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Title: Pelle the Conqueror — Volume 01
Author: Andersen Nexø, Martin
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Pelle the Conqueror — Volume 01" ***

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PELLE THE CONQUEROR

PART I--BOYHOOD


BY MARTIN ANDERSON NEXO


TRANSLATED FROM THE DANISH
by Jessie Muir.



NOTE

When the first part of "Pelle Erobreren" (Pelle the Conqueror)
appeared in 1906, its author, Martin Andersen Nexo, was practically
unknown even in his native country, save to a few literary people
who knew that he had written some volumes of stories and a book full
of sunshiny reminiscences from Spain. And even now, after his great
success with "Pelle," very little is known about the writer. He was
born in 1869 in one of the poorest quarters of Copenhagen, but spent
his boyhood in his beloved island Bornholm, in the Baltic, in or
near the town, Nexo, from which his final name is derived. There,
too, he was a shoemaker's apprentice, like Pelle in the second part
of the book, which resembles many great novels in being largely
autobiographical. Later, he gained his livelihood as a bricklayer,
until he somehow managed to get to one of the most renowned of our
"people's high-schools," where he studied so effectually that he was
enabled to become a teacher, first at a provincial school, and later
in Copenhagen.

"Pelle" consists of four parts, each, except perhaps the last, a
complete story in itself. First we have the open-air life of the boy
in country surroundings in Bornholm; then the lad's apprenticeship
in a small provincial town not yet invaded by modern industrialism
and still innocent of socialism; next the youth's struggles in
Copenhagen against employers and authorities; and last the man's
final victory in laying the foundation of a garden-city for the
benefit of his fellow-workers. The background everywhere is the
rapid growth of the labor movement; but social problems are never
obtruded, except, again, in the last part, and the purely human
interest is always kept well before the reader's eye through variety
of situation and vividness of characterization. The great charm of
the book seems to me to lie in the fact that the writer knows the
poor from within; he has not studied them as an outsider may, but
has lived with them and felt with them, at once a participant and
a keen-eyed spectator. He is no sentimentalist, and so rich is his
imagination that he passes on rapidly from one scene to the next,
sketching often in a few pages what another novelist would be
content to work out into long chapters or whole volumes. His
sympathy is of the widest, and he makes us see tragedies behind the
little comedies, and comedies behind the little tragedies, of the
seemingly sordid lives of the working people whom he loves. "Pelle"
has conquered the hearts of the reading public of Denmark; there is
that in the book which should conquer also the hearts of a wider
public than that of the little country in which its author was born.

OTTO JESPERSEN,
Professor of English in the University of Copenhagen.

GENTOFTE, COPENHAGEN.
April, 1913.



Pelle the Conqueror



I. BOYHOOD



I

It was dawn on the first of May, 1877. From the sea the mist came
sweeping in, in a gray trail that lay heavily on the water. Here
and there there was a movement in it; it seemed about to lift, but
closed in again, leaving only a strip of shore with two old boats
lying keel uppermost upon it. The prow of a third boat and a bit
of breakwater showed dimly in the mist a few paces off. At definite
intervals a smooth, gray wave came gliding out of the mist up over
the rustling shingle, and then withdrew again; it was as if some
great animal lay hidden out there in the fog, and lapped at the
land.

A couple of hungry crows were busy with a black, inflated object
down there, probably the carcass of a dog. Each time a wave glided
in, they rose and hovered a few feet up in the air with their legs
extended straight down toward their booty, as if held by some
invisible attachment. When the water retreated, they dropped down
and buried their heads in the carrion, but kept their wings spread,
ready to rise before the next advancing wave. This was repeated with
the regularity of clock-work.

A shout came vibrating in from the harbor, and a little while after
the heavy sound of oars working over the edge of a boat. The sound
grew more distant and at last ceased; but then a bell began to
ring--it must have been at the end of the mole--and out of the
distance, into which the beat of the oars had disappeared, came the
answering sound of a horn. They continued to answer one another for
a couple of minutes.

The town was invisible, but now and then the silence there was
broken by the iron tramp of a quarryman upon the stone paving. For
a long time the regular beat of his footsteps could be heard, until
it suddenly ceased as he turned some corner or other. Then a door
was opened, followed by the sound of a loud morning yawn; and
someone began to sweep the pavement. Windows were opened here and
there, out of which floated various sounds to greet the gray day.
A woman's sharp voice was heard scolding, then short, smart slaps
and the crying of a child. A shoemaker began beating leather, and
as he worked fell to singing a hymn--

  "But One is worthy of our hymn, O brothers:
  The Lamb on Whom the sins of all men lay."

The tune was one of Mendelssohn's "Songs without Words."

Upon the bench under the church wall sat a boat's crew with their
gaze turned seaward. They were leaning forward and smoking, with
hands clasped between their knees. All three wore ear-rings as a
preventive of colds and other evils, and all sat in exactly the
same position, as if the one were afraid of making himself in the
very least different from the others.

A traveller came sauntering down from the hotel, and approached
the fishermen. He had his coat-collar turned up, and shivered in
the chill morning air. "Is anything the matter?" he asked civilly,
raising his cap. His voice sounded gruff.

One of the fishermen moved his hand slightly in the direction of
his head-gear. He was the head man of the boat's crew. The others
gazed straight before them without moving a muscle.

"I mean, as the bell's ringing and the pilot-boat's out blowing her
horn," the traveller went on. "Are they expecting a ship?"

"May be. You never can tell!" answered the head man unapproachably.

The stranger looked as if he were deeply insulted, but restrained
himself. It was only their usual secretiveness, their inveterate
distrust of every one who did not speak their dialect and look
exactly like themselves. They sat there inwardly uneasy in spite
of their wooden exterior, stealing glances at him when he was not
looking, and wishing him at Jericho. He felt tempted to tease them
a little.

"Dear me! Perhaps it's a secret?" he said, laughing.

"Not that I know of," answered the fisherman cautiously.

"Well, of course I don't expect anything for nothing! And besides
it wears out your talking-apparatus to be continually opening and
shutting it. How much do you generally get?" He took out his purse;
it was his intention to insult them now.

The other fishermen threw stolen glances at their leader. If only
he did not run them aground!

The head man took his pipe out of his mouth and turned to his
companions: "No, as I was saying, there are some folks that have
nothing to do but go about and be clever." He warned them with his
eyes, the expression of his face was wooden. His companions nodded.
They enjoyed the situation, as the commercial traveller could see
from their doltish looks.

He was enraged. Here he was, being treated as if he were air and
made fun of! "Confound you fellows! Haven't you even learnt as much
as to give a civil answer to a civil question?" he said angrily.

The fishermen looked backward and forward at one another, taking
mute counsel.

"No, but I tell you what it is! She must come some time," said
the head man at last.

"What 'she'?"

"The steamer, of course. And she generally comes about this time.
Now you've got it!"

"Naturally--of course! But isn't it a little unwise to speak so loud
about it?" jeered the traveller.

The fishermen had turned their backs on him, and were scraping out
their pipes.

"We're not quite so free with our speech here as some people, and
yet we make our living," said the head man to the others. They
growled their approval.

As the stranger wandered on down the harbor hill, the fishermen
looked after him with a feeling of relief. "What a talker!" said
one. "He wanted to show off a bit, but you gave him what he won't
forget in a hurry."

"Yes, I think it touched him on the raw, all right," answered the
man, with pride. "It's these fine gentlemen you need to be most
careful of."

Half-way down the harbor hill, an inn-keeper stood at his door
yawning. The morning stroller repeated his question to him, and
received an immediate answer, the man being a Copenhagener.

"Well, you see we're expecting the steamer from Ystad today, with
a big cargo of slaves--cheap Swedish laborers, that's to say, who
live on black bread and salt herrings, and do the work of three.
They ought to be flogged with red-hot icicles, that sort, and the
brutes of farmers, too! You won't take a little early morning glass
of something, I suppose?"

"No, thank you, I think not--so early."

"Very well, please yourself."

Down at the harbor a number of farmers' carts were already standing,
and fresh ones arrived at full gallop every minute. The newcomers
guided their teams as far to the front as possible, examined their
neighbors' horses with a critical eye, and settled themselves into
a half-doze, with their fur collars turned up about their ears.
Custom-house men in uniform, and pilots, looking like monster
penguins, wandered restlessly about, peering out to sea and
listening. Every moment the bell at the end of the mole rang, and
was answered by the pilot-boat's horn somewhere out in the fog over
the sea, with a long, dreary hoot, like the howl of some suffering
animal.

"What was that noise?" asked a farmer who had just come, catching up
the reins in fear. His fear communicated itself to his horses, and
they stood trembling with heads raised listening in the direction
of the sea, with questioning terror in their eyes.

"It was only the sea-serpent," answered a custom-house officer. "He
always suffers from wind in this foggy weather. He's a wind-sucker,
you see." And the custom-house men put their heads together and
grinned.

Merry sailors dressed in blue with white handkerchiefs round their
necks went about patting the horses, or pricking their nostrils with
a straw to make them rear. When the farmers woke up and scolded,
they laughed with delight, and sang--

  "A sailor he must go through
  A deal more bad than good, good, good!"

A big pilot, in an Iceland vest and woollen gloves, was rushing
anxiously about with a megaphone in his hand, growling like an
uneasy bear. Now and then he climbed up on the molehead, put
the megaphone to his mouth, and roared out over the water:
"Do--you--hear--any--thing?" The roar went on for a long time out
upon the long swells, up and down, leaving behind it an oppressive
silence, until it suddenly returned from the town above, in the
shape of a confused babble that made people laugh.

"N-o-o!" was heard a little while after in a thin and long-drawn-out
cry from the sea; and again the horn was heard, a long, hoarse sound
that came rocking in on the waves, and burst gurgling in the splash
under the wharf and on the slips.

The farmers were out of it all. They dozed a little or sat flicking
their whips to pass the time. But every one else was in a state of
suspense. A number of people had gradually gathered about the harbor
--fishermen, sailors waiting to be hired, and master-artisans who
were too restless to stay in their workshop. They came down in their
leather aprons, and began at once to discuss the situation; they
used nautical expressions, most of them having been at sea in their
youth. The coming of the steamer was always an event that brought
people to the harbor; but to-day she had a great many people on
board, and she was already an hour behind time. The dangerous fog
kept the suspense at high pressure; but as the time passed, the
excitement gave place to a feeling of dull oppression. Fog is the
seaman's worst enemy, and there were many unpleasant possibilities.
On the best supposition the ship had gone inshore too far north
or south, and now lay somewhere out at sea hooting and heaving
the lead, without daring to move. One could imagine the captain
storming and the sailors hurrying here and there, lithe and agile
as cats. Stop!--Half-speed ahead! Stop!--Half-speed astern! The
first engineer would be at the engine himself, gray with nervous
excitement. Down in the engine-room, where they knew nothing at all,
they would strain their ears painfully for any sound, and all to
no purpose. But up on deck every man would be on the alert for his
life; the helmsman wet with the sweat of his anxiety to watch every
movement of the captain's directing hand, and the look-out on the
forecastle peering and listening into the fog until he could hear
his own heart beat, while the suspense held every man on deck on
tenterhooks, and the fog-horn hooted its warning. But perhaps the
ship had already gone to the bottom!

Every one knew it all; every man had in some way or other been
through this overcharged suspense--as cabin-boy, stoker, captain,
cook--and felt something of it again now. Only the farmers were
unaffected by it; they dozed, woke up with a jerk, and yawned
audibly.

The seafarers and the peasants always had a difficulty in keeping
on peaceable terms with one another; they were as different as land
and sea. But to-day the indifferent attitude of the peasants made
the sea-folk eye them with suppressed rage. The fat pilot had
already had several altercations with them for being in his way;
and when one of them laid himself open to criticism, he was down
upon him in an instant. It was an elderly farmer, who woke from his
nap with a start, as his head fell forward, and impatiently took out
his watch and looked at it.

"It's getting rather late," he said. "The captain can't find his
stall to-day."

"More likely he's dropped into an inn on the way!" said the pilot,
his eyes gleaming with malice.

"Very likely," answered the farmer, without for the moment realizing
the nature of the paths of the sea. His auditors laughed exultingly,
and passed the mistake on to their neighbors, and people crowded
round the unfortunate man, while some one cried: "How many inns
are there between this and Sweden?"

"Yes, it's too easy to get hold of liquids out there, that's the
worst of it," the pilot went on. "But for that any booby could
manage a ship. He's only got to keep well to the right of Mads
Hansen's farm, and he's got a straight road before him. And the
deuce of a fine road! Telegraph-wires and ditches and a row of
poplars on each side--just improved by the local board. You've just
got to wipe the porridge off your mustache, kiss the old woman, and
climb up on to the bridge, and there you are! Has the engine been
oiled, Hans? Right away, then, off we go; hand me my best whip!" He
imitated the peasants' manner of speech. "Be careful about the inns,
Dad!" he added in a shrill falsetto. There were peals of laughter,
that had an evil sound in the prevailing depression.

The farmer sat quite still under the deluge, only lowering his head
a little. When the laughter had almost died away, he pointed at the
pilot with his whip, and remarked to the bystanders--

"That's a wonderful clever kid for his age! Whose father art thou,
my boy?" he went on, turning to the pilot.

This raised a laugh, and the thick-necked pilot swelled with rage.
He seized hold of the body of the cart and shook it so that the
farmer had a difficulty in keeping his seat. "You miserable old
clodhopper, you pig-breeder, you dung-carter!" he roared. "What do
you mean by coming here and saying 'thou' to grown-up people and
calling them 'boy'? And giving your opinions on navigation into the
bargain! Eh! you lousy old money-grubber! No, if you ever take off
your greasy night-cap to anybody but your parish clerk, then take
it off to the captain who can find his harbor in a fog like this.
You can give him my kind regards and say I said so." And he let go
of the cart so suddenly that it swung over to the other side.

"I may as well take it off to you, as the other doesn't seem able
to find us to-day," said the farmer with a grin, and took off his
fur cap, disclosing a large bald head.

"Cover up that great bald pumpkin, or upon my word I'll give it
something!" cried the pilot, blind with rage, and beginning to
clamber up into the cart.

At that moment, like the thin metallic voice of a telephone, there
came faintly from the sea the words: "We--hear--a--steam--whistle!"

The pilot ran off on to the breakwater, hitting out as he passed at
the farmer's horse, and making it rear. Men cleared a space round
the mooring-posts, and dragged up the gangways with frantic speed.
Carts that had hay in them, as if they were come to fetch cattle,
began to move without having anywhere to drive to. Everything was in
motion. Labor-hirers with red noses and cunning eyes, came hurrying
down from the sailors' tavern where they had been keeping themselves
warm.

Then as if a huge hand had been laid upon the movement, everything
suddenly stood still again, in strained effort to hear. A far-off,
tiny echo of a steam whistle whined somewhere a long way off. Men
stole together into groups and stood motionless, listening and
sending angry glances at the restless carts. Was it real, or was
it a creation of the heart-felt wishes of so many?

Perhaps a warning to every one that at that moment the ship had gone
to the bottom? The sea always sends word of its evil doings; when
the bread-winner is taken his family hear a shutter creak, or three
taps on the windows that look on to the sea--there are so many ways.

But now it sounded again, and this time the sound come in little
waves over the water, the same vibrating, subdued whistle that
long-tailed ducks make when they rise; it seemed alive. The fog-horn
answered it out in the fairway, and the bell in at the mole-head;
then the horn once more, and the steam-whistle in the distance. So
it went on, a guiding line of sound being spun between the land and
the indefinite gray out there, backward and forward. Here on terra
firma one could distinctly feel how out there they were groping
their way by the sound. The hoarse whistle slowly increased in
volume, sounding now a little to the south, now to the north, but
growing steadily louder. Then other sounds made themselves heard,
the heavy scraping of iron against iron, the noise of the screw
when it was reversed or went on again.

The pilot-boat glided slowly out of the fog, keeping to the middle
of the fairway, and moving slowly inward hooting incessantly. It
towed by the sound an invisible world behind it, in which hundreds
of voices murmured thickly amidst shouting and clanging, and
tramping of feet--a world that floated blindly in space close by.
Then a shadow began to form in the fog where no one had expected it,
and the little steamer made its appearance--looking enormous in the
first moment of surprise--in the middle of the harbor entrance.

At this the last remnants of suspense burst and scattered, and
every one had to do something or other to work off the oppression.
They seized the heads of the farmers' horses and pushed them back,
clapped their hands, attempted jokes, or only laughed noisily while
they stamped on the stone paving.

"Good voyage?" asked a score of voices at once.

"All well!" answered the captain cheerfully.

And now he, too, has got rid of his incubus, and rolls forth words
of command; the propeller churns up the water behind, hawsers fly
through the air, and the steam winch starts with a ringing metallic
clang, while the vessel works herself broadside in to the wharf.

Between the forecastle and the bridge, in under the upper deck and
the after, there is a swarm of people, a curiously stupid swarm,
like sheep that get up on to one another's backs and look foolish.
"What a cargo of cattle!" cries the fat pilot up to the captain,
tramping delightedly on the breakwater with his wooden-soled boots.
There are sheepskin caps, old military caps, disreputable old rusty
hats, and the women's tidy black handkerchiefs. The faces are as
different as old, wrinkled pigskin and young, ripening fruit; but
want, and expectancy, and a certain animal greed are visible in all
of them. The unfamiliarity of the moment brings a touch of stupidity
into them, as they press forward, or climb up to get a view over
their neighbors' heads and stare open-mouthed at the land where the
wages are said to be so high, and the brandy so uncommonly strong.
They see the fat, fur-clad farmers and the men come down to engage
laborers.

They do not know what to do with themselves, and are always getting
in the way; and the sailors chase them with oaths from side to side
of the vessel, or throw hatches and packages without warning at
their feet. "Look out, you Swedish devil!" cries a sailor who has
to open the iron doors. The Swede backs in bewilderment, but his
hand involuntarily flies to his pocket and fingers nervously his
big pocket-knife.

The gangway is down, and the two hundred and fifty passengers stream
down it--stone-masons, navvies, maid-servants, male and female
day-laborers, stablemen, herdsmen, here and there a solitary little
cowherd, and tailors in smart clothes, who keep far away from the
rest. There are young men straighter and better built than any that
the island produces, and poor old men more worn with toil and want
than they ever become here. There are also faces among them that
bear an expression of malice, others sparkling with energy, and
others disfigured with great scars.

Most of them are in working-clothes and only possess what they stand
in. Here and there is a man with some tool upon his shoulder--a
shovel or a crowbar. Those that have any luggage, get it turned
inside out by the custom-house officers: woven goods are so cheap in
Sweden. Now and then some girl with an inclination to plumpness has
to put up with the officers' coarse witticisms. There, for instance,
is Handsome Sara from Cimrishamn, whom everybody knows. Every autumn
she goes home, and comes again every spring with a figure that at
once makes her the butt of their wit; but Sara, who generally has
a quick temper and a ready tongue, to-day drops her eyes in modest
confusion: she has fourteen yards of cloth wrapped round her under
her dress.

The farmers are wide awake now. Those who dare, leave their horses
and go among the crowd; the others choose their laborers with their
eyes, and call them up. Each one takes his man's measure--width
of chest, modest manner, wretchedness; but they are afraid of the
scarred and malicious faces, and leave them to the bailiffs on the
large farms. Offers are made and conditions fixed, and every minute
one or two Swedes climb up into the hay in the back of some cart,
and are driven off.

A little on one side stood an elderly, bent little man with a sack
upon his back, holding a boy of eight or nine by the hand; beside
them lay a green chest. They eagerly watched the proceedings, and
each time a cart drove off with some of their countrymen, the boy
pulled impatiently at the hand of the old man, who answered by a
reassuring word. The old man examined the farmers one by one with
an anxious air, moving his lips as he did so: he was thinking. His
red, lashless eyes kept watering with the prolonged staring, and
he wiped them with the mouth of the coarse dirty sack.

"Do you see that one there?" he suddenly asked the boy, pointing
to a fat little farmer with apple-cheeks. "I should think he'd be
kind to children. Shall we try him, laddie?"

The boy nodded gravely, and they made straight for the farmer. But
when he had heard that they were to go together, he would not take
them; the boy was far too little to earn his keep. And it was the
same thing every time.

It was Lasse Karlsson from Tommelilla in the Ystad district, and
his son Pelle.

It was not altogether strange to Lasse, for he had been on the
island once before, about ten years ago; but he had been younger
then, in full vigor it might be said, and had no little boy by the
hand, from whom he would not be separated for all the world; that
was the difference. It was the year that the cow had been drowned in
the marl-pit, and Bengta was preparing for her confinement. Things
looked bad, but Lasse staked his all on one cast, and used the
couple of krones he got for the hide of the cow to go to Bornholm.
When he came back in the autumn, there were three mouths to fill;
but then he had a hundred krones to meet the winter with.

At that time Lasse had been equal to the situation, and he would
still straighten his bowed shoulders whenever he thought of that
exploit. Afterward, whenever there were short commons, he would talk
of selling the whole affair and going to Bornholm for good. But
Bengta's health failed after her late child-bearing, and nothing
came of it, until she died after eight years of suffering, this very
spring. Then Lasse sold their bit of furniture, and made nearly a
hundred krones on it; it went in paying the expenses of the long
illness, and the house and land belonged to the landlord. A green
chest, that had been part of Bengta's wedding outfit, was the only
thing he kept. In it he packed their belongings and a few little
things of Bengta's, and sent it on in advance to the port with a
horse-dealer who was driving there. Some of the rubbish for which
no one would bid he stuffed into a sack, and with it on his back and
the boy's hand clasped in his, he set out to walk to Ystad, where
the steamer for Ronne lay. The few coins he had would just pay their
passage.

He had been so sure of himself on the way, and had talked
in loud tones to Pelle about the country where the wages were
so incomprehensibly high, and where in some places you got meat
or cheese to eat with your bread, and always beer, so that the
water-cart in the autumn did not come round for the laborers, but
only for the cattle. And--why, if you liked you could drink gin
like water, it was so cheap; but it was so strong that it knocked
you down at the third pull. They made it from real grain, and not
from diseased potatoes; and they drank it at every meal. And laddie
would never feel cold there, for they wore wool next their skin,
and not this poor linen that the wind blew right through; and a
laborer who kept himself could easily make his two krones a day.
That was something different from their master's miserable eighty
ores and finding themselves in everything.

Pelle had heard the same thing often before--from his father, from
Ole and Anders, from Karna and a hundred others who had been there.
In the winter, when the air was thick with frost and snow and the
needs of the poor, there was nothing else talked about in the little
villages at home; and in the minds of those who had not been on
the island themselves, but had only heard the tales about it, the
ideas produced were as fantastic as the frost-tracery upon the
window-panes. Pelle was perfectly well aware that even the poorest
boys there always wore their best clothes, and ate bread-and-dripping
with sugar on it as often as they liked. There money lay like dirt
by the roadside, and the Bornholmers did not even take the trouble
to stoop and pick it up; but Pelle meant to pick it up, so that
Father Lasse would have to empty the odds and ends out of the sack
and clear out the locked compartment in the green chest to make room
for it; and even that would be hardly enough. If only they could
begin! He shook his father's hand impatiently.

"Yes, yes," said Lasse, almost in tears. "You mustn't be impatient."
He looked about him irresolutely. Here he was in the midst of
all this splendor, and could not even find a humble situation for
himself and the boy. He could not understand it. Had the whole world
changed since his time? He trembled to his very finger-tips when the
last cart drove off. For a few minutes he stood staring helplessly
after it, and then he and the boy together carried the green chest
up to a wall, and trudged hand in hand up toward the town.

Lasse's lips moved as he walked; he was thinking. In an ordinary way
he thought best when he talked out loud to himself, but to-day all
his faculties were alert, and it was enough only to move his lips.

As he trudged along, his mental excuses became audible. "Confound
it!" he exclaimed, as he jerked the sack higher up his back. "It
doesn't do to take the first thing that comes. Lasse's responsible
for two, and he knows what he wants--so there! It isn't the first
time he's been abroad! And the best always comes last, you know,
laddie."

Pelle was not paying much attention. He was already consoled, and
his father's words about the best being in store for them, were
to him only a feeble expression for a great truth, namely, that
the whole world would become theirs, with all that it contained in
the way of wonders. He was already engaged in taking possession of
it, open-mouthed.

He looked as if he would like to swallow the harbor with all its
ships and boats, and the great stacks of timber, where it looked as
if there would be holes. This would be a fine place to play in, but
there were no boys! He wondered whether the boys were like those at
home; he had seen none yet. Perhaps they had quite a different way
of fighting, but he would manage all right if only they would come
one at a time. There was a big ship right up on land, and they were
skinning it. So ships have ribs, just like cows!

At the wooden shed in the middle of the harbor square, Lasse put
down the sack, and giving the boy a piece of bread and telling him
to stay and mind the sack, he went farther up and disappeared. Pelle
was very hungry, and holding the bread with both hands he munched
at it greedily.

When he had picked the last crumbs off his jacket, he set himself
to examine his surroundings. That black stuff in that big pot was
tar. He knew it quite well, but had never seen so much at once. My
word! If you fell into that while it was boiling, it would be worse
even than the brimstone pit in hell. And there lay some enormous
fish-hooks, just like those that were hanging on thick iron chains
from the ships' nostrils. He wondered whether there still lived
giants who could fish with such hooks. Strong John couldn't manage
them!

He satisfied himself with his own eyes that the stacks of boards
were really hollow, and that he could easily get down to the bottom
of them, if only he had not had the sack to drag about. His father
had said he was to mind the sack, and he never let it out of his
hands for a moment; as it was too heavy to carry, he had to drag
it after him from place to place.

He discovered a little ship, only just big enough for a man to
lie down in, and full of holes bored in the bottom and sides. He
investigated the ship-builders' big grind-stone, which was nearly
as tall as a man. There were bent planks lying there, with nails
in them as big as the parish constable's new tether-peg at home.
And the thing that ship was tethered to--wasn't it a real cannon
that they had planted?

Pelle saw everything, and examined every single object in the
appropriate manner, now only spitting appraisingly upon it, now
kicking it or scratching it with his penknife. If he came across
some strange wonder or other, that he could not get into his little
brain in any other way, he set himself astride on it.

This was a new world altogether, and Pelle was engaged in making
it his own. Not a shred of it would he leave. If he had had his
playfellows from Tommelilla here, he would have explained it all
to them. My word, how they would stare! But when he went home to
Sweden again, he would tell them about it, and then he hoped they
would call him a liar.

He was sitting astride an enormous mast that lay along the timber-
yard upon some oak trestles. He kicked his feet together under the
mast, as he had heard of knights doing in olden days under their
horses, and imagined himself seizing hold of a ring and lifting
himself, horse and all. He sat on horseback in the midst of his
newly discovered world, glowing with the pride of conquest, struck
the horse's loins with the flat of his hand, and dug his heels into
its sides, while he shouted a song at the top of his voice. He had
been obliged to let go the sack to get up.

  "Far away in Smaaland the little imps were dancing
    With ready-loaded pistol and rifle-barrelled gun;
  All the little devils they played upon the fiddle,
    But for the grand piano Old Harry was the one."

In the middle of his noisy joy, he looked up, and immediately burst
into a roar of terror and dropped down on to the wood-shavings. On
the top of the shed at the place where his father had left him stood
a black man and two black, open-mouthed hell-hounds; the man leaned
half out over the ridge of the roof in a menacing attitude. It was
an old figure-head, but Pelle thought it was Old Harry himself, come
to punish him for his bold song, and he set off at a run up the
hill. A little way up he remembered the sack and stopped. He didn't
care about the sack; and he wouldn't get a thrashing if he did leave
it behind, for Father Lasse never beat him. And that horrid devil
would eat him up at the very least, if he ventured down there again;
he could distinctly see how red the nostrils shone, both the devil's
and the dogs'.

But Pelle still hesitated. His father was so careful of that sack,
that he would be sure to be sorry if he lost it--he might even cry
as he did when he lost Mother Bengta. For perhaps the first time,
the boy was being subjected to one of life's serious tests, and
stood--as so many had stood before him--with the choice between
sacrificing himself and sacrificing others. His love for his father,
boyish pride, the sense of duty that is the social dower of the
poor--the one thing with the other--determined his choice. He stood
the test, but not bravely; he howled loudly the whole time, while,
with his eyes fixed immovably upon the Evil One and his hell-hounds,
he crept back for the sack and then dragged it after him at a quick
run up the street.

No one is perhaps a hero until the danger is over. But even then
Pelle had no opportunity of shuddering at his own courage; for no
sooner was he out of the reach of the black man, than his terror
took a new form. What had become of his father? He had said he would
be back again directly! Supposing he never came back at all! Perhaps
he had gone away so as to get rid of his little boy, who was only
a trouble and made it difficult for him to get a situation.

Pelle felt despairingly convinced that it must be so, as, crying,
he went off with the sack. The same thing had happened to other
children with whom he was well acquainted; but they came to the
pancake cottage and were quite happy, and Pelle himself would be
sure to--perhaps find the king and be taken in there and have the
little princes for his playmates, and his own little palace to live
in. But Father Lasse shouldn't have a thing, for now Pelle was angry
and vindictive, although he was crying just as unrestrainedly. He
would let him stand and knock at the door and beg to come in for
three days, and only when he began to cry--no, he would have to
let him in at once, for to see Father Lasse cry hurt him more than
anything else in the world. But he shouldn't have a single one of
the nails Pelle had filled his pockets with down in the timber-yard;
and when the king's wife brought them coffee in the morning before
they were up----

But here both his tears and his happy imaginings ceased, for out of
a tavern at the top of the street came Father Lasse's own living
self. He looked in excellent spirits and held a bottle in his hand.

"Danish brandy, laddie!" he cried, waving the bottle. "Hats off
to the Danish brandy! But what have you been crying for? Oh, you
were afraid? And why were you afraid? Isn't your father's name
Lasse--Lasse Karlsson from Kungstorp? And he's not one to quarrel
with; he hits hard, he does, when he's provoked. To come and
frighten good little boys! They'd better look out! Even if the
whole wide world were full of naming devils, Lasse's here and you
needn't be afraid!"

During all this fierce talk he was tenderly wiping the boy's tear-
stained cheeks and nose with his rough hand, and taking the sack
upon his back again. There was something touchingly feeble about
his stooping figure, as, boasting and comforting, he trudged down
again to the harbor holding the boy by the hand. He tottered along
in his big waterproof boots, the tabs of which stuck out at the side
and bore an astonishing resemblance to Pelle's ears; out of the
gaping pockets of his old winter coat protruded on one side his red
pocket-handkerchief, on the other the bottle. He had become a little
looser in his knee-joints now, and the sack threatened momentarily
to get the upper hand of him, pushing him forward and forcing him
to go at a trot down the hill. He looked decrepit, and perhaps his
boastful words helped to produce this effect; but his eyes beamed
confidently, and he smiled down at the boy, who ran along beside
him.

They drew near to the shed, and Pelle turned cold with fear, for
the black man was still standing there. He went round to the other
side of his father, and tried to pull him out in a wide curve over
the harbor square. "There he is again," he whimpered.

"So that's what was after you, is it?" said Lasse, laughing
heartily; "and he's made of wood, too! Well, you really are the
bravest laddie I ever knew! I should almost think you might be
sent out to fight a trussed chicken, if you had a stick in your
hand!" Lasse went on laughing, and shook the boy goodnaturedly.
But Pelle was ready to sink into the ground with shame.

Down by the custom-house they met a bailiff who had come too late
for the steamer and had engaged no laborers. He stopped his cart
and asked Lasse if he was looking for a place.

"Yes, we both want one," answered Lasse, briskly. "We want to be
at the same farm--as the fox said to the goose."

The bailiff was a big, strong man, and Pelle shuddered in admiration
of his father who could dare to speak to him so boldly.

But the great man laughed good-humoredly. "Then I suppose he's to be
foreman?" he said, flicking at Pelle with his whip.

"Yes, he certainly will be some day," said Lasse, with conviction.

"He'll probably eat a few bushels of salt first. Well, I'm in
want of a herdsman, and will give you a hundred krones for a
year--although it'll be confounded hard for you to earn them from
what I can see. There'll always be a crust of bread for the boy,
but of course he'll have to do what little he can. You're his
grandfather, I suppose?"

"I'm his father--in the sight of God and man," answered Lasse,
proudly.

"Oh, indeed! Then you must still be fit for something, if you've
come by him honestly. But climb up, if you know what's for your own
good, for I haven't time to stand here. You won't get such an offer
every day."

Pelle thought a hundred krones was a fearful amount of money; Lasse,
on the contrary, as the older and more sensible, had a feeling that
it was far too little. But, though he was not aware of it yet, the
experiences of the morning had considerably dimmed the brightness
of his outlook on life. On the other hand, the dram had made him
reckless and generously-minded.

"All right then," he said with a wave of the hand. "But the master
must understand that we won't have salt herring and porridge three
times a day. We must have a proper bedroom too--and be free on
Sundays." He lifted the sack and the boy up into the cart, and then
climbed up himself.

The bailiff laughed. "I see you've been here before, old man. But
I think we shall be able to manage all that. You shall have roast
pork stuffed with raisins and rhubarb jelly with pepper on it, just
as often as you like to open your mouth."

They drove down to the quay for the chest, and then out toward
the country again. Lasse, who recognized one thing and another,
explained it all in full to the boy, taking a pull at the bottle
between whiles; but the bailiff must not see this. Pelle was cold
and burrowed into the straw, where he crept close up to his father.

"You take a mouthful," whispered Lasse, passing the bottle to him
cautiously. "But take care that he doesn't see, for he's a sly one.
He's a Jute."

Pelle would not have a dram. "What's a Jute?" he asked in a whisper.

"A Jute? Good gracious me, laddie, don't you know that? It was the
Jutes that crucified Christ. That's why they have to wander all over
the world now, and sell flannel and needles, and such-like; and they
always cheat wherever they go. Don't you remember the one that
cheated Mother Bengta of her beautiful hair? Ah, no, that was before
your time. That was a Jute too. He came one day when I wasn't at
home, and unpacked all his fine wares--combs and pins with blue
glass heads, and the finest head-kerchiefs. Women can't resist
such trash; they're like what we others are when some one holds a
brandy-bottle to our nose. Mother Bengta had no money, but that sly
devil said he would give her the finest handkerchief if she would
let him cut off just the end of her plait. And then he went and cut
it off close up to her head. My goodness, but she was like flint
and steel when she was angry! She chased him out of the house with
a rake. But he took the plait with him, and the handkerchief was
rubbish, as might have been expected. For the Jutes are cunning
devils, who crucified----" Lasse began at the beginning again.

Pelle did not pay much attention to his father's soft murmuring.
It was something about Mother Bengta, but she was dead now and lay
in the black earth; she no longer buttoned his under-vest down the
back, or warmed his hands when they were cold. So they put raisins
into roast pork in this country, did they? Money must be as common
as dirt! There was none lying about in the road, and the houses
and farms were not so very fine either. But the strangest thing was
that the earth here was of the same color as that at home, although
it was a foreign country. He had seen a map in Tommelilla, in which
each country had a different color. So that was a lie!

Lasse had long since talked himself out, and slept with his head
upon the boy's back. He had forgotten to hide the bottle.

Pelle was just going to push it down into the straw when the bailiff
--who as a matter of fact was not a Jute, but a Zeelander--happened
to turn round and caught sight of it. He told the boy to throw it
into the ditch.

By midday they reached their destination. Lasse awoke as they drove
on to the stone paving of the large yard, and groped mechanically in
the straw. But suddenly he recollected where he was, and was sober
in an instant. So this was their new home, the only place they had
to stay in and expect anything of on this earth! And as he looked
out over the big yard, where the dinner-bell was just sounding and
calling servants and day-laborers out of all the doors, all his
self-confidence vanished. A despairing feeling of helplessness
overwhelmed him, and made his face tremble with impotent concern
for his son.

His hands shook as he clambered down from the wagon; he stood
irresolute and at the mercy of all the inquiring glances from the
steps down to the basement of the big house. They were talking
about him and the boy, and laughing already. In his confusion
he determined to make as favorable a first impression as possible,
and began to take off his cap to each one separately; and the boy
stood beside him and did the same. They were rather like the clowns
at a fair, and the men round the basement steps laughed aloud and
bowed in imitation, and then began to call to them; but the bailiff
came out again to the cart, and they quickly disappeared down the
steps. From the house itself there came a far-off, monotonous
sound that never left off, and insensibly added to their feeling
of depression.

"Don't stand there playing the fool!" said the bailiff sharply. "Be
off down to the others and get something to eat! You'll have plenty
of time to show off your monkey-tricks to them afterwards."

At these encouraging words, the old man took the boy's hand and
went across to the basement steps with despair in his heart,
mourning inwardly for Tommelilla and Kungstorp. Pelle clung close
to him in fear. The unknown had suddenly become an evil monster
in the imagination of both of them.

Down in the basement passage the strange, persistent sound was
louder, and they both knew that it was that of a woman weeping.



II

Stone Farm, which for the future was to be Lasse and Pelle's home,
was one of the largest farms on the island. But old people knew
that when their grandparents were children, it had been a crofter's
cottage where only two horses were kept, and belonged to a certain
Vevest Koller, a grandson of Jens Kofod, the liberator of Bornholm.
During his time, the cottage became a farm. He worked himself to
death on it, and grudged food both for himself and the others. And
these two things--poor living and land-grabbing--became hereditary
in that family.

The fields in this part of the island had been rock and heather
not many generations since. Poor people had broken up the ground,
and worn themselves out, one set after another, to keep it in
cultivation. Round about Stone Farm lived only cottagers and men
owning two horses, who had bought their land with toil and hunger,
and would as soon have thought of selling their parents' grave as
their little property; they stuck to it until they died or some
misfortune overtook them.

But the Stone Farm family were always wanting to buy and extend
their property, and their chance only came through their neighbors'
misfortunes. Wherever a bad harvest or sickness or ill luck with his
beasts hit a man hard enough to make him reel, the Kollers bought.
Thus Stone Farm grew, and acquired numerous buildings and much
importance; it became as hard a neighbor as the sea is, when it eats
up the farmer's land, field by field, and nothing can be done to
check it. First one was eaten up and then another. Every one knew
that his turn would come sooner or later. No one goes to law with
the sea; but all the ills and discomfort that brooded over the poor
man's life came from Stone Farm. The powers of darkness dwelt there,
and frightened souls pointed to it always. "That's well-manured
land," the people of the district would say, with a peculiar
intonation that held a curse; but they ventured no further.

The Koller family was not sentimental; it throve capitally in the
sinister light that fell upon the farm from so many frightened
minds, and felt it as power. The men were hard drinkers and
card-players; but they never drank so much as to lose sight and
feeling; and if they played away a horse early in the evening,
they very likely won two in the course of the night.

When Lasse and Pelle came to Stone Farm, the older cottagers still
remembered the farmer of their childhood, Janus Koller, the one who
did more to improve things than any one else. In his youth he once,
at midnight, fought with the devil up in the church-tower, and
overcame him; and after that everything succeeded with him. Whatever
might or might not have been the reason, it is certain that in his
time one after another of his neighbors was ruined, and Janus went
round and took over their holdings. If he needed another horse, he
played for and won it at loo; and it was the same with everything.
His greatest pleasure was to break in wild horses, and those who
happened to have been born at midnight on Christmas Eve could
distinctly see the Evil One sitting on the box beside him and
holding the reins. He came to a bad end, as might have been
expected. One morning early, the horses came galloping home to
the farm, and he was found lying by the roadside with his head
smashed against a tree.

His son was the last master of Stone Farm of that family. He was
a wild devil, with much that was good in him. If any one differed
from him, he knocked him down; but he always helped those who got
into trouble. In this way no one ever left house and home; and as
he had the family fondness for adding to the farm, he bought land
up among the rocks and heather. But he wisely let it lie as it was.
He attached many to the farm by his assistance, and made them so
dependent that they never became free again. His tenants had to
leave their own work when he sent for them, and he was never at
a loss for cheap labor. The food he provided was scarcely fit for
human beings, but he always ate of the same dish himself. And the
priest was with him at the last; so there was no fault to find with
his departure from this life.

He had married twice, but his only child was a daughter by the
second wife, and there was something not quite right about her.
She was a woman at the age of eleven, and made up to any one she
met; but no one dared so much as look at her, for they were afraid
of the farmer's gun. Later on she went to the other extreme, and
dressed herself up like a man, and went about out on the rocks
instead of busying herself with something at home; and she let
no one come near her.

Kongstrup, the present master of Stone Farm, had come to the island
about twenty years before, and even now no one could quite make him
out. When he first came he used to wander about on the heath and do
nothing, just as she did; so it was hardly to be wondered at that
he got into trouble and had to marry her. But it was dreadful!

He was a queer fellow; but perhaps that was what people were like
where he came from? He first had one idea and then another, raised
wages when no one had asked him to, and started stone-quarrying with
contract work. And so he went on with his foolish tricks to begin
with, and let his cottagers do as they liked about coming to work
at the farm. He even went so far as to send them home in wet weather
to get in their corn, and let his own stand and be ruined. But
things went all wrong of course, as might well be imagined, and
gradually he had to give in, and abandon all his foolish ideas.

The people of the district submitted to this condition of dependence
without a murmur. They had been accustomed, from father to son, to
go in and out of the gates of Stone Farm, and do what was required
of them, as dutifully as if they had been serfs of the land. As a
set-off they allowed all their leaning toward the tragic, all the
terrors of life and gloomy mysticism, to center round Stone Farm.
They let the devil roam about there, play loo with the men for their
souls, and ravish the women; and they took off their caps more
respectfully to the Stone Farm people than to any one else.

All this had changed a little as years went on; the sharp points of
the superstition had been blunted a little. But the bad atmosphere
that hangs over large estates--over all great accumulations of what
should belong to the many--also hung heavy over Stone Farm. It was
the judgment passed by the people, their only revenge for themselves
and theirs.

Lasse and Pelle were quickly aware of the oppressive atmosphere,
and began to see with the half-frightened eyes of the others, even
before they themselves had heard very much. Lasse especially thought
he could never be quite happy here, because of the heaviness that
always seemed to surround them. And then that weeping that no one
could quite account for!

All through the long, bright day, the sound of weeping came from
the rooms of Stone Farm, like the refrain of some sad folk-song.
Now at last it had stopped. Lasse was busying himself with little
things in the lower yard, and he still seemed to have the sound in
his ears. It was sad, so sad, with this continual sound of a woman
weeping, as if a child were dead, or as if she were left alone with
her shame. And what could there be to weep for, when you had a farm
of several hundred acres, and lived in a high house with twenty
windows!

 "Riches are nought but a gift from the Lord,
  But poverty, that is in truth a reward.
  They who wealth do possess
  Never know happiness,
  While the poor man's heart is ever contented!"

So sang Karna over in the dairy, and indeed it was true! If only
Lasse knew where he was to get the money for a new smock-frock for
the little lad, he would never envy any one on this earth; though
it would be nice to have money for tobacco and a dram now and then,
if it was not unfair to any one else.

Lasse was tidying up the dung-heap. He had finished his midday work
in the stable, and was taking his time about it; it was only a job
he did between whiles. Now and then he glanced furtively up at
the high windows and put a little more energy into his work; but
weariness had the upper hand. He would have liked to take a little
afternoon nap, but did not dare. All was quiet on the farm. Pelle
had been sent on an errand to the village shop for the kitchen-folk,
and all the men were in the fields covering up the last spring corn.
Stone Farm was late with this.

The agricultural pupil now came out of the stable, which he had
entered from the other side, so as to come upon Lasse unexpectedly.
The bailiff had sent him. "Is that you, you nasty spy!" muttered
Lasse when he saw him. "Some day I'll kill you!" But he took off
his cap with the deepest respect. The tall pupil went up the yard
without looking at him, and began to talk nonsense with the maids
down in the wash-house. He wouldn't do that if the men were at home,
the scarecrow!

Kongstrup came out on to the steps, and stood for a little while
looking at the weather; then he went down to the cow-stable. How big
he was! He quite filled the stable doorway. Lasse put down his fork
and hastened in in case he was wanted.

"Well, how are you getting on, old man?" asked the farmer kindly.
"Can you manage the work?"

"Oh, yes, I get through it," answered Lasse; "but that's about all.
It's a lot of animals for one man."

Kongstrup stood feeling the hind quarters of a cow. "You've got the
boy to help you, Lasse. Where is he, by the by? I don't see him."

"He's gone to the village shop for the women-folk."

"Indeed? Who told him to go?"

"I think it was the mistress herself."

"H'm. Is it long since he went?"

"Yes, some time. He ought soon to be back now."

"Get hold of him when he comes, and send him up to me with the
things, will you?"

Pelle was rather frightened at having to go up to the office, and
besides the mistress had told him to keep the bottle well hidden
under his smock. The room was very high, and on the walls hung
splendid guns; and up upon a shelf stood cigar-boxes, one upon
another, right up to the ceiling, just as if it were a tobacco-shop.
But the strangest thing of all was that there was a fire in the
stove, now, in the middle of May, and with the window open! It must
be that they didn't know how to get rid of all their money. But
wherever were the money-chests?

All this and much more Pelle observed while he stood just inside the
door upon his bare feet, not daring from sheer nervousness to raise
his eyes. Then the farmer turned round in his chair, and drew him
toward him by the collar. "Now let's see what you've got there under
your smock, my little man!" he said kindly.

"It's brandy," said Pelle, drawing forth the bottle. "The mistress
said I wasn't to let any one see it."

"You're a clever boy," said Kongstrup, patting him on the cheek.
"You'll get on in the world one of these days. Now give me the
bottle and I'll take it out to your mistress without letting any
one see." He laughed heartily.

Pelle handed him the bottle--_there_ stood money in piles on
the writing-table, thick round two-krone pieces one upon another!
Then why didn't Father Lasse get the money in advance that he had
begged for?

The mistress now came in, and the farmer at once went and shut the
window. Pelle wanted to go, but she stopped him. "You've got some
things for me, haven't you?" she said.

"I've received the _things,_" said Kongstrup. "You shall have
them--when the boy's gone."

But she remained at the door. She would keep the boy there to be
a witness that her husband withheld from her things that were to
be used in the kitchen; every one should know it.

Kongstrup walked up and down and said nothing. Pelle expected he
would strike her, for she called him bad names--much worse than
Mother Bengta when Lasse came home merry from Tommelilla. But he
only laughed. "Now that'll do," he said, leading her away from the
door, and letting the boy out.

Lasse did not like it. He had thought the farmer was interfering to
prevent them all from making use of the boy, when he so much needed
his help with the cattle; and now it had taken this unfortunate
turn!

"And so it was brandy!" he repeated. "Then I can understand it.
But I wonder how she dares set upon him like that when it's with
_her_ the fault lies. He must be a good sort of fellow."

"He's fond of drink himself," said Pelle, who had heard a little
about the farmer's doings.

"Yes, but a woman! That's quite another thing. Remember they're
fine folk. Well, well, it doesn't become us to find fault with our
betters; we have enough to do in looking after ourselves. But I
only hope she won't send you on any more of her errands, or we may
fall between two stools."

Lasse went to his work. He sighed and shook his head while he
dragged the fodder out. He was not at all happy.



III

There was something exhilarating in the wealth of sunshine that
filled all space without the accompaniment of corresponding heat.
The spring moisture was gone from the air, and the warm haze of
summer had not yet come. There was only light--light over the green
fields and the sea beyond, light that drew the landscape in clear
lines against the blue atmosphere, and breathed a gentle, pleasant
warmth.

It was a day in the beginning of June--the first real summer day;
and it was Sunday.

Stone Farm lay bathed in sunshine. The clear golden light penetrated
everywhere; and where it could not reach, dark colors trembled like
a hot, secret breath out into the light. Open windows and doors
looked like veiled eyes in the midst of the light, and where the
roof lay in shadow, it had the appearance of velvet.

It was quiet up in the big house to-day; it was a day of rest
from wrangling too.

The large yard was divided into two by a fence, the lower part
consisting in the main of a large, steaming midden, crossed by
planks in various directions, and at the top a few inverted
wheelbarrows. A couple of pigs lay half buried in the manure,
asleep, and a busy flock of hens were eagerly scattering the pile
of horse-dung from the last morning clearance. A large cock stood
in the middle of the flock, directing the work like a bailiff.

In the upper yard a flock of white pigeons were pecking corn off
the clean stone paving. Outside the open coach-house door, a groom
was examining the dog-cart, while inside stood another groom,
polishing the best harness.

The man at the dog-cart was in shirt-sleeves and newly-polished
top-boots; he had a youthful, elastic frame, which assumed graceful
attitudes as he worked. He wore his cap on the back of his head,
and whistled softly while he cleaned the wheels outside and in,
and sent stolen glances down to the wash-house, where, below the
window, one of the maids was going through her Sunday ablutions,
with shoulders and arms bare, and her chemise pushed down below
her bosom.

The big dairymaid, Karna, went past him to the pump with two large
buckets. As she returned, she splashed some water on to one of his
boots, and he looked up with an oath. She took this as an invitation
to stop, and put down her pails with a cautious glance up at the
windows of the big house.

"You've not had all the sleep you ought to have had, Gustav," she
said teasingly, and laughed.

"Then it isn't your fault, at any rate," he answered roughly. "Can
you patch my everyday trousers for me to-day?"

"No, thank you! I don't mend for another to get all the pleasant
words!"

"Then you can leave it alone! There are plenty who'll mend for me
without you!" And he bent again to his work.

"I'll see if I can get time," said the big woman meekly. "But I've
got all the work in the place to do by myself this afternoon; the
others are all going out."

"Yes, I see Bodil's washing herself," said Gustav, sending a squirt
of tobacco-juice out of his mouth in the direction of the wash-house
window. "I suppose she's going to meeting, as she's doing it so,
thoroughly."

Karna looked cunning. "She asked to be free because she wanted to
go to church. She go to church! I should just like to see her! No,
she's going down to the tailor's in the village, and there I suppose
she'll meet Malmberg, a townsman of hers. I wonder she isn't above
having anything to do with a married man."

"She can go on the spree with any one she likes, for all I care,"
answered Gustav, kicking the last wheel into place with his foot,
while Karna stood looking at him kindly. But the next moment she
spied a face behind the curtains up in one of the windows, and
hurried off with her pails. Gustav spat contemptuously between his
teeth after her. She was really too old for his seventeen years;
she must be at least forty; and casting another long look at Bodil,
he went across to the coachhouse with oil-can and keys.

The high white house that closed the yard at its upper end, had
not been built right among the other buildings, but stood proudly
aloof, unconnected with them except by two strips of wooden paling.
It had gables on both sides, and a high basement, in which were
the servants' hall, the maids' bedrooms, the wash-house, the
mangling-room, and the large storerooms. On the gable looking on
to the yard was a clock that did not go. Pelle called the building
the Palace, and was not a little proud of being allowed to enter
the basement. The other people on the farm did not give it such
a nice name.

He was the only one whose awe of the House had nothing sinister
about it; others regarded it in the light of a hostile fortress.
Every one who crossed the paved upper yard, glanced involuntarily
up at the high veiled windows, behind which an eye might secretly
be kept upon all that went on below. It was, a little like passing
a row of cannons' mouths--it made one a little unsteady on one's
feet; and no one crossed the clean pavement unless he was obliged.
On the other hand they went freely about the other half of the yard,
which was just as much overlooked by the House.

