Dunkirk to Sluis had come to see her.
But before Mass the Empress went about and spoke with the people.

'"The first person she addressed was the harbour-master from Nieuport.
'What news is there from your town?' asked the Empress. 'Nothing new,'
answered the harbour-master, 'except that Cornelis Aertsen's boat was
upset in the storm yesterday; and we found him this morning riding on
the keel.' 'It was a good thing his life was saved,' said the Empress.
'Well, I don't know,' said the harbour-master, 'for he was out of his
mind when he came on shore.' 'Was it from fear?' asked the Empress.
'Yes,' said the harbour-master; 'it is because we in Nieuport have
nothing to depend upon in the hour of need. Cornelis knew that his wife
and his small children would starve to death if he perished; and it was
this thought, I suppose, that drove him out of his mind.' 'Then that is
what you need here on the dunes--something to depend upon?' 'Yes, that
is it,' said the harbour-master. 'The sea is uncertain, the harvest is
uncertain, the fishing and the earnings are uncertain. Something to
depend upon, that is what we need.'

'"The Empress then went on, and the next she spoke to was the priest
from Heyst. 'What news from Heyst?' said she to him. 'Nothing new,' he
answered, 'except that Jacob van Ravesteyn has given up making ditches
in the marshes, and dredging the harbour, and attending to the
lighthouses, and all other useful work he had to do.' 'How is that?'
said the Empress. 'He has inherited a sum of money,' said the priest;
'but it was less than he had expected.' 'But now he has something
certain,' said the Empress. 'Yes,' said the priest; 'but now he has got
the money he dare not venture to do anything great for fear it will not
be sufficient.' 'It is something infinitely great, then, that is needed
to help you at Heyst?' said the Empress. 'It is,' said the priest;
'there is infinitely much to do. And nothing can be done until we know
that we have something infinitely great to fall back upon.'

'"The Empress then went on until she came to the master-pilot from
Middelkerke, whom she began to question about the news from his town. 'I
do not know of anything new,' said the master-pilot, 'but that Ian van
der Meer has quarrelled with Luca Neerwinden.' 'Indeed!' said the
Empress. 'Yes, they have found the cod-bank they have both been looking
for all their lives. They had heard about it from old people, and they
had hunted for it all over the sea, and they have been the best of
friends the whole time, but now they have found it they have fallen
out.' 'Then it would have been better if they had never found it?' said
the Empress. 'Yes,' answered the master-pilot, 'it would indeed have
been better.' 'So, then, that which is to help you in Middelkerke,' said
the Empress, 'must be hidden so well that no one can find it?' 'Just
so,' said the master-pilot; 'well hidden it must be, for if anyone
should find it, there would be nothing but quarrelling and strife over
it, or else it would be all spent, and then it would be of no further
use.'

'"The Empress sighed, and felt she could do nothing.

'"She then went to Mass, and the whole time she knelt and prayed that
power might be given her to help the people. And--you must excuse me,
citizens--when the Mass was finished, it had become clear to her that it
was better to do a little than to do nothing. When all the people had
come out of the church, she stood on the steps in order to address them.

'"No man or woman of West Flanders will ever forget how she looked. She
was beautiful, like an Empress, and she was attired like an Empress. She
wore her crown and her ermine mantle, and held the sceptre in her hand.
Her hair was dressed high and powdered, and a string of large pearls was
entwined amongst the curls. She wore a robe of red silk, which was
entirely covered with Flemish lace, and red, high-heeled shoes, with
large diamond buckles. That is how she appears, she who to this day
still reigns over our West Flanders.

'"She spoke to the people of the coast, and told them her will. She told
them of how she had thought of every way in which to help them. She said
that they knew she could not compel the sea to quietness or chain the
storm, that she could not lead the fish-shoals to the coast, or
transform the lyme-grass into wheat; but what a poor mortal could do for
them, that should be done.

'"They all knelt before her whilst she spoke. Never before had they felt
such a gentle and motherly heart beat for them. The Empress spoke to
them in such a manner about their hard and toilsome life that tears came
into their eyes over her pity.

'"But now the Empress said she had decided to leave with them her
Imperial money-chest, with all the treasures which it contained. That
should be her gift to all those who lived on the dunes. That was the
only assistance she could render them, and she asked them to forgive
her that it was so poor; and the Empress herself had tears in her eyes
when she said this.

'"She now asked them if they would promise and swear not to use any of
the treasure until the need amongst them was so great that it could not
become any greater. Next, if they would swear to leave it as an
inheritance for their descendants, if they did not require it
themselves. And, lastly, she asked every man singly to swear that he
would not try to take possession of the treasure for his own use without
having first asked the consent of all his fellow-fishermen.

'"If they were willing to swear? That they all were. And they blessed
the Empress and cried from gratitude. And she cried and told them that
she knew that what they needed was a support that would never fail them,
a treasure that could never be exhausted, and a happiness that was
unattainable, but that she could not give them. She had never been so
powerless as here on the dunes.

'"My fellow-citizens, without her knowing it, solely by force of the
royal wisdom with which this great Queen was endowed, the power was
given her to attain far more than she had intended, and it is therefore
one can say that to this day she reigns over West Flanders.

'"What a happiness, is it not, to hear of all the blessings which have
been spread over West Flanders by the Empress's gift! The people there
have now something to depend upon which they needed so badly, and which
we all need. However bad things may be, there is never any despair.

'"They have told me at the dunes what the Empress's money-chest is like.
They say it is like the holy shrine of Saint Ursula at Bruges, only more
beautiful. It is a copy of the cathedral at Vienna, and it is of pure
gold; but on the sides the whole history of the Empress is depicted in
the whitest alabaster. On the small side-towers are the four diamonds
which the Empress took from the crown of the Sultan of Turkey, and in
the gable are her initials inlaid with rubies. But when I ask them
whether they have seen the money-chest, they reply that shipwrecked
sailors when in peril always see it swimming before them on the waves as
a sign that they shall not be in despair for their wives and children,
should they be compelled to leave them. But they are the only ones who
have seen the treasure, otherwise no one has been near enough to count
it. And you know, citizens, that the Empress never told anyone how great
it was. But if any of you doubt how much use it has been and is, then I
will ask you to go to the dunes and see for yourself. There has been
digging and building ever since that time, and the sea now lies cowed by
bulwarks and dams, and no longer does harm. And there are green meadows
inside the dunes, and there are flourishing towns and watering-places
near the shore. But for every lighthouse that has been built, for every
harbour that has been deepened, for every ship of which the keel has
been laid, for every dam that has been raised, they have always thought:
'If our own money should not be sufficient, we shall receive help from
our Gracious Empress Maria Theresa.' But this has been but a spur to
them: their own money has always sufficed.

'"You know, also, that the Empress did not say where the treasure was.
Was not this well considered, citizens? There is one who has it in his
keeping, but only, when all are agreed upon dividing it, will he who
keeps the treasure come forward and reveal where it is. Therefore one is
certain that neither now nor in the future will it be unfairly divided.
It is the same for all. Everyone knows that the Empress thinks as much
of him as of his neighbour. There can be no strife or envy amongst the
people of the dunes as there is amongst other men, for they all share
alike in the treasure."'

The Bishop interrupted Father Verneau.

'That is enough,' he said. 'How did you continue?'

'I said,' continued the monk, 'that it was very bad the good Empress had
not also come to Charleroi. I pitied them because they did not own her
money-chest. Considering the great things they had to accomplish,
considering the sea which they had to tame, the quicksands which they
had to bind, considering all this, I said to them surely there was
nothing they needed so much.'

'And then?' asked the Bishop.

'One or two cabbages, your Eminence, a little hissing; but then I was
already out of the pulpit. That was all.'

'They had understood that you had spoken to them about the providence of
God?'

The monk bowed.

'They had understood that you would show them that the power which they
deride because they do not see it must be kept hidden? that it will be
abused immediately it assumes a visible form? I congratulate you, Father
Verneau.'

The monk retired towards the door, bowing. The Bishop followed him,
beaming benevolently.

'But the money-chest--do they still believe in it at the dunes?'

'As much as ever, Monseigneur.'

'And the treasure--has there ever been a treasure?'

'Monseigneur, I have sworn.'

'But for me,' said the Bishop.

'It is the priest at Blankenberghe, who has it in his keeping. He
allowed me to see it. It is an old wooden chest with iron mountings.'

'And?'

'And at the bottom lie twenty bright Maria Theresa gold pieces.'

The Bishop smiled, but became grave at once.

'Is it right to compare such a wooden chest with God's providence?'

