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Title: Mothwise
Author: Hamsun, Knut
Language: English
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Transcriber's Note


Italics are indicated by _underscores_, and bold text by =equals signs=.



MOTHWISE



_Original Title: “Sværmere.”_

_Translated from the Norwegian by W. WORSTER, M.A._



  MOTHWISE


  BY

  KNUT HAMSUN

  AUTHOR OF “GROWTH OF THE SOIL” “PAN” ETC. ETC.


  [Illustration]


  GYLDENDAL
  11 BURLEIGH STREET, COVENT GARDEN
  LONDON, W.C.2

  COPENHAGEN.      CHRISTIANIA.



[Illustration]



INTRODUCTORY NOTE


The publication of _Growth of the Soil_ in the spring of last year
(1920) set critics and readers asking for information about the author
and his works. Later in the year further interest was aroused by the
news that Hamsun had been awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. In
December, an article on Hamsun, giving a brief general survey of his
works, appeared in _The Fortnightly Review_. This article, with some
slight alteration, is now reprinted here, the proprietors of that
journal having very kindly granted their permission, an act of courtesy
which is the more to be appreciated considering the brief time which
has elapsed since the original publication.

       *       *       *       *       *

Knut Hamsun is now sixty. For years past he has been regarded as the
greatest of living Norwegian writers, and one or two attempts have been
made previously to introduce his work into this country, but it was not
until this year (1920), with the publication of _Growth of the Soil_,
that he achieved any real success, or became at all generally known,
among English readers.

_Growth of the Soil_ is very far indeed from Hamsun’s earliest
beginnings: far even from the books of his early middle period,
which made his name. It is the life story of a man in the wilds, the
genesis and gradual development of a homestead, the unit of humanity,
in the untilled, uncleared tracts that still remain in the Norwegian
Highlands. It is an epic of earth; the history of a microcosm. Its
dominant note is one of patient strength and simplicity; the mainstay
of its working is the tacit, stern, yet loving alliance between Nature
and the Man who faces her himself, trusting to himself and her for the
physical means of life, and the spiritual contentment with life which
she must grant if he be worthy. Modern man faces Nature only by proxy,
or as proxy, through others or for others, and the intimacy is lost. In
the wilds the contact is direct and immediate; it is the foothold upon
earth, the touch of the soil itself, that gives strength.

The story is epic in its magnitude, in its calm, steady progress and
unhurrying rhythm, in its vast and intimate humanity. The author looks
upon his characters with a great, all-tolerant sympathy, aloof yet
kindly, as a god. A more objective work of fiction it would be hard to
find.

Hamsun’s early work was subjective in the extreme; so much so, indeed,
as almost to lie outside the limits of æsthetic composition. As a boy
he wrote verse under difficulties--he was born in Gudbrandsdalen, but
came as a child to Bodø in Lofoten, and worked with a shoemaker there
for some years, saving up money for the publication of his juvenile
efforts. He had little education to speak of, and after a period of
varying casual occupations, mostly of the humblest sort, he came to
Christiania with the object of studying there, but failed to make his
way. Twice he essayed his fortune in America, but without success. For
three years he worked as a fisherman on the Newfoundland Banks.

His Nordland origin is in itself significant; it means an environment
of month-long nights and concentrated summers, in which all feelings
are intensified, and love and dread and gratitude and longing are
nearer and deeper than in milder and more temperate regions, where
elemental opposites are, as it were, reciprocally diluted.

In 1890, at the age of thirty, Hamsun attracted attention by the
publication of _Sult_ (Hunger). _Sult_ is a record of weeks of
starvation in a city; the semi-delirious confession of a man whose
physical and mental faculties have slipped beyond control. He speaks
and acts irrationally, and knows it; watches himself at his mental
antics and takes himself to task for the same. And he asks himself: Is
it a sign of madness?

It might seem so. The extraordinary associations, the weird fancies
and bizarre impulses that are here laid bare give an air of convincing
verisimilitude to the supposed confessions of a starving journalist.
But, as a matter of fact, Hamsun has no need of extraneous influences
to invest his characters with originality. Starving or fed, they can be
equally erratic. This is seen in his next book, _Mysterier_.

Here we have actions and reactions as fantastic as in _Sult_,
though the hero has here no such excuse as in the former case. The
“mysteries,” or mystifications of Nagel, a stranger who comes, for no
particular reason apparent, to stay in a little Norwegian town, arise
entirely out of Nagel’s own personality.

_Mysterier_ is one of the most exasperating books that a publisher’s
reader, or a conscientious reviewer, could be given to deal with.
An analysis of the principal character is a most baffling task. One
is tempted to call him mad, and have done with it. But, as a matter
of fact, he is uncompromisingly, unrestrainedly human; he goes about
constantly saying and doing things that we, ordinary and respectable
people, are trained and accustomed to refrain from saying or doing at
all. He has the self-consciousness of a sensitive child; he is for
ever thinking of what people think of him, and trying to create an
impression. Then, with a paradoxical sincerity, he confesses that the
motive of this or that action _was_ simply to create an impression, and
thereby destroys the impression. Sometimes he caps this by wilfully
letting it appear that the double move was carefully designed to
produce the reverse impression of the first--until the person concerned
is utterly bewildered, and the reader likewise.

_Mysterier_ appeared in 1893. In the following year Hamsun astonished
his critics with two books, _Ny Jord_ (New Ground) and _Redaktør
Lynge_, both equally unlike his previous work. With these he passes
at a bound from one-man stories, portrait studies of eccentric
characters in a remote or restricted environment, to group subjects,
chosen from centres of life and culture in Christiania. _Redaktør
Lynge_--_redaktør_, of course, means “editor”--deals largely with
political manœuvres and intrigues, the bitterly controversial politics
of Norway prior to the dissolution of the Union with Sweden. _Ny Jord_
gives an unflattering picture of the academic, literary, and artistic
youth of the capital, idlers for the most part, arrogant, unscrupulous,
self-important, and full of disdain for the mere citizens and merchants
whose simple honesty and kindliness are laughed at or exploited by the
newly dominant representatives of culture.

Both these books are technically superior to the first two, inasmuch
as they show mastery of a more difficult form. But their appeal is
not so great; there is lacking a something that might be inspiration,
personal sympathy--some indefinable essential that the author himself
has taught us to expect. They are less _hamsunsk_ than most of Hamsun’s
work. Hamsun is at his best among the scenes and characters he loves;
tenderness and sympathy make up so great a part of his charm that he is
hardly recognisable in surroundings or society uncongenial to himself.

It would almost seem as if he realised something of this. For in his
next work he turns from the capital to the Nordland coast, reverting
also, in some degree, to the subjective, keenly sensitive manner of
_Sult_, though now with more restraint and concentration.

_Pan_ (1894) is probably Hamsun’s best-known work. It is a love-story,
but of an extraordinary type, and is, moreover, important from the fact
that we are here introduced to some of the characters and types that
are destined to reappear again and again in his later works.

Nagel, the exasperating irresponsible of _Mysterier_, is at his maddest
in his behaviour towards the woman he loves. It is natural that this
should be so. When a man is intoxicated, his essential qualities are
emphasised. If he have wit, he will be witty; if a brutal nature, he
will be a brute; if he be of a melancholy temper, he will be disposed
to sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of the death of kings.

We see this in _Pan_. The love-making of the hero is characterised
by the same irrational impulses, the same extravagant actions, as
in _Sult_ and _Mysterier_. But they are now less frequent, and less
involved. The book as a whole is toned down, so to speak, from the
bewildering tangle of unrestraint in the first two. There is quite
sufficient of the erratic and unusual in the character of Glahn,
the hero, but the tone is more subdued. The madcap youth of genius
has realised that the world looks frigidly at its vagaries, and
the secretly proud “_au moins_ je suis autre”--more a boast than
a confession--gives place to a wistful, apologetic admission of
the difference as a fault. Here already we have something of that
resignation which comes later to its fulness in the story of the
Wanderer with the Mute.

The love-story in _Pan_ takes the form of a conflict; it is one of
those battles between the sexes, duels of wit and _esprit_, such as
one finds in the plays of Marivaux. But Hamsun sets his battle in the
sign of the heart, not of the head; it is a _marivaudage_ of feeling,
none the less deep for its erratic utterance. Moreover, the scene is
laid, not in salons and ante-chambers, but in a landscape such as
Hamsun loves, the forest-clad hills above a little fishing village,
between the _højfjeld_ and the sea. And interwoven with the story, like
an eerie breathing from the dark of woods at dusk and dawn, is the
haunting presence of Iselin, _la belle dame sans merci_.

_Pan_ is a book that offends against all sorts of rules; as a literary
product it is eminently calculated to elicit, especially in England,
the Olympian “this will never do.” To begin with, it is not so much a
novel as a _novelle_--a form of art little cultivated in this country,
but which lends itself excellently to delicate artistic handling, and
the creation of that subtle influence which Hamsun’s countrymen call
_stemning_, poorly rendered by the English “atmosphere.” The epilogue
is disproportionately long; the portion written as by another hand
is all too recognisably in the style of the rest. And with all his
chivalrous sacrifice and violent end, Glahn is at best a quixotic hero.
Men, as men, would think him rather a fool, and women, as women, might
flush at the thought of a cavalier so embarrassingly unrestrained. He
is not to be idolised as a cinema star, or the literally gymnastic
hero of a perennial Earl’s Court Exhibition set to music on the stage.
He could not be truthfully portrayed on a flamboyant wrapper as at
all seductively masculine. In a word, he is neither a man’s man nor a
woman’s man. But he is a human being, keenly susceptible to influences
which most of us have felt in some degree.

Closely allied to _Pan_ is _Victoria_, likewise a story of conflict
between two lovers. The actual plot can only be described as hackneyed.
Girl and boy, the rich man’s daughter and the poor man’s son, playmates
in youth, then separated by the barriers of social standing--few but
the most hardened of “best-sellers” catering for semi-detached suburbia
would venture nowadays to handle such a theme. Yet Hamsun dares, and so
insistently unlike all else is the impress of his personality that the
mechanical structure of the story is forgotten. It is interspersed with
irrelevant fancies, visions and imaginings, a chain of tied notes heard
as an undertone through the action on the surface. The effect is that
of something straining towards an impossible realisation; a beating of
wings in the void; a striving for utterance of things beyond speech.

_Victoria_ is the swan-song of Hamsun’s subjective period. Already,
in the three plays which appeared during the years immediately
following _Pan_, he faces the merciless law of change; the unrelenting
“forward” which means leaving loved things behind. Kareno, student of
life, begins his career in resolute opposition to the old men, the
established authorities who stand for compromise and resignation. For
twenty years he remains obstinately faithful to his creed, that the
old men must step aside or be thrust aside, to make way for the youth
that will be served. “What has age that youth has not? Experience.
Experience, in all its poor and withered nakedness. And what use is
their experience to us, who must make our own in every single happening
of life?” In _Aftenrøde_, the “Sunset” of the trilogy, Kareno himself
deserts the cause of youth, and allies himself to the party in power.
And the final scene shows him telling a story to a child: “There was
once a man who never would give way....”

The madness of _Sult_ is excused as being delirium, due to physical
suffering. Nagel, in _Mysterier_, is shown as a fool, an eccentric
intolerable in ordinary society, though he is disconcertingly human,
paradoxically sane. Glahn, in _Pan_, apologises for his uncouth
straightforwardness by confessing that he is more at home in the woods,
where he can say and do what he pleases without offence. Johannes, in
_Victoria_, is of humble birth, which counts in extenuation of his
unmannerly frankness in early years. Later he becomes a poet, and as
such is exempt in some degree from the conventional restraint imposed
on those who aspire to polite society. All these well-chosen characters
are made to serve the author’s purpose as channels for poetic utterance
that might otherwise seem irrelevant. The extent to which this is done
may be seen from the way in which Hamsun lets a character in one book
enter upon a theme which later becomes the subject of an independent
work by the author himself. Thus Glahn is haunted by visions of Diderik
and Iselin; Johannes writes fragments supposed to be spoken by one
Vendt the Monk. Five years after _Victoria_, Hamsun gives us the
romantic drama of _Munken Vendt_, in which Diderik and Iselin appear.

Throughout these early works, Hamsun is striving to find expression
for his own sensitive personality; a form and degree of expression
sufficient to relieve his own tension of feeling, without fusing the
medium; adequate to his own needs, yet understandable and tolerable to
ordinary human beings, to the readers of books. The process, in effect,
is simply this: Hamsun is a poet, with a poet’s deep and unusual
feeling, and a poet’s need of utterance. To gain a hearing, he chooses
figures whom he can conveniently represent as fools. Secretly, he
loves them, for they are himself. But to the world he can present them
with a polite apology, a plea for kindly indulgence.

It is not infrequent in literature to find the wisest and most poignant
utterances thus laid in the mouths of poor men clad in motley. Some
of the most daring things in Shakespeare, the newest heresies of the
Renaissance, are voiced by irresponsibles. Of all dramatic figures,
that of the fool is most suited to the expression of concentrated
feeling. There is an arresting question in a play of recent years,
which runs something like this: “Do you think that the things people
make fools of themselves about are any less real and true than the
things they behave sensibly about?”

Most of us have at some time or another felt that uncomfortable, almost
indecently denuding question which comes to us at rare moments from
the stage where some great drama is being played: What is higher, what
is more real: this, or the life we live? In that sudden flash, the
matters of to-day’s and to-morrow’s reality in our minds appear as
vulgar trifles, things of which we are ashamed. The feeling lasts but a
moment; for a moment we have been something higher than ourselves, in
the mere desire so to be. Then we fall back to ourselves once more, to
the lower levels upon which alone we can exist. And yet it is by such
potentials that we judge the highest art; by its power to give us, if
only for a moment, something of that which the divinity of our aspiring
minds finds wanting in the confines of reality.

The richness of this quality is one of the most endearing things in
Hamsun’s characters. Their sensitiveness is a thing we have been
trained, for self-defence, to repress. It is well for us, no doubt,
that this is so. But we are grateful for their showing that such
things _are_, we feel the richer for a momentary glimpse of that
susceptibility we dare not encourage in ourselves. The figures Hamsun
sets before us as confessedly unsuited to the realities of life, his
vagabonds, his failures, his fools, have power at times to make us
question whether our world of comfort, luxury, success, is what we
thought; if it were not well lost in exchange for the power to _feel_
as they.

It has been said that life is a comedy to those who think, a tragedy
to those who feel. Humanly speaking, it is one of the greatest merits
of Hamsun’s works that he shows otherwise. His attitude towards life
is throughout one of feeling, yet he makes of life no tragedy, but a
beautiful story.

“I will be young until I die,” says Kareno in _Aftenrøde_. The words
are not so much a challenge to fate as a denial of fact; he is not
fighting, only refusing to acknowledge the power that is already hard
upon him.

Kareno is an _intellectual_ character. He is a philosopher, a man whose
perceptions and activity lie predominantly in the sphere of thought,
not of feeling. His attempt to carry the fire of youth beyond the
grave of youth ends in disaster; an unnecessary _débâcle_ due to his
gratuitously attempting the impossible.

Hamsun’s poet-personality, the spirit we have seen striving for
expression through the figures of Nagel, Glahn, Johannes, and the
rest, is a creature of _feeling_. And here the development proceeds on
altogether different lines. The emotion which fails to find adequate
outlet, even in such works as _Sult_, _Mysterier_, _Victoria_, and
_Pan_, might well seem more of a peril than the quixotic stubbornness
of Kareno’s philosophy. Such a flood, in its tempestuous unrest, might
seem to threaten destruction, or at best the vain dispersal of its own
power into chaos. But by some rare guidance it is led, after the storm
of _Munken Vendt_, into channels of beneficent fertility.

In 1904, after an interval of short stories, letters of travel, and
poems, came the story entitled _Sværmere_. The word means “Moths.” It
also stands for something else; something for which we English, as a
sensible people, have no word. Something pleasantly futile, deliciously
unprofitable--foolish lovers, hovering like moths about a lamp.

But there is more than this that is untranslatable in the title. _As_
a title it suggests an attitude of gentleness, tenderness, sympathy,
towards whomsoever it describes. It is a new note in Hamsun; the
opening of a new _motif_.

The main thread of the story bears a certain similarity to that of
_Mysterier_, _Victoria_, and _Pan_, being a love affair of mazy
windings, a tangled skein of loves-me-loves-me-not. But it is pure
comedy throughout. Rolandsen, the telegraph operator in love with Elise
Mack, is no poet; he has not even any pretensions to education or
social standing. He is a cheerful, riotous “blade,” who sports with the
girls of the village, gets drunk at times, and serenades the parson’s
wife at night with his guitar. _Sværmere_ is the slightest of little
stories in itself, but full of delightful vagaries and the most winning
humour. It is the first of Hamsun’s stories with a happy ending.

The story of _Benoni_, with its continuation _Rosa_, is in like vein;
a tenderly humorous portrayal of love below stairs, the principal
characters being chosen from the class who appear as supers in _Pan_;
subjects or retainers of the all-powerful Trader Mack. It is as if the
sub-plot in one of Shakespeare’s plays had been taken out for separate
presentment, and the clown promoted to be hero in a play of his own.
The cast is increased, the _milieu_ lightly drawn in _Pan_ is now shown
more comprehensively and in detail, making us gradually acquainted with
a whole little community, a village world, knowing little of any world
beyond, and forming a microcosm in itself.

Hamsun has returned, as it were, to the scene of his passionate
youth, but in altered guise. He plays no part himself now, but is an
onlooker, a stander-by, chronicling, as from a cloistered aloofness,
yet with kindly wisdom always, the little things that matter in the
lives of those around him. Wisdom and kindliness, sympathy and humour
and understanding, these are the dominant notes of the new phase.
_Sværmere_ ends happily--for it is a story of other people’s lives. So
also with _Benoni_ and _Rosa_ at the last. And so surely has the author
established his foothold on the new ground that he can even bring in
Edvarda, the “Iselin” figure from _Pan_, once more, thus linking up
his brave and lusty comedies of middle age with the romantic tragedies
of his youth, making a comprehensive pageant-play of large-hearted
humanity.

Meantime, the effect upon himself is seen--and avowed. Between
_Sværmere_ and _Benoni_ comes the frankly first-personal narrative
of a vagabond who describes himself, upon interrogation, as “Knut
Pedersen”--which is two-thirds of Knut Pedersen Hamsun--and hailing
from Nordland--which embraces Lofoten.

It does not need any showing of papers, however, to establish the
identity of Knut Pedersen, vagabond, with the author of _Pan_. The
opening words of the book (_Under Høststjærnen_) are enough. “Indian
summer, mild and warm ... it is many years now since I knew such peace.
Twenty or thirty years maybe--or maybe it was in another life. But I
have felt it some time, surely, since I go about now humming a little
tune; go about rejoicing, loving every straw and every stone, and
feeling as if they cared for me in return....”

This is the Hamsun of _Pan_. But Hamsun now is a greater soul than in
the days when Glahn, the solitary dweller in the woods, picked up a
broken twig from the ground and held it lovingly, because it looked
poor and forsaken; or thanked the hillock of stone outside his hut
because it stood there faithfully, as a friend that waited his return.
He is stronger now, but no less delicate; he loves not Nature less, but
the world more. He has learned to love his fellow-men. Knut Pedersen,
vagabond, wanders about the country with his tramp companions,
Grindhusen, the painter who can ditch and delve at a pinch, or
Falkenberg, farm-labourer in harvest-time, and piano-tuner where pianos
are. Here is brave comradeship, the sharing of adventures, the ready
wit of jovial vagrants. The book is a harmless picaresque, a _geste_ of
innocent rogue-errantry; its place is with _Lavengro_ and _The Cloister
and the Hearth_, in that ancient, endless order of tales which link
up age with age and land with land in the unaltering, unfrontiered
fellowship of the road that kept the spirit of poetry alive through
the Dark Ages.