Down there two of the lads were playing. One of them had seized
the other's cap and run off with it, and a wild chase ensued, in
at one barn-door and out at another all round the yard, to the
accompaniment of mischievous laughter and breathless exclamations.
The yard-dog barked with delight and tumbled madly about on its
chain in its desire to join in the game. Up by the fence the robber
was overtaken and thrown to the ground; but he managed to toss the
cap up into the air, and it descended right in front of the high
stone steps of the House.

"Oh, you mean beast!" exclaimed the owner of the cap, in a voice
of despairing reproach, belaboring the other with the toes of his
boots. "Oh, you wretched bailiff's sneak!" He suddenly stopped and
measured the distance with an appraising eye. "Will you stand me
half a pint if I dare go up and fetch the cap?" he asked in a
whisper. The other nodded and sat up quickly to see what would come
of it. "Swear? You won't try and back out of it?" he said, lifting
his hand adjuringly. His companion solemnly drew his finger across
his throat, as if cutting it, and the oath was taken. The one who
had lost the cap, hitched up his trousers and pulled himself
together, his whole figure stiffening with determination; then he
put his hands upon the fence, vaulted it, and walked with bent head
and firm step across the yard, looking like one who had staked his
all upon one card. When he had secured the cap, and turned his back
upon the House, he sent a horrible grimace down the yard.

Bodil now came up from the basement in her best Sunday clothes, with
a black silk handkerchief on her head and a hymn-book in her hand.
How pretty she was! And brave! She went along the whole length of
the House and out! But then she could get a kiss from the farmer
any day she liked.

Outside the farm proper lay a number of large and small outbuildings
--the calves' stable, the pigsties, the tool-shed, the cart-shed
and a smithy that was no longer used. They were all like so many
mysteries, with trap-doors that led down to pitch-dark, underground
beet and potato cellars, from which, of course, you could get by
secret passages to the strangest places underground, and other
trap-doors that led up to dark lofts, where the most wonderful
treasures were preserved in the form of old lumber.

But Pelle unfortunately had little time to go into all this. Every
day he had to help his father to look after the cattle, and with so
large a herd, the work was almost beyond their power. If he had a
moment's breathing-space, some one was sure to be after him. He had
to fetch water for the laundry girls, to grease the pupil's boots
and run to the village shop for spirits or chewing-tobacco for the
men. There was plenty to play with, but no one could bear to see him
playing; they were always whistling for him as if he were a dog.

He tried to make up for it by turning his work into a game, and in
many instances this was possible. Watering the cattle, for instance,
was more fun than any real game, when his father stood out in the
yard and pumped, and the boy only had to guide the water from manger
to manger. When thus occupied, he always felt something like a great
engineer. But on the other hand, much of the other work was too hard
to be amusing.

At this moment the boy was wandering about among the outbuildings,
where there was no one to hunt him about. The door to the cow-stable
stood open, and he could hear the continual munching of the cows,
now and then interrupted by a snuff of contentment or the regular
rattle of a chain up and down when a cow rubbed its neck upon the
post. There was a sense of security in the sound of his father's
wooden shoes up and down the foddering-passage.

Out of the open half-doors of the smaller outbuildings there came
a steamy warmth that smelt pleasantly of calves and pigs. The pigs
were hard at work. All through the long sty there was munching and
smacking. One old sow supped up the liquid through the corners of
her mouth, another snuffed and bubbled with her snout along the
bottom of the trough to find the rotten potatoes under the liquid.
Here and there two pigs were fighting over the trough, and emitting
piercing squeals. The calves put their slobbering noses out at the
doors, gazing into the sunny air and lowing feelingly. One little
fellow, after snuffing up air from the cow-stable in a peculiarly
thorough way, turned up his lip in a foolish grin: it was a bull-
calf. He laid his chin upon the half-door, and tried to jump over,
but Pelle drove him down again. Then he kicked up his hind legs,
looked at Pelle out of the corner of his eye, and stood with arched
back, lifting his fore and hindquarters alternately with the action
of a rocking-horse. He was light-headed with the sun.

Down on the pond, ducks and geese stood upon their heads in the
water, flourishing their red legs in the air. And all at once the
whole flock would have an attack of giddy delight in the sunshine,
and splash screaming from bank to bank, the last part of the way
sliding along the top of the water with a comical wagging of the
tail.

Pelle had promised himself much from this couple of hours that were
to be entirely his own, as his father had given him a holiday until
the time came for the midday work. But now he stood in bewilderment,
overwhelmed by the wealth of possibilities. Would it be the best fun
to sail upon the pond on two tail-boards laid one across the other?
There was a manure-cart lying there now to be washed. Or should he
go in and have a game with the tiny calves? Or shoot with the old
bellows in the smithy? If he filled the nozzle with wet earth, and
blew hard, quite a nice shot could come out of it.

Pelle started and tried to make himself invisible. The farmer
himself had come round the corner, and was now standing shading
his eyes with his hand and looking down over the sloping land and
the sea. When he caught sight of Pelle, he nodded without changing
his expression, and said: "Good day, my boy! How are you getting
on?" He gazed on, and probably hardly knew that he had said it and
patted the boy on the shoulder with the end of his stick; the farmer
often went about half asleep.

But Pelle felt it as a caress of a divine nature, and immediately
ran across to the stable to tell his father what had happened to
him. He had an elevating sensation in his shoulder as if he had been
knighted; and he still felt the stick there. An intoxicating warmth
flowed from the place through his little body, sent the adventure
mounting to his head and made him swell with pride. His imagination
rose and soared into the air with some vague, dizzy idea about the
farmer adopting him as his son.

He soon came down again, for in the stable he ran straight into the
arms of the Sunday scrubbing. The Sunday wash was the only great
objection he had to make to life; everything else came and was
forgotten again, but it was always coming again. He detested it,
especially that part of it which had to do with the interior of his
ears. But there was no kind mother to help; Lasse stood ready with
a bucket of cold water, and some soft soap on a piece of broken pot,
and the boy had to divest himself of his clothes. And as if the
scrubbing were not enough, he afterwards had to put on a clean
shirt--though, fortunately, only every other Sunday. The whole thing
was nice enough to look back upon afterwards--like something gone
through with, and not to happen again for a little while.

Pelle stood at the stable door into the yard with a consequential
air, with bristling hair and clean shirt-sleeves, his hands buried
in his trouser pockets. Over his forehead his hair waved in what is
called a "cow's lick," said to betoken good fortune; and his face,
all screwed up as it turned towards the bright light, looked the
oddest piece of topsy-turvydom, with not a single feature in its
proper place. Pelle bent the calves of his legs out backwards, and
stood gently rocking himself to and fro as he saw Gustav doing, up
on the front-door steps, where he stood holding the reins, waiting
for his master and mistress.

The mistress now appeared, with the farmer, and a maid ran down in
front to the carriage with a little stepladder, and helped her in.
The farmer stood at the top of the steps until she was seated: she
had difficulty in walking. But what a pair of eyes she had! Pelle
hastily looked away when she turned her face down towards the yard.
It was whispered among the men that she could bring misfortune upon
any one by looking at him if she liked. Now Gustav unchained the
dog, which bounded about, barking, in front of the horses as they
drove out of the courtyard.

Anyhow the sun did not shine like this on a week-day. It was quite
dazzling when the white pigeons flew in one flock over the yard,
turning as regularly as if they were a large white sheet flapping
in the sunshine; the reflection from their wings flashed over the
dung-heap and made the pigs lift their heads with an inquiring
grunt. Above, in their rooms the men sat playing "Sixty-six," or
tipping wooden shoes, and Gustav began to play "Old Noah" on his
concertina.

Pelle picked his way across the upper part of the yard to the big
dog-kennel, which could be turned on a pivot according to the
direction of the wind. He seated himself upon the angle of the roof,
and made a merry-go-round of it by pushing off with his foot every
time he passed the fence. Suddenly it occurred to him that he
himself was everybody's dog, and had better hide himself; so he
dropped down, crept into the kennel, and curled himself up on the
straw with his head between his fore-paws. There he lay for a little
while, staring at the fence and panting with his tongue hanging out
of his mouth. Then an idea came into his head so suddenly as to make
him forget all caution; and the next moment he was sliding full tilt
down the railing of the front-door steps.

He had done this seventeen times and was deeply engrossed in the
thought of reaching fifty, when he heard a sharp whistle from the
big coach-house door. The farm pupil stood there beckoning him.
Pelle, crestfallen, obeyed the call, bitterly regretting his
thoughtlessness. He was most likely wanted now to grease boots
again, perhaps for them all.

The pupil drew him inside the door, which he shut. It was dark,
and the boy, coming in out of the bright daylight, could distinguish
nothing; what he made out little by little assumed shapeless
outlines to his frightened imagination. Voices laughed and growled
confusedly in his ears, and hands that seemed to him enormous pulled
him about. Terror seized him, and with it came crazy, disconnected
recollections of stories of robbery and murder, and he began to
scream with fright. A big hand covered the whole of his face, and
in the silence that followed his stifled scream, he heard a voice
out in the yard, calling to the maids to come and see something
funny.

He was too paralyzed with terror to know what was being done with
him, and only wondered faintly what there was funny out there in
the sunshine. Would he ever see the sun again, he wondered?

As if in answer to his thought, the door was at that moment thrown
open. The light poured in and he recognized the faces about him,
and found himself standing half naked in the full daylight, his
trousers down about his heels and his shirt tucked up under his
waistcoat. The pupil stood at one side with a carriage-whip, with
which he flicked at the boy's naked body, crying in a tone of
command: "Run!" Pelle, wild with terror and confusion, dashed into
the yard, but there stood the maids, and at sight of him they
screamed with laughter, and he turned to fly back into the
coach-house. But he was met by the whip, and forced to return into
the daylight, leaping like a kangaroo and calling forth renewed
shouts of laughter. Then he stood still, crying helplessly, under
a shower of coarse remarks, especially from the maids. He no longer
noticed the whip, but only crouched down, trying to hide himself,
until at last he sank in a heap upon the stone paving, sobbing
convulsively.

Karna, large of limb, came rushing up from the basement and forced
her way through the crowd, crimson with rage and scolding as she
went. On her freckled neck and arms were brown marks left by the
cows' tails at the last milking, looking like a sort of clumsy
tattooing. She flung her slipper in the pupil's face, and going up
to Pelle, wrapped him in her coarse apron and carried him down to
the basement.

When Lasse heard what had happened to the boy, he took a hammer and
went round to kill the farm pupil; and the look in the old man's
eyes was such that no one desired to get in his way. The pupil had
thought his wisest course was to disappear; and when Lasse found no
vent for his wrath, he fell into a fit of trembling and weeping, and
became so really ill that the men had to administer a good mouthful
of spirits to revive him. This took instant effect, and Lasse was
himself again and able to nod consolingly to the frightened, sobbing
Pelle.

"Never mind, laddie!" he said comfortingly. "Never mind! No one has
ever yet got off without being punished, and Lasse'll break that
long limb of Satan's head and make his brains spurt out of his nose;
you take my word for it!"

Pelle's face brightened at the prospect of this forcible redress,
and he crept up into the loft to throw down the hay for the cattle's
midday meal. Lasse, who was not so fond of climbing, went down
the long passage between the stalls distributing the hay. He was
cogitating over something, and Pelle could hear him talking to
himself all the time. When they had finished, Lasse went to the
green chest and brought out a black silk handkerchief that had been
Bengta's Sunday best. His expression was solemn as he called Pelle.

"Run over to Karna with this and ask her to accept it. We're not so
poor that we should let kindness itself go from us empty-handed. But
you mustn't let any one see it, in case they didn't like it. Mother
Bengta in her grave won't be offended; she'd have proposed it
herself, if she could have spoken; but her mouth's full of earth,
poor thing!" Lasse sighed deeply.

Even then he stood for a little while with the handkerchief in
his hand before giving it to Pelle to run with. He was by no means
as sure of Bengta as his words made out; but the old man liked to
beautify her memory, both in his own and in the boy's mind. It could
not be denied that she had generally been a little difficult in a
case of this kind, having been particularly jealous; and she might
take it into her head to haunt them because of that handkerchief.
Still she had had a heart for both him and the boy, and it was
generally in the right place--they must say that of her! And for
the rest, the Lord must judge her as kindly as He could.

During the afternoon it was quiet on the farm. Most of the men were
out somewhere, either at the inn or with the quarry-men at the
stone-quarry. The master and mistress were out too; the farmer had
ordered the carriage directly after dinner and had driven to the
town, and half an hour later his wife set off in the pony-carriage
--to keep an eye on him, people said.

Old Lasse was sitting in an empty cow-stall, mending Pelle's
clothes, while the boy played up and down the foddering passage.
He had found in the herdsman's room an old boot-jack, which he
placed under his knee, pretending it was a wooden leg, and all
the time he was chattering happily, but not quite so loudly as
usual, to his father. The morning's experience was still fresh in
his mind, and had a subduing effect; it was as if he had performed
some great deed, and was now nervous about it. There was another
circumstance, too, that helped to make him serious. The bailiff
had been over to say that the animals were to go out the next day.
Pelle was to mind the young cattle, so this would be his last free
day, perhaps for the whole summer.

He paused outside the stall where his father sat. "What are you
going to kill him with, father?"

"With the hammer, I suppose."

"Will you kill him quite dead, as dead as a dog?"

Lasse's nod boded ill to the pupil. "Yes, indeed I shall!"

"But who'll read the names for us then?"

The old man shook his head pensively. "That's true enough!" he
exclaimed, scratching himself first in one place and then in
another. The name of each cow was written in chalk above its stall,
but neither Lasse nor Pelle could read. The bailiff had, indeed,
gone through the names with them once, but it was impossible to
remember half a hundred names after hearing them once--even for
the boy, who had such an uncommon good memory. If Lasse now killed
the pupil, then who _would_ help them to make out the names?
The bailiff would never stand their going to him and asking him a
second time.

"I suppose we shall have to content ourselves with thrashing him,"
said Lasse meditatively.

The boy went on playing for a little while, and then once more came
up to Lasse.

"Don't you think the Swedes can thrash all the people in the world,
father?"

The old man looked thoughtful. "Ye-es--yes, I should think so."

"Yes, because Sweden's much bigger than the whole world, isn't it?"

"Yes, it's big," said Lasse, trying to imagine its extent. There
were twenty-four provinces, of which Malmohus was only one, and
Ystad district a small part of that again; and then in one corner
of Ystad district lay Tommelilla, and his holding that he had once
thought so big with its five acres of land, was a tiny little piece
of Tommelilla! Ah, yes, Sweden was big--not bigger than the whole
world, of course, for that was only childish nonsense--but still
bigger than all the rest of the world put together. "Yes, it's big!
But what are you doing, laddie?"

"Why, can't you see I'm a soldier that's had one leg shot off?"

"Oh, you're an old crippled pensioner, are you? But you shouldn't
do that, for God doesn't like things like that. You might become
a real cripple, and that would be dreadful."

"Oh, He doesn't see, because He's in the churches to-day!" answered
the boy; but for safety's sake he thought it better to leave off. He
stationed himself at the stable-door, whistling, but suddenly came
running in with great eagerness: "Father, there's the Agricultural!
Shall I run and fetch the whip?"

"No, I expect we'd better leave him alone. It might be the death of
him; fine gentlemen scamps like that can't stand a licking. The
fright alone might kill him." Lasse glanced doubtfully at the boy.

Pelle looked very much disappointed. "But suppose he does it again?"

"Oh, no, we won't let him off without a good fright. I shall pick
him up and hold him out at arm's length dangling in the air until
he begs for mercy; and then I shall put him down again just as
quietly. For Lasse doesn't like being angry. Lasse's a decent
fellow."

"Then you must pretend to let him go while you're holding him high
up in the air; and then he'll scream and think he's going to die,
and the others'll come and laugh at him."

"No, no; you mustn't tempt your father! It might come into my mind
to throw him down, and that would be murder and penal servitude for
life, that would! No, I'll just give him a good scolding; that's
what a classy scoundrel like that'll feel most."

"Yes, and then you must call him a spindle-shanked clodhopper.
That's what the bailiff calls him when he's angry with him."

"No, I don't think that would do either; but I'll speak so seriously
with him that he won't be likely to forget it in a hurry."

Pelle was quite satisfied. There was no one like his father, and
of course he would be as good at blowing people up as at everything
else. He had never heard him do it, and he was looking forward to
it immensely while he hobbled along with the boot-jack. He was not
using it as a wooden leg now, for fear of tempting Providence; but
he held it under his arm like a crutch, supporting it on the edge
of the foundation wall, because it was too short. How splendid it
would be to go on two crutches like the parson's son at home! He
could jump over the very longest puddles.

There was a sudden movement of light and shadow up under the roof,
and when Pelle turned round, he saw a strange boy standing in the
doorway out to the field. He was of the same height as Pelle, but
his head was almost as large as that of a grown man. At first sight
it appeared to be bald all over; but when the boy moved in the
sun, his bare head shone as if covered with silver scales. It was
covered with fine, whitish hair, which was thinly and fairly evenly
distributed over the face and everywhere else; and his skin was
pink, as were the whites of his eyes. His face was all drawn into
wrinkles in the strong light, and the back of his head projected
unduly and looked as if it were much too heavy.

Pelle put his hands in his trouser pockets and went up to him.
"What's your name?" he said, and tried to expectorate between his
front teeth as Gustav was in the habit of doing. The attempt was
a failure, unfortunately, and the saliva only ran down his chin.
The strange boy grinned.

"Rud," he said, indistinctly, as if his tongue were thick and
unmanageable. He was staring enviously at Pelle's trouser pockets.
"Is that your father?" he asked, pointing at Lasse.

"Of course!" said Pelle, consequentially. "And he can thrash
everybody."

"But my father can buy everybody, because he lives up there." And
Rud pointed toward the big house.

"Oh, does he really?" said Pelle, incredulously. "Why don't you live
there with him, then?"

"Why, I'm a bastard-child; mother says so herself."

"The deuce she does!" said Pelle, stealing a glance at his father
on account of the little oath.

"Yes, when she's cross. And then she beats me, but then I run away
from her."

"Oh, you do, do you!" said a voice outside. The boys started and
retreated farther into the stable, as a big, fat woman appeared in
the doorway, and looked angrily round in the dim light. When she
caught sight of Rud, she continued her scolding. Her accent was
Swedish.

"So you run away, do you, you cabbage-head! If you'd only run so far
that you couldn't find your way back again, a body wouldn't need to
wear herself out thrashing a misbegotten imp like you! You'll go to
the devil anyhow, so don't worry yourself about that! So that's the
boy's father, is it?" she said, suddenly breaking off as she caught
sight of Lasse.

"Yes, it is," said Lasse, quietly. "And surely you must be
schoolmaster Johan Pihl's Johanna from Tommelilla, who left the
country nearly twenty years ago?"

"And surely you must be the smith's tom-cat from Sulitjelma, who had
twins out of an old wooden shoe the year before last?" retorted the
big woman, imitating his tone of voice.

"Very well; it doesn't matter to me who you are!" said the old man
in an offended tone. "I'm not a police spy."

"One would think you were from the way you question. Do you know
when the cattle are to go out?"

"To-morrow, if all's well. Is it your little boy who's going to show
Pelle how things go? The bailiff spoke of some one who'd go out with
him and show him the grazing-ground."

"Yes, it's that Tom Noddy there. Here, come out so that we can see
you properly, you calf! Oh, the boy's gone. Very well. Does your boy
often get a thrashing?"

"Oh yes, sometimes," answered Lasse, who was ashamed to confess that
he never chastised the boy.

"I don't spare mine either. It'll take something to make a man of
such rubbish; punishment's half what he lives on. Then I'll send him
up here first thing to-morrow morning; but take care he doesn't show
himself in the yard, or there'll be no end of a row!"

"The mistress can't bear to see him, I suppose?" said Lasse.

"You're just about right. She's had nothing to do with the making of
that scarecrow. Though you wouldn't think there was much there to be
jealous about! But I might have been a farmer's wife at this moment
and had a nice husband too, if that high and mighty peacock up there
hadn't seduced me. Would you believe that, you cracked old piece of
shoe-leather?" she asked with a laugh, slapping his knee with her
hand.

"I can believe it very well," said Lasse. "For you were as pretty
a girl as might be when you left home."

"Oh, you and your 'home'," she said, mimicking him.

"Well, I can see that you don't want to leave any footmarks behind
you, and I can quite well pretend to be a stranger, even if I have
held you upon my knee more than once when you were a little thing.
But do you know that your mother's lying on her deathbed?"

"Oh no! Oh no!" she exclaimed, turning to him a face that was
becoming more and more distorted.

"I went to say good-bye to her before I left home rather more than
a month ago, and she was very ill. 'Good-bye, Lasse,' she said, 'and
thank you for your neighborliness all these years. And if you meet
Johanna over there,' she said, 'give her my love. Things have gone
terribly badly with her, from what I've heard; but give her my love,
all the same. Johanna child, little child! She was nearest her
mother's heart, and so she happened to tread upon it. Perhaps it
was our fault. You'll give her her mother's love, won't you, Lasse?'
Those were her very words, and now she's most likely dead, so poorly
as she was then."

Johanna Pihl had no command over her feelings. It was evident that
she was not accustomed to weep, for her sobs seemed to tear her
to pieces. No tears came, but her agony was like the throes of
child-birth. "Little mother! Poor little mother!" she said every now
and again, as she sat rocking herself upon the edge of the manger.

"There, there, there!" said Lasse, patting her on the head. "I told
them they had been too hard with you. But what did you want to creep
through that window for--a child of sixteen and in the middle of
the night? You can hardly wonder that they forgot themselves a
little, all the more that he was earning no wages beyond his keep
and clothes, and was a bad fellow at that, who was always losing
his place."

"I was fond of him," said Johanna, weeping. "He's the only one I've
ever cared for. And I was so stupid that I thought he was fond of
me too, though he'd never seen me."

"Ah, yes; you were only a child! I said so to your parents. But
that you could think of doing anything so indecent!"

"I didn't mean to do anything wrong. I only thought that we two
ought to be together as we loved one another. No, I didn't even
think that then. I only crept in to him, without thinking about
it at all. Would you believe that I was so innocent in those days?
And nothing bad happened either."

"And nothing happened even?" said Lasse. "But it's terribly sad to
think how things have turned out. It was the death of your father."

The big woman began to cry helplessly, and Lasse was almost in
tears himself.

"Perhaps I ought never to have told you," he said in despair.
"But I thought you must have heard about it. I suppose he thought
that he, as schoolmaster, bore the responsibility for so many,
and that you'd thrown yourself at any one in that way, and a poor
farm-servant into the bargain, cut him to the quick. It's true
enough that he mixed with us poor folks as if we'd been his equals,
but the honor was there all the same; and he took it hardly when
the fine folk wouldn't look at him any more. And after all it was
nothing at all--nothing happened? But why didn't you tell them so?"

Johanna had stopped crying, and now sat with tear-stained, quivering
face, and eyes turned away.

"I did tell them, but they wouldn't listen. I was found there of
course. I screamed for help when I found out he didn't even know me,
but was only flattered at my coming, and wanted to take hold of me.
And then the others came running in and found me there. They laughed
and said that I'd screamed because I'd lost my innocence; and I
could see that my parents thought the same. Even they wouldn't hear
of nothing having happened, so what could the other rabble think?
And then they paid him to come over here, and sent me away to
relations."

"Yes, and then you added to their sorrow by running away."

"I went after him. I thought he'd get to be fond of me, if only
I was near him. He'd taken service here at Stone Farm, and I took
a place here as housemaid; but there was only one thing he wanted
me for, and that I wouldn't have if he wasn't fond of me. So he went
about boasting that I'd run away from home for his sake, and the
other thing that was a lie; so they all thought they could do what
they liked with me. Kongstrup was just married then, but he was no
better than the others. I'd got the place quite by chance, because
the other housemaid had had to go away somewhere to lie in; so I
was awfully careful. He got her married afterwards to a quarryman
at the quarries."

"So that's the sort of man he is!" exclaimed Lasse. "I had my doubts
about him. But what became of the other fellow?"

"He went to work in the quarry when we'd been at the farm a couple
of years and he'd done me all the harm he could. While he was there,
he drank and quarreled most of the time. I often went to see him,
for I couldn't get him out of my head; but he was always drunk. At
last he couldn't stay there any longer, and disappeared, and then
we heard that he was in Nordland, playing Hell among the rocks at
Blaaholt. He helped himself to whatever he wanted at the nearest
place he could find it, and knocked people down for nothing at all.
And one day they said that he'd been declared an outlaw, so that
any one that liked could kill him. I had great confidence in the
master, who, after all, was the only person that wished me well;
and he comforted me by saying that it would be all right: Knut would
know how to take care of himself."

"Knut? Was it Knut Engstrom?" asked Lasse. "Well, then, I've heard
about him. He was breaking out as wild as the devil the last time
I was in this country, and assaulted people on the high-road in
broad daylight. He killed one man with a hammer, and when they
caught him, he'd made a long gash on his neck from the back right
up to his eye. The other man had done that, he said; he'd only
defended himself. So they couldn't do anything to him. So that was
the man, was it! But who was it he was living with, then? They said
he lived in a shed on the heath that summer, and had a woman with
him."

"I ran away from service, and pretended to the others that I was
going home. I'd heard what a wretched state he was in. They said he
was gashed all over his head. So I went up and took care of him."

"Then you gave in at last," said Lasse, with a roguish wink.

"He beat me every day," she answered hoarsely. "And when he couldn't
get his way, he drove me away at last. I'd set my mind on his being
fond of me first." Her voice had grown coarse and hard again.

"Then you deserved a good whipping for taking a fancy to such
a ruffian! And you may be glad your mother didn't get to know
anything about that, for she'd never have survived it."

At the word "mother" Johanna started. "Every one must look after
themselves," she said in a hard voice. "I've had more to look to
than mother, and see how fat I've grown."

Lasse shook his head. "I shouldn't care to fight with you now.
But what happened to you afterwards?"

"I came back to Stone Farm again at Martinmas, but the mistress
wouldn't take me on again, for she preferred my room to my company.
But Kongstrup got his way by making me dairymaid. He was as kind to
me as ever, for all that I'd stood out against him for nine years.
But at last the magistrate got tired of having Knut going about
loose; he made too much disturbance. So they had a hunt for him
up on the heath. They didn't catch him, but he must have come back
to the quarry to hide himself, for one day when they were blasting
there, his body came out among the bits of rock, all smashed up.
They drove the pieces down here to the farm, and it made me so ill
to see him come to me like that, that I had to go to bed. There
I lay shivering day and night, for it seemed as if he'd come to me
in his sorest need. Kongstrup sat with me and comforted me when the
others were at work, and he took advantage of my misery to get his
way.

"There was a younger brother of the farmer on the hill who liked
me. He'd been in America in his early days, and had plenty of money.
He didn't care a rap what people said, and every single year he
proposed to me, always on New Year's Day. He came that year too,
and now that Knut was dead, I couldn't have done better than have
taken him and been mistress of a farm; but I had to refuse him
after all, and I can tell you it was hard when I made the discovery.
Kongstrup wanted to send me away when I told him about it; but that
I would not have. I meant to stay and have my child born here on the
farm to which it belonged. He didn't care a bit about me any longer,
the mistress looked at me with her evil eyes every day, and there
was no one that was kind to me. I wasn't so hard then as I am now,
and it was all I could do to keep from crying always. I became hard
then. When anything was the matter, I clenched my teeth so that no
one should deride me. I was working in the field the very day it
happened, too. The boy was born in the middle of a beet-field, and
I carried him back to the farm myself in my apron. He was deformed
even then: the mistress's evil eyes had done it. I said to myself
that she should always have the changeling in her sight, and refused
to go away. The farmer couldn't quite bring himself to turn me out
by force, and so he put me into the house down by the shore."

"Then perhaps you work on the farm here in the busy seasons?"
asked Lasse.

She sniffed contemptuously. "Work! So you think I need do that?
Kongstrup has to pay me for bringing up his son, and then there
are friends that come to me, now one and now another, and bring
a little with them--when they haven't spent it all in drink. You
may come down and see me this evening. I'll be good to you too."

"No, thank you!" said Lasse, gravely. "I am a human being too,
but I won't go to one who's sat on my knee as if she'd been my
own child."

"Have you any gin, then?" she asked, giving him a sharp nudge.

Lasse thought there was some, and went to see. "No, not a drop,"
he said, returning with the bottle. "But I've got something for
you here that your mother asked me to give you as a keepsake. It
was lucky I happened to remember it." And he handed her a packet,
and looked on happily while she opened it, feeling pleased on her
account. It was a hymn-book. "Isn't it a beauty?" he said. "With
a gold cross and clasp--and then, it's your mother's."

"What's the good of that to me?" asked Johanna. "I don't sing
hymns."

"Don't you?" said Lasse, hurt. "But your mother has never known but
that you've kept the faith you had as a child, so you must forgive
her this once."

"Is that all you've got for me?" she asked, pushing the book off
her lap.

"Yes, it is," said Lasse, his voice trembling; and he picked up
the book.

"Who's going to have the rest, then?"

"Well, the house was leased, and there weren't many things left, for
it's a long time since your father died, remember. Where you should
have been, strangers have filled the daughter's place; and I suppose
those who've looked after her will get what there is. But perhaps
you'd still be in time, if you took the first steamer."

"No, thank you! Go home and be stared at and play the penitent--no,
thank you! I'd rather the strangers got what's left. And mother--
well, if she's lived without my help, I suppose she can die without
it too. Well, I must be getting home. I wonder what's become of the
future master of Stone Farm?" She laughed loudly.

Lasse would have taken his oath that she had been quite sober, and
yet she walked unsteadily as she went behind the calves' stables to
look for her son. It was on his lips to ask whether she would not
take the hymn-book with her, but he refrained. She was not in the
mood for it now, and she might mock God; so he carefully wrapped up
the book and put it away in the green chest.

       *       *       *       *       *

At the far end of the cow-stable a space was divided off with
boards. It had no door, and the boards were an inch apart, so that
it resembled a crate. This was the herdsman's room. Most of the
space was occupied by a wide legless bedstead made of rough boards
knocked together, with nothing but the stone floor to rest on. Upon
a deep layer of rye straw the bed-clothes lay in a disordered heap,
and the thick striped blankets were stiff with dried cow-dung, to
which feathers and bits of straw had adhered.

Pelle lay curled up in the middle of the bed with the down quilt up
to his chin, while Lasse sat on the edge, turning over the things
in the green chest and talking to himself. He was going through
his Sunday devotions, taking out slowly, one after another, all
the little things he had brought from the broken-up home. They
were all purely useful things--balls of cotton, scraps of stuff,
and such-like, that were to be used to keep his own and the boy's
clothes in order; but to him each thing was a relic to be handled
with care, and his heart bled every time one of them came to an
end. With each article he laid down, he slowly repeated what Bengta
had said it was for when she lay dying and was trying to arrange
everything for him and the boy: "Wool for the boy's gray socks.
Pieces to lengthen the sleeves of his Sunday jacket. Mind you don't
wear your stockings too long before you mend them." They were the
last wishes of the dying woman, and they were followed in the
smallest detail. Lasse remembered them word for word, in spite
of his bad memory.

Then there were little things that had belonged to Bengta herself,
cheap finery that all had its happy memory of fairs and holidays,
which he recalled in his muttered reverie.

Pelle liked this subdued murmur that he did not need to listen to
or answer, and that was so pleasant to doze off in. He lay looking
out sleepily at the bright sky, tired and with a vague feeling of
something unpleasant that was past.

Suddenly he started. He had heard the door of the cow-stable open,
and steps upon the long foddering-passage. It was the pupil. He
recognized the hated step at once.

He thrilled with delight. Now that fellow would be made to
understand that he mustn't do anything to boys with fathers who
could hold a man out at arm's length and scold! oh, much worse
than the bailiff. He sat up and looked eagerly at his father.

"Lasse!" came a voice from the end of the tables.

The old man growled sullenly, stirred uneasily, but did not rise.

"Las-se!" came again, after a little, impatiently and in a tone
of command.

"Yes," said Lasse slowly, rising and going out.

"Can't you answer when you're called, you old Swedish rascal? Are
you deaf?"

"Oh, I can answer well enough," said Lasse, in a trembling voice.
"But Mr. Pupil oughtn't to--I'm a father, let me tell you--and
a father's heart----"

"You may be a monthly nurse for all I care, but you've got to
answer when you're called, or else I'll get the bailiff to give
you a talking-to. Do you understand?"

"Yes, oh yes!--Mr. Pupil must excuse me, but I didn't hear."

"Well, will you please remember that Aspasia's not to go out
to pasture to-morrow."

"Is she going to calve?"

"Yes, of course! Did you think she was going to foal?"

Lasse laughed, as in duty bound, and followed the pupil back through
the stable. Now it would come, thought Pelle, and sat listening
intently; but he only heard his father make another excuse, close
the half-door, and come back with slow, tottering steps. Then he
burst into tears, and crept far in under the quilt.

Lasse went about for some time, grumbling to himself, and at last
came and gently drew the quilt down from the boy's head. But Pelle
buried his face in the clothes, and when his father turned it up
toward him, he met a despairing, uncomprehending gaze that made his
own wander restlessly round the room.

"Yes," he said, with an attempt at being cross. "It's all very well
for you to cry! But when you don't know where Aspasia stands, you've
got to be civil, I'm thinking."

"I know Aspasia quite well," sobbed the boy. "She's the third from
the door here."

Lasse was going to give a cross answer, but broke down, touched and
disarmed by the boy's grief. He surrendered unconditionally, stooped
down until his forehead touched the boy's, and said helplessly,
"Yes, Lasse's a poor thing--old and poor! Any one can make a fool
of him. He can't be angry any more, and there's no strength in his
fist, so what's the good of clenching it! He has to put up with
everything, and let himself be hustled about--and say thank you into
the bargain--that's how it is with old Lasse. But you must remember
that it's for your sake he lets himself be put upon. If it wasn't
for you, he'd shoulder his pack and go--old though he is. But you
can grow on where your father rusts. And now you must leave off
crying!" And he dried the boy's wet eyes with the quilt.

Pelle did not understand his father's words, but they quieted him
nevertheless, and he soon fell asleep; but for a long time he sobbed
as he lay.

Lasse sat still upon the edge of the bed and watched the boy as he
slept, and when he had become quieter, crept away through the stable
and out. It had been a poor Sunday, and now he would go and see if
any of the men were at home and had visitors, for then there would
be spirits going round. Lasse could not find it in his heart to take
any of his wages to buy a dram with; that money would have quite
enough to do to buy bare necessaries.

On one of the beds lay a man asleep, fully dressed, and with his
boots on. He was dead drunk. All the others were out, so Lasse had
to give up all thoughts of a dram, and went across to the basement
to see if there was any gaiety going among the maids. He was not
at all averse to enjoyment of one sort or another, now that he was
free and his own master as he had been in the days of his youth.

Up by the dairy stood the three farm-laborers' wives who used to do
the milking for the girls on Sunday evening. They were thick-set,
small, and bent with toil. They were all talking together and spoke
of illnesses and other sad things in plaintive tones. Lasse at once
felt a desire to join them, for the subject found an echo in his
being like the tones of a well-known song, and he could join in
the refrain with the experience of a lifetime. But he resisted the
temptation, and went past them down the basement steps. "Ah, yes,
death will come to us all!" said one of the women, and Lasse said
the words after her to himself as he went down.

Down there Karna was sitting mending Gustav's moleskin trousers,
while Gustav lay upon the bench asleep with his cap over his face.
He had put his feet up on Karna's lap, without so much as taking
off his shoes; and she had accommodated her lap, so that they
should not slide off.

Lasse sat down beside her and tried to make himself agreeable. He
wanted some one to be nice to him. But Karna was unapproachable;
those dirty feet had quite turned her head. And either Lasse had
forgotten how to do it, or he was wanting in assurance, for every
time he attempted a pleasant speech, she turned it off.

"We might have such a comfortable time, we two elderly folk," he
said hopelessly.

"Yes, and I could contribute what was wanting," said Gustav, peeping
out from under his cap. Insolent puppy, lying there and boasting of
his seventeen years! Lasse had a good mind to go for him then and
there and chance yet one more trial of strength. But he contented
himself with sitting and looking at him until his red, lashless eyes
grew watery. Then he got up.

"Well, well, I see you want young people this evening!" he said
bitterly to Karna. "But you can't get rid of your years, all the
same! Perhaps you'll only get the spoon to lick after the others."

He went across to the cow-stable and began to talk to the three
farm-laborers' wives, who were still speaking of illness and misery
and death, as if nothing else existed in the world. Lasse nodded
and said: "Yes, yes, that's true." He could heartily endorse it all,
and could add much to what they said. It brought warmth to his old
body, and made him feel quite comfortable--so easy in his joints.

But when he lay on his back in bed, all the sad thoughts came back
and he could not sleep. Generally he slept like a log as soon as
he lay down, but to-day was Sunday, and he was tormented with the
thought that life had passed him by. He had promised himself so much
from the island, and it was nothing but worry and toil and trouble
--nothing else at all.

"Yes, Lasse's old!" he suddenly said aloud, and he kept on repeating
the words with a little variation until he fell asleep: "He's old,
poor man--and played out! Ah, so old!" Those words expressed it all.

He was awakened again by singing and shouting up on the high-road.

  "And now the boy you gave me
  With the black and curly hair,
  He is no longer little,
  No longer, no longer,
  But a fine, tall strapping youth."

It was some of the men and girls of the farm on their way home from
some entertainment. When they turned into the farm road they became
silent. It was just beginning to grow light; it must have been about
two o'clock.



IV

At four, Lasse and Pelle were dressed and were opening the
cow-stable doors on the field side. The earth was rolling off its
white covering of night mist, and the morning rose prophetically.
Lasse stood still in the doorway, yawning, and making up his mind
about the weather for the day; but Pelle let the soft tones of the
wind and the song of the lark--all that was stirring--beat upon
his little heart. With open mouth and doubtful eyes he gazed into
the incomprehensible as represented by each new day with all its
unimagined possibilities. "To-day you must take your coat with you,
for we shall have rain about midday," Lasse would then say; and
Pelle peered into the sky to find out where his father got his
knowledge from. For it generally came true.

They then set about cleaning out the dung in the cow-stable, Pelle
scraping the floor under the cows and sweeping it up, Lasse filling
the wheelbarrow and wheeling it out. At half-past five they ate
their morning meal of salt herring and porridge.

After that Pelle set out with the young cattle, his dinner basket
on his arm, and his whip wound several times round his neck. His
father had made him a short, thick stick with rings on it, that
he could rattle admonishingly and throw at the animals; but Pelle
preferred the whip, because he was not yet strong enough to use it.

He was little, and at first he had some difficulty in making an
impression upon the great forces over which he was placed. He could
not get his voice to sound sufficiently terrifying, and on the way
out from the farm he had hard work, especially up near the farm,
where the corn stood high on both sides of the field-road. The
animals were hungry in the morning, and the big bullocks did not
trouble to move when once they had their noses buried in the corn
and he stood belaboring them with the short handle of the cattle-
whip. The twelve-foot lash, which, in a practised hand, left little
triangular marks in the animal's hide, he could not manage at all;
and if he kicked the bullock on the head with his wooden shoe, it
only closed its eyes good-naturedly, and browsed on sedately with
its back to him. Then he would break into a despairing roar, or
into little fits of rage in which he attacked the animal blindly
and tried to get at its eyes; but it was all equally useless. He
could always make the calves move by twisting their tails, but
the bullocks' tails were too strong.

He did not cry, however, for long at a time over the failure of his
resources. One evening he got his father to put a spike into the toe
of one of his wooden shoes, and after that his kick was respected.
Partly by himself, and partly through Rud, he also learned where to
find the places on the animals where it hurt most. The cow-calves
and the two bull-calves all had their particular tender spot, and
a well-directed blow upon a horn could make even the large bullocks
bellow with pain.

The driving out was hard work, but the herding itself was easy.
When once the cattle were quietly grazing, he felt like a general,
and made his voice sound out incessantly over the meadow, while his
little body swelled with pride and a sense of power.

Being away from his father was a trouble to him. He did not go home
to dinner, and often in the middle of his play, despair would come
over him and he would imagine that something had happened to his
father, that the great bull had tossed him or something else; and
he would leave everything, and start running homeward crying, but
would remember in time the bailiff's whip, and trudge back again.
He found a remedy for his longing by stationing himself so that he
could keep a lookout on the fields up there, and see his father when
he went out to move the dairy-cows.

He taught himself to whittle boats and little rakes and hoes and
decorate sticks with patterns cut upon the bark. He was clever with
his knife and made diligent use of it. He would also stand for hours
on the top of a monolith--he thought it was a gate-post--and try
to crack his cattle-whip like a pistol-shot. He had to climb to a
height to get the lash off the ground at all.

When the animals lay down in the middle of the morning, he was often
tired too, and then he would seat himself upon the head of one of
the big bullocks, and hold on to the points of its horns; and while
the animal lay chewing with a gentle vibration like a machine, he
sat upon its head and shouted at the top of his voice songs about
blighted affections and horrible massacres.

Toward midday Rud came running up, as hungry as a hunter. His mother
sent him out of the house when the hour for a meal drew near. Pelle
shared the contents of his basket with him, but required him to
bring the animals together a certain number of times for every
portion of food. The two boys could not exist apart for a whole day
together. They tumbled about in the field like two puppies, fought
and made it up again twenty times a day, swore the most fearful
threats of vengeance that should come in the shape of this or that
grown-up person, and the next moment had their arms round one
another's necks.

About half-a-mile of sand-dunes separated the Stone Farm fields
from the sea. Within this belt of sand the land was stony and
afforded poor grazing; but on both sides of the brook a strip of
green meadow-land ran down among the dunes, which were covered with
dwarf firs and grass-wrack to bind the sand. The best grazing was on
this meadow-land, but it was hard work minding both sides of it, as
the brook ran between; and it had been impressed upon the boy with
severe threats, that no animal must set its foot upon the dune-land,
as the smallest opening might cause a sand-drift. Pelle took the
matter quite literally, and all that summer imagined something like
an explosion that would make everything fly into the air the instant
an animal trod upon it; and this possibility hung like a fate at the
back of everything when he herded down there. When Rud came and they
wanted to play, he drove the cattle up on to the poor pasture where
there was plenty of room for them.

When the sun shone the boys ran about naked. They dared not venture
down to the sea for fear of the bailiff, who, they were sure, always
stood up in the attic of the big house, and watched Pelle through
his telescope; but they bathed in the brook--in and out of the water
continually for hours together.

After heavy rain it became swollen, and was then quite milky from
the china clay that it washed away from the banks farther up. The
boys thought it was milk from an enormous farm far up in the island.
At high water the sea ran up and filled the brook with decaying
seaweed that colored the water crimson; and this was the blood of
all the people drowned out in the sea.

Between their bathes they lay under the dunes and let the sun dry
them. They made a minute examination of their bodies, and discussed
the use and intention of the various parts. Upon this head Rud's
knowledge was superior, and he took the part of instructor. They
often quarrelled as to which of them was the best equipped in
one way or another--in other words, had the largest. Pelle, for
instance, envied Rud his disproportionately large head.

Pelle was a well-built little fellow, and had put on flesh since
he had come to Stone Farm. His glossy skin was stretched smoothly
over his body, and was of a warm, sunburnt color. Rud had a thin
neck in proportion to his head, and his forehead was angular and
covered with scars, the results of innumerable falls. He had not
full command of all his limbs, and was always knocking and bruising
himself; there were blue, livid patches all over him that were slow
to disappear, for he had flesh that did not heal easily. But he was
not so open in his envy as Pelle. He asserted himself by boasting of
his defects until he made them out to be sheer achievements; so that
Pelle ended by envying him everything from the bottom of his heart.

Rud had not Pelle's quick perception of things, but he had more
instinct, and on certain points possessed quite a talent in
anticipating what Pelle only learned by experience. He was already
avaricious to a certain extent, and suspicious without connecting
any definite thoughts with it. He ate the lion's share of the food,
and had a variety of ways of getting out of doing the work.

Behind their play there lay, clothed in the most childish forms,
a struggle for the supremacy, and for the present Pelle was the one
who came off second best. In an emergency, Rud always knew how to
appeal to his good qualities and turn them to his own advantage.

And through all this they were the best friends in the world, and
were quite inseparable. Pelle was always looking toward "the Sow's"
cottage when he was alone, and Rud ran off from home as soon as he
saw his opportunity.

       *       *       *       *       *

It had rained hard in the course of the morning, in spite of Lasse,
and Pelle was wet through. Now the blue-black cloud was drawing
away over the sea, and the boats lay in the middle of it with all
their red sails set, and yet motionless. The sunlight flashed and
glittered on wet surfaces, making everything look bright; and Pelle
hung his clothes on a dwarf fir to dry.

He was cold, and crept close up to Peter, the biggest of the
bullocks, as he lay chewing the cud. The animal was steaming, but
Pelle could not bring warmth into his extremities, where the cold
had taken hold. His teeth chattered, too, and he was shivering.

And even now there was one of the cows that would not let him have
any peace. Every time he had snuggled right in under the bullock
and was beginning to get a little warmer, the cow strayed away over
the northern boundary. There was nothing but sand there, but when
it was a calf there had been a patch of mixed crops, and it still
remembered that.

It was one of two cows that had been turned out of the dairy-herd on
account of their dryness. They were ill-tempered creatures, always
discontented and doing some mischief or other; and Pelle detested
them heartily. They were two regular termagants, upon which even
thrashing made no impression. The one was a savage beast, that would
suddenly begin stamping and bellowing like a mad bull in the middle
of grazing, and, if Pelle went toward it, wanted to toss him; and
when it saw its opportunity, it would eat up the cloth in which
Pelle's dinner was wrapped. The other was old and had crumpled horns
that pointed in toward its eyes, one of which had a white pupil.

It was the noisy one that was now at its tricks. Every other minute
Pelle had to get up and shout: "Hi, Blakka, you villainous beast!
Just you come back!" He was hoarse with anger, and at last his
patience gave way, and he caught up a big stick and began to chase
the cow. As soon as it saw his intention, it set off at a run up
toward the farm, and Pelle had to make a wide circle to turn it down
to the herd again. Then it ran at full gallop in and out among the
other animals, the herd became confused and ran hither and thither,
and Pelle had to relinquish his pursuit for a time while he gathered
them together. But then he began again at once. He was boiling with
rage, and leaped about like an indiarubber ball, his naked body
flashing in loops and curves upon the green grass. He was only a few
yards from the cow, but the distance remained the same; he could not
catch her up to-day.

He stopped up by the rye-field, and the cow stood still almost at
the same moment. It snapped at a few ears, and moved its head slowly
to choose its direction. In a couple of leaps Pelle was up to it
and had hold of its tail. He hit it over the nose with his cudgel,
it turned quickly away from the rye, and set off at a flying pace
down toward the others, while blows rained down upon its bony
prominences. Every stroke echoed back from the dunes like blows upon
the trunk of a tree, and made Pelle swell with pride. The cow tried
to shake Pelle off as it ran, but he was not to be got rid of; it
crossed the brook in long bounds, backward and forward, with Pelle
almost floating through the air; but the blows continued to rain
down upon it. Then it grew tired and began to slacken its pace;
and at last it came to a standstill, coughed, and resigned itself
to the thrashing.

Pelle threw himself flat upon his face, and panted. Ha, ha!
_That_ had made him warm! Now that beast should--He rolled
suddenly over on to his side with a start. The bailiff! But it was
a strange man with a beard who stood over him, looking at him with
serious eyes. The stranger went on gazing at him for a long time
without saying anything, and Pelle grew more and more uneasy under
his scrutiny; he had the sun right in his eyes too, if he tried to
return the man's gaze, and the cow still stood there coughing.

"What do you think the bailiff will say?" asked the man at last,
quietly.

"I don't think he's seen it," whispered Pelle, looking timidly
round.

"But God has seen it, for He sees everything. And He has led me here
to stop the evil in you while there's still time. Wouldn't you like
to be God's child?" The man sat down beside him and took his hand.

Pelle sat tugging at the grass and wishing he had had his clothes
on.

"And you must never forget that God sees everything you do; even in
the darkest night He sees. We are always walking in God's sight. But
come now, it's unseemly to run about naked!" And the man took him
by the hand and led him to his clothes, and then, going across to
the north side, he gathered the herd together while Pelle dressed
himself. The wicked cow was over there again already, and had drawn
a few of the others after it. Pelle watched the man in surprise;
he drove the animals back quite quietly, neither using stones nor
shouting. Before he got back, Blakka had once more crossed the
boundary; but he turned and brought her back again just as gently
as before.

"That's not an easy cow to manage," he said kindly, when he
returned; "but you've got young legs. Shan't we agree to burn
that?" he asked, picking up the thick cudgel, "and do what we have
to do with just our hands? God will always help you when you're
in difficulties. And if you want to be a true child of God, you
must tell the bailiff this evening what you did--and take your
punishment." He placed his hand upon Pelle's head, and looked at
him with that unendurable gaze; and then he left him, taking the
stick with him.

For a long time Pelle followed him with his eyes. So that was what
a man looked like, who was sent by God to warn you! Now he knew,
and it would be some time before he chased a cow like that again.
But go to the bailiff, and tell of himself, and get the whip-lash
on his bare legs? Not if he knew it! Rather than that, God would
have to be angry--if it was really true that He could see
everything? It couldn't be worse than the bailiff, anyhow.

All that morning he was very quiet. He felt the man's eyes upon
him in everything he did, and it robbed him of his confidence. He
silently tested things, and saw everything in a new light; it was
best not to make a noise, if you were always walking in the sight
of God. He did not go on cracking his cattle-whip, but meditated
a little on whether he should burn that too.

But a little before midday Rud appeared, and the whole incident
was forgotten. Rud was smoking a bit of cane that he had cut off
the piece his mother used for cleaning the stove-pipes, and Pelle
bartered some of his dinner for a few pulls at it. First they seated
themselves astride the bullock Cupid, which was lying chewing the
cud. It went on calmly chewing with closed eyes, until Rud put the
glowing cane to the root of its tail, when it rose hastily, both
boys rolling over its head. They laughed and boasted to one another
of the somersault they had turned, as they went up on to the high
ground to look for blackberries. Thence they went to some birds'
nests in the small firs, and last of all they set about their best
game--digging up mice-nests.

Pelle knew every mouse-hole in the meadow, and they lay down and
examined them carefully. "Here's one that has mice in it," said Rud.
"Look, here's their dunghill!"

"Yes, that smells of mouse," said Pelle, putting his nose to the
hole. "And the blades of grass turn outward, so the old ones must
be out."

With Pelle's knife they cut away the turf, and set to work eagerly
to dig with two pieces of pot. The soil flew about their heads as
they talked and laughed.

"My word, how fast we're getting on!"

"Yes; Strom couldn't work as fast!" Strom was a famous worker who
got twenty-five ores a day more than other autumn farm-hands, and
his example was used as an incentive to coax work out of the
laborers.