'All comparisons are incomplete, Monseigneur; all human thoughts are
vain.'

Father Verneau bowed once again, and quietly withdrew from the
audience-room.



  _From a Swedish_ HOMESTEAD

                VII

  _The_ PEACE _of_ GOD



_The_ PEACE _of_ GOD


Once upon a time there was an old farmhouse. It was Christmas-eve, the
sky was heavy with snow, and the north wind was biting. It was just that
time in the afternoon when everybody was busy finishing their work
before they went to the bath-house to have their Christmas bath. There
they had made such a fire that the flames went right up the chimney, and
sparks and soot were whirled about by the wind, and fell down on the
snow-decked roofs of the outhouses. And as the flames appeared above the
chimney of the bath-house, and rose like a fiery pillar above the farm,
everyone suddenly felt that Christmas was at hand. The girl that was
scrubbing the entrance floor began to hum, although the water was
freezing in the bucket beside her. The men in the wood-shed who were
cutting Christmas logs began to cut two at a time, and swung their axes
as merrily as if log-cutting were a mere pastime.

An old woman came out of the pantry with a large pile of cakes in her
arms. She went slowly across the yard into the large red-painted
dwelling-house, and carried them carefully into the best room, and put
them down on the long seat. Then she spread the tablecloth on the table,
and arranged the cakes in heaps, a large and a small cake in each heap.
She was a singularly ugly old woman, with reddish hair, heavy drooping
eyelids, and with a peculiar strained look about the mouth and chin, as
if the muscles were too short. But being Christmas-eve, there was such a
joy and peace over her that one did not notice how ugly she was.

But there was one person on the farm who was not happy, and that was the
girl who was tying up the whisks made of birch twigs that were to be
used for the baths. She sat near the fireplace, and had a whole armful
of fine birch twigs lying beside her on the floor, but the withes with
which she was to bind the twigs would not keep knotted. The best room
had a narrow, low window, with small panes, and through them the light
from the bath-house shone into the room, playing on the floor and
gilding the birch twigs. But the higher the fire burned the more unhappy
was the girl. She knew that the whisks would fall to pieces as soon as
one touched them, and that she would never hear the last of it until the
next Christmas fire was lighted.

Just as she sat there bemoaning herself, the person of whom she was most
afraid came into the room. It was her master, Ingmar Ingmarson. He was
sure to have been to the bath-house to see if the stove was hot enough,
and now he wanted to see how the whisks were getting on. He was old, was
Ingmar Ingmarson, and he was fond of everything old, and just because
people were beginning to leave off bathing in the bath-houses and being
whipped with birch twigs, he made a great point of having it done on his
farm, and having it done properly.

Ingmar Ingmarson wore an old coat of sheep's-skin, skin trousers, and
shoes smeared over with pitch. He was dirty and unshaven, slow in all
his movements, and came in so softly that one might very well have
mistaken him for a beggar. His features resembled his wife's features
and his ugliness resembled his wife's ugliness, for they were relations,
and from the time the girl first began to notice anything she had
learned to feel a wholesome reverence for anybody who looked like that;
for it was a great thing to belong to the old family of the Ingmars,
which had always been the first in the village. But the highest to which
a man could attain was to be Ingmar Ingmarson himself, and be the
richest, the wisest, and the mightiest in the whole parish.

Ingmar Ingmarson went up to the girl, took one of the whisks, and swung
it in the air. It immediately fell to pieces; one of the twigs landed on
the Christmas table, another on the big four-poster.

'I say, my girl,' said old Ingmar, laughing, 'do you think one uses that
kind of whisk when one takes a bath at the Ingmar's, or are you very
tender, my girl?'

When the girl saw that her master did not take it more seriously than
that, she took heart, and answered that she could certainly make whisks
that would not go to pieces if she could get proper withes to bind them
with.

'Then I suppose I must try to get some for you, my girl,' said old
Ingmar, for he was in a real Christmas humour.

He went out of the room, stepped over the girl who was scouring the
floor, and remained standing on the doorstep, to see if there were
anyone about whom he could send to the birch-wood for some withes. The
farm hands were still busy cutting Yule logs; his son came out of the
barn with the Christmas sheaf; his two sons-in-law were putting the
carts into the shed so that the yard could be tidy for the Christmas
festival. None of them had time to leave their work.

The old man then quietly made up his mind to go himself. He went across
the yard as if he were going into the cowshed, looked cautiously round
to make sure no one noticed him, and stole along outside the barn where
there was a fairly good road to the wood. The old man thought it was
better not to let anyone know where he was going, for either his son or
his sons-in-law might then have begged him to remain at home, and old
people like to have their own way.

He went down the road, across the fields, through the small pine-forest
into the birch-wood. Here he left the road, and waded in the snow to
find some young birches.

About the same time the wind at last accomplished what it had been busy
with the whole day: it tore the snow from the clouds, and now came
rushing through the wood with a long train of snow after it.

Ingmar Ingmarson had just stooped down and cut off a birch twig, when
the wind came tearing along laden with snow. Just as the old man was
getting up the wind blew a whole heap of snow in his face. His eyes were
full of snow, and the wind whirled so violently around him that he was
obliged to turn round once or twice.

The whole misfortune, no doubt, arose from Ingmar Ingmarson being so
old. In his young days a snowstorm would certainly not have made him
dizzy. But now everything danced round him as if he had joined in a
Christmas polka, and when he wanted to go home he went in the wrong
direction. He went straight into the large pine-forest behind the
birch-wood instead of going towards the fields.

It soon grew dark, and the storm continued to howl and whirl around him
amongst the young trees on the outskirts of the forest. The old man saw
quite well that he was walking amongst fir-trees, but he did not
understand that this was wrong, for there were also fir-trees on the
other side of the birch-wood nearest the farm. But by-and-by he got so
far into the forest that everything was quiet and still--one could not
feel the storm, and the trees were high with thick stems--then he found
out that he had mistaken the road, and would turn back.

He became excited and upset at the thought that he _could_ lose his way,
and as he stood there in the midst of the pathless wood he was not
sufficiently clear-headed to know in which direction to turn. He first
went to the one side and then to the other. At last it occurred to him
to retrace his way in his own footprints, but darkness came on, and he
could no longer follow them. The trees around him grew higher and
higher. Whichever way he went, it was evident to him that he got further
and further into the forest.

It was like witchcraft and sorcery, he thought, that he should be
running about the woods like this all the evening and be too late for
the bathing. He turned his cap and rebound his garter, but his head was
no clearer. It had become quite dark, and he began to think that he
would have to remain the whole night in the woods.

He leant against a tree, stood still for a little, and tried to collect
his thoughts. He knew this forest so well, and had walked in it so much,
that he ought to know every single tree. As a boy he had gone there and
tended sheep. He had gone there and laid snares for the birds. In his
young days he had helped to fell trees there. He had seen old trees cut
down and new ones grow up. At last he thought he had an idea where he
was, and fancied if he went that and that way he must come upon the
right road; but all the same, he only went deeper and deeper into the
forest.

Once he felt smooth, firm ground under his feet, and knew from that,
that he had at last come to some road. He tried now to follow this, for
a road, he thought, was bound to lead to some place or other; but then
the road ended at an open space in the forest, and there the snowstorm
had it all its own way; there was neither road nor path, only drifts and
loose snow. Then the old man's courage failed him; he felt like some
poor creature destined to die a lonely death in the wilderness.

He began to grow tired of dragging himself through the snow, and time
after time he sat down on a stone to rest; but as soon as he sat down he
felt he was on the point of falling asleep, and he knew he would be
frozen to death if he did fall asleep, therefore he tried to walk and
walk; that was the only thing that could save him. But all at once he
could not resist the inclination to sit down. He thought if he could
only rest, it did not matter if it did cost him his life.

It was so delightful to sit down that the thought of death did not in
the least frighten him. He felt a kind of happiness at the thought that
when he was dead the account of his whole life would be read aloud in
the church. He thought of how beautifully the old Dean had spoken about
his father, and how something equally beautiful would be sure to be said
about him. The Dean would say that he had owned the oldest farm in the
district, and he would speak about the honour it was to belong to such a
distinguished family, and then something would be said about
responsibility. Of course there was responsibility in the matter; that
he had always known. One must endure to the very last when one was an
Ingmar.

The thought rushed through him that it was not befitting for him to be
found frozen to death in the wild forest. He would not have that handed
down to posterity; and he stood up again and began to walk. He had been
sitting so long that masses of snow fell from his fur coat when he
moved. But soon he sat down again and began to dream.