The vagabond from Nordland has his own adventures, his
_bonnes fortunes_. There is a touch of Sterne about the book;
not the exaggerated super-Sterne of Tristram Shandy, with
eighteenth-century-futurist blanks and marbled pages, but the fluent,
casual, follow-your-fancy Sterne of the _Sentimental Journey_. Yet the
vagabond himself is unobtrusive, ready to step back and be a chronicler
the moment other figures enter into constellation. He moves among
youth, himself no longer young, and among gentlefolk, as one making no
claim to equal rank.

Both these features are accentuated further in the story of
the Wanderer with the Mute. It is a continuation of _Under
Høststjærnen_, and forms the culmination, the acquiescent close, of
the self-expressional series that began with _Sult_. The discords of
tortured loveliness are now resolved into an ultimate harmony of comely
resignation and rich content. “A Wanderer may come to fifty years; he
plays more softly then. Plays with muted strings.” This is the keynote
of the book. The Wanderer is no longer young; it is for youth to make
the stories old men tell. Tragedy is reserved for those of high
estate; a wanderer in corduroy, “such as labourers wear here in the
south,” can tell the story of his chatelaine and her lovers with the
self-repression of a humbler Henry Esmond, winning nothing for himself
even at the last, yet feeling he is still in Nature’s debt.

Hamsun’s next work is _Den Siste Glæde_ (literally “The Last Joy”).
The title as it stands is expressive. The substantive is “joy”--but
it is so qualified by the preceding “last,” a word of overwhelming
influence in any combination, that the total effect is one of sadness.
And the book itself is a masterly presentment of gloom. Masterly--or
most natural: it is often hard to say how much of Hamsun’s effect is
due to superlative technique and how much to the inspired disregard of
all technique. _Den Siste Glæde_ is a diary of wearisome days, spent
for the most part among unattractive, insignificant people at a holiday
resort; the only “action” in it is an altogether pitiful love affair,
in which the narrator is involved to the slightest possible degree.
The writer is throughout despondent; he feels himself out of the race;
his day is past. Solitude and quiet, Nature, and his own foolish
feelings--these are the “last joys” left him now.

The book might have seemed a fitting, if pathetic, ending to the
literary career of the author of _Pan_. Certainly it holds out no
promise of further energy or interest in life or work. The closing
words amount to a personal farewell.

Then, without warning, Hamsun enters upon a new phase of power. _Børn
av Tiden_ (Children of the Age) is an objective study, its main theme
being the “marriage” conflict touched upon in the Wanderer stories, and
here developed in a different setting and with fuller individuality.
Hamsun has here moved up a step in the social scale, from villagers of
the Benoni type to the land-owning class. There is the same conflict
of temperaments that we have seen before, but less violent now; the
poet’s late-won calm of mind, and the level of culture from which his
characters now are drawn--perhaps by instinctive selection--make for
restraint. Still a romantic at heart, he becomes more classic in form.

_Børn av Tiden_ is also the story of Segelfoss, in its passing from the
tranquil dignity of a semi-feudal estate to the complex and ruthless
modernity of an industrial centre. _Segelfoss By_ (1915) treats of the
fortunes of the succeeding generation, and the further development of
Segelfoss into a township (_By_).

Then, with _Growth of the Soil_, Hamsun achieves his greatest triumph.
Setting aside all that mattered most to himself, he turns with the
experience of a lifetime rich in conflict, to the things that matter
to us all. Deliberately shorn of all that makes for mere effects,
Isak stands out as an elemental figure, the symbol of Man at his
best, face to face with nature and life. There is no greater human
character--reverently said--in the Bible itself.

These, then, are the steps of Hamsun’s progress as an author, from
the passionate chaos of _Sult_ to the Miltonic, monumental calm of
_Growth of the Soil_. The stages in themselves are full of beauty; the
wistfulness of _Pan_ and _Victoria_, the kindly humour of _Sværmere_
and _Benoni_, the autumn-tinted resignation of the Wanderer with the
Mute--they follow as the seasons do, each with a charm of its own,
yet all deriving from one source. His muse at first is Iselin, the
embodiment of adolescent longing, the dream of those “whom delight
flies because they give her chase.” The hopelessness of his own pursuit
fills him with pity for mortals under the same spell, and he steps
aside to be a brave, encouraging chorus, or a kindly chronicler of
others’ lives. And his reward is the love of a greater divinity, the
goddess of field and homestead. No will-o’-the-wisp, but a presence of
wisdom and calm.

  W. W. WORSTER.



[Illustration]



[Illustration]



I


Marie van Loos, housekeeper at the Vicarage, stands by the
kitchen window looking out far up the road. She knows the couple
there by the fence--knows them indeed, seeing ’tis no other than
Telegraph-Rolandsen, her own betrothed, and Olga the parish clerk’s
daughter. It is the second time she has seen those two together this
spring--now what does it mean? Save that Jomfru van Loos had a host of
things to do just now, she would have gone straight up to them that
moment and demanded an explanation.

As it was, how could she? There was no time for anything now, with the
whole place upside down, and the new priest and his lady expected any
minute. Young Ferdinand is already posted at an upstairs window to
keep a look-out to seaward, and give warning as soon as the boat is
in sight, so that the coffee can be ready the moment the travellers
arrive. And they would need it, after coming all the way from
Rosengaard, four miles off. Rosengaard is the nearest place at which
the steamer calls, and from there they come on by boat.

There is still a trifle of snow and ice about, but it is May now, and
the weather fine, with long, bright days over Nordland. The crows are
getting on fast with their nests, and the new green grass is sprouting
on the bare hummocks. In the garden, the sallows were in bud already,
for all they were standing in snow.

The great question now was what the new priest would be like. All the
village was burning to know. True, he was only coming as chaplain for
the time being, till a permanent incumbent was appointed; but such
temporary chaplains might often remain for a considerable time in a
place like this, with its poor fisher population, and a heavy journey
to the annex church every fourth Sunday. It was by no means the sort of
living anyone would grasp at for a permanency.

It was rumoured that the newcomers to the Vicarage were wealthy folk,
who did not need to think twice about every _skilling_ they spent.
They had already engaged a housekeeper and two maids in advance; and
they had not been sparing of help for the field work either, but taken
on two farm-hands, besides young Ferdinand, who was to be smart and
obliging, and make himself generally useful. All felt it was a blessing
to the congregation to have a pastor so comfortably off. Such a man,
of course, would not be over-strict in the matter of tithes and other
dues; far from it; he would doubtless reach out a helping hand to
those in need. Altogether, there was a great deal of excitement. The
lay-helpers and other fishermen had turned out in readiness, and were
down at the boat-sheds now, tramping up and down in their heavy boots,
chewing tobacco, spitting, and exchanging observations.

Here comes Big Rolandsen at last, striding down the road. He had left
Olga behind, and Jomfru van Loos withdrew from her kitchen window once
more. Oh, but she would have a word with him about it, never fear; it
was no uncommon thing for her to have matters outstanding with Ove
Rolandsen. Jomfru van Loos was of Dutch extraction, she spoke with
a Bergen accent, and was so hasty of speech at times that Rolandsen
himself had been driven to give her the nickname of Jomfru _Fan
los_.[1] Big Rolandsen was always witty, and very often improper.

[1] The devil run loose.

And where was he off to now? Was it his quite remarkable intention to
go down and meet the Vicarage people himself? Likely as not he was no
more sober now than many a time before. There he was, walking down,
with a twig of budding sallow in his buttonhole, and his hat a thought
on one side--going to meet them like that! The lay-helpers down at the
waterside were by no means glad of his company at the moment--at this
particular, highly important moment.

Was it right or proper, now, for a man to look like that? His red nose
had an air of pride ill-suited to his humble station; and, more than
that, it was his habit to let his hair grow all through the winter,
till his head grew more and more artistic. Jomfru van Loos, who owed
him a sharp word or so, declared that he looked like a painter who had
come down in the world, and ended as a photographer. Four-and-thirty
was Rolandsen now, a student, and a bachelor; he played the guitar,
trolled out the local songs with a deep voice, and laughed till the
tears flowed at all the touching parts. That was his lordly way. He was
in charge of the telegraph station, and had been here now for ten years
in the same place. A tall fellow, powerfully built, and ready enough to
lend a hand in a brawl.

Suddenly young Ferdinand gives a start. From his attic window he
catches sight of Trader Mack’s white houseboat hurrying round the
point; next moment he is down the stairs in three break-neck strides,
shouting through to the kitchen, “Here they come!”

Then he hurries out to tell the farm-hands. The men drop the things
they are holding, slip on their Sunday jackets with all speed, and
hasten down to the waterside to help, if needed. That made ten in all
to welcome the new arrivals.

“_Goddag!_” says the chaplain from the stern, smiling a little, and
doffing his soft hat. All those on shore bare their heads respectfully,
and the lay-helpers bow till their long hair falls over their eyes.
Big Rolandsen is less obsequious than the others; he stands upright as
ever, but takes off his hat and holds it low down.

The chaplain is a youngish man, with reddish whiskers and a spring crop
of freckles; his nostrils seem to be choked with a growth of fair hair.
His lady is lying down in the deck-house, sea-sick and miserable.

“We’re there now,” says her husband in through the doorway, and helps
her out. Both of them are curiously dressed, in thick, old clothes
that look far from elegant. Still, these, no doubt, are just some odd
over-things they have borrowed for the journey; their own rich clothes
will be inside, of course. The lady has her hat thrust back, and a pale
face with large eyes looks out at the men. Lay-helper Levion wades out
and carries her ashore; the priest manages by himself.

“I’m Rolandsen, of the Telegraph,” says Big Rolandsen, stepping
forward. He was not a little drunk, and his eyes glared stiffly, but
being a man of the world, there was no hesitation in his manner. Ho,
that Rolandsen, a deuce of a fellow! No one had ever seen him at a loss
when it came to mixing with grand folk, and throwing out elegant bits
of speech. “Now if only I knew enough,” he went on, addressing the
priest, “I might introduce us all. Those two there, I fancy, are the
lay-helpers. These two are your farm-hands. And this is Ferdinand.”

And the priest and his wife nod round to all. _Goddag! Goddag!_ They
would soon learn to know one another. Well ... the next thing would be
to get their things on shore.

But Lay-helper Levion looks hard at the deck-house, and stands ready
to wade out once more. “Aren’t there any little ones?” he asks.

No answer; all turn towards the priest and his wife.

“If there won’t be any children?” asks the lay-helper again.

“No,” says the boatman.

The lady flushed a little. The chaplain said:

“There are only ourselves.... You men had better come up and I’ll
settle with you now.”

Oh, a rich man, of course. A man who would not withhold his due from
the poor. The former priest never “settled” with people at all; he only
said thanks, and that would be all “for now.”

They walked up from the quay, Rolandsen leading the way. He walked by
the side of the road, in the snow, to leave place for the others; he
wore light shoes, in his vain and showy way, but it did not seem to
hurt him; he even walked with his coat unbuttoned, for all it was only
May and the wind cold.

“Ah, there’s the church,” says the priest.

“It looks old,” says his wife. “I suppose there’s no stove inside?” she
asks.

“Why, I can’t say for certain,” answers Rolandsen. “But I don’t think
so.”

The priest started. This man, then, was no church-goer, but one who
made little distinction between week-day and Sabbath. And he grew more
reserved thenceforward.

Jomfru van Loos is standing on the steps; Rolandsen introduces her as
well. And, having done so, he takes off his hat and turns to go.

“Ove! Wait a minute!” whispered Jomfru van Loos.

But Rolandsen did not wait a minute; he took off his hat once more and
retired backwards down the steps. Rather a curious person, thought the
priest.

_Fruen_[2] had gone inside at once. She was feeling a little better
now, and began taking stock of the place. The nicest and lightest room
she assigned to her husband as a study, and reserved to herself the
bedroom Jomfru van Loos had occupied before.

[2] The mistress--_i.e._, the priest’s wife. A married lady is often
referred to as _Fruen_, or addressed as _Frue_. In the present book,
the name of the priest is not stated; he is referred to throughout as
_Præsten_, and his wife as _Præstefruen_, or _Fruen_ simply.



[Illustration]



II


No, Rolandsen did not wait a minute; he knew his Jomfru van Loos, and
had no doubt as to what she wanted. Rolandsen was not easily persuaded
to anything he did not care about himself.

A little way along the road he met a fisherman who had come out too
late to be present at the arrival. This was Enok, a pious, inoffensive
man, who always walked with downcast eyes and wore a kerchief tied
round his head for earache.

“You’re too late,” said Rolandsen as he passed.

“Has he come?”

“He has. I shook hands with him.” Rolandsen passed on, and called back
over his shoulder, “Enok, mark what I say. _I envy that man his wife!_”

Now saying a foolish and most improper thing like that to Enok was
choosing the very man of all men. Enok would be sure to bring it about.

Rolandsen walked farther and farther along by the wood, and came to the
river. Here was the fish-glue factory, owned by Trader Mack; some girls
were employed on the place, and it was Rolandsen’s way to chaff them as
often as he passed. He was a very firebrand for that, and none could
deny it. Moreover, he was in high spirits to-day, and stayed longer
than usual. The girls saw at once that he was splendidly in drink.

“You, Ragna, what d’you think it is makes me come up here every day?”
says Rolandsen.

“I don’t know, I’m sure,” says Ragna.

“Oh, you think, of course, it’s old Mick.”

The girls laughed at that. “Old Mick, ha, ha! Old Nick, he means.”

“It’s for your salvation,” says Rolandsen. “You’d better take care of
yourself with the fisher-lads about here; they’re a wicked lot.”

“Wicked, indeed! And what about yourself, then?” says another girl.
“With two children of your own already. You ought to be ashamed of
yourself.”

“Ah, Nicoline, now how can you say such a thing? You’ve been a thorn
in my heart and near the death of me for more than I can say, and that
you know. But as for you, Ragna, I’m going to see you saved, and that
without mercy.”

“You go and talk to Jomfru van Loos,” says Ragna.

“But you’ve desperate little sense,” Rolandsen went on. “Now those
fish-heads, for instance. How long do you steam them before you screw
down the valve?”

“Two hours,” says Ragna.

Rolandsen nods to himself. He had reckoned that up and worked it out
before. Ho, that firebrand Rolandsen, he knew well enough what it was
took him up to the factory every day, chaffing the girls and sniffing
about all the time.

“Don’t take that lid off, Pernille,” he cried suddenly. “Are you out of
your senses, girl?”

Pernille flushes red. “Frederik he said I was to stir it round,” she
says.

“Every time you lift the lid, some of the heat goes out,” says
Rolandsen.

But a moment later, when Frederik Mack, the trader’s son, came up,
Rolandsen turned off into his usual jesting tone once more.

“Wasn’t it you, Pernille, that was in service at the _Lensmand’s_ one
year, and bullied the life out of everyone in the place? Smashing
everything to bits in a rage--all barring the bedclothes, perhaps.”

The other girls laughed; Pernille was the gentlest creature that ever
lived, and weakly to boot. Moreover, her father was organ-blower at the
church, which gave her a sort of godliness, as it were.

Coming down on to the road again, Rolandsen caught sight of Olga once
more--coming from the store, no doubt. She quickened her pace, hurrying
to avoid him; it would never do for Rolandsen to think she had been
waiting about for him. But Rolandsen had no such idea; he knew that if
he did not catch this young maid face to face she would always hurry
away and disappear. And it did not trouble him in the least that he
made no progress with her; far from it. It was not Olga by any means
that filled his mind.

He comes home to the telegraph station, and walks in with his lordliest
air, to ward off his assistant, who wanted to gossip. Rolandsen was
not an easy man to work with just at present. He shut himself up in a
little room apart, that no one ever entered save himself and one old
woman. Here he lived and slept.

This room is Rolandsen’s world. Rolandsen is not all foolishness and
drink, but a great thinker and inventor. There is a smell of acids and
chemicals and medicine in that room of his; the smell oozed out into
the passage and forced every stranger to notice it. Rolandsen made no
secret of the fact that he kept all these medicaments about solely to
mask the smell of the quantities of _brændevin_ he was always drinking.
But that again was Ove Rolandsen’s unfathomable artfulness....

The truth of the matter was that he used those liquids in bottles and
jars for his experiments. He had discovered a chemical process for the
manufacture of fish-glue--a new method that would leave Trader Mack and
his factory simply nowhere. Mack had set up his plant at considerable
expense; his means of transport were inadequate, and his supplies of
raw material restricted to the fishing season. Moreover, the business
was superintended by his son Frederik, who was by no means an expert.
Rolandsen could manufacture fish-glue from a host of other materials
than fish heads, and also from the waste products of Mack’s own
factory. Furthermore, from the last residue of all he could extract a
remarkable dye.

Save for his weight of poverty and helplessness, Rolandsen of the
Telegraphs would have made his invention famous by this time. But no
one in the place could come by ready money except through the agency
of Trader Mack, and, for excellent reasons, it was impossible to go to
him in this case. He had once ventured to suggest that the fish-glue
from the factory was over-costly to produce, but Mack had merely waved
his hand in his lordly, careless way, and said that the factory was a
gold-mine, nothing less. Rolandsen himself was burning to show forth
the results of his work. He had sent samples of his product to chemists
at home and abroad, and satisfied himself that it was good enough so
far. But he got no farther. He had yet to give the pure, finished
liquid to the world, and take out patents in all countries.

So that it was not without motive and vainly that Rolandsen had turned
out that day to receive the new chaplain and his family. Rolandsen,
the wily one, had a little plan of his own. For if the priest were
a wealthy man, he could, no doubt, invest a little in a safe and
important invention. “If no one else will do it, I will”--that was the
thing he would say, no doubt. Rolandsen had hopes.

Alas, Rolandsen was always having hopes--a very little was enough to
fire him. On the other hand he took his disappointments bravely; none
could say otherwise than that he bore himself stiffly and proudly, and
was not to be crushed. There was Mack’s daughter Elise, for instance,
even she had not crushed him. A tall, handsome girl, with a brown skin
and red lips, and twenty-three years of age. It was whispered that
Captain Henriksen, of the coasting steamer, worshipped her in secret;
but years came and years passed, and nothing happened. What could be
the matter? Rolandsen had already made an eternal fool of himself three
years back; when she was only twenty he had laid his heart at her feet.
And she had been kind enough not to understand him. That was where
Rolandsen ought to have stopped and drawn back, but he went forward
instead, and now, last year, he had begun to speak openly. Elise
Mack had been forced to laugh in his face, to make this presumptuous
telegraph person realise the gulf between them. Was she not a lady, who
had kept no less than Captain Henriksen waiting years for her consent?

And then it was that Rolandsen went off and got engaged to Jomfru van
Loos. Ho, he was not the man to take his death of a refusal from high
quarters!

But now it was spring again. And the spring was a thing well-nigh
intolerable to a great heart. It drove creation to its uttermost limit;
ay, it blew with spiced winds into innocent nostrils.



[Illustration]



III


The herring are moving in from the sea. The master seiners lie out in
their boats, peering through glasses at the water all day long. Where
the birds hover in flocks, swooping down now and then to snap at the
water, there are the herring to be found; already they can be taken in
deep water with the nets. But now comes the question whether they will
move up into shallower water, into the creeks and fjords where they can
be cut off from retreat by the seine. It is then that the bustle and
movement begins in earnest, with shouting and swarming and crowding up
of men and ships. And there is money to be made, a harvest in plenty as
the sands of the sea.

The fisherman is a gambler. He lays out his nets or his lines, and
waits for the haul; he casts his seine and leaves the rest to fate.
Often he meets with only loss and loss again, his gear is carried out
to sea, or sunk, or ruined by storms, but he furnishes himself anew and
tries again. Sometimes he ventures farther off, to some grounds where
he has heard of others finding luck, rowing and toiling for weeks over
stubborn seas, only to find he has come too late; the fishing is at an
end. But now and again the prize may lie waiting for him on his way,
and stop him and fill his boat with money. No one can say whom luck
will favour next; all have like grounds, or hope....