"We shall soon get right into the inside of the earth."

"Well, but it's burning hot in there."

"Oh, nonsense: is it?" Pelle paused doubtfully in his digging.

"Yes, the schoolmaster says so."

The boys hesitated and put their hands down into the hole. Yes,
it was warm at the bottom--so warm that Pelle found it necessary
to pull out his hand and say: "Oh, my word!" They considered a
little, and then went on scraping out the hole as carefully as if
their lives depended on it. In a little while straw appeared in
the passage, and in a moment the internal heat of the earth was
forgotten. In less than a minute they had uncovered the nest, and
laid the little pink, new-born mice out on the grass. They looked
like half-hatched birds.

"They _are_ ugly," said Pelle, who did not quite like taking
hold of them, but was ashamed not to do so. "They're much nastier
to touch than toads. I believe they're poisonous."

Rud lay pinching them between his fingers.

"Poisonous! Don't be silly! Why, they haven't any teeth! There are
no bones in them at all; I'm sure you could eat them quite well."

"Pah! Beastly!" Pelle spat on the ground.

"I shouldn't be at all afraid of biting one; would you?" Rud lifted
a little mouse up toward his mouth.

"Afraid? Of course I'm not afraid--but--" Pelle hesitated.

"No, you're afraid, because you're a blue-bag!"

Now this nickname really only applied to boys who were afraid of
water, but Pelle quickly seized one of the little mice, and held it
up to his mouth, at exactly the same distance from his lips that Rud
was from his. "You can see for yourself!" he cried, in an offended
tone.

Rud went on talking, with many gestures.

"You're afraid," he said, "and it's because you're Swedish. But
when you're afraid, you should just shut your eyes--so--and open
your mouth. Then you pretend to put the mouse right into your mouth,
and then--" Rud had his mouth wide open, and held his hand close
to his mouth; Pelle was under his influence, and imitated his
movements--"and then--" Pelle received a blow that sent the little
mouse halfway down his throat. He retched and spat; and then his
hands fumbled in the grass and got hold of a stone. But by the time
he was on his feet and was going to throw it, Rud was far away up
the fields. "I must go home now!" he shouted innocently. "There's
something I've got to help mother with."

Pelle did not love solitude, and the prospect of a blockade
determined him at once for negotiations. He dropped the stone
to show his serious wish for a reconciliation, and had to swear
solemnly that he would not bear malice. Then at last Rud came back,
tittering.

"I was going to show you something funny with the mouse," he said
by way of diversion; "but you held on to it like an idiot." He did
not venture to come quite close up to Pelle, but stood watching his
movements.

Pelle was acquainted with the little white lie when the danger of
a thrashing was imminent, but the lie as an attack was still unknown
to him. If Rud, now that the whole thing was over, said that he
only wanted to have shown him something funny, it must be true. But
then why was he mistrustful? Pelle tried, as he had so often done
before, to bend his little brain round the possible tricks of his
playmate, but failed.

"You may just as well come up close," he said stoutly. "For if I
wanted to, I could easily catch you up."

Rud came. "Now we'll catch big mice." he said. "That's better fun."

They emptied Pelle's milk-bottle, and hunted up a mouse's nest that
appeared to have only two exits, one up in the meadow, the other
halfway down the bank of the stream. Here they pushed in the mouth
of the bottle, and widened the hole in the meadow into a funnel;
and they took it in turns to keep an eye on the bottle, and to carry
water up to the other hole in their caps. It was not long before
a mouse popped out into the bottle, which they then corked.

What should they do with it? Pelle proposed that they should tame it
and train it to draw their little agricultural implements; but Rud,
as usual, got his way--it was to go out sailing.

Where the stream turned, and had hollowed out its bed into a hole
as big as a cauldron, they made an inclined plane and let the bottle
slide down into the water head foremost, like a ship being launched.
They could follow it as it curved under the water until it came up
slantingly, and stood bobbing up and down on the water like a buoy,
with its neck up. The mouse made the funniest leaps up toward the
cork to get out; and the boys jumped up and down on the grass with
delight.

"It knows the way it got in quite well!" They imitated its
unsuccessful leaps, lay down again and rolled about in exuberant
mirth. At last, however, the joke became stale.

"Let's take out the cork!" suggested Rud.

"Yes--oh, yes!" Pelle waded quickly in, and was going to set the
mouse at liberty.

"Wait a minute, you donkey!" Rud snatched the bottle from him, and
holding his hand over the mouth, put it back, into the water. "Now
we'll see some fun!" he cried, hastening up the bank.

It was a little while before the mouse discovered that the way was
open, but then it leaped. The leap was unsuccessful, and made the
bottle rock, so that the second leap was slanting and rebounded
sideways. But then followed with lightning rapidity a number of
leaps--a perfect bombardment; and suddenly the mouse flew right
out of the bottle, head foremost into the water.

"That was a leap and a half!" cried Pelle, jumping straight up
and down in the grass, with his arms at his sides. "It could just
squeeze its body through, just exactly!" And he jumped again,
squeezing himself together.

The mouse swam to land, but Rud was there, and pushed it out again
with his foot. "It swam well," he said, laughing. It made for the
opposite bank. "Look out for the fellow!" Rud roared, and Pelle
sprang forward and turned it away from the shore with a good kick.
It swam helplessly backward and forward in the middle of the pool,
seeing one of the two dancing figures every time it approached a
bank, and turning and turning endlessly. It sank deeper and deeper,
its fur becoming wet and dragging it down, until at last it swam
right under water. Suddenly it stretched out its body convulsively,
and sank to the bottom, with all four legs outspread like a wide
embrace.

Pelle had all at once comprehended the perplexity and helplessness
--perhaps was familiar with it. At the animal's final struggle, he
burst into tears with a little scream, and ran, crying loudly, up
the meadow toward the fir-plantation. In a little while he came back
again. "I really thought Cupid had run away," he said repeatedly,
and carefully avoided looking Rud in the face. Quietly he waded into
the water, and fished up the dead mouse with his foot.

They laid it upon a stone in the sun, so that it might come to life
again. When that failed, Pelle remembered a story about some people
who were drowned in a lake at home, and who came to themselves again
when cannons were fired over them. They clapped their hollowed hands
over the mouse, and when that too brought about no result, they
decided to bury it.

Rud happened to remember that his grandmother in Sweden was being
buried just now, and this made them go about the matter with a
certain amount of solemnity. They made a coffin out of a matchbox,
and ornamented it with moss; and then they lay on their faces and
lowered the coffin into the grave with twine, taking every possible
care that it should not land upon its head. A rope might give way;
such things did sometimes happen, and the illusion did not permit
of their correcting the position of the coffin afterward with their
hands. When this was done, Pelle looked down into his cap, while Rud
prayed over the deceased and cast earth upon the coffin; and then
they made up the grave.

"I only hope it's not in a trance and going to wake up again!"
exclaimed Pelle suddenly. They had both heard many unpleasant
stories of such cases, and went over all the possibilities--how
they woke up and couldn't get any air, and knocked upon the lid,
and began to eat their own hands--until Pelle could distinctly hear
a knocking on the lid below. They had the coffin up in a trice, and
examined the mouse. It had not eaten its forepaws, at any rate, but
it had most decidedly turned over on its side. They buried it again,
putting a dead beetle beside it in the coffin for safety's sake,
and sticking a straw down into the grave to supply it with air.
Then they ornamented the mound, and set up a memorial stone.

"It's dead now!" said Pelle, gravely and with conviction.

"Yes, I should just think so--dead as a herring." Rud had put his
ear to the straw and listened.

"And now it must be up with God in all His glory--right high,
high up."

Rud sniffed contemptuously. "Oh, you silly! Do you think it can
crawl up there?"

"Well, can't mice crawl, I should like to know?" Pelle was cross.

"Yes; but not through the air. Only birds can do that."

Pelle felt himself beaten off the field and wanted to be revenged.

"Then your grandmother isn't in heaven, either!" he declared
emphatically. There was still a little rancor in his heart from
the young mouse episode.

But this was more than Rud could stand. It had touched his family
pride, and he gave Pelle a dig in the side with his elbow. The next
moment they were rolling in the grass, holding one another by the
hair, and making awkward attempts to hit one another on the nose
with their clenched fists. They turned over and over like one lump,
now one uppermost, now the other; they hissed hoarsely, groaned and
made tremendous exertions. "I'll make you sneeze red," said Pelle
angrily, as he rose above his adversary; but the next moment he was
down again, with Rud hanging over him and uttering the most fearful
threats about black eyes and seeing stars. Their voices were thick
with passion.

And suddenly they were sitting opposite one another on the grass
wondering whether they should set up a howl. Rud put out his tongue,
Pelle went a step further and began to laugh, and they were once
more the best of friends. They set up the memorial stone, which had
been overturned in the heat of battle, and then sat down hand in
hand, to rest after the storm, a little quieter than usual.

It was not because there was more evil in Pelle, but because the
question had acquired for him an importance of its own, and he must
understand it, that a meditative expression came into his eyes, and
he said thoughtfully:

"Well, but you've told me yourself that she was paralyzed in
her legs!"

"Well, what if she was?"

"Why, then she couldn't crawl up into heaven."

"Oh, you booby! It's her spirit, of course!"

"Then the mouse's spirit can very well be up there too."

"No, it can't, for mice haven't got any spirit."

"Haven't they? Then how is it they can breathe?" [Footnote: In Danish,
spirit = aand, and to breathe = aande.]

That was one for Rud! And the tiresome part of it was that he
attended Sunday-school. His fists would have come in handy again
now, but his instinct told him that sooner or later Pelle would get
the better of him in fighting. And anyhow his grandmother was saved.

"Yes," he said, yielding; "and it certainly could breathe. Well,
then, it was its spirit flying up that overturned the stone--that's
what it was!"

A distant sound reached them, and far off near the cottage they
could see the figure of a fat woman, beckoning threateningly.

"The Sow's calling you," said Pelle. The two boys never called her
anything but "the Sow" between themselves.

So Rud had to go. He was allowed to take the greater part of the
contents of the dinner-basket with him, and ate as he ran. They had
been too busy to eat.

Pelle sat down among the dunes and ate his dinner. As usual when Rud
had been with him, he could not imagine what had become of the day.
The birds had ceased singing, and not one of the cattle was still
lying down, so it must be at least five o'clock.

Up at the farm they were busy driving in. It went at full gallop--
out and in, out and in. The men stood up in the carts and thrashed
away at the horses with the end of the reins, and the swaying loads
were hurried along the field-roads, looking like little bristling,
crawling things, that have been startled and are darting to their
holes.

A one-horsed vehicle drove out from the farm, and took the high-road
to the town at a quick trot. It was the farmer; he was driving so
fast that he was evidently off to the town on the spree. So there
was something gone wrong at home, and there would be crying at the
farm that night.

Yes, there was Father Lasse driving out with the water-cart, so it
was half-past five. He could tell that too by the birds beginning
their pleasant evening twittering, that was soft and sparkling like
the rays of the sun.

Far inland above the stone-quarry, where the cranes stood out
against the sky, a cloud of smoke rose every now and then into the
air, and burst in a fountain of pieces of rock. Long after came the
explosion, bit by bit in a series of rattling reverberations. It
sounded as if some one were running along and slapping his thigh
with fingerless gloves.

The last few hours were always long--the sun was so slow about it.
And there was nothing to fill up the time either. Pelle himself was
tired, and the tranquillity of evening had the effect of subduing
his voice. But now they were driving out for milking up there, and
the cattle were beginning to graze along the edge of the meadow that
turned toward the farm; so the time was drawing near.

At last the herd-boys began to jodel over at the neighboring farms,
first one, and then several joining in:

  "Oh, drive home, o-ho, o-o-ho!
    O-ho, o-ho!
    O-ho, o-ho!
  Oh, drive home, o-o-ho!
    O-ho!"

From all sides the soft tones vibrated over the sloping land,
running out, like the sound of happy weeping, into the first glow of
evening; and Pelle's animals began to move farther after each pause
to graze. But he did not dare to drive them home yet, for it only
meant a thrashing from the bailiff or the pupil if he arrived too
early.

He stood at the upper end of the meadow, and called his homeward-
drifting flock together; and when the last tones of the call had
died away, he began it himself, and stepped on one side. The animals
ran with a peculiar little trot and heads extended. The shadow of
the grass lay in long thin stripes across the ground, and the
shadows of the animals were endless. Now and then a calf lowed
slowly and broke into a gallop. They were yearning for home, and
Pelle was yearning too.

From behind a hollow the sun darted long rays out into space, as if
it had called all its powers home for the night, and now poured them
forth in one great longing, from west to east. Everything pointed in
long thin lines, and the eager longing of the cattle seemed visible
in the air.

To the mind of the child there was nothing left out of doors now;
everything was being taken in, and he longed for his father with
a longing that was almost a pain. And when at last he turned the
corner with the herd, and saw old Lasse standing there, smiling
happily with his red-rimmed eyes, and opening the gate to the fold,
the boy gave way and threw himself weeping into his father's arms.

"What's the matter, laddie? What's the matter?" asked the old
man, with concern in his voice, stroking the child's face with a
trembling hand. "Has any one been unkind to you? No? Well, that's
a good thing! They'd better take care, for happy children are in
God's own keeping. And Lasse would be an awkward customer if it
came to that. So you were longing for me, were you? Then it's good
to be in your little heart, and it only makes Lasse happy. But go
in now and get your supper, and don't cry any more." And he wiped
the boy's nose with his hard, crooked fingers, and pushed him
gently away.



V

Pelle was not long in finding out all about the man who had been
sent by God, and had the grave, reproachful eyes. He proved to be
nothing but a little shoemaker down in the village, who spoke at
the meeting-house on Sundays; and it was also said that his wife
drank. Rud went to his Sunday-school, and he was poor; so he was
nothing out of the ordinary.

Moreover, Gustav had got a cap which could turn out three different
crowns--one of blue duffle, one of water-proof American cloth, and
one of white canvas for use in sunny weather. It was an absorbingly
interesting study that threw everything else into the background,
and exercised Pelle's mind for many days; and he used this
miraculous cap as a standard by which to measure everything great
and desirable. But one day he gave Gustav a beautifully carved stick
for permission to perform the trick of turning the crown inside out
himself; and that set his mind at rest at last, and the cap had to
take its place in his everyday world like everything else.

But what did it look like in Farmer Kongstrup's big rooms? Money
lay upon the floor there, of course, the gold in one place and
the silver in another; and in the middle of each heap stood a
half-bushel measure. What did the word _"practical"_ mean,
which the bailiff used when he talked to the farmer? And why did
the men call one another _"Swede"_ as a term of abuse? Why,
they were all Swedes! What was there away beyond the cliffs where
the stone-quarry lay? The farm-lands extended as far as that on the
one side. He had not been there yet, but was going with his father
as soon as an opportunity presented itself. They had learnt quite
by chance that Lasse had a brother who owned a house over there;
so of course they knew the place comparatively well.

Down there lay the sea; he had sailed upon it himself! Ships both
of iron and wood sailed upon it, though how iron could float when
it was so heavy he did not know! The sea must be strong, for in the
pond, iron went to the bottom at once. In the middle of the pond
there was no bottom, so there you'd go on sinking forever! The old
thatcher, when he was young, had had more than a hundred fathoms
of rope down there with a drag, to fish up a bucket, but he never
reached the bottom. And when he wanted to pull up the rope again,
there was some one deep down who caught hold of the drag and tried
to pull him down, so he had to let the whole thing go.

God ... well, He had a long white beard like the farmer at Kaase
Farm; but who kept house for Him now He was old? Saint Peter was
His bailiff, of course!... How could the old, dry cows have just
as young calves as the young ones? And so on, and so on.

There was one subject about which, as a matter of course, there
could be no question, nor any thought at all in that sense, because
it was the very foundation of all existence--Father Lasse. He was
there, simply, he stood like a safe wall behind everything that one
did. He was the real Providence, the last great refuge in good and
ill; he could do whatever he liked--Father Lasse was almighty.

Then there was one natural centre in the world--Pelle himself.
Everything grouped itself about him, everything existed for him--for
him to play with, to shudder at, or to put on one side for a great
future. Even distant trees, houses and rocks in the landscape, that
he had never been up to, assumed an attitude toward him, either
friendly or hostile; and the relation had to be carefully decided
in the case of each new thing that appeared upon his horizon.

His world was small; he had only just begun to create it. For
a good arm's-length on all sides of him, there was more or less
_terra firma_; but beyond that floated raw matter, chaos. But
Pelle already found his world immense, and was quite willing to
make it infinite. He attacked everything with insatiable appetite;
his ready perceptions laid hold of all that came within their
reach; they were like the mouth of a machine, into which matter was
incessantly rushing in small, whirling particles. And in the draught
they raised, came others and again others; the entire universe was
on its way toward him.

Pelle shaped and set aside twenty new things in the course of a
second. The earth grew out under him into a world that was rich in
excitement and grotesque forms, discomfort and the most everyday
things. He went about in it uncertainly, for there was always
something that became displaced and had to be revalued or made over
again; the most matter-of-fact things would change and all at once
become terrifying marvels, or _vice versa_. He went about in
a state of continual wonderment, and assumed an expectant attitude
even with regard to the most familiar things; for who could tell
what surprises they might give one?

As an instance; he had all his life had opportunities of verifying
the fact that trouser-buttons were made of bone and had five holes,
one large one in the middle and four smaller ones round it. And then
one day, one of the men comes home from the town with a pair of new
trousers, the buttons of which are made of bright metal and are no
larger than a sixpenny-piece! They have only four holes, and the
thread is to lie across them, not from the middle outward, as in
the old ones.

Or take the great eclipse of the sun, that he had wondered so much
about all the summer, and that all the old people said would bring
about the destruction of the world. He had looked forward to it,
especially the destruction part of it; it would be something of
an adventure, and somewhere within him there was a little bit of
confident assurance that it would all come right as far as he was
concerned. The eclipse did come too, as it was meant to; it grew
dark too, as if it were the Last Day, and the birds became so quiet,
and the cattle bellowed and wanted to run home. But then it grew
light again and it all came to nothing.

Then there were fearful terrors that all at once revealed
themselves as tiny, tiny things--thank goodness! But there were
also anticipated pleasures that made your heart beat, and when
you got up to them they were dullness itself.

Far out in the misty mass, invisible worlds floated by that had
nothing to do with his own. A sound coming out of the unknown
created them in a twinkling. They came into existence in the same
way that the land had done that morning he had stood upon the deck
of the steamer, and heard voices and noise through the fog, thick
and big, with forms that looked like huge gloves without fingers.

And inside one there was blood and a heart and a soul. The heart
Pelle had found out about himself; it was a little bird shut up in
there. But the soul bored its way like a serpent to whatever part
of the body desire occupied. Old thatcher Holm had once drawn the
soul like a thin thread out of the thumb of a man who couldn't help
stealing. Pelle's own soul was good; it lay in the pupils of his
eyes, and reflected Father Lasse's image whenever he looked into
them.

The blood was the worst, and so Father Lasse always let himself be
bled when there was anything the matter with him; the bad humors had
to be let out. Gustav thought a great deal about blood, and could
tell the strangest things about it; and he cut his fingers only to
see whether it was ripe. One evening he came over to the cow-stable
and exhibited a bleeding finger. The blood was quite black. "Now I'm
a man!" he said, and swore a great oath; but the maids only made fun
of him, and said that he had not carried his four bushels of peas up
into the loft yet.

Then there was hell and heaven, and the stone-quarry where they
struck one another with heavy hammers when they were drunk. The men
in the stone-quarry were the strongest men in the world. One of them
had eaten ten poached eggs at one time without being ill; and there
is nothing so strengthening as eggs.

Down in the meadow, will-o'-the-wisps hopped about looking for
something in the deep summer nights. There was always one of them
near the stream, and it stood and danced on the top of a little heap
of stones that lay in the middle of the meadow. A couple of years
ago a girl had one night given birth to a child out there among the
dunes and as she did not know what to do about a father for it, she
drowned it in one of the pools that the brook makes where it turns.
Good people raised the little cairn, so that the place should not
be forgotten; and over it the child's soul used to burn at dead of
night at the time of year at which it was born. Pelle believed that
the child itself was buried beneath the stones, and now and then
ornamented the mound with a branch of fir; but he never played at
that part of the stream. The girl was sent across the sea, sentenced
to penal servitude for many years, and people wondered at the
father. She had not named any one, but every one knew who it was all
the same. He was a young, well-to-do fisherman down in the village,
and the girl was one of the poorest, so there could never have been
any question of their marrying. The girl must have preferred this
to begging help of him for the child, and living in the village with
an illegitimate child, an object of universal derision. And he had
certainly put a bold face on the matter, where many another would
have been ashamed and gone away on a long voyage.

This summer, two years after the girl went to prison, the fisherman
was going home one night along the shore toward the village with
some nets on his back. He was of a callous nature, and did not
hesitate to take the shortest way across the meadow; but when he
got in among the dunes, he saw a will-o'-the-wisp following in his
steps, grew frightened, and began to run. It began to gain upon him,
and when he leaped across the brook to put water between himself and
the spirit, it seized hold of the nets. At this he shouted the name
of God, and fled like one bereft of his senses. The next morning at
sunrise he and his father went to fetch the nets. They had caught
on the cairn, and lay right across the stream.

Then the young man joined the Revivalists, and his father abandoned
his riotous life and followed him. Early and late the young
fisherman was to be found at their meetings, and at other times
he went about like a malefactor with his head hanging down, only
waiting for the girl to come out of prison, so that he could marry
her.

Pelle was up in it all. The girls talked shudderingly about it as
they sat upon the men's knees in the long summer evenings, and a
lovesick fellow from inland had made up a ballad about it, which
Gustav sang to his concertina. Then all the girls on the farm wept,
and even Lively Sara's eyes filled with tears, and she began to talk
to Mons about engagement rings.

One day when Pelle was lying on his face in the grass, singing and
clapping his naked feet together in the clear air, he saw a young
man standing by the cairn and putting on it stones which he took out
of his pocket; after which he knelt down. Pelle went up to him.

"What are you doing?" he asked boldly, feeling that he was in his
own domain. "Are you saying your prayers?"

The man did not answer, but remained in a kneeling posture. At last
he rose, and spat out tobacco-juice.

"I'm praying to Him Who is to judge us all," he said, looking
steadily at Pelle.

Pelle recognized that look. It was the same in expression as that
of the man the other day--the one that had been sent by God. Only
there was no reproach in it.

"Haven't you any bed to sleep in then?" asked Pelle. "I always say
my prayers under the clothes. He hears them just as well! God knows
everything."

The young man nodded, and began moving about the stones on
the cairn.

"You mustn't hurt that," said Pelle firmly, "for there's a little
baby buried there."

The young man turned upon him a strange look.

"That's not true!" he said thickly; "for the child lies up in
the churchyard in consecrated earth."

"O--oh, inde--ed?" said Pelle, imitating his father's slow tones.
"But I know it was the parents that drowned it--and buried it here."
He was too proud of his knowledge to relinquish it without a word.

The man looked as if he were about to strike him, and Pelle
retreated a little, and then, having confidence in his legs,
he laughed openly. But the other seemed no longer aware of his
presence, and stood looking dully past the cairn. Pelle drew
nearer again.

The man started at Pelle's shadow, and heaved a deep sigh. "Is that
you?" he said apathetically, without looking at Pelle. "Why can't
you leave me alone?"

"It's _my_ field," said Pelle, "because I herd here; but you
may stay here if you won't hit me. And you mustn't touch the cairn,
because there's a little baby buried there."

The young man looked gravely at Pelle. "It's not true what you
say! How dare you tell such a lie? God hates a lie. But you're
a simple-hearted child, and I'll tell you all about it without
hiding anything, as truly as I only want to walk wholly in God's
sight."

Pelle looked at him uncomprehendingly. "I should think I ought to
know all about it," he said, "considering I know the whole song by
heart. I can sing it to you, if you like. It goes like this." Pelle
began to sing in a voice that was a little tremulous with shyness--

  "So happy are we in our childhood's first years,
    Neither sorrow nor sin is our mead;
  We play, and there's nought in our path to raise fears
    That it straight into prison doth lead.

  Right many there are that with voice sorrowful
    Must oft for lost happiness long.
  To make the time pass in this prison so dull,
    I now will write down all my song.

  I played with my father, with mother I played,
    And childhood's days came to an end;
  And when I had grown up into a young maid,
    I played still, but now with my friend.

  I gave him my day and I gave him my night,
    And never once thought of deceit;
  But when I him told of my sorrowful plight,
    My trust I had cause to regret.

  'I never have loved you,' he quickly did say;
    'Begone! I'll ne'er see you again!'
  He turned on his heel and went angry away.
    'Twas then I a murd'ress became."

Here Pelle paused in astonishment, for the grown-up man had sunk
forward as he sat, and he was sobbing. "Yes, it was wicked," he
said. "For then she killed her child and had to go to prison." He
spoke with a certain amount of contempt; he did not like men that
cried. "But it's nothing that you need cry about," he added
carelessly, after a little.

"Yes, it is; for she'd done nothing. It was the child's father that
killed it; it was me that did the dreadful thing; yes, I confess
that I'm a murderer! Haven't I openly enough acknowledged by
wrongdoing?" He turned his face upward, as though he were speaking
to God.

"Oh, was it you?" said Pelle, moving a little away from him. "Did
you kill your own child? Father Lasse could never have done that!
But then why aren't you in prison? Did you tell a lie, and say
_she'd_ done it?"

These words had a peculiar effect upon the fisherman. Pelle stood
watching him for a little, and then exclaimed: "You do talk so
queerly--'blop-blop-blop,' just as if you were from another country.
And what do you scrabble in the air with your fingers for, and cry?
Will you get a thrashing when you get home?"

At the word "cry," the man burst into a flood of tears. Pelle had
never seen any one cry so unrestrainedly. His face seemed all
blurred.

"Will you have a piece of my bread-and-butter?" he asked, by way of
offering comfort. "I've got some with sausage on."

The fisherman shook his head.

Pelle looked at the cairn. He was obstinate, and determined not
to give in.

"It _is_ buried there," he said. "I've seen its soul myself,
burning up on the top of the heap at night. That's because it can't
get into heaven."

A horrible sound came from the fisherman's lips, a hollow groan that
brought Pelle's little heart into his mouth. He began to jump up and
down in fear, and when he recovered his senses and stopped, he saw
the fisherman running with head bent low across the meadow, until
he disappeared among the dunes.

Pelle gazed after him in astonishment, and then moved slowly toward
his dinner-basket. The result of the encounter was, as far as it
had gone, a disappointment. He had sung to a perfect stranger, and
there was no denying that that was an achievement, considering how
difficult it often was only to answer "yes" or "no" to somebody
you'd never seen before. But he had hardly more than begun the
verses, and what made the performance remarkable was that he knew
the entire ballad by heart. He sang it now for his own benefit from
beginning to end, keeping count of the verses on his fingers; and
he found the most intense satisfaction in shouting it out at the
top of his voice.

In the evening he as usual discussed the events of the day with his
father, and he then understood one or two things that filled his
mind with uncomfortable thoughts. Father Lasse's was as yet the only
human voice that the boy wholly understood; a mere sigh or shake of
the head from the old man had a more convincing power than words
from any one else.

"Alas!" he said again and again. "Evil, evil everywhere; sorrow and
trouble wherever you turn! He'd willingly give his life to go to
prison in her stead, now it's too late! So he ran away when you
said that to him? Well, well, it's not easy to resist the Word of
God even from the lips of a child, when the conscience is sore; and
trading in the happiness of others is a bad way of earning a living.
But now see about getting your feet washed, laddie."

Life furnished enough to work at and struggle with, and a good deal
to dread; but worse almost than all that would harm Pelle himself,
were the glimpses he now and then had of the depths of humanity:
in the face of these his child's brain was powerless. Why did the
mistress cry so much and drink secretly? What went on behind the
windows in the big house? He could not comprehend it, and every time
he puzzled his little brain over it, the uncomfortable feeling only
seemed to stare out at him from all the window-panes, and sometimes
enveloped him in all the horror of the incomprehensible.

But the sun rode high in the heavens, and the nights were light.
The darkness lay crouching under the earth and had no power. And
he possessed the child's happy gift of forgetting instantly and
completely.



VI

Pelle had a quick pulse and much energy, and there was always
something that he was attempting to overtake in his restless onward
rush--if nothing else, then time itself. Now the rye was all in, now
the last stack disappeared from the field, the shadows grew longer
every day. But one evening the darkness surprised him before his
bedtime, and this made him serious. He no longer hastened on the
time, but tried to hold it back by many small sun-signs.

One day the men's midday rest was taken off. They harnessed the
horses again as soon as they had eaten their dinner, and the
chaff-cutting was put off until the evening. The horse-way lay on
the outer side of the stable, and none of the men cared to tramp
round out there in the dark, driving for the chaff-cutter, so Pelle
had to do it. Lasse protested and threatened to go to the farmer,
but it was of no use; every evening Pelle had to be out there for
a couple of hours. They were his nicest hours that they took from
him, the hours when he and Father Lasse pottered about in the
stable, and talked themselves happily through all the day's troubles
into a common bright future; and Pelle cried. When the moon chased
the clouds away and he could see everything round him distinctly,
he allowed his tears to run freely; but on dark evenings he was
quiet and held his breath. Sometimes when it rained it was so dark
that the farm and everything disappeared; and then he saw hundreds
of beings that at other times the light hid. They appeared out of
the darkness, terribly big, or came sliding up to him upon their
bellies. He grew rigid as he gazed, and could not take his eyes from
them. He sought shelter under the wall, and encouraged the horse
from there; and one evening he ran in. They chased him out again,
and he submitted to be chased, for when it came to the point he
was more afraid of the men inside than of the beings outside. But
one pitch-dark evening he was in an unusually bad way, and when he
discovered that the horse, his only comfort, was also afraid, he
dropped everything and ran in for the second time. Threats were
powerless to make him go out again, and blows equally so, and one
of the men took him up and carried him out; but then Pelle forgot
everything, and screamed till the house shook.

While they were struggling with him, the farmer came out. He was
very angry when he heard what was the matter, and blew the foreman
up sky high. Then he took Pelle by the hand, and went down with him
to the cow-stable. "A man like you to be afraid of a little dark!"
he said jokingly. "You must try to get the better of that. But if
the men harm you, just you come to me."

The plough went up and down the fields all day long, and made the
earth dark in color, the foliage became variegated, and there was
often sleet. The coats of the cattle grew thicker, their hair grew
long and stood up on their backs. Pelle had much to put up with,
and existence as a whole became a shade more serious. His clothing
did not become thicker and warmer with the cold weather like that
of the cattle; but he could crack his whip so that it sounded, in
the most successful attempts, like little shots; he could thrash
Rud when there was no unfairness, and jump across the stream at
its narrowest part. All that brought warmth to the body.

The flock now grazed all over the farm-lands, wherever the cows had
been tethered; the dairy-cows being now indoors; or they went inland
on the fens, where all the farms had each a piece of grass-land.
Here Pelle made acquaintance with herd-boys from the other farms,
and looked into quite another world that was not ruled by bailiff
and farm-pupil and thrashings, but where all ate at the same table,
and the mistress herself sat and spun wool for the herd-boys'
stockings. But he could never get in there, for they did not take
Swedes at the small farms, nor would the people of the island take
service together with them. He was sorry for this.

As soon as the autumn ploughing was started up on the fields, the
boys, according to old custom, took down the boundary-fences and let
all the animals graze together. The first few days it gave them more
to do, for the animals fought until they got to know one another.
They were never wholly mingled; they always grazed in patches, each
farm's flock by itself. The dinner-baskets were also put together,
and one boy was appointed in turn to mind the whole herd. The other
boys played at robbers up among the rocks, or ran about in the woods
or on the shore. When it was really cold they lighted bonfires, or
built fireplaces of flat stones, where they roasted apples and eggs
which they stole from the farms.

It was a glorious life, and Pelle was happy. It was true he was the
smallest of them all, and his being a Swede was a drawback to him.
In the midst of their play, the others would sometimes begin to
mimic his way of talking, and when he grew angry asked why he did
not draw his knife. But on the other hand he was from the biggest
farm, and was the only one that had bullocks in his herd; he was
not behind them in physical accomplishments, and none of them could
carve as he could. And it was his intention, when he grew big, to
thrash them all.

In the meantime he had to accommodate himself to circumstances,
ingratiate himself with the big ones, wherever he discovered there
was a flaw in their relations to one another, and be obliging. He
had to take his turn oftener than the others, and came off badly at
mealtimes. He submitted to it as something unavoidable, and directed
all his efforts toward getting the best that it was possible to get
out of the circumstances; but he promised himself, as has been said,
the fullest reparation when he grew big.

Once or twice it became too hot for him, and he left the community
and kept by himself; but he soon returned to the others again. His
little body was bursting with courage to live the life, and would
not let him shirk it; he must take his chance--eat his way through.

One day there came two new boys, who herded cattle from two farms
on the other side of the stone-quarry. They were twins, and their
names were Alfred and Albinus. They were tall, thin lads, who looked
as if they might have been half-starved when they were little; their
skin had a bluish tinge, and stood the cold badly. They were quick
and active, they could overtake the quickest calf, they could walk
on their hands and smoke at the same time, and not only vault but
really jump obstacles. They were not much good at fighting; they
were lacking in courage, and their ability forsook them in an
emergency.

There was something comical about the two brothers. "Here are the
twins, the twelvins!" cried the whole flock in greeting, the first
morning they appeared. "Well, how many times have you had a baby in
your house since last year?" They belonged to a family of twelve,
and among these there had twice been twins, and this of itself was
an inexhaustible source of raillery; and moreover they were half
Swedish. They shared the disadvantage with Pelle.

But nothing seemed to have any effect upon them; they grinned at
everything, and gave themselves away still more. From all he saw and
heard, Pelle could understand that there was something ridiculous
about their home in the eyes of the parish; but they did not mind
that. It was the fecundity of their parents that was the special
subject of derision, and the two boys quite happily exposed them
to ridicule, and would tell all about the most private home matters.
One day when the flock had been most persistent in calling
"Twelvins!" they said, grinning, that their mother would soon be
having a thirteenth. They were incapable of being wounded.

Every time they exposed their parents to ridicule, it hurt Pelle,
for his own feelings on this point were the most sacred that he had.
Try as he would, he could not understand them; he had to go to his
father with the matter one evening.

"So they mock and make fun of their own parents?" said Lasse. "Then
they'll never prosper in this world, for you're to honor your father
and mother. Good parents who have brought them into the world with
pain, and must toil hard, perhaps hunger and put up with much
themselves, to get food and clothing for them! Oh, it's a shame!
And you say their surname is Karlsson like ours, and that they live
on the heath behind the stone-quarry? Then they must be brother
Kalle's sons! Why, bless my soul, if I don't believe that's it! You
ask them tomorrow if their father hasn't a notch in his right ear!
I did it myself with a piece of a horse-shoe when we were little
boys one day I was in a rage with him because he made fun of me
before the others. He was just the same as those two, but he didn't
mean anything by it, there was nothing ill-natured about him."

The boys' father _had_ a notch in his right ear. Pelle and
they were thus cousins; and the way that both they and their parents
were made fun of was a matter for both laughter and tears. In a way,
Father Lasse too came in for a share of the ridicule, and that
thought was hardly to be endured.

The other boys quickly discovered Pelle's vulnerable point, and used
it for their own advantage; and Pelle had to give way and put up
with things in order to keep his father out of their conversation.
He did not always succeed, however. When they were in the mood, they
said quite absurd things about one another's homes. They were not
intended to be taken for more than they were worth, but Pelle did
not understand jokes on that head. One day one of the biggest boys
said to him: "Do you know, your father was the cause of his own
mother's having a child!" Pelle did not understand the play of words
in this coarse joke, but he heard the laughter of the others, and
becoming blind with rage, he flew at the big boy, and kicked him so
hard in the stomach, that he had to keep his bed for several days.

During those days, Pelle went about in fear and trembling. He dared
not tell his father what had happened, for then he would be obliged
to repeat the boy's ugly accusation, too; so he went about in dread
of the fatal consequences. The other boys had withdrawn themselves
from him, so as not to share the blame if anything came of it; the
boy was a farmer's son--the only one in the company--and they had
visions of the magistrate at the back of the affair, and perhaps a
caning at the town-hall. So Pelle went by himself with his cattle,
and had plenty of time to think about the event, which, by the
force of his lively imagination, grew larger and larger in its
consequences, until at last it almost suffocated him with terror.
Every cart he saw driving along the high-road sent a thrill through
him; and if it turned up toward Stone Farm, he could distinctly see
the policemen--three of them--with large handcuffs, just as they had
come to fetch Erik Erikson for ill-treating his wife. He hardly
dared drive the cattle home in the evening.

One morning the boy came herding over there with his cattle, and
there was a grown-up man with him, whom, from his clothes and
everything else about him, Pelle judged to be a farmer--was it the
boy's father? They stood over there for a little while, talking to
the herd-boys, and then came across toward him, with the whole pack
at their heels, the father holding his son by the hand.

The perspiration started from every pore of Pelle's body; his fear
prompted him to run away, but he stood his ground. Together the
father and son made a movement with their hand, and Pelle raised
both elbows to ward off a double box-on-the-ears.

But they only extended their hands. "I beg your pardon," said the
boy, taking one of Pelle's hands; "I beg your pardon," repeated the
father, clasping his other hand in his. Pelle stood in bewilderment,
looking from one to the other. At first he thought that the man was
the same as the one sent by God; but it was only his eyes--those
strange eyes. Then he suddenly burst into tears and forgot all else
in the relief they brought from the terrible anxiety. The two spoke
a few kind words to him, and quietly went away to let him be alone.

After this Pelle and Peter Kure became friends, and when Pelle
learnt to know him better, he discovered that sometimes the boy had
a little of the same look in his eyes as his father, and the young
fisherman, and the man that was sent by God. The remarkable course
that the event had taken occupied his mind for a long time. One day
a chance comparison of his experiences brought him to the discovery
of the connection between this mysterious expression in their eyes
and their remarkable actions; the people who had looked at him with
those eyes had all three done unexpected things. And another day it
dawned upon him that these people were _religious_; the boys
had quarrelled with Peter Kure that day, and had used the word as
a term of abuse against his parents.

There was one thing that was apparent, and outweighed everything,
even his victory. He had entered the lists with a boy who was bigger
and stronger than he, and had held his own, because for the first
time in his life he had struck out recklessly. If you wanted to
fight, you had to kick wherever it hurt most. If you only did that,
and had justice on your side, you might fight anybody, even a
farmer's son. These were two satisfactory discoveries, which for
the present nothing could disturb.

Then he had defended his father; that was something quite new and
important in his life. He required more space now.

At Michaelmas, the cattle were taken in, and the last of the day-
laborers left. During the summer, several changes had been made
among the regular servants at the farm, but now, at term-day, none
were changed; it was not the habit of Stone Farm to change servants
at the regular term-times.

So Pelle again helped his father with the foddering indoors.
By rights he should have begun to go to school, and a mild
representation of this fact was made to the farmer by the school
authorities; but the boy was very useful at home, as the care of
the cattle was too much for one man; and nothing more was heard
about the matter. Pelle was glad it was put off. He had thought
much about school in the course of the summer, and had invested it
with so much that was unfamiliar and great that he was now quite
afraid of it.



VII

Christmas Eve was a great disappointment. It was the custom for
the herd-boys to come out and spend Christmas at the farms where
they served in the summer, and Pelle's companions had told him
of all the delights of Christmas--roast meat and sweet drinks,
Christmas games and ginger-nuts and cakes; it was one endless
eating and drinking and playing of Christmas games, from the evening
before Christmas Eve until "Saint Knut carried Christmas out," on
January 7th. That was what it was like at all the small farms, the
only difference being that those who were religious did not play
cards, but sang hymns instead. But what they had to eat was just
as good.

The last few days before Christmas Pelle had to get up at two or
half-past two to help the girls pluck poultry, and the old thatcher
Holm to heat the oven. With this his connection with the delights
of Christmas came to an end. There was dried cod and boiled rice on
Christmas Eve, and it tasted good enough; but of all the rest there
was nothing. There were a couple of bottles of brandy on the table
for the men, that was all. The men were discontented and quarrelsome.
They poured milk and boiled rice into the leg of the stocking that
Karna was knitting, so that she was fuming the whole evening; and
then sat each with his girl on his knee, and made ill-natured
remarks about everything. The old farm-laborers and their wives,
who had been invited to partake of the Christmas fare, talked about
death and all the ills of the world.

Upstairs there was a large party. All the wife's relations were
invited, and they were hard at work on the roast goose. The yard was
full of conveyances, and the only one of the farm-servants who was
in good spirits was the head man, who received all the tips. Gustav
was in a thoroughly bad humor, for Bodil was upstairs helping to
wait. He had brought his concertina over, and was playing love-songs.
It was putting them into better spirits, and the evil expression was
leaving their eyes; one after another they started singing, and it
began to be quite comfortable down there. But just then a message
came to say that they must make less noise, so the assembly broke up,
the old people going home, and the young ones dispersing in couples
according to the friendships of the moment.

Lasse and Pelle went to bed.

"What's Christmas really for?" asked Pelle.

Lasse rubbed his thigh reflectively.

"It has to be," he answered hesitatingly. "Yes, and then it's the
time when the year turns round and goes upward, you see! And of
course it's the night when the Child Jesus was born, too!" It took
him a long time to produce this last reason, but when it did come
it was with perfect assurance. "Taking one thing with another, you
see," he added, after a short pause.

On the day after Christmas Day there was a kind of subscription
merrymaking at an enterprising crofter's down in the village; it
was to cost two and a half krones a couple for music, sandwiches,
and spirits in the middle of the night, and coffee toward morning.
Gustav and Bodil were going. Pelle at any rate saw a little of
Christmas as it passed, and was as interested in it as if it
concerned himself; and he gave Lasse no rest from his questions
that day. So Bodil was still faithful to Gustav, after all!

When they got up the next morning, they found Gustav lying on the
ground by the cow-stable door, quite helpless, and his good clothes
in a sad state. Bodil was not with him. "Then she's deceived him,"
said Lasse, as they helped him in. "Poor boy! Only seventeen, and
a wounded heart already! The women'll be his ruin one of these days,
you'll see!"

At midday, when the farm-laborers' wives came to do the milking,
Lasso's supposition was confirmed: Bodil had attached herself to a
tailor's apprentice from the village, and had left with him in the
middle of the night. They laughed pityingly at Gustav, and for some
time after he had to put up with their gibes at his ill-success;
but there was only one opinion about Bodil. She was at liberty to
come and go with whomsoever she liked, but as long as Gustav was
paying for her amusements, she ought to have kept to him. Who but
the neighbor would keep the hens that ate their grain at home and
laid their eggs at the neighbor's?

There had as yet been no opportunity to visit Lasse's brother beyond
the stone-quarry, but it was to be done on the second day of the new
year. Between Christmas and the New Year the men did nothing after
dark, and it was the custom everywhere to help the herdsman with
his evening occupations. There was nothing of that here; Lasse was
too old to assert himself, and Pelle too little. They might think
themselves lucky they did not have to do the foddering for the men
who went out as well as their own.

But to-day it was to come off; Gustav and Long Ole had undertaken
to do the evening work. Pelle began to look forward to it as soon
as he was up--he was up every day by half-past three. But as Lasse
used to say, if you sing before breakfast you'll weep before night.

After dinner, Gustav and Ole were standing grinding chopping knives
down in the lower yard. The trough leaked, and Pelle had to pour
water on the grindstone out of an old kettle. His happiness could
be seen on his face.

"What are you so pleased about?" asked Gustav. "Your eyes are
shining like the cat's in the dark."

Pelle told him.

"I'm afraid you won't get away!" said Ole, winking at Gustav.
"We shan't get the chaff cut time enough to do the foddering.
This grindstone's so confoundedly hard to turn, too. If only that
handle-turner hadn't been broken!"

Pelle pricked up his ears. "Handle-turner? What's that?" he asked.

Gustav sprang round the grindstone, and slapped his thigh in
enjoyment of the joke.

"My goodness, how stupid you are! Don't you even know what a
handle-turner is? It's a thing you only need to put on to the
grindstone, and it turns it by itself. They've got one by-the-way
over at Kaase Farm," he said, turning to Ole; "if only it wasn't
so far away."

"Is it heavy?" asked Pelle, in a low voice; everything depended
upon the answer. "Can I lift it?" His voice trembled.

"Oh, no, not so awfully heavy. You could carry it quite well. But
you'd have to be very careful."

"I can run over and fetch it; I'll carry it very carefully." Pelle
looked at them with a face that could not but inspire confidence.

"Very well; but take a sack with you to put it in. And you'll have
to be as careful as the very devil, for it's an expensive thing."

Pelle found a sack and ran off across the fields. He was as
delighted as a young kid, plucking at himself and everything as
he ran, and jumping aside to frighten the crows. He was overflowing
with happiness. He was saving the expedition for himself and Father
Lasse. Gustav and Ole were good men! He would get back as quickly
as possible, so that they should not have to toil any more at the
grindstone. "What, are you back already?" they would say, and open
their eyes. "Then you must have smashed that precious machine on
the way!" And they would take it carefully out of the sack, and it
would be quite safe and sound. "Well, you are a wonder of a boy!
a perfect prince!" they would say.

When he got to Kaase Farm, they wanted him to go in to a Christmas
meal while they were putting the machine into the sack; but Pelle
said "No" and held to it: he had not time. So they gave him a
piece of cold apple out on the steps, so that he should not carry
Christmas away. They all looked so pleasant, and every one came out
when he hoisted the sack on his back and set off home. They too
recommended him to be very careful, and seemed anxious, as if he
could hardly realize what he was carrying.

It was a good mile between the farms, but it was an hour and a half
before Pelle reached home, and then he was ready to drop. He dared
not put down the sack to rest, but stumbled on step by step, only
resting once by leaning against a stone fence. When at last he
staggered into the yard, every one came up to see the neighbor's
new handle-turner; and Pelle was conscious of his own importance
when Ole carefully lifted the sack from his back. He leaned for
a moment over toward the wall before he regained his balance; the
ground was so strange to tread upon now he was rid of his burden;
it pushed him away. But his face was radiant.

Gustav opened the sack, which was securely closed, and shook out
its contents upon the stone pavement. They were pieces of brick,
a couple of old ploughshares, and other similar things. Pelle stared
in bewilderment and fear at the rubbish, looking as if he had just
dropped from another planet; but when laughter broke out on all
sides, he understood what it all meant, and, crouching down, hid
his face in his hands. He would not cry--not for the world; they
should not have that satisfaction. He was sobbing in his heart, but
he kept his lips tightly closed. His body tingled with rage. The
beasts! The wicked devils! Suddenly he kicked Gustav on the leg.

"Aha, so he kicks, does he?" exclaimed Gustav, lifting him up into
the air. "Do you want to see a little imp from Smaaland?" Pelle
covered his face with his arms and kicked to be let down; and he
also made an attempt to bite. "Eh, and he bites, too, the little
devil!" Gustav had to hold him firmly so as to manage him. He held
him by the collar, pressing his knuckles against the boy's throat
and making him gasp, while he spoke with derisive gentleness. "A
clever youngster, this! He's scarcely out of long clothes, and
wants to fight already!" Gustav went on tormenting him; it looked
as if he were making a display of his superior strength.

"Well, now we've seen that you're the strongest," said the head
man at last, "so let him go!" and when Gustav did not respond
immediately, he received a blow from a clenched fist between his
shoulder-blades. Then the boy was released, and went over to the
stable to Lasse, who had seen the whole thing, but had not dared
to approach. He could do nothing, and his presence would only have
done harm.

"Yes, and then there's our outing, laddie," he explained, by way of
excuse, while he was comforting the boy. "I could very well thrash a
puppy like Gustav, but if I did we shouldn't get away this evening,
for he wouldn't do our work. And none of the others, either, for
they all stick together like burrs. But you can do it yourself! I
verily believe you'd kick the devil himself, right on his club-foot!
Well, well, it was well done; but you must be careful not to waste
your powder and shot. It doesn't pay!"

The boy was not so easily comforted now. Deep down in his heart
the remembrance of his injury lay and pained him, because he had
acted in such good faith, and they had wounded him in his ready,
cheerful confidence. What had happened had also stung his pride;
he had walked into a trap, made a fool of himself for them. The
incident burnt into his soul, and greatly influenced his subsequent
development. He had already found out that a person's word was not
always to be relied upon, and he had made awkward attempts to get
behind it. Now he would trust nobody straight away any more; and he
had discovered how the secret was to be found out. You only had to
look at people's eyes when they said anything. Both here and at
Kaase Farm the people had looked so strange about the handle-turner,
as if they were laughing inside. And the bailiff had laughed that
time when he promised them roast pork and stewed rhubarb every day.
They hardly ever got anything but herring and porridge. People
talked with two tongues; Father Lasse was the only one who did not
do it.

Pelle began to be observant of his own face. It was the face that
spoke, and that was why it went badly with him when he tried to
escape a thrashing by telling a white lie. And to-day's misfortune
had been the fault of his face; if you felt happy, you mustn't show
it. He had discovered the danger of letting his mind lie open, and
his small organism set to work diligently to grow hard skin to draw
over its vital parts.

After supper they set off across the fields, hand in hand as usual.
As a rule, Pelle chattered unceasingly when they were by themselves;
but this evening he was quieter. The event of the afternoon was
still in his mind, and the coming visit gave him a feeling of
solemnity.

Lasse carried a red bundle in his hand, in which was a bottle of
black-currant rum, which they had got Per Olsen to buy in the town
the day before, when he had been in to swear himself free. It had
cost sixty-six ores, and Pelle was turning something over in his
mind, but did not know whether it would do.

"Father!" he said at last. "Mayn't I carry that a little way?"

"Gracious! Are you crazy, boy? It's an expensive article! And you
might drop it."

"I wouldn't drop it. Well, only hold it for a little then? Mayn't
I, father? Oh do, father!"

"Eh, what an idea! I don't know what you'll be like soon, if you
aren't stopped! Upon my word, I think you must be ill, you're
getting so tiresome!" And Lasse went on crossly for a little while,
but then stopped and bent down over the boy.

"Hold it then, you little silly, but be very careful! And you
mustn't move a single step while you've got it, mind!"

Pelle clasped the bottle to his body with his arms, for he dared not
trust his hands, and pushed out his stomach as far as possible to
support it. Lasse stood with his hands extended beneath the bottle,
ready to catch it if it fell.

"There! That'll do!" he said anxiously, and took the bottle.

"It _is_ heavy!" said Pelle, admiringly, and went on
contentedly, holding his father's hand.

"But why had he to swear himself free?" he suddenly asked.

"Because he was accused by a girl of being the father of her child.
Haven't you heard about it?"

Pelle nodded. "Isn't he, then? Everybody says he is."

"I can hardly believe it; it would be certain damnation for Per
Olsen. But, of course, the girl says it's him and no one else. Ah
me! Girls are dangerous playthings! You must take care when your
time comes, for they can bring misfortune upon the best of men."

"How do you swear, then? Do you say 'Devil take me'?"