The thought of death now came quite gently to him. He thought about the
whole of the funeral and all the honour they would show his dead body.
He could see the table laid for the great funeral feast in the large
room on the first floor, the Dean and his wife in the seats of honour,
the Justice of the Peace, with the white frill spread over his narrow
chest; the Major's wife in full dress, with a low silk bodice, and her
neck covered with pearls and gold; he saw all the best rooms draped in
white--white sheets before the windows, white over the furniture;
branches of fir strewn the whole way from the entrance-hall to the
church; house-cleaning and butchering, brewing and baking for a
fortnight before the funeral; the corpse on a bier in the inmost room;
smoke from the newly-lighted fires in the rooms; the whole house crowded
with guests; singing over the body whilst the lid of the coffin was
being screwed on; silver plates on the coffin; twenty loads of wood
burned in a fortnight; the whole village busy cooking food to take to
the funeral; all the tall hats newly ironed; all the corn-brandy from
the autumn drunk up during the funeral feast; all the roads crowded with
people as at fair-time.

Again the old man started up. He had heard them sitting and talking
about him during the feast.

'But how did he manage to go and get frozen to death?' asked the Justice
of the Peace. 'What could he have been doing in the large forest?'

And the Captain would say that it was probably from Christmas ale and
corn-brandy. And that roused him again. The Ingmars had never been
drunkards. It should never be said of him that he was muddled in his
last moments. And he began again to walk and walk; but he was so tired
that he could scarcely stand on his legs. It was quite clear to him now
that he had got far into the forest, for there were no paths anywhere,
but many large rocks, of which he knew there were none lower down. His
foot caught between two stones, so that he had difficulty in getting it
out, and he stood and moaned. He was quite done for.

Suddenly he fell over a heap of fagots. He fell softly on to the snow
and branches, so he was not hurt, but he did not take the trouble to get
up again. He had no other desire in the world than to sleep. He pushed
the fagots to one side and crept under them as if they were a rug; but
when he pushed himself under the branches he felt that underneath there
was something warm and soft. This must be a bear, he thought.

He felt the animal move, and heard it sniff; but he lay still. The bear
might eat him if it liked, he thought. He had not strength enough to
move a single step to get out of its way.

But it seemed as if the bear did not want to harm anyone who sought its
protection on such a night as this. It moved a little further into its
lair, as if to make room for its visitor, and directly afterwards it
slept again with even, snorting breath.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the meantime there was but scanty Christmas joy in the old farm of
the Ingmars. The whole of Christmas-eve they were looking for Ingmar
Ingmarson. First they went all over the dwelling-house and all the
outhouses. They searched high and low, from loft to cellar. Then they
went to the neighbouring farms and inquired for Ingmar Ingmarson.

As they did not find him, his sons and his sons-in-law went into the
fields and roads. They used the torches which should have lighted the
way for people going to early service on Christmas morning in the search
for him. The terrible snowstorm had hidden all traces, and the howling
of the wind drowned the sound of their voices when they called and
shouted. They were out and about until long after midnight, but then
they saw that it was useless to continue the search, and that they must
wait until daylight to find the old man.

At the first pale streak of dawn everybody was up at Ingmar's farm, and
the men stood about the yard ready to set out for the wood. But before
they started the old housewife came and called them into the best room.
She told them to sit down on the long benches; she herself sat down by
the Christmas table with the Bible in front of her and began to read.
She tried her best to find something suitable for the occasion, and
chose the story of the man who was travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho,
and fell among thieves.

She read slowly and monotonously about the unfortunate man who was
succoured by the good Samaritan. Her sons and sons-in-law, her daughters
and daughters-in-law, sat around her on the benches. They all resembled
her and each other, big and clumsy, with plain, old-fashioned faces, for
they all belonged to the old race of the Ingmars. They had all reddish
hair, freckled skin, and light-blue eyes with white eyelashes. They
might be different enough from each other in some ways, but they had all
a stern look about the mouth, dull eyes, and heavy movements, as if
everything were a trouble to them. But one could see that they all,
every one of them, belonged to the first people in the neighbourhood,
and that they knew themselves to be better than other people.

All the sons and daughters of the house of Ingmar sighed deeply during
the reading of the Bible. They wondered if some good Samaritan had found
the master of the house and taken care of him, for all the Ingmars felt
as if they had lost part of their own soul when a misfortune happened to
anyone belonging to the family.

The old woman read and read, and came to the question: 'Who was
neighbour unto him that fell amongst thieves?' But before she had read
the answer the door opened and old Ingmar came into the room.

'Mother, here is father,' said one of the daughters; and the answer,
that the man's neighbour was he who had shown mercy unto him, was never
read.

       *       *       *       *       *

Later in the day the housewife sat again in the same place, and read her
Bible. She was alone; the women had gone to church, and the men were
bear-hunting in the forest. As soon as Ingmar Ingmarson had eaten and
drunk, he took his sons with him and went out to the forest; for it is
every man's duty to kill a bear wherever and whenever he comes across
one. It does not do to spare a bear, for sooner or later it will get a
taste for flesh, and then it will spare neither man nor beast.

But after they were gone a great feeling of fear came over the old
housewife, and she began to read her Bible. She read the lesson for the
day, which was also the text for the Pastor's sermon; but she did not
get further than this: 'Peace on earth, goodwill towards men.' She
remained sitting and staring at these words with her dull eyes, now and
again sighing deeply. She did not read any further, but she repeated
time after time in her slow, drawling voice, 'Peace on earth, goodwill
towards men.'

The eldest son came into the room just as she was going to repeat the
words afresh.

'Mother!' he said softly.

She heard him, but did not take her eyes from the book whilst she asked:

'Are you not with the others in the forest?'

'Yes,' said he, still more softly, 'I have been there.'

'Come to the table,' she said, 'so that I can see you.'

He came nearer, but when she looked at him she saw that he was
trembling. He had to press his hands hard against the edge of the table
in order to keep them still.

'Have you got the bear?' she asked again.

He could not answer; he only shook his head.

The old woman got up and did what she had not done since her son was a
child. She went up to him, laid her hand on his arm, and drew him to the
bench. She sat down beside him and took his hand in hers.

'Tell me now what has happened, my boy.'

The young man recognised the caress which had comforted him in bygone
days when he had been in trouble and unhappy, and he was so overcome
that he began to weep.

'I suppose it is something about father?' she said.

'It is worse than that,' the son sobbed. 'Worse than that?'

The young man cried more and more violently; he did not know how to
control his voice. At last he lifted his rough hand, with the broad
fingers, and pointed to what she had just read: 'Peace on earth. . . .'

'Is it anything about that?' she asked.

'Yes,' he answered.

'Is it anything about the peace of Christmas?'

'Yes.'

'You wished to do an evil deed this morning?'

'Yes.'

'And God has punished us?'

'God has punished us.'

So at last she was told how it had happened. They had with some trouble
found the lair of the bear, and when they had got near enough to see the
heap of fagots, they stopped in order to load their guns. But before
they were ready the bear rushed out of its lair straight against them.
It went neither to the right nor to the left, but straight for old
Ingmar Ingmarson, and struck him a blow on the top of the head that
felled him to the ground as if he had been struck by lightning. It did
not attack any of the others, but rushed past them into the forest.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the afternoon Ingmar Ingmarson's wife and son drove to the Dean's
house to announce his death. The son was spokesman, and the old
housewife sat and listened with a face as immovable as a stone figure.

The Dean sat in his easy-chair near his writing-table. He had entered
the death in the register. He had done it rather slowly; he wanted time
to consider what he should say to the widow and the son, for this was,
indeed, an unusual case. The son had frankly told him how it had all
happened, but the Dean was anxious to know how they themselves looked at
it. They were peculiar people, the Ingmars.

When the Dean had closed the book, the son said:

'We wanted to tell you, sir, that we do not wish any account of father's
life to be read in church.'

The Dean pushed his spectacles over his forehead and looked searchingly
at the old woman. She sat just as immovable as before. She only crumpled
the handkerchief a little which she held in her hand.

'We wish to have him buried on a week day,' continued the son.

'Indeed!' said the Dean.

He could hardly believe his own ears. Old Ingmar Ingmarson to be buried
without anyone taking any notice of it! The congregation not to stand on
railings and mounds in order to see the display when he was being
carried to the grave!

'There will not be any funeral feast. We have let the neighbours know
that they need not think of preparing anything for the funeral.'

'Indeed, indeed!' said the Dean again.

He could think of nothing else to say. He knew quite well what it meant
for such people to forego the funeral feast. He had seen both widows and
fatherless comforted by giving a splendid funeral feast.