Trader Mack had everything in readiness; his seine was in the boat,
his master seiner swept the offing with his glass. Mack had a schooner
and a couple of coasting-boats in the bay, emptied and cleaned after
their voyage to Bergen with dried fish; he would load them up with
herring now if the herring came; his store-loft was bursting with empty
barrels. He was a buyer himself as well, in the market for herrings to
any quantity, and he had provided himself with a stock of ready money,
to take all he could before the price went up.

Half-way through May, Mack’s seine made its first haul. Nothing to
speak of, only some fifty barrels, but the catch was noised abroad,
and, a few days later, a stranger crew appeared in the bay. Things
looked like business.

Then one night there was a burglary at Mack’s office in the factory. It
was a bold misdemeanour indeed; the nights now were shining bright from
evening to morning, and everything could be seen far off. The thief had
broken open two doors and stolen two hundred _Daler_.

It was an altogether unprecedented happening in the village, and a
thing beyond understanding. To break in and steal from Mack--from Mack
himself--even aged folk declared they had never heard the like in their
days. The village folk might do a little pilfering and cheating in
accordance with their humble station, but burglary on a grand scale was
more than they would ever attempt. And suspicion fell at once on the
stranger crew, who were questioned closely.

But the stranger crew were able to prove that they had been out, with
every man on board, four miles away, on the night.

This was a terrible blow to Trader Mack. It meant that the thief was
someone in the village itself.

Trader Mack cared little for the money; he said openly that the thief
must have been a fool not to take more. But that any of his own
people should steal from him--the idea cut him to the quick, mighty
man as he was, and the protector of them all. Did he not furnish half
the entire communal budget with the taxes he paid on his various
undertakings?--and had any deserving case ever been turned away from
his door without relief?

Mack offered a reward for information leading to discovery. Something
had to be done. There were strange boats coming in now almost every
day, and a nice idea they would gain of the relations between Trader
Mack and his people when it was found that they robbed and stole his
money. Like the open-handed merchant prince he was, Mack fixed the
reward at four hundred _Daler_. Then all could see he was not afraid of
putting up a round sum.

The story came to the ears of the new priest, and, on Trinity Sunday,
when the sermon was to be about Nicodemus who came to Jesus in the
night, he made use of the opportunity to deliver an attack upon the
culprit. “Here they come to us by night,” he said, “and break open our
doors and steal away our means of life. Nicodemus did no wrong; he was
a timorous man, and chose the night for his going, but he went on his
soul’s errand. But what did men do now? Alas, the world had grown in
evil-doing, the night was used for plundering and stealing. Let the
guilty be punished; bring him forth!”

The new priest was found to be a fighting cock. This was the third
time he had preached, and already he had persuaded many of the sinners
in the parish to mend their ways. When he stood up in the pulpit, he
was so pale and strange that he looked like a madman. Some of the
congregation found the first Sunday quite enough, and did not venture
to come again. Even Jomfru van Loos was shaken, and that was no little
thing. Rough and hard as a rasp was Jomfru van Loos, and had been all
her days till now. The two maids under her noted the change with much
content.

There was a considerable gathering in the place now. And there were
some who were not displeased at the discomfiture of Trader Mack. Mack
was getting too mighty a man altogether, with his two trading stations,
his seines, his factory, and his numerous vessels; the fisherfolk from
other stations held by their own traders, who were condescending and
easy to get on with, and who did not affect white collars or deerskin
gloves as did Mack. The burglary was no more than he deserved for his
high-and-mightiness. And as for offering rewards of so-and-so many
hundred _Daler_ for this, that, and the other--Mack would be better
advised to keep his ready cash for buying herring, if the herring came.
After all, his money was not beyond counting; not like the stars in the
sky. Who could say but that the whole thing might have been cleverly
contrived by himself, or his son Frederik: a sham burglary, to make it
appear that he could afford to lose money like grass, while all the
time he was in sore need of cash? So the gossip ran among the boats and
on shore.

Mack realised that he must make a good impression. Here were folk from
five different parishes who would carry back word of what sort of man
he was to traders and relatives in other parts. Again and again it must
be seen what manner of man was Trader Mack of Rosengaard.

Next time he had occasion to go up to the factory Mack hired a steamer
for the journey. It was four miles from the stopping-place, and it cost
a deal of money, but Mack took no heed of that. There was a great to-do
about the place when the steamer came bustling in with Mack and his
daughter Elise on board. He was lord of the vessel, so to speak, and
stood there on board with his red sash round his waist, for all it was
a summer’s day. As soon as father and daughter had landed, the steamer
put about and went off at once; all could see that it had come for
their sake only. And in face of this, some even of the stranger folk
bowed to the power of Mack.

But Mack did more. He could not forget the disgrace of that burglary
affair. He put up a new placard, promising that the reward of four
hundred _Daler_ would be paid even to the thief himself if he
came forward. Surely this was unequalled as a piece of chivalrous
generosity? All must admit after this that it was not the money, a few
miserable _Daler_, that troubled him. But the gossip was not stilled
even now. There were still whisperings: “If the thief’s the man I
think, you’ll see he’ll not own up to it now any more than before. But
never a word that I said so!”

Mack the all-powerful was in an intolerable position. His reputation
was being undermined. For twenty years past he had been the great man
of the place, and all had made way for him respectfully; now there
seemed to be less of respect in their greetings. And this despite
the fact that he had been decorated with a Royal Order. A great man
indeed he had been. He was the spokesman of the village, the fishermen
worshipped him, the little traders of the outlying stations imitated
his ways. Mack had stomach trouble, brought on, no doubt, by his royal
table and splendid living, and he wore a broad red sash round his waist
as soon as it began to be at all cold. Soon the little traders of the
outlying stations began to wear red sashes too, for all they were but
insignificant folk--upstarts whom Mack graciously allowed to live. They
too would have it appear that they were great men living in luxury,
with stomach troubles due to extravagant over-feeding. Mack went to
church in shoes that creaked, and walked up the aisle with supercilious
noises; but even his creaky shoes were copied by others after him.
There were some, indeed, who set their shoes in water and dried them
hard for Sundays, to creak emphatically among the congregation. Mack
had been the great example in every way.



[Illustration]



IV


Rolandsen sits in his laboratory, hard at work. Looking out from the
window he marks how a certain branch of a certain tree in the wood
moves up and down. Somebody must be shaking it, but the leaves are too
thick for him to see more. Rolandsen goes back to his work.

But somehow the work seemed to clog to-day. He took his guitar and
tried singing one of his joyful laments, but even that failed to please
him. The spring was come, and Rolandsen was troubled.

Elise Mack was come; he had met her the evening before. Proud and
haughty she was, and carried herself like a lady; it seemed as if she
would have tried to please him a little with a touch of kindliness here
and there, but he would have none of it.

“I saw the telegraph people at Rosengaard before I left,” she said.

But Rolandsen had no wish to claim friendship with the telegraph
people; he was no colleague of theirs. She was trying to emphasise the
distance between herself and him once more--ho-ho! He would pay her out
for that!

“You must teach me the guitar some day,” she said.

Now this was a thing to start at and to accept with thanks. But
Rolandsen would have none of it. On the contrary, he would pay her out
on the spot. He said:

“Very pleased, I’m sure. Whenever you like. You can have my guitar.”

Yes, that was the way he treated her. As if she were any but Elise
Mack, a lady worth ten thousand guitars.

“No, thank you,” she said. “But we might use it to practise on.”

“I’ll make you a present of it.”

But at that she tossed her head, and said:

“Thank you; I’d rather be excused.”

The wily Rolandsen had touched her there. And then all at once he
forgot every thought of paying her out, and murmured:

“I only meant to give you the only thing I had.”

And with that he raised his hat and bowed deeply, and walked away.

He walked away to the parish clerk’s in search of Olga. The spring was
come, and Rolandsen must have a lady-love; ’twas no light thing to rule
such a big heart. But apart from that he was paying attention to Olga
with a purpose. There was some talk about Frederik Mack, how he had
an eye to Olga himself. And Rolandsen meant to cut him out, no less.
Frederik was brother to Elise herself, and it would do the family good
if one of them were jilted. But anyhow, Olga was attractive enough in
herself. Rolandsen had seen her grow up from a slip of a child; there
was little money to spare in the home, and she had to wear her clothes
as far as they would go before getting new things; but she was a
bright, pretty girl, and her shyness was charming.

Rolandsen had met her two days in succession. The only way to manage
it was by going straight up to the house and lending her father a book
every day. He had to force these books on the old man, who had never
asked for them and could not understand them. Rolandsen had to speak up
for his books and plead their cause. They were the most useful books in
the world, he said, and he, Rolandsen, was bent on making them known,
on spreading them abroad. _Værsaagod_![3]

[3] Literally, “Be so good” (as to accept ...), used when offering
anything.

He asked the old man if he could cut hair. But the parish clerk had
never cut hair in his life; Olga did all the hair-cutting in the
house. Whereupon Rolandsen addressed himself to Olga, with prayers and
eloquent entreaties, to cut his hair. Olga blushed and hid herself.
“I couldn’t,” she said. But Rolandsen routed her out again, and
overwhelmed her with irresistible words until she agreed.

“How do you like it done?” she asked.

“Just as you like,” he answered. “As if I could think of having it
otherwise.”

Then, turning to her father, he tangled him up in a maze of intricate
questions, until the old man could stand no more, and at last withdrew
to the kitchen.

Rolandsen, elated, grew more extravagant than ever. He turned to Olga
and said:

“When you go out in the dark on a winter evening and come into a
lighted room, then all the light comes hurrying from everywhere to
gather in your eyes.”

Olga did not understand a word of all this, but said, “Yes.”

“Yes,” said Rolandsen, “and it’s the same with me when I come in and
see you.”

“Is it short enough here now?” asked Olga.

“No, not nearly. Just keep on. Do it just the way you like. Ah, you
thought you could slip away and hide--didn’t you?--but you couldn’t. It
was like the lightning putting out a spark.”

Of all the mad talk....

“I could manage better if you’d keep your head still,” said she.

“Then I can’t look at you. Say, Olga, have you a sweetheart?”

Olga was all unprepared for this. She was not so old and experienced as
yet but that some things could put her out of countenance.

“Me? No,” was all she said. “Now I think it’ll have to do as it is.
I’ll just round it off a little.” She spoke gently, having some idea he
must be drunk.

But Rolandsen was not drunk at all; he was sober. He had been working
hard of late; the gathering of strangers in the place had kept the
telegraph busy.

“No, don’t stop yet,” he urged. “Cut it round once more--once or twice
more--yes, do.”

Olga laughed.

“Oh, there’s no sense in that!”

“Oh, but your eyes are like twin stars,” he said. “And when you smile,
it’s sunlight all round and all over me.”

She took away the cloth, and brushed him down, and swept up the hair
from the floor. Rolandsen bent down to help her, and their hands met.
She was a maid, he felt the breath of her lips close to, and it
thrilled him warmly. He took her hand. Her dress, he saw, was fastened
at the throat with just an ordinary pin. It looked wretchedly poor.

“Oh--what did you do that for?” she stammered.

“Nothing. I mean, thank you for doing my hair. If it wasn’t for being
firmly and everlastingly promised to another, I’d be in love with you
this minute.”

She stood up with the clippings of hair in her hands, and he leaned
back.

“Now your clothes’ll be all in a mess,” she said, and left the room.

When her father came in, Rolandsen had to be jovial once more; he
stretched out his shorn head, and drew his hat down over his ears to
show it was too big for him now. Then suddenly he looked at the time,
said he must get back to the station, and went off.

Rolandsen went to the store. He asked to look at some brooches and
pins--the most expensive sort. He picked out an imitation cameo, and
said he would pay for it later, if that would do. But that would not
do; Rolandsen owed too much already. Consequently, he was reduced to
taking a cheap little glass thing, coloured to look like agate--this
being all his few small coins would run to. And Rolandsen went off with
his treasure.

That was the evening before....

And now, here sits Rolandsen in his room, and cannot get on with his
work. He puts on his hat and goes out to see who it might be waving
branches in the wood. And walks straight into the lion’s jaws. Jomfru
van Loos it was had made that sign, and she stands there waiting for
him. Better have curbed his curiosity.

“_Goddag!_” says Jomfru van Loos. “What on earth have you been doing
with your hair?”

“I always have it cut in the spring,” said he.

“I cut it for you last year. I wasn’t good enough this, it seems.”

“I’m not going to have any quarrels with you,” says he.

“Oh, aren’t you?”

“No, I’m not. And you’ve no call to stand here pulling up all the
forest by the roots for everyone to see.”

“You’ve no call to stand there being funny,” says she.

“Why don’t you stand out down on the road and wave an olive branch?”
says Rolandsen.

“Did you cut your hair yourself?”

“Olga cut my hair, if you want to know.”

Yes, Olga, who might one day be the wife of Frederik Mack; she had cut
his hair. Rolandsen was not inclined to hide the fact; on the contrary,
it was a thing to be blazoned abroad.

“Olga, did you say?”

“Well, and why not? Her father couldn’t.”

“I’m tired of your goings-on,” said Jomfru van Loos. “Don’t you be
surprised if you find it’s all over between us one fine day.”

Rolandsen stood thinking for a moment.

“Why, perhaps that would be best,” he said.

“What!” cried Jomfru van Loos. “What’s that you say?”

“I say you’re clean out of your senses in the spring. Look at me now;
did you ever see the least little restlessness about me in the spring?”

“Oh, you’re a man,” she answered carelessly. “But, anyhow, I won’t put
up with this nonsense about Olga.”

“This new priest--is he rich?” asked Rolandsen.

Jomfru van Loos wiped her eyes and turned sharp and sensible all at
once.

“Rich? As far as I can see he’s as poor as can be.”

Rolandsen’s hope was shattered.

“You should see his clothes,” she went on. “And her’s. Why, some of her
petticoats.... But he’s a wonderful preacher. Have you heard him?”

“No.”

“One of the wonderfullest preachers I’ve ever heard,” says Jomfru van
Loos in her Bergen dialect.

“And you’re quite sure he’s not rich?”

“I know this much; he’s been up to the store, and asked them to let
him have things on credit from there.”

For a moment Rolandsen’s world was darkened, and he turned to go.

“Are you going?” asked Jomfru van Loos.

“Why, yes. What did you want with me, anyway?”

So that was the way he took it! Well, now ... Jomfru van Loos was
already some way converted by the new priest, and strove to be meek and
mild, but her nature would break out now and again.

“You mark my words,” she said. “You’re going too far.”

“All right!” said Rolandsen.

“You’re doing me a cruel wrong.”

“Maybe,” said Rolandsen coolly as ever.

“I can’t bear it any longer; I’ll have to give you up.”

Rolandsen thought this over once more. And then he said:

“I thought it would come to this. But seeing I’m not God, I can’t help
it. Do as you please.”

“Right, then,” said she furiously.

“That first evening up here in the wood--you weren’t in such a temper
then. I kissed you, and never a sound you made then but the loveliest
little squeak.”

“I _didn’t_ squeak,” said Jomfru van Loos indignantly.

“And I loved you for ever and ever, and thought you were going to be a
fine particular joy. Ho, indeed!”

“Never you mind about me,” she said bitterly. “But what’s it to come to
with you now?”

“Me? Oh, I don’t know. I don’t care now, anyway.”

“For you needn’t imagine it’ll ever come to anything with you and Olga.
She’s to have Frederik Mack.”

Was she? thought Rolandsen. So it was common talk already. He walked
away thoughtfully, and Jomfru van Loos went with him. They came down on
to the road and walked on.

“You look nice with your hair short,” she said. “But it’s badly cut,
wretchedly badly cut.”

“Can you lend me three hundred _Daler_?” he asked.

“Three hundred _Daler_?”

“For six months.”

“I wouldn’t lend you the money anyway. It’s all over between us now.”

Rolandsen nodded, and said, “Right, then, that’s agreed.”

But when they reached the Vicarage gate, where Rolandsen had to turn
off, she said, “I haven’t the money. I wish I had.” She gave him her
hand, and said, “I can’t stand here any longer now; good-bye for the
present.” And when she had gone a few steps, she turned round and said,
“Isn’t there anything else you’d like me to say?”

“No; what should there be?” said Rolandsen. “I’ve nothing that I know
of.”

She went. And Rolandsen felt a sense of relief, and hoped in his heart
it might be for the last time.

There was a bill stuck up on the fence, and he stopped to read it; it
was Trader Mack’s latest announcement about the burglary: Four hundred
_Speciedaler_ for information. The reward would be paid even to the
thief himself if he came forward and confessed.

Four hundred _Speciedaler_! thought Rolandsen to himself.



[Illustration]



V


No, the new priest was not a rich man, far from it. It was only his
poor little wife who was full of thoughtless, luxurious fancies she had
been brought up with, and wanted a host of servants and such. There
was nothing for her to do herself in the house; they had no children,
and she had never learned housekeeping, and that was why she was for
ever hatching childish ideas out of her little head. A sweet and lovely
torment in the house she was.

Heavens alive, how the good priest had fought his comical battles with
his wife again and again, trying to teach her a scrap of sense and
thought and order! For four years he had striven with her in vain. He
picked up threads and bits of paper from the floor, put odds and ends
of things in their proper places, closed the door after her, tended the
stoves, and screwed the ventilators as was needed. When his wife went
out, he would make a tour of the rooms and see the state she had left
them in: hairpins here, there, and everywhere; combs full of combings;
handkerchiefs lying about; chairs piled up with garments. And he
shuddered and put things straight again. In his bachelor days, when he
lived by himself in an attic, he had felt less homeless than he did now.

He had scolded and entreated at first, with some effect; his wife
admitted he was right, and promised to improve. And then she would get
up early the next morning and set about putting things in order high
and low, like a child in a sudden fit of earnestness, playing “grown-up
peoples,” and overdoing it. But the fit never lasted; a few days after
all was as before. It never occurred to her to wonder at the disorder
when it appeared once more; on the contrary, she could not understand
why her husband should begin again with his constant discontent. “I
knocked over that dish and it smashed,” she would say. “It was only a
cheap thing, so it doesn’t matter.”--“But the pieces have been lying
about ever since this morning,” he answered.

One day she came in and told him that Oline the maid would have to go.
Oline the maid had been rude enough to complain about her mistress’s
way of taking things out of the kitchen and leaving them about all over
the place.

And so, after a time, the priest grew hardened to it all, and gave up
his daily protest; he still went on setting in order and putting things
straight, but it was with compressed lips and as few words as might
be. And his wife made no remark; she was used to having someone to
clear up after her. Her husband, indeed, really felt at times that she
was to be pitied. There she was, going about so pleasantly, a trifle
thin, and poorly dressed, yet never uttering a sigh at her poverty,
though she had been brought up to lack for nothing. She would sit and
sew, altering her dresses that had been altered so many times already,
humming over her work as cheerfully as a young girl. Then suddenly her
childishness would break out; the mistress of the house would throw
down her work, leave everything strewed as it fell, and go off for a
walk. And chairs and tables might be left for days strewn with tacked
sleeves and unpicked skirts. Where did she go? It was an old habit of
hers from her youth at home to go fluttering about among the shops; she
delighted in buying things. She could always find some use for remnants
of material, bits of ribbon, combs and perfumes and toilet trifles, odd
little metal things, matchboxes, and the like. Much better buy a big
thing and have done with it, thought her husband; never mind if it were
expensive and brought him into debt. He might try to write a book, a
popular Church history, or something, and pay for it that way.

And so the years passed. There were frequent little quarrels; but the
two were fond of each other none the less, and as long as the priest
did not interfere too much, they managed well enough. But he had a
troublesome way of keeping an eye on some little thing or other even
from a distance, even from his office window; only yesterday he had
noticed a couple of blankets left out in the rain. Should he tell
someone? Then suddenly he saw his wife coming back from her walk,
hurrying in out of the rain. She would notice them herself, no doubt.
But she went straight up to her room. He called out into the kitchen;
there was no one there, and he could hear Jomfru van Loos out in the
dairy. So he went out himself and brought the blankets in.