Lasse could not help laughing. "No, indeed! That wouldn't be very
good for those that swear false. No, you see, in the court all God's
highest ministers are sitting round a table that's exactly like a
horseshoe, and beyond that again there's an altar with the crucified
Christ Himself upon it. On the altar lies a big, big book that's
fastened to the wall with an iron chain, so that the devil can't
carry it off in the night, and that's God's Holy Word. When a man
swears, he lays his left hand upon the book, and holds up his right
hand with three fingers in the air; they're God the Father, Son and
Holy Ghost. But if he swears false, the Governor can see it at once,
because then there are red spots of blood on the leaves of the
book."

"And what then?" asked Pelle, with deep interest.

"Well, then his three fingers wither, and it goes on eating itself
into his body. People like that suffer frightfully; they rot right
away."

"Don't they go to hell, then?"

"Yes, they do that too, except when they give themselves up and take
their punishment, and then they escape in the next life; but they
can't escape withering away."

"Why doesn't the Governor take them himself and punish them, when
he can see in that book that they swore false?"

"Why, because then they'd get off going to hell, and there's an
agreement with Satan that he's to have all those that don't give
themselves up, don't you see?"

Pelle shuddered, and for a little while walked on in silence beside
his father; but when he next spoke, he had forgotten all about it.

"I suppose Uncle Kalle's rich, isn't he?" he asked.

"He can't be rich, but he's a land-owner, and that's not a little
thing!" Lasse himself had never attained to more than renting land.

"When I grow up, I mean to have a great big farm," said Pelle, with
decision.

"Yes, I've no doubt you will," said Lasse, laughing. Not that he
also did not expect something great of the boy, if not exactly a
large farmer. There was no saying, however. Perhaps some farmer's
daughter might fall in love with him; the men of his family
generally had an attraction for women. Several of them had given
proof of it--his brother, for instance, who had taken the fancy
of a parson's wife. Then Pelle would have to make the most of his
opportunity so that the family would be ashamed to oppose the match.
And Pelle was good enough. He had that "cow's-lick" on his forehead,
fine hair at the back of his neck, and a birth-mark on his hip; and
that all betokened luck. Lasse went on talking to himself as he
walked, calculating the boy's future with large, round figures,
that yielded a little for him too; for, however great his future
might be, it would surely come in time to allow of Lasse's sharing
and enjoying it in his very old age.

They went across country toward the stone-quarry, following stone
dikes and snow-filled ditches, and working their way through the
thicket of blackthorn and juniper, behind which lay the rocks and
"the Heath." They made their way right into the quarry, and tried
in the darkness to find the place where the dross was thrown, for
that would be where the stone-breaking went on.

A sound of hammering came from the upper end of the ground, and they
discovered lights in several places. Beneath a sloping straw screen,
from which hung a lantern, sat a little, broad man, hammering away
at the fragments. He worked with peculiar vivacity--struck three
blows and pushed the stones to one side, another three blows, and
again to one side; and while with one hand he pushed the pieces
away, with the other he placed a fresh fragment in position on the
stone. It went as busily and evenly as the ticking of a watch.

"Why, if that isn't Brother Kalle sitting there!" said Lasse, in
a voice of surprise as great as if the meeting were a miracle from
heaven. "Good evening, Kalle Karlsson! How are you?"

The stone-breaker looked up.

"Oh, there you are, brother!" he said, rising with difficulty; and
the two greeted one another as if they had met only the day before.
Kalle collected his tools and laid the screen down upon them while
they talked.

"So you break stones too? Does that bring in anything?" asked Lasse.

"Oh, not very much. We get twelve krones a 'fathom' and when I work
with a lantern morning and evening, I can break half a fathom in a
week. It doesn't pay for beer, but we live anyhow. But it's awfully
cold work; you can't keep warm at it, and you get so stiff with
sitting fifteen hours on the cold stone--as stiff as if you were
the father of the whole world." He was walking stiffly in front of
the others across the heath toward a low, hump-backed cottage.

"Ah, there comes the moon, now there's no use for it!" said Kalle,
whose spirits were beginning to rise. "And, my word, what a sight
the old dormouse looks! He must have been at a New Year's feast
in heaven."

"You're the same merry devil that you were in the old days," said
Lasse.

"Well, good spirits'll soon be the only thing to be had without
paying for."

The wall of the house stuck out in a large round lump on one side,
and Pelle had to go up to it to feel it all over. It was most
mysterious what there might be on the other side--perhaps a secret
chamber? He pulled his father's hand inquiringly.

"That? That's the oven where they bake their bread," said Lasse.
"It's put there to make more room."

After inviting them to enter, Kalle put his head in at a door that
led from the kitchen to the cowshed. "Hi, Maria! You must put your
best foot foremost!" he called in a low voice. "The midwife's here!"

"What in the world does she want? It's a story, you old fool!" And
the sound of milk squirting into the pail began again.

"A story, is it? No, but you must come in and go to bed; she says
it's high time you did. You are keeping up much too long this year.
Mind what you say," he whispered into the cowshed, "for she is really
here! And be quick!"

They went into the room, and Kalle went groping about to light a
candle. Twice he took up the matches and dropped them again to light
it at the fire, but the peat was burning badly. "Oh, bother!" he
said, resolutely striking a match at last. "We don't have visitors
every day."

"Your wife's Danish," said Lasse, admiringly. "And you've got
a cow too?"

"Yes, it's a biggish place here," said Kalle, drawing himself up.
"There's a cat belonging to the establishment too, and as many rats
as it cares to eat."

His wife now appeared, breathless, and looking in astonishment at
the visitors.

"Yes, the midwife's gone again," said Kalle. "She hadn't time
to-day; we must put it off till another time. But these are
important strangers, so you must blow your nose with your fingers
before you give them your hand!"

"Oh, you old humbug! You can't take me in. It's Lasse, of course,
and Pelle!" And she held out her hand. She was short, like her
husband, was always smiling, and had bowed arms and legs just as
he had. Hard work and their cheerful temperament gave them both
a rotund appearance.

"There are no end of children here," said Lasse, looking about him.
There were three in the turn-up bedstead under the window--two small
ones at one end, and a long, twelve-year-old boy at the other, his
black feet sticking out between the little girls' heads; and other
beds were made up on chairs, in an old kneading-trough, and on the
floor.

"Ye-es; we've managed to scrape together a few," said Kalle,
running about in vain to get something for his visitors to sit
upon; everything was being used as beds. "You'll have to spit on
the floor and sit down on that," he said, laughing.

His wife came in, however, with a washing-bench and an empty
beer-barrel.

"Sit you down and rest," she said, placing the seats round the
table. "And you must really excuse it, but the children must be
somewhere."

Kalle squeezed himself in and sat down upon the edge of the turn-up
bedstead. "Yes, we've managed to scrape together a few," he repeated.
"You must provide for your old age while you have the strength.
We've made up the dozen, and started on the next. It wasn't exactly
our intention, but mother's gone and taken us in." He scratched the
back of his head, and looked the picture of despair.

His wife was standing in the middle of the room. "Let's hope it
won't be twins this time too," she said, laughing.

"Why, that would be a great saving, as we shall have to send for
the midwife anyhow. People say of mother," he went on, "that when
she's put the children to bed she has to count them to make sure
they're all there; but that's not true, because she can't count
farther than ten."

Here a baby in the alcove began to cry, and the mother took it up
and seated herself on the edge of the turn-up bedstead to nurse it.
"And this is the smallest," he said, holding it out toward Lasse,
who put a crooked finger down its neck.

"What a little fatty!" he said softly; he was fond of children.
"And what's its name?"

"She's called Dozena Endina, because when she came we thought that
was to be the last; and she was the twelfth too."

"Dozena Endina! That's a mighty fine name!" exclaimed Lasse. "It
sounds exactly as if she might be a princess."

"Yes, and the one before's called Ellen--from eleven, of course.
That's her in the kneading-trough," said Kalle. "The one before
that again is Tentius, and then Nina, and Otto. The ones before that
weren't named in that way, for we hadn't thought then that there'd
be so many. But that's all mother's fault; if she only puts a patch
on my working-trousers, things go wrong at once."

"You ought to be ashamed of yourself, trying to get out of it like
that," said his wife, shaking her finger at him. "But as for that,"
she went on, turning to Lasse, "I'm sure the others have nothing
to complain of either, as far as their names are concerned. Albert,
Anna, Alfred, Albinus, Anton, Alma and Alvilda--let me see, yes,
that's the lot. None of them can say they've not been treated
fairly. Father was all for A at that time; they were all to rhyme
with A. Poetry's always come so easy to him." She looked admiringly
at her husband.

Kalle blinked his eyes in bashfulness. "No, but it's the first
letter, you see, and it sounds pretty," he said modestly.

"Isn't he clever to think of a thing like that? He ought to have
been a student. Now _my_ head would never have been any good
for anything of that sort. He wanted, indeed, to have the names
both begin and end with A, but that wouldn't do with the boys, so
he had to give that up. But then he hasn't had any book-learning
either."

"Oh, that's too bad, mother! I didn't give it up. I'd made up a name
for the first boy that had A at the end too; but then the priest and
the clerk objected, and I had to let it go. They objected to Dozena
Endina too, but I put my foot down; for I can be angry if I'm
irritated too long. I've always liked to have some connection and
meaning in everything; and it's not a bad idea to have something
that those who look deeper can find out. Now, have you noticed
anything special about two of these names?"

"No," answered Lasse hesitatingly, "I don't know that I have. But
I haven't got a head for that sort of thing either."

"Well, look here! Anna and Otto are exactly the same, whether you
read them forward or backward--exactly the same. I'll just show
you." He took down a child's slate that was hanging on the wall with
a stump of slate-pencil, and began laboriously to write the names.
"Now, look at this, brother!"

"I can't read," said Lasse, shaking his head hopelessly. "Does
it really give the same both ways? The deuce! That _is_
remarkable!" He could not get over his astonishment.

"But now comes something that's still more remarkable," said Kalle,
looking over the top of the slate at his brother with the gaze of
a thinker surveying the universe. "Otto, which can be read from both
ends, means, of course, eight; but if I draw the figure 8, it can be
turned upside down, and still be the same. Look here!" He wrote the
figure eight.

Lasse turned the slate up and down, and peered at it.

"Yes, upon my word, it is the same! Just look here, Pelle! It's like
the cat that always comes down upon its feet, no matter how you drop
it. Lord bless my soul! how nice it must be to be able to spell! How
did you learn it, brother?"

"Oh," said Kalle, in a tone of superiority. "I've sat and looked on
a little when mother's been teaching the children their ABC. It's
nothing at all if your upper story's all right."

"Pelle'll be going to school soon," said Lasse reflectively. "And
then perhaps _I_ could--for it would be nice. But I don't
suppose I've got the head for it, do you? No, I'm sure I haven't
got the head for it," he repeated in quite a despairing tone.

Kalle did not seem inclined to contradict him, but Pelle made up his
mind that some day he would teach his father to read and write--much
better than Uncle Kalle could.

"But we're quite forgetting that we brought a Christmas bottle
with us!" said Lasse, untying the handkerchief.

"You _are_ a fellow!" exclaimed Kalle, walking delightedly
round the table on which the bottle stood. "You couldn't have
given us anything better, brother; it'll come in handy for the
christening-party. 'Black Currant Rum'--and with a gold border--how
grand!" He held the label up toward the light, and looked round with
pleasure in his eyes. Then he hesitatingly opened the cupboard in
the wall.

"The visitors ought to taste what they brought," said his wife.

"That's just what was bothering me!" said Kalle, turning round with
a disconsolate laugh. "For they ought, of course. But if the cork's
once drawn, you know how it disappears." He reached out slowly for
the corkscrew which hung on a nail.

But Lasse would not hear of it; he would not taste the beverage for
the world. Was black-currant rum a thing for a poor beggar like him
to begin drinking--and on a weekday, too? No, indeed!

"Yes, and you'll be coming to the christening-party, you two, of
course," said Kalle, relieved, putting the bottle into the cupboard.
"But we'll have a 'cuckoo,' for there's a drop of spirits left from
Christmas Eve, and I expect mother'll give us coffee."

"I've got the coffee on," answered his wife cheerfully.

"Did you ever know such a wife! You can never wish for anything but
what it's there already!"

Pelle wondered where his two herding-comrades, Alfred and Albinus,
were. They were away at their summer places, taking their share of
the good Christmas fare, and would not be back before "Knut." "But
this fellow here's not to be despised," said Kalle, pointing to
the long boy in the turn-up bed. "Shall we have a look at him?" And,
pulling out a straw, he tickled the boy's nose with it. "Get up, my
good Anton, and harness the horses to the wheelbarrow! We're going
to drive out in state."

The boy sat up and began to rub his eyes, to Kalle's great delight.
At last he discovered that there were strangers present, and drew
on his clothes, which had been doing duty as his pillow. Pelle and
he became good friends at once, and began to play; and then Kalle
hit upon the idea of letting the other children share in the
merry-making, and he and the two boys went round and tickled them
awake, all the six. His wife protested, but only faintly; she was
laughing all the time, and herself helped them to dress, while she
kept on saying: "Oh, what foolishness! Upon my word, I never knew
the like of it! Then this one shan't be left out either!" she added
suddenly, drawing the youngest out of the alcove.

"Then that's the eight," said Kalle, pointing to the flock. "They
fill the room well, don't they? Alma and Alvilda are twins, as
you can see. And so are Alfred and Albinus, who are away now for
Christmas. They're going to be confirmed next summer, so they'll
be off my hands."

"Then where are the two eldest?" asked Lasse.

"Anna's in service in the north, and Albert's at sea, out with
a whaler just now. He's a fine fellow. He sent us his portrait
in the autumn. Won't you show it us, Maria?"

His wife began slowly to look for it, but could not find it.

"I think I know where it is, mother," said one of the little girls
over and over again; but as no one heard what she said, she climbed
up on to the bench, and took down an old Bible from the shelf. The
photograph was in it.

"He is a fine fellow, and no mistake!" said Lasse. "There's a pair
of shoulders! He's not like our family; it must be from yours,
Maria, that he's got that carriage."

"He's a Kongstrup," said Kalle, in a low tone.

"Oh, indeed, is he?" said Lasse hesitatingly, recollecting Johanna
Pihl's story.

"Maria was housemaid at the farm, and he talked her over as he has
done with so many. It was before my time, and he did what he ought."

Maria was standing looking from one to the other of them with
a meaningless smile, but her forehead was flushed.

"There's gentle blood in that boy," said Kalle admiringly. "He holds
his head differently from the others. And he's good--so tremendously
good." Maria came slowly up to him, leaned her arm upon his shoulder,
and looked at the picture with him. "He is good, isn't he, mother?"
said Kalle, stroking her face.

"And so well-dressed he is too!" exclaimed Lasse.

"Yes, he takes care of his money. He's not dissipated, like his
father; and he's not afraid of parting with a ten-krone note when
he's at home here on a visit."

There was a rustling at the inner door, and a little, wrinkled old
woman crept out onto the threshold, feeling her way with her feet,
and holding her hands before her face to protect it. "Is any one
dead?" she asked as she faced the room.

"Why, there's grandmother!" said Kalle. "I thought you'd be in
your bed."

"And so I was, but then I heard there were strangers here, and one
likes to hear the news. Have there been any deaths in the parish?"

"No, grandmother, there haven't. People have something better to
do than to die. Here's some one come to court you, and that's much
better. This is mother-in-law," he said, turning to the others;
"so you can guess what she's like."

"Just you come here, and I'll mother-in-law you!" said the old lady,
with a feeble attempt to enter into the gaiety. "Well, welcome to
this house then," she said, extending her hand.

Kalle stretched his out first, but as soon as she touched it, she
pushed it aside, saying: "Do you think I don't know you, you fool?"
She felt Lasse's and Pelle's hands for a long time with her soft
fingers before she let them go. "No, I don't know you!" she said.

"It's Brother Lasse and his son down from Stone Farm," Kalle
informed her at last.

"Aye, is it really? Well, I never! And you've come over the sea too!
Well, here am I, an old body, going about here quite alone; and I've
lost my sight too."

"But you're not _quite_ alone, grandmother," said Kalle,
laughing. "There are two grown-ups and half a score of children
about you all day long."

"Ah yes, you can say what you like, but all those I was young with
are dead now, and many others that I've seen grow up. Every week
some one that I know dies, and here am I still living, only to be
a burden to others."

Kalle brought in the old lady's arm-chair from her room, and
made her sit down. "What's all that nonsense about?" he said
reproachfully. "Why, you pay for yourself!"

"Pay! Oh dear! They get twenty krones a year for keeping me,"
said the old woman to the company in general.

The coffee came in, and Kalle poured brandy into the cups of all
the elder people. "Now, grandmother, you must cheer up!" he said,
touching her cup with his. "Where the pot boils for twelve, it boils
for the thirteenth as well. Your health, grandmother, and may you
still live many years to be a burden to us, as you call it!"

"Yes, I know it so well, I know it so well," said the old woman,
rocking backward and forward. "You mean so well by it all. But with
so little wish to live, it's hard that I should take the food out of
the others' mouths. The cow eats, and the cat eats, the children eat,
we all eat; and where are you, poor things, to get it all from!"

"Say 'poor thing' to him who has no head, and pity him who has
two," said Kalle gaily.

"How much land have you?" asked Lasse.

"Five acres; but it's most of it rock."

"Can you manage to feed the cow on it then?"

"Last year it was pretty bad. We had to pull the roof off the
outhouse, and use it for fodder last winter; and it's thrown us
back a little. But dear me, it made the loft all the higher." Kalle
laughed. "And now there'll always be more and more of the children
getting able to keep themselves."

"Don't those who are grown up give a hand too?" asked Lasse.

"How can they? When you're young, you can use what you've got
yourself. They must take their pleasures while there's time; they
hadn't many while they were children, and once they're married and
settled they'll have something else to think about. Albert is good
enough when he's at home on a visit; last time he gave us ten krones
and a krone to each of the children. But when they're out, you know
how the money goes if they don't want to look mean beside their
companions. Anna's one of those who can spend all they get on
clothes. She's willing enough to do without, but she never has
a farthing, and hardly a rag to her body, for all that she's
for ever buying."

"No, she's the strangest creature," said her mother. "She never
can make anything do."

The turn-up bedstead was shut to give room to sit round the table,
and an old pack of cards was produced. Every one was to play except
the two smallest, who were really too little to grasp a card; Kalle
wanted, indeed, to have them too, but it could not be managed. They
played beggar-my-neighbor and Black Peter. Grandmother's cards had
to be read out to her.

The conversation still went on among the elder people.

"How do you like working for the farmer at Stone Farm?" asked Kalle.

"We don't see much of the farmer himself; he's pretty nearly always
out, or sleeping after a night on the loose. But he's nice enough
in other ways; and it's a house where they feed you properly."

"Well, there are places where the food's worse," said Kalle, "but
there can't be many. Most of them, certainly, are better."

"Are they really?" asked Lasse, in surprise. "Well, I don't complain
as far as the food's concerned; but there's a little too much for
us two to do, and then it's so miserable to hear that woman crying
nearly the whole time. I wonder if he ill-treats her; they say not."

"I'm sure he doesn't," said Kalle. "Even if he wanted to--as you
can very well understand he might--he dursn't. He's afraid of her,
for she's possessed by a devil, you know."

"They say she's a were-wolf at night," said Lasse, looking as if
he expected to see a ghost in one of the corners.

"She's a poor body, who has her own troubles," said Maria, "and
every woman knows a little what that means. And the farmer's not
all kindness either, even if he doesn't beat her. She feels his
unfaithfulness more than she'd feel anything else."

"Oh, you wives always take one another's part," said Kalle, "but
other people have eyes too. What do _you_ say, grandmother?
You know that better than any one else."

"Well, I know something about it at any rate," said the old woman.
"I remember the time when Kongstrup came to the island as well as
if it had been yesterday. He owned nothing more than the clothes
he wore, but he was a fine gentleman for all that, and lived in
Copenhagen."

"What did he want over here?" asked Lasse.

"What did he want? To look for a young girl with money, I suppose.
He wandered about on the heath here with his gun, but it wasn't
foxes he was after. She was fooling about on the heath too, admiring
the wild scenery, and nonsense like that, and behaving half like
a man, instead of being kept at home and taught to spin and make
porridge; but she was the only daughter, and was allowed to go on
just as she liked. And then she meets this spark from the town, and
they become friends. He was a curate or a pope, or something of the
sort, so you can't wonder that the silly girl didn't know what she
was doing."

"No, indeed!" said Lasse.

"There's always been something all wrong with the women of that
family," the old woman continued. "They say one of them once gave
herself to Satan, and since then he's had a claim upon them and
ill-treats them whenever the moon's waning, whether they like it
or not. He has no power over the pure, of course; but when these two
had got to know one another, things went wrong with her too. He must
have noticed it, and tried to get off, for they said that the old
farmer of Stone Farm compelled him with his gun to take her for his
wife; and he was a hard old dog, who'd have shot a man down as soon
as look at him. But he was a peasant through and through, who wore
home-woven clothes, and wasn't afraid of working from sunrise to
sunset. It wasn't like what it is now, with debts and drinking and
card-playing, so people had something then."

"Well, now they'd like to thresh the corn while it's still standing,
and they sell the calves before they're born," said Kalle. "But I
say, grandmother, you're Black Peter!"

"That comes of letting one's tongue run on and forgetting to look
after one's self!" said the old lady.

"Grandmother's got to have her face blacked!" cried the children.
She begged to be let off, as she was just washed for the night;
but the children blacked a cork in the stove and surrounded her,
and she was given a black streak down her nose. Every one laughed,
both old and young, and grandmother laughed with them, saying it
was a good thing she could not see it herself. "It's an ill wind,"
she said, "that blows nobody any good. But I should like to have my
sight again," she went on, "if it's only for five minutes, before
I die. It would be nice to see it all once more, now that the trees
and everything have grown so, as Kalle says they have. The whole
country must have changed. And I've never seen the youngest children
at all."

"They say that they can take blindness away over in Copenhagen,"
said Kalle to his brother.

"It would cost a lot of money, wouldn't it?" asked Lasse.

"It would cost a hundred krones at the very least," the grandmother
remarked.

Kalle looked thoughtful. "If we were to sell the whole blooming
thing, it would be funny if there wasn't a hundred krones over.
And then grandmother could have her sight again."

"Goodness gracious me!" exclaimed the old woman. "Sell your house
and home! You must be out of your mind! Throw away a large capital
upon an old, worn-out thing like me, that has one foot in the grave!
I couldn't wish for anything better than what I have!" She had tears
in her eyes. "Pray God I mayn't bring about such a misfortune in my
old age!"

"Oh, rubbish! We're still young," said Kalle. "We could very well
begin something new, Maria and me."

"Have none of you heard how Jacob Kristian's widow is?" asked the
old lady by way of changing the subject. "I've got it into my head
that she'll go first, and then me. I heard the crow calling over
there last night."

"That's our nearest neighbor on the heath," explained Kalle. "Is she
failing now? There's been nothing the matter with her this winter
that I know of."

"Well, you may be sure there's something," said the old woman
positively. "Let one of the children run over there in the morning."

"Yes, if you've had warning. Jacob Kristian gave good enough warning
himself when he went and died. But we were good friends for many
years, he and me."

"Did he show himself?" asked Lasse solemnly.

"No; but one night--nasty October weather it was--I was woke by
a knocking at the outside door. That's a good three years ago.
Maria heard it too, and we lay and talked about whether I should
get up. We got no further than talking, and we were just dropping
off again, when the knocking began again. I jumped up, put on a
pair of trousers, and opened the door a crack, but there was no one
there. 'That's strange!' I said to Maria, and got into bed again;
but I'd scarcely got the clothes over me, when there was a knocking
for the third time.

"I was cross then, and lighted the lantern and went round the house;
but there was nothing either to be seen or heard. But in the morning
there came word to say that Jacob Kristian had died in the night
just at that time."

Pelle, who had sat and listened to the conversation, pressed
close up to his father in fear; but Lasse himself did not look
particularly valiant. "It's not always nice to have anything to
do with the dead," he said.

"Oh, nonsense! If you've done no harm to any one, and given
everybody their due, what can they do to you?" said Kalle.
The grandmother said nothing, but sat shaking her head very
significantly.

Maria now placed upon the table a jar of dripping and a large loaf
of rye-bread.

"That's the goose," said Kalle, merrily sticking his sheath-knife
into the loaf. "We haven't begun it yet. There are prunes inside.
And that's goose-fat. Help yourselves!"

After that Lasse and Pelle had to think about getting home, and
began to tie handkerchiefs round their necks; but the others did not
want to let them go yet. They went on talking, and Kalle made jokes
to keep them a little longer. But suddenly he turned as grave as a
judge; there was a low sound of crying out in the little passage,
and some one took hold of the handle of the door and let go of it
again. "Upon my word, it's ghosts!" he exclaimed, looking fearfully
from one to another.

The sound of crying was heard again, and Maria, clasping her hands
together, exclaimed: "Why, it's Anna!" and quickly opened the door.
Anna entered in tears, and was attacked on all sides with surprised
inquiries, to which her sobs were her only answer.

"And you've been given a holiday to come and see us at Christmas
time, and you come home crying! You are a nice one!" said Kalle,
laughing. "You must give her something to suck, mother!"

"I've lost my place," the girl at last got out between her sobs.

"No, surely not!" exclaimed Kalle, in changed tones. "But what for?
Have you been stealing? Or been impudent?"

"No, but the master accused me of being too thick with his son."

In a flash the mother's eyes darted from the girl's face to her
figure, and she too burst into tears.

Kalle could see nothing, but he caught his wife's action and
understood. "Oh!" he said quietly. "Is that it?" The little man
was like a big child in the way the different expressions came and
went upon his good-natured face. At last the smile triumphed again.
"Well, well, that's capital!" he exclaimed, laughing. "Shouldn't
good children take the work off their parents' shoulders as they
grow up and are able to do it? Take off your things, Anna, and sit
down. I expect you're hungry, aren't you? And it couldn't have
happened at a better time, as we've got to have the midwife
anyhow!"

Lasse and Pelle drew their neckerchiefs up over their mouths after
taking leave of every one in the room, Kalle circling round them
restlessly, and talking eagerly. "Come again soon, you two, and
thanks for this visit and your present, Brother Lasse! Oh, yes!"
he said suddenly at the outside door, and laughed delightedly;
"it'll be something grand--brother-in-law to the farmer in a way!
Oh, fie, Kalle Karlsson! You and I'll be giving ourselves airs now!"
He went a little way along the path with them, talking all the time.
Lasse was quite melancholy over it.

Pelle knew quite well that what had happened to Anna was looked upon
as a great disgrace, and could not understand how Uncle Kalle could
seem so happy. "Ah, yes," said Lasse, as they stumbled along among
the stones. "Kalle's just like what he always was! He laughs where
others would cry."

It was too dark to go across the fields, so they took the quarry
road south to get down to the high-road. At the cross-roads, the
fourth arm of which led down to the village, stood the country-shop,
which was also a hedge-alehouse.

As they approached the alehouse, they heard a great noise inside.
Then the door burst open, and some men poured out, rolling the
figure of a man before them on the ground. "The police have taken
them by surprise!" said Lasse, and drew the boy with him out into
the ploughed field, so as to get past without being seen. But at
that moment some one placed a lamp in the window, and they were
discovered.

"There's the Stone Farm herdsman!" said a voice. "Hi, Lasse! Come
here!" They went up and saw a man lying face downward on the ground,
kicking; his hands were tied behind his back, and he could not keep
his face out of the mud.

"Why, it's Per Olsen!" exclaimed Lasse.

"Yes, of course!" said the shopkeeper. "Can't you take him home
with you? He's not right in his head."

Lasse looked hesitatingly at the boy, and then back again. "A raving
man?" he said. "We two can't alone."

"Oh, his hands are tied. You've only got to hold the end of the rope
and he'll go along quietly with you," said one of the men. They were
quarrymen from the stone-quarry. "You'll go with them quietly, won't
you?" he asked, giving the man a kick in the side with the toe of
his wooden shoe.

"Oh dear! Oh dear!" groaned Per Olsen.

"What's he done?" asked Lasse. "And why have you ill-used him so?"

"We had to thrash him a little, because he was going to chop off
one of his thumbs. He tried it several times, the beast, and got it
half off; and we had to beat him to make him stop." And they showed
Lasse the man's thumb, which was bleeding. "Such an animal to begin
cutting and hacking at himself because he's drunk half a pint of
gin! If he wanted to fight, there were men enough here without
that!"

"It must be tied up, or he'll bleed to death, poor fellow!" said
Lasse, slowly drawing out his red pocket-handkerchief. It was his
best handkerchief, and it had just been washed. The shopkeeper came
with a bottle and poured spirit over the thumb, so that the cold
should not get into it. The wounded man screamed and beat his face
upon the ground.

"Won't one of you come with us?" asked Lasse. But no one answered;
they wanted to have nothing to do with it, in case it should come
to the ears of the magistrate. "Well, then, we two must do it with
God's help," he said, in a trembling voice, turning to Pelle. "But
you can help him up at any rate, as you knocked him down."

They lifted him up. His face was bruised and bleeding; in their
eagerness to save his finger, they had handled him so roughly that
he could scarcely stand.

"It's Lasse and Pelle," said the old man, trying to wipe his face.
"You know us, don't you, Per Olsen? We'll go home with you if you'll
be good and not hurt us; we mean well by you, we two."

Per Olsen stood and ground his teeth, trembling all over his body.
"Oh dear, oh dear!" was all he said. There was white foam at the
corners of his mouth.

Lasse gave Pelle the end of the rope to hold. "He's grinding his
teeth; the devil's busy with him already," he whispered. "But if he
tries to do any harm, just you pull with all your might at the rope;
and if the worst comes to the worst, we must jump over the ditch."

They now set off homeward, Lasse holding Per Olsen under the arm,
for he staggered and would have fallen at almost every step. He
kept on murmuring to himself or grinding his teeth.

Pelle trudged behind, holding the rope. Cold shivers ran down his
back, partly from fear, partly from secret satisfaction. He had
now seen some one whom he knew to be doomed to perdition! So those
who became devils in the next world looked like Per Olsen? But he
wasn't unkind! He was the nicest of the farm men to Pelle, and he
had bought that bottle for them--yes, and had advanced the money
out of his own pocket until May-day!



VIII

Oh! what a pace she was driving at! The farmer whipped up the gray
stallion, and sat looking steadily out over the fields, as if he had
no suspicion that any one was following him; but his wife certainly
did not mind. She whipped the bay as hard as she could, and did not
care who saw her.

And it was in broad daylight that they were playing the fool like
this on the high-road, instead of keeping their quarrels within four
walls as decent people did! It was true enough that gentle folks had
no feeling of shame in them!

Then she called out and stood up in the trap to beat the horse--with
the handle even! Couldn't she let him drive out in peace to his fair
charmer, whoever she was, and make it warm for him when he came
home? How could she do the same thing over and over again for twenty
years? Really women were persevering creatures!

And how _he_ could be bothered! Having everlasting disturbances
at home for the sake of some hotel landlady or some other woman,
who could not be so very different to be with than his own wife! It
would take a long-suffering nature to be a brute in that way; but
that must be what they call love, properly speaking.

The threshing-machine had come to a standstill, and the people at
Stone Farm were hanging out of the doors and windows, enjoying it
royally. It was a race, and a sight for the gods to see the bay mare
gaining upon the stallion; why, it was like having two Sundays in
one week! Lasse had come round the corner, and was following the mad
race, his hand shading his eyes. Never had he known such a woman;
Bengta was a perfect lamb compared to her! The farmer at Kaase Farm,
who was standing at his gate when they dashed past, was secretly
of the same opinion; and the workers in the fields dropped their
implements, stared and were scandalized at the sight.

At last, for very shame, he had to stop and turn round. She crawled
over into his carriage, and the bay followed quietly with her empty
vehicle. She put her arm about his shoulder, and looked happy and
triumphant, exactly like the district policeman when he has had a
successful chase; but he looked like a criminal of the worst kind.
In this way they came driving back to the farm.

One day Kalle came to borrow ten krones and to invite Lasse and
Pelle to the christening-party on the following Sunday. Lasse,
with some difficulty, obtained the money from the bailiff up in the
office, but to the invitation they had to say "No, thank you," hard
though it was; it was quite out of the question for them to get off
again. Another day the head man had disappeared. He had gone in the
night, and had taken his big chest with him, so some one must have
helped him; but the other men in the room swore solemnly that they
had noticed nothing, and the bailiff, fume as he might, was obliged
to give up the attempt to solve the mystery.

One or two things of this kind happened that made a stir for a day
or two, but with these exceptions the winter was hard to get through.
Darkness ruled for the greater part of the twenty-four hours, and
it was never quite light in the corners. The cold, too, was hard
to bear, except when you were in the comfortable stable. In there
it was always warm, and Pelle was not afraid of going about in the
thickest darkness. In the servants' room they sat moping through the
long evenings without anything to occupy themselves with. They took
very little notice of the girls, but sat playing cards for gin, or
telling horrible stories that made it a most venturesome thing to
run across the yard down to the stable when you had to go to bed.

Per Olsen, on account of his good behavior, was raised to the
position of head man when the other ran away. Lasse and Pelle were
glad of this, for he took their part when they were put upon by any
one. He had become a decent fellow in every respect, hardly ever
touched spirits, and kept his clothes in good order. He was a little
too quiet even for the old day-laborers of the farm and their wives;
but they knew the reason of it and liked him because he took the
part of the weak and because of the fate that hung over him. They
said he was always listening; and when he seemed to be listening
within to the unknown, they avoided as far as possible disturbing
him.

"You'll see he'll free himself; the Evil One'll have no claim upon
him," was the opinion of both Lasse and the laborers' wives when
they discussed Per Olsen's prospects at the Sunday milking. "There
are some people that even the Almighty can't find anything to blame
for."

Pelle listened to this, and tried every day to peep at the scar on
Per Olsen's thumb. It would surely disappear when God removed his
judgment!

During most of the winter Pelle drove the horse for the threshing-
machine. All day he trotted round upon the horse-way outside the
farm, over his wooden shoes in trodden-down snow and manure. It was
the most intolerable occupation that life had yet offered him. He
could not even carve, it was too cold for his fingers; and he felt
lonely. As a herd-boy he was his own master, and a thousand things
called to him; but here he had to go round and round behind a bar,
always round. His one diversion was to keep count of the times he
drove round, but that was a fatiguing employment and made you even
duller than the everlasting going round, and you could not leave
off. Time held nothing of interest, and short as it was the day
seemed endless.

As a rule, Pelle awoke happy, but now every morning when he woke
he was weary of everything; it was to be that everlasting trudging
round behind the bar. After a time doing this for about an hour used
to make him fall into a state of half-sleep. The condition came
of itself, and he longed for it before it came. It was a kind of
vacuity, in which he wished for nothing and took no interest in
anything, but only staggered along mechanically at the back of the
bar. The machine buzzed unceasingly, and helped to maintain the
condition; the dust kept pouring out at the window, and the time
passed imperceptibly. Generally now dinner or evening surprised him,
and sometimes it seemed to him that the horses had only just been
harnessed when some one came out to help him in with them. He had
arrived at the condition of torpor that is the only mercy that life
vouchsafes to condemned prisoners and people who spend their lives
beside a machine. But there was a sleepiness about him even in his
free time; he was not so lively and eager to know about everything;
Father Lasse missed his innumerable questions and little devices.

Now and again he was roused for a moment out of his condition by
the appearance at the window of a black, perspiring face, that swore
at him because he was not driving evenly. He knew then that Long Ole
had taken the place of Per Olsen, whose business it was to feed
the machine. It sometimes happened, too, that the lash of the whip
caught on the axle and wound round it, so that the whole thing had
to be stopped and drawn backward; and that day he did not fall into
a doze again.

In March the larks appeared and brought a little life. Snow still
lay in the hollows, but their singing reminded Pelle warmly of
summer and grazing cattle. And one day he was wakened in his tramp
round and round by seeing a starling on the roof of the house,
whistling and preening its feathers in delight. On that day the
sun shone brightly, and all heaviness was gone from the air; but
the sea was still a pale gray down there.

Pelle began to be a human being again. It was spring, and then, too,
in a couple of days the threshing would be finished. But after all,
the chief thing was that waistcoat-pocket of his; that was enough
to put life into its owner. He ran round in a trot behind the bar;
he had to drive quickly now in order to get done, for every one else
was in the middle of spring ploughing already. When he pressed his
hand against his chest, he could distinctly feel the paper it was
wrapped in. For it was still there, wasn't it? It would not do to
open the paper and look; he must find out by squeezing.

Pelle had become the owner of fifty ores--a perfectly genuine
fifty-ore piece. It was the first time he had ever possessed
anything more than two and one ore pieces, and he had earned it
by his own cleverness.

It was on Sunday, when the men had had a visit from some quarrymen,
and one of them had hit upon the idea of sending for some birch-fat
to have with their dram. Pelle was to run to the village shop for
it, and he was given a half-krone and injunctions to go in the back
way, as it was Sunday. Pelle had not forgotten his experience at
Christmas, and kept watch upon their faces. They were all doing
their best to smooth them out and busy themselves with one thing
and another; and Gustav, who gave him the money, kept turning his
face away and looking at something out in the yard.

When he stated his errand, the shopman's wife broke into a laugh.
"I say, don't you know better than that?" she exclaimed. "Why,
wasn't it you who fetched the handle-turner too? You've all found
that very useful, haven't you?"

Pelle turned crimson. "I thought they were making fun of me, but
I didn't dare say no," he said in a low voice.

"No, one has to play the fool sometimes, whether one is it or not,"
said the woman.

"What is birch-fat, then?" asked Pelle.

"Why, my gracious! You must have had it many a time, you little imp!
But it shows how often you have to put up with things you don't know
the name of."

A light dawned upon Pelle. "Does it mean a thrashing with
a birch-rod?"

"Didn't I say you knew it?"

"No, I've only had it with a whip--on my legs."

"Well, well, you needn't mind that; the one may be just as good as
the other. But now sit down and drink a cup of coffee while I wrap
up the article for them." She pushed a cup of coffee with brown
sugar toward him, and began ladling out soft soap on to a piece
of paper. "Here," she said. "You give them that: it's the best
birch-fat. And you can keep the money yourself."

Pelle was not courageous enough for this arrangement.

"Very well, then," she said. "I'll keep the money for you. They
shan't make fools of us both. And then you can get it yourself.
But now you must put on a bold face."

Pelle did put on a bold face, but he was decidedly nervous. The men
swore at the loss of the half-krone, and called him the "greatest
idiot upon God's green earth"; but he had the satisfaction of
knowing that that was because he had not been stupid enough. And
the half-krone was his!

A hundred times a day he felt it without wearing it out. Here at
last was something the possession of which did not rob it of its
lustre. There was no end to the purchases he made with it, now for
Lasse, now for himself. He bought the dearest things, and when he
lingered long enough over one purchase and was satiated with the
possession of it, he set about buying something else. And all the
while he kept the coin. At times he would be suddenly seized with
an insane fear that the money was gone; and then when he felt it,
he was doubly happy.

Pelle had suddenly become a capitalist, and by his own cleverness;
and he made the most of his capital. He had already obtained every
desirable thing that he knew of--he had it all, at any rate, in hand;
and gradually as new things made their appearance in his world, he
secured for himself the right to their purchase. Lasse was the only
person who knew about his wealth, and he had reluctantly to allow
himself to be drawn into the wildest of speculations.

He could hear by the sound that there was something wrong with the
machine. The horses heard it too, and stopped even before some one
cried "Stop!" Then one after another came the shouts: "Stop! Drive
on! Stop! On again! Stop! Pull!" And Pelle pulled the bar back,
drove on and pulled until the whole thing whizzed again. Then he
knew that it was Long Ole feeding the machine while Per Olsen
measured the grain: Ole was a duffer at feeding.

It was going smoothly again, and Pelle was keeping an eye on the
corner by the cow-stable. When Lasse made his appearance there, and
patted his stomach, it meant that it was nearly dinner-time.

Something stopped the bar, the horses had to pull hard, and with
a jerk it cleared the invisible hindrance. There was a cry from the
inside of the threshing-barn, and the sound of many voices shouting
"Stop!" The horses stopped dead, and Pelle had to seize the bar to
prevent it swinging forward against their legs. It was some time
before any one came out and took the horses in, so that Pelle could
go into the barn and see what was the matter.

He found Long Ole walking about and writhing over one of his hands.
His blouse was wrapped about it, but the blood was dripping through
on to the floor of the barn. He was bending forward and stumbling
along, throwing his body from side to side and talking incoherently.
The girls, pale and frightened, were standing gazing at him while
the men were quarreling as to what was the best thing to do to stop
the flow of blood, and one of them came sliding down from the loft
with a handful of cobwebs.

Pelle went and peered into the machine to find out what there was
so voracious about it. Between two of the teeth lay something like
a peg, and when he moved the roller, the greater part of a finger
dropped down on to the barn floor. He picked it up among some chaff,
and took it to the others: it was a thumb! When Long Ole saw it, he
fainted; it could hardly be wondered at, seeing that he was maimed
for life. But Per Olsen had to own that he had left the machine at
a fortunate moment.

There was no more threshing done that day. In the afternoon Pelle
played in the stable, for he had nothing to do. While he played, he
suggested plans for their future to his father: they were engrossed
in it.

"Then we'll go to America, and dig for gold!"

"Ye-es, that wouldn't be a bad thing at all. But it would take a
good many more half-krones to make that journey."

"Then we can set up as stone-masons."

Lasse stood still in the middle of the foddering-passage, and
pondered with bent head. He was exceedingly dissatisfied with their
position; there were two of them toiling to earn a hundred krones,
and they could not make ends meet. There was never any liberty
either; they were simply slaves. By himself he never got any farther
than being discontented and disappointed with everything; he was
too old. The mere search for ways to something new was insuperable
labor, and everything looked so hopeless. But Pelle was restless,
and whenever he was dissatisfied with anything, made plans by the
score, some of the wildest, and some fairly sensible; and the old
man was carried away by them.

"We might go to the town and work too," said Lasse meditatively.
"They earn one bright krone after another in there. But what's to
be done with you? You're too little to use a tool."

This stubborn fact put a stop for the moment to Pelle's plans; but
then his courage rose again. "I can quite well go with you to the
town," he said. "For I shall----" He nodded significantly.

"What?" asked Lasse, with interest.

"Well, perhaps I'll go down to the harbor and be doing nothing, and
a little girl'll fall into the water and I shall save her. But the
little girl will be a gentleman's daughter, and so----" Pelle left
the rest to Lasse's imagination.

"Then you'd have to learn to swim first," said Lasse gravely.
"Or you'd only be drowned."

Screams were heard from the men's bedroom. It was Long Ole. The
doctor had come and was busy with his maimed hand. "Just run across
and find out what'll happen to it!" said Lasse. "Nobody'll pay any
attention to you at such a time, if you make yourself small."

In a little while Pelle came back and reported that three fingers
were quite crushed and hanging in rags, and the doctor had cut
them off.

"Was it these three?" asked Lasse, anxiously, holding up his thumb,
forefinger, and middle finger. Truth to tell, Pelle had seen nothing,
but his imagination ran away with him.

"Yes, it was his swearing-fingers," he said, nodding emphatically.

"Then Per Olsen is set free," said Lasse, heaving a deep sigh. "What
a _good_ thing it has been--quite providential!"

That was Pelle's opinion too.

The farmer himself drove the doctor home, and a little while after
he had gone, Pelle was sent for, to go on an errand for the mistress
to the village-shop.



IX

It was nothing for Pelle; if he were vanquished on one point, he
rose again on two others: he was invincible. And he had the child's
abundant capacity for forgiving; had he not he would have hated all
grown-up people with the exception of Father Lasse. But disappointed
he certainly was.

It was not easy to say who had expected most--the boy, whose
childish imagination had built, unchecked, upon all that he had
heard, or the old man, who had once been here himself.

But Pelle managed to fill his own existence with interest, and was
so taken up on all sides that he only just had time to realize the
disappointment in passing. His world was supersensual like that
of the fakir; in the course of a few minutes a little seed could
shoot up and grow into a huge tree that overshadowed everything
else. Cause never answered to effect in it, and it was governed by
another law of gravitation: events always bore him up.

However hard reality might press upon him, he always emerged from
the tight place the richer in some way or other; and no danger could
ever become overwhelmingly great as long as Father Lasse stood
reassuringly over and behind everything.

But Lasse had failed him at the decisive moment more than once, and
every time he used him as a threat, he was only laughed at. The old
man's omnipotence could not continue to exist side by side with his
increasing decrepitude; in the boy's eyes it crumbled away from day
to day. Unwilling though he was, Pelle had to let go his providence,
and seek the means of protection in himself. It was rather early,
but he looked at circumstances in his own way. Distrust he had
already acquired--and timidity! He daily made clumsy attempts to
get behind what people said, and behind things. There was something
more behind everything! It often led to confusion, but occasionally
the result was conspicuously good.

There were some thrashings that you could run away from, because in
the meantime the anger would pass away, and other thrashings where
it answered best to shed as many tears as possible. Most people
only beat until the tears came, but the bailiff could not endure
a blubberer, so with him the thing was to set your teeth and make
yourself hard. People said you should speak the truth, but most
thrashings could be avoided by making up a white lie, if it was
a good one and you took care of your face. If you told the truth,
they thrashed you at once.

With regard to thrashing, the question had a subjective side as
well as an objective one. He could beat Rud whenever he liked, but
with bigger boys it was better to have right on his side, as, for
instance, when his father was attacked. Then God helped him. This
was a case in which the boy put the omnipotence quite aside, and
felt himself to be the old man's protector.

Lasse and Pelle were walking through life hand in hand, and yet each
was going his own way. Lasse felt it to be so. "We've each got hold
of an end," he sometimes said to himself despondently, when the
difference was all too marked. "He's rising, the laddie!"

This was best seen in the others. In the long run they had to like
the boy, it could not be otherwise. The men would sometimes give him
things, and the girls were thoroughly kind to him. He was in the
fairest period of budding youth; they would often take him on their
knees as he passed, and kiss him.

"Ah, he'll be a lady's man, he will!" Lasse would say. "He's got
that from his father." But they would laugh at that.

There was always laughter when Lasse wanted to join the elders.
Last time--yes, then he was good enough. It was always "Where's
Lasse?" when gin was going round, or tricks were being played, or
demonstrations made. "Call Lasse Karlsson!" He had no need to push
himself forward; it was a matter of course that he was there. The
girls were always on the look-out for him, married man though he
was, and he had fun with them--all quite proper, of course, for
Bengta was not good to quarrel with if she heard anything.

But now! Yes--well, yes--he might fetch the gin for the others and
do their work for them when they had a holiday, without their doing
anything in exchange! "Lasse! Where's Lasse? Can you feed the horses
for me this evening? Can you take my place at the chaff-cutting
to-morrow evening?"

There was a difference between then and now, and Lasse had found
out the reason for himself: he was getting old. The very discovery
brought further proof of its correctness, laid infirmity upon him,
and removed the tension from his mind, and what was left of it from
his body. The hardest blow of all was when he discovered that he was
of no importance to the girls, had no place at all in their thoughts
of men. In Lasse's world there was no word that carried such weight
as the word "man"; and in the end it was the girls who decided
whether you were one or not. Lasse was not one; he was not dangerous!
He was only a few poor relics of a man, a comical remnant of some
by-gone thing; they laughed at him when he tried to pay them
attention.

Their laughter crushed him, and he withdrew into his old-man's world,
and despondently adapted himself to it. The only thing that kept
life in him was his concern for the boy, and he clung despairingly
to his position as his providence. There was little he could do for
him, and therefore he talked all the bigger; and when anything went
against the boy, he uttered still greater threats against the world
than before. He also felt that the boy was in process of making
himself independent, and fought a desperate battle to preserve the
last appearance of power.

But Pelle could not afford to give support to his fancy, nor had he
the understanding to do it. He was growing fast, and had a use for
all that he possessed himself. Now that his father no longer stood
behind to shield him, he was like a small plant that has been moved
out into the open, and is fighting hard to comprehend the nature of
its surroundings, and adapt itself to them. For every root-fibre
that felt its way into the soil, there fell to the ground one of
the tender leaves, and two strong ones pushed forth. One after
another the feelings of the child's defencelessness dropped and
gave place to the harder ones of the individual.

The boy was engaged in building himself up, in accordance with
invisible laws. He assumed an attitude toward his surroundings at
all points, but he did not imitate them. The farm men, for instance,
were not kind to the animals. They often lashed the horses only as
a vent for their ill-humor, and the girls were just the same to the
smaller animals and the dairy-cows. From these considerations, Pelle
taught himself sympathy. He could not bear cruelty to animals, and
thrashed Rud for the first time when the latter had one day robbed
a bird's nest.

Pelle was like a kid that makes a plaything of everything. In
his play he took up, without suspecting it, many of the serious
phenomena of life, and gambolled with them in frolicsome bounds. He
exercised his small mind as he exercised his body, twisted himself
into everything and out of everything, imitated work and fun and
shirking, and learned how to puff himself up into a very devil of
a fellow where his surroundings were yielding, and to make himself
almost invisible with modesty when they were hard. He was training
himself to be that little Jack-of-all-trades, man.

And it became more and more difficult to catch him unprepared. The
first time he had to set about a thing in earnest, he was generally
handy at it; he was as difficult to take unawares as a cat.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was summer again. The heat stood still and played over the
ground, sparkling, with indolent voluptuousness and soft movements
like the fish in the stream. Far inland it quivered above the rocks
that bounded the view, in a restless flicker of bluish white; below
lay the fields beneath the broiling sun, with the pollen from the
rye drifting over them like smoke. Up above the clover-field stood
the cows of Stone Farm in long rows, their heads hanging heavily
down, and their tails swinging regularly. Lasse was moving between
their ranks, looking for the mallet, and now and then gazing
anxiously down towards the meadow by the dunes, and beginning to
count the young cattle and the bullocks. Most of them were lying
down, but a few of them were standing with their heads close
together, and munching with closed eyes. The boys were nowhere
to be seen.

Lasse stood wondering whether he should give Pelle a warning call;
there would he no end of a row if the bailiff were to come now.
But then the sound of voices came from among the young firs on the
dunes, a naked boy appeared, and then another. Their bodies were
like golden flashes in the air as they ran over the grass-wrack and
across the meadow, each with his cap held closed in his hand.

They sat down upon the edge of the stream with their feet
in the water, and carefully uncovered their captives; they were
dragon-flies. As the insects one by one crawled out at the narrow
opening, the boys decapitated them and laid them in a row on the
grass. They had caught nine, and nine times thirty-five--well, it
would be more than three krones. The stupendous amount made Pelle
skeptical.

"Now isn't that only a lie?" he said, and licked his shoulder where
he had been bitten by a mosquito. It was said that the chemist gave
thirty-five ores apiece for dragon-flies.

"A lie?" exclaimed Rud. "Yes, perhaps it is," he went on meekly.
"It must be a lie, for anything like that always is. You might
give me yours too!"

But Pelle would not do that.

"Then give me your half-krone, and I'll go to the town and sell
them for you. They cost thirty-five ores, for Karl says so, and his
mother washes the floor in the chemist's shop."