'There will be no funeral procession, only I and my brothers.'

The Dean looked almost appealingly at the old woman. Could she really be
a party to all this? He asked himself if it could be her wishes to which
the son had given expression. She was sitting there and allowing herself
to be robbed of what must be dearer to her than gold and silver.

'We will not have the bells rung, or any silver plates on the coffin.
Mother and I wish it to be done in this way, but we tell you all this,
sir, in order to hear, sir, if you think we are wronging father.'

Now the old woman spoke:

'We should like to hear if your Reverence thinks we are doing father a
wrong.'

The Dean remained silent, and the old woman continued, more eagerly:

'I must tell your Reverence that if my husband had sinned against the
King or the authorities, or if I had been obliged to cut him down from
the gallows, he should all the same have had an honourable funeral, as
his father before him, for the Ingmars are not afraid of anyone, and
they need not go out of their way for anybody. But at Christmas God has
made peace between man and beast, and the poor beast kept God's
commandment, whilst we broke it, and therefore we now suffer God's
punishment; and it is not becoming for us to show any ostentatious
display.'

The Dean rose and went up to the old woman.

'What you say is right,' he said, 'and you shall follow the dictates of
your own conscience.' And involuntarily he added, perhaps most to
himself: 'The Ingmars are a grand family.'

The old woman straightened herself a little at these words. At that
moment the Dean saw in her the symbol of her whole race. He understood
what it was that had made these heavy, silent people, century after
century, the leaders of the whole parish.

'It behooves the Ingmars to set the people a good example,' she said.
'It behooves us to show that we humble ourselves before God.'



  _From a Swedish_ HOMESTEAD

                VIII

  _A_ STORY _from_ HALSTANÄS



_A_ STORY _from_ HALSTANÄS


In olden times there stood by the roadside an old country-house called
Halstanäs. It comprised a long row of red-painted houses, which were of
low structure, and right behind them lay the forest. Close to the
dwelling-house was a large wild cherry-tree, which showered its black
fruit over the red-tiled roof. A bell under a small belfry hung over the
gable of the stables.

Just outside the kitchen-door was a dovecote, with a neat little
trelliswork outside the holes. From the attic a cage for squirrels was
hanging; it consisted of two small green houses and a large wheel, and
in front of a big hedge of lilacs stood a long row of beehives covered
with bark.

There was a pond belonging to the farm, full of fat carp and slim
water-snakes; there was also a kennel at the entrance; there were white
gates at the end of the avenue, and at the garden walks, and in every
place where they could possibly have a gate. There were big lofts with
dark lumber-rooms, where old-fashioned uniforms and ladies' head-gear a
hundred years old were stored away; there were large chests full of silk
gowns and bridal finery; there were old pianos and violins, guitars and
bassoons. In bureaus and cabinets were manuscript songs and old yellow
letters; on the walls of the entrance-hall hung guns, pistols and
hunting-bags; on the floor were rugs, in which patches of old silken
gowns were woven together with pieces of threadbare cotton curtains.
There was a large porch, where the deadly nightshade summer after summer
grew up a thin trelliswork; there were large, yellow front-doors, which
were fastened with bolts and catches; the hall was strewn with sprigs of
juniper, and the windows had small panes and heavy wooden shutters.

One summer old Colonel Beerencreutz came on a visit to this house. It is
supposed to have been the very year after he left Ekeby. At that time he
had taken rooms at a farm at Svartsjö, and it was only on rare occasions
that he went visiting. He still had his horse and gig, but he scarcely
ever used them. He said that he had grown old in earnest now, and that
home was the best place for old people.

Beerencreutz was also loath to leave the work he had in hand. He was
weaving rugs for his two rooms--large, many-coloured rugs in a rich and
strangely-thought-out pattern. It took him an endless time, because he
had his own way of weaving, for he used no loom, but stretched his wool
from the one wall to the other right across the one room. He did this in
order to see the whole rug at one time; but to cross the woof and
afterwards bring the threads together to a firm web was no easy matter.
And then there was the pattern, which he himself thought out, and the
colours which should match. This took the Colonel more time than anyone
would have imagined; for whilst Beerencreutz was busy getting the
pattern right, and whilst he was working with warp and woof, he often
sat and thought of God. Our Lord, he thought, was likewise sitting at a
loom, still larger, and with an even more peculiar pattern to weave. And
he knew that there must be both light and dark shades in that weaving.
But Beerencreutz would at times sit and think so long about this, until
he fancied he saw before him his own life and the life of the people
whom he had known, and with whom he had lived, forming a small portion
of God's great weaving; and he seemed to see that piece so distinctly
that he could discern both outlines and colouring. And if one asked
Beerencreutz what the pattern in his work really meant, he would be
obliged to confess that it was the life of himself and his friends which
he wove into the rug as a faint imitation of what he thought he had seen
represented on God's loom.

The Colonel, however, was accustomed to pay a little visit to some old
friends every year just after midsummer. He had always liked best to
travel through the country when the fields were still scented with
clover, and blue and yellow flowers grew along the roadside in two long
straight rows.

This year the Colonel had hardly got to the great highroad before he met
his old friend Ensign von Örneclou. And the Ensign, who was travelling
about all the year round, and who knew all the country houses in
Värmland, gave him some good advice.

'Go to Halstanäs and call upon Ensign Vestblad,' he said to the Colonel.
'I can only tell you, old man, I don't know a house in the whole country
where one fares better.'

'What Vestblad are you speaking about?' asked the Colonel. 'I suppose
you don't mean the old Ensign whom the Major's wife showed the door?'

'The very man,' said the Ensign. 'But Vestblad is not the same man he
was. He has married a fine lady--a real stunning woman, Colonel--who has
made a man of him. It was a wonderful piece of good luck for Vestblad
that such a splendid girl should take a fancy to him. She was not
exactly young any longer; but no more was he. You should go to
Halstanäs, Colonel, and see what wonders love can work.'

And the Colonel went to Halstanäs to see if Örneclou spoke the truth. He
had, as a matter of fact, now and then wondered what had become of
Vestblad; in his young days he had kicked so recklessly over the traces
that even the Major's wife at Ekeby could not put up with him. She had
not been able to keep him at Ekeby more than a couple of years before
she was obliged to turn him out. Vestblad had become such a heavy
drinker that a Cavalier could hardly associate with him. And now
Örneclou declared that he owned a country house, and had made an
excellent match.

The Colonel consequently went to Halstanäs, and saw at the first glance
that it was a real old country-seat. He had only to look at the avenue
of birches with all the names cut on the fine old trees. Such birches he
had only seen at good old country-houses. The Colonel drove slowly up to
the house, and every moment his pleasure increased. He saw lime hedges
of the proper kind, so close that one could walk on the top of them,
and there were a couple of terraces with stone steps so old that they
were half buried in the ground. When the Colonel drove past the pond, he
saw indistinctly the dark carp in the yellowish water. The pigeons flew
up from the road flapping their wings; the squirrel stopped its wheel;
the watch-dog lay with its head on its paws, wagging its tail, and at
the same time faintly growling. Close to the porch the Colonel saw an
ant-hill, where the ants, unmolested, went to and fro--to and fro. He
looked at the flower-beds inside the grass border. There they grew, all
the old flowers: narcissus and pyrola, sempervivum and marigold; and on
the bank grew small white daisies, which had been there so long that
they now sowed themselves like weeds. Beerencreutz again said to himself
that this was indeed a real old country-house, where both plants and
animals and human beings throve as well as could be.

When at last he drove up to the front-door he had as good a reception as
he could wish for, and as soon as he had brushed the dust off him he was
taken to the dining-room, and he was offered plenty of good
old-fashioned food--the same old cakes for dessert that his mother used
to give him when he came home from school; and any so good he had never
tasted elsewhere.

Beerencreutz looked with surprise at Ensign Vestblad. He went about
quiet and content, with a long pipe in his mouth and a skull-cap on his
head. He wore an old morning-coat, which he had difficulty in getting
out of when it was time to dress for dinner. That was the only sign of
the Bohemian left, as far as Beerencreutz could see. He went about and
looked after his men, calculated their wages, saw how things were
getting on in the fields and meadows, gathered a rose for his wife when
he went through the garden, and he indulged no longer in either swearing
or spitting. But what astonished the Colonel most of all was the
discovery that old Ensign Vestblad kept his books. He took the Colonel
into his office and showed him large books with red backs. And those he
kept himself. He had lined them with red ink and black ink, written the
headings with large letters, and put down everything, even to a stamp.