And so the matter might have passed off, and no more said. But the
priest could not keep his peace, foolish man. In the evening his
wife asked for the blankets. They were brought. “They’re wet,” said
she.--“They would have been wetter if I hadn’t fetched them in out of
the rain,” said her husband. But at that she turned on him. “Was it
you that fetched them in? There was no need for you to do anything of
the sort; I would have told the maids myself to fetch them in.” He
smiled bitterly at that; if he had left it till she told the maids, the
blankets would have been hanging out now.

But his wife was offended. Was there any need to make such a fuss about
a drop of rain or so? “Oh, but you’re unreasonable,” she said; “always
bothering about all sorts of things.”--“I wish I were not obliged to
bother about such things,” said he. “Just look at your washing-basin
now; what’s it doing on the bed?”--“I put it there because there was no
room anywhere else.”--“If you had another wash-stand, it would be all
the same,” said he. “You’d have that loaded up with other things too
in no time.” Then she lost patience, and said, “Oh, how can you be so
unreasonable; really, I think you must be ill. I can’t bear any more of
it, I can’t!” And she sat down, staring before her.

But she bore it all the same. A moment after it was all forgotten, and
her kind heart forgave him the wrong. Careless and happy she was; it
was her nature.

And the priest kept more and more to his study, where the general
disorder of the house rarely penetrated. He was a big, sturdy man, and
worked like a horse. He had inquired of his lay-helpers as to the moral
tone of the village, and what he learned was by no means satisfactory.
Wherefore he wrote letters of reprimand and warning to one and another
of his flock, and where that did not avail, he went in person to visit
the delinquents, till he came to be looked on with respect and awe.
He spared none. He had himself ascertained that one of his helpers,
Levion, had a sister who was far too easy and accommodating towards the
fisher-lads; she too received a letter. He sent for her brother, and
gave him the letter to deliver. “Give her that. And tell her I shall
watch her goings about with an observant eye!”

Trader Mack came to call one day, and was shown into the parlour. It
was a brief but important visit. Mack came to offer his assistance if
any should be needed in helping the poor of the village. The priest
thanked him, glad at heart. If he had not been sure of it before, at
least he knew now, that Mack of Rosengaard was the protector of them
all. An elegant, authoritative old gentleman; even Fruen herself,
town-bred as she was, could not but feel impressed. A great man,
beyond doubt--and those must be real stones in the pin he wore in his
shirt-front.

“The fishery’s doing well,” said Mack. “I’ve made another haul. Nothing
to speak of, only some twenty barrels, but it all helps, you know. And
then it occurred to me that we ought not to forget our duty towards our
neighbours.”

“Just so!” said the priest delightedly. “That’s as it should be. And
twenty barrels, is that what you would call a little haul? I’ve no
knowledge of these matters myself.”

“Well, two or three thousand barrels would be better.”

“Two or three thousand!” said Fruen. “Only fancy!”

“But when I don’t make big enough hauls myself, I can always buy from
others. There was a boat from the outlying parts made a good haul
yesterday; I bought it up on the spot. I’m going to load every vessel
I’ve got with herring.”

“It’s a big business this of yours,” said the priest.

Mack admitted that it was getting on that way. It was an
old-established business when he came into it, he said, but he had
worked it up, and extended its operations. For the sake of the
children, he felt he must.

“But, heavens, how many factories and stores and things have you
altogether?” asked Fruen enthusiastically.

Mack laughed, and said, “Really, _Frue_, I couldn’t say offhand,
without counting.”

But Mack forgot his troubles and annoyances for a little as he sat
talking; he was by no means displeased at being asked about his
numerous factories and stores.

“You’ve a bakery at Rosengaard,” said Fruen, thinking all at once of
her housekeeping. “I wish we lived nearer. We can’t make nice bread,
somehow, at home here.”

“There’s a baker at the _Lensmandsgaard_.”

“Yes, but he’s never any bread.”

“He drinks a great deal, I’m sorry to say,” put in the priest. “I’ve
written him a letter, but for all that....”

Mack was silent a moment. “I’ll set up a bakery here, then,” he said.
“Seeing there’s a branch of the store already.”

Mack was almighty; he could do whatever he willed. But a word from him,
and lo, a bakery on the spot!

“Only think of it!” cried Fruen, and looked at him with wondering eyes.

“You shall have your bread all right, _Frue_. I’ll telegraph at once
for the men to come down. It’ll take a little time, perhaps--a few
weeks, no more.”

But the priest said nothing. What if his housekeeper and all the maids
baked the bread that was needed? Bread would be dearer now.

“I have to thank you for kindly allowing me credit at the store,” said
the priest.

“Yes,” put in his wife, and was thoughtful once more.

“Not at all,” said Mack. “Most natural thing in the world. Anything you
want--it’s at your service.”

“It must be wonderful to have such power,” says Fruen.

“I’ve not as much power as I could wish,” says Mack. “There’s that
burglary, for instance. I can’t find out who did it.”

“It was really too bad, that business,” broke in the priest. “I see you
have offered a heavy reward, even to the thief himself, and still he
won’t confess.”

Mack shook his head.

“Oh, but it’s the blackest ingratitude to steal from you,” says Fruen.

Mack took up the cue. “Since you mention it, _Frue_, I will say I had
not expected it. No, indeed, I had not. I have not treated my people so
badly as to deserve it.”

Here the priest put in, “A thief will steal where there is most to
steal. And in this case he knew where to go.”

The priest, in all innocence, had found the very word. Mack felt easier
at once. Putting it like that made the whole thing less of a disgrace
to himself.

“But people are talking,” he said. “Saying all sorts of things. It
hurts my feelings, and might even do serious harm. There are a number
of strangers here just now, and they are none too careful of their
words. And my daughter Elise feels it very deeply. Well,” he said,
rising to his feet, “it will pass off in time, no doubt. And, as I was
saying, if you come across any deserving case in the village, remember
I shall be most pleased to help.”

Mack took his leave. He had formed an excellent impression of the
priest and his wife, and would put in a good word for them wherever
he could. It would do them no harm. Though perhaps.... Who could
say to what lengths the gossip about himself had reached already?
Only yesterday his son Frederik had come home and told how a drunken
seaman had called to him from a boat, “Hey, when are you going to give
yourself up and get the reward?”



[Illustration]



VI


The days were getting warmer now; the catches of herring had to be left
in the nets for fear of spoiling, and could only be turned out in the
cool of the night, or when it rained. And there was no fishing now to
speak of anyway, being already too late in the season; one or two of
the stranger boats had left. And there was field-work to be done, and
need of all hands at home.

The nights too were brilliant and full of sun. It was weather for
dreams; for little fluttering quests of the heart. Young folk walked
the roads by night, singing and waving branches of willow. And from
every rocky islet came the calling of birds--of loon and gull and
eider-duck. And the seal thrust up its dripping head from the water,
looked round, and dived again down to its own world below. Ove
Rolandsen too felt the spell; now and again he could be heard singing
or strumming in his room of nights, and that was more than need be
looked for from a man who was no longer a youth. And, indeed, it was
not for any meaningless delight he twanged and trolled his songs, but
rather by way of diversion, by way of relief from his weighty thoughts.
Rolandsen is thinking deeply these days; he is in a quandary, and
must find a way out. Jomfru van Loos, of course, had turned up again;
she was not given to extravagant wastefulness in matters of love, and
she held now by their betrothal as before. On the other hand, Ove
Rolandsen, as he had said, was not God; he could not keep that heart of
his within bounds in spring. It was hard on a man to have a betrothed
who would not understand when matters were clearly broken off between
them.

Rolandsen had been down to visit the parish clerk again, and there was
Olga sitting outside the door. But there was a deal of money about just
now, with herring at six _Ort_ the barrel, and Olga seemed inclined to
put on airs. Or what else could it be? Was he, Rolandsen, the sort of
man a girl could afford to pass by? She merely glanced up at him, and
went on with her knitting as before.

Said Rolandsen, “There! You looked up. Your eyes are like arrows; they
wound a man.”

“I don’t understand you,” said Olga.

“Oh! And do you suppose I understand myself? Not in the least. I’ve
lost my senses. Here I am now, for instance, paving the way for you to
plague me through the night that’s to come.”

“Then why don’t you go away?” said Olga.

“I was listening to a voice last night--a voice within me. All
unspeakable things it said. In a word, I resolved to take a great
decision, if you think you can advise me to do it.”

“How can I? I’ve nothing to do with it.”

“Ho!” said Rolandsen. “You’re full of bitter words to-day. Sitting
there lashing out all the time. Talking of something else, you’ll have
that hair of yours falling off before long. There’s too much of it.”

Olga was silent.

“Do you know Børre the organ-blower? There’s a girl of his I could have
if I cared.”

Olga burst out laughing at that, and stared at him.

“For Heaven’s sake don’t sit there smiling like that. It only makes me
wilder than ever in love.”

“Oh, you’re quite mad,” says Olga softly, flushing red.

“Sometimes I think to myself: perhaps she laughs up at me that way just
to make me lose my senses all the more. That’s how they kill ducks and
geese, you know, jab them a little in the head with a knife, and then
they swell, and it makes them all the finer.”

Olga answered offendedly, “I don’t do anything of the sort; you need
not think so.” And she rose, and made as if to go indoors.

“If you go now,” said Rolandsen, “I shall only come in after you, and
ask your father if he’s read the books.”

“Father’s not at home.”

“Well, I didn’t come to see him, anyway. But you, Olga, you’re bitter
and unapproachable this day. There’s no wringing a drop of kindness out
of you. You never heed me, you pass me by.”

Olga laughed again.

“But there’s that girl of Børre’s,” said Rolandsen. “Her name’s
Pernille. I’ve heard them call her so myself. And her father blows the
organ at church.”

“Must you have a sweetheart dangling at every finger?” asked Olga
seriously.

“Marie van Loos is my betrothed,” he answered. “But it’s all over
between us now. Ask her yourself. I expect she’ll be going away soon.”

“Yes, mother, I’m coming,” called Olga in through the window.

“Your mother wasn’t calling you at all; she only looked at you.”

“Yes, but I know what she meant.”

“Oh, very well then! I’ll go. But look you, Olga, you know what I mean
too, only you don’t answer me the same way, and say, Yes, I’m coming.”

She opened the door. Rolandsen felt he had abased himself; she would
not think of him now as the lordly man he was. He must raise himself
once more in her esteem. It would never do to show himself so utterly
defeated. So he began talking of death, and was highly humorous about
it; now he would have to die, and he didn’t care much if he did. But he
had his own ideas about the funeral. He would make a bell himself to
ring his knell, and the clapper should be fashioned from the thighbone
of an ox, because he had been such a fool in life. And the funeral
oration was to be the shortest ever known; the priest to set his foot
upon the grave and simply say, “I hereby declare you mortified, null,
and void!”

But Olga was getting weary of all this, and had lost her shyness now.
Moreover, she had a red ribbon at her throat, like any lady, and the
pin was altogether hidden.

“I must make her look up to me properly,” thought Rolandsen. And
he said, “Now I did think something would come of this. My former
sweetheart, Marie van Loos, she’s broidered and worked me all over with
initials till I’m a wonder to see; there’s Olga Rolandsen, or what’s
all but the same, on every stitch of my things. And I took it as a sign
from Heaven. But I must be going. My best respects....”

And Rolandsen waved his hat and walked off, ending on a lordly note.
Surely, after that, it would be strange if she did not think and wonder
over him a little now.

What was it that had happened? Even the parish clerk’s daughter had
refused him. Well and good! But was there not much to indicate that it
was all a sham? Why had she been sitting outside the door at all if it
were not that she had seen him coming? And why had she decked herself
out with red ribbons like a lady?

But, a few evenings later, Rolandsen’s conceit was shattered. From
his window he saw Olga go down to Mack’s store. She stayed there till
quite late, and when she went home, Frederik Mack and his sister Elise
walked up with her. And here, of course, the lordly Rolandsen should
have kept calm, and merely hummed a little tune, or drummed with his
fingers carelessly, and kept his thoughts on his work. Instead of
which, he snatched up his hat and made off at once towards the woods.
He hurried round in a wide curve, and came out on the road far ahead of
the three. Then he stopped to get his breath, and walked down to meet
them.

But the three took an unreasonable time; Rolandsen could neither hear
nor see them. He whistled and trolled a bit of a song, as if they might
sit somewhere in the woods and watch him. At last he saw them coming,
walking slowly, dawdling unpardonably, seeing it was late at night,
and they should have been hurrying towards their respective homes.
Rolandsen, great man, walks towards them, with a long stalk of grass in
his mouth and a sprig of willow in his buttonhole; the two men raised
their hats as they came up, and the ladies nodded.

“You look warm,” said Frederik. “Where have you been?”

Rolandsen answered over his shoulder, “It’s spring-time; I’m walking in
the spring.”

No nonsense this time, but clean firmness and confidence. Ho! but he
had walked past them with an air--slowly, carelessly, all unperturbed;
he had even found strength to measure Elise Mack with a downward
glance. But no sooner had they passed out of sight than he slipped
aside into the wood, no longer great at all, but abject. Olga was a
creature of no importance now; and at the thought of it, he took the
agate pin from his pocket, broke it up thoroughly, and threw it away.
But now there was Elise, Mack’s daughter Elise, tall and brown, and
showing her white teeth a little when she smiled. Elise it was whom
God had led across his path. She had not said a word, and to-morrow,
perhaps, she would be going away again. All hope gone.

Well and good....

But on coming back to the telegraph station, there was Jomfru van
Loos waiting for him. Once before he had reminded her that past was
past, and what was done was over; she had much better go away and live
somewhere else. And Jomfru van Loos had answered that he should not
have to ask her twice--good-bye! But now here she was again, waiting
for him.

“Here’s that tobacco pouch I promised you,” she said. “Here it is, if
you’re not too proud.”

He did not take it, but answered, “A tobacco pouch? I never use that
sort of thing.”

“Oh, is that so?” said she, and drew back her hand.

And he forced himself to soften her again. “It can’t be me you promised
it. Think again; perhaps it was the priest. And he’s a married man.”

She did not understand that the slight jest had cost him some effort,
and she could not refrain from answering in turn, “I saw the ladies
up along the road; I suppose that’s where you’ve been, trailing after
them?”

“And what’s that to do with you?”

“Ove!”

“Why don’t you go away somewhere else? You can see for yourself it’s no
good going on like this.”

“It would be all right as ever, if only you weren’t such a jewel to go
flaunting about with all the womenfolk.”

“Do you want to drive me out of my wits?” he cried. “Good-night!”

Jomfru van Loos called after him, “Ho, yes, you are a nice one, indeed!
There’s this and that I’ve heard about you!”

Now was there any sense at all in being so desperately particular? And
couldn’t a poor soul have a little genuine heartache to bear with into
the bargain? The end of it was, that Rolandsen went into the office,
straight to the instrument, called up the station at Rosengaard, and
asked his colleague there to send him half a keg of cognac with the
next consignment coming down. There was no sense in going on like this
for ever.



[Illustration]



VII


Elise Mack stays some little while at the factory this time. She has
left the big house at Rosengaard and come out here wholly and solely to
make things a little comfortable for her father during his stay. She
would hardly set her foot in the village at all if she could avoid it.

Elise Mack was growing more and more of a fine lady; she wore red and
white and yellow gowns, and people were beginning to call her _Frøken_,
though her father was neither priest nor doctor. A sun and a star she
was above all others.

She came to the station with some telegrams to be sent; Rolandsen
received her. He said nothing beyond the few words needed, and did not
make the mistake of nodding as to an acquaintance and asking how she
was. Not a single mistake did he make.

“It says ‘ostrich feathers’ twice in this. I don’t know if it’s meant
to be that way.”

“Twice?” said she. “Let me look. Oh no, of course not; you’re quite
right. Lend me a pen, would you mind?”

She took off her glove, and went on speaking as she wrote. “And that’s
to a merchant in town; he’d have laughed at me ever so. There, it’s all
right now, isn’t it?”

“Quite right now.”

“And so you’re still here?” she said, keeping her seat. “Year after
year and I find you here.”

Rolandsen had his reasons, no doubt, for staying on at this little
station instead of applying for a better post. There must be something
that held him to the place, year after year.

“Must be somewhere,” he answered.

“You might come to Rosengaard. That’s better than here, surely?”

The faintest little blush spread over her cheeks as she spoke; perhaps
she would rather have left that unsaid.

“They wouldn’t give me a big station like that.”

“Well, now, I suppose you are rather too young.”

“It is kind of you, anyhow, to think it’s because of that.”

“If you came over to us, now, there’s more society. The Doctor’s next
door, and the cashier, and all the assistants from the store. And there
are always some queer people coming in--sea-captains, you know, and
that sort.”

“Captain Henriksen of the coasting steamer,” thought Rolandsen to
himself.

But what was the meaning of all this graciousness coming so suddenly?
Was Rolandsen another man to-day than yesterday? He knew well enough
that he was utterly and entirely hopeless in this foolish love of his;
there was no more to be said. She gave him her hand as she rose to go,
and that without first putting on her glove. There was a rustle of silk
as she swept down the steps.

Rolandsen drew up to the table, a threadbare, stooping figure, and sent
off the wires. His breast was a whirl of strange feelings. All things
considered, he was not so desperately off after all; the invention
might bring in a heavy sum if only he could first get hold of three
hundred _Daler_. He was a bankrupt millionaire. But surely he must be
able to find some way....

The _Præstefruen_ came in, with a telegram to her people. Rolandsen had
gathered courage from the previous visit. He no longer felt himself as
an insignificant next-to-nothing, but the equal of other great men; he
talked to Fruen a little, just a word or so in the ordinary way. And
Fruen, on her part, stayed somewhat longer than was strictly necessary,
and asked him to look in at the Vicarage any time.

That evening he met her again, Fruen herself, on the road just below
the station. And she did not hurry away, but stayed talking a little
while. It could hardly be displeasing to her, since she stayed so.

“You play the guitar, I think,” she said.

“Yes. If you like to wait a little, I’ll show you how well I can play.”

And he went inside to fetch his guitar.

Fruen waited. It could not be altogether displeasing to her, since she
waited so.

And Rolandsen sang for her, of his true love and his heart’s delight;
and the songs were nothing wonderful, but his voice was fine and full.
Rolandsen had a purpose of his own in thus keeping her there in the
middle of the road; there was every chance that someone might come
walking by about that time. Such things had happened before. And if
Fruen had been pressed for time, it would have been awkward for her
now; they fell to talking again, and stayed talking some time. This
Rolandsen spoke in a way of his own, altogether different from her
husband’s manner, as if it were from some other part of the world. And
when he rolled out his most magnificent phrases, her eyes rounded wide
as those of a listening child.

“Well, God be with you”[4] she said at last, turning to go.

[4] _Gud vare med Dem._ The expression is often used, with no more
special significance than our own abbreviation of the same words in
“Good-bye.” But Rolandsen here chooses to take it literally.

“So He is, I’m sure,” answered Rolandsen.

She started. “Are you sure of that? How?”

“Well, He’s every reason to be. He’s Lord of all creation, I know, but
I shouldn’t think there’s anything much in being just a God of beasts
and mountains. After all, it’s us human beings that make Him what He
is. So why shouldn’t He be with us?”

And, having delivered himself of this striking speech, Rolandsen looked
extremely pleased with himself. Fruen wondered at him greatly as she
walked away. Ho-ho! ’Twas not for nothing that the knob of a head he
bore on his shoulders had devised a great invention.

But now the cognac had come. Rolandsen had carried the keg up from the
wharf himself; he went no back-ways round with his burden, but carried
it openly under his powerful arm in broad daylight. So unafraid was
he at heart. And then came a time when Rolandsen found comfort for all
distress. And there were nights when he turned out and made himself
regent and master of all roads and ways; he cleared them bare, and made
them impassable for stranger men from the boats, coming ashore on their
lawful errands, in search of petticoats.