Pelle got up, not to fetch the half-krone--he would not part with
that for all the world--but to assure himself that it still lay in
his waistcoat pocket.

When he had gone a little way, Rud hastily lifted a piece of turf
at the edge of the stream, pushed something in under it, and jumped
into the water; and when Pelle came back with slow, ominous steps,
he climbed up the other side and set off at a run.

Pelle ran too, in short, quick leaps. He knew he was the quicker,
and the knowledge made him frolicsome. He flapped at his naked body
as he ran, as if he had no joints, swayed from side to side like
a balloon, pranced and stamped on the ground, and then darted
on again. Then the young firs closed round them again, only the
movement of their tops showing where the boys ran, farther and
farther, until all was still.

In the meadow the cattle were munching with closed eyes and
attentive ears. The heat played over the ground, flickering,
gasping, like a fish in water. There was a heavy, stupefying
humming in the air; the sound came from everywhere and nowhere.

Down across the cornfields came a big, stout woman. She wore a
skirt, a chemise, and a handkerchief on her head, and she shaded
her eyes with her hand and looked about. She crossed the meadow
obliquely, found Pelle's dinner-basket, took out its contents and
put them in under her chemise upon her bare, perspiring bosom,
and then turned in the direction of the sea.

There was a sudden break in the edge of the fir-plantation, and
out came Rud with Pelle hanging upon his back. Rud's inordinately
large head hung forward and his knees gave way; his forehead,
which receded above the eyes and projected just below the line
of the hair, was a mass of bruises and scars, which became very
visible now with his exertions. Both the boys had marks all over
their bodies from the poison of the pine-needles. Pelle dropped on
to the grass, and lay there on his face, while Rud went slowly to
fetch the half-krone, and handed it reluctantly to its owner. He
stooped like one vanquished, but in his eye the thought of a new
battle lay awaiting its opportunity.

Pelle gazed lovingly at the coin. He had had it now ever since April,
from the time when he was sent to buy birch-fat. He had purchased
with it everything that was desirable, and he had lost it twice: he
loved that piece of money. It made his fingers itch, his whole body;
it was always urging him on to spend it, now in one way and now in
another. Roll, roll! That was what it was longing to do; and it was
because it was round, Father Lasse said. But to become rich--that
meant stopping the money as it rolled. Oh, Pelle meant to be rich!
And then he was always itching to spend it--spend it in such a way
that he got everything for it, or something he could have all his
life.

They sat upon the bank of the stream and wrangled in a small way.
Rud did his best to inspire awe, and bragged to create an impression.
He bent his fingers backward and moved his ears; he could move them
forward in a listening position like a horse. All this irritated
Pelle intensely.

Suddenly he stopped. "Won't you give me the half-krone, then? You
shall have ten krones when I grow up." Rud collected money--he was
avaricious already--and had a whole boxful of coins that he had
stolen from his mother.

Pelle considered a little. "No," he said. "Because you'll never grow
up; you're a dwarf!" The tone of his voice was one of sheer envy.

"That's what the Sow says too! But then I'll show myself for money
at the fairs and on Midsummer Eve on the common. Then I shall get
frightfully rich."

Pelle was inwardly troubled. Should he give him the whole fifty ores
for nothing at all? He had never heard of any one doing such a thing.
And perhaps some day, when Rud had become enormously rich, he would
get half of it. "Will you have it?" he asked, but regretted it
instantly.

Rud stretched out his hand eagerly, but Pelle spat into it. "It can
wait until we've had our dinner anyhow," he said, and went over to
the basket. For a little while they stood gazing into the empty
basket.

"The Sow's been here," said Rud, putting out his tongue.

Pelle nodded. "She _is_ a beast!"

"A thief," said Rud.

They took the sun's measure. Rud declared that if you could see it
when you bent down and looked between your legs, then it was five
o'clock. Pelle began to put on his clothes.

Rud was circling about him. "I say!" he said suddenly. "If I may
have it, I'll let you whip me with nettles."

"On your bare body?" asked Pelle.

Rud nodded.

In a second Pelle was out of his trousers again, and running to
a patch of nettles. He pulled them up with the assistance of a
dock-leak, as many as he could hold, and came back again. Rud lay
down, face downwards, on a little mound, and the whipping began.

The agreement was a hundred strokes, but when Rud had received ten,
he got up and refused to have any more.

"Then you won't get the money," said Pelle. "Will you or won't you?"
He was red with excitement and the exertion, and the perspiration
already stood in beads down his slender back, for he had worked with
a will. "Will you or won't you? Seventy-five strokes then!" Pelle's
voice quivered with eagerness, and he had to dilate his nostrils to
get air enough; his limbs began to tremble.

"No--only sixty--you hit so hard! And I must have the money first,
or you may cheat me."

"I don't cheat," said Pelle gloomily. But Rud held to his point.

Pelle's body writhed; he was like a ferret that has tasted blood.
With a jerk he threw the coin at Rud, and grumbling, pushed him
down. He wept inwardly because he had let him off forty strokes;
but he made up his mind to lay into him all the harder for it.

Then he beat, slowly and with all his might, while Rud burrowed with
his head in the grass and clasped the money tightly to keep up his
strength. There was hatred in every stroke that Pelle struck, and
they went like shocks through his playmate's body, but he never
uttered a cry. No, there was no point in his crying, for the coin
he held in his hand took away the pain. But about Pelle's body the
air burnt like fire, his arms began to give way with fatigue, and
his inclination diminished with every stroke. It was toil, nothing
but hard toil. And the money--the beautiful half-krone--was slipping
farther and farther away, and he would be poor once more; and Rud
was not even crying! At the forty-sixth stroke he turned his face
and put out his tongue, whereat Pelle burst into a roar, threw down
the frayed nettle-stalks, and ran away to the fir-plantation.

There he sat for the rest of the day under a dune, grieving over
his loss, while Rud lay under the bank of the stream, bathing his
blistered body with wet earth.



X

After all, Per Olsen was not the sort of man they had thought him.
Now that he had been set free in that way, the thing would have been
for him to have given a helping hand to that poor fellow, Long Ole;
for after all it was for his sake that Ole's misfortune had come
upon him. But did he do it? No, he began to amuse himself. It was
drinking and dissipation and petticoats all the summer through; and
now at Martinmas he left and took work at the quarry, so as to be
more his own master. There was not sufficient liberty for him at
Stone Farm. What good there was left in him would find something
to do up there.

Long Ole could not, of course, remain at Stone Farm, crippled as
he was. Through kindness on the part of the farmer, he was paid his
half-wage; that was more than he had any claim to, and enough at any
rate to take him home and let him try something or other. There were
many kinds of work that at a pinch could be performed with one hand;
and now while he had the money he ought to have got an iron hook; it
could be strapped to the wrist, and was not bad to hold tools with.

But Ole had grown weak and had great difficulty in making up his
mind. He continued to hang about the farm, notwithstanding all that
the bailiff did to get him away. At last they had to put his things
out, to the west of the farm; and there they lay most of the summer,
while he himself slept among the stacks, and begged food of the
workers in the fields. But this could not go on when the cold set
in.

But then one day in the autumn, his things were gone. Johanna Pihl
--commonly called the Sow--had taken him in. She felt the cold, too,
in spite of her fat, and as the proverb says: It's easier for two
to keep warm than one; but whatever was her reason for doing it, Long
Ole might thank his Maker for her. There was always bacon hanging in
her chimney.

Lasse and Pelle looked forward to term-day with anxiety. What
changes would it bring this time for people? So much depended on
that. Besides the head man, they were to have new second and third
men and some new maids. They were always changing at Stone Farm when
they could. Karna, poor soul, was bound to stay, as she had set her
mind upon youth, and would absolutely be where Gustav was! Gustav
stayed because Bodil stayed, so unnaturally fond was he of that
girl, although she was not worth it. And Bodil herself knew well
enough what she was doing! There must be more in it than met the eye
when a girl dressed, as she did, in expensive, town-bought clothes.

Lasse and Pelle _remained_, simply because there was no other
place in the world for them to go to. All through the year they
made plans for making a change, but when the time for giving notice
approached, Lasse became quiet and let it go past.

Of late he had given no little thought to the subject of marrying
again. There was something God-forsaken about this solitary
existence for a man of his age; you became old and worn out before
your time, when you hadn't a wife and a house. On the heath near
Brother Kalle's, there was a house that he could have without paying
anything down. He often discussed it with Pelle, and the boy was
ready for anything new.

It should be a wife who could look after everything and make the
house comfortable; and above all she must be a hard-working woman.
It would not come amiss either if she had a little of her own, but
let that be as it might, if only she was good-natured. Karna would
have suited in all respects, both Lasse and Pelle having always had
a liking for her ever since the day she freed Pelle from the pupil's
clutches; but it was nothing to offer her as long as she was so set
upon Gustav. They must bide their time; perhaps she would come to
her senses, or something else might turn up.

"Then there'd be coffee in bed on Sunday mornings!" said Pelle,
with rapture.

"Yes, and perhaps we'd get a little horse, and invite Brother Kalle
for a drive now and then," added Lasse solemnly.

At last it was really to be! In the evening Lasse and Pelle had
been to the shop and bought a slate and pencil, and Pelle was now
standing at the stable-door with a beating heart and the slate under
his arm. It was a frosty October morning, but the boy was quite hot
after his wash. He had on his best jacket, and his hair had been
combed with water.

Lasse hovered about him, brushing him here and there with his sleeve,
and was even more nervous than the boy. Pelle had been born to poor
circumstances, had been christened, and had had to earn his bread
from the time he was a little boy--all exactly as he had done
himself. So far there was no difference to be seen; it might very
well have been Lasse himself over again, from the big ears and the
"cow's-lick" on the forehead, to the way the boy walked and wore out
the bottoms of his trouser-legs. But this was something strikingly
new. Neither Lasse nor any of his family had ever gone to school;
it was something new that had come within the reach of his family,
a blessing from Heaven that had fallen upon the boy and himself.
It felt like a push upward; the impossible was within reach; what
might not happen to a person who had book-learning! You might become
master of a workshop, a clerk, perhaps even a schoolmaster.

"Now do take care of the slate, and see that you don't break it!"
he said admonishingly. "And keep out of the way of the big boys
until you can hold your own with them. But if any of them simply
won't let you alone, mind you manage to hit first! That takes the
inclination out of most of them, especially if you hit hard; he who
hits first hits twice, as the old proverb says. And then you must
listen well, and keep in mind all that your teacher says; and if
anyone tries to entice you into playing and larking behind his back,
don't do it. And remember that you've got a pocket-handkerchief,
and don't use your fingers, for that isn't polite. If there's no one
to see you, you can save the handkerchief, of course, and then it'll
last all the longer. And take care of your nice jacket. And if the
teacher's lady invites you in to coffee, you mustn't take more than
one piece of cake, mind."

Lasse's hands trembled while he talked.

"She's sure not to do that," said Pelle, with a superior air.

"Well, well, now go, so that you don't get there too late--the very
first day, too. And if there's some tool or other wanting, you must
say we'll get it at once, for we aren't altogether paupers!" And
Lasse slapped his pocket; but it did not make much noise, and Pelle
knew quite well that they had no money; they had got the slate and
pencil on credit.

Lasse stood looking after the boy as long as he was in sight, and
then went to his work of crushing oilcakes. He put them into a
vessel to soak, and poured water on them, all the while talking
softly to himself.

There was a knock at the outside stable-door, and Lasse went to open
it. It was Brother Kalle.

"Good-day, brother!" he said, with his cheerful smile. "Here comes
his Majesty from the quarries!" He waddled in upon his bow legs,
and the two exchanged hearty greetings. Lasse was delighted at the
visit.

"What a pleasant time we had with you the other evening!" said
Lasse, taking his brother by the hand.

"That's a long time ago now. But you must look in again one evening
soon. Grandmother looks upon both of you with a favorable eye!"
Kalle's eyes twinkled mischievously.

"How is she, poor body? Has she at all got over the hurt to her eye?
Pelle came home the other day and told me that the children had been
so unfortunate as to put a stick into her eye. It quite upset me.
You had to have the doctor, too!"

"Well, it wasn't quite like that," said Kalle. "I had moved
grandmother's spinning-wheel myself one morning when I was putting
her room to rights, and then I forgot to put it back in its place.
Then when she was going to stoop down to pick up something from the
floor, the spindle went into her eye; of course she's used to have
everything stand exactly in its place. So really the honor's due
to me." He smiled all over his face.

Lasse shook his head sympathetically. "And she got over it fairly
well?" he asked.

"No; it went altogether wrong, and she lost the sight of that eye."

Lasse looked at him with disapproval.

Kalle caught himself up, apparently very much horrified. "Eh, what
nonsense I'm talking! She lost the _blindness_ of that eye,
I ought to have said. _Isn't_ that all wrong, too? You put
somebody's eye out, and she begins to see! Upon my word, I think
I'll set up as an eye-doctor after this, for there's not much
difficulty in it."

"What do you say? She's begun to--? Now you're too merry! You
oughtn't to joke about everything."

"Well, well, joking apart, as the prophet said when his wife
scratched him--she can really see with that eye now."

Lasse looked suspiciously at him for a little while before he
yielded. "Why, it's quite a miracle!" he then said.

"Yes, that's what the doctor said. The point of the spindle had
acted as a kind of operation. But it might just as easily have taken
the other direction. Yes, we had the doctor to her three times; it
was no use being niggardly." Kalle stood and tried to look important;
he had stuck his thumbs into his waistcoat pockets.

"It cost a lot of money, I suppose?"

"That's what I thought, too, and I wasn't very happy when I asked
the doctor how much it would be. Twenty-five krones, he said, and
it didn't sound anything more than when any of us ask for a piece
of bread-and-dripping. 'Will the doctor be so kind as to wait a few
days so that I can get the cow property sold?' I asked. 'What!' he
says, and glares at me over his spectacles. 'You don't mean to sell
the cow so as to pay me? You mustn't do that on any account; I'll
wait till times are better.' 'We come off easily, even if we get rid
of the cow,' I said. 'How so?' he asks, as we go out to the carriage
--it was the farmer of Kaase Farm that was driving for me. So I told
him that Maria and I had been thinking of selling everything so that
grandmother might go over and be operated. He said nothing to that,
but climbed up into the carriage; but while I was standing like this,
buttoning up his foot-bag, he seizes me by the collar and says:
'Do you know, you little bow-legged creature!' (Kalle imitated the
doctor's town speech), 'You're the best man I've ever met, and you
don't owe me a brass farthing! For that matter, it was you yourself
that performed the operation.' 'Then I ought almost to have had the
money,' I said. Then he laughed and gave me a box on the ears with
his fur cap. He's a fine man, that doctor, and fearfully clever;
they say that he has one kind of mixture that he cures all kinds
of illness with."

They were sitting in the herdsman's room upon the green chest, and
Lasse had brought out a little gin. "Drink, brother!" he said again
and again. "It takes something to keep out this October drizzle."

"Many thanks, but you must drink! But I was going to say, you should
see grandmother! She goes round peeping at everything with her one
eye; if it's only a button, she keeps on staring at it. So that's
what that looks like, and that! She's forgotten what the things look
like, and when she sees a thing, she goes to it to feel it afterward
--to find out what it is, she actually says. She would have nothing
to do with us the first few days; when she didn't hear us talk or
walk, she thought we were strangers, even though she saw us there
before her eyes."

"And the little ones?" asked Lasse.

"Thank you, Anna's is fat and well, but our own seems to have come
to a standstill. After all, it's the young pigs you ought to breed
with. By the bye"--Kalle took out his purse--"while we're at it,
don't let me forget the ten krones I got from you for the
christenings."

Lasse pushed it away. "Never mind that," he said. "You may have a
lot to go through yet. How many mouths are there now? Fourteen or
fifteen, I suppose?"

"Yes; but two take their mother's milk, like the parson's wife's
chickens; so that's all saved. And if things became difficult, one's
surely man enough to wring a few pence out of one's nose?" He seized
his nose and gave it a rapid twist, and held out his hand. A folded
ten-krone note lay in it.

Lasse laughed at the trick, but would not hear of taking the money;
and for a time it passed backward and forward between them. "Well,
well!" said Kalle at last, keeping the note; "thank you very much,
then! And good-bye, brother! I must be going." Lasse went out with
him, and sent many greetings.

"We shall come and look you up very soon," he called out after
his brother.

When after a little while he returned to his room, the note lay
upon the bed. Kalle must have seen his opportunity to put it there,
conjurer that he was. Lasse put it aside to give to Kalle's wife,
when an occasion presented itself.

Long before the time, Lasse was on the lookout for Pelle. He found
the solitude wearisome, now that he was used to having the boy about
him from morning till night. At last he came, out of breath with
running, for he had longed to get home too.

Nothing either terrible or remarkable had happened at school. Pelle
had to give a circumstantial account, point by point, "Well, what
can you do?" the master had asked, taking him by the ear--quite
kindly, of course. "I can pull the mad bull to the water without
Father Lasse helping at all," Pelle had answered, and then the whole
class had laughed.

"Yes, yes, but can you read?"

No, Pelle could not do that--"or else I shouldn't have come here,"
he was on the point of adding. "It was a good thing you didn't
answer that," said Lasse; "but what more then?" Well, then Pelle was
put upon the lowest bench, and the boy next him was set to teach him
his letters.

"Do you know them, then?"

No, Pelle did not know them that day, but when a couple of weeks had
passed, he knew most of them, and wrote them with chalk on the posts.
He had not learned to write, but his hand could imitate anything he
had seen, and he drew the letters just as they stood in print in the
spelling-book.

Lasse went and looked at them during his work, and had them repeated
to him endlessly; but they would not stick properly. "What's that
one there?" he was perpetually asking.

Pelle answered with a superior air: "That? Have you forgotten it
already? I knew that after I'd only seen it once! That's M."

"Yes, of course it is! I can't think where my head is to-day.
M, yes--of course it's M! Now what can that be used for, eh?"

"It's the first letter in the word 'empty,' of course!" said Pelle
consequentially.

"Yes, of course! But you didn't find that out for yourself; the
master told you."

"No, I found it out by myself."

"Did you, now? Well, you've become clever--if only you don't become
as clever as seven fools."

Lasse was out of spirits; but very soon he gave in, and fell into
whole-hearted admiration of his son. And the instruction was
continued while they worked. It was fortunate for Pelle that his
father was so slow, for he did not get on very fast himself, when
once he had mastered all that was capable of being picked up
spontaneously by a quick intelligence. The boy who had to teach
him--Sloppy, he was called--was the dunce of the class and had
always been bottom until now Pelle had come and taken his place.

Two weeks of school had greatly changed Pelle's ideas on this
subject. On the first few days he arrived in a state of anxious
expectation, and all his courage forsook him as he crossed the
threshold of the school. For the first time in his life he felt
that he was good for nothing. Trembling with awe, he opened his
perceptions to this new and unfamiliar thing that was to unveil for
him all the mysteries of the world, if only he kept his ears open;
and he did so. But there was no awe-inspiring man, who looked at
them affectionately through gold-rimmed spectacles while he told
them about the sun and the moon and all the wonders of the world.
Up and down the middle passage walked a man in a dirty linen coat
and with gray bristles projecting from his nostrils. As he walked
he swung the cane and smoked his pipe; or he sat at the desk and
read the newspaper. The children were noisy and restless, and when
the noise broke out into open conflict, the man dashed down from
his desk, and hit out indiscriminately with his cane. And Pelle
himself, well he was coupled--for good, it appeared--to a dirty boy,
covered with scrofulous sores, who pinched his arm every time he
read his b-a--ba, b-e--be wrong. The only variation was an hour's
daily examination in the tedious observations in the class-book,
and the Saturday's uncouth hymn-repeating.

For a time Pelle swallowed everything whole, and passed it on
faithfully to his father; but at last he tired of it. It was not
his nature to remain long passive to his surroundings, and one fine
day he had thrown aside all injunctions and intentions, and dived
into the midst of the fun.

After this he had less information to impart, but on the other hand
there were the thousands of knavish tricks to tell about. And father
Lasse shook his head and comprehended nothing; but he could not help
laughing.



XI

  "A safe stronghold our God is still,
  A trusty shield and wea--pon;
  He'll help us clear from all the ill
  That hath us now o'erta--ken.
    The ancient prince of hell
    Hath risen with purpose fell;
    Strong mail of craft and power
    He weareth in this hour;
  On earth is not his fel--low."

The whole school sat swaying backward and forward in time to the
rhythm, grinding out hymns in endless succession. Fris, the master,
was walking up and down the middle passage, smoking his pipe; he was
taking exercise after an hour's reading of the paper. He was using
the cane to beat time with, now and then letting it descend upon the
back of an offender, but always only at the end of a line--as a kind
of note of admiration. Fris could not bear to have the rhythm broken.
The children who did not know the hymn were carried along by the
crowd, some of them contenting themselves with moving their lips,
while others made up words of their own. When the latter were too
dreadful, their neighbors laughed, and then the cane descended.

When one verse came to an end, Fris quickly started the next; for
the mill was hard to set in motion again when once it had come to
a standstill. "With for--!" and the half-hundred children carried
it on--

  "With force of arms we nothing can,
  Full soon were we downrid--den;"

Then Fris had another breathing-space in which to enjoy his pipe
and be lulled by this noise that spoke of great and industrious
activity. When things went as they were now going, his exasperation
calmed down for a time, and he could smile at his thoughts as he
paced up and down, and, old though he was, look at the bright side
of life. People in passing stopped to rejoice over the diligence
displayed, and Fris beat more briskly with the cane, and felt a
long-forgotten ideal stirring within him; he had this whole flock
of children to educate for life, he was engaged in creating the
coming generation.

When the hymn came to an end, he got them, without a pause, turned
on to "Who puts his trust in God alone," and from that again to
"We all, we all have faith in God." They had had them all three
the whole winter through, and now at last, after tremendous labor,
he had brought them so far that they could say them more or less
together.

The hymn-book was the business of Fris's life, and his forty years
as parish-clerk had led to his knowing the whole of it by heart.
In addition to this he had a natural gift. As a child Fris had been
intended for the ministry, and his studies as a young man were in
accordance with that intention. Bible words came with effect from
his lips, and his prospects were of the best, when an ill-natured
bird came all the way from the Faroe Islands to bring trouble upon
him. Fris fell down two flights from spiritual guide to parish-clerk
and child-whipper. The latter office he looked upon as almost too
transparent a punishment from Heaven, and arranged his school as
a miniature clerical charge.

The whole village bore traces of his work. There was not much
knowledge of reading and writing, but when it was a question of
hymns and Bible texts, these fishermen and little artisans were
bad to beat. Fris took to himself the credit for the fairly good
circumstances of the adults, and the receipt of proper wages by the
young men. He followed each one of them with something of a father's
eyes, and considered them all to be practically a success. And he
was on friendly terms with them once they had left school. They
would come to the old bachelor and have a chat, and relieve their
minds of some difficulty or other.

But it was always another matter with the confounded brood that sat
upon the school benches for the time being; it resisted learning
with might and main, and Fris prophesied it no good in the future.

Fris hated the children. But he loved these squarely built hymns,
which seemed to wear out the whole class, while he himself could
give them without relaxing a muscle. And when it went as it was
doing to-day, he could quite forget that there were such things as
children, and give himself up to this endless procession, in which
column after column filed past him, in the foot-fall of the rhythm.
It was not hymns, either; it was a mighty march-past of the strong
things of life, in which there stretched, in one endless tone, all
that Fris himself had failed to attain. That was why he nodded so
happily, and why the loud tramp of feet rose around him like the
acclamations of armies, an _Ave Caesar_.

He was sitting with the third supplement of his newspaper before
him, but was not reading; his eyes were closed, and his head moved
gently to the rhythm.

The children babbled on ceaselessly, almost without stopping for
breath; they were hypnotized by the monotonous flow of words. They
were like the geese that had been given leave by the fox to say a
prayer before they were eaten, and now went on praying and praying
forever and ever. When they came to the end of the three hymns, they
began again by themselves. The mill kept getting louder, they kept
the time with their feet, and it was like the stroke of a mighty
piston, a boom! Fris nodded with them, and a long tuft of hair
flapped in his face; he fell into an ecstasy, and could not sit
still upon his chair.

  "And were this world all devils o'er,
      And watching to devour--us,
  We lay it not to heart so sore;
      Not they can overpower us."

It sounded like a stamping-mill; some were beating their slates upon
the tables, and others thumping with their elbows. Fris did not hear
it; he heard only the mighty tramp of advancing hosts.

  "And let the prince of ill
  Look grim as e'er he will,"--

Suddenly, at a preconcerted signal, the whole school stopped
singing. Fris was brought to earth again with a shock. He opened
his eyes, and saw that he had once more allowed himself to be taken
by surprise. "You little devils! You confounded brats!" he roared,
diving into their midst with his cane. In a moment the whole school
was in a tumult, the boys fighting and the girls screaming. Fris
began hitting about him.

He tried to bring them back to the patter. "Who puts his trust in
God alone!" he shouted in a voice that drowned the clamor; but they
did not take it up--the little devils! Then he hit indiscriminately.
He knew quite well that one was just as good as another, and was not
particular where the strokes fell. He took the long-haired ones by
the hair and dragged them to the table, and thrashed them until the
cane began to split. The boys had been waiting for this; they had
themselves rubbed onion into the cane that morning, and the most
defiant of them had on several pairs of trousers for the occasion.

When the cracked sound proclaimed that the cane was in process of
disintegration, the whole school burst into deafening cheers. Fris
had thrown up the game, and let them go on. He walked up and down
the middle passage like a suffering animal, his gall rising. "You
little devils!" he hissed; "You infernal brats!" And then, "Do sit
still, children!" This last was so ridiculously touching in the
midst of all the rest, that it had to be imitated.

Pelle sat farthest away, in the corner. He was fairly new at this
sort of thing, but did his best. Suddenly he jumped on to the table,
and danced there in his stockinged feet. Fris gazed at him so
strangely, Pelle thought; he was like Father Lasse when everything
went wrong; and he slid down, ashamed. Nobody had noticed his action,
however; it was far too ordinary.

It was a deafening uproar, and now and then an ill-natured remark
was hurled out of the seething tumult. Where they came from it was
difficult to say; but every one of them hit Fris and made him cower.
False steps made in his youth on the other side of the water fifty
years ago, were brought up again here on the lips of these ignorant
children, as well as some of his best actions, that had been so
unselfish that the district put the very worst interpretation upon
them. And as if that were not enough--but hush! He was sobbing.

"Sh--sh! Sh--sh!" It was Henry Bodker, the biggest boy in the school,
and he was standing on a bench and sh--ing threateningly. The girls
adored him, and became quiet directly; but some of the boys would
not obey the order; but when Henry held his clenched fist up to one
eye, they too became quiet.

Fris walked up and down the middle passage like a pardoned offender.
He did not dare to raise his eyes, but they could all see that he
was crying. "It's a shame!" said a voice in an undertone. All eyes
were turned upon him, and there was perfect silence in the room.
"Play-time!" cried a boy's voice in a tone of command: it was
Nilen's. Fris nodded feebly, and they rushed out.

Fris remained behind to collect himself. He walked up and down with
his hands behind his back, swallowing hard. He was going to send in
his resignation. Every time things went quite wrong, Fris sent in
his resignation, and when he had come to himself a little, he put
it off until the spring examinations were over. He would not leave
in this way, as a kind of failure. This very winter he had worked
as he had never done before, in order that his resignation might
have somewhat the effect of a bomb, and that they might really feel
it as a loss when he had gone. When the examination was held, he
would take the hymn-book for repetition in chorus--right from the
beginning. Some of the children would quickly drop behind, but there
were some of them, into whom, in the course of time, he had hammered
most of its contents. Long before they had run out, the clergyman
would lift his hand to stop them, and say: "That's enough, my dear
clerk! That's enough!" and would thank him in a voice of emotion;
while the school committee and the parents would whisper together
in awed admiration.

And then would be the time to resign!

The school lay on the outskirts of the fishing-village, and the
playground was the shore. When the boys were let out after a few
hours' lessons, they were like young cattle out for the first time
after the long winter. They darted, like flitting swallows, in all
directions, threw themselves upon the fresh rampart of sea-wrack
and beat one another about the ears with the salt wet weeds. Pelle
was not fond of this game; the sharp weed stung, and sometimes
there were stones hanging to it, grown right in.

But he dared not hold himself aloof, for that would attract
attention at once. The thing was to join in it and yet not be in
it, to make himself little and big according to the requirements
of the moment, so as to be at one time unseen, and at another to
exert a terrifying effect. He had his work cut out in twisting
and turning, and slipping in and out.

The girls always kept together in one corner of the playground,
told tittle-tattle and ate their lunch, but the boys ran all over
the place like swallows in aimless flight. A big boy was standing
crouching close to the gymnastic apparatus, with his arm hiding his
face, and munching. They whirled about him excitedly, now one and
now another making the circle narrower and narrower. Peter Kofod
--Howling Peter--looked as if the world were sailing under him; he
clung to the climbing-pole and hid his face. When they came close
up to him, they kicked up behind with a roar, and the boy screamed
with terror, turned up his face and broke into a long-drawn howl.
Afterward he was given all the food that the others could not eat.

Howling Peter was always eating and always howling. He was a pauper
child and an orphan; he was big for his age, but had a strangely
blue and frozen look. His frightened eyes stood half out of his head,
and beneath them the flesh was swollen and puffy with crying. He
started at the least sound, and there was always an expression of
fear on his face. The boys never really did him any harm, but they
screamed and crouched down whenever they passed him--they could not
resist it. Then he would scream too, and cower with fear. The girls
would sometimes run up and tap him on the back, and then he screamed
in terror. Afterward all the children gave him some of their food.
He ate it all, roared, and was as famished as ever.

No one could understand what was wrong with him. Twice he had made
an attempt to hang himself, and nobody could give any reason for
it, not even he himself. And yet he was not altogether stupid.
Lasse believed that he was a visionary, and saw things that others
could not see, so that the very fact of living and drawing breath
frightened him. But however that might be, Pelle must on no account
do anything to him, not for all the world.

The crowd of boys had retired to the shore, and there, with little
Nilen at their head, suddenly threw themselves upon Henry Bodker.
He was knocked down and buried beneath the swarm, which lay in a
sprawling heap upon the top of him, pounding down with clenched
fists wherever there was an opening. But then a pair of fists began
to push upward, tchew, tchew, like steam punches, the boys rolled
off on all sides with their hands to their faces, and Henry Bodker
emerged from the heap, kicking at random. Nilen was still hanging
like a leech to the back of his neck, and Henry tore his blouse in
getting him thrown off. To Pelle he seemed to be tremendously big as
he stood there, only breathing a little quickly. And now the girls
came up, and fastened his blouse together with pins, and gave him
sweets; and he, by way of thanking them, seized them by their
pigtails and tied them together, four or five of them, so that they
could not get away from one another. They stood still and bore it
patiently, only gazing at him with eyes of devotion.

Pelle had ventured into the battle and had received a kick, but he
bore no malice. If he had had a sweet, he, like the girls, would
have given it to Henry Bodker, and would have put up with ungentle
treatment too. He worshipped him. But he measured himself by Nilen
--the little bloodthirsty Nilen, who had no knowledge of fear, and
attacked so recklessly that the others got out of his way! He was
always in the thickest of the crowd, jumped right into the worst of
everything, and came safely out of it all. Pelle examined himself
critically to find points of resemblance, and found them--in his
defence of Father Lasse the first summer, when he kicked a big boy,
and in his relations with the mad bull, of which he was not in the
least afraid. But in other points it failed. He was afraid of the
dark, and he could not stand a thrashing, while Nilen could take
his with his hands in his pockets. It was Pelle's first attempt at
obtaining a general survey of himself.

Fris had gone inland, probably to the church, so it would be a
playtime of some hours. The boys began to look about for some
more lasting ways of passing the time. The "bulls" went into the
schoolroom, and began to play about on the tables and benches, but
the "blennies" kept to the shore. "Bulls" and "blennies" were the
land and the sea in conflict; the division came naturally on every
more or less serious occasion, and sometimes gave rise to regular
battles.

Pelle kept with the shore boys; Henry Bodker and Nilen were among
them, and they were something new! They did not care about the
land and animals, but the sea, of which he was afraid, was like
a cradle to them. They played about on the water as they would in
their mother's parlor, and had much of its easy movement. They were
quicker than Pelle, but not so enduring; and they had a freer manner,
and made less of the spot to which they belonged. They spoke of
England in the most ordinary way and brought things to school that
their fathers and brothers had brought home with them from the other
side of the world, from Africa and China. They spent nights on the
sea on an open boat, and when they played truant it was always to
go fishing. The cleverest of them had their own fishing-tackle and
little flat-bottomed prams, that they had built themselves and
caulked with oakum. They fished on their own account and caught
pike, eels, and tench, which they sold to the wealthier people in
the district.

Pelle thought he knew the stream thoroughly, but now he was brought
to see it from a new side. Here were boys who in March and April--in
the holidays--were up at three in the morning, wading barefoot at
the mouth of the stream to catch the pike and perch that went up
into the fresh water to spawn. And nobody told the boys to do it;
they did it because they liked it!

They had strange pleasures! Now they were standing "before the sea"
--in a long, jubilant row. They ran out with the receding wave to
the larger stones out in the water, and then stood on the stones
and jumped when the water came up again, like a flock of sea birds.
The art consisted in keeping yourself dryshod, and yet it was the
quickest boys who got wettest. There was of course a limit to the
time you could keep yourself hovering. When wave followed wave in
quick succession, you had to come down in the middle of it, and then
sometimes it went over your head. Or an unusually large wave would
come and catch all the legs as they were drawn up in the middle of
the jump, when the whole row turned beautifully, and fell splash
into the water. Then with, a deafening noise they went up to the
schoolroom to turn the "bulls" away from the stove.

Farther along the shore, there were generally some boys sitting with
a hammer and a large nail, boring holes in the stones there. They
were sons of stone-masons from beyond the quarries. Pelle's cousin
Anton was among them. When the holes were deep enough, powder was
pressed into them, and the whole school was present at the
explosion.

In the morning, when they were waiting for the master, the big boys
would stand up by the school wall with their hands in their pockets,
discussing the amount of canvas and the home ports of vessels
passing far out at sea. Pelle listened to them open-mouthed. It was
always the sea and what belonged to the sea that they talked about,
and most of it he did not understand. All these boys wanted the same
thing when they were confirmed--to go to sea. But Pelle had had
enough of it when he crossed from Sweden; he could not understand
them.

How carefully he had always shut his eyes and put his fingers in
his ears, so that his head should not get filled with water when he
dived in the stream! But these boys swam down under the water like
proper fish, and from what they said he understood that they could
dive down in deep water and pick up stones from the bottom.

"Can you see down there, then?" he asked, in wonder.

"Yes, of course! How else would the fish be able to keep away from
the nets? If it's only moonlight, they keep far outside, the whole
shoal!"

"And the water doesn't run into your head when you take your fingers
out of your ears?"

"Take your fingers out of your ears?"

"Yes, to pick up the stone."

A burst of scornful laughter greeted this remark, and they began to
question him craftily; he was splendid--a regular country bumpkin!
He had the funniest ideas about everything, and it very soon came
out that he had never bathed in the sea. He was afraid of the water
--a "blue-bag"; the stream could not do away with that.

After that he was called Blue-bag, notwithstanding that he one day
took the cattle-whip to school with him and showed them how he could
cut three-cornered holes in a pair of trousers with the long lash,
hit a small stone so that it disappeared into the air, and make
those loud reports. It was all excellent, but the name stuck to him
all the same; and all his little personality smarted under it.

In the course of the winter, some strong young men came home to the
village in blue clothes and white neck-cloths. They had laid up, as
it was called, and some of them drew wages all through the winter
without doing anything. They always came over to the school to see
the master; they came in the middle of lessons, but it did not
matter; Fris was joy personified. They generally brought something
or other for him--a cigar of such fine quality that it was enclosed
in glass, or some other remarkable thing. And they talked to Fris
as they would to a comrade, told him what they had gone through, so
that the listening youngsters hugged themselves with delight, and
quite unconcernedly smoked their clay pipes in the class--with the
bowl turned nonchalantly downward without losing its tobacco. They
had been engaged as cook's boys and ordinary seamen, on the Spanish
main and the Mediterranean and many other wonderful places. One of
them had ridden up a fire-spouting mountain on a donkey. And they
brought home with them lucifer matches that were as big, almost,
as Pomeranian logs, and were to be struck on the teeth.

The boys worshipped them and talked of nothing else; it was a great
honor to be seen in the company of such a man. For Pelle it was not
to be thought of.

And then it came about that the village was awaiting the return of
one such lad as this, and he did not come. And one day word came
that bark so-and-so had gone to the bottom with all on board. It
was the winter storms, said the boys, spitting like grown men. The
brothers and sisters were kept away from school for a week, and when
they came back Pelle eyed them curiously: it must be strange to have
a brother lying at the bottom of the sea, quite young! "Then you
won't want to go to sea?" he asked them. Oh, yes, they wanted to go
to sea, too!

Another time Fris came back after an unusually long playtime in low
spirits. He kept on blowing his nose hard, and now and then dried
his eyes behind his spectacles. The boys nudged one another. He
cleared his throat loudly, but could not make himself heard, and
then beat a few strokes on his desk with the cane.

"Have you heard, children?" he asked, when they had become more
or less quiet.

"No! Yes! What?" they cried in chorus; and one boy said: "That the
sun's fallen into the sea and set it on fire!"

The master quietly took up his hymn-book. "Shall we sing 'How
blessed are they'?" he said; and they knew that something must have
happened, and sang the hymn seriously with him.

But at the fifth verse Fris stopped; he could not go on any longer.
"Peter Funck is drowned!" he said, in a voice that broke on the last
word. A horrified whisper passed through the class, and they looked
at one another with uncomprehending eyes. Peter Funck was the most
active boy in the village, the best swimmer, and the greatest scamp
the school had ever had--and he was drowned!

Fris walked up and down, struggling to control himself. The children
dropped into softly whispered conversation about Peter Funck, and
all their faces had grown old with gravity. "Where did it happen?"
asked a big boy.

Fris awoke with a sigh. He had been thinking about this boy, who
had shirked everything, and had then become the best sailor in the
village; about all the thrashings he had given him, and the pleasant
hours they had spent together on winter evenings when the lad was
home from a voyage and had looked in to see his old master. There
had been much to correct, and things of grave importance that Fris
had had to patch up for the lad in all secrecy, so that they should
not affect his whole life, and--

"It was in the North Sea," he said. "I think they'd been in
England."

"To Spain with dried fish," said a boy. "And from there they went
to England with oranges, and were bringing a cargo of coal home."

"Yes, I think that was it," said Fris. "They were in the North Sea,
and were surprised by a storm; and Peter had to go aloft."

"Yes, for the _Trokkadej_ is such a crazy old hulk. As soon
as there's a little wind, they have to go aloft and take in sail,"
said another boy.

"And he fell down," Fris went on, "and struck the rail and fell into
the sea. There were the marks of his sea-boats on the rail. They
braced--or whatever it's called--and managed to turn; but it took
them half-an-hour to get up to the place. And just as they got there,
he sank before their eyes. He had been struggling in the icy water
for half-an-hour--with sea-boots and oilskins on--and yet--"

A long sigh passed through the class. "He was the best swimmer on
the whole shore!" said Henry. "He dived backward off the gunwale of
a bark that was lying in the roads here taking in water, and came
up on the other side of the vessel. He got ten rye rusks from the
captain himself for it."

"He must have suffered terribly," said Fris. "It would almost have
been better for him if he hadn't been able to swim."

"That's what my father says!" said a little boy. "He can't swim,
for he says it's better for a sailor not to be able to; it only
keeps you in torture."

"My father can't swim, either!" exclaimed another. "Nor mine,
either!" said a third. "He could easily learn, but he won't." And
they went on in this way, holding up their hands. They could all
swim themselves, but it appeared that hardly any of their fathers
could; they had a superstitious feeling against it. "Father says you
oughtn't to tempt Providence if you're wrecked," one boy added.

"Why, but then you'd not be doing your best!" objected a little
faltering voice. Fris turned quickly toward the corner where Pelle
sat blushing to the tips of his ears.

"Look at that little man!" said Fris, impressed. "And I declare if
he isn't right and all the rest of us wrong! God helps those that
help themselves!"

"Perhaps," said a voice. It was Henry Bodker's.

"Well, well, I know He didn't help here, but still we ought always
to do what we can in all the circumstances of life. Peter did his
best--and he was the cleverest boy I ever had."

The children smiled at one another, remembering various things.
Peter Funck had once gone so far as to wrestle with the master
himself, but they had not the heart to bring this up. One of the
bigger boys, however, said, half for the purpose of teasing: "He
never got any farther than the twenty-seventh hymn!"

"Didn't he, indeed?" snarled Fris. "Didn't he, indeed? And you think
perhaps you're clever, do you? Let's see how far you've got, then!"
And he took up the hymn-book with a trembling hand. He could not
stand anything being said against boys that had left.

The name Blue-bag continued to stick to Pelle, and nothing had ever
stung him so much; and there was no chance of his getting rid of it
before the summer came, and that was a long way off.

One day the fisher-boys ran out on to the breakwater in playtime.
A boat had just come in through the pack-ice with a gruesome cargo
--five frozen men, one of whom was dead and lay in the fire-engine
house, while the four others had been taken into various cottages,
where they were being rubbed with ice to draw the frost out of them.
The farmer-boys were allowed no share in all this excitement, for
the fisher-boys, who went in and out and saw everything, drove them
away if they approached--and sold meagre information at extortionate
prices.

The boat had met a Finnish schooner drifting in the sea, covered
with ice, and with frozen rudder. She was too heavily laden, so that
the waves went right over her and froze; and the ice had made her
sink still deeper. When she was found, her deck was just on a level
with the water, ropes of the thickness of a finger had become as
thick as an arm with ice, and the men who were lashed to the rigging
were shapeless masses of ice. They were like knights in armor with
closed visor when they were taken down, and their clothes had to be
hacked off their bodies. Three boats had gone out now to try and
save the vessel; there would be a large sum of money to divide if
they were successful.

Pelle was determined not to be left out of all this, even if he got
his shins kicked in, and so kept near and listened. The boys were
talking gravely and looked gloomy. What those men had put up with!
And perhaps their hands or feet would mortify and have to be cut off.
Each boy behaved as if he were bearing his share of their sufferings,
and they talked in a manly way and in gruff voices. "Be off with you,
bull!" they called to Pelle. They were not fond of Blue-bags for the
moment.

The tears came to Pelle's eyes, but he would not give in, and
wandered away along the wharf.

"Be off with you!" they shouted again, picking up stones in a
menacing way. "Be off to the other bumpkins, will you!" They came
up and hit at him. "What are you standing there and staring into
the water for? You might turn giddy and fall in head first! Be off
to the other yokels, will you! Blue-bag!"

Pelle turned literally giddy, with the strength of the determination
that seized upon his little brain. "I'm no more a blue-bag than you
are!" he said. "Why, you wouldn't even dare to jump into the water!"

"Just listen to him! He thinks you jump into the water for fun in
the middle of winter, and get cramp!"

Pelle just heard their exultant laughter as he sprang off the
breakwater, and the water, thick with ground-up ice, closed above
his head. The top of his head appeared again, he made two or three
strokes with his arms like a dog, and sank.

The boys ran in confusion up and down and shouted, and one of them
got hold of a boat-hook. Then Henry Bodker came running up, sprang
in head first without stopping, and disappeared, while a piece of
ice that he had struck with his forehead made ducks and drakes over
the water. Twice his head appeared above the ice-filled water, to
snatch a breath of air, and then he came up with Pelle. They got him
hoisted up on to the breakwater, and Henry set to work to give him
a good thrashing.

Pelle had lost consciousness, but the thrashing had the effect of
bringing him to. He suddenly opened his eyes, was on his legs in
a trice, and darted away like a sandpiper.

"Run home!" the boys roared after him. "Run as hard as ever you can,
or you'll be ill! Only tell your father you fell in!" And Pelle ran.
He needed no persuasion. When he reached Stone Farm, his clothes
were frozen quite stiff, and his trousers could stand alone when
he got out of them; but he himself was as warm as a toast.

He would not lie to his father, but told him just what had happened.
Lasse was angry, angrier than the boy had ever seen him before.

Lasse knew how to treat a horse to keep it from catching cold, and
began to rub Pelle's naked body with a wisp of straw, while the boy
lay on the bed, tossing about under the rough handling. His father
took no notice of his groans, but scolded him. "You mad little
devil, to jump straight into the sea in the middle of winter like a
lovesick woman! You ought to have a whipping, that's what you ought
to have--a good sound whipping! But I'll let you off this time if
you'll go to sleep and try to sweat so that we can get that nasty
salt water out of your body. I wonder if it wouldn't be a good thing
to bleed you."

Pelle did not want to be bled; he was very comfortable lying there,
now that he had been sick. But his thoughts were very serious.
"Supposing I'd been drowned!" he said solemnly.

"If you had, I'd have thrashed you to within an inch of your life,"
said Lasse angrily.

Pelle laughed.

"Oh, you may laugh, you word-catcher!" snapped Lasse. "But it's
no joke being father to a little ne'er-do-weel of a cub like you!"
Saying which he went angrily out into the stable. He kept on
listening, however, and coming up to peep in and see whether fever
or any other devilry had come of it.

But Pelle slept quietly with his head under the quilt, and dreamed
that he was no less a person than Henry Bodker.

       *       *       *       *       *

Pelle did not learn to read much that winter, but he learned twenty
and odd hymns by heart only by using his ears, and he got the name
Blue-bag, as applied to himself, completely banished. He had gained
ground, and strengthened his position by several bold strokes; and
the school began to take account of him as a brave boy. And Henry,
who as a rule took no notice of anybody, took him several times
under his wing.

Now and then he had a bad conscience, especially when his father
in his newly-awakened thirst for knowledge, came to him for the
solution of some problem or other, and he was at a loss for an
answer.

"But it's you who ought to have the learning," Lasse would then say
reproachfully.

As the winter drew to an end, and the examination approached, Pelle
became nervous. Many uncomfortable reports were current of the
severity of the examination among the boys--of putting into lower
classes and complete dismissal from the school.

Pelle had the misfortune not to be heard independently in a single
hymn. He had to give an account of the Fall. The theft of the apple
was easy to get through, but the curse--! "And God said unto the
serpent: Upon thy belly shalt thou go, upon thy belly shalt thou go,
upon thy belly shalt thou go!" He could get no further.

"Does it still do that, then?" asked the clergyman kindly.

"Yes--for it has no limbs."

"And can you explain to me what a limb is?" The priest was known
to be the best examiner on the island; he could begin in a gutter
and end in heaven, people said.

"A limb is--is a hand."

"Yes, that is one. But can't you tell me something that
distinguishes all limbs from other parts of the body? A limb
is--well?--a?--a part of the body that can move by itself, for
instance? Well!"

"The ears!" said Pelle, perhaps because his own were burning.

"O-oh? Can you move your ears, then?"

"Yes." By dint of great perseverance, Pelle had acquired that art in
the course of the previous summer, so as not to be outdone by Rud.

"Then, upon my word, I should like to see it!" exclaimed the
clergyman.

So Pelle worked his ears industriously backward and forward, and the
priest and the school committee and the parents all laughed. Pelle
got "excellent" in religion.

"So it was your ears after all that saved you," said Lasse,
delighted. "Didn't I tell you to use your ears well? Highest marks
in religion only for moving your ears! Why, I should think you might
become a parson if you liked!"

And he went on for a long time. But wasn't he the devil of a laddie
to be able to answer like that!



XII

"Come, cubby, cubby, cubby! Come on, you silly little chicken,
there's nothing to be afraid of!" Pelle was enticing his favorite
calf with a wisp of green corn; but it was not quite sure of him
to-day, for it had had a beating for bad behavior.

Pelle felt very much like a father whose child gives him sorrow and
compels him to use severe measures. And now this misunderstanding
--that the calf would have nothing to do with him, although it was
for its own good that he had beaten it! But there was no help for it,
and as long as Pelle had them to mind, he intended to be obeyed.

At last it let him come close up to it, so that he could stroke it.
It stood still for a little and was sulky, but yielded at last, ate
the green food and snuffed in his face by way of thanks.

"Will you be good, then?" said Pelle, shaking it by its stumps of
horns. "Will you, eh?" It tossed its head mischievously. "Very well,
then you shan't carry my coat to-day."

The strange thing about this calf was that the first day it was let
out, it would not stir, and at last the boy left it behind for Lasse
to take in again. But no sooner was it behind him than it followed
of its own accord, with its forehead close to his back; and always
after that it walked behind him when they went out and came home,
and it carried his overcoat on its back when it looked as if there
would be rain.

Pelle's years were few in number, but to his animals he was a
grown man. Formerly he had only been able to make them respect him
sufficiently to obey him at close quarters; but this year he could
hit a cow at a distance of a hundred paces with a stone, and that
gave him power over the animals at a distance, especially when he
thought of calling out the animal's name as he hit it. In this way
they realized that the pain came from him, and learned to obey the
mere call.

For punishment to be effectual, it must follow immediately upon the
misdeed. There was therefore no longer any such thing as lying in
wait for an animal that had offended, and coming up behind it when
later on it was grazing peacefully. That only caused confusion. To
run an animal until it was tired out, hanging on to its tail and
beating it all round the meadow only to revenge one's self, was also
stupid; it made the whole flock restless and difficult to manage for
the rest of the day. Pelle weighed the end and the means against
one another; he learned to quench his thirst for revenge with good
practical reasons.

Pelle was a boy, and he was not an idle one. All day, from five in
the morning until nine at night, he was busy with something or other,
often most useless things. For hours he practiced walking on his
hands, turning a somersault, and jumping the stream; he was always
in motion. Hour after hour he would run unflaggingly round in a
circle on the grass, like a tethered foal, leaning toward the center
as he ran, so that his hand could pluck the grass, kicking up behind,
and neighing and snorting. He was pouring forth energy from morning
till night with open-handed profusion.

But minding the cattle was _work_, and here he husbanded
his energy. Every step that could be saved here was like capital
acquired; and Pelle took careful notice of everything, and was
always improving his methods. He learned that punishment worked
best when it only hung as a threat; for much beating made an animal
callous. He also learned to see when it was absolutely necessary to
interfere. If this could not be done in the very act, he controlled
himself and endeavored upon the strength of his experience to bring
about exactly the same situation once more, and then to be prepared.
The little fellow, unknown to himself, was always engaged in adding
cubits unto his stature.

He had obtained good results. The driving out and home again no
longer gave him any difficulty; he had succeeded for a whole week
in driving the flock along a narrow field road, with growing corn
on both sides, without their having bitten off so much as a blade.
And there was the still greater task of keeping them under control
on a hot, close day--to hedge them in in full gallop, so that they
stood in the middle of the meadow stamping on the ground with
uplifted tails, in fear of the gad-flies. If he wanted to, he could
make them tear home to the stable in wild flight, with their tails
in the air, on the coldest October day, only by lying down in the
grass and imitating the hum of gad-flies. But that was a tremendous
secret, that even Father Lasse knew nothing about.