But Ensign Vestblad's wife, who was a born lady, called Beerencreutz
cousin, and they soon found out the relationship between them; and they
talked all their relatives over. At last Beerencreutz became so intimate
with Mrs. Vestblad that he consulted her about the rug he was weaving.

It was a matter of course that the Colonel should stay the night. He was
taken to the best spare room to the right of the hall and close to his
host's bedroom, and his bed was a large four-poster, with heaps of
eiderdowns.

The Colonel fell asleep as soon as he got into bed, but awoke later on
in the night. He immediately got out of bed and went and opened the
window-shutters. He had a view over the garden, and in the light summer
night he could see all the gnarled old apple-trees, with their
worm-eaten leaves, and with numerous props under the decayed branches.
He saw the large wild apple-tree, which in the autumn would give barrels
of uneatable fruit; he saw the strawberries, which had just begun to
ripen under their profusion of green leaves.

The Colonel stood and looked at it as if he could not afford to waste
his time in sleeping. Outside his window at the peasant farm where he
lived all he could see was a stony hill and a couple of juniper-bushes;
and it was natural that a man like Beerencreutz should feel more at home
amongst well-trimmed hedges and roses in bloom.

When in the quiet stillness of the night one looks out upon a garden,
one often has a feeling that it is not real and natural. It can be so
still that one can almost fancy one's self in the theatre; one imagines
that the trees are painted and the roses made of paper. And it was
something like this the Colonel felt as he stood there. 'It cannot be
possible,' he thought, 'that all this is real. It can only be a dream.'
But then a few rose-leaves fell softly to the ground from the big
rose-tree just outside his window, and then he realized that everything
was genuine. Everything was real and genuine; both day and night the
same peace and contentment everywhere.

When he went and laid down again he left the window-shutters open. He
lay in the high bed and looked time after time at the rose-tree; it is
impossible to describe his pleasure in looking at it. He thought what a
strange thing it was that such a man as Vestblad should have this flower
of Paradise outside his window.

The more the Colonel thought of Vestblad the more surprised he became
that such a foal should end his days in such a stable. He was not good
for much at the time he was turned away from Ekeby. Who would have
thought he would have become a staid and well-to-do man?

The Colonel lay and laughed to himself, and wondered whether Vestblad
still remembered how he used to amuse himself in the olden days when he
was living at Ekeby. On dark and stormy nights he used to rub himself
over with phosphorus, mount a black horse, and ride over the hills to
the ironworks, where the smiths and the workmen lived; and if anyone
happened to look out of his window and saw a horseman shining with a
bluish-white light tearing past, he hastened to bar and bolt everywhere,
saying it was best to say one's prayers twice that night, for the devil
was abroad.

Oh yes, to frighten simple folks by such tricks was a favourite
amusement in olden days; but Vestblad had carried his jokes further than
anyone else the Colonel knew of.

An old woman on the parish had died at Viksta, which belonged to Ekeby.
Vestblad happened to hear about this. He also heard that the corpse had
been taken from the house and placed in a barn. At night Vestblad put on
his fiery array, mounted his black horse, and rode to the farmstead; and
people there who were about had seen a fiery horseman ride up to the
barn, where the corpse lay, ride three times round it and disappear
through the door. They had also seen the horseman come out again, ride
three times round the house and then disappear. But in the morning, when
they went into the barn to see the corpse, it was gone, and they
thought the devil had been there and carried her off. This supposition
had been enough for them. But a couple of weeks later they found the
body, which had been thrown on to a hay-loft in the barn, and then there
was a great outcry. They found out who the fiery horseman was, and the
peasants were on the watch to give Vestblad a good hiding. But the
Major's wife would not have him at her table or in her house any longer;
she packed his knapsack and asked him to betake himself elsewhere. And
Vestblad went out into the world and made his fortune.

A strange feeling of uneasiness came over the Colonel as he lay in bed.
He felt as if something were going to happen. He had hardly realized
before what an ugly story it was. He had no doubt even laughed at it at
the time. They had not been in the habit of taking much notice of what
happened to a poor old pauper in those days; but, great God! how furious
one would have been if anybody had done that to one's own mother!

A suffocating feeling came over the Colonel; he breathed heavily. The
thought of what Vestblad had done appeared so vile and hateful to him,
it weighed him down like a nightmare. He was half afraid of seeing the
dead woman, of seeing her appear from behind the bed. He felt as if she
must be quite near. And from the four corners of the room the Colonel
heard terrible words: 'God will not forgive it! God has never forgotten
it!'

The Colonel closed his eyes, but then he suddenly saw before him God's
great loom, where the web was woven with the fates of men; and he
thought he saw Ensign Vestblad's square, and it was dark on three sides;
and he, who understood something about weaving and patterns, knew that
the fourth side would also have to be covered with the dark shade. It
could not be done in any other way, otherwise there would be a mistake
in the weaving.

A cold sweat broke out on his forehead; it seemed to him that he looked
upon what was the hardest and the most immovable in all the world. He
saw how the fate which a man has worked out in his past life will pursue
him to the end. And to think there were actually people who thought they
could escape it!

Escape it! escape! All was noted and written down; the one colour and
the one figure necessitated the other, and everything came about as it
was bound to come about.

Suddenly Colonel Beerencreutz sat up in bed; he would look at the
flowers and the roses, and think that perhaps our Lord could forget
after all. But at the moment Beerencreutz sat up in bed the bedroom door
opened, and one of the farm-labourers--a stranger to him--put his head
in and nodded to the Colonel.

It was now so light that the Colonel saw the man quite distinctly. It
was the most hideous face he had ever seen. He had small gray eyes like
a pig, a flat nose, and a thin, bristly beard. One could not say that
the man looked like an animal, for animals have nearly always good
faces, but still, he had something of the animal about him. His lower
jaw projected, his neck was thick, and his forehead was quite hidden by
his rough, unkempt hair.

He nodded three times to the Colonel, and every time his mouth opened
with a broad grin; and he put out his hand, red with blood, and showed
it triumphantly. Up to this moment the Colonel had sat up in bed as if
paralyzed, but now he jumped up and was at the door in two steps. But
when he reached the door, the fellow was gone and the door closed.

The Colonel was just on the point of raising the alarm, when it struck
him that the door must be fastened on the inside, on his side, as he had
himself locked it the night before; and on examining it, he found that
it had not been unlocked.

The Colonel felt almost ashamed to think that in his old age he had
begun to see ghosts. He went straight back to bed again.

When the morning came, and he had breakfasted, the Colonel felt still
more ashamed. He had excited himself to such an extent that he had
trembled all over and perspired from fear. He said not a word about it.
But later on in the day he and Vestblad went over the estate. As they
passed a labourer who was cutting sods on a bank Beerencreutz recognised
him again. It was the man he had seen in the night. He recognised
feature for feature.

'I would not keep that man a day longer in my service, my friend,' said
Beerencreutz, when they had walked a short distance. And he told
Vestblad what he had seen in the night. 'I tell you this simply to warn
you, in order that you may dismiss the man.'

But Vestblad would not; he was just the man he would not dismiss. And
when Beerencreutz pressed him more and more, he at last confessed that
he would not do anything to the man, because he was the son of an old
pauper woman who had died at Viksta close to Ekeby.

'You no doubt remember the story?' he added.

'If that's the case, I would rather go to the end of the world than live
another day with that man about the place,' said Beerencreutz. An hour
after he left, and was almost angry that his warning was not heeded.
'Some misfortune will happen before I come here again,' said the Colonel
to Vestblad, as he took leave.

Next year, at the same time, the Colonel was preparing for another visit
to Halstanäs. But before he got so far, he heard some sad news about his
friends. As the clock struck one, a year after the very night he had
slept there, Ensign Vestblad and his wife had been murdered in their
bedroom by one of their labourers--a man with a neck like a bull, a flat
nose, and eyes like a pig.



  _From a Swedish_ HOMESTEAD

                IX

  _The_ INSCRIPTION _on the_ GRAVE



_The_ INSCRIPTION _on the_ GRAVE


Nowadays no one ever takes any notice of the little cross standing in
the corner of Svartsjö Churchyard. People on their way to and from
church go past it without giving it a glance. This is not so very
wonderful, because it is so low and small that clover and bluebells grow
right up to the arms of the cross, and timothy-grass to the very top of
it. Neither does anyone think of reading the inscription which stands on
the cross. The white letters are almost entirely washed out by the rain,
and it never occurs to anyone to try and decipher what is still left,
and try to make it out. But so it has not always been. The little cross
in its time has been the cause of much surprise and curiosity. There was
a time when not a person put his foot inside Svartsjö Churchyard without
going up to look at it. And when one of the old people from those days
now happens to see it, a whole story comes back to him of people and
events that have been long forgotten. He sees before him the whole of
Svartsjö parish in the lethargic sleep of winter, covered by even white
snow, quite a yard deep, so that it is impossible to discern road or
pathway, or to know where one is going. It is almost as necessary to
have a compass here as at sea. There is no difference between sea and
shore. The roughest ground is as even as the field which in the autumn
yielded such a harvest of oats. The charcoal-burner living near the
great bogs might imagine himself possessed of as much cultivated land as
the richest peasant.