One Sunday a boat’s crew appeared at church, all reasonably drunk.
After the service they sauntered up and down the road, instead of
going on board; they had a supply of _Brændevin_ with them, and drank
themselves ever more boisterous, to the annoyance of those passing by.
The priest himself had come up to reprove them, but without effect;
later, the _Lensmand_ himself came up, and he wore a gold-laced cap.
Some of them went on board after that, but three of them--Big Ulrik was
one--refused to budge. They had come ashore, they said, and were going
to let folk know it; as for the girls, they were their girls for now.
Ulrik was with them, and Ulrik was a man well known from Lofoten to
Finmarken. Come on then!

A number of people from the village had gathered about, farther off
along the road, or in among the trees, as their courage permitted. They
glanced with some concern at Big Ulrik swaggering about.

“I must ask you men to go on board again,” said the _Lensmand_. “If you
don’t, I’ll have to talk to you after another fashion.”

“Go along home, you and your cap,” said Ulrik.

The _Lensmand_ was thinking already of getting help, and tying up the
madman out of harm’s way.

“And you’d better be careful how you defy me when I’m in uniform,” says
the _Lensmand_.

Ulrik and his fellows laughed at this till they had to hold their
ribs. A fisher-lad ventured boldly past; one of them struck him a
_Skalle_,[5] and drew blood. “Now for the next,” cried Ulrik.

[5] A blow delivered with the head, hitting downward or sideways at an
opponent’s face.

“A rope,” cried the _Lensmand_, at sight of the blood. “Bring a rope,
some of you, and help me take him.”

“How many are there of you?” asked Ulrik the invincible. And the three
doughty ones laughed and gasped again.

But now came Big Rolandsen up along the road, walking with a soft,
gliding step, and his eyes staring stiffly. He was on his usual round.
He greeted the _Lensmand_, and stopped.

“Here’s Rolandsen,” cried Ulrik. “Ho, boys, look at him!”

“He’s dangerous,” said the _Lensmand_. “He’s drawn blood from one
already. We shall have to rope him.”

“Rope him?”

The _Lensmand_ nodded. “Yes. I won’t stand any more of this.”

“Nonsense,” said Rolandsen. “What do you want with a rope? You leave me
to tackle him.”

Ulrik stepped closer, made pretence to lift his hand in greeting, and
gave Rolandsen a slight blow. He felt, no doubt, that he had struck
something firm and solid, for he drew back, but kept on shouting
defiantly, “_Goddag_, Telegraph-Rolandsen! And there’s your name and
titles for all to hear.”

After that, it seemed as if nothing would happen. Rolandsen was not
inclined to let slip the chance of a fight, and it annoyed him that he
was so miserably slow to anger, and had not returned the first blow.
He had to begin now by answering the other’s taunts, in order to keep
matters going. They fooled about a little, talking drunken-fashion, and
each boasting of what he would do to the other. When one invited the
other to come on, and he would give him a dose of olive oil enough to
last him, etcetera, the other answered, right, he would come on sure
enough as soon as anyone else did, and provide sufficient laying on of
hands by return. And the crowd around them found these interchanges
creditable to both sides. But the _Lensmand_, watching, could see how
wrath was growing and flourishing up in Rolandsen’s mind; Rolandsen was
smiling all the time as he talked.

Then Ulrik flicked him under the nose, and at that Rolandsen was in
the proper mood at once; he shot out one swift hand and gripped the
other’s coat. But the stuff gave way, and there was nothing very grand
in ripping up a duffle jacket. Rolandsen made a spring forward, showing
his teeth in a satisfied grimace. And then things began to happen.

Ulrik tried a _Skalle_, and Rolandsen was thenceforward aware of
his opponent’s speciality. But Rolandsen was past-master in another
effective method--the long, swinging, flat-handed cut delivered
edgeways at the jawbone; the blow should fall just on the side of the
chin. A blow of this sort shakes up a man most adequately; his head
whirls, and down he comes with a crash. It breaks no bones, and draws
no blood save for a tiny trickle from the nose and mouth. The stricken
one is in no hurry to move.

Suddenly Big Ulrik has it, and down he comes, staggering and falling
beyond the edge of the road. His legs tangled crosswise under him and
collapsed as if dead; faintness overpowered him. And Rolandsen was
well enough up in the slang of the brawl. “Now for the next,” he said
at once. He seemed thoroughly pleased with himself, and never heeded
that his shirt was torn open at the throat.

But the next one was two, being Ulrik’s fellow-rascals both; quiet and
wondering they were now, and no longer holding their ribs in an ache of
laughter.

“You! You’re children,” cried Rolandsen to the pair. “But if you want
to be crumpled up....”

The _Lensmand_ intervened, and talked the two disturbers to their
senses; they had better pick up their comrade and help him on board
then and there. “I’m in your debt,” he said to Rolandsen.

But Rolandsen, watching the three desperadoes as they moved off down
the road, was far from satisfied yet. He shouted after them as long
as they could hear, “Come again to-morrow! Smash a window down at the
station and I’ll know. Huh! Children!”

As usual he did not know when to stop, but went on with his boastful
talk. But the crowd was moving away. Suddenly a lady comes up, looks
at him with glistening eyes, and offers her hand. _Præstefruen_ and no
other. She too has seen the fight.

“Oh, it was splendid!” she says. “I’m sure he won’t forget it in a
hurry.”

She noticed that his shirt was open. The sun had browned a ring about
his neck, but he was naked and white below.

He pulls his shirt together and bows. It was by no means unwelcome to
be accosted thus by the chaplain’s lady in sight of all; the victor of
that battle feels himself elated, he can afford to speak kindly for a
moment to this slip of a child that she is. Poor lady, her shoes were
none too impressive, and it was but little homage or deference any paid
to her there!

“’Tis misusing such eyes to trouble them looking at me,” said he.

Whereat she blushed.

He asked her again, “Don’t you miss things, living away from town?”

“Oh no,” she answered. “It’s nice living here too. But look here,
wouldn’t you care to walk up and spend the day with us now?”

Rolandsen thanked her, and was sorry he could not. Sunday or Monday, it
was all one to the telegraph station. “But I thank you all the same,”
he said. “There’s one thing I envy the priest, and that is you.”

“What do you...?”

“Politely, but firmly, I envy him his wife.”

There--he had done it now. Surely it would be hard to find the like of
Ove Rolandsen for shedding little joys abroad.

“What ridiculous things you do say,” said Fruen, when she had recovered
herself a little.

But Rolandsen, walking back homeward, reflected that, taking it all
round, he had had a nice day. In his intoxication and triumph he dwelt
on the fact that this young wife, the priest’s wife, was so inclined
to stop and talk with him at times. He formed his own ideas about it,
and grew cunning, ay, he began already to plot and plan. Why should not
Fruen herself get rid of Jomfru van Loos for him, and file through his
fetters? He could not ask it of her directly, no--but there were other
ways. Who could say? Perhaps she would do him that service, since they
were such good friends.



[Illustration]



VIII


The priest and his lady are awakened in the night; wakened by song. No
such thing had ever happened to them before, but here it was; somebody
singing outside the house down below. The sun looks out over the world;
the gulls are awake; it is three in the morning.

“Surely there’s someone singing,” says the priest to his wife in the
adjoining room.

“Yes, it’s here, outside my window,” says she.

Fruen listened. She knew the voice--wild Rolandsen’s voice it was, and
his guitar. Oh, but it was too bad of him really, to come singing of
his “true love” right underneath her window. She felt hot all over.

Her husband came in to look. “It’s that man Rolandsen,” he said, and
frowned. “He’s had a keg of brandy sent just lately. Disgraceful!”

But Fruen was not inclined to frown upon this little diversion; he was
quite a nice young fellow really, this Rolandsen, who could fight like
any rough, and sing like a youth inspired. He brought a touch of mild
excitement into the quiet, everyday life of the place.

“It’s meant to be a serenade, I suppose,” she said, with a laugh.

“He’s no business to be serenading you,” said her husband. “I don’t
know what you think of it yourself?”

Oh, but of course he must be nasty about it! “There’s no harm in it,
surely,” said his wife. “It’s only his fun.” But at the same time she
resolved never again to make beautiful eyes at Rolandsen and lead him
on to escapades of this sort.

“He’s beginning again, as sure as I’m here,” cried the priest. And he
stepped forward to the window then and there, and rapped on the pane.

Rolandsen looked up. It was the priest himself standing there in
the flesh. The song died away. Rolandsen collapsed, stood a moment
hesitating, and walked away.

“Ah!” said the priest. “I soon got rid of him.” He was by no means
displeased to have accomplished so much by merely showing himself. “And
he shall have a letter from me to-morrow,” he went on. “I’ve had my eye
on him for some time past, for his scandalous goings-on.”

“Don’t you think if I spoke to him myself,” said his wife, “and told
him not to come up here singing songs in the middle of the night?”

But the priest went on without heeding. “Write him a letter, yes....
And then I’ll go and talk to him after.” As if his going and talking to
Rolandsen after meant something very serious indeed.

He went back to his own room, and lay thinking it all over. No, he
would endure it no longer; the fellow’s conceit, and his extravagant
ways, were becoming a nuisance to the place. The priest was no
respecter of persons; he wrote his epistles to one as to another, and
made himself feared. If the congregation stumbled in their darkness,
it was his business to bring light. He had not forgotten that business
with Levion’s sister. She had not mended her ways, and the priest
had been unable to retain her brother as lay-helper. Ill-fortune had
come upon Levion; his wife had died. But the priest lost no time; he
spoke to Levion at the funeral. It was an abominable business. Levion,
simple soul, setting out to bury his helpmeet, recollected that he had
promised to bring up a newly slaughtered calf to Frederik Mack at the
factory. It was all on the way, and with the hot weather it would not
do to leave the meat over-long. What more natural than that he should
take the carcase with him? The priest learned the story from Enok, the
humble person with the permanent earache. And he sent for Levion at
once.

“I cannot retain you as lay-helper,” he said. “Your sister is living a
sinful life within your gates; your house is a house of ill-fame; you
lie there fast asleep at night and let men come in.”

“Ay, more’s the pity,” says Levion. “I’ll not deny it’s been that way
more than once.”

“And there’s another thing. You follow your wife to the grave, and drag
a dead calf along after her. Now I ask you, is that right or decent?”

But Levion, fisherman-peasant, found such niceties beyond him; he
stared uncomprehendingly at the priest. His wife had always been a
thrifty soul; she would have been the first to remind him herself to
take the calf along if she could have spoken. “Seeing it’s up that
way,” she would have said.

“If as Pastor’s going to be so niggling particular,” said Levion,
“you’ll never get a decent helper anywhere.”

“That’s my business,” said the priest. “Anyhow, you are dismissed.”

Levion looked down at his sou’wester. It was a blow to him and a
disgrace; his neighbours would rejoice at his fall.

But the priest had not finished yet. “For Heaven’s sake,” he said,
“can’t you get that sister of yours married to the man?”

“Do you think I haven’t tried?” said Levion. “But the worst of it is,
she’s not quite sure which one it is.”

The priest looked at him open-mouthed. “Not quite _what_ did you say?”
And then at last, realising what it meant, he clasped his hands. “Well,
well!... I must find another helper, that is all.”

“Who’ll it be?”

“That’s no concern of yours. As a matter of fact, I am taking Enok.”

Levion stood thoughtful for quite a while. He knew this Enok, and had
an old account to settle with him. “Enok, is it?” he said, and went out.

Enok was certainly a good man for the post. He was one of your
deep-thinking sort, and did not carry his head in the air, but bowed
on his breast; an earnest man. It was whispered that he was no good
man to share with in a boat; there was some story of his having been
caught, many years back, pulling up other folk’s lines. But this, no
doubt, was pure envy and malice. There was nothing lordly or baronial
about him in the way of looks; that everlasting kerchief round his ears
did not improve him. Moreover, he had a way of blowing through his
nostrils; on meeting anyone, he would lay a finger first on one side
and blow, then on the other side, and blow again. But the Lord took no
account of outward things, and Enok, His humble servant, had doubtless
no other thought with this beyond smartening himself up a little on
meeting with his fellows. When he came up he would say, “_Freden!_”
and when he went away, “_Bliv i Freden_.”[6] Sound and thoughtful,
an earnest man. Even his _tollekniv_, the big knife at his belt, he
seemed to wear with thankfulness, as who should say, “Alas, there’s
many that haven’t so much as a knife to cut with in the world.” Only
last Offering, Enok had created a sensation by the amount of his gift;
he had laid a note on the altar. Had he been doing so well of late in
ready cash? Doubtless some higher power must have added its mite to his
savings. He owed nothing in Mack’s books at the store; his fish-loft
was untouched, his family were decently clad. And Enok ruled his house
with strictness and propriety. He had a son, a very model of quiet
and decorous behaviour. The lad had been out with the fishing fleet
from Lofoten, and earned the right to come home with a blue anchor on
his hand, but this he did not. His father had instructed him early in
humility and the fear of God. It was a blessed thing, in Enok’s mind,
to walk humbly and meekly....

[6] “Peace” and “Be in Peace.” These are more rustic forms of greeting
than the “_Goddag_” and “_Farvel_” generally used.

The priest lay thinking over these things, and the morning wore on.
That miserable Rolandsen had spoiled his night’s rest; he got up at
six, which was all too early. But then it appeared that his wife had
already dressed and gone out without a sound.

During the forenoon Fruen walked in to Rolandsen and said, “You must
not come up like that and sing songs outside at night.”

“I know; it was wrong of me,” he said. “I thought Jomfru van Loos
would be there, but she had moved.”

“Oh!... So it was for her you sang?”

“Yes. A poor little bit of a song to greet the day.”

“That was my room,” said she.

“It used to be Jomfruen’s room in the old priest’s time.”

Fruen said no more; her eyes had turned dull and stupid.

“Well, thanks,” she said, as she went. “It was very nice, I’m sure, but
don’t do it again.”

“I won’t, I promise.... If I’d known ... of course, I wouldn’t have
dared....” Rolandsen looked utterly crushed.

When Fruen came home she said, “Really I’m so sleepy to-day.”

“No wonder,” said her husband. “You got no sleep last night, with that
fellow shouting down there.”

“I think Jomfru van Loos had better go,” said she.

“Jomfru van Loos?”

“He’s engaged to her, you know. And we shall have no peace at night.”

“I’ll send him a letter to-day!”

“Wouldn’t it be simpler just to send her away?”

The priest thought to himself that this was by no means the simplest
way, seeing it would mean further expense for a new housekeeper.
Moreover, Jomfru van Loos was very useful; without her, there would be
no sort of order anywhere. He remembered how things had been managed at
first, when his wife looked after the house herself--he was not likely
to forget it.

“Whom will you get in her place?” he asked.

“I would rather do her work myself,” she answered.

At that he laughed bitterly, and said, “A nice mess you will make of
it.”

But his wife was hurt and offended at this. “I can’t see,” she said,
“but that I must look after the house in any case. So the work a
housekeeper did would not make much difference.”

The priest was silent. It was no use discussing it further, no earthly
use--no. “We can’t send her away,” he said. But there was his wife
with her shoes all sorely cracked and worn, pitiful to see. And he said
as he went out, “We must manage to get you a new pair of shoes, and
that soon.”

“Oh, it’s summer now,” she answered.



[Illustration]



IX


The last of the fishing-boats are ready to sail; the season is over.
But the sea was still rich; herring were sighted along the coast, and
prices fell. Trader Mack had bought up what fish he could get, and none
had heard of any stoppage in his payments; only the last boat he had
asked to wait while he telegraphed south for money. But at that folk
had begun whispering at once. Mack was in difficulties.... Aha!

But Trader Mack was as all-powerful as ever. In the thick of all his
other business he had promised the Vicarage people a bakery. Good! The
bakery was getting on, the workmen had arrived, and the foundation was
already laid. Fruen found it a real pleasure to go and watch her bakery
growing up. But now the building-work was to commence, and this was a
matter for other workmen; they had been telegraphed for too, said Mack.

Meantime, however, the baker at the _Lensmandsgaard_ had pulled himself
together. What a letter from the priest had failed to accomplish, was
effected by Mack with his foundation. “If it’s bread they want, why,
they shall have it,” said the baker. But everyone understood that the
poor man was only writhing helplessly; he would be crushed now, crushed
by Mack.

Rolandsen sits in his room drawing up a curious announcement, with his
signature. He reads it over again and again, and approves it. Then he
puts it in his pocket, takes his hat, and goes out. He took the road
down to Mack’s office at the factory.

Rolandsen had been expecting Jomfru van Loos to go away, but she had
not gone; her mistress had not dismissed her at all. Rolandsen had been
out in his reckoning when he hoped that Fruen would do him favours. He
came to his reasonable senses again, and thought to himself, Let’s keep
to earth now; we haven’t made such an impression after all, it seems.

On the other hand, he had received a letter of serious and chastening
content from the priest himself. Rolandsen did not attempt to hide the
fact that this thing had happened to him; he told the matter to all,
to high and low. It was no more than he deserved, he said, and it had
done him good; no priest had ever troubled about him before since his
confirmation. Rolandsen would even venture to say that the priest ought
to send many such letters out among his flock, to the better comfort
and guidance of all.

But no one could see from Rolandsen’s manner that he had been any
way rejoiced or comforted of late; on the contrary, he appeared more
thoughtful than ever, and seemed to be occupied with some particular
thought. Shall I, or shall I not? he might be heard to murmur. And now,
this morning, when his former betrothed, Jomfru van Loos, had lain in
wait for him and plagued the life out of him again with that ridiculous
business of the serenade, he had left her with the significant words,
“I’ll do it!”

Rolandsen walks into Mack’s office and gives greeting. He is perfectly
sober. The Macks, father and son, are standing, each at one side of the
desk, writing. Old Mack offers him a chair, but Rolandsen does not sit.
He says:

“I only came in to say it was me that broke in and took the money.”

Father and son stare at him.

“I’ve come to give myself up,” says Rolandsen. “It would not be right
to hide it any longer; ’tis bad enough as it is.”

“Leave us alone a minute,” says Old Mack.

Frederik walks out.

Says Mack, “Are you in your right senses to-day?”

“I did it, I tell you,” shouts Rolandsen. And Rolandsen’s voice was a
voice for song and strong words.

Then there was a pause. Mack blinked his eyes, and looked thoughtful.
“You did it, you say?”

“Yes.”

Mack thought again. That good brain of his had solved many a problem in
its day; he was well used to settling a matter quickly.

“And will you hold by your words to-morrow as well?”

“Yes. From henceforth I will not conceal it. I have had a letter from
the priest, and it’s that has changed me.”

Was Mack beginning to believe him? Or was it merely as a matter of form
that he went on?

“When did you do it?” he asked.

Rolandsen mentioned the night.

“And how did you go about it?”

Rolandsen described it all in detail.

“There were some papers in the chest with the money--did you notice
them?”

“Yes. There were some papers.”

“One of them is missing; what have you done with it?”

“I haven’t got it. A paper? No.”

“My life insurance policy, it was.”

“An insurance policy! Yes, now I remember. I must confess I burnt it.”

“Did you? Then you ought not to have done so. It’s cost me a lot of
trouble to get another.”

Said Rolandsen, “I was all in a flurry, and didn’t think. I beg you to
forgive me.”

“There was another chest with several thousand _Daler_ in it; why
didn’t you take that?”

“I didn’t find that one.”

Mack had finished his calculations. Whether Rolandsen had committed
the burglary or not, he would in any case make the finest culprit Mack
could have wished. He would certainly make no secret of the affair,
but rather declare it to every soul he met; the last boat’s crew would
carry the news with them home, and so it would come to the ears of the
traders along the coast. Mack felt he was saved.

“I have never heard of your going about and ... your having this
weakness before,” he said.

Whereto Rolandsen answered, No, not among the fishermen, no. When he
wanted to steal, he didn’t go bird-nesting in that petty fashion; he
went to the bank itself.

That was one for Mack! He only answered now with a reproachful air,
“But that you could steal from _me_....”

Rolandsen said, “I worked myself up to it, to be bold enough. I was
drunk at the time, I am sorry to say.”

After this it seemed no longer impossible that the confession was true.
Rolandsen was known to be a wild fellow who led an extravagant life and
had no great income to draw upon. That keg of brandy from Rosengaard
must have cost him something.