The amusing thing about the buzzing was that calves that were out
for the first time, and had never made the acquaintance of a gad-fly,
instantly set off running, with tail erect, when they heard its
angry buzz.

Pelle had a remote ideal, which was to lie upon some elevated place
and direct the whole flock by the sole means of his voice, and never
need to resort to punishment. Father Lasse never beat either, no
matter how wrong things went.

There were some days--well, what did become of them? Before he had
any idea of it, it was time to drive home. Other days were long
enough, but seemed to sing themselves away, in the ring of scythes,
the lowing of cattle, and people's voices far away. Then the day
itself went singing over the ground, and Pelle had to stop every now
and then to listen. Hark! there was music! And he would run up on to
the sandbanks and gaze out over the sea; but it was not there, and
inland there was no merrymaking that he knew of, and there were no
birds of passage flying through the air at this time of year. But
hark! there was music again! far away in the distance, just such
a sound of music as reaches the ear from so far off that one cannot
distinguish the melody, or say what instruments are playing. Could
it be the sun itself?

The song of light and life streamed through him, as though he were
a fountain; and he would go about in a dreamy half-consciousness of
melody and happiness.

When the rain poured down, he hung his coat over a briar and lay
sheltered beneath it, carving or drawing with a lead button on
paper--horses, and bulls lying down, but more often ships, ships
that sailed across the sea upon their own soft melody, far away to
foreign lands, to Negroland and China, for rare things. And when he
was quite in the mood, he would bring out a broken knife and a piece
of shale from a secret hiding-place, and set to work. There was a
picture scratched on the stone, and he was now busy carving it in
relief. He had worked at it on and off all through the summer, and
now it was beginning to stand out. It was a bark in full sail,
sailing over rippling water to Spain--yes, it was going to Spain,
for grapes and oranges, and all the other delightful things that
Pelle had never tasted yet.

On rainy days it was a difficult matter to keep count of the time,
and required the utmost exertion. On other days it was easy enough,
and Pelle could tell it best by the feeling. At certain times of the
day there were signs at home on the farm that told him the time, and
the cattle gave him other hours by their habits. At nine the first
one lay down to chew the morning cud, and then all gradually lay
down one by one; and there was always a moment at about ten when
they all lay chewing. At eleven the last of them were upon their
legs again. It was the same in the afternoon between three and five.

Midday was easy to determine when the sun was shining. Pelle could
always feel it when it turned in its path. And there were a hundred
other things in nature that gave him a connection with the times
of day, such as the habits of the birds, and something about the
fir-trees, and much besides that he could not lay his finger upon
and say it was there, because it was only a feeling. The time to
drive home was given by the cattle themselves. When it drew near,
they grazed slowly around until their heads pointed in the direction
of the farm; and there was a visible tension in their bodies, a
homeward yearning.

       *       *       *       *       *

Rud had not shown himself all the week, and no sooner had he
come today than Pelle had to give him a blowing-up for some
deceitfulness. Then he ran home, and Pelle lay down at the edge of
the fir-plantation, on his face with the soles of his feet in the
air, and sang. All round him there were marks of his knife on the
tree-stems. On the earliest ships you saw the keel, the deck was
perpendicular to the body. Those had been carved the first summer.
There was also a collection of tiny fields here on the edge of the
stream, properly ploughed, harrowed, and sown, each field about two
feet square.

Pelle was resting now after the exertion with Rud, by making the
air rock with his jubilant bawling. Up at the farm a man came out
and went along the high-road with a bundle under his arm. It was
Erik, who had to appear in court in answer to a summons for fighting.
Then the farmer drove out at a good pace toward the town, so he was
evidently off on the spree. Why couldn't the man have driven with
him, as they were both going the same way? How quickly he drove,
although she never followed him now. She consoled herself at home
instead! Could it be true that he had spent five hundred krones in
drinking and amusement in one evening?

  "The war is raging, the red blood streams,
  Among the mountains ring shouts and screams!
  The Turk advances with cruel rage,
  And sparing neither youth nor age.
  They go--"

"Ho!" Pelle sprang to his feet and gazed up over the clover field.
The dairy cows up there for the last quarter of an hour had been
looking up at the farm every other moment, and now Aspasia lowed,
so his father must soon be coming out to move them. There he came,
waddling round the corner of the farm. It was not far to the lowest
of the cows, so when his father was there, Pelle could seize the
opportunity just to run across and say good-day to him.

He brought his animals nearer together and drove them slowly over
to the other fence and up the fields. Lasse had moved the upper
half, and was now crossing over diagonally to the bull, which stood
a little apart from the others. The bull was growling and kicking
up the earth; its tongue hung out at one side of its mouth, and it
tossed its head quickly; it was angry. Then it advanced with short
steps and all kinds of antics; and how it stamped! Pelle felt a
desire to kick it on the nose as he had often done before; it had
no business to threaten Lasse, even if it meant nothing by it.

Father Lasse took no notice of it, either. He stood hammering away
at the big tether-peg, to loosen it. "Good-day!" shouted Pelle.
Lasse turned his head and nodded, then bent down and hammered the
peg into the ground. The bull was just behind him, stamping quickly,
with open mouth and tongue hanging out; it looked as if it were
vomiting, and the sound it made answered exactly to that. Pelle
laughed as he slackened his pace. He was close by.

But suddenly Father Lasse turned a somersault, fell, and was in the
air again, and then fell a little way off. Again the bull was about
to toss him, but Pelle was at its head. He was not wearing wooden
shoes, but he kicked it with his bare feet until he was giddy. The
bull knew him and tried to go round him, but Pelle sprang at its
head, shouting and kicking and almost beside himself, seized it by
the horns. But it put him gently on one side and went forward toward
Lasse, blowing along the ground so that the grass waved.

It took hold of him by the blouse and shook him a little, and then
tried to get both his horns under him to send him up into the air;
but Pelle was on his feet again, and as quick as lightning had drawn
his knife and plunged it in between the bull's hind legs. The bull
uttered a short roar, turned Lasse over on one side, and dashed
off over the fields at a gallop, tossing its head as it ran, and
bellowing. Down by the stream it began to tear up the bank, filling
the air with earth and grass.

Lasse lay groaning with his eyes closed, and Pelle stood pulling
in vain at his arm to help him up, crying: "Father, little Father
Lasse!" At last Lasse sat up.

"Who's that singing?" he asked. "Oh, it's you, is it, laddie? And
you're crying! Has any one done anything to you? Ah, yes, of course,
it was the bull! It was just going to play fandango with me. But
what did you do to it, that the devil took it so quickly? You saved
your father's life, little though you are. Oh, hang it! I think I'm
going to be sick! Ah me!" he went on, when the sickness was past,
as he wiped the perspiration from his forehead. "If only I could
have had a dram. Oh, yes, he knew me, the fellow, or I shouldn't
have got off so easily. He only wanted to play with me a little,
you know. He was a wee bit spiteful because I drove him away from
a cow this morning; I'd noticed that. But who'd have thought he'd
have turned on me? He wouldn't have done so, either, if I hadn't
been so silly as to wear somebody else's clothes. This is Mons's
blouse; I borrowed it of him while I washed my own. And Mr. Bull
didn't like the strange smell about me. Well, we'll see what Mons'll
say to this here slit. I'm afraid he won't be best pleased."

Lasse talked on for a good while until he tried to rise, and
stood up with Pelle's assistance. As he stood leaning on the boy's
shoulder, he swayed backward and forward. "I should almost have said
I was drunk, if it hadn't been for the pains!" he said, laughing
feebly. "Well, well, I suppose I must thank God for you, laddie.
You always gladden my heart, and now you've saved my life, too."

Lasse then stumbled homeward, and Pelle moved the rest of the cows
on the road down to join his own. He was both proud and affected,
but most proud. He had saved Father Lasse's life, and from the big,
angry bull that no one else on the farm dared have anything to do
with. The next time Henry Bodker came out to see him, he should hear
all about it.

He was a little vexed with himself for having drawn his knife. Every
one here looked down upon that, and said it was Swedish. He wouldn't
have needed to do it either if there'd been time, or if only he had
had on his wooden shoes to kick the bull in the eyes with. He had
very often gone at it with the toes of his wooden shoes, when it had
to be driven into its stall again after a covering; and it always
took good care not to do anything to him. Perhaps he would put his
finger in its eye and make it blind, or take it by the horns and
twist its head round, like the man in the story, until its neck was
wrung.

Pelle grew and swelled up until he overshadowed everything. There
was no limit to his strength while he ran about bringing his animals
together again. He passed like a storm over everything, tossed
strong Erik and the bailiff about, and lifted--yes, lifted the
whole of Stone Farm merely by putting his hand under the beam.
It was quite a fit of berserker rage!

In the very middle of it all, it occurred to him how awkward it
would be if the bailiff got to know that the bull was loose. It
might mean a thrashing both for him and Lasse. He must go and look
for it; and for safety's sake he took his long whip with him and
put on his wooden shoes.

The bull had made a terrible mess down on the bank of the stream,
and had ploughed up a good piece of the meadow. It had left bloody
traces along the bed of the stream and across the fields. Pelle
followed these out toward the headland, where he found the bull.
The huge animal had gone right in under the bushes, and was standing
licking its wound. When it heard Pelle's voice, it came out. "Turn
round!" he cried, flicking its nose with the whip. It put its head
to the ground, bellowed, and moved heavily backward. Pelle continued
flicking it on the nose while he advanced step by step, shouting
determinedly: "Turn round! Will you turn round!" At last it turned
and set off at a run, Pelle seizing the tether-peg and running
after. He kept it going with the whip, so that it should have no
time for evil thoughts.

When this was accomplished, he was ready to drop with fatigue, and
lay crouched up at the edge of the fir-plantation, thinking sadly of
Father Lasse, who must be going about up there ill and with nobody
to give him a helping hand with his work. At last the situation
became unbearable: he had to go home!

_Zzzz! Zzzz!_ Lying flat on the ground, Pelle crept over the
grass, imitating the maddening buzz of the gad-fly. He forced the
sound out between his teeth, rising and falling, as if it were
flying hither and thither over the grass. The cattle stopped grazing
and stood perfectly still with attentive ears. Then they began to
grow nervous, kicking up their legs under their bodies, turning
their heads to one side in little curves, and starting; and then
up went their tails. He made the sound more persistently angry, and
the whole flock, infecting one another, turned and began to stamp
round in wild panic. Two calves broke out of the tumult, and made a
bee-line for the farm, and the whole flock followed, over stock and
stone. All Pelle had to do now was to run after them, making plenty
of fuss, and craftily keep the buzzing going, so that the mood
should last till they reached home.

The bailiff himself came running to open the gate into the
enclosure, and helped to get the animals in. Pelle expected a box
on the ears, and stood still; but the bailiff only looked at him
with a peculiar smile, and said: "They're beginning to get the upper
hand of you, I think. Well, well," he went on, "it's all right as
long as you can manage the bull!" He was making fun of him, and
Pelle blushed up to the roots of his hair.

Father Lasse had crept into bed. "What a good thing you came!" he
said. "I was just lying here and wondering how I was going to get
the cows moved. I can scarcely move at all, much less get up."

It was a week before Lasse was on his feet again, and during that
time the field-cattle remained in the enclosure, and Pelle stayed
at home and did his father's work. He had his meals with the others,
and slept his midday sleep in the barn as they did.

One day, in the middle of the day, the Sow came into the yard, drunk.
She took her stand in the upper yard, where she was forbidden to go,
and stood there calling for Kongstrup. The farmer was at home, but
did not show himself, and not a soul was to be seen behind the high
windows. "Kongstrup, Kongstrup! Come here for a little!" she called,
with her eyes on the pavement, for she could not lift her head. The
bailiff was not at home, and the men remained in hiding in the barn,
hoping to see some fun. "I say, Kongstrup, come out a moment! I want
to speak to you!" said the Sow indistinctly--and then went up the
steps and tried to open the door. She hammered upon it a few times,
and stood talking with her face close to the door; and when nobody
came, she reeled down the steps and went away talking to herself and
not looking round.

A little while after the sound of weeping began up there, and just
as the men were going out to the fields, the farmer came rushing out
and gave orders that the horse should be harnessed to the chaise.
While it was being done, he walked about nervously, and then set off
at full speed. As he turned the corner of the house, a window opened
and a voice called to him imploringly: "Kongstrup, Kongstrup!" But
he drove quickly on, the window closed, and the weeping began
afresh.

In the afternoon Pelle was busying himself about the lower yard when
Karna came to him and told him to go up to mistress. Pelle went up
hesitatingly. He was not sure of her and all the men were out in the
fields.

Fru Kongstrup lay upon the sofa in her husband's study, which she
always occupied, day or night, when her husband was out. She had
a wet towel over her forehead, and her whole face was red with
weeping.

"Come here!" she said, in a low voice. "You aren't afraid of me,
are you?"

Pelle had to go up to her and sit on the chair beside her. He did
not know what to do with his eyes; and his nose began to run with
the excitement, and he had no pocket-handkerchief.

"Are you afraid of me?" she asked again, and a bitter smile crossed
her lips.

He had to look at her to show that he was not afraid, and to tell
the truth, she was not like a witch at all, but only like a human
being who cried and was unhappy.

"Come here!" she said, and she wiped his nose with her own fine
handkerchief, and stroked his hair. "You haven't even a mother,
poor little thing!" And she smoothed down his clumsily mended
blouse.

"It's three years now since Mother Bengta died, and she's lying in
the west corner of the churchyard."

"Do you miss her very much?"

"Oh, well, Father Lasse mends my clothes!"

"I'm sure she can't have been very good to you."

"Oh, yes!" said Pelle, nodding earnestly. "But she was so fretful,
she was always ailing; and it's better they should go when they get
like that. But now we're soon going to get married again--when
Father Lasse's found somebody that'll do."

"And then I suppose you'll go away from here? I'm sure you aren't
comfortable here, are you?"

Pelle had found his tongue, but now feared a trap, and became dumb.
He only nodded. Nobody should come and accuse him afterward of
having complained.

"No, you aren't comfortable," she said, in a plaintive tone. "No one
is comfortable at Stone Farm. Everything turns to misfortune here."

"It's an old curse, that!" said Pelle.

"Do they say so? Yes, yes, I know they do! And they say of me that
I'm a devil--only because I love a single man--and cannot put up
with being trampled on." She wept and pressed his hand against her
quivering face.

"I've got to go out and move the cows," said Pelle, wriggling about
uneasily in an endeavor to get away.

"Now you're afraid of me again!" she said, and tried to smile. It
was like a gleam of sunshine after rain.

"No--only I've got to go out and move the cows."

"There's still a whole hour before that. But why aren't you herding
to-day? Is your father ill?"

Then Pelle had to tell her about the bull.

"You're a good boy!" said the mistress, patting his head. "If I had
a son, I should like him to be like you. But now you shall have some
jam, and then you must run to the shop for a bottle of black-currant
rum, so that we can make a hot drink for your father. If you hurry,
you can be back before moving-time."

Lasse had his hot drink, even before the boy returned; and every day
while he kept his bed he had something strengthening--although there
was no black-currant rum in it.

During this time Pelle went up to the mistress nearly every day.
Kongstrup had gone on business to Copenhagen. She was kind to him
and gave him nice things to eat; and while he ate, she talked
without ceasing about Kongstrup, or asked him what people thought
about her. Pelle had to tell her, and then she was upset and began
to cry. There was no end to her talk about the farmer, but she
contradicted herself, and Pelle gave up trying to make anything
of it. Besides, the good things she gave him were quite enough for
him to think about.

Down in their room he repeated everything word for word, and Lasse
lay and listened, and wondered at this little fellow who had the run
of high places, and was in the mistress's confidence. Still he did
not quite like it.

"... She could scarcely stand, and had to hold on to the table when
she was going to fetch me the biscuits, she was so ill. It was only
because he'd treated her badly, she said. Do you know she hates him,
and would like to kill him, she says; and yet she says that he's
the handsomest man in the world, and asked me if I've seen any one
handsomer in all Sweden. And then she cries as if she was mad."

"Does she?" said Lasse thoughtfully. "I don't suppose she knows what
she's saying, or else she says it for reasons of her own. But all
the same, it's not true that he beats her! She's telling a lie, I'm
sure."

"And why should she lie?"

"Because she wants to do him harm, I suppose. But it's true he's a
fine man--and cares for everybody except just her; and that's the
misfortune. I don't like your being so much up there; I'm so afraid
you may come to some harm."

"How could I? She's so good, so very good."

"How am I to know that? No, she isn't good--her eyes aren't good,
at any rate. She's brought more than one person into misfortune by
looking at them. But there's nothing to be done about it; the poor
man has to risk things."

Lasse was silent, and stumbled about for a little while. Then he
came up to Pelle. "Now, see here! Here's a piece of steel I've found,
and you must remember always to have it about you, especially when
you go up _there_! And then--yes, then we must leave the rest
in God's hand. He's the only one who perhaps looks after poor little
boys."

Lasse was up for a short while that day. He was getting on quickly,
thank God, and in two days they might be back in their old ways
again. And next winter they must try to get away from it all!

On the last day that Pelle stayed at home, he went up to the
mistress as usual, and ran her errand for her. And that day he saw
something unpleasant that made him glad that this was over. She took
her teeth, palate, and everything out of her mouth, and laid them
on the table in front of her!

So she _was_ a witch!



XIII

Pelle was coming home with his young cattle. As he came near the
farm he issued his commands in a loud voice, so that his father
might hear. "Hi! Spasianna! where are you going to? Dannebrog, you
confounded old ram, will you turn round!" But Lasse did not come
to open the gate of the enclosure.

When he had got the animals in, he ran into the cow-stable. His
father was neither there nor in their room, and his Sunday wooden
shoes and his woollen cap were gone. Then Pelle remembered that it
was Saturday, and that probably the old man had gone to the shop
to fetch spirits for the men.

Pelle went down into the servants' room to get his supper. The men
had come home late, and were still sitting at the table, which was
covered with spilt milk and potato-skins. They were engrossed in
a wager; Erik undertook to eat twenty salt herrings with potatoes
after he had finished his meal. The stakes were a bottle of spirits,
and the others were to peel the potatoes for him.

Pelle got out his pocket-knife and peeled himself a pile of
potatoes. He left the skin on the herring, but scraped it carefully
and cut off the head and tail; then he cut it in pieces and ate it
without taking out the bones, with the potatoes and the sauce. While
he did so, he looked at Erik--the giant Erik, who was so strong
and was not afraid of anything between heaven and earth. Erik had
children all over the place! Erik could put his finger into the
barrel of a gun, and hold the gun straight out at arm's length! Erik
could drink as much as three others!

And now Erik was sitting and eating twenty salt herrings after his
hunger was satisfied. He took the herring by the head, drew it once
between his legs, and then ate it as it was; and he ate potatoes
to them, quite as quickly as the others could peel them. In between
whiles he swore because the bailiff had refused him permission to go
out that evening; there was going to be the devil to pay about that:
he'd teach them to keep Erik at home when he wanted to go out!

Pelle quickly swallowed his herring and porridge, and set off again
to run to meet his father; he was longing immensely to see him. Out
at the pump the girls were busy scouring the milkpails and kitchen
pans; and Gustav was standing in the lower yard with his arms on
the fence, talking to them. He was really watching Bodil, whose eyes
were always following the new pupil, who was strutting up and down
and showing off his long boots with patent-leather tops.

Pelle was stopped as he ran past, and set to pump water. The men now
came up and went across to the barn, perhaps to try their strength.
Since Erik had come, they always tried their strength in their free
time. There was nothing Pelle found so exciting as trials of
strength, and he worked hard so as to get done and go over there.

Gustav, who was generally the most eager, continued to stand and
vent his ill-nature upon the pupil.

"There must be money there!" said Bodil, thoughtfully.

"Yes, you should try him; perhaps you might become a farmer's wife.
The bailiff won't anyhow; and the farmer--well, you saw the Sow the
other day; it must be nice to have that in prospect."

"Who told you that the bailiff won't?" answered Bodil sharply.
"Don't imagine that we need you to hold the candle for us! Little
children aren't allowed to see everything."

Gustav turned red. "Oh, hold your jaw, you hussy!" he muttered,
and sauntered down to the barn.

  "Oh, goodness gracious, my poor old mother,
  Who's up on deck and can't stand!"

sang Mons over at the stable door, where he was standing hammering
at a cracked wooden shoe. Pelle and the girls were quarreling, and
up in the attic the bailiff could be heard going about; he was busy
putting pipes in order. Now and then a long-drawn sound came from
the high house, like the distant howling of some animal, making the
people shudder with dreariness.

A man dressed in his best clothes, and with a bundle under his arm,
slipped out of the door from the men's rooms, and crept along by
the building in the lower yard. It was Erik.

"Hi, there! Where the devil are you going?" thundered a voice from
the bailiff's window. The man ducked his head a little and pretended
not to hear. "Do you hear, you confounded Kabyle! _Erik_!" This
time Erik turned and darted in at a barn-door.

Directly after the bailiff came down and went across the yard. In
the chaff-cutting barn the men were standing laughing at Erik's bad
luck. "He's a devil for keeping watch!" said Gustav. "You must be
up early to get the better of _him_."

"Oh, I'll manage to dish him!" said Erik. "I wasn't born yesterday.
And if he doesn't mind his own business, we shall come to blows."

There was a sudden silence as the bailiff's well-known step was
heard upon the stone paving. Erik stole away.

The form of the bailiff filled the doorway. "Who sent Lasse for
gin?" he asked sternly.

They looked at one another as if not understanding. "Is Lasse out?"
asked Mons then, with the most innocent look in the world. "Ay, the
old man's fond of spirits," said Anders, in explanation.

"Oh, yes; you're good comrades!" said the bailiff. "First you make
the old man go, and then you leave him in the lurch. You deserve
a thrashing, all of you."

"No, we don't deserve a thrashing, and don't mean to submit to
one either," said the head man, going a step forward. "Let me tell
you--"

"Hold your tongue, man!" cried the bailiff, going close up to him,
and Karl Johan drew back.

"Where's Erik?"

"He must be in his room."

The bailiff went in through the horse-stable, something in his
carriage showing that he was not altogether unprepared for an attack
from behind. Erik was in bed, with the quilt drawn up to his eyes.

"What's the meaning of this? Are you ill?" asked the bailiff.

"Yes, I think I've caught cold, I'm shivering so." He tried to make
his teeth chatter.

"It isn't the rot, I hope?" said the bailiff sympathetically. "Let's
look at you a little, poor fellow." He whipped off the quilt. "Oho,
so you're in bed with your best things on--and top-boots! It's your
grave-clothes, perhaps? And I suppose you were going out to order a
pauper's grave for yourself, weren't you? It's time we got you put
underground, too; seems to me you're beginning to smell already!"
He sniffed at him once or twice.

But Erik sprang out of bed as if shot by a spring, and stood erect
close to him. "I'm not dead yet, and perhaps I don't smell any more
than some other people!" he said, his eyes flashing and looking
about for a weapon.

The bailiff felt his hot breath upon his face, and knew it would not
do to draw back. He planted his fist in the man's stomach, so that
he fell back upon the bed and gasped for breath; and then held him
down with a hand upon his chest. He was burning with a desire to do
more, to drive his fist into the face of this rascal, who grumbled
whenever one's back was turned, and had to be driven to every little
task. Here was all the servant-worry that embittered his existence
--dissatisfaction with the fare, cantankerousness in work, threats
of leaving when things were at their busiest--difficulties without
end. Here was the slave of many years of worry and ignominy, and all
he wanted was one little pretext--a blow from this big fellow who
never used his strength for work, but only to take the lead in all
disturbances.

But Erik lay quite still and looked at his enemy with watchful eye.
"You may hit me, if you like. There is such a thing as a magistrate
in the country," he said, with irritating calm. The bailiff's
muscles burned, but he was obliged to let the man go for fear of
being summoned. "Then remember another time not to be fractious!"
he said, letting go his hold, "or I'll show you that there is a
magistrate."

"When Lasse comes, send him up to me with the gin!" he said to
the men as he passed through the barn.

"The devil we will!" said Mons, in an undertone.

Pelle had gone to meet his father. The old man had tasted the
purchase, and was in good spirits. "There were seven men in the
boat, and they were all called Ole except one, and he was called
Ole Olsen!" he said solemnly, when he saw the boy. "Yes, wasn't it
a strange thing, Pelle, boy, that they should every one of them be
called Ole--except the one, of course; for his name was Ole Olsen."
Then he laughed, and nudged the boy mysteriously; and Pelle laughed
too, for he liked to see his father in good spirits.

The men came up to them, and took the bottles from the herdsman.
"He's been tasting it!" said Anders, holding the bottle up to the
light. "Oh, the old drunkard! He's had a taste at the bottles."

"No, the bottles must leak at the bottom!" said Lasse, whom the dram
had made quite bold. "For I've done nothing but just smell. You've
got to make sure, you know, that you get the genuine thing and not
just water."

They moved on down the enclosure, Gustav going in front and playing
on his concertina. A kind of excited merriment reigned over the
party. First one and then another would leap into the air as they
went; they uttered short, shrill cries and disconnected oaths at
random. The consciousness of the full bottles, Saturday evening with
the day of rest in prospect, and above all the row with the bailiff,
had roused their tempers.

They settled down below the cow-stable, in the grass close to the
pond. The sun had long since gone down, but the evening sky was
bright, and cast a flaming light upon their faces turned westward;
while the white farms inland looked dazzling in the twilight.

Now the girls came sauntering over the grass, with their hands under
their aprons, looking like silhouettes against the brilliant sky.
They were humming a soft folk-song, and one by one sank on to the
grass beside the men; the evening twilight was in their hearts, and
made their figures and voices as soft as a caress. But the men's
mood was not a gentle one, and they preferred the bottle.

Gustav walked about extemporizing on his concertina. He was looking
for a place to sit down, and at last threw himself into Karna's lap,
and began to play a dance. Erik was the first upon his feet. He led
on account of his difference with the bailiff, and pulled Bengta up
from the grass with a jerk. They danced a Swedish polka, and always
at a certain place in the melody, he tossed her up into the air
with a shout. She shrieked every time, and her heavy skirts stood
out round her like the tail of a turkey-cock, so that every one
could see how long it was till Sunday.

In the middle of a whirl he let go of her, so that she stumbled over
the grass and fell. The bailiff's window was visible from where they
sat, and a light patch had appeared at it. "He's staring! Lord, how
he's staring! I say, can you see this?" Erik called out, holding up
a gin-bottle. Then, as he drank: "Your health! Old Nick's health!
He smells, the pig! Bah!" The others laughed, and the face at the
window disappeared.

In between the dances they played, drank, and wrestled. Their
actions became more and more wild, they uttered sudden yells that
made the girls scream, threw themselves flat upon the ground in
the middle of a dance, groaned as if they were dying, and sprang
up again suddenly with wild gestures and kicked the legs of those
nearest to them. Once or twice the bailiff sent the pupil to tell
them to be quiet, but that only made the noise worse. "Tell him to
go his own dog's errands!" Erik shouted after the pupil.

Lasse nudged Pelle and they gradually drew farther and farther away.
"We'd better go to bed now," Lasse said, when they had slipped away
unnoticed. "One never knows what this may lead to. They all of them
see red; I should think they'll soon begin to dance the dance of
blood. Ah me, if I'd been young I wouldn't have stolen away like
a thief; I'd have stayed and taken whatever might have come. There
was a time when Lasse could put both hands on the ground and kick
his man in the face with the heels of his boots so that he went down
like a blade of grass; but that time's gone, and it's wisest to take
care of one's self. This may end in the police and much more, not
to mention the bailiff. They've been irritating him all the summer
with that Erik at their head; but if once he gets downright angry,
Erik may go home to his mother."

Pelle wanted to stay up for a little and look at them. "If I creep
along behind the fence and lie down--oh, do let me, father!" he
begged.

"Eh, what a silly idea! They might treat you badly if they got hold
of you. They're in the very worst of moods. Well, you must take the
consequences, and for goodness' sake take care they don't see you!"

So Lasse went to bed, but Pelle crawled along on the ground behind
the fence until he came close up to them and could see everything.

Gustav was still sitting on Karna's open lap and playing, and she
was holding him fast in her arms. But Anders had put his arm around
Bodil's waist. Gustav discovered it, and with an oath flung away his
concertina, sending it rolling over the grass, and sprang up. The
others threw themselves down in a circle on the grass, breathing
hard. They expected something.

Gustav was like a savage dancing a war-dance. His mouth was open and
his eyes bright and staring. He was the only man on the grass, and
jumped up and down like a ball, hopped upon his heels, and kicked
up his legs alternately to the height of his head, uttering a shrill
cry with each kick. Then he shot up into the air, turning round as
he did so, and came down on one heel and went on turning round like
a top, making himself smaller and smaller as he turned, and then
exploded in a leap and landed in the lap of Bodil, who threw her
arms about him in delight.

In an instant Anders had both hands on his shoulders from behind,
set his feet against his back, and sent him rolling over the grass.
It all happened without a pause, and Gustav himself gave impetus to
his course, rolling along in jolts like an uneven ball. But suddenly
he stopped and rose to his feet with a bound, stared straight in
front of him, turned round with a jerk, and moved slowly toward
Anders. Anders rose quickly, pushed his cap on one side, clicked
with his tongue, and advanced. Bodil spread herself out more
comfortably on the ground, and looked proudly round the circle,
eagerly noting the envy of the others.

The two antagonists stood face to face, feeling their way to a good
grasp. They stroked one another affectionately, pinched one another
in the side, and made little jesting remarks.

"My goodness me, how fat you are, brother!" This was Anders.

"And what breasts you've got! You might quite well be a woman,"
answered Gustav, feeling Anders' chest. "Eeh, how soft you are!"
Scorn gleamed in their faces, but their eyes followed every movement
of their opponent. Each of them expected a sudden attack from the
other.

The others lay stretched around them on the grass, and called out
impatiently: "Have done with that and look sharp about it!"

The two men continued to stand and play as if they were afraid to
really set to, or were spinning the thing out for its still greater
enjoyment. But suddenly Gustav had seized Anders by the collar,
thrown himself backward and flung Anders over his head. It was done
so quickly that Anders got no hold of Gustav; but in swinging round
he got a firm grasp of Gustav's hair, and they both fell on their
backs with their heads together and their bodies stretched in
opposite directions.

Anders had fallen heavily, and lay half unconscious, but without
loosening his hold on Gustav's hair. Gustav twisted round and tried
to get upon his feet, but could not free his head. Then he wriggled
back into this position again as quickly as a cat, turned a backward
somersault over his antagonist, and fell down upon him with his face
toward the other's. Anders tried to raise his feet to receive him,
but was too late.

Anders threw himself about in violent jerks, lay still and strained
again with sudden strength to turn Gustav off, but Gustav held on.
He let himself fall heavily upon his adversary, and sticking out his
legs and arms to support him on the ground, raised himself suddenly
and sat down again, catching Anders in the wind. All the time the
thoughts of both were directed toward getting out their knives,
and Anders, who had now fully recovered his senses, remembered
distinctly that he had not got his. "Ah!" he said aloud. "What
a fool I am!"

"You're whining, are you?" said Gustav, bending his face him. "Do
you want to ask for mercy?"

At that moment Anders felt Gustav's knife pressing against his thigh,
and in an instant had his hand down there and wrenched it free.
Gustav tried to take it from him, but gave up the attempt for fear
of being thrown off. He then confined himself to taking possession
of one of Anders' hands, so that he could not open the knife, and
began sitting upon him in the region of his stomach.

Anders lay in half surrender, and bore the blows without trying
to defend himself, only gasping at each one. With his left hand he
was working eagerly to get the knife opened against the ground, and
suddenly plunged it into Gustav just as the latter had risen to let
himself fall heavily upon his opponent's body.

Gustav seized Anders by the wrist, his face distorted. "What the
devil are you up to now, you swine?" he said, spitting down into
Anders' face. "He's trying to sneak out by the back door!" he said,
looking round the circle with a face wrinkled like that of a young
bull.

They fought desperately for the knife, using hands and teeth and
head; and when Gustav found that he could not get possession of
the weapon, he set to work so to guide Anders' hand that he should
plunge it into his own body. He succeeded, but the blow was not
straight, and the blade closed upon Anders' fingers, making him
throw the knife from him with an oath.

Meanwhile Erik was growing angry at no longer being the hero of the
evening. "Will you soon be finished, you two cockerels, or must I
have a bite too?" he said, trying to separate them. They took firm
hold of one another, but then Erik grew angry, and did something for
which he was ever after renowned. He took hold of them and set them
both upon their feet.

Gustav looked as if he were going to throw himself into the battle
again, and a sullen expression overspread his face; but then he
began to sway like a tree chopped at the roots, and sank to the
ground. Bodil was the first to come to his assistance. With a cry
she ran to him and threw her arms about him.

He was carried in and laid upon his bed, Karl Johan poured spirit
into the deep cut to clean it, and held it together while Bodil
basted it with needle and thread from one of the men's lockers.
Then they dispersed, in pairs, as friendship permitted, Bodil,
however, remaining with Gustav. She was true to him after all.

       *       *       *       *       *

Thus the summer passed, in continued war and friction with the
bailiff, to whom, however, they dared do nothing when it came to
the point. Then the disease struck inward, and they set upon one
another. "It must come out somewhere," said Lasse, who did not like
this state of things, and vowed he would leave as soon as anything
else offered, even if they had to run away from wages and clothes
and everything.

"They're discontented with their wages, their working-hours are too
long, and the food isn't good enough; they pitch it about and waste
it until it makes one ill to see them, for anyhow it's God's gift,
even if it might be better. And Erik's at the bottom of it all! He's
forever boasting and bragging and stirring up the others the whole
day long. But as soon as the bailiff is over him, he daren't do
anything any more than the others; so they all creep into their
holes. Father Lasse is not such a cowardly wind-bag as any of them,
old though he is.

"I suppose a good conscience is the best support. If you have it and
have done your duty, you can look both the bailiff and the farmer
--and God the Father, too--in the face. For you must always remember,
laddie, not to set yourself up against those that are placed over
you. Some of us have to be servants and others masters; how would
everything go on if we who work didn't do our duty? You can't expect
the gentlefolk to scrape up the dung in the cow-stable."

All this Lasse expounded after they had gone to bed, but Pelle had
something better to do than to listen to it. He was sound asleep
and dreaming that he was Erik himself, and was thrashing the bailiff
with a big stick.



XIV

In Pelle's time, pickled herring was the Bronholmer's most important
article of food. It was the regular breakfast dish in all classes
of society, and in the lower classes it predominated at the supper-
table too--and sometimes appeared at dinner in a slightly altered
form. "It's a bad place for food," people would say derisively of
such-and-such a farm. "You only get herring there twenty-one times
a week."

When the elder was in flower, well-regulated people brought out
their salt-boxes, according to old custom, and began to look out
to sea; the herring is fattest then. From the sloping land, which
nearly everywhere has a glimpse of the sea, people gazed out in the
early summer mornings for the homeward-coming boats. The weather and
the way the boats lay in the water were omens regarding the winter
food. Then the report would come wandering up over the island, of
large hauls and good bargains. The farmers drove to the town or
the fishing-village with their largest wagons, and the herring-man
worked his way up through the country from cottage to cottage with
his horse, which was such a wretched animal that any one would have
been legally justified in putting a bullet through its head.

In the morning, when Pelle opened the stable doors to the field,
the mist lay in every hollow like a pale gray lake, and on the high
land, where the smoke rose briskly from houses and farms, he saw men
and women coming round the gable-ends, half-dressed, or in shirt or
chemise only, gazing out to sea. He himself ran round the out-houses
and peered out toward the sea which lay as white as silver and took
its colors from the day. The red sails were hanging motionless, and
looked like splashes of blood in the brightness of day; the boats
lay deep in the water, and were slowly making their way homeward
in response to the beat of the oars, dragging themselves along like
cows that are near their time for bearing.

But all this had nothing to do with him and his. Stone Farm, like
the poor of the parish, did not buy its herring until after the
autumn, when it was as dry as sticks and cost almost nothing. At
that time of year, herring was generally plentiful, and was sold
for from twopence to twopence-halfpenny the fourscore as long as
the demand continued. After that it was sold by the cartload as
food for the pigs, or went on to the dungheap.

One Sunday morning late in the autumn, a messenger came running
from the town to Stone Farm to say that now herring was to be had.
The bailiff came down into the servants' room while they were at
breakfast, and gave orders that all the working teams were to be
harnessed. "Then you'll have to come too!" said Karl Johan to the
two quarry drivers, who were married and lived up near the quarry,
but came down for meals.

"No, our horses shan't come out of the stable for that!" said
the drivers. "They and we drive only stone and nothing else." They
sat for a little while and indulged in sarcasms at the expense of
certain people who had not even Sunday at their own disposal, and
one of them, as he stretched himself in a particularly irritating
way, said: "Well, I think I'll go home and have a nap. It's nice
to be one's own master once a week, at any rate." So they went home
to wife and children, and kept Sunday holiday.

For a little while the men went about complaining; that was the
regular thing. In itself they had no objection to make to the
expedition, for it would naturally be something of a festivity.
There were taverns enough in the town, and they would take care to
arrange about that herring so that they did not get home much before
evening. If the worst came to the worst, Erik could damage his cart
in driving, and then they would be obliged to stay in town while it
was being mended.

They stood out in the stable, and turned their purses inside out
--big, solid, leather purses with steel locks that could only be
opened by pressure on a secret mechanism; but they were empty.

"The deuce!" said Mons, peering disappointedly into his purse.
"Not so much as the smell of a one-ore! There must be a leak!" He
examined the seams, held it close up to his eyes, and at last put
his ear to it. "Upon my word, I seem to hear a two-krone talking
to itself. It must be witchcraft!" He sighed and put his purse
into his pocket.

"You, you poor devil!" said Anders. "Have you ever spoken to a
two-krone? No, I'm the man for you!" He hauled out a large purse.
"I've still got the ten-krone that the bailiff cheated me out of
on May Day, but I haven't the heart to use it; I'm going to keep
it until I grow old." He put his hand into the empty purse and
pretended to take something out and show it. The others laughed
and joked, and all were in good spirits with the thought of the
trip to town.

"But Erik's sure to have some money at the bottom of his chest!"
said one. "He works for good wages and has a rich aunt down below."

"No, indeed!" whined Erik. "Why, I have to pay for half a score of
young brats who can't father themselves upon any one else. But Karl
Johan must get it, or what's the good of being head man?"

"That's no use," said Karl Johan doubtfully. "If I ask the bailiff
for an advance now when we're going to town, he'll say 'no' straight
out. I wonder whether the girls haven't wages lying by."

They were just coming up from the cow-stable with their milk-pails.

"I say, girls," Erik called out to them. "Can't one of you lend us
ten krones? She shall have twins for it next Easter; the sow farrows
then anyhow."

"You're a nice one to make promises!" said Bengta, standing still,
and they all set down their milk-pails and talked it over. "I wonder
whether Bodil hasn't?" said Karna. "No," answered Maria, "for she
sent the ten krones she had by her to her mother the other day."

Mons dashed his cap to the floor and gave a leap. "I'll go up to
the Old Gentleman himself," he said.

"Then you'll come head first down the stairs, you may be sure!"

"The deuce I will, with my old mother lying seriously ill in the
town, without a copper to pay for doctor or medicine! I'm as good a
child as Bodil, I hope." He turned and went toward the stone steps,
and the others stood and watched him from the stable-door, until the
bailiff came and they had to busy themselves with the carts. Gustav
walked about in his Sunday clothes with a bundle under his arm, and
looked on.

"Why don't you get to work?" asked the bailiff. "Get your horses
put in."

"You said yourself I might be free to-day," said Gustav, making
a grimace. He was going out with Bodil.

"Ah, so I did! But that'll be one cart less. You must have a holiday
another day instead."

"I can't do that."

"What the dee--And why not, may I ask?"

"Well, because you gave me a holiday to-day."

"Yes; but, confound it, man, when I now tell you you can take
another day instead!"

"No, I can't do that."

"But why not, man? Is there anything pressing you want to do?"

"No, but I have been given a holiday to-day." It looked as if Gustav
were grinning slyly, but it was only that he was turning the quid
in his mouth. The bailiff stamped with anger.

"But I can go altogether if you don't care to see me," said Gustav
gently.

The bailiff did not hear, but turned quickly. Experience had taught
him to be deaf to that kind of offer in the busy season. He looked
up at his window as if he had suddenly thought of something, and
sprang up the stairs. They could manage him when they touched upon
that theme, but his turn came in the winter, and then they had to
keep silence and put up with things, so as to keep a roof over their
heads during the slack time.

Gustav went on strutting about with his bundle, without putting his
hand to anything. The others laughed at him encouragingly.

The bailiff came down again and went up to him. "Then put in the
horses before you go," he said shortly, "and I'll drive yours."

An angry growl passed from man to man. "We're to have the dog with
us!" they said in undertones to one another, and then, so that the
bailiff should hear: "Where's the dog? We're to have the dog with
us."

Matters were not improved by Mons coming down the steps with a
beautifully pious expression, and holding a ten-krone note over his
chest. "It's all one now," said Erik; "for we've got to have the
dog with us!" Mons' face underwent a sudden change, and he began
to swear. They pulled the carts about without getting anything done,
and their eyes gleamed with anger.

The bailiff came out upon the steps with his overcoat on. "Look
sharp about getting the horses in!" he thundered.

The men of Stone Farm were just as strict about their order of
precedence as the real inhabitants of the island, and it was just
as complicated. The head man sat at the top of the table and helped
himself first, he went first in mowing and reaping, and had the
first girl to lay the load when the hay was taken in; he was the
first man up, and went first when they set out for the fields,
and no one might throw down his tools until he had done so. After
him came the second man, the third, and so on, and lastly the day-
laborers. When no great personal preference interfered, the head
man was as a matter of course the sweetheart of the head girl, and
so on downwards; and if one of them left, his successor took over
the relation: it was a question of equilibrium. In this, however,
the order of precedence was often broken, but never in the matter
of the horses. Gustav's horses were the poorest, and no power in
the world would have induced the head man or Erik to drive them,
let alone the farmer himself.

The bailiff knew it, and saw how the men were enjoying themselves
when Gustav's nags were put in. He concealed his irritation, but
when they exultantly placed Gustav's cart hindmost in the row, it
was too much for him, and he ordered it to be driven in front of
the others.

"My horses aren't accustomed to go behind the tail-pullers!" said
Karl Johan, throwing down his reins. It was the nickname for the
last in the row. The others stood trying not to smile, and the
bailiff was almost boiling over.

"If you're so bent upon being first, be it by all means," he said
quietly. "I can very well drive behind you."

"No, my horses come after the head man's, not after the
tail-puller's," said Erik.

This was really a term of abuse in the way in which they used it,
one after the other, with covert glances. If he was going to put
up with this from the whole row, his position on the farm would be
untenable.

"Yes, and mine go behind Erik's," began Anders now, "not after--
after Gustav's," he corrected himself quickly, for the bailiff had
fixed his eyes upon him, and taken a step forward to knock him down.

The bailiff stood silent for a moment as if listening, the muscles
of his arms quivering. Then he sprang into the cart.

"You're all out of your senses to-day," he said. "But now I'm going
to drive first, and the man who dares to say a word against it shall
have one between the eyes that will send him five days into next
week!" So saying he swung out of the row, and Erik's horses, which
wanted to turn, received a cut from his whip that made them rear.
Erik stormed at them.

The men went about crestfallen, and gave the bailiff time to get
well ahead. "Well, I suppose we'd better see about starting now,"
said Karl Johan at length, as he got into his wagon. The bailiff
was already some way ahead; Gustav's nags were doing their very best
to-day, and seemed to like being in front. But Karl Johan's horses
were displeased, and hurried on; they did not approve of the new
arrangement.

At the village shop they made a halt, and consoled themselves
a little. When they started again, Karl Johan's horses were
refractory, and had to be quieted.

The report of the catch had spread through the country, and carts
from other farms caught them up or crossed them on their way to the
fishing-villages. Those who lived nearer the town were already on
their way home with swaying loads. "Shall we Meet in the town for
a drink?" cried one man to Karl Johan as he passed. "I'm coming in
for another load."

"No, we're driving for the master to-day!" answered Karl Johan,
pointing to the bailiff in front.

"Yes, I see him. He's driving a fine pair to-day! I thought it was
King Lazarus!"

An acquaintance of Karl Johan's came toward them with a swaying
load of herring. He was the only man on one of the small farms.
"So you've been to the town too for winter food," said Karl Johan,
reining in his horse.

"Yes, for the pigs!" answered the other. "It was laid in for the
rest of us at the end of the summer. This isn't food for men!" And
he took up a herring between his fingers, and pretended to break it
in two.

"No, I suppose not for such fine gentlemen," answered Karl Johan
snappishly. "Of course, you're in such a high station that you eat
at the same table as your master and mistress, I've heard."

"Yes, that's the regular custom at our place," answered the other.
"We know nothing about masters and dogs." And he drove on. The words
rankled with Karl Johan, he could not help drawing comparisons.

They had caught up the bailiff, and now the horses became unruly.
They kept trying to pass and took every unlooked-for opportunity of
pushing on, so that Karl Johan nearly drove his team into the back
of the bailiff's cart. At last he grew tired of holding them in,
and gave them the rein, when they pushed out over the border of the
ditch and on in front of Gustav's team, danced about a little on the
high-road, and then became quiet. Now it was Erik's horses that were
mad.

At the farm all the laborers' wives had been called in for the
afternoon, the young cattle were in the enclosure, and Pelle ran
from cottage to cottage with the message. He was to help the women
together with Lasse, and was delighted with this break in the daily
routine; it was a whole holiday for him.

At dinner-time the men came home with their heavy loads of herring,
which were turned out upon the stone paving round the pump in
the upper yard. There had been no opportunity for them to enjoy
themselves in the town, and they were in a bad temper. Only Mons,
the ape, went about grinning all over his face. He had been up to
his sick mother with the money for the doctor and medicine, and came
back at the last minute with a bundle under his arm in the best of
spirits. "That was a medicine!" he said over and over again,
smacking his lips, "a mighty strong medicine."

He had had a hard time with the bailiff before he got leave to go on
his errand. The bailiff was a suspicious man, but it was difficult
to hold out against Mons' trembling voice when he urged that it
would be too hard on a poor man to deny him the right to help his
sick mother. "Besides, she lives close by here, and perhaps I shall
never see her again in this life," said Mons mournfully. "And then
there's the money that the master advanced me for it. Shall I go and
throw it away on drink, while she's lying there without enough to
buy bread with?"

"Well, how was your mother?" asked the bailiff, when Mons came
hurrying up at the last moment.

"Oh, she can't last much longer!" said Mons, with a quiver in his
voice. But he was beaming all over his face.

The others threw him angry glances while they unloaded the herring.
They would have liked to thrash him for his infernal good luck. But
they recovered when they got into their room and he undid the bundle.
"That's to you all from my sick mother!" he said, and drew forth a
keg of spirits. "And I was to give you her best respects, and thank
you for being so good to her little son."

"Where did you go?" asked Erik.

"I sat in the tavern on the harbor hill all the time, so as to
keep an eye on you; I couldn't resist looking at you, you looked
so delightfully thirsty. I wonder you didn't lie down flat and
drink out of the sea, every man Jack of you!"

In the afternoon the cottagers' wives and the farm-girls sat round
the great heaps of herring by the pump, and cleaned the fish. Lasse
and Pelle pumped water to rinse them in, and cleaned out the big
salt-barrels that the men rolled up from the cellar; and two of
the elder women were entrusted with the task of mixing. The bailiff
walked up and down by the front steps and smoked his pipe.

As a general rule, the herring-pickling came under the category of
pleasant work, but to-day there was dissatisfaction all along the
line. The women chattered freely as they worked, but their talk was
not quite innocuous--it was all carefully aimed; the men had made
them malicious. When they laughed, there was the sound of a hidden
meaning in their laughter. The men had to be called out and given
orders about every single thing that had to be done; they went about
it sullenly, and then at once withdrew to their rooms. But when
there they were all the gayer, and sang and enjoyed themselves.

"They're doing themselves proud in there," said Lasse, with a sigh
to Pelle. "They've got a whole keg of spirits that Mons had hidden
in his herring. They say it's so extra uncommon good." Lasse had not
tasted it himself.

The two kept out of the wrangling; they felt themselves too weak.
The girls had not had the courage to refuse the extra Sunday work,
but they were not afraid to pass little remarks, and tittered at
nothing, to make the bailiff think it was at him. They kept on
asking in a loud voice what the time was, or stopped working to
listen to the ever-increasing gaiety in the men's rooms. Now and
then a man was thrown out from there into the yard, and shuffled
in again, shamefaced and grinning.

One by one the men came sauntering out. They had their caps on the
back of their heads now, and their gaze was fixed. They took up
a position in the lower yard, and hung over the fence, looking at
the girls, every now and then bursting into a laugh and stopping
suddenly, with a frightened glance at the bailiff.

The bailiff was walking up and down by the steps. He had laid
aside his pipe and become calmer; and when the men came out, he
was cracking a whip and exercising himself in self-restraint.

"If I liked I could bend him until both ends met!" he heard Erik
say aloud in the middle of a conversation. The bailiff earnestly
wished that Erik would make the attempt. His muscles were burning
under this unsatisfied desire to let himself go; but his brain was
reveling in visions of fights, he was grappling with the whole flock
and going through all the details of the battle. He had gone through
these battles so often, especially of late; he had thought out all
the difficult situations, and there was not a place in all Stone
Farm in which the things that would serve as weapons were not known
to him.

"What's the time?" asked one of the girls aloud for at least the
twentieth time.

"A little longer than your chemise," answered Erik promptly.

The girls laughed. "Oh, nonsense! Tell us what it really is!"
exclaimed another.

"A quarter to the miller's girl," answered Anders.

"Oh, what fools you are! Can't you answer properly? You, Karl
Johan!"

"It's short!" said Karl Johan gravely.

"No, seriously now, I'll tell you what it is," exclaimed Mons
innocently, drawing a great "turnip" out of his pocket. "It's--" he
looked carefully at the watch, and moved his lips as if calculating.
"The deuce!" he exclaimed, bringing down his hand in amazement on
the fence. "Why, it's exactly the same time as it was this time
yesterday."

The jest was an old one, but the women screamed with laughter; for
Mons was the jester.

"Never mind about the time," said the bailiff, coming up. "But try
and get through your work."

"No, time's for tailors and shoemakers, not for honest people!"
said Anders in an undertone.

The bailiff turned upon him as quick as a cat, and Anders' arm
darted up above his head bent as if to ward off a blow. The bailiff
merely expectorated with a scornful smile, and began his pacing up
and down afresh, and Anders stood there, red to the roots of his
hair, and not knowing what to do with his eyes. He scratched the
back of his head once or twice, but that could not explain away that
strange movement of his arm. The others were laughing at him, so he
hitched up his trousers and sauntered down toward the men's rooms,
while the women screamed with laughter, and the men laid their heads
upon the fence and shook with merriment.

So the day passed, with endless ill-natured jesting and spitefulness.
In the evening the men wandered out to indulge in horse-play on the
high-road and annoy the passersby. Lasse and Pelle were tired, and
went early to bed.