The roads have left their secure course between the gray fences, and are
running at random across the meadows and along the river. Even on one's
own farm one may lose one's way, and suddenly discover that on one's way
to the well one has walked over the spirea-hedge and round the little
rose-bed.

But nowhere is it so impossible to find one's way as in the churchyard.
In the first place, the stone wall which separates it from the pastor's
field is entirely buried under the snow, so with that it is all one; and
secondly, the churchyard itself is only a simple large, white plain,
where not even the smallest unevenness in the snow-cover betrays the
many small mounds and tufts of the garden of the dead.

On most of the graves are iron crosses, from which hang small, thin
hearts of tin, which the summer wind sets in motion. These little hearts
are now all hidden under the snow, and cannot tinkle their sad songs of
sorrow and longing.

People who work in the towns have brought back with them to their dead
wreaths with flowers of beads and leaves of painted tin; and these
wreaths are so highly treasured that they are kept in small glass cases
on the graves. But now all this is hidden and buried under the snow, and
the grave that possesses such an ornament is in no way more remarkable
than any of the other graves.

One or two lilac bushes raise their heads above the snow-cover, but
their little stiff branches look so alike, that it is impossible to tell
one from the other, and they are of no use whatever to anyone trying to
find his way in the churchyard. Old women who are in the habit of going
on Sundays to visit their graves can only get a little way down the main
walk on account of the snow. There they stand, trying to make out where
their own grave lies--is it near that bush, or that?--and they begin to
long for the snow to melt. It is as if the one for whom they are
sorrowing has gone so far away from them, now that they cannot see the
spot where he lies.

There are also a few large gravestones and crosses that are higher than
the snow, but they are not many; and as these are also covered with
snow, they cannot be distinguished either.

There is only one pathway kept clear in the churchyard. It is the one
leading from the entrance to the small mortuary. When anyone is to be
buried the coffin is carried into the mortuary, and there the pastor
reads the service and casts the earth upon the coffin. It is impossible
to place the coffin in the ground as long as such a winter lasts. It
must remain standing in the mortuary until God sees fit to thaw the
earth, and the ground can be digged and made ready.

       *       *       *       *       *

Just when the winter was at its hardest, and the churchyard quite
inaccessible, a child died at Sander's, the ironmaster at Lerum
ironworks.

The ironworks at Lerum were large, and Sander, the ironmaster, was a
great man in that part of the country. He had recently had a family
grave made in the churchyard--a splendid grave, the position of which
one could not easily forget, although the snow had laid its thick carpet
over it. It was surrounded by heavy, hewn stones, with a massive chain
between them, and in the middle of the grave stood a huge granite block,
with their name inscribed upon it. There was only the one word 'Sander,'
engraved in large letters, but it could be seen over the whole
churchyard. But now that the child was dead, and was to be buried, the
ironmaster said to his wife:

'I will not allow this child to lie in my grave.'

One can picture them both at that moment. It was in their dining-room at
Lerum. The ironmaster was sitting at the breakfast-table alone, as was
his wont. His wife, Ebba Sander, was sitting in a rocking-chair at the
window, from where she had a wide view of the lake, with its small
islands covered with birches.

She had been weeping, but when her husband said this, her eyes became
immediately dry. Her little figure seemed to shrink from fear, and she
began to tremble.

'What do you say? What are you saying?' she asked, and her voice sounded
as if she were shivering from cold.

'I object to it,' he said. 'My father and my mother lie there, and the
name "Sander" stands on the stone. I will not allow that child to lie
there.'

'Oh,' she said, still trembling, 'is that what you have been thinking
about? I always did think that some day you would have your revenge.'

He threw down his serviette, rose from the table, and stood before her,
broad and big. It was not his intention to assert his will with many
words, but she could see, as he stood there, that nothing could make him
change his mind. Stern, immovable, obstinate he was from top to toe.

'I will not revenge myself,' he said, 'only I will not have it.'

'You speak as if it were only a question of removing him from one bed to
the other,' she said. 'He is dead. It does not matter to him where he
lies, I suppose; but for me it is ruin, you know.'

'I have also thought of that,' he said, 'but I cannot.'

When two people have been married, and have lived together for some
years, they do not require many words to understand one another. She
knew it would be quite useless to try and move him.

'Why did you forgive me, then?' she said, wringing her hands. 'Why did
you let me stay with you as your wife and promise to forgive me?'

He knew that he would not do her any harm. It was not his fault that he
had now reached the limit of his forbearance.

'Say to people what you like,' he said; 'I shall not say anything. You
can say, if you like, that there is water in the vault, or that there is
only room for father and mother and you and me.'

'And you imagine that they will believe that!'

'Well, you must manage that as best you can.'

He was not angry; she knew that he was not. It was only as he said: on
that point he could not give way.

She went further into the room, put her hands at the back of her head,
and sat gazing out of the window without saying anything. The terrible
thing is that so much happens to one in life over which one has no
control, and, above all, that something may spring up within one's self
over which one is entirely powerless. Some years ago, when she was
already a staid married woman, love came to her; and what a love--so
violent that it was quite impossible for her to resist.

Was not the feeling which now mastered her husband--was not that, after
all, a desire to be revenged?

He had never been angry with her. He forgave her at once when she came
and confessed her sin.

'You have been out of your senses,' he said, and allowed her to remain
with him at Lerum as if nothing had happened.

But although it is easy enough to say one forgives, it may be hard to do
so, especially for one whose mind is slow and heavy, who ponders over
but never forgets or gives vent to his feelings. Whatever he may say,
and however much he may have made up his mind, something is always left
within his heart which gnaws and longs to be satisfied with someone
else's suffering. She had always had a strange feeling that it would
have been better for her if he had been so enraged that he had struck
her. Then, perhaps, things could have come right between them. All these
years he had been morose and irritable, and she had become frightened.
She was like a horse between the traces. She knew that behind her was
one who held a whip over her, even if he did not use it; and now he had
used it. He had not been able to refrain any longer. And now it was all
over with her.

Those who were about her said they had never seen such sorrow as hers.
She seemed to be petrified. The whole time before the funeral it was as
if there were no real life in her. One could not tell if she heard what
was said to her, if she had any idea who was speaking to her. She did
not eat; it was as if she felt no hunger. She went out in the bitterest
cold; she did not feel it. But it was not grief that petrified her--it
was fear.

It never struck her for a moment to stay at home on the day of the
funeral. She must go to the churchyard, she must walk in the funeral
procession--must go there, feeling that all who were present expected
that the body would be laid in the family vault of the Sanders. She
thought she would sink into the ground at all the surprise and scorn
which would rise up against her when the grave-digger, who headed the
procession, led the way to an out-of-the-way grave. An outburst of
astonishment would be heard from everybody, although it was a funeral
procession: 'Why is the child not going to be buried in the Sanders'
family vault?' Thoughts would go back to the vague rumours which were
once circulated about her. 'There must have been something in them,
after all,' people will whisper to each other. And before the mourners
left the churchyard she would be condemned and lost. The only thing for
her to do was to be present herself. She would go there with a quiet
face, as if everything was as it ought to be. Then, perhaps, they might
believe what she said to explain the matter. . . .

Her husband went with her to the church; he had looked after everything,
invited people, ordered the coffin, and arranged who should be the
bearers. He was kind and good now that he had got his own way.

It was on a Sunday. The service was over, and the mourners had assembled
outside the porch, where the coffin was standing. The bearers had placed
the white bands over their shoulders; all people of any position had
joined in the procession, as did also many of the congregation. She had
a feeling as if they had all gathered together in order to accompany a
criminal to the scaffold.

How they would all look at her when they came back from the funeral! She
was there to prepare them for what was to happen, but she had not been
able to utter a single word. She felt quite unable to speak quietly and
sensibly. There was only one thing she wanted: to scream and moan so
violently and loudly that it could be heard all over the churchyard; and
she had to bite her lips so as not to cry out.