“And I’ve more to confess, I’m sorry to say,” went on Rolandsen. “I
haven’t the money now, to pay it back.”

Mack looked highly indifferent. “That doesn’t matter in the least,” he
said. “The thing that troubles me is all the stupid gossip it’s led to.
All those unpleasant insinuations against me and my family.”

“I’ve thought of that. And I was going to do something....”

“What do you mean?”

“Take down your placard from the Vicarage gate and put up one of my
own in its place.”

This was Rolandsen all over. “No,” said Mack. “I won’t ask you to do
that. It will be hard enough for you as it is, my good man. But you
might write a declaration here.” And Mack nodded towards Frederik’s
seat.

Rolandsen set to work. Mack was thinking deeply the while. Here was
all this serious business turning out for the best. It would cost him
something, but the money would be well spent; his renown would now be
spread far and wide.

Mack read over the declaration, and said, “Yes, that’s good enough. I
don’t intend to make use of it, of course....”

“That’s as you please,” said Rolandsen.

“And I do not propose to say anything about our interview to-day. It
can remain between ourselves.”

“Then I shall have to tell people myself,” said Rolandsen. “The
priest’s letter said particularly that we should confess.”

Mack opened his fire-proof safe and took out a bundle of notes. Here
was his chance to show what sort of man he was. And who could know
that a master seiner from a stranger boat was down in the bay waiting
for those very notes before he could sail?

Mack counted out four hundred _Daler_, and said, “I don’t mean to
insult you, but it’s my way to keep to my word. I have promised a
reward of four hundred _Daler_, which is now due to you.”

Rolandsen walked towards the door. “I deserve your contempt,” said he.

“Contempt!” said Mack. “Let me tell you....”

“Your generosity cuts me to the heart. Instead of putting me in prison,
you reward me....”

But it was a mere trifle for Mack to lose a couple of hundred _Daler_
over a burglary. It was only when he rewarded the thief himself with
twice that amount that the thing became really magnificent. He said,
“Look here, Rolandsen, you will find yourself in difficulties now; you
will lose your place to begin with. The money will be no inconvenience
to me, but it may be of real importance to you just now. I beg you to
think over what I say.”

“I couldn’t do it,” said Rolandsen.

Mack took the notes and thrust them into Rolandsen’s pocket.

“Let it be a loan, then,” said Rolandsen humbly.

And this chivalrous merchant-prince agreed, and answered, “Very well,
then, as a loan.” But he knew in his heart that he would never see the
money again.

Rolandsen stood there looking as if weighed down by the heaviest burden
in life. It was a pitiful sight.

“And now make haste and right yourself again,” said Mack encouragingly.
“You’ve made a bad slip, but it’s never too late, you know.”

Rolandsen thanked him with the greatest humility, and went out.

“I am a thief,” he said to the factory girls as he went out, making a
beginning with them without delay. And he gave them his full confession.

Then he went up to the Vicarage gate, and tore down Mack’s notice,
setting up his own instead. There it was in black and white, setting
forth that he, Rolandsen, and no other, was the culprit. And to-morrow
would be Sunday; many church-goers would pass by the spot.



[Illustration]



X


Rolandsen seemed to be picking up again to a marked degree. After all
the village had read his declaration, he kept to himself, and avoided
people. This made a good impression; evidently the scapegrace had
taken thought, and turned aside from his evil ways. But the fact was
that Rolandsen had no time for sauntering idly about the roads now; he
was restlessly at work in his room at nights. There were numbers of
bottles, large and small, containing samples, that he had to pack up
and send away by post east and west. Also, he was at the instrument
early and late; it was essential to make the best of his time before he
was dismissed.

His scandalous story had also reached the Vicarage, and everyone looked
with commiseration upon Jomfru van Loos, whose former lover had turned
out so badly. The priest himself called her into his study and talked
to her gently for a long time.

Jomfru van Loos was certainly not now disposed to hold Rolandsen to his
word; she would go and see him once more, and make an end of it.

She found him looking abject and miserable, but this did not soften
her. “Nice things you’ve been doing,” said she.

“I hoped you would come, so I could ask pardon,” he answered.

“Pardon! Well, I never did! Look you here, Ove! I simply don’t know
what to make of you. And I’ll have no more to do with you on this
earth, so there. I’m not known to folk as a thief nor a rascal, but go
my own honest way. And haven’t I warned you faithfully from my heart,
and you’ve only gone on as bad as ever? A man already promised and
betrothed, going about as a costly jewel to other womenfolk? And then
to go stealing people’s money and have to stick up a confession on a
gatepost in broad daylight. I’m that shamed I don’t know what to do
with myself. Don’t say a word; I know all about you. You’ve nothing
to say at all but only harden your heart and shout, Hurray, my boys!
And it’s all been true affection on my part, but you’ve been as a very
leper towards me, and soiled my life with a disgraceful burglary. You
needn’t try to say a word, and only make it worse. Praise be the Lord,
there’s not a soul but says the same--how you’ve shamefully deceived
me. And the priest himself says I’d better give you up and go away at
once, though he’d be sorry to lose me. And it’s no good you standing
there trying to hide, Ove, seeing you’re a sinner in the sight of God
and man, and only worthy to be cast aside. And if I do call you Ove,
after all that’s passed, I don’t mean it a bit, and you needn’t think
I’m going to make it up with you, because I’m not, for I won’t have
anything to do with you here or hereafter, and never be a friend of
yours in all the world. For there’s nobody could have done more for you
than I’ve done this long time back, but you’ve only been overflowing
with recklessness and never a thought of me, and taking advantage of me
early and late. Though I’m sure it’s partly my own fault, and more’s
the pity, by reason of being too lenient and overlooking this and that
all the time.”

There stood Rolandsen, a wretched creature, with never a word to
say for himself. He had never heard Marie van Loos so incoherent as
to-day; it showed how his dire misdeed had shaken her. When she stopped
speaking, she seemed thoroughly exhausted.

“I’ll turn over a new leaf,” he said.

“You? A new leaf?” Jomfru van Loos laughed bitterly. “What’s done is
done, and will be for all your turning. And seeing I’m come of decent
folk myself, I’ll not have you smirching my good name. When I say a
thing, I mean it. And I tell you now, I’m going away by the post-packet
the day after to-morrow; but I’m not going to have you coming down to
the quay saying good-bye, and the priest he says the same. I’ll say
good-bye to you to-day and once and for all. And thanks for the happy
hours we’ve had together--the rest I’ll try to forget.”

She swung round determinedly and walked away. Then she said, “But you
can be up in the woods just above, if you like, and wave good-bye from
there--not that I care if you do or don’t.”

“You might shake hands,” he said.

“No, I won’t. You know only too well what your right hand doeth.”

Rolandsen stood bowed and downcast. “But aren’t we to write?” he said.
“Only just a word or so?”

“I won’t write. Never on earth. You’ve said often enough it was all
over between us, and made a joke of it; but now I’m good enough, it
seems. But I know better! It’s good-bye for ever, and I wish you joy.
I’m going to Bergen, to stay with father, and you know the address if
you write. But I won’t ask you to.”

Rolandsen went up the steps to his room with a very clear sensation of
being betrothed no longer. “Curious thing,” he thought to himself, “I
was standing down there outside a moment ago.”

It was a busy day; he had to pack up the last of his samples ready to
go by the post-packet the day after to-morrow; then he had to collect
his own belongings and prepare for the moving. The all-powerful
Inspector of the Telegraphs was on the way.

Of course he would be summarily dismissed. There was nothing to be said
against him in respect of his duties, and Trader Mack, a man of great
influence, would doubtless do nothing to harm him, but for all that,
justice must be done.

There was grass in the meadows now, and the woods were in leaf; the
nights were mild and calm. The bay was deserted, all the fishing-boats
were gone, and Mack’s own vessels had sailed away to the southward with
their cargoes of herring. It was summer.

The fine days gave good attendance at the church on Sundays; crowds
of people came by land and water, and among them a few skippers from
Bergen and Haugesund, who had their craft out along the coast, drying
split fish on the rocks. They came again year after year, and grew old
in the place. They turned up at church in full dress, with bright
calico shirts and chains of hair down over their chests; some of them
even wore gold earrings, and brightened up the assembly. But the dry
weather brought news of a regrettable forest fire farther up the
fjords; summer weather was not all for the good.

Enok had entered upon his office, and was lay-helper now in earnestness
and all humility, with a kerchief over his ears. The youth of the
village found great amusement in the sight, but their elders were
inclined to be scandalised at having the choir disgraced by monkey
figures of the sort, and sent in a complaint to the priest about it.
Could not Enok manage with stuffing wadding in his ears? But Enok
explained to the priest that he could not put away the kerchief by
reason of the aches and pains that raged tumultuously within. Then
it was that ex-Lay-helper Levion set up a malicious laughter at his
supplanter Enok, and opined that it was hot enough for most these days
without tying kerchiefs round their ears.

Levion, unworthy soul, had, since his downfall, never ceased from
persecuting Enok with jealousy and ill-will. Never a night he was out
spearing flounder but he must choose his place off Enok’s shore and
beach, and spear such flounder as had been nearest Enok’s hand. And if
he chanced to need a thole-pin or a bit of wood for a baling scoop, it
was always in Enok’s fir-copse close to the water that he sought it. He
kept a constant eye on Enok himself.

It was soon noised abroad that Jomfru van Loos had broken off her
engagement, and in the depth of that disgrace was leaving the Vicarage
at once. Trader Mack felt that Rolandsen, poor fellow, was having
trouble enough over the affair, and endeavoured now himself to heal the
breach. He took down Rolandsen’s announcement with his own hands from
the gatepost, and declared that it was by no wish of his it had been
set there at all. Then he went down to the Vicarage. Mack could afford
to be tolerant now; he had already marked what a profound impression
his generous behaviour in the burglary affair had produced. People
greeted him now as respectfully as ever,--even, it seemed, with greater
esteem than before. Surely there was but one Mack on all the coast!

But his visit to the Vicarage proved of no avail. Jomfru van Loos was
moved even to tears at the thought of Mack’s coming in person, but no
one on earth should persuade her now to make it up with Rolandsen,
never! Mack gathered that it was the priest who had brought her to such
a pitch of determination.

When Jomfru van Loos went down to the boat, her master and mistress saw
her off. Both wished her a pleasant journey, and watched her get into
the boat.

“Oh, Heaven,” said Jomfru van Loos, “I know he’s up there in the woods
this minute and bitterly repenting.” And she took out her handkerchief.

The boat pushed off and glided away under long strokes.

“There he is!” cried Jomfru van Loos, half rising. She looked for a
moment as if about to wade ashore. Then she fell to waving with all her
might up towards the woods. And the boat disappeared round the point.

Rolandsen went home through the woods as he had taken to doing of
late; but coming opposite the Vicarage fence, he moved down on to
the road and followed it. Well, now all his samples were sent off,
he had nothing to do but await the result. It would not take long.
And Rolandsen snapped his fingers from sheer lightness of heart as he
walked.

A little farther on sat Olga, the parish clerk’s daughter, on a stone
by the roadside. What was she doing there? Rolandsen thought to
himself: She must be coming from the store, and waiting for somebody
here. A little later came Elise Mack. Oho! were they inseparables now?
She too sat down, and seemed to be waiting. Now was the time to delight
the ladies by appearing crushed and humbled, a very worm, thought
Rolandsen to himself. He turned off hurriedly into the wood. But the
dried twigs crackled underfoot; they could hear him. It would be a
fruitless attempt, and he gave it up. Might go down the road again, he
thought; no need to delight them overmuch. And he walked down along the
road.

But it was not so easy after all to face Elise Mack. His heart began
to beat heavily, a sudden warmth flowed through him, and he stopped.
He had gained nothing that last time, and since then a great misdeed
had been added against him. He drew off backward into the wood again.
If only he were past this clearing, the dry twigs would come to an end
and the heather begin. He took it in a few long strides, and was saved.
Suddenly he stopped; what the devil was he hopping about like this for?
He, Ove Rolandsen! He turned, and strode defiantly back across the
clearing, tramping over dry twigs as loudly as he pleased.

Coming down on to the road again, he saw the ladies still seated in the
same place. They were talking, and Elise was digging at the ground with
the point of her parasol. Rolandsen halted again. Your dare-devil sort
are ever the most cautious. “But I’m a thief,” he said to himself. “How
can I have the face to show myself? If I give a greeting, it will be
forcing them to recognise me.” And once more he drew back among the
trees. What a fool he was, to go about with such feelings--as if he had
not other things to think about! A couple of months hence he would be
rich, a man of wealth and position. In love? The devil take all such
fancies. And he turned his steps towards home.

Were they sitting there still, he wondered. He turned and stole a
glance. Frederik had joined them, and here they were all three coming
towards him. He hurried back, with his heart in his mouth. If only they
had not seen him! They stopped, and he heard Frederik Mack say, “Sh!
There’s someone in the wood.”--“Oh, it’s nothing,” answered Elise.

Like as not she said so because she had seen him, thought Rolandsen.
And the thought made him cold and bitter all at once. No, of course, he
was nothing--nothing as yet. But wait, only two months.... And anyhow,
what was she herself? A Virgin Mary cold as iron, daughter of the
Lutheran celebrity Mack of Rosengaard. _Bliv i Freden!_

There was a weathercock on the roof of the telegraph station, perched
on an iron rod. Rolandsen came home, climbed up to the roof, and bent
that iron rod with his own hands, till the cock leaned backward, as
if in the act of crowing. Let it stand so; it was only right the cock
should crow.



[Illustration]



XI


And now sets in a time of easy days for all, no fishing beyond the
little for home needs; fishing on warm, sunny nights--a pleasant task,
a pastime. Corn and potatoes growing, and meadows waving; herring
stored in every shed, and cows and goats milking full pails, and
rolling in fat themselves.

Mack and his daughter Elise have gone back home again; Frederik reigns
alone over the factory and the store. And Frederik’s rule is none of
the best; he is full of his own thoughts of the sea, and hates this
life on shore. Captain Henriksen of the coasting steamer has half
promised to get him a berth as mate on board his vessel, but it never
seems to come to anything. Then comes the question whether old Mack
will buy a steamer himself for his son to run. He talks of it, and
seems willing enough, but Frederik guesses it is more than he can do.
Frederik knows the position pretty well. He is strangely little of a
seaman by nature, a cautious and reliable youth, doing just as much of
this thing and that as is needed in his daily life. He takes after his
mother, and is not altogether the true Mack type. But that is well for
one who would get on in the world and succeed; never do too much, but
rather a little too little of everything, so it could be reckoned as
just enough. Look at Rolandsen, for instance, that extravagant madcap
with his wild fancies. A common thief among his fellows, that was what
he had come to, and lost his position into the bargain. And there he
was, going about with a burdened conscience, wearing his clothes down
thinner and thinner, and never so much as a room of his own to live
in, saving a bit of a bedroom at Børre the organ-blower’s, and that
was humble enough. That was the end of Ove Rolandsen. Børre might be
an excellent man in his way, but he was the poorest in the place, and
had least herring in his store. And seeing his daughter Pernille was a
poor, weakly creature, the organ-blower’s house was never reckoned for
much. It was not the place a man of any decent position could choose to
live in.

It was said that Rolandsen might have avoided dismissal if only he had
behaved with proper contrition towards the visiting Inspector. But
Rolandsen had simply taken it for granted that he was to be dismissed,
and had given the Inspector no opportunity of pardoning him. And old
Mack, the mediator, was not there.

But the priest was not altogether displeased with Rolandsen. “I’ve
heard he drinks less than he used to,” he said. “And I should not
regard him as altogether lost. He himself admits that it was a letter
from me that led him to confess about the burglary. It is encouraging
to see one’s work bear fruit now and again.”

Midsummer’s eve came round, and fires were lit on high places, young
men and girls from the fisher-huts gathered about the fires, fiddles
and concertinas were heard about the village. The best way was to make
only the least little fire, but heaps of smoke; damp moss and juniper
twigs were flung on the fires to make the smoke properly thick and
scented.

Rolandsen was still unabashed enough to take part in the popular
festivity; he sat on a big rock thrumming at his guitar, and singing
till the valley echoed again. When he came down and joined those about
the fire, he was seen to be as drunk as an owl, and overflowing with
magnificent speech. The same as ever; an incorrigible.

But then came Olga walking down the road. She had never a thought of
stopping here; she was but walking that way and would have passed by.
Oh, she might well have gone another way; but Olga was young, and the
music of the concertina drew her; her nostrils quivered, a fountain
of happiness was in her--she was in love. She had been to the store
earlier in the day, and Frederik Mack had said words enough for her
to understand, for all he spoke with caution. And now, perhaps he too
might be out for a walk this evening!

Fruen came down from the Vicarage; the two walked on together, talking
of no other than Frederik Mack. He was the lord of the village, and
even Fruen’s heart had bowed to him in secret; he was so nice and
careful, and kept to earth at every step. Fruen noticed at last that
Olga was overcome with shyness about something, and asked, “But, child,
what makes you so quiet? Surely you haven’t fallen in love with this
young Mack?”

“Yes,” whispered Olga, bursting into tears.

Fruen stopped, “Olga, Olga! And does he care for you?”

“I think he does.”

And at that Fruen’s eyes grew quiet and stupid-looking again, and gazed
emptily into air. “Well, well,” she said, with a smile. “Heaven bless
you, child; it will come all right, you see.” And she was kinder than
ever to Olga after that.

When they reached the Vicarage, the priest was walking up and down in
great excitement. “The woods are on fire,” he cried. “I could see it
from the window.” And he got a supply of axes and picks and men, and
manned his boat down at the waterside. It was Enok’s copse that was
burning.

But ahead of the priest and his party went ex-Lay-helper Levion. Levion
had been out seeing to his lines; he had set them as usual just off
Enok’s ground, and caught a decent batch. Then on the way back he saw
a tiny flame break out in the wood, and grow bigger and bigger. Levion
nodded a little to himself, as if he understood what a little flame
like that might mean. And then, seeing folk moving busily about round
the priest’s boathouse, he understands they have come down to help; he
heads his boat round and puts in at once, to be first on the spot. It
was beautiful to see him laying aside all enmity at once and hurrying
to his rival’s aid.

Levion puts in to shore and moves up at once to the wood; he can
hear the roar of the fire already. He takes his time, looking round
carefully at every step; presently he spies Enok coming along in the
greatest haste. Levion is seized with great excitement; he slips
behind an overhanging rock and peers out from cover. Enok comes nearer,
moving with a purpose, looking neither right nor left, but coming
straight on. Had he discovered his enemy, and was coming to seek him?
When he was quite close up, Levion gave a hail. Enok started, and came
to a halt. And in his confusion he smiled, and said:

“Here’s a fire, worse luck. There’s trouble abroad.”

The other took courage, and answered, “’Twill be the finger of God, no
doubt.”

Enok frowned. “What are you standing about here for?” he asked.

All Levion’s hatred flares up now, and he says, “Ho-ho! ’Twill be
over-hot for kerchiefs round the ears now.”

“Get away with you!” says Enok. “Like as not it was you that started
the fire.”

But Levion was blind and deaf. Enok seemed to be making towards just
that corner of the rock where Levion stood.

“Keep off!” cries Levion. “I’ve torn off one of your ears already--do
you want me to take the other?”

“Get away with you, d’you hear?” says Enok, coming closer.

Levion was choking and swallowing with anger. He cried out loud,
“Remember that day in the fjord, when I caught you pulling up my lines?
I twisted one ear off then....”

And that was why Enok went about with a kerchief round his head; he had
but one ear. And both he and Levion had very good reasons for keeping
quiet about the matter.

“You’re no better than a murderer, to speak of,” said Enok.

The priest’s boat was heard rushing in to land, and from the other side
came the roar of the fire, ever nearer. Enok writhed, and tried again
to make Levion retreat; he drew his knife--that excellent knife for
cutting things.

Levion rolled his eyes and screamed out, “As sure as you dare come
waving knives at me, there’s folk at hand already, and here they come!”