"Thank God we've got through this day!" said Lasse, when he had
got into bed. "It's been a regular bad day. It's a miracle that no
blood's been shed; there was a time when the bailiff looked as if
he might do anything. But Erik must know far he can venture."

Next morning everything seemed to be forgotten. The men attended to
the horses as usual, and at six o'clock went out into the field for
a third mowing of clover. They looked blear-eyed, heavy and dull.
The keg lay outside the stable-door empty; and as they went past
they kicked it.

Pelle helped with the herring to-day too, but he no longer found
it amusing. He was longing already to be out in the open with his
cattle; and here he had to be at everybody's beck and call. As often
as he dared, he made some pretext for going outside the farm, for
that helped to make the time pass.

Later in the morning, while the men were mowing the thin clover,
Erik flung down his scythe so that it rebounded with a ringing
sound from the swaths. The others stopped their work.

"What's the matter with you, Erik?" asked Karl Johan. "Have you got
a bee in your bonnet?"

Erik stood with his knife in his hand, feeling its edge, and neither
heard nor saw. Then he turned up his face and frowned at the sky;
his eyes seemed to have sunk into his head and become blind, and
his lips stood out thick. He muttered a few inarticulate sounds,
and started up toward the farm.

The others stood still and followed him with staring eyes; then one
after another they threw down their scythes and moved away, only
Karl Johan remaining where he was.

Pelle had just come out to the enclosure to see that none of the
young cattle had broken their way out. "When he saw the men coming
up toward the farm in a straggling file like a herd of cattle on
the move, he suspected something was wrong and ran in.

"The men are coming up as fast as they can, father!" he whispered.

"They're surely not going to do it?" said Lasse, beginning to
tremble.

The bailiff was carrying things from his room down to the pony-
carriage; he was going to drive to the town. He had his arms full
when Erik appeared at the big, open gate below, with distorted face
and a large, broad-bladed knife in his hand. "Where the devil is
he?" he said aloud, and circled round once with bent head, like an
angry bull, and then walked up through the fence straight toward the
bailiff. The latter started when he saw him and, through the gate,
the others coming up full speed behind him. He measured the distance
to the steps, but changed his mind, and advanced toward Erik,
keeping behind the wagon and watching every movement that Erik made,
while he tried to find a weapon. Erik followed him round the wagon,
grinding his teeth and turning his eyes obliquely up at his
opponent.

The bailiff went round and round the wagon and made half movements;
he could not decide what to do. But then the others came up and
blocked his way. His face turned white with fear, and he tore a
whiffletree from the wagon, which with a push he sent rolling into
the thick of them, so that they fell back in confusion. This made
an open space between him and Erik, and Erik sprang quickly over
the pole, with his knife ready to strike; but as he sprang, the
whiffletree descended upon his head. The knife-thrust fell upon the
bailiff's shoulder, but it was feeble, and the knife just grazed
his side as Erik sank to the ground. The others stood staring in
bewilderment.

"Carry him down to the mangling-cellar!" cried the bailiff in a
commanding tone, and the men dropped their knives and obeyed.

The battle had stirred Pelle's blood into a tumult, and he was
standing by the pump, jumping up and down. Lasse had to take a firm
hold of him, for it looked as if he would throw himself into the
fight. Then when the great strong Erik sank to the ground insensible
from a blow on the head, he began to jump as if he had St. Vitus's
Dance. He jumped into the air with drooping head, and let himself
fall heavily, all the time uttering short, shrill bursts of laughter.
Lasse spoke to him angrily, thinking it was unnecessarily foolish
behavior on his part; and then he picked him up and held him firmly
in his hands, while the little fellow trembled all over his body in
his efforts to free himself and go on with his jumping.

"What can be wrong with him?" said Lasse tearfully to the cottagers'
wives. "Oh dear, what shall I do?" He carried him down to their room
in a sad state of mind, because the moon was waning, and it would
never pass off!

Down in the mangling-cellar they were busy with Erik, pouring brandy
into his mouth and bathing his head with vinegar. Kongstrup was not
at home, but the mistress herself was down there, wringing her hands
and cursing Stone Farm--her own childhood's home! Stone Farm had
become a hell with its murder and debauchery! she said, without
caring that they were all standing round her and heard every word.

The bailiff had driven quickly off in the pony-carriage to fetch a
doctor and to report what he had done in defence of his life. The
women stood round the pump and gossiped, while the men and girls
wandered about in confusion; there was no one to issue orders. But
then the mistress came out on to the steps and looked at them for
a little, and they all found something to do. Hers were piercing
eyes! The old women shook themselves and went back to their work.
It reminded them so pleasantly of old times, when the master of the
Stone Farm of their youth rushed up with anger in his eyes when they
were idling.

Down in their room, Lasse sat watching Pelle, who lay talking and
laughing in delirium, so that his father hardly knew whether to
laugh or to cry.



XV

"She must have had right on her side, for he never said a cross word
when she started off with her complaints and reproaches, and them so
loud that you could hear them right through the walls and down in
the servants' room and all over the farm. But it was stupid of her
all the same, for she only drove him distracted and sent him away.
And how will it go with a farm in the long run, when the farmer
spends all his time on the high-roads because he can't stay at home?
It's a poor sort of affection that drives the man away from his
home."

Lasse was standing in the stable on Sunday evening talking to the
women about it while they milked. Pelle was there too, busy with his
own affairs, but listening to what was said.

"But she wasn't altogether stupid either," said Thatcher Holm's
wife. "For instance when she had Fair Maria in to do housemaid's
work, so that he could have a pretty face to look at at home. She
knew that if you have food at home you don't go out for it. But of
course it all led to nothing when she couldn't leave off frightening
him out of the house with her crying and her drinking."

"I'm sure he drinks too!" said Pelle shortly.

"Yes, of course he gets drunk now and then," said Lasse in a
reproving tone. "But he's a man, you see, and may have his reasons
besides. But it's ill when a woman takes to drinking." Lasse was
cross. The boy was beginning to have opinions of his own pretty
well on everything, and was always joining in when grown people
were talking.

"I maintain"--he went on, turning again to the women--"that he'd
be a good husband, if only he wasn't worried with crying and a bad
conscience. Things go very well too when he's away. He's at home
pretty well every day, and looks after things himself, so that
the bailiff's quite upset, for _he_ likes to be king of the
castle. To all of us, the master's like one of ourselves; he's
even forgotten the grudge he had against Gustav."

"There can't be very much to bear him a grudge for, unless it is
that he'll get a wife with money. They say Bodil's saved more than
a hundred krones from her two or three months as housemaid. Some
people can--they get paid for what the rest of us have always had
to do for nothing." It was one of the old women who spoke.

"Well, we'll just see whether he ever gets her for a wife. I doubt
it myself. One oughtn't to speak evil of one's fellow-servant, but
Bodil's not a faithful girl. That matter with the master must go
for what it was--as I once said to Gustav when he was raging about
it; the master comes before his men! Bengta was a good wife to me
in every way, but she too was very fond of laying herself out for
the landlord at home. The greatest take first; that's the way of
the world! But Bodil's never of the same mind for long together.
Now she's carrying on with the pupil, though he's not sixteen yet,
and takes presents from him. Gustav should get out of it in time;
it always leads to misfortune when love gets into a person. We've
got an example of that at the farm here."

"I was talking to some one the other day who thought that the
mistress hadn't gone to Copenhagen at all, but was with relations
in the south. She's run away from him, you'll see!"

"That's the genteel thing to do nowadays, it seems!" said Lasse.
"If only she'll stay away! Things are much better as they are."

       *       *       *       *       *

An altogether different atmosphere seemed to fill Stone Farm. The
dismal feeling was gone; no wailing tones came from the house and
settled upon one like horse flies and black care. The change was
most apparent in the farmer. He looked ten or twenty years younger,
and joked good-humoredly like one freed from chains and fetters. He
took an interest in the work of the farm, drove to the quarry two
or three times a day in his gig, was present whenever a new piece
of work was started, and would often throw off his coat and take a
hand in it. Fair Maria laid his table and made his bed, and he was
not afraid of showing his kindness for her. His good humor was
infectious and made everything pleasanter.

But it could not be denied that Lasse had his own burden to bear.
His anxiety to get married grew greater with the arrival of very
cold weather as early as December; he longed to have his feet under
his own table, and have a woman to himself who should be everything
to him. He had not entirely given up thoughts of Karna yet, but he
had promised Thatcher Holm's wife ten krones down if she could find
some one that would do for him.

He had really put the whole matter out of his head as an
impossibility, and had passed into the land of old age; but what
was the use of shutting yourself in, when you were all the time
looking for doors through which to slip out again? Lasse looked
out once more, and as usual it was Pelle who brought life and
joy to the house.

Down in the outskirts of the fishing-village there lived a woman,
whose husband had gone to sea and had not been heard of for a good
many years. Two or three times on his way to and from school, Pelle
had sought shelter from the weather in her porch, and they had
gradually become good friends; he performed little services for her,
and received a cup of hot coffee in return. When the cold was very
bitter, she always called him in; and then she would tell him about
the sea and about her good-for-nothing husband, who kept away and
left her to toil for her living by mending nets for the fishermen.
In return Pelle felt bound to tell her about Father Lasse, and
Mother Bengta who lay at home in the churchyard at Tommelilla.
The talk never came to much more, for she always returned to her
husband who had gone away and left her a widow.

"I suppose he's drowned," Pelle would say.

"No, he isn't, for I've had no warning," she answered decidedly,
always in the same words.

Pelle repeated it all to his father, who was very much interested.
"Well, did you run in to Madam Olsen to-day?" was the first thing
he said when the boy came in from school; and then Pelle had to
tell him every detail several times over. It could never be too
circumstantially told for Lasse.

"You've told her, I suppose, that Mother Bengta's dead? Yes, of
course you have! Well, what did she ask about me to-day? Does she
know about the legacy?" (Lasse had recently had twenty-five krones
left him by an uncle.) "You might very well let fall a word or two
about that, so that she shouldn't think we're quite paupers."

Pelle was the bearer of ambiguous messages backward and forward.
From Lasse he took little things in return for her kindness to
himself, such as embroidered handkerchiefs and a fine silk kerchief,
the last remnants of Mother Bengta's effects. It would be hard to
lose them if this new chance failed, for then there would be no
memories to fall back upon. But Lasse staked everything upon one
card.

One day Pelle brought word that warning had come to Madam Olsen. She
had been awakened in the night by a big black dog that stood gasping
at the head of her bed. Its eyes shone in the darkness, and she
heard the water dripping from its fur. She understood that it must
be the ship's dog with a message for her, and went to the window;
and out in the moonlight on the sea she saw a ship sailing with all
sail set. She stood high, and you could see the sea and sky right
through her. Over the bulwark hung her husband and the others, and
they were transparent; and the salt water was dripping from their
hair and beards and running down the side of the ship.

In the evening Lasse put on his best clothes.

"Are we going out this evening?" asked Pelle in glad surprise.

"No--well, that's to say I am, just a little errand. If any one
asks after me, you must say that I've gone to the smith about a new
nose-ring for the bull."

"And mayn't I go with you?" asked Pelle on the verge of tears.

"No, you must be good and stay at home for this once. Lasse patted
him on the head.

"Where are you going then?"

"I'm going--" Lasse was about to make up a lie about it, but had not
the heart to do it. "You mustn't ask me!" he said.

"Shall I know another day, then, without asking?"

"Yes, you shall, for certain--sure!"

Lasse went out, but came back again. Pelle was sitting on the edge
of the bed, crying; it was the first time Father Lasse had gone out
without taking him with him.

"Now you must be a good boy and go to bed," he said gravely. "Or
else I shall stay at home with you; but if I do, it may spoil things
for us both."

So Pelle thought better of it and began to undress; and at last
Lasse got off.

When Lasse reached Madam Olsen's house, it was shut up and in
darkness. He recognized it easily from Pelle's descriptions, and
walked round it two or three times to see how the walls stood. Both
timber and plaster looked good, and there was a fair-sized piece
of ground belonging to it, just big enough to allow of its being
attended to on Sundays, so that one could work for a daily wage
on weekdays.

Lasse knocked at the door, and a little while after a white form
appeared at the window, and asked who was there.

"It's Pelle's father, Lasse Karlsson," said Lasse, stepping out
into the moonlight.

The door was unbolted, and a soft voice said: "Come inside! Don't
stand out there in the cold!" and Lasse stepped over the threshold.
There was a smell of sleep in the room, and Lasse had an idea where
the alcove was, but could see nothing. He heard the breathing as of
a stout person drawing on stockings. Then she struck a match and
lighted the lamp.

They shook hands, and looked at one another as they did so. She wore
a skirt of striped bed-ticking, which kept her night-jacket together,
and had a blue night-cap on her head. She had strong-looking limbs
and a good bust, and her face gave a good impression. She was the
kind of woman that would not hurt a fly if she were not put upon;
but she was not a toiler--she was too soft for that.

"So this is Pelle's father!" she said. "It's a young son you've got.
But do sit down!"

Lasse blinked his eyes a little. He had been afraid that she would
think him old.

"Yes, he's what you'd call a late-born child; but I'm still able to
do a man's work in more ways than one."

She laughed while she busied herself in placing on the table cold
bacon and pork sausage, a dram, bread and a saucer of dripping.
"But now you must eat!" she said. "That's what a man's known by.
And you've come a long way."

It only now occurred to Lasse that he must give some excuse for his
visit. "I ought really to be going again at once. I only wanted to
come down and thank you for your kindness to the boy." He even got
up as if to go.

"Oh, but what nonsense!" she exclaimed, pushing him down into his
chair again. "It's very plain, but do take some." She pressed the
knife into his hand, and eagerly pushed the food in front of him.
Her whole person radiated warmth and kind-heartedness as she stood
close to him and attended to his wants; and Lasse enjoyed it all.

"You must have been a good wife to your husband," he said.

"Yes, that's true enough!" she said, as she sat down and looked
frankly at him. "He got all that he could want, and almost more,
when he was on shore. He stayed in bed until dinner, and I looked
after him like a little child; but he never gave me a hand's turn
for it, and at last one gets tired."

"That was wrong of him," said Lasse; "for one good action deserves
another. I don't think Bengta would have anything like that to say
of me if she was asked."

"Well, there's certainly plenty to do in a house, when there's a
man that has the will to help. I've only one cow, of course, for
I can't manage more; but two might very well be kept, and there's
no debt on the place."

"I'm only a poor devil compared to you!" said Lasse despondently.
"Altogether I've got fifty krones, and we both have decent clothes
to put on; but beyond that I've only got a pair of good hands."

"And I'm sure that's worth a good deal! And I should fancy you're
not afraid of fetching a pail of water or that sort of thing,
are you?"

"No, I'm not. And I'm not afraid of a cup of coffee in bed on
a Sunday morning, either."

She laughed. "Then I suppose I ought to have a kiss!" she said.

"Yes, I suppose you ought," said Lasse delighted, and kissed her.
"And now we may hope for happiness and a blessing for all three
of us. I know you're fond of the laddie."

There still remained several things to discuss, there was coffee
to be drunk, and Lasse had to see the cow and the way the house was
arranged. In the meantime it had grown late.

"You'd better stay here for the night," said Madam Olsen.

Lasse stood wavering. There was the boy sleeping alone, and he had
to be at the farm by four o'clock; but it was cold outside, and here
it was so warm and comfortable in every way.

"Yes, perhaps I'd better," he said, laying down his hat and coat
again.

       *       *       *       *       *

When at about four he crept into the cow-stable from the back, the
lantern was still burning in the herdsman's room. Lasse thought
he was discovered, and began to tremble; it was a criminal and
unjustifiable action to be away from the herd a whole night. But
it was only Pelle, who lay huddled up upon the chest asleep, with
his clothes on. His face was black and swollen with crying.

All that day there was something reserved, almost hostile, about
Pelle's behavior, and Lasse suffered under it. There was nothing
for it; he must speak out.

"It's all settled now, Pelle," he said at last. "We're going to
have a house and home, and a nice-looking mother into the bargain.
It's Madam Olsen. Are you satisfied now?"

Pelle had nothing against it. "Then may I come with you next time?"
he asked, still a little sullen.

"Yes, next time you shall go with me. I think it'll be on Sunday.
We'll ask leave to go out early, and pay her a visit." Lasse said
this with a peculiar flourish; he had become more erect.

Pelle went with him on Sunday; they were free from the middle of
the afternoon. But after that it would not have done to ask for
leave very soon again. Pelle saw his future mother nearly every day,
but it was more difficult for Lasse. When the longing to see his
sweetheart came over him too strongly, he fussed over Pelle until
the boy fell asleep, and then changed his clothes and stole out.

After a wakeful night such as one of these, he was not up to his
work, and went about stumbling over his own feet; but his eyes shone
with a youthful light, as if he had concluded a secret treaty with
life's most powerful forces.



XVI

Erik was standing on the front steps, with stooping shoulders and
face half turned toward the wall. He stationed himself there every
morning at about four, and waited for the bailiff to come down. It
was now six, and had just begun to grow light.

Lasse and Pelle had finished cleaning out the cow-stable and
distributing the first feed, and they were hungry. They were
standing at the door of the stable, waiting for the breakfast-bell
to ring; and at the doors of the horse-stables, the men were doing
the same. At a quarter-past the hour they went toward the basement,
with Karl Johan at their head, and Lasse and Pelle also turned out
and hurried to the servants' room, with every sign of a good
appetite.

"Now, Erik, we're going down to breakfast!" shouted Karl Johan as
they passed, and Erik came out of his corner by the steps, and
shuffled along after them. There was nothing the matter with his
digestive powers at any rate.

They ate their herring in silence; the food stopped their mouths
completely. When they had finished, the head man knocked on the
table with the handle of his knife, and Karna came in with two
dishes of porridge and a pile of bread-and-dripping.

"Where's Bodil to-day?" asked Gustav.

"How should I know? Her bed was standing untouched this morning,"
answered Karna, with an exulting look.

"It's a lie!" cried Gustav, bringing down his spoon with a bang
upon the table.

"You can go into her room and see for yourself; you know the way!"
said Karna tartly.

"And what's become of the pupil to-day, as he hasn't rung?" said
Karl Johan. "Have any of you girls seen him?"

"No, I expect he's overslept himself," cried Bengta from the
wash-house. "And so he may! _I_ don't want to run up and
shake life into him every morning!"

"Don't you think you'd better go up and wake him, Gustav?" said
Anders with a wink. "You might see something funny." The others
laughed a little.

"If I wake him, it'll be with this rabbit-skinner," answered Gustav,
exhibiting a large knife. "For then I think I should put him out of
harm's way."

At this point the farmer himself came down. He held a piece of paper
in his hand, and appeared to be in high good humor. "Have you heard
the latest news, good people? At dead of night Hans Peter has eloped
with Bodil!"

"My word! Are the babes and sucklings beginning now?" exclaimed
Lasse with self-assurance. "I shall have to look after Pelle there,
and see that he doesn't run away with Karna. She's fond of young
people." Lasse felt himself to be the man of the company, and was
not afraid of giving a hit at any one.

"Hans Peter is fifteen," said Kongstrup reprovingly, "and passion
rages in his heart." He said this with such comical gravity that
they all burst into laughter, except Gustav, who sat blinking his
eyes and nodding his head like a drunken man.

"You shall hear what he says. This lay upon his bed." Kongstrup
held the paper out in a theatrical attitude and read:

"When you read this, I shall have gone forever. Bodil and I have
agreed to run away to-night. My stern father will never give his
consent to our union, and therefore we will enjoy the happiness
of our love in a secret place where no one can find us. It will be
doing a great wrong to look for us, for we have determined to die
together rather than fall into the wicked hands of our enemies.
I wet this paper with Bodil's and my own tears. But you must not
condemn me for my last desperate step, as I can do nothing else
for the sake of my great love.

"HANS PETER."

"That fellow reads story-books," said Karl Johan. "He'll do great
things some day."

"Yes, he knows exactly what's required for an elopement," answered
Kongstrup merrily. "Even to a ladder, which he's dragged up to the
girl's window, although it's on a level with the ground. I wish he
were only half as thorough in his agriculture."

"What's to be done now? I suppose they must be searched for?" asked
the head man.

"Well, I don't know. It's almost a shame to disturb their young
happiness. They'll come of their own accord when they get hungry.
What do you think, Gustav? Shall we organize a battue?"

Gustav made no answer, but rose abruptly and went across to the
men's rooms. When the others followed him, they found him in bed.

All day he lay there and never uttered a syllable when any one came
in to him. Meanwhile the work suffered, and the bailiff was angry.
He did not at all like the new way Kongstrup was introducing--with
liberty for every one to say and do exactly as they liked.

"Go in and pull Gustav out of bed!" he said, in the afternoon, when
they were in the threshing-barn, winnowing grain. "And if he won't
put his own clothes on, dress him by force."

But Kongstrup, who was there himself, entering the weight,
interfered. "No, if he's ill he must be allowed to keep his bed,"
he said. "But it's our duty to do something to cure him."

"How about a mustard-plaster?" suggested Mons, with a defiant
glance at the bailiff.

Kongstrup rubbed his hands with delight. "Yes, that'll be splendid!"
he said. "Go you across, Mons, and get the girls to make a mustard-
plaster that we can stick on the pit of his stomach; that's where
the pain is."

When Mons came back with the plaster, they went up in a procession
to put it on, the farmer himself leading. Kongstrup was well aware
of the bailiff's angry looks, which plainly said, "Another waste
of work for the sake of a foolish prank!" But he was inclined for
a little fun, and the work would get done somehow.

Gustav had smelt a rat, for when they arrived he was dressed. For
the rest of the day he did his work, but nothing could draw a smile
out of him. He was like a man moonstruck.

A few days later a cart drove up to Stone Farm. In the driving-seat
sat a broad-shouldered farmer in a fur coat, and beside him, wrapped
up from head to foot, sat Hans Peter, while at the back, on the
floor of the cart, lay the pretty Bodil on a little hay, shivering
with cold. It was the pupil's father who had brought back the two
fugitives, whom he had found in lodgings in the town.

Up in the office Hans Peter received a thrashing that could be
heard, and was then let out into the yard, where he wandered about
crying and ashamed, until he began to play with Pelle behind the
cow-stable.

Bodil was treated more severely. It must have been the strange
farmer who required that she should be instantly dismissed, for
Kongstrup was not usually a hard man. She had to pack her things,
and after dinner was driven away. She looked good and gentle as she
always did; one would have thought she was a perfect angel--if one
had not known better.

Next morning Gustav's bed was empty. He had vanished completely,
with chest, wooden shoes and everything.

Lasse looked on at all this with a man's indulgent smile--children's
tricks! All that was wanting now was that Karna should squeeze
her fat body through the basement window one night, and she too
disappear like smoke--on the hunt for Gustav.

This did not happen, however; and she became kindly disposed toward
Lasse again, saw after his and Pelle's clothes, and tried to make
them comfortable.

Lasse was not blind; he saw very well which way the wind blew, and
enjoyed the consciousness of his power. There were now two that he
could have whenever he pleased; he only had to stretch out his hand,
and the women-folk snatched at it. He went about all day in a state
of joyful intoxication, and there were days in which he was in such
an elevated condition of mind that he had inward promptings to make
use of his opportunity. He had always trodden his path in this world
so sedately, done his duty and lived his life in such unwavering
decency. Why should not he too for once let things go, and try to
leap through the fiery hoops? There was a tempting development of
power in the thought.

But the uprightness in him triumphed. He had always kept to the one,
as the Scriptures commanded, and he would continue to do so. The
other thing was only for the great--Abraham, of whom Pelle had begun
to tell him, and Kongstrup. Pelle, too, must never be able to say
anything against his father in that way; he must be clean in his
child's eyes, and be able to look him in the face without shrinking.
And then--well, the thought of how the two women would take it in
the event of its being discovered, simply made Lasse blink his red
eyes and hang his head.

       *       *       *       *       *

Toward the middle of March, Fru Kongstrup returned unexpectedly.
The farmer was getting along very comfortably without her, and
her coming took him rather by surprise. Fair Maria was instantly
turned out and sent down to the wash-house. Her not being sent away
altogether was due to the fact that there was a shortage of maids at
the farm now that Bodil had left. The mistress had brought a young
relative with her, who was to keep her company and help her in the
house.

They appeared to get on very well together. Kongstrup stayed at home
upon the farm and was steady. The three drove out together, and the
mistress was always hanging on his arm when they went about showing
the place to the young lady. It was easy to see why she had come
home; she could not live without him!

But Kongstrup did not seem to be nearly so pleased about it. He
had put away his high spirits and retired into his shell once more.
When he was going about like this, he often looked as if there was
something invisible lying in ambush for him and he was afraid of
being taken unawares.

This invisible something reached out after the others, too. Fru
Kongstrup never interfered unkindly in anything, either directly
or in a roundabout way; and yet everything became stricter. People
no longer moved freely about the yard, but glanced up at the tall
windows and hurried past. The atmosphere had once more that
oppression about it that made one feel slack and upset and
depressed.

Mystery once again hung heavy over the roof of Stone Farm. To many
generations it had stood for prosperity or misfortune--these had
been its foundations, and still it drew to itself the constant
thoughts of many people. Dark things--terror, dreariness, vague
suspicions of evil powers--gathered there naturally as in a
churchyard.

And now it all centered round this woman, whose shadow was so heavy
that everything brightened when she went away. Her unceasing,
wailing protest against her wrongs spread darkness around and
brought weariness with it. It was not even with the idea of
submitting to the inevitable that she came back, but only to go on
as before, with renewed strength. She could not do without him, but
neither could she offer him anything good; she was like those beings
who can live and breathe only in fire, and yet cry out when burnt.
She writhed in the flames, and yet she herself fed them. Fair Maria
was her own doing, and now she had brought this new relative into
the house. Thus she herself made easy the path of his infidelity,
and then shook the house above him with her complaining.

An affection such as this was not God's work; powers of evil had
their abode in her.



XVII

Oh, how bitterly cold it was! Pelle was on his way to school,
leaning, in a jog-trot, against the wind. At the big thorn Rud was
standing waiting for him; he fell in, and they ran side by side like
two blown nags, breathing hard and with heads hanging low. Their
coat-collars were turned up about their ears, and their hands pushed
into the tops of their trousers to share in the warmth of their
bodies. The sleeves of Pelle's jacket were too short, and his wrists
were blue with cold.

They said little, but only ran; the wind snatched the words from
their mouths and filled them with hail. It was hard to get enough
breath to run with, or to keep an eye open. Every other minute they
had to stop and turn their back to the wind while they filled their
lungs and breathed warm breath up over their faces to bring feeling
into them. The worst part of it was the turning back, before they
got quite up against the wind and into step again.

The four miles came to an end, and the boys turned into the village.
Down here by the shore it was almost sheltered; the rough sea broke
the wind. There was not much of the sea to be seen; what did appear
here and there through the rifts in the squalls came on like a
moving wall and broke with a roar into whitish green foam. The wind
tore the top off the waves in ill-tempered snatches, and carried
salt rain in over the land.

The master had not yet arrived. Up at his desk stood Nilen, busily
picking its lock to get at a pipe that Fris had confiscated during
lessons. "Here's your knife!" he cried, throwing a sheath-knife to
Pelle, who quickly pocketed it. Some peasant boys were pouring coal
into the stove, which was already red-hot; by the windows sat a
crowd of girls, hearing one another in hymns. Outside the waves
broke without ceasing, and when their roar sank for a moment, the
shrill voices of boys rose into the air. All the boys of the village
were on the beach, running in and out under the breakers that looked
as if they would crush them, and pulling driftwood upon shore.

Pelle had hardly thawed himself when Nilen made him go out with
him. Most of the boys were wet through, but they were laughing and
panting with eagerness. One of them had brought in the name-board
of a ship. _The Simplicity_ was painted on it. They stood round
it and wrangled about what kind of vessel it was and what was its
home-port.

"Then the ship's gone down," said Pelle gravely. The others did not
answer; it was so self-evident.

"Well," said a boy hesitatingly, "the name-board may have been
torn away by the waves; it's only been nailed on." They examined
it carefully again; Pelle could not discover anything special
about it.

"I rather think the crew have torn it off and thrown it into the
sea. One of the nails has been pulled out," said Nilen, nodding
with an air of mystery.

"But why should they do that?" asked Pelle, with incredulity.

"Because they've killed the captain and taken over the command
themselves, you ass! Then all they've got to do is to christen the
ship again, and sail as pirates." The other boys confirmed this with
eyes that shone with the spirit of adventure; this one's father had
told him about it, and that one's had even played a part in it. He
did not want to, of course, but then he was tied to the mast while
the mutiny was in progress.

On a day like this Pelle felt small in every way. The raging of the
sea oppressed him and made him feel insecure, but the others were
in their element. They possessed themselves of all the horror of the
ocean, and represented it in an exaggerated form; they heaped up all
the terrors of the sea in play upon the shore: ships went to the
bottom with all on board or struck on the rocks; corpses lay rolling
in the surf, and drowned men in sea-boots and sou'westers came
up out of the sea at midnight, and walked right into the little
cottages in the village to give warning of their departure. They
dwelt upon it with a seriousness that was bright with inward joy,
as though they were singing hymns of praise to the mighty ocean.
But Pelle stood out side all this, and felt himself cowardly when
listening to their tales. He kept behind the others, and wished he
could bring down the big bull and let it loose among them. Then they
would come to him for protection.

The boys had orders from their parents to take care of themselves,
for Marta, the old skipper's widow, had three nights running heard
the sea demand corpses with a short bark. They talked about that,
too, and about when the fishermen would venture out again, while
they ran about the beach. "A bottle, a bottle!" cried one of them
suddenly, dashing off along the shore; he was quite sure he had
seen a bottle bob up out of the surf a little way off, and disappear
again. The whole swarm stood for a long time gazing eagerly out into
the seething foam, and Kilen and another boy had thrown off their
jackets to be ready to jump out when it appeared again.

The bottle did not appear again, but it had given a spur to the
imagination, and every boy had his own solemn knowledge of such
things. Just now, during the equinoctial storms, many a bottle went
over a ship's side with a last message to those on land. Really and
truly, of course, that was why you learned to write--so as to be
able to write your messages when your hour came. Then perhaps the
bottle would be swallowed by a shark, or perhaps it would be fished
up by stupid peasants who took it home with them to their wives
to put drink into--this last a good-natured hit at Pelle. But it
sometimes happened that it drifted ashore just at the place it was
meant for; and, if not, it was the finder's business to take it to
the nearest magistrate, if he didn't want to lose his right hand.

Out in the harbor the waves broke over the mole; the fishermen had
drawn their boats up on shore. They could not rest indoors in their
warm cottages; the sea and bad weather kept them on the beach night
and day. They stood in shelter behind their boats, yawning heavily
and gazing out to sea, where now and then a sail fluttered past like
a storm-beaten bird.

"In, in!" cried the girls from the schoolroom door, and the boys
sauntered slowly up. Pris was walking backward and forward in front
of his desk, smoking his pipe with the picture of the king on it,
and with the newspaper sticking out of his pocket. "To your places!"
he shouted, striking his desk with the cane.

"Is there any news?" asked a boy, when they had taken their places.
Fris sometimes read aloud the Shipping News to them.

"I don't know," answered Fris crossly. "You can get out your slates
and arithmetics."

"Oh, we're going to do sums, oh, that's fun!" The whole class was
rejoicing audibly as they got out their things.

Fris did not share the children's delight over arithmetic; his
gifts, he was accustomed to say, were of a purely historical nature.
But he accommodated himself to their needs, because long experience
had taught him that a pandemonium might easily arise on a stormy
day such as this; the weather had a remarkable influence upon
the children. His own knowledge extended only as far as Christian
Hansen's Part I.; but there were two peasant boys who had worked
on by themselves into Part III., and they helped the others.

The children were deep in their work, their long, regular breathing
rising and falling in the room like a deep sleep. There was a
continual passing backward and forward to the two arithmeticians,
and the industry was only now and then interrupted by some little
piece of mischief that came over one or another of the children as
a reminder; but they soon fell into order again.

At the bottom of the class there was a sound of sniffing, growing
more and more distinct. Fris laid down his newspaper impatiently.

"Peter's crying," said those nearest.

"Oh-o!" said Fris, peering over his spectacles. "What's the matter
now?"

"He says he can't remember what twice two is."

Fris forced the air through his nostrils and seized the cane, but
thought better of it. "Twice two's five!" he said quietly, at which
there was a laugh at Peter's expense, and work went on again.

For some time they worked diligently, and then Nilen rose. Fris
saw it, but went on reading.

"Which is the lightest, a pound of feathers or a pound of lead?
I can't find it in the answers."

Fris's hands trembled as he held the paper up close to his face to
see something or other better. It was his mediocrity as a teacher
of arithmetic that the imps were always aiming at, but he would
_not_ be drawn into a discussion with them. Nilen repeated his
question, while the others tittered; but Fris did not hear--he was
too deep in his paper. So the whole thing dropped.

Fris looked at his watch; he could soon give them a quarter of an
hour's play, a good long quarter of an hour. Then there would only
be one little hour's worry left, and that school-day could be laid
by as another trouble got through.

Pelle stood up in his place in the middle of the class. He had some
trouble to keep his face in the proper folds, and had to pretend
that his neighbors were disturbing him. At last he got out what he
wanted to say, but his ears were a little red at the tips. "If a
pound of flour costs twelve ores, what will half a quarter of coal
cost?"

Fris sat for a little while and looked irresolutely at Pelle. It
always hurt him more when Pelle was naughty than when it was one
of the others, for he had an affection for the boy. "Very well!" he
said bitterly, coming slowly down with the thick cane in his hand.
"Very well!"

"Look out for yourself!" whispered the boys, preparing to put
difficulties in the way of Fris's approach.

But Pelle did one of those things that were directly opposed to all
recognized rules, and yet gained him respect. Instead of shielding
himself from the thrashing, he stepped forward and held out both
hands with the palms turned upward. His face was crimson.

Fris looked at him in surprise, and was inclined to do anything
but beat him; the look in Pelle's eyes rejoiced his heart. He did
not understand boys as boys, but with regard to human beings his
perceptions were fine, and there was something human here; it would
be wrong not to take it seriously. He gave Pelle a sharp stroke
across his hands, and throwing down the cane, called shortly,
"Playtime!" and turned away.

The spray was coming right up to the school wall. A little way out
there was a vessel, looking very much battered and at the mercy of
the storm; she moved quickly forward a little way, and stood still
and staggered for a time before moving on again, like a drunken man.
She was going in the direction of the southern reef.

The boys had collected behind the school to eat their dinner
in shelter, but suddenly there was the hollow rattling sound
of wooden-soled boots over on the shore side, and the coastguard
and a couple of fishermen ran out. Then the life-saving apparatus
came dashing up, the horses' manes flying in the wind. There was
something inspiriting in the pace, and the boys threw down
everything and followed.

The vessel was now right down by the point. She lay tugging at her
anchor, with her stern toward the reef, and the waves washing over
her; she looked like an old horse kicking out viciously at some
obstacle with its hind legs. The anchor was not holding, and she
was drifting backward on to the reef.

There were a number of people on the shore, both from the coast and
from inland. The country-people must have come down to see whether
the water was wet! The vessel had gone aground and lay rolling on
the reef; the people on board had managed her like asses, said the
fishermen, but she was no Russian, but a Lap vessel. The waves went
right over her from end to end, and the crew had climbed into the
rigging, where they hung gesticulating with their arms. They must
have been shouting something, but the noise of the waves drowned it.

Pelle's eyes and ears were taking in all the preparations. He was
quivering with excitement, and had to fight against his infirmity,
which returned whenever anything stirred his blood. The men on the
beach were busy driving stakes into the sand to hold the apparatus,
and arranging ropes and hawsers so that everything should go
smoothly. Special care was bestowed upon the long, fine line that
the rocket was to carry out to the vessel; alterations were made
in it at least twenty times.

The foreman of the trained Rescue Party stood and took aim with the
rocket-apparatus; his glance darted out and back again to measure
the distance with the sharpness of a claw. "Ready!" said the others,
moving to one side. "Ready!" he answered gravely. For a moment all
was still, while he placed it in another position and then back
again.

Whe-e-e-e-ew! The thin line stood like a quivering snake in the air,
with its runaway head boring through the sodden atmosphere over the
sea and its body flying shrieking from the drum and riding out with
deep humming tones to cut its way far out through the storm. The
rocket had cleared the distance capitally; it was a good way beyond
the wreck, but too far to leeward. It had run itself out and now
stood wavering in the air like the restless head of a snake while
it dropped.

"It's going afore her," said one fisherman. The others were silent,
but from their looks it was evident that they were of the same
opinion. "It may still get there," said the foreman. The rocket had
struck the water a good way to the north, but the line still stood
in an arch in the air, held up by the stress. It dropped in long
waves toward the south, made a couple of folds in the wind, and
dropped gently across the fore part of the vessel. "That's it! It
got there, all right!" shouted the boys, and sprang on to the sand.
The fishermen stamped about with delight, made a sideways movement
with their heads toward the foreman and nodded appreciatively at
one another. Out on the vessel a man crawled about in the rigging
until he got hold of the line, and then crept down into the shrouds
to the others again. Their strength could not be up to much, for
except for that they did not move.

On shore there was activity. The roller was fixed more firmly to
the ground and the cradle made ready; the thin line was knotted to
a thicker rope, which again was to draw the heavy hawser on board:
it was important that everything should hold. To the hawser was
attached a pulley as large as a man's head for the drawing-ropes
to run in, for one could not know what appliances they would have
on board such an old tub. For safety's sake a board was attached
to the line, upon which were instructions, in English, to haul it
until a hawser of such-and-such a thickness came on board. This was
unnecessary for ordinary people, but one never knew how stupid such
Finn-Lapps could be.

"They may haul away now as soon as they like, and let us get done
with it," said the foreman, beating his hands together.

"Perhaps they're too exhausted," said a young fisherman. "They must
have been through a hard time!"

"They must surely be able to haul in a three-quarter-inch rope!
Fasten an additional line to the rope, so that we can give them
a hand in getting the hawser on board--when they get so far."

This was done. But out on the wreck they hung stupidly in the
rigging without ever moving; what in the world were they thinking
about? The line still lay, motionless on the sand, but it was not
fast to the bottom, for it moved when it was tightened by the water;
it must have been made fast to the rigging.

"They've made it fast, the blockheads," said the foreman. "I suppose
they're waiting for us to haul the vessel up on land for them--with
that bit of thread!" He laughed in despair.

"I suppose they don't know any better, poor things!" said "the
Mormon."

No one spoke or moved. They were paralyzed by the incomprehensibility
of it, and their eyes moved in dreadful suspense from the wreck down
to the motionless line and back again. The dull horror that ensues
when men have done their utmost and are beaten back by absolute
stupidity, began to creep over them. The only thing the shipwrecked
men did was to gesticulate with their arms. They must have thought
that the men on shore could work miracles--in defiance of them.

"In an hour it'll be all up with them," said the foreman sadly.
"It's hard to stand still and look on."

A young fisherman came forward. Pelle knew him well, for he had met
him occasionally by the cairn where the baby's soul burned in the
summer nights.

"If one of you'll go with me, I'll try to drift down upon them!"
said Niels Koller quietly.

"It'll be certain death, Niels!" said the foreman, laying his hand
upon the young man's shoulder. "You understand that, I suppose! I'm
not one to be afraid, but I won't throw away my life. So you know
what I think."

The others took the same view. A boat would be dashed to pieces
against the moles. It would be impossible to get it out of the
harbor in this weather, let alone work down to the wreck with wind
and waves athwart! It might be that the sea had made a demand upon
the village--no one would try to sneak out of his allotted share;
but this was downright madness! With Niels Koller himself it must
pass; his position was a peculiar one--with the murder of a child
almost on his conscience and his sweetheart in prison. He had his
own account to settle with the Almighty; no one ought to dissuade
him!

"Then will none of you?" asked Niels, and looked down at the ground.
"Well, then I must try it alone." He went slowly up the beach. How
he was going to set about it no one knew, nor did he himself; but
the spirit had evidently come over him.

They stood looking after him. Then a young sailor said slowly:
"I suppose I'd better go with him and take the one oar. He can
do nothing by himself." It was Nilen's brother.

"It wouldn't sound right if I stopped you from going, my son,"
said "the Mormon." "But can two of you do more than one?"

"Niels and I were at school together and have always been friends,"
answered the young man, looking into his father's face. Then he
moved away, and a little farther off began to run to catch up
Niels.

The fishermen looked after them in silence. "Youth and madness!"
one of them then said. "One blessing is that they'll never be able
to get the boat out of the harbor."

"If I know anything of Karl, they will get the boat out!" said
"the Mormon" gloomily.

Some time passed, and then a boat appeared on the south side of the
harbor, where there was a little shelter. They must have dragged it
in over land with the women's help. The harbor projected a little,
so that the boat escaped the worst of the surf before emerging from
its protection. They were working their way out; it was all they
could do to keep the boat up against the wind, and they scarcely
moved. Every other moment the whole of the inside of the boat was
visible, as if it would take nothing to upset it; but that had one
advantage, in that the water they shipped ran out again.

It was evident that they meant to work their way out so far that
they could make use of the high sea and scud down upon the wreck--a
desperate idea! But the whole thing was such sheer madness, one
would never have thought they had been born and bred by the water.
After half an hour's rowing, it seemed they could do no more; and
they were not more than a couple of good cable-lengths out from the
harbor. They lay still, one of them holding the boat up to the waves
with the oars, while the other struggled with something--a bit of
sail as big as a sack. Yes, yes, of course! Now if they took in the
oars and left themselves at the mercy of the weather--with wind and
waves abaft and beam!--they would fill with water at once!

But they did not take in the oars. One of them sat and kept a
frenzied watch while they ran before the wind. It looked very
awkward, but it was evident that it gave greater command of the
boat. Then they suddenly dropped the sail and rowed the boat hard
up against the wind--when a sea was about to break. None of the
fishermen could recollect ever having seen such navigation before;
it was young blood, and they knew what they were about. Every
instant one felt one must say Now! But the boat was like a living
thing that understood how to meet everything; it always rose above
every caprice. The sight made one warm, so that for a time one
forgot it was a sail for life or death. Even if they managed to
get down to the wreck, what then? Why, they would be dashed against
the side of the vessel!

Old Ole Koller, Niels's father, came down over the sandbanks. "Who's
that out there throwing themselves away?" he asked. The question
sounded harsh as it broke in upon the silence and suspense. No one
looked at him--Ole was rather garrulous. He glanced round the flock,
as though he were looking for some particular person. "Niels--have
any of you seen Niels?" he asked quietly. One man nodded toward the
sea, and he was silent and overcome.

The waves must have broken their oars or carried them away, for they
dropped the bit of sail, the boat burrowed aimlessly with its prow,
and settled down lazily with its broadside to the wind. Then a great
wave took them and carried them in one long sweep toward the wreck,
and they disappeared in the breaking billow.

When the water sank to rest, the boat lay bottom upward, rolling in
the lee of the vessel.

A man was working his way from the deck up into the rigging. "Isn't
that Niels?" said Ole, gazing until his eyes watered. "I wonder if
that isn't Niels?"

"No; it's my brother Karl," said Nilen.

"Then Niels is gone," said Ole plaintively. "Then Niels is gone."

The others had nothing to answer; it was a matter of course that
Niels would be lost.

Ole stood for a little while shrinkingly, as if expecting that some
one would say it was Niels. He dried his eyes, and tried to make it
out for himself, but they only filled again. "Your eyes are young,"
he said to Pelle, his head trembling. "Can't you see that it's
Niels?"

"No, it's Karl," said Pelle softly.

And Ole went with bowed head through the crowd, without looking at
any one or turning aside for anything. He moved as though he were
alone in the world, and walked slowly out along the south shore.
He was going to meet the dead body.

There was no time to think. The line began to be alive, glided
out into the sea, and drew the rope after it. Yard after yard it
unrolled itself and glided slowly into the sea like an awakened
sea-animal, and the thick hawser began to move.

Karl fastened it high up on the mast, and it took all the men--and
boys, too--to haul it taut. Even then it hung in a heavy curve from
its own weight, and the cradle dragged through the crests of the
waves when it went out empty. It was more under than above the water
as they pulled it back again with the first of the crew, a funny
little dark man, dressed in mangy gray fur. He was almost choked in
the crossing, but when once they had emptied the water out of him he
quite recovered and chattered incessantly in a curious language that
no one understood. Five little fur-clad beings, one by one, were
brought over by the cradle, and last of all came Karl with a little
squealing pig in his arms.

"They _were_ a poor lot of seamen!" said Karl, in the intervals
of disgorging water. "Upon my word, they understood nothing. They'd
made the rocket-line fast to the shrouds, and tied the loose end
round the captain's waist! And you should just have seen the muddle
on board!" He talked loudly, but his glance seemed to veil something.

The men now went home to the village with the shipwrecked sailors;
the vessel looked as if it would still keep out the water for some
time.

Just as the school-children were starting to go home, Ole came
staggering along with his son's dead body on his back. He walked
with loose knees bending low and moaning under his burden. Fris
stopped him and helped him to lay the dead body in the schoolroom.
There was a deep wound in the forehead. When Pelle saw the dead
body with its gaping wound, he began to jump up and down, jumping
quickly up, and letting himself drop like a dead bird. The girls
drew away from him, screaming, and Fris bent over him and looked
sorrowfully at him.

"It isn't from naughtiness," said the other boys. "He can't help
it; he's taken that way sometimes. He got it once when he saw a man
almost killed." And they carried him off to the pump to bring him
to himself again.

Fris and Ole busied themselves over the dead body, placed something
under the head, and washed away the sand that had got rubbed into
the skin of the face. "He was my best boy," said Fris, stroking the
dead man's head with a trembling hand. "Look well at him, children,
and never forget him again; he was my best boy."

He stood silent, looking straight before him, with dimmed spectacles
and hands hanging loosely. Ole was crying; he had suddenly grown
pitiably old and decrepit. "I suppose I ought to get him home?" he
said plaintively, trying to raise his son's shoulders; but he had
not the strength.

"Just let him lie!" said Fris. "He's had a hard day, and he's
resting now."

"Yes, he's had a hard day," said Ole, raising his son's hand to
his mouth to breathe upon it. "And look how he's used the oar!
The blood's burst out at his finger-tips!" Ole laughed through his
tears. "He was a good lad. He was food to me, and light and heat
too. There never came an unkind word out of his mouth to me that
was a burden on him. And now I've got no son, Fris! I'm childless
now! And I'm not able to do anything!"

"You shall have enough to live upon, Ole," said Fris.

"Without coming on the parish? I shouldn't like to come upon
the parish."

"Yes, without coming on the parish, Ole."

"If only he can get peace now! He had so little peace in this world
these last few years. There's been a song made about his misfortune,
Fris, and every time he heard it he was like a new-born lamb in
the cold. The children sing it, too." Ole looked round at them
imploringly. "It was only a piece of boyish heedlessness, and now
he's taken his punishment."

"Your son hasn't had any punishment, Ole, and neither has he
deserved any," said Fris, putting his arm about the old man's
shoulder. "But he's given a great gift as he lies there and cannot
say anything. He gave five men their lives and gave up his own in
return for the one offense that he committed in thoughtlessness! It
was a generous son you had, Ole!" Fris looked at him with a bright
smile.

"Yes," said Ole, with animation. "He saved five people--of course
he did--yes, he did!" He had not thought of that before; it would
probably never have occurred to him. But now some one else had given
it form, and he clung to it. "He saved five lives, even if they were
only Finn-Lapps; so perhaps God will not disown him."

Fris shook his head until his gray hair fell over his eyes. "Never
forget him, children!" he said; "and now go quietly home." The
children silently took up their things and went; at that moment
they would have done anything that Fris told them: he had complete
power over them.

Ole stood staring absently, and then took Fris by the sleeve and
drew him up to the dead body. "He's rowed well!" he said. "The
blood's come out at his finger-ends, look!" And he raised his son's
hands to the light. "And there's a wrist, Fris! He could take up
an old man like me and carry me like a little child." Ole laughed
feebly. "But I carried him; all the way from the south reef I
carried him on my back. I'm too heavy for you, father! I could hear
him say, for he was a good son; but I carried him, and now I can't
do anything more. If only they see that!"--he was looking again at
the blood-stained fingers. "He did do his best. If only God Himself
would give him his discharge!"

"Yes," said Fris. "God will give him his discharge Himself, and he
sees everything, you know, Ole."

Some fishermen entered the room. They took off their caps, and
one by one went quietly up and shook hands with Ole, and then,
each passing his hand over his face, turned questioningly to the
schoolmaster. Fris nodded, and they raised the dead body between
them, and passed with heavy, cautious steps out through the entry
and on toward the village, Ole following them, bowed down and
moaning to himself.



XVIII

It was Pelle who, one day in his first year at school, when he was
being questioned in Religion, and Fris asked him whether he could
give the names of the three greatest festivals in the year, amused
every one by answering: "Midsummer Eve, Harvest-home and--and----"
There was a third, too, but when it came to the point, he was shy
of mentioning it--his birthday! In certain ways it was the greatest
of them all, even though no one but Father Lasse knew about it--and
the people who wrote the almanac, of course; they knew about simply
everything!

It came on the twenty-sixth of June and was called Pelagius in the
calendar. In the morning his father kissed him and said: "Happiness
and a blessing to you, laddie!" and then there was always something
in his pocket when he came to pull on his trousers. His father was
just as excited as he was himself, and waited by him while he
dressed, to share in the surprise. But it was Pelle's way to spin
things out when something nice was coming; it made the pleasure all
the greater. He purposely passed over the interesting pocket, while
Father Lasse stood by fidgeting and not knowing what to do.

"I say, what's the matter with that pocket? It looks to me so fat!
You surely haven't been out stealing hens' eggs in the night?"

Then Pelle had to take it out--a large bundle of paper--and undo
it, layer after layer. And Lasse would be amazed.

"Pooh, it's nothing but paper! What rubbish to go and fill your
pockets with!" But in the very inside of all there was a pocket-
knife with two blades.

"Thank you!" whispered Pelle then, with tears in his eyes.

"Oh, nonsense! It's a poor present, that!" said Lasse, blinking
his red, lashless eyelids.

Beyond this the boy did not come in for anything better on that
day than usual, but all the same he had a solemn feeling all day.
The sun never failed to shine--was even unusually bright; and the
animals looked meaningly at him while they lay munching. "It's my
birthday to-day!" he said, hanging with his arms round the neck of
Nero, one of the bullocks. "Can you say 'A happy birthday'?" And
Nero breathed warm breath down his back, together with green juice
from his chewing; and Pelle went about happy, and stole green corn
to give to him and to his favorite calf, kept the new knife--or
whatever it might have been--in his hand the whole day long, and
dwelt in a peculiarly solemn way upon everything he did. He could
make the whole of the long day swell with a festive feeling; and
when he went to bed he tried to keep awake so as to make the day
longer still.

Nevertheless, Midsummer Eve was in its way a greater day; it had
at any rate the glamour of the unattainable over it. On that day
everything that could creek and walk went up to the Common; there
was not a servant on the whole island so poor-spirited as to submit
to the refusal of a holiday on that day--none except just Lasse and
Pelle.