The bells commenced to ring in the tower, and the procession began to
move. Now all these people would find it out without the slightest
preparation. Oh, why had she not spoken in time? She had to restrain
herself to the utmost from shouting out and telling them that they must
not go to the grave with the dead child. Those who are dead are dead and
gone. Why should her whole life be spoiled for the sake of this dead
child? They could put him in the earth, where they liked, only not in
the churchyard. She had a confused idea that she would frighten them
away from the churchyard; it was risky to go there; it was
plague-smitten; there were marks of a wolf in the snow; she would
frighten them as one frightens children.

She did not know where they had digged the child's grave. She would know
soon enough, she thought; and when the procession entered the
churchyard, she glanced around the snow-covered ground to see where
there was a new grave; but she saw neither path nor grave--nothing but
the white snow. And the procession advanced towards the small mortuary.
As many as possibly could pressed into the building and saw the earth
cast on to the coffin. There was no question whatever about this or that
grave. No one found out that the little one which was now laid to rest
was never to be taken to the family vault.

Had she but thought of that, had she not forgotten everything else in
her fear and terror, then she need not have been afraid, not for a
single moment.

'In the spring,' she thought, 'when the coffin has to be placed in the
ground, there will probably be no one there except the grave-digger;
everybody will think that the child is lying in the Sanders' vault.' And
she felt that she was saved.

She sank down sobbing violently. People looked at her with sympathy.
'How terribly she felt it!' they said. But she herself knew that she
cried like one who has escaped from a mortal danger.

A day or two after the funeral she was sitting in the twilight in her
accustomed place in the dining-room, and as it grew darker she caught
herself waiting and longing. She sat and listened for the child; that
was the time when he always used to come in and play with her. Why did
he not come that day? Then she started. 'Oh, he is dead, he is dead!'

The next day she sat again in the twilight, and longed for him, and day
by day this longing grew. It grew as the light does in the springtime,
until at last it filled all the hours both of day and night.

It almost goes without saying that a child like hers was more loved
after death than whilst it was living. While it was living its mother
had thought of nothing but regaining the trust and the love of her
husband. And for him the child could never be a source of happiness. It
was necessary to keep it away from him as much as possible; and the
child had often felt he was in the way.

She, who had failed in and neglected her duty, would show her husband
that she was worth something after all. She was always about in the
kitchen and in the weaving-room. Where could there be any room, then,
for the little boy?

But now, afterwards, she remembered how his eyes could beg and beseech.
In the evening he liked so much to have her sitting at his bedside. He
said he was afraid to lie in the dark; but now it struck her that that
had probably only been an excuse to get her to stay with him. She
remembered how he lay and tried not to fall asleep. Now she knew that he
kept himself awake in order that he might lie a little longer and feel
his hand in hers. He had been a shrewd little fellow, young as he was.
He had exerted all his little brain to find out how he could get a
little share of her love. It is incomprehensible that children can love
so deeply. She never understood it whilst he was alive.

It was really first now that she had begun to love the child. It was
first now that she was really impressed by his beauty. She would sit and
dream of his big, strange eyes. He had never been robust and ruddy like
most children, but delicate and slender. But how sweet he had been! He
seemed to her now as something wonderfully beautiful--more and more
beautiful for every day that went. Children were indeed the best of all
in this world. To think that there were little beings stretching out
their hands to everybody, and thinking good of all; that never ask if a
face be plain or pretty, but are equally willing to kiss either, loving
equally old and young, rich and poor. And yet they were real little
people.

For every day that went she was drawn nearer and nearer to the child.
She wished that the child had been still alive; but, on the other hand,
she was not sure that in that case she would have been drawn so near to
it. At times she was quite in despair at the thought that she had not
done more for the child whilst he was alive. That was probably why he
had been taken from her, she thought.

But it was not often that she sorrowed like this. Earlier in life she
had always been afraid lest some great sorrow should overtake her, but
now it seemed to her that sorrow was not what she had then thought it to
be. Sorrow was only to live over and over again through something which
was no more. Sorrow in her case was to become familiar with her child's
whole being, and to seek to understand him. And that sorrow had made her
life so rich.

What she was most afraid of now was that time would take him from her
and wipe out the memory of him. She had no picture of him; perhaps his
features little by little would fade for her. She sat every day and
tried to think how he looked. 'Do I see him exactly as he was?' she
said.

Week by week, as the winter wore away, she began to long for the time
when he would be taken from the mortuary and buried in the ground, so
that she could go to his grave and speak with him. He should lie towards
the west, that was the most beautiful, and she would deck the grave with
roses. There should also be a hedge round the grave, and a seat where
she could sit often and often. People would perhaps wonder at it; but
they were not to know that her child did not lie in the family grave;
and they were sure to think it strange that she placed flowers on an
unknown grave and sat there for hours. What could she say to explain it?

Sometimes she thought that she could, perhaps, do it in this way: First
she would go to the big grave and place a large bouquet of flowers on
it, and remain sitting there for some time, and afterwards she would
steal away to the little grave; and he would be sure to be content with
the little flower she would secretly give him. But even if he were
satisfied with the one little flower, could she be? Could she really
come quite near to him in this way? Would he not notice that she was
ashamed of him? Would he not understand what a disgrace his birth had
been to her? No, she would have to protect him from that. He must only
think that the joy of having possessed him weighed against all the rest.

At last the winter was giving way. One could see the spring was coming.
The snow-cover began to melt, and the earth to peep out. It would still
be a week or two before the ground was thawed, but it would not be long
now before the dead could be taken away from the mortuary. And she
longed--she longed so exceedingly for it.

Could she still picture to herself how he looked? She tried every day;
but it was easier when it was winter. Now, when the spring was coming,
it seemed as if he faded away from her. She was filled with despair. If
she were only soon able to sit by his grave and be near to him again,
then she would be able to see him again, to love him. Would he never be
laid in his little grave? She must be able to see him again, see him
through her whole life; she had no one else to love.

At last all her fears and scruples vanished before this great longing.
She loved, she loved; she could not live without the dead! She knew now
that she could not consider anybody or anything but him--him alone. And
when the spring came in earnest, when mounds and graves once again
appeared all over the churchyard, when the little hearts of the iron
crosses again began to tinkle in the wind, and the beaded wreaths to
sparkle in their glass cases, and when the earth at last was ready to
receive the little coffin, she had ready a black cross to place on his
grave. On the cross from arm to arm was written in plain white letters,

'HERE RESTS MY CHILD,'

and underneath, on the stem of the cross, stood her name.

She did not mind that the whole world would know how she had sinned.
Other things were of no consequence to her; all she thought about was
that she would now be able to pray at the grave of her child.



  _From a Swedish_ HOMESTEAD

                X

  _The_ BROTHERS



_The_ BROTHERS


It is very possible that I am mistaken, but it seems to me that an
astonishing number of people die this year. I have a feeling that I
cannot go down the street without meeting a hearse. One cannot help
thinking about all those who are carried to the churchyard. I always
feel as if it were so sad for the dead who have to be buried in towns. I
can hear how they moan in their coffins. Some complain that they have
not had plumes on the hearse; some count up the wreaths, and are not
satisfied; and then there are some who have only been followed by two or
three carriages, and who are hurt by it.

The dead ought never to know and experience such things; but people in
towns do not at all understand how they ought to honour those who have
entered into eternal rest.

When I really think over it I do not know any place where they
understand it better than at home in Svartsjö. If you die in the parish
of Svartsjö you know you will have a coffin like that of everyone
else--an honest black coffin which is like the coffins in which the
country judge and the local magistrate were buried a year or two ago.
For the same joiner makes all the coffins, and he has only one pattern;
the one is made neither better nor worse than the other. And you know
also, for you have seen it so many times, that you will be carried to
the church on a waggon which has been painted black for the occasion.
You need not trouble yourself at all about any plumes. And you know that
the whole village will follow you to the church, and that they will
drive as slowly and as solemnly for you as for a landed proprietor.

But you will have no occasion to feel annoyed because you have not
enough wreaths, for they do not place a single flower on the coffin; it
shall stand out black and shining, and nothing must cover it; and it is
not necessary for you to think whether you will have a sufficiently
large number of people to follow you, for those who live in your town
will be sure to follow you, every one. Nor will you be obliged to lie
and listen if there is lamenting and weeping around your coffin. They
never weep over the dead when they stand on the church hill outside
Svartsjö Church. No, they weep as little over a strong young fellow who
falls a prey to death just as he is beginning to provide for his old
people as they will for you. You will be placed on a couple of black
trestles outside the door of the parish room, and a whole crowd of
people will gradually gather round you, and all the women will have
handkerchiefs in their hands. But no one will cry; all the handkerchiefs
will be kept tightly rolled up; not one will be applied to the eyes. You
need not speculate as to whether people will shed as many tears over you
as they would over others. They would cry if it were the proper thing,
but it is not the proper thing.