Enok put up his knife again. “What d’you want standing there anyway?”
he said. “Get away with you!”

“What are you doing here yourself, anyway?”

“What’s that to you? I’ve an errand here; some things I’ve hidden here.
And there’s the fire all close up.”

But Levion stayed defiantly, and would not move an inch. Here was the
priest coming up, and he, no doubt, could hear the two in dispute--but
what did Levion care for him now?

The boat lay to, and those on board rushed up with axe and pick.
The priest gave a brief greeting and a hasty word. “These midsummer
bonfires are dangerous, Enok; the sparks fly about all over the place.
Where had we better begin?”

Enok was at a loss for the moment; the priest had put him out, and drew
him away now, so that he could not deal with Levion further.

“Which way’s the wind?” asked the priest. “Come and show us where to
start digging.”

But Enok was desperately ill at ease; he looked round anxiously for
Levion, and answered at random.

“Do not give way so,” said the priest. “Pull yourself together, and be
a man. We must get the fire under.” And he took Enok by the arm.

Some of the men had already moved forward towards the fire, and were
digging across its path. Levion was still in his old place, breathing
hard; he kicked at a flat stone that lay in under the rock. “He won’t
have hidden anything here,” thought Levion to himself. “It was just a
lie.” But he looked down again, and, kicking away some of the earth, he
came upon a kerchief. One of Enok’s kerchiefs it was--a quondam bandage
for the earache. Levion picked it up; there was something wrapped in
it. He unfastened it, and there was money--paper money--notes, and many
of them. Furthermore, there was a document, a big white sheet. Levion
was full of curiosity. He thought at once, “Stolen money!” And he
unfolded the document and began to spell it through.

Then it was that Enok caught sight of him, and gave a hoarse cry;
breaking away from the priest, he rushed back towards Levion, knife in
hand.

“Enok, Enok!” cried the priest, making after him.

“Here is the thief!” cried Levion, as they came up.

The priest fancied Enok must have gone suddenly demented at sight of
the fire. “Put up your knife!” he called out.

Levion went on, “Here’s the burglar that stole Mack’s money.”

“What’s that you say?” asked the priest uncomprehendingly.

Enok makes a dash at his opponent, and tries to snatch the packet away.

“Get out! I’m going to hand it over to the priest,” cries Levion. “And
he can see for himself the sort of helper he’s got now.”

Enok staggered to a tree; his face was grey. The priest looks blankly
at the paper, the kerchief, and the notes; he can make nothing of it
all.

“I found it there,” says Levion, shaking all over. “He’d hidden it
under a stone. There’s Mack’s name on the paper, you can see.”

The priest examined it, growing more and more astounded as he read.
“This must be the insurance policy Mack said he had lost, surely?”

“And the money he lost as well,” said Levion.

Enok pulled himself together. “Then you must have put it there,” he
said.

The roar of the forest fire came nearer, the air was growing hotter and
hotter about them, but the three men stood still.

“I know nothing about it,” said Enok again. “It’s just a trick of
Levion’s, to do me harm.”

Said Levion, “Here’s two hundred _Daler_. Have I ever had two hundred
_Daler_ in my life? And isn’t this your kerchief? Isn’t it one you’ve
worn over your ears?”

“Yes, isn’t that so?” seconded the priest.

Enok was silent.

The priest was counting over the notes. “There are not two hundred
_Daler_ here,” he said.

“He’s spent some of it, of course,” said Levion.

But Enok stood breathing heavily. “I know nothing about it,” he said.
“But as for you, Levion, you see if I don’t remember you for this!”

The priest was utterly at a loss. If Enok were the thief, then
Rolandsen had only been making a jest of the letter he had sent him.
And what for?

The heat was growing unbearable; the three men moved down towards the
water, the fire at their heels. They were forced to get into the boat,
and then to push off away from land altogether.

“Anyhow, this is Mack’s policy,” said the priest. “We must report what
has happened. Row back home, Levion.”

Enok was annihilated, and sat staring gloomily before him. “Ay, let’s
go and report it,” he said. “That’s all I want.”

The priest gave him a troubled look. “Do you, I wonder?” he said. And
he closed his eyes in horror at the whole affair.

Enok, in his covetousness, had been too simple. He had carefully
preserved the insurance paper that he could make nothing of. It was an
imposing-looking document, with stamps on, and a great sum of money
written there; who could say but he might be able to go away some day
and sell it? It was surely too valuable to throw away.

The priest turned and looked back at the fire. Men were at work in the
woods, trees were falling, and a broad trench was spreading darkly
across. More helpers had come up to join in the work.

“The fire’ll stop of itself,” said Levion.

“Do you think so?”

“Soon as it gets to the birches it’ll stop.”

And the boat with the three men on board rowed in to the _Lensmand’s_.



[Illustration]



XII


When the priest came back that evening he had been weeping. Evil and
wrong-doing seemed to flourish all about him. He was wounded and
humbled with sorrow; now his wife could not even have the shoes she
needed so badly. Enok’s rich offering would have to be returned to the
giver, as being stolen goods. And that would leave the priest blank and
bare.

He went up to his wife at once. But even before he had passed the door
of her room, new trouble and despair came to meet him. His wife was
sewing. Garments were strewn about the floor, a fork and a dishcloth
from the kitchen lay on the bed, together with newspapers and some
crochet-work. One of her slippers was on the table. On her chest of
drawers lay a branch of birch in leaf and a big grey pebblestone.

He set about, from force of habit, putting things in order.

“You’ve no need to trouble,” said she. “I was going to put that slipper
away myself as soon as I’d done my sewing.”

“But how can you sit and work with the place in such a mess?”

At this she was offended, and made no answer.

“What do you want that stone for?” he asked.

“It’s not for anything particular. I just found it on the beach, and it
was so pretty.”

He swept up a little heap of faded grass that lay beside the mirror,
and put it in a newspaper.

“I don’t know if you want this for anything?” he asked, checking
himself.

“No, it’s no good now. It’s sorrel; I was going to use it for a salad.”

“It’s been lying here over a week,” he said. “And it’s made a stain
here on the polish.”

“There, that shows you. Polished furniture’s such a nuisance; I can’t
see any sense in it myself.”

At that he burst out into an angry laugh. His wife dropped her work and
stood up.

He could never leave her in peace, but was always worrying the life out
of her with his lack of sense. And so they drifted once more into one
of the foolish, fruitless quarrels that had been repeated at intervals
through the past four years. The priest had come up in all humility to
beg his wife’s indulgence because he could not get her the new shoes
at once, but he found it now more and more impossible to carry out his
purpose; bitterness overpowered him. Things were all wrong every way at
the Vicarage since Jomfru van Loos had left them and his wife had taken
over the housekeeping herself.

“And while I think of it, I wish you would use a little sense and
thought over things in the kitchen,” he said.

“Sense and thought? And don’t I, then? Do you mean to say things are
worse now than before?”

“I found the dust-bin full of good food yesterday.”

“If only you wouldn’t go interfering with everything....”

“I found a dish of cream from the dinner the other day.”

“Well, the maids had been at it, and I didn’t care to use it after
them.”

“I found a lot of rice as well.”

“It was the milk had turned, and spoiled it. I couldn’t help that,
could I?”

“One day I found a boiled egg, with the shell off, in the dust-bin.”

His wife was silent. Though, indeed, she could have found something to
say to that as well.

“We’re not exactly rich enough to waste things,” said the priest. “And
you know yourself we have to pay for the eggs. One day the cat was
eating an omelette.”

“Only a bit that was left from dinner. But you’re all unreasonable, and
that’s the truth; you ought to see a doctor for that temper of yours.”

“I’ve seen you stand holding the cat and pushing a bowl of milk under
its nose. And you let the maids see it too. They laugh at you behind
your back.”

“They _don’t_. It’s only you that are always nasty and ill-tempered.”

The end of it was that the priest went back to his study, and his wife
was left in peace.

At breakfast next morning no one could see from her looks that she had
been suffering and wretched. All her trouble seemed charmed away, and
not a memory of their quarrel left. Her easy, changeable nature stood
her in good stead, and helped to make her life endurable. The priest
was touched once more. After all, he might as well have held his peace
about these household matters; the new housekeeper would be coming
soon, and should be on her way already.

“I’m sorry you’ll hardly be able to get those shoes just yet,” he said.

“No, no,” was all she said.

“Enok’s offering will have to be returned; the money was stolen.”

“What’s that you say?”

“Yes, only fancy--it was he who stole all that money from Mack. He
confessed before the _Lensmand_ yesterday.” And the priest told her the
whole story.

“Then it wasn’t Rolandsen after all...” said Fruen.

“Oh, Rolandsen--he’s always in mischief some way or other. An
incorrigible fellow. But, anyhow, I’m afraid your shoes will have to
wait again.”

“Oh, but it doesn’t matter about the shoes.”

That was her way, always kind and unselfish to the last--a mere child.
And her husband had never heard her complain about their poverty.

“If only you could wear mine,” he said, softening.

But at that she laughed heartily. “Yes, and you wear mine instead,
ha-ha-ha!” And here she dropped his plate on the floor and smashed it;
dropped the cold cutlet as well. “Wait a minute; I’ll fetch another
plate,” she said, and hurried out.

Never a word about the damage, thought the priest; never so much as
entered her head. And plates cost money.

“But you’re surely not going to eat that cutlet?” said his wife when
she came in.

“Why, what else should we do with it?”

“Give it to the cat, of course.”

“I’m afraid I can’t afford that sort of thing, if you can,” said he,
turning gloomy again. And this might have led to a first-rate quarrel
again, if she had not been wise enough to pass it over in silence. As
it was, both felt suddenly out of spirits....

Next day another remarkable happening was noised abroad: Rolandsen had
disappeared. On hearing the news of the find in the wood, and Enok’s
confession, he had exclaimed, “The devil! It’s come too early--by a
month, at least.” Børre the organ-blower had heard it. Then, later
in the evening, Rolandsen was nowhere to be found, within doors or
without. But Børre’s little boat, that was drawn up at the Vicarage
landing-place, had disappeared, together with oars and fishing-gear and
all that was in it.

Word was sent to Rosengaard at once about the discovery of the true
thief, but, strangely enough, Mack seemed in no hurry to come back and
take the matter up anew. Doubtless he had his reasons. Rolandsen had
cheated him into paying out a reward, and he would now have to pay the
same sum over again, which was by no means convenient at the moment. A
true Mack, he would never think of acting less open-handedly now than
before,--it was a point of honour with him,--but just at the moment he
was pressed for money. Mack’s numerous and various undertakings called
for considerable disbursements, and there had been no great influx of
ready cash for some time past. There was his big consignment of herring
still in the hands of the agents at Bergen; prices were low, and Mack
was holding. He waited impatiently for the dog-days; after that, the
fishing would be definitely at an end, and prices would go up. Also,
the Russians were at war, and agriculture in that widespread land would
be neglected; the population would need fish to help them out.

Weeks passed, and Mack failed to appear at the factory at all.
There was that bakery, too, that he had promised the people at the
Vicarage--and what was he to say when Fruen asked him? The foundations
were laid, and the ground had been levelled, but no building was being
done. Once more folk began to whisper about Mack; how, like as not, he
would find it awkward to get on with that bakery place. So strong was
this feeling of doubt, that the baker at the _Lensmand’s_ took to drink
again. He felt himself secure; a bakery could not be run up in a week;
there was time at any rate for a good solid bout. The priest heard of
his backsliding, and appealed to him in person, but with little effect;
the man felt safe at least for the time being.

And in truth, the priest, who was ever a worker, had much on his hands
just now; he spared no effort, but for all that he seemed always
behindhand. And now he had lost one of his helpers, the most zealous
of them all--Enok to wit. Only a couple of days after that disaster,
Levion had come up once more, and showed himself extremely willing to
be reinstated.

“Priest can see now, surely, there’s none could be better for the place
than me.”

“H’m! You are suspected of having started that fire yourself.”

“’Tis an everlasting thief and scoundrel said that lie!” exclaimed
Levion.

“Good! But anyhow, you’re not going to be helper again.”

“Who’s it to be this time, then?”

“No one. I shall manage without.”

That sort of man was the priest; strong and stiff and just in his
dealings with all. And he had reason now to mortify himself without
pity. The constant discomfort at home and the many difficulties of
his office were striving to demoralise him and tempt him to his
fall; reprehensible thoughts came into his head at times. Why, for
instance, should he not make peace with Levion, who could be useful
to him in many little matters by way of return? Furthermore, Mack of
Rosengaard had offered his help in any deserving case of actual need.
Well and good! He, the priest himself, was in greater need than any
of his flock. Why not apply to Mack for help on behalf of a family in
distress, and keep the help so given for himself? Then he could get
that pair of shoes for his wife. He himself needed one or two little
things as well--a few books, a little philosophy; he felt himself
withering up in the round of daily toil; his development was checked.
Rolandsen, that glib-tongued rogue, had declared it was human beings
had made God what He was, and the priest had marked the effect of that
upon his own wife. He needed books from which to arm himself for the
abolishment of Rolandsen as soon as opportunity arose.

Mack came at last--came, as usual, in splendour and state; his daughter
Elise was with him. He called at the Vicarage at once, as a matter of
courtesy; moreover, he did not in any way desire to hide away from his
promise. Fruen asked about the bakery. Mack regretted that he had been
unable to get the work done sooner, but there were very good reasons.
It was a flat impossibility to get the building done this year; the
foundations must have time to settle first. Fruen gave a little cry of
disappointment, but her husband was relieved.

“That’s what the experts tell me,” said Mack. “And what can I do? If
we were to build and finish now, then next spring’s thaw might shift
the whole foundation several inches. And what would happen to the
building above?”

“Yes, of course,” agreed the priest.

But it must not be thought that Mack was in any way discouraged; far
from it. The dog-days were past, the herring fishery was at an end,
and the agent in Bergen had wired that prices were going up by leaps
and bounds. Mack could not help telling them the news at the Vicarage.
And in return the priest was able to inform him where Rolandsen was
hiding, on an island among the outer reefs, far to the west, like a
wild savage. A man and woman had come up to the Vicarage and brought
the news.

Mack sent off a boat at once in search.



[Illustration]



XIII


The fact of the matter was, that Enok’s confession had taken Rolandsen
all unawares. He was free now, but, on the other hand, he had not the
four hundred _Daler_ to pay Mack. And so it came about that he took the
boat, with Børre’s gear and tackle, and rowed away in the silent night.
He made for the outer islands, and that was a six-mile journey, part of
it over open sea. He rowed all night, and looked about in the morning
till he found a suitable island. Here he landed; wild birds of all
sorts flew up about him.

Rolandsen was hungry; his first thought was to gather a score of gull’s
eggs and make a meal. But he found the eggs all addled. Then he rowed
out fishing, and had more luck. And now he lived on fish from day to
day, and sang and wore the time away, and was lord of that island. When
it rained, he had a first-rate shelter under an overhanging rock. He
slept on a grassy patch at night, and the sun never set.

Two weeks, three weeks, passed. Rolandsen grew desperately thin from
his wretched mode of life, but his eyes grew harder and harder from
sheer determination, and he would not give in. His only fear was that
someone might come and disturb him. A few nights back there had come a
boat, a man and a woman in it--a pair out gathering down. They would
have landed on the island, but Rolandsen was by no means that way
inclined. He had sighted them afar off, and had time to work himself up
into a fury, so that when they arrived, he made such threatening play
with Børre’s tiny anchor that the couple rowed away in fright. Then
Rolandsen laughed to himself, and a most uncomely fiend he was to look
at, with his hollow cheeks.

One morning the birds made more noise than usual, and Rolandsen
awoke, though it was still so early as to be almost night. He sees a
boat making in, already close at hand. It was always a trouble with
Rolandsen that he was so slow to anger. Here was this boat coming in,
and its coming highly inconvenient to him just then, but by the time he
had worked up an adequate rage, the men had landed. If only they had
given him time, he might have done something to stop them; might have
pelted them to rags with stones from the beach.

They were two of Mack’s folk from the factory, father and son. They
stepped ashore, and “_Goddag!_” said the older one.

“I’m not the least little pleased to see you, and I’ll do you a hurt,”
said Rolandsen.

“Ho, and how’ll you do that?” said the man, with a look at his son, but
not very bold for all that.

“Throttle you dead, for instance. What do you say to that little plan?”

“’Twas Mack himself that sent us to find you here.”

“Of course it was Mack himself. I know well enough what he wants.”

Then the younger man put in a word, and this was that Børre the
organ-blower wanted his boat and gear.

Rolandsen shouted bitterly at that. “Børre! Is the fellow mad? And what
about me then? Here am I living on a desert island; I must have a boat
to get to folk, and gear to fish with, if I’m not to starve. Tell him
that from me!”

“And then there was a word from the new man at the station, how there’s
telegrams waiting for you there. Important.”

Rolandsen jumped. Already! He asked a question or so, which they
answered, and thereafter he made no further objection, but went back
with them. The younger man rowed Børre’s boat, and Rolandsen sat in the
other.

There was a provision-box in the forepart of the boat, that waked in
his mind impertinent hopes of food. He was on the point of asking if
they had brought anything to eat with them, but restrained himself, out
of sheer lordliness and pride, and tried to talk it off.

“How did Mack know I was here?”

“’Twas the news came. A man and a woman saw you here one night; you
frightened them a deal.”

“Well, what did they want here anyway? And I’ve hit on a new
fishing-ground there by the island. And now I’m leaving it.”

“How long’d you thought to be staying there?”

“’Tis no business of yours,” said Rolandsen sharply. His eyes were
fixed on that provision-box, but he showed himself as ready to burst,
out of sheer pride, and said, “It’s more than commonly ugly, that box
there. Shouldn’t think anyone’d care to keep food in a thing like that.
What d’you use it for?”

“If only I’d all the butter and cheese and pork and butcher’s meat’s
been in that box, I’d not go hungry for years to come,” answered the
man.

Rolandsen cleared his throat, and spat over the side.

“When did those telegrams come?” he asked.

“Eh, that’ll be some time back.”

Half-way across, the two boats closed in and lay alongside; father and
son brought out their meal from the box, and Rolandsen looked all other
ways. Said the old man, “We’ve a bite of food here, if as you’re not
too proud.” And they passed the whole box across.

But Rolandsen waved it away, and answered:

“I’m fed, no more than half an hour since. As much as I could eat.
That cake of bread there looks uncommonly nicely done, though. No, no,
thanks; I was only looking at it ... smells nice, too....”

And Rolandsen chattered away, looking to every other side.

“We’re never short of plenty these parts, and that’s the truth,” he
went on. “I’ll wager now there’s not a hut nor shed but’s got its leg
of meat hung up. But there’s no need to be always eating so much; ’tis
a beastly fashion.”

He writhed uncomfortably on his seat, and went on:

“How long I was going to stay there, d’you say? Why, I’d have stayed
till the autumn, to see the shooting stars. I’ve a great fancy for such
things; it tickles me to see whole planets go to pieces.”

“There you’re talking more than I know of.”

“Planets, man--stars. Butting into one another all across the sky. ’Tis
a wild and wicked sight.”

But the men went on eating, and at last Rolandsen could contain himself
no longer. “What pigs you are to eat, you two! Stuffing all that into
you at once--I never saw....”

“We’ve done,” said the old man quietly enough.

The boats pushed apart, and the two men bent to their oars. Rolandsen
lay back and tried to sleep.

It was afternoon when they got in, and Rolandsen went up to the station
at once for his telegrams. There were encouraging messages about his
invention; a high bid for the patent rights from Hamburg, and a still
higher one from another firm through the bureau. And Rolandsen, in his
incomprehensible fashion, must needs run off to the woods and stay
there alone for quite a while before he thought of getting a bite to
eat. The excess of feeling made him a boy again; he was as a child,
with folded hands.



[Illustration]



XIV


He went to Mack’s office, and went thither as a man come to his own,
ay, as a lion. There would be strange feelings in the Mack family at
seeing him again. Elise, maybe, would congratulate him, and kindliness
from her would be a joy.