Every year they had seen the day come and go without sharing in
its pleasure. "Some one must stay at home, confound it!" said the
bailiff always. "Or perhaps you think I can do it all for you?"
They had too little power to assert themselves. Lasse helped to pack
appetizing food and beverages into the carts, and see the others off,
and then went about despondently--one man to all the work. Pelle
watched from the field their merry departure and the white stripe
of dust far away behind the rocks. And for half a year afterward,
at meals, they heard reminiscences of drinking and fighting and
love-making--the whole festivity.

But this was at an end. Lasse was not the man to continue to let
himself be trifled with. He possessed a woman's affection, and a
house in the background. He could give notice any day he liked.
The magistrate was presumably busy with the prescribed advertising
for Madam Olsen's husband, and as soon as the lawful respite was
over, they would come together.

Lasse no longer sought to avoid the risk of dismissal. As long ago
as the winter, he had driven the bailiff into a corner, and only
agreed to be taken on again upon the express condition that they
both took part in the Midsummer Eve outing; and he had witnesses
to it. On the Common, where all lovers held tryst that day, Lasse
and she were to meet too, but of this Pelle knew nothing.

"To-day we can say the day after to-morrow, and to-morrow we can say
to-morrow," Pelle went about repeating to his father two evenings
before the day. He had kept an account of the time ever since May
Day, by making strokes for all the days on the inside of the lid
of the chest, and crossing them out one by one.

"Yes, and the day after to-morrow we shall say to-day," said Lasse,
with a juvenile fling.

They opened their eyes upon an incomprehensibly brilliant world,
and did not at first remember that this was the day. Lasse had
anticipated his wages to the amount of five krones, and had got an
old cottager to do his work--for half a krone and his meals. "It's
not a big wage," said the man; "but if I give you a hand, perhaps
the Almighty'll give me one in return."

"Well, we've no one but Him to hold to, we poor creatures," answered
Lasse. "But I shall thank you in my grave."

The cottager arrived by four o'clock, and Lasse was able to begin
his holiday from that hour. Whenever he was about to take a hand in
the work, the other said: "No, leave it alone! I'm sure you've not
often had a holiday."

"No; this is the first real holiday since I came to the farm," said
Lasse, drawing himself up with a lordly air.

Pelle was in his best clothes from the first thing in the morning,
and went about smiling in his shirt-sleeves and with his hair
plastered down with water; his best cap and jacket were not to be
put on until they were going to start. When the sun shone upon his
face, it sparkled like dewy grass. There was nothing to trouble
about; the animals were in the enclosure and the bailiff was going
to look after them himself.

He kept near his father, who had brought this about. Father Lasse
was powerful! "What a good thing you threatened to leave!" he kept
on exclaiming. And Lasse always gave the same answer: "Ay, you must
carry things with a high hand if you want to gain anything in this
world!"--and nodded with a consciousness of power.

They were to have started at eight o'clock, but the girls could
not get the provisions ready in time. There were jars of stewed
gooseberries, huge piles of pancakes, a hard-boiled egg apiece,
cold veal and an endless supply of bread and butter. The carriage
boxes could not nearly hold it all, so large baskets were pushed
in under the seats. In the front was a small cask of beer, covered
with green oats to keep the sun from it; and there was a whole keg
of spirits and three bottles of cold punch. Almost the entire bottom
of the large spring-wagon was covered, so that it was difficult to
find room for one's feet.

After all, Fru Kongstrup showed a proper feeling for her servants
when she wanted to. She went about like a kind mistress and saw that
everything was well packed and that nothing was wanting. She was not
like Kongstrup, who always had to have a bailiff between himself
and them. She even joked and did her best, and it was evident that
whatever else there might be to say against her, she wanted them
to have a merry day. That her face was a little sad was not to be
wondered at, as the farmer had driven out that morning with her
young relative.

At last the girls were ready, and every one got in--in high spirits.
The men inadvertently sat upon the girls' laps and jumped up in
alarm. "Oh, oh! I must have gone too near a stove!" cried the rogue
Mons, rubbing himself behind. Even the mistress could not help
laughing.

"Isn't Erik going with us?" asked his old sweetheart Bengta, who
still had a warm spot in her heart for him.

The bailiff whistled shrilly twice, and Erik came slowly up from the
barn, where he had been standing and keeping watch upon his master.

"Won't you go with them to the woods to-day, Erik man?" asked the
bailiff kindly. Erik stood twisting his big body and murmuring
something that no one could understand, and then made an unwilling
movement with one shoulder.

"You'd better go with them," said the bailiff, pretending he was
going to take him and put him into the cart. "Then I shall have
to see whether I can get over the loss."

Those in the cart laughed, but Erik shuffled off down through the
yard, with his dog-like glance directed backward at the bailiff's
feet, and stationed himself at the corner of the stable, where he
stood watching. He held his cap behind his back, as boys do when
they play at "Robbers."

"He's a queer customer!" said Mons. Then Karl Johan guided the
horses carefully through the gate, and they set off with a crack
of the whip.

Along all the roads, vehicles were making their way toward the
highest part of the island, filled to overflowing with merry people,
who sat on one another's laps and hung right over the sides. The
dust rose behind the conveyances and hung white in the air in
stripes miles in length, that showed how the roads lay like spokes
in a wheel all pointing toward the middle of the island. The air
hummed with merry voices and the strains of concertinas. They missed
Gustav's playing now--yes, and Bodil's pretty face, that always
shone so brightly on a day like this.

Pelle had the appetite of years of fasting for the great world,
and devoured everything with his eyes. "Look there, father! Just
look!" Nothing escaped him. It made the others cheerful to look at
him--he was so rosy and pretty. He wore a newly-washed blue blouse
under his waistcoat, which showed at the neck and wrists and did
duty as collar and cuffs; but Fair Maria bent back from the box-seat,
where she was sitting alone with Karl Johan, and tied a very white
scarf round his neck, and Karna, who wanted to be motherly to him,
went over his face with a corner of her pocket-handkerchief, which
she moistened with her tongue. She was rather officious, but for
that matter it was quite conceivable that the boy might have got
dirty again since his thorough morning wash.

The side roads continued to pour their contents out on to the
high-roads, and there was soon a whole river of conveyances,
extending as far as the eye could see in both directions. One would
hardly have believed that there were so many vehicles in the whole
world! Karl Johan was a good driver to have; he was always pointing
with his whip and telling them something. He knew all about every
single house. They were beyond the farms and tillage by now; but on
the heath, where self-sown birch and aspen trees stood fluttering
restlessly in the summer air, there stood desolate new houses with
bare, plastered walls, and not so much as a henbane in the window
or a bit of curtain. The fields round them were as stony as a
newly-mended road, and the crops were a sad sight; the corn was
only two or three inches in height, and already in ear. The people
here were all Swedish servants who had saved a little--and had now
become land-owners. Karl Johan knew a good many of them.

"It looks very miserable," said Lasse, comparing in his own mind
the stones here with Madam Olsen's fat land.

"Oh, well," answered the head man, "it's not of the very best, of
course; but the land yields something, anyhow." And he pointed to
the fine large heaps of road-metal and hewn stone that surrounded
every cottage. "If it isn't exactly grain, it gives something to
live on; and then it's the only land that'll suit poor people's
purses." He and Fair Maria were thinking of settling down here
themselves. Kongstrup had promised to help them to a farm with two
horses when they married.

In the wood the birds were in the middle of their morning song; they
were later with it here than in the sandbanks plantation, it seemed.
The air sparkled brightly, and something invisible seemed to rise
from the undergrowth; it was like being in a church with the sun
shining down through tall windows and the organ playing. They drove
round the foot of a steep cliff with overhanging trees, and into
the wood.

It was almost impossible to thread your way through the crowd of
unharnessed horses and vehicles. You had to have all your wits about
you to keep from damaging your own and other people's things. Karl
Johan sat watching both his fore wheels, and felt his way on step
by step; he was like a cat in a thunderstorm, he was so wary. "Hold
your jaw!" he said sharply, when any one in the cart opened his lips.
At last they found room to unharness, and a rope was tied from tree
to tree to form a square in which the horses were secured. Then they
got out the curry-combs--goodness, how dusty it had been! And at
last--well, no one said anything, but they all stood expectant,
half turned in the direction of the head man.

"Well, I suppose we ought to go into the wood and look at the view,"
he said.

They turned it over as they wandered aimlessly round the cart,
looking furtively at the provisions.

"If only it'll keep!" said Anders, lifting a basket.

"I don't know how it is, but I feel so strange in my inside to-day,"
Mons began. "It can't be consumption, can it?"

"Perhaps we ought to taste the good things first, then?" said
Karl Johan.

Yes--oh, yes--it came at last!

Last year they had eaten their dinner on the grass. It was Bodil who
had thought of that; she was always a little fantastic. This year
nobody would be the one to make such a suggestion. They looked at
one another a little expectant; and they then climbed up into the
cart and settled themselves there just like other decent people.
After all, the food was the same.

The pancakes were as large and thick as a saucepan-lid. It reminded
them of Erik, who last year had eaten ten of them.

"It's a pity he's not here this year!" said Karl Johan. "He was
a merry devil."

"He's not badly off," said Mons. "Gets his food and clothes given
him, and does nothing but follow at the bailiff's heels and copy
him. And he's always contented now. I wouldn't a bit mind changing
with him."

"And run about like a dog with its nose to the ground sniffing at
its master's footsteps? Oh no, not I!"

"Whatever you may say, you must remember that it's the Almighty
Himself who's taken his wits into safekeeping," said Lasse
admonishingly; and for a little while they were quite serious
at the thought.

But seriousness could not claim more than was its due. Anders wanted
to rub his leg, but made a mistake and caught hold of Lively Sara's,
and made her scream; and this so flustered his hand that it could
not find its way up, but went on making mistakes, and there was much
laughter and merriment.

Karl Johan was not taking much part in the hilarity; he looked as if
he were pondering something. Suddenly he roused himself and drew out
his purse. "Here goes!" he said stoutly. "I'll stand beer! Bavarian
beer, of course. Who'll go and fetch it?"

Mons leaped quickly from the cart. "How many?"

"Four." Karl Johan's eye ran calculating over the cart. "No; just
bring five, will you? That'll be a half each," he said easily. "But
make sure that it's real Bavarian beer they give you."

There was really no end to the things that Karl Johan knew about;
and he said the name "Bavarian beer" with no more difficulty than
others would have in turning a quid in their mouth. But of course
he was a trusted man on the farm now and often drove on errands
into the town.

This raised their spirits and awakened curiosity, for most of them
had never tasted Bavarian beer before. Lasse and Pelle openly
admitted their inexperience; but Anders pretended he had got drunk
on it more than once, though every one knew it was untrue.

Mons returned, moving cautiously, with the beer in his arms; it was
a precious commodity. They drank it out of the large dram-glasses
that were meant for the punch. In the town, of course, they drank
beer out of huge mugs, but Karl Johan considered that that was
simply swilling. The girls refused to drink, but did it after all,
and were delighted. "They're always like that," said Mons, "when
you offer them something really good." They became flushed with the
excitement of the occurrence, and thought they were drunk. Lasse
took away the taste of his beer with a dram; he did not like it at
all. "I'm too old," he said, in excuse.

The provisions were packed up again, and they set out in a body to
see the view. They had to make their way through a perfect forest
of carts to reach the pavilion. Horses were neighing and flinging
up their hind legs, so that the bark flew off the trees. Men hurled
themselves in among them, and tugged at their mouths until they
quieted down again, while the women screamed and ran hither and
thither like frightened hens, with skirts lifted.

From the top they could form some idea of the number of people. On
the sides of the hill and in the wood beyond the roads--everywhere
carts covered the ground; and down at the triangle where the two
wide high-roads met, new loads were continually turning in. "There
must be far more than a thousand pairs of horses in the wood to-day,"
said Karl Johan. Yes, far more! There were a million, if not more,
thought Pelle. He was quite determined to get as much as possible
out of everything to-day.

There stood the Bridge Farm cart, and there came the people from
Hammersholm, right out at the extreme north of the island. Here
were numbers of people from the shore farms at Dove Point and Ronne
and Nekso--the whole island was there. But there was no time now
to fall in with acquaintances. "We shall meet this afternoon!" was
the general cry.

Karl Johan led the expedition; it was one of a head man's duties
to know the way about the Common. Fair Maria kept faithfully by his
side, and every one could see how proud she was of him. Mons walked
hand in hand with Lively Sara, and they went swinging along like a
couple of happy children. Bengta and Anders had some difficulty in
agreeing; they quarrelled every other minute, but they did not mean
much by it. And Karna made herself agreeable.

They descended into a swamp, and went up again by a steep ascent
where the great trees stood with their feet in one another's necks.
Pelle leaped about everywhere like a young kid. In under the firs
there were anthills as big as haycocks, and the ants had broad
trodden paths running like foothpaths between the trees, on and
on endlessly; a multitude of hosts passed backward and forward
upon those roads. Under some small fir-trees a hedgehog was busy
attacking a wasps' nest; it poked its nose into the nest, drew it
quickly back, and sneezed. It looked wonderfully funny, but Pelle
had to go on after the others. And soon he was far ahead of them,
lying on his face in a ditch where he had smelt wild strawberries.

Lasse could not keep pace with the younger people up the hill, and
it was not much better with Karna. "We're getting old, we two," she
said, as they toiled up, panting.

"Oh, are we?" was Lasse's answer. He felt quite young in spirit;
it was only breath that he was short of.

"I expect you think very much as I do; when you've worked for others
for so many years, you feel you want something of your own."

"Yes, perhaps," said Lasse evasively.

"One wouldn't come to it quite empty-handed, either--if it should
happen."

"Oh, indeed!"

Karna continued in this way, but Lasse was always sparing with his
words, until they arrived at the Rockingstone, where the others were
standing waiting. That was a block and a half! Fifty tons it was
said to weigh, and yet Mons and Anders could rock it by putting
a stick under one end of it.

"And now we ought to go to the Robbers' Castle," said Karl Johan,
and they trudged on, always up and down. Lasse did his utmost to
keep beside the others, for he did not feel very brave when he
was alone with Karna. What a fearful quantity of trees there were!
And not all of one sort, as in other parts of the world. There
were birches and firs, beech and larch and mountain ash all mixed
together, and ever so many cherry-trees. The head man lead them
across a little, dark lake that lay at the foot of the rock, staring
up like an evil eye. "It was here that Little Anna drowned her baby
--she that was betrayed by her master," he said lingeringly. They
all knew the story, and stood silent over the lake; the girls had
tears in their eyes.

As they stood there silent, thinking of Little Anna's sad fate,
an unspeakably soft note came up to them, followed by a long,
affecting sobbing. They moved nearer to one another. "Oh, Lord!"
whispered Fair Maria, shivering. "That's the baby's soul crying!"
Pelle stiffened as he listened, and cold waves seemed to flow down
his back.

"Why, that's a nightingale," said Karl Johan, "Don't you even know
that? There are hundreds of them in these woods, and they sing in
the middle of the day." This was a relief to the older people, but
Pelle's horror was not so easily thrown off. He had gazed into the
depths of the other world, and every explanation glanced off him.

But then came the Robbers' Castle as a great disappointment. He had
imagined it peopled with robbers, and it was only some old ruins
that stood on a little hill in the middle of a bog. He went by
himself all round the bottom of it to see if there were not a secret
underground passage that led down to the water. If there were, he
would get hold of his father without letting the others know, and
make his way in and look for the chests of money; or else there
would be too many to share in it. But this was forgotten as a
peculiar scent arrested his attention, and he came upon a piece of
ground that was green with lily-of-the-valley plants that still bore
a few flowers, and where there were wild strawberries. There were so
many that he had to go and call the others.

But this was also forgotten as he made his way through the underwood
to get up. He had lost the path and gone astray in the damp, chilly
darkness under the cliff. Creeping plants and thorns wove themselves
in among the overhanging branches, and made a thick, low roof. He
could not see an opening anywhere, and a strange green light came
through the matted branches, the ground was slippery with moisture
and decaying substances; from the cliff hung quivering fern-fronds
with their points downward, and water dripping from them like wet
hair. Huge tree-roots, like the naked bodies of black goblins
writhing to get free, lay stretched across the rocks. A little
further on, the sun made a patch of burning fire in the darkness,
and beyond it rose a bluish vapor and a sound as of a distant
threshing-machine.

Pelle stood still, and his terror grew until his knees trembled;
then he set off running as if he were possessed. A thousand shadow-
hands stretched out after him as he ran; and he pushed his way
through briars and creepers with a low cry. The daylight met him
with the force of a blow, and something behind him had a firm grasp
on his clothes; he had to shout for Father Lasse with all his might
before it let go.

And there he stood right out in the bog, while high up above
his head the others sat, upon a point of rock all among the trees.
From up there it looked as if the world were all tree-tops, rising
and falling endlessly; there was foliage far down beneath your
feet and out as far as the eye could see, up and down. You were
almost tempted to throw yourself into it, it looked so invitingly
soft. As a warning to the others, Karl Johan had to tell them
about the tailor's apprentice, who jumped out from a projecting
rock here, just because the foliage looked so temptingly soft,
Strange to say, he escaped with his life; but the high tree he
fell through stripped him of every stitch of clothing.

Mons had been teasing Sara by saying that he was going to jump
down, but now he drew back cautiously. "I don't want to risk my
confirmation clothes," he said, trying to look good.

After all, the most remarkable thing of all was the Horseman Hill
with the royal monument. The tower alone! Not a bit of wood had
been used in it, only granite; and you went round and round and
round. "You're counting the steps, I suppose?" said Karl Johan
admonishingly. Oh, yes, they were all counting to themselves.

It was clear weather, and the island lay spread out beneath them in
all its luxuriance. The very first thing the men wanted to do was to
try what it was like to spit down; but the girls were giddy and kept
together in a cluster in the middle of the platform. The churches
were counted under Karl Johan's able guidance, and all the well-
known places pointed out. "There's Stone Farm, too," said Anders,
pointing to something far off toward the sea. It was not Stone Farm,
but Karl Johan could say to a nicety behind which hill it ought to
lie, and then they recognized the quarries.

Lasse took no part in this. He stood quite still, gazing at the blue
line of the Swedish coast that stood out far away upon the shining
water. The sight of his native land made him feel weak and old; he
would probably never go home again, although he would have dearly
liked to see Bengta's grave once more. Ah yes, and the best that
could happen to one would be to be allowed to rest by her side, when
everything else was ended. At this moment he regretted that he had
gone into exile in his old age. He wondered what Kungstorp looked
like now, whether the new people kept the land cultivated at all.
And all the old acquaintances--how were they getting on? His
old-man's reminiscences came over him so strongly that for a time
he forgot Madam Olsen and everything about her. He allowed himself
to be lulled by past memories, and wept in his heart like a little
child. Ah! it was dreary to live away from one's native place and
everything in one's old age; but if it only brought a blessing on
the laddie in some way or other, it was all as it should be.

"I suppose that's the King's Copenhagen [Footnote: Country-people
speak of Copenhagen as "the King's Copehagen."] we see over there?"
asked Anders.

"It's Sweden," said Lasse quietly.

"Sweden, is it? But it lay on that side last year, if I remember
rightly."

"Yes, of course! What else should the world go round for?" exclaimed
Mons.

Anders was just about to take this in all good faith when he caught
a grimace that Mons made to the others. "Oh, you clever monkey!" he
cried, and sprang at Mons, who dashed down the stone stairs; and the
sound of their footsteps came up in a hollow rumble as out of a huge
cask. The girls stood leaning against one another, rocking gently
and gazing silently at the shining water that lay far away round
the island. The giddiness had made them languid.

"Why, your eyes are quite dreamy!" said Karl Johan, trying to take
them all into his embrace. "Aren't you coming down with us?"

They were all fairly tired now. No one said anything, for of course
Karl Johan was leading; but the girls showed an inclination to sit
down.

"Now there's only the Echo Valley left," he said encouragingly,
"and that's on our way back. We must do that, for it's well worth
it. You'll hear an echo there that hasn't its equal anywhere."

They went slowly, for their feet were tender with the leather boots
and much aimless walking; but when they had come down the steep
cliff into the valley and had drunk from the spring, they brightened
up. Karl Johan stationed himself with legs astride, and called
across to the cliff: "What's Karl Johan's greatest treat?" And the
echo answered straight away: "Eat!" It was exceedingly funny, and
they all had to try it, each with his or her name--even Pelle. When
that was exhausted, Mons made up a question which made the echo give
a rude answer.

"You mustn't teach it anything like that," said Lasse. "Just suppose
some fine ladies were to come here, and he started calling that out
after them?" They almost killed themselves with laughing at the old
man's joke, and he was so delighted at the applause that he went on
repeating it to himself on the way back. Ha, ha! he wasn't quite
fit for the scrap-heap yet.

When they got back to the cart they were ravenously hungry and
settled down to another meal. "You must have something to keep you
up when you're wandering about like this," said Mons.

"Now then," said Karl Johan, when they had finished, "every one may
do what they like; but at nine sharp we meet here again and drive
home."

Up on the open ground, Lasse gave Pelle a secret nudge, and they
began to do business with a cake-seller until the others had got
well ahead. "It's not nice being third wheel in a carriage," said
Lasse. "We two'll go about by ourselves for a little now."

Lasse was craning his neck. "Are you looking for any one?" asked
Pelle.

"No, no one in particular; but I was wondering where all these
people come from. There are people from all over the country,
but I haven't seen any one from the village yet."

"Don't you think Madam Olsen'll be here to-day?"

"Can't say," said Lasse; "but it would be nice to see her, and
there's something I want to say to her, too. Your eyes are
young; you must keep a lookout."

Pelle was given fifty ore to spend on whatever he liked. Round the
ground sat the poor women of the Heath at little stalls, from which
they sold colored sugar-sticks, gingerbread and two-ore cigars. In
the meantime he went from woman to woman, and bought of each for
one or two ore.

Away under the trees stood blind Hoyer, who had come straight from
Copenhagen with new ballads. There was a crowd round him. He played
the tune upon his concertina, his little withered wife sang to it,
and the whole crowd sang carefully with her. Those who had learnt
the tunes went away singing, and others pushed forward into their
place and put down their five-ore piece.

Lasse and Pelle stood on the edge of the crowd listening. There
was no use in paying money before you knew what you would get for
it; and anyhow the songs would be all over the island by to-morrow,
and going gratis from mouth to mouth. "A Man of Eighty--a new and
pleasant ballad about how things go when a decrepit old man takes
a young wife!" shouted Hoyer in a hoarse voice, before the song
began. Lasse didn't care very much about that ballad; but then came
a terribly sad one about the sailor George Semon, who took a most
tender farewell of his sweetheart--

  "And said, When here I once more stand,
  We to the church will go hand in hand."

But he never did come back, for the storm was over them for
forty-five days, provisions ran short, and the girl's lover went
mad. He drew his knife upon the captain, and demanded to be taken
home to his bride; and the captain shot him down. Then the others
threw themselves upon the corpse, carried it to the galley, and
made soup of it.

  "The girl still waits for her own true love,
  Away from the shore she will not move.
  Poor maid, she's hoping she still may wed,
  And does not know that her lad is dead."

"That's beautiful," said Lasse, rummaging in his purse for a
five-ore. "You must try to learn that; you've got an ear for that
sort of thing." They pushed through the crowd right up to the
musician, and began cautiously to sing too, while the girls all
round were sniffing.

They wandered up and down among the trees, Lasse rather fidgety.
There was a whole street of dancing-booths, tents with conjurers and
panorama-men, and drinking-booths. The criers were perspiring, the
refreshment sellers were walking up and down in front of their tents
like greedy beasts of prey. Things had not got into full swing yet,
for most of the people were still out and about seeing the sights,
or amusing themselves in all seemliness, exerting themselves in
trials of strength or slipping in and out of the conjurers' tents.
There was not a man unaccompanied by a woman. Many a one came to a
stand at the refreshment-tents, but the woman pulled him past; then
he would yawn and allow himself to be dragged up into a roundabout
or a magic-lantern tent where the most beautiful pictures were shown
of the way that cancer and other horrible things made havoc in
people's insides.

"These are just the things for the women," said Lasse, breathing
forth a sigh at haphazard after Madam Olsen. On a horse on Madvig's
roundabout sat Gustav with his arm round Bodil's waist. "Hey, old
man!" he cried, as they whizzed past, and flapped Lasse on the ear
with his cap, which had the white side out. They were as radiant
as the day and the sun, those two.

Pelle wanted to have a turn on a roundabout. "Then blest if I won't
have something too, that'll make things go round!" said Lasse, and
went in and had a "cuckoo"--coffee with brandy in it. "There are
some people," he said, when he came out again, "that can go from
one tavern to another without its making any difference in their
purse. It would be nice to try--only for a year. Hush!" Over by Max
Alexander's "Green House" stood Karna, quite alone and looking about
her wistfully. Lasse drew Pelle round in a wide circle.

"There's Madam Olsen with a strange man!" said Pelle suddenly.

Lasse started. "Where?" Yes, there she stood, and had a man with
her! And talking so busily! They went past her without stopping;
she could choose for herself, then.

"Hi, can't you wait a little!" cried Madam Olsen, running after them
so that her petticoats crackled round her. She was round and smiling
as usual, and many layers of good home-woven material stood out
about her; there was no scrimping anywhere.

They went on together, talking on indifferent matters and now and
then exchanging glances about the boy who was in their way. They had
to walk so sedately without venturing to touch one another. He did
not like any nonsense.

It was black with people now up at the pavilion, and one could
hardly move a step without meeting acquaintances. "It's even worse
than a swarm of bees," said Lasse. "It's not worth trying to get
in there." At one place the movement was outward, and by following
it they found themselves in a valley, where a man stood shouting
and beating his fists upon a platform. It was a missionary meeting.
The audience lay encamped in small groups, up the slopes, and a man
in long black clothes went quietly from group to group, selling
leaflets. His face was white, and he had a very long, thin red
beard.

"Do you see that man?" whispered Lasse, giving Pelle a nudge. "Upon
my word, if it isn't Long Ole--and with a glove on his injured hand.
It was him that had to take the sin upon him for Per Olsen's false
swearing!" explained Lasse, turning to Madam Olsen. "He was standing
at the machine at the time when Per Olsen ought to have paid the
penalty with his three fingers, and so his went instead. He may be
glad of the mistake after all, for they say he's risen to great
things among the prayer-meeting folks. And his complexion's as fine
as a young lady's--something different to what it was when he was
carting manure at Stone Farm! It'll be fun to say good-day to him
again."

Lasse was quite proud of having served together with this man,
and stationed himself in front of the others, intending to make an
impression upon his lady friend by saying a hearty: "Good-day, Ole!"
Long Ole was at the next group, and now he came on to them and was
going to hold out his tracts, when a glance at Lasse made him drop
both hand and eyes; and with a deep sigh he passed on with bowed
head to the next group.

"Did you see how he turned his eyes up?" said Lasse derisively.
"When beggars come to court, they don't know how to behave! He'd got
a watch in his pocket, too, and long clothes; and before he hadn't
even a shirt to his body. And an ungodly devil he was too! But the
old gentleman looks after his own, as the saying is; I expect it's
him that helped him on by changing places at the machine. The way
they've cheated the Almighty's enough to make Him weep!"

Madam Olsen tried to hush Lasse, but the "cuckoo" rose within him
together with his wrath, and he continued: "So _he's_ above
recognizing decent people who get what they have in an honorable
way, and not by lying and humbug! They do say he makes love to all
the farmers' wives wherever he goes; but there was a time when he
had to put up with the Sow."

People began to look at them, and Madam Olsen took Lasse firmly by
the arm and drew him away.

The sun was now low in the sky. Up on the open ground the crowds
tramped round and round as if in a tread-mill. Now and then a
drunken man reeled along, making a broad path for himself through
the crush. The noise came seething up from the tents--barrel-organs
each grinding out a different tune, criers, the bands of the various
dancing-booths, and the measured tread of a schottische or polka.
The women wandered up and down in clusters, casting long looks into
the refreshment-tents where their men were sitting; and some of them
stopped at the tent-door and made coaxing signs to some one inside.

Under the trees stood a drunken man, pawing at a tree-trunk, and
beside him stood a girl, crying with her black damask apron to her
eyes. Pelle watched them for a long time. The man's clothes were
disordered, and he lurched against the girl with a foolish grin
when she, in the midst of her tears, tried to put them straight.
When Pelle turned away, Lasse and Madam Olsen had disappeared in
the crowd.

They must have gone on a little, and he went down to the very end
of the street. Then he turned despondingly and went up, burrowing
this way and that in the stream of people, with eyes everywhere.
"Haven't you seen Father Lasse?" he asked pitifully, when he met
any one he knew.

In the thickest of the crush, a tall man was moving along, holding
forth blissfully at the top of his voice. He was a head taller than
anybody else, and very broad; but he beamed with good-nature, and
wanted to embrace everybody. People ran screaming out of his way,
so that a broad path was left wherever he went. Pelle kept behind
him, and thus succeeded in getting through the thickest crowds,
where policemen and rangers were stationed with thick cudgels.
Their eyes and ears were on the watch, but they did not interfere
in anything. It was said that they had handcuffs in their pockets.

Pelle had reached the road in his despairing search. Cart after cart
was carefully working its way out through the gloom under the trees,
then rolling out into the dazzling evening light, and on to the
high-road with much cracking of whips. They were the prayer-meeting
people driving home.

He happened to think of the time, and asked a man what it was. Nine!
Pelle had to run so as not to be too late in getting to the cart.
In the cart sat Karl Johan and Fair Maria eating. "Get up and have
something to eat!" they said, and as Pelle was ravenous, he forgot
everything while he ate. But then Johan asked about Lasse, and his
torment returned.

Karl Johan was cross; not one had returned to the cart, although
it was the time agreed upon. "You'd better keep close to us now,"
he said, as they went up, "or you might get killed."

Up at the edge of the wood they met Gustav running. "Have none
of you seen Bodil?" he asked, gasping. His clothes were torn and
there was blood on the front of his shirt. He ran on groaning, and
disappeared under the trees. It was quite dark there, but the open
ground lay in a strange light that came from nowhere, but seemed
to have been left behind by the day as it fled. Faces out there
showed up, some in ghostly pallor, some black like holes in the
light, until they suddenly burst forth, crimson with blood-red
flame.

The people wandered about in confused groups, shouting and screaming
at the top of their voices. Two men came along with arms twined
affectionately round one another's necks, and the next moment lay
rolling on the ground in a fight. Others joined the fray and took
sides without troubling to discover what it was all about, and the
contest became one large struggling heap. Then the police came up,
and hit about them with their sticks; and those who did not run away
were handcuffed and thrown into an empty stable.

Pelle was quite upset, and kept close to Karl Johan; he jumped
every time a band approached, and kept on saying in a whimpering
tone: "Where's Father Lasse? Let's go and find him."

"Oh, hold your tongue!" exclaimed the head man, who was standing and
trying to catch sight of his fellow-servants. He was angry at this
untrustworthiness. "Don't stand there crying! You'd do much more
good if you ran down to the cart and see whether any one's come."

Pelle had to go, little though he cared to venture in under the
trees. The branches hung silently listening, but the noise from
the open ground came down in bursts, and in the darkness under the
bushes living things rustled about and spoke in voices of joy or
sorrow. A sudden scream rang through the wood, and made his knees
knock together.

Karna sat at the back of the cart asleep, and Bengta stood leaning
against the front seat, weeping. "They've locked Anders up," she
sobbed. "He got wild, so they put handcuffs on him and locked
him up." She went back with Pelle.

Lasse was with Karl Johan and Fair Maria; he looked defiantly at
Pelle, and in his half-closed eyes there was a little mutinous
gleam.

"Then now there's only Mons and Lively Sara," said Karl Johan,
as he ran his eye over them.

"But what about Anders?" sobbed Bengta. "You surely won't drive
away without Anders?"

"There's nothing can he done about Anders!" said the head man.
"He'll come of his own accord when once he's let out."

They found out on inquiry that Mons and Lively Sara were down in one
of the dancing-booths, and accordingly went down there. "Now you
stay here!" said Karl Johan sternly, and went in to take a survey
of the dancers. In there blood burnt hot, and faces were like balls
of fire that made red circles in the blue mist of perspiring heat
and dust. Dump! Dump! Dump! The measure fell booming like heavy
blows; and in the middle of the floor stood a man and wrung the
moisture out of his jacket.

Out of one of the dancing-tents pushed a big fellow with two girls.
He had an arm about the neck of each, and they linked arms behind
his back. His cap was on the back of his head, and his riotous mood
would have found expression in leaping, if he had not felt himself
too pleasantly encumbered; so he opened his mouth wide, and shouted
joyfully, so that it rang again: "Devil take me! Deuce take me!
Seven hundred devils take me!" and disappeared under the trees with
his girls.

"That was Per Olsen himself," said Lasse, looking after him. "What
a man, to be sure! He certainly doesn't look as if he bore any debt
of sin to the Almighty."

"His time may still come," was the opinion of Karl Johan.

Quite by chance they found Mons and Lively Sara sitting asleep
in one another's arms upon a bench under the trees.

"Well, now, I suppose we ought to be getting home?" said Karl Johan
slowly. He had been doing right for so long that his throat was
quite dry. "I suppose none of you'll stand a farewell glass?"

"I will!" said Mons, "if you'll go up to the pavilion with me to
drink it." Mons had missed something by going to sleep and had a
desire to go once round the ground. Every time a yell reached them
he gave a leap as he walked beside Lively Sara, and answered with
a long halloo. He tried to get away, but she clung to his arm; so
he swung the heavy end of his loaded stick and shouted defiantly.
Lasse kicked his old limbs and imitated Mons's shouts, for he
too was for anything rather than going home; but Karl Johan was
determined--they _were_ to go now! And in this he was
supported by Pelle and the women.

Out on the open ground a roar made them stop, and the women got
each behind her man. A man came running bareheaded and with a large
wound in his temple, from which the blood flowed down over his face
and collar. His features were distorted with fear. Behind him came
a second, also bareheaded, and with a drawn knife. A ranger tried
to bar his way, but received a wound in his shoulder and fell, and
the pursuer ran on. As he passed them, Mons uttered a short yell and
sprang straight up into the air, bringing down his loaded stick upon
the back of the man's neck. The man sank to the ground with a grunt,
and Mons slipped in among the groups of people and disappeared; and
the others found him waiting for them at the edge of the wood. He
did not answer any more yells.

Karl Johan had to lead the horses until they got out onto the road,
and then they all got in. Behind them the noise had become lost,
and only one long cry for help rang through the air and dropped
again.

Down by a little lake, some forgotten girls had gathered on the
grass and were playing by themselves. The white mist lay over the
grass like a shining lake, and only the upper part of the girls'
bodies rose above it. They were walking round in a ring, singing
the mid-summer's-night song. Pure and clear rose the merry song,
and yet was so strangely sad to listen to, because they who sang
it had been left in the lurch by sots and brawlers.

  "We will dance upon hill and meadow,
  We will wear out our shoes and stockings.
  Heigh ho, my little sweetheart fair,
  We shall dance till the sun has risen high.
    Heigh ho, my queen!
  Now we have danced upon the green."

The tones fell so gently upon the ear and mind that memories and
thoughts were purified of all that had been hideous, and the day
itself could appear in its true colors as a joyful festival. For
Lasse and Pelle, indeed, it had been a peerless day, making up for
many years of neglect. The only pity was that it was over instead
of about to begin.

The occupants of the cart were tired now, some nodding and all
silent. Lasse sat working about in his pocket with one hand. He
was trying to obtain an estimate of the money that remained. It was
expensive to keep a sweetheart when you did not want to be outdone
by younger men in any way. Pelle was asleep, and was slipping
farther and farther down until Bengta took his head onto her lap.
She herself was weeping bitterly about Anders.

The daylight was growing rapidly brighter as they drove in to
Stone Farm.



XIX

The master and mistress of Stone Farm were almost always the subject
of common talk, and were never quite out of the thoughts of the
people. There was as much thought and said about Kongstrup and his
wife as about all the rest of the parish put together; they were
bread to so many, their Providence both in evil and good, that
nothing that they did could be immaterial.

No one ever thought of weighing them by the same standards as
they used for others; they were something apart, beings who were
endowed with great possessions, and could do and be as they liked,
disregarding all considerations and entertaining all passions. All
that came from Stone Farm was too great for ordinary mortals to sit
in judgment upon; it was difficult enough to explain what went on,
even when at such close quarters with it all as were Lasse and Pelle.
To them as to the others, the Stone Farm people were beings apart,
who lived their life under greater conditions, beings, as it were,
halfway between the human and the supernatural, in a world where
such things as unquenchable passion and frenzied love wrought havoc.

What happened, therefore, at Stone Farm supplied more excitement
than the other events of the parish. People listened with open-
mouthed interest to the smallest utterance from the big house,
and when the outbursts came, trembled and went about oppressed and
uncomfortable. No matter how clearly Lasse, in the calm periods,
might think he saw it all, the life up there would suddenly be
dragged out of its ordinary recognized form again, and wrap itself
around his and the boy's world like a misty sphere in which
capricious powers warred--just above their heads.

It was now Jomfru Koller's second year at the farm, in spite of
all evil prophecies; and indeed things had turned out in such a
way that every one had to own that his prognostications had been
wrong. She was always fonder of driving with Kongstrup to the
town than of staying at home to cheer Fru Kongstrup up in her
loneliness; but such is youth. She behaved properly enough
otherwise, and it was well known that Kongstrup had returned to
his old hotel-sweethearting in the town. Fru Kongstrup herself,
moreover, showed no distrust of her young relative--if she had
ever felt any. She was as kind to her as if she had been her own
daughter; and very often it was she herself who got Jomfru Koller
to go in the carriage to look after her husband.

Otherwise the days passed as usual, and Fru Kongstrup was
continually giving herself up to little drinking-bouts and to grief.
At such times she would weep over her wasted life; and if he were
at home would follow him with her accusations from room to room,
until he would order the carriage and take flight, even in the
middle of the night. The walls were so saturated with her voice
that it penetrated through everything like a sorrowful, dull
droning. Those who happened to be up at night to look after animals
or the like, could hear her talking incessantly up there, even if
she were alone.

But then Jomfru Koller began to talk of going away. She suddenly got
the idea that she wanted to go to Copenhagen and learn something,
so that she could earn her own living. It sounded strange, as there
was every prospect of her some day inheriting the farmer's property.
Fru Kongstrup was quite upset at the thought of losing her, and
altogether forgot her other troubles in continually talking to her
about it. Even when everything was settled, and they were standing
in the mangling-room with the maids, getting Jomfru Koller's things
ready for her journey, she still kept on--to no earthly purpose.
Like all the Stone Farm family, she could never let go anything
she had once got hold of.

There was something strange about Jomfru Koller's obstinacy of
purpose; she was not even quite sure what she was going to do over
there. "I suppose she's going over to learn cooking," said one and
another with a covert smile.

Fru Kongstrup herself had no suspicion. She, who was always
suspecting something, seemed to be blind here. It must have been
because she had such complete trust in Jomfru Koller, and thought
so much of her. She had not even time to sigh, so busy was she in
putting everything into good order. Much need there was for it, too;
Jomfru Koller must have had her head full of very different things,
judging from the condition her clothes were in.

"I'm glad Kongstrup's going over with her," said Fru Kongstrup
to Fair Maria one evening when they were sitting round the big
darning-basket, mending the young lady's stockings after the wash.
"They say Copenhagen's a bad town for inexperienced young people
to come to. But Sina'll get on all right, for she's got the good
stock of the Kollers in her." She said it all with such childish
simplicity; you could tramp in and out of her heart with great
wooden shoes on, suspicious though she was. "Perhaps we'll come
over to see you at Christmas, Sina," she added in the goodness of
her heart.

Jomfru Koller opened her mouth and caught her breath in terror, but
did not answer. She bent over her work and did not look at any one
all the evening. She never looked frankly at any one now. "She's
ashamed of her deceitfulness!" they said. The judgment would fall
upon her; she ought to have known what she was doing, and not gone
between the bark and the wood, especially here where one of them
trusted her entirely.

In the upper yard the new man Paer was busy getting the closed
carriage ready. Erik stood beside him idle. He looked unhappy and
troubled, poor fellow, as he always did when he was not near the
bailiff. Each time a wheel had to come off or be put on, he had to
put his giant's back under the big carriage and lift it. Every now
and then Lasse came to the stable-door to get an idea of what was
going on. Pelle was at school, it being the first day of the new
half-year.

She was going away to-day, the false wretch who had let herself be
drawn into deceiving one who had been a mother to her! Fru Kongstrup
must be going with them down to the steamer, as the closed carriage
was going.

Lasse went into the bedroom to arrange one or two things so that
he could slip out in the evening without Pelle noticing it. He had
given Pelle a little paper of sweets for Madam Olsen, and on the
paper he had drawn a cross with a lead button; and the cross meant
in all secrecy that he would come to her that evening.

While he took out his best clothes and hid them under some hay close
to the outer door, he hummed:--

    "Love's longing so strong
    It helped me along,
  And the way was made short with the nightingales' song."

He was looking forward so immensely to the evening; he had not been
alone with her now for nearly a quarter of a year. He was proud,
moreover, of having taken writing into his service, and that a
writing that Pelle, quick reader of writing though he was, would
not be able to make out.

While the others were taking their after-dinner nap, Lasse went out
and tidied up the dung-heap. The carriage was standing up there with
one large trunk strapped on behind, and another standing on one edge
on the box. Lasse wondered what such a girl would do when she was
alone out in the wide world and had to pay the price of her sin.
He supposed there must be places where they took in such girls in
return for good payment; everything could be got over there!

Johanna Pihl came waddling in at the gate up there. Lasse started
when he saw her; she never came for any good. When she boldly
exhibited herself here, she was always drunk, and then she stopped
at nothing. It was sad to see how low misfortune could drag a woman.
Lasse could not help thinking what a pretty girl she had been in
her youth. And now all she thought of was making money out of her
shame! He cautiously withdrew into the stable, so as not to be an
eye-witness to anything, and peered out from there.

The Sow went up and down in front of the windows, and called in
a thick voice, over which she had not full command: "Kongstrup,
Kongstrup! Come out and let me speak to you. You must let me have
some money, for your son and I haven't had any food for three days."

"That's a wicked lie!" said Lasse to himself indignantly, "for she
has a good income. But she wastes God's gifts, and now she's out to
do some evil." He would have liked to take the fork and chase her
out through the gate, but it was not well to expose one's self to
her venomous tongue.

She had her foot upon the step, but did not dare to mount. Fuddled
though she was, there was something that kept her in check. She
stood there groping at the handrail and mumbling to herself, and
every now and then lifting her fat face and calling Kongstrup.

Jomfru Koller came inadvertently up from the basement, and went
toward the steps; her eyes were on the ground, and she did not see
the Sow until it was too late, and then she turned quickly. Johanna
Pihl stood grinning.

"Come here, miss, and let me wish you good-day!" she cried. "You're
too grand, are you? But the one may be just as good as the other!
Perhaps it's because you can drive away in a carriage and have yours
on the other side of the sea, while I had mine in a beet-field! But
is that anything to be proud of? I say, just go up and tell my fine
gentleman that his eldest's starving! I daren't go myself because of
the evil eye."

Long before this Jomfru Koller was down in the basement again, but
Johanna Pihl continued to stand and say the same thing over and
over again, until the bailiff came dashing out toward her, when
she retired, scolding, from the yard.

The men had been aroused before their time by her screaming, and
stood drowsily watching behind the barn-doors. Lasse kept excited
watch from the stable, and the girls had collected in the wash-house.
What would happen now? They all expected some terrible outbreak.

But nothing happened. Now, when Fru Kongstrup had the right to shake
heaven and earth--so faithlessly had they treated her--now she was
silent. The farm was as peaceful as on the days when they had come
to a sort of understanding, and Kongstrup kept himself quiet. Fru
Kongstrup passed the windows up there, and looked just like anybody
else. Nothing happened!

Something must have been said, however, for the young lady had
a very tear-stained face when they got into the carriage, and
Kongstrup wore his confused air. Then Karl Johan drove away with
the two; and the mistress did not appear. She was probably ashamed
for what concerned the others.

Nothing had happened to relieve the suspense; it oppressed every one.
She must have accepted her unhappy lot, and given up standing out
for her rights, now, just when every one would have supported her.
This tranquillity was so unnatural, so unreasonable, that it made
one melancholy and low-spirited. It was as though others were
suffering on her behalf, and she herself had no heart.

But then it broke down, and the sound of weeping began to ooze out
over the farm, quiet and regular like flowing heart's blood. All
the evening it flowed; the weeping had never sounded so despairing;
it went to the hearts of all. She had taken in the poor child and
treated her as her own, and the poor child had deceived her. Every
one felt how she must suffer.

During the night the weeping rose to cries so heart-rending that
they awakened even Pelle--wet with perspiration. "It sounds like
some one in the last agonies!" said Lasse, and hastily drew on his
trousers with trembling, clumsy hands. "She surely hasn't laid hands
upon herself?" He lighted the lantern and went out into the stable,
Pelle following naked.

Then suddenly the cries ceased, as abruptly as if the sound had been
cut off with an axe, and the silence that followed said dumbly that
it was forever. The farm sank into the darkness of night like an
extinguished world. "Our mistress is dead!" said Lasse, shivering
and moving his fingers over his lips. "May God receive her kindly!"
They crept fearfully into bed.

But when they got up the next morning, the farm looked as it always
did, and the maids were chattering and making as much noise as
usual in the wash-house. A little while after, the mistress's voice
was heard up there, giving directions about the work. "I don't
understand it," said Lasse, shaking his head. "Nothing but death
can stop anything so suddenly. She must have a tremendous power
over herself!"

It now became apparent what a capable woman she was. She had not
wasted anything in the long period of idleness; the maids became
brisker and the fare better. One day she came to the cow-stable to
see that the milking was done cleanly. She gave every one his due,
too. One day they came from the quarry and complained that they had
had no wages for three weeks. There was not enough money on the
farm. "Then we must get some," said the mistress, and they had to
set about threshing at once. And one day when Karna raised too many
objections she received a ringing box on the ear.

"It's a new nature she's got," said Lasse. But the old workpeople
recognized several things from their young days. "It's her family's
nature," they said. "She's a regular Koller."

The time passed without any change; she was as constant in her
tranquillity as she had before been constant in her misery. It was
not the habit of the Kollers to change their minds once they had
made them up about anything. Then Kongstrup came home from his
journey. She did not drive out to meet him, but was on the steps
to greet him, gentle and kind. Everybody could see how pleased and
surprised he was. He must have expected a very different reception.

But during the night, when they were all sound asleep, Karna
came knocking at the men's window. "Get up and fetch the doctor!"
she cried, "and be quick!" The call sounded like one of life and
death, and they turned out headlong. Lasse, who was in the habit
of sleeping with one eye open, like the hens, was the first man on
the spot, and had got the horses out of the stable; and in a few
minutes Karl Johan was driving out at the gate. He had a man with
him to hold the lantern. It was pitch-dark, but they could hear the
carriage tearing along until the sound became very distant; then in
another moment the sound changed, as the vehicle turned on to the
metalled road a couple of miles off. Then it died away altogether.

On the farm they went about shaking themselves and unable to rest,
wandering into their rooms and out again to gaze up at the tall
windows, where people were running backward and forward with lights.
What had happened? Some mishap to the farmer, evidently, for now
and again the mistress's commanding voice could be heard down in
the kitchen--but what? The wash-house and the servants' room were
dark and locked.

Toward morning, when the doctor had come and had taken things into
his own hands, a greater calm fell upon them all, and the maids took
the opportunity of slipping out into the yard. They would not at
once say what was the matter, but stood looking in an embarrassed
way at one another, and laughing stupidly. At last they gradually
got it out by first one telling a little and then another: in a fit
of delirium or of madness Kongstrup had done violence to himself.
Their faces were contorted with a mixture of fear and smothered
laughter; and when Karl Johan said gravely to Fair Maria: "You're
not telling a lie, are you?" she burst into tears. There she stood
laughing and crying by turns; and it made no difference that Karl
Johan scolded her sharply.

But it was true, although it sounded like the craziest nonsense that
a man could do such a thing to himself. It was a truth that struck
one dumb!

It was some time before they could make it out at all, but when
they did there were one or two things about it that seemed a little
unnatural. It could not have happened during intoxication, for the
farmer never drank at home, did not drink at all, as far as any one
knew, but only took a glass in good company. It was more likely to
have been remorse and contrition; it was not impossible considering
the life he had led, although it was strange that a man of his
nature should behave in such a desperate fashion.

But it was not satisfactory! And gradually, without it being
possible to point to any origin, all thoughts turned toward her.
She had changed of late, and the Koller blood had come out in her;
and in that family they had never let themselves be trodden down
unrevenged!



XX

Out in the shelter of the gable-wall of the House sat Kongstrup,
well wrapped up, and gazing straight before him with expressionless
eyes. The winter sun shone full upon him; it had lured forth signs
of spring, and the sparrows were hopping gaily about him. His wife
went backward and forward, busying herself about him; she wrapped
his feet up better, and came with a shawl to put round his shoulders.
She touched his chest and arms affectionately as she spread the
shawl over him from behind; and he slowly raised his head and
passed his hand over hers. She stood thus for a little while,
leaning against his shoulder and looking down upon him like a
mother, with eyes that were tranquil with the joy of possession.

Pelle came bounding down across the yard, licking his lips. He had
taken advantage of his mistress's preoccupation to steal down into
the dairy and get a drink of sour cream from the girls, and tease
them a little. He was glowing with health, and moved along as
carelessly happy as if the whole world were his.

It was quite dreadful the way he grew and wore out his things; it
was almost impossible to keep him in clothes! His arms and legs
stuck far out of every article of clothing he put on, and he wore
things out as fast as Lasse could procure them. Something new was
always being got for him, and before you could turn round, his arms
and legs were out of that too. He was as strong as an oak-tree; and
when it was a question of lifting or anything that did not require
perseverence, Lasse had to allow himself to be superseded.

The boy had acquired independence, too, and every day it became more
difficult for the old man to assert his parental authority; but that
would come as soon as Lasse was master of his own house and could
bring his fist down on his own table. But when would that be? As
matters now stood, it looked as if the magistrate did not want
him and Madam Olsen to be decently married. Seaman Olsen had given
plain warning of his decease, and Lasse thought there was nothing
to do but put up the banns; but the authorities continued to raise
difficulties and ferret about, in the true lawyers' way. Now there
was one question that had to be examined into, and now another;
there were periods of grace allowed, and summonses to be issued
to the dead man to make his appearance within such and such a time,
and what not besides! It was all a put-up job, so that the
pettifoggers could make something out of it.

He was thoroughly tired of Stone Farm. Every day he made the same
complaint to Pelle: "It's nothing but toil, toil, from morning till
night--one day just like another all the year round, as if you were
in a convict-prison! And what you get for it is hardly enough to
keep your body decently covered. You can't put anything by, and one
day when you're worn out and good for nothing more, you can just go
on the parish."

The worst of it all, however, was the desire to work once more
for himself. He was always sighing for this, and his hands were
sore with longing to feel what it was like to take hold of one's
own. Of late