You can understand that if there were much sorrowing over one grave, it
would not look well for those over whom no one sorrowed. They know what
they were about at Svartsjö. They do as it has been the custom to do
there for many hundred years. But whilst you stand there, on the church
hill, you are a great and important personage, although you receive
neither flowers nor tears. No one comes to church without asking who you
are, and then they go quietly up to you and stand and gaze at you; and
it never occurs to anyone to wound the dead by pitying him. No one says
anything but that it is well for him that it is all over.

It is not at all as it is in a town, where you can be buried any day. At
Svartsjö you must be buried on a Sunday, so that you can have the whole
parish around you. There you will have standing near your coffin both
the girl with whom you danced at the last midsummer night's festival and
the man with whom you exchanged horses at the last fair. You will have
the schoolmaster who took so much trouble with you when you were a
little lad, and who had forgotten you, although you remembered him so
well; and you will have the old Member of Parliament who never before
thought it worth his while to bow to you. This is not as in a town,
where people hardly turn round when you are carried past. When they
bring the long bands and place them under the coffin, there is not one
who does not watch the proceedings.

You cannot imagine what a churchwarden we have at Svartsjö. He is an old
soldier, and he looks like a Field-Marshal. He has short white hair and
twisted moustaches, and a pointed imperial; he is slim and tall and
straight, with a light and firm step. On Sundays he wears a
well-brushed frock-coat of fine cloth. He really looks a very fine old
gentleman, and it is he who walks at the head of the procession. Then
comes the verger. Not that the verger is to be compared with the
churchwarden. It is more than probable that his Sunday hat is too large
and old-fashioned; as likely as not he is awkward--but when is a verger
not awkward?

Then you come next in your coffin, with the six bearers, and then follow
the clergyman and the clerk and the Town Council and the whole parish.
All the congregation will follow you to the churchyard, you may be sure
of that. But I will tell you something: All those who follow you look so
small and poor. They are not fine town's-people, you know--only plain,
simple Svartsjö folk. There is only one who is great and important, and
that is you in your coffin--you who are dead.

The others the next day will have to resume their heavy and toilsome
work. They will have to live in poor old cottages and wear old, patched
clothes; the others will always be plagued and worried, and dragged down
and humbled by poverty.

Those who follow you to your grave become far more sad by looking at the
living than by thinking of you who are dead. You need not look any more
at the velvet collar of your coat to see if it is not getting worn at
the edges; you need not make a special fold of your silk handkerchief to
hide that it is beginning to fray; you will never more be compelled to
ask the village shopkeeper to let you have goods on credit; you will
not find out that your strength is failing; you will not have to wait
for the day when you must go on the parish.

While they are following you to the grave everyone will be thinking that
it is best to be dead--better to soar heavenwards, carried on the white
clouds of the morning--than to be always experiencing life's manifold
troubles. When they come to the wall of the churchyard, where the grave
has been made, the bands are exchanged for strong ropes, and people get
on to the loose earth and lower you down. And when this has been done
the clerk advances to the grave and begins to sing: 'I walk towards
death.'

He sings the hymn quite alone; neither the clergyman nor any of the
congregation help him. But the clerk must sing; however keen the north
wind and however glaring the sun which shines straight in his face, sing
he does.

The clerk, however, is getting old now, and he has not much voice left;
he is quite aware that it does not sound as well now as formerly when he
sang people into their graves; but he does it all the same--it is part
of his duty. For the day, you understand, when his voice quite fails
him, so that he cannot sing any more, he must resign his office, and
this means downright poverty for him. Therefore the whole gathering
stands in apprehension while the old clerk sings, wondering whether his
voice will last through the whole verse. But no one joins him, not a
single person, for that would not do; it is not the custom. People never
sing at a grave at Svartsjö. People do not sing in the church either,
except the first hymn on Christmas Day morning.

Still, if one listened very attentively, one could hear that the clerk
does not sing alone. There really is another voice, but it sounds so
exactly the same that the two voices blend as if they were only one. The
other who sings is a little old man in a long, coarse gray coat. He is
still older than the clerk, but he gives out all the voice he has to
help him. And the voice, as I have told you, is exactly the same kind as
the clerk's; they are so alike one cannot help wondering at it.

But when one looks closer, the little gray old man is also exactly like
the clerk; he has the same nose and chin and mouth, only somewhat older,
and, as it were, more hardly dealt with in life. And then one
understands that the little gray man is the clerk's brother; and then
one knows why he helps him. For, you see, things have never gone well
with him in this world, and he has always had bad luck; and once he was
made a bankrupt, and brought the clerk into his misfortunes. He knows
that it is his fault that his brother has always had to struggle. And
the clerk, you know, has tried to help him on to his legs again, but
with no avail, for he has not been one of those one can help. He has
always been unfortunate; and then, he has had no strength of purpose.

But the clerk has been the shining light in the family; and for the
other it has been a case of receiving and receiving, and he has never
been able to make any return at all. Great God! even to talk of making
any return--he who is so poor! You should only see the little hut in
the forest where he lives. He knows that he has always been dull and
sad, only a burden--only a burden for his brother and for others. But
now of late he has become a great man; now he is able to give some
return. And that he does. Now he helps his brother, the clerk, who has
been the sunshine and life and joy for him all his days. Now he helps
him to sing, so that he may keep his office.

He does not go to church, for he thinks that everyone looks at him
because he has no black Sunday clothes; but every Sunday he goes up to
the church to see whether there is a coffin on the black trestles
outside the parish room; and if there is one he goes to the grave, in
spite of his old gray coat, and helps his brother with his pitiful old
voice.

The little old man knows very well how badly he sings; he places himself
behind the others, and does not push forward to the grave. But sing he
does; it would not matter so much if the clerk's voice should fail on
one or other note, his brother is there and helps him.

At the churchyard no one laughs at the singing; but when people go home
and have thrown off their devoutness, then they speak about the service,
and then they laugh at the clerk's singing--laugh both at his and his
brother's. The clerk does not mind it, it is the same to him; but his
brother thinks about it and suffers from it; he dreads the Sunday the
whole week, but still he comes punctually to the churchyard and does his
duty. But you in your coffin, you do not think so badly of the singing.
You think that it is good music. Is it not true that one would like to
be buried in Svartsjö, if only for the sake of that singing?

It says in the hymn that life is but a walk towards death, and when the
two old men sing this--the two who have suffered for each other during
their whole life--then one understands better than ever before how
wearisome it is to live, and one is so entirely satisfied with being
dead.

And then the singing stops, and the clergyman throws earth on the coffin
and says a prayer over you. Then the two old voices sing: 'I walk
towards heaven.' And they do not sing this verse any better than the
former; their voices grow more feeble and querulous the longer they
sing. But for you a great and wide expanse opens, and you soar upwards
with tremulous joy, and everything earthly fades and disappears.

But still the last which you hear of things earthly tells of
faithfulness and love. And in the midst of your trembling flight the
poor song will awake memories of all the faithfulness and love you have
met with here below, and this will bear you upwards. This will fill you
with radiance and make you beautiful as an angel.


  THE END.



  [Illustration]

  THE COUNTRY LIFE PRESS
  GARDEN CITY, N. Y.



Transcriber's Note:

In this Latin-1 text version:
  text in italics is marked with underscores, e.g. _italics_
  text in small capitals is shown in upper-case.

Hyphenation is inconsistent, for example sheepskin, sheep-skin and
sheep's-skin all occur. These have been left as printed.

On page 184 "... and the nip reddened on the naked branch of the
hawthorn" has been left as printed, however the original Swedish talks
of nyponet (rosehip) and törnbuskens (rosehip and thornbush), rather
than nip and hawthorn.

Changes that have been made are:

  Page   4 from: then I feel that I must speak
             to: then I feel that I must speak.

  Page  55 from: the newly-buried birl
             to: the newly-buried girl

  Page  94 from: the everlasting unrest that tormened him
             to: the everlasting unrest that tormented him

  Page 124 from: why had be been unhappy?
             to: why had he been unhappy?

  Page 229 from: found friends in the solitude above
             to: found friends in the solitude above.

  Page 264 from: Guilietta Lombardi
             to: Giulietta Lombardi

  Page 328 from: the snow had laid its thinck carpet
             to: the snow had laid its thick carpet





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