But he was disappointed. He came upon Elise outside the factory,
talking to her brother; she paid so little heed to him that his
greeting all but passed unanswered. And the pair went on talking as
before. Rolandsen would not disturb them by asking for old Mack, but
went up to the office and knocked at the door. It was locked. He went
down again and said, “Your father sent for me; where shall I find him?”

The two were in no hurry to answer, but finished what they had to say.
Then said Frederik, “Father’s up at the watergate.”

“Might have said that when I came up first,” thought Rolandsen. Oh,
they were all indifferent to him now; they had let him go up to the
office without a word.

“Couldn’t you send word to him?” asked Rolandsen.

Said Frederik slowly, “When father’s up at the watergate, he’s there
because he’s business there.”

Rolandsen looked at the two with eyes of wonder.

“Better come again later on,” said Frederik.

“If I come a second time, it’ll be to say I shan’t come a third.”

Frederik shrugged his shoulders.

“There’s father,” said Elise.

Old Mack came walking towards them. He frowned, spoke sharply, and
walked on ahead of Rolandsen to the office. All ungraciousness. Then he
said:

“Last time, I asked you to sit down. This time, I don’t.”

“No, no,” said Rolandsen. But he was puzzled at the other’s angry
manner.

But Mack found no pleasure in being harsh. He had power over this man,
who had done him a wrong, and he preferred to show himself too proud to
use it. He said, “You know, of course, what has happened here?”

Said Rolandsen, “I have been away. Things may have happened that you
know of, but not I.”

“I’ll tell you how it is, then,” said Mack. And Mack was now as a minor
God, with the fate of a human creature in his hand. “You burnt up that
insurance policy, I think you said?”

“Well, not exactly,” said Rolandsen. “To tell the truth....”

“Here it is,” said Mack, and brought out the document. “The money has
been found, too. The whole lot was found wrapped up in a kerchief that
did _not_ belong to you.”

Rolandsen made no protest.

“It belonged to Enok,” Mack went on.

Rolandsen could not help smiling at the other’s solemn manner, and
said jestingly, “Ah, now I shouldn’t be surprised if it was Enok was
the thief.”

Mack found this tone by no means to his taste; it was lacking in
respect. “You’ve made a fool of me,” he said, “and cheated me out of
four hundred _Daler_.”

Rolandsen, with his precious telegrams in his pocket, still found it
hard to be serious. “Let’s talk it over a little,” said he.

Then said Mack sharply, “Last time, I forgave you. This time, I don’t.”

“I can pay you back the money.”

Mack turned on him angrily. “The money’s no more to me now than it was
then. But you’re a cheat; do you realise that?”

“If you’ll allow me, I’ll explain.”

“No.”

“Well, now, that’s all unreasonable,” said Rolandsen, still smiling.
“What do you want with me at all, then?”

“I’m going to have you locked up,” said Mack.

Frederik came in, and went to his place at the desk. He had heard the
last words, and saw his father now, for once, in a state of excitement.

Rolandsen thrust his hand into his pocket, where the telegrams lay, and
said, “Won’t you accept the money, then?”

“No,” said Mack. “You can hand it over to the authorities.”

Rolandsen stood there still. Nothing of a lion now; properly speaking,
he had made a big mistake, and might be put in prison. Well and good!
And when Mack looked at him inquiringly, as if to ask what he might be
standing there for, he answered, “I’m waiting to be locked up.”

“Here?” Mack looked at him in astonishment. “No, you can go along home
and get ready.”

“Thanks. I’ve some telegrams to send off.”

Mack turned gentler all at once. After all, he was not a savage. “I’ll
give you to-day and to-morrow to get ready,” he said.

Rolandsen bowed, and went out.

Elise was still standing outside; he passed by her this time without a
sign. What was lost was lost; there was no helping it now.

But Elise called to him softly, and he stopped, stood gazing at her,
shaken and confused in his surprise.

“I--I was only going to say ... it’s nothing serious, is it?”

Rolandsen could make nothing of this; could not understand why she had
suddenly chosen to speak to him at all. “I’ve got leave to go home,” he
said. “To send off some telegrams.”

She came up close to him, her breast heaving; she looked round, as if
in fear of something. Then she said:

“Father was angry, I suppose. But it’ll soon pass off, I’m sure.”

Rolandsen was offended; had he himself no right in the case? “Your
father can do as he pleases,” he said.

Ho, so that was his tone! But Elise breathed heavily as before, and
said, “Why do you look at me like that? Don’t you know me again?”

Grace and kindliness without end. Rolandsen answered, “As to knowing
again or not, that’s as folk themselves will have it.”

Pause. Then said Elise at last, “But surely you can see, after what
you’ve done ... still, it’s worst for yourself.”

“Good! Let it be worst for myself then. I’m not going to be called to
account by all and sundry--I won’t stand it. Your father can have me
locked up if he likes.”

She turned without a word and left him....

       *       *       *       *       *

Rolandsen waited for two days--waited for three, but there came none
to the organ-blower’s house to arrest him. He was in dire excitement.
He had written out his telegrams, ready to send off the moment he was
arrested; he would accept the highest bid for his invention, and sell
the patent. Meantime, he was not idle; he kept the foreign firms busy
with negotiations about this and that, such as purchase of the falls
above Mack’s factory, and guarantees of transport facilities. All these
matters were left in his hands for the present.

But Mack was not inclined to persecute a fellow-creature just now;
on the contrary, his business was going excellently, and as long as
things went well, it pleased him far more to be generous beyond need.
A new telegram from the agent in Bergen had informed him that the
fish was sold to Russia; if Mack had need of money, money was at his
disposal. Altogether, Mack was getting on swimmingly again.

When over a week had passed without any change, Rolandsen went down to
Mack’s office again. He was worn out with anxiety and uncertainty; he
felt he must have a decision.

“I’ve been waiting a week, and you haven’t had me arrested yet,” he
said.

“Young man,” said Mack indulgently, “I have been thinking over your
affair....”

“Old man,” said Rolandsen violently, “you’ll please to settle it now!
You think you can go on for ever and ever and be mightily gracious as
long as you please, but I’ll soon put a stop to that. I’ll give myself
up to the police.”

“Really, this tone,” said Mack, “it’s not what I should have expected
from you, considering....”

“I’ll show you what you can expect from me,” cried Rolandsen, with
unnecessary arrogance. And he flung down his telegrams on the desk.
Rolandsen’s big nose looked even more aggressive than usual, since he
had got thinner in the face.

Mack glanced through the messages. “So you’ve turned inventor?” he
said carelessly. But as he read on, he screwed up his eyes intently.
“Fish-glue,” said he at last. And then he went through the telegrams
once more.

“This looks very promising,” he said, looking up. “Am I to understand
you’ve been offered all this money for a fish-glue process of your own?”

“Yes.”

“Then I congratulate you. But surely you must feel it beneath your
dignity now to behave rudely towards an old man.”

“You’re right there, of course; yes. But I’m all worn out with anxiety.
You said you were going to have me arrested, and nothing’s happened.”

“Well, I may as well tell you the truth; I meant to do so. But other
people interfered.”

“Who interfered?”

“H’m! You know what women are. There’s that daughter of mine, Elise.
And she said no.”

“That--that’s very strange,” said Rolandsen.

Mack looked at the telegrams once more. “This is excellent,” he said.
“Couldn’t you give me some idea of the thing itself?”

Rolandsen explained a little of the process.

“That means, we’re to some extent competitors,” said Mack.

“Not to some extent only. From the moment I’ve sent off my answer,
we’re competitors in earnest.”

“Eh?” Mack started. “What do you mean? Are you going to set up a
factory yourself?”

“Yes. There’s water-power higher up, beyond your place, and more of it,
and easier to work.”

“But that’s Levion’s water.”

“I’ve bought it.”

Mack wrinkled up his forehead thoughtfully. “Good! We’re competitors,
then,” he said.

Said Rolandsen, “That means you will lose.”

But Mack, the man of power, was growing more and more offended; he was
not accustomed to this sort of thing, and not disposed to put up with
it.

“You’re strangely forgetful, young man; you keep on forgetting that
you’re in my power,” said he.

“Do as you please. If you lock me up now, my turn will come later,
that’s all.”

“What--what will you do then?”

“Ruin you,” said Rolandsen.

Frederik came in. He saw at once that the two had been having words,
and it annoyed him that his father did not settle this big-nosed
ex-telegraph person out of hand.

Then said Rolandsen aloud, “I will make you an offer: we can take
up this invention together. Make the necessary alterations in your
factory, and I’ll take over the management there. That’s my offer--and
it holds good for twenty-four hours!”

Whereupon Rolandsen strode out, leaving the telegrams with Mack.



[Illustration]



XV


Autumn was setting in; the wind rushing through the woods, the sea
yellow and cold, and a great awakening of stars in the sky. But Ove
Rolandsen had no time now for watching meteor flights, though he’d as
great a fancy as ever for such things. There had been gangs of men at
work on Mack’s factory of late, pulling down here and setting up there,
under orders from Rolandsen, who managed it all. He had settled all
difficulties now, and was a man of mark.

“I knew he would get on,” said Old Mack. “I believed in him all along.”

“I did not,” said proud Elise. “The way he goes about now. It’s as if
he’d been the saving of us all.”

“Oh, it’s not as bad as that,” said Mack.

“He says a word of greeting when he passes, but he never stops for a
reply. He just walks on.”

“Ah! he’s busy, that’s all.”

“He’s sneaked into the family, that’s what he’s done,” said Elise, her
lips a little pale. “Wherever we are, he’s sure to be there too. But if
he’s any ideas in his head about me, he’s very much mistaken.”

Elise went back to town.

And everything went on as usual, as if one could do without her well
enough. But it was this way now with Rolandsen: from the time he had
entered into partnership with Mack, he had promised himself to do good
work and not waste time in dreaming of other things. Dreams and fancies
for the summer-time--and then best to stop. But some go dreaming all
their lives; go fluttering mothwise all their lives, and never can make
an end. Now here was Jomfru van Loos in Bergen. Rolandsen had had a
letter from her, to say she didn’t really never at all make out as he
was beneath her, seeing he hadn’t demeaned himself with burglary and
thieving after all, but only doing it for monkey tricks and fun. And
that she took back her words about breaking it off, if so be it wasn’t
too late and couldn’t be altered.

Elise Mack came home again in October. It was said she was properly
engaged now, and her betrothed, Henrik Burnus Henriksen, captain of the
coasting vessel, was visiting her. There was to be a grand ball in the
great hall at Rosengaard, and a troupe of wandering musicians, on their
way down from Finmarken, had been hired to play flutes and trumpets on
the night. All the village was invited, Rolandsen with the rest, and
Olga was to be there, and be received as Frederik Mack’s intended. But
the Vicarage people were, unfortunately, prevented. A new chaplain had
been appointed, and was expected every day, and the present incumbent,
good man, was going elsewhere, up to the northward, where another flock
needed his care. He was not altogether displeased to be going away now,
to plough and sow new ground; he had not always been happy in his work
here. He could look back upon a great deal accomplished; he had got
Levion’s sister to call to mind the one man who owed her marriage. It
was the village carpenter, a house-owner, a man of property, and with
money stored under his pillow. When the priest joined them together
before the altar, it was with a feeling of satisfaction. After all,
unceasing toil might here and there bear fruit among the benighted.

All things came right in time--and praise the Lord, thought the priest.
His household was in something nearer order now, the new housekeeper
had come, and old and reliable she was; he would take her with him and
keep her on at the new place. All would come right in time, no doubt.
The priest had been a hard man to deal with, but none seemed to bear
him enmity for that. When he stepped on board down at the waterside,
there were many had come to see him off. As for Rolandsen, he would not
let slip this opportunity of showing courtesy. Mack’s boat was there
already with three men, waiting for him, but he would not go on board
until the Vicarage folk had gone. In spite of all, the priest could not
but thank him for so much consideration. And as Lay-helper Levion had
carried the new priest’s lady ashore when first they came, so now he
carried her on board again as well. Matters were looking brighter now
for Levion, too, seeing the priest had undertaken to say a word for his
reinstatement in his former post.

All would come right, no doubt.

“Now if you weren’t going north and I south,” said Rolandsen, “we might
go together.”

“Yes,” said the priest. “But let us remember, my dear Rolandsen, that
we may go north and we may go south, but we shall all meet again in one
place at the last!” Thus spoke the priest in priestly wise, and was
unshaken to the last.

Fruen sat in the stern, wearing the same pitiful shoes; they had been
patched, but were grown most heartily ugly thereby. Yet she was not
downcast for that; far from it; her eyes shone, and she was joyful at
the thought of coming to some new place, to see what there might be.
Though she could not help feeling a wistful regret for a big grey
pebblestone that her husband would not let her put in her trunk, for
all it was so pretty to see.

They pushed off from land, and there was a waving of hats and
sou’westers and handkerchiefs, and calling “_Farvel!_” from the boat
and from the shore.

Then Rolandsen went on board. He had to be at Rosengaard that evening;
a double engagement was to be celebrated, and here again he could not
let slip the chance of being polite. Mack’s boat had no pennant at the
mast, wherefore he had borrowed a magnificent one of huge dimensions on
his own account, and had it hoisted before setting out.

He came to Rosengaard that evening. The great trading station was
evidently decked for a festival; there were lights in the windows on
both floors, and the ships in the harbour were fluttering their flags,
though it was already dark. Rolandsen said to his men, “Go ashore now,
and send three others to relieve; I shall be starting back to the
factory at midnight.”

Frederik Mack came out at once to receive him, and Frederik was in high
spirits. He had now every hope of getting that berth as mate; then he
would be able to marry, and be something on his own account. Old Mack
too was pleased, and wore the decoration given him by the King on the
royal visit to Finmarken. Neither Elise nor Captain Henriksen were to
be seen--cooing somewhere by themselves, no doubt.

Rolandsen took a glass or so, and set himself to be quiet and strong.
He sat down with Old Mack, and talked over various matters of business:
this dye-stuff, now, that he had discovered; it had seemed a trifle at
first, but already it looked like becoming a main product, perhaps the
chief of all. He needed machinery and plant, apparatus for distilling.
Elise came by; she looked Rolandsen full in the face and said,
“_Godaften_” out loud, and nodded. Rolandsen stood up and bowed, but
she walked by.

“She’s very busy this evening,” said Mack.

“And we shall have to have everything in readiness before the Lofoten
fishing begins,” said Rolandsen, sitting down again. Ho-ho! He was
not to be crushed, not to be in the least put out by any sort of
feeling!--“I still think the best thing to do would be to charter a
small steamer and send up, with Frederik as master.”

“Frederik may be getting another post now. But we can talk it all over
to-morrow; there’s plenty of time.”

“I am going back to-night.”

“Nonsense!” said Mack. “There’s no earthly need for that.”

Rolandsen stood up and said shortly, “At midnight.” Firm and
inflexible, that was the way.

“Well, really, I had thought you would stay the night. On a special
occasion like this. I think I may call it something of a special
occasion.”

They walked about among the others, stopping to exchange a few words
here and there. Rolandsen encountered Captain Henriksen, and they drank
together as if they had been old friends, though neither had seen the
other before. The Captain was a cheery fellow, a trifle stout.

Then the music struck up, tables were laid in three rooms, and
Rolandsen behaved admirably in choosing himself a place well apart from
the most distinguished guests. Mack, making a round of the tables,
found him there, and said, “What, are you sitting here? Well, now, I
was going to....”

Said Rolandsen, “Not at all, thanks very much; we can hear your speech
quite nicely from here.”

Mack shook his head. “No, I’m not going to make any speech.” And he
moved off with a thoughtful air, as if something had upset him.

The meal went on; there was much wine, and a great buzz of voices. When
the coffee came round, Rolandsen started writing out a wire. It was
to Jomfru van Loos in Bergen, to say it was by no means too late and
couldn’t be altered, come north soonest possible.--Yours, OVE.

And that was well, all things were excellently well--delightful! He
went down himself to the station and sent off the wire. Then he went
back to the house. There was more life and movement about the tables
now; guests changed places; Elise came through to where he sat, and
offered her hand. She begged him to excuse her having passed by so
hurriedly before.

“If you only knew how lovely you are again this evening,” said he, and
was calm and polite.

“Do you think so, now?”

“I always did think so. I’m an old admirer of yours, you know. Don’t
you remember last year, when I actually proposed to you?”

But she did not seem to like his tone now, and went away for the time
being. But a little later he came upon her again. Frederik had led out
his lady, the dancing had begun, and no one took any notice of a couple
talking together.

Said Elise, “Oh, by the way, I’ve heard from an old acquaintance of
yours, Jomfru van Loos.”

“Have you, though?”

“She heard I was going to be married, and wants to come and keep house
for me. I believe she’s a very good housekeeper. But of course you know
her better than I do.”

“She is very clever, yes. But she can’t come and keep house for you.”

“Oh...?”

“Seeing I’ve wired her this evening offering her another post. She’s
engaged to me now.”

Proud Elise started at that, and looked hard at him. “I thought it was
over between you,” she said.

“Oh, well, you know what they say about old love.... It _was_ all over
at one time, but now....”

“I see,” said Elise.

Then said Rolandsen, magnificently polite, “I can’t help saying you’ve
never been so lovely as you are to-night! And then your dress, that
dark-red velvet dress....”

He felt very pleased with himself after that speech; no one could ever
imagine the least unrest behind it.

“You didn’t seem to care so very much for her,” said Elise.

He saw that her eyes were dewed, and he winced. A little strangeness in
her voice, too, confused him, and the look on his face changed suddenly.

“Where’s your splendid coolness now?” she asked, and smiled.

“You’ve taken it,” he said in a low voice.

Then suddenly she stroked his hand, a single touch, and left him. She
hurried in through the rooms, seeing none and hearing nothing, only
hurrying on. In the passage stood her brother, and he called to her;
she turned her all-smiling face full towards him, and the tears dripped
from her lashes; then she ran upstairs to her room.

A quarter of an hour later her father came up. She flung her arms round
his neck and said, “I can’t!”

“Eh? No, no. But you must come down again and dance; they’re asking
after you. And what have you been saying to Rolandsen? He’s changed so
all in a moment. Have you been rude to him again?”

“Oh no, no, I wasn’t rude to him....”

“Because if you were, you’ll have to put it right at once. He’s leaving
at twelve o’clock to-night.”

“Leaving at twelve!” Elise was ready in a moment, and said, “I’m coming
down at once.”

She went downstairs, and found Captain Henriksen.

“I can’t,” said she.

He made no answer.

“I dare say it’s so much the worse for me, but I simply can’t.”

“Very well, then,” was all he said.

She could not give any further explanation, and the Captain apparently
having no more to say, nothing more was said. Elise went down to the
telegraph station and telegraphed Jomfru van Loos, Bergen, not to
accept Ove Rolandsen’s offer, same being again not seriously meant.
Await letter.--ELISE MACK.

Then she went home and joined the dancers again.

“Is it true you’re leaving at twelve to-night?” she asked Rolandsen.

“Yes.”

“Then I’m going with you to the factory. I’ve something to do there.”

And she stroked his hand once more.

[Illustration]



[Illustration]



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OTHER GYLDENDAL BOOKS

Works by KNUT HAMSUN

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GROWTH OF THE SOIL

Translated by W. WORSTER, M.A.

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       *       *       *       *       *



Transcriber's Note


The following apparent errors have been corrected:

p. iii "“GROWTH OF THE SOIL’ “PAN" changed to "“GROWTH OF THE SOIL”
“PAN”"

p. xxiv "Hamsund" changed to "Hamsun"

p. vvxiii "tenperaments" changed to "temperaments"

p. 9 "Loos.”" changed to "Loos."

p. 27 "Mark hired" changed to "Mack hired"

p. 42 "bitterly" changed to "bitterly."

p. 72 "deperately" changed to "desperately"

p. 128 "burning," changed to "burning"

p. 146 "need that" changed to "need than"

p. 166 "work." changed to "work.”"


The following are used inconsistently in the text:

_brændevin_ and _Brændevin_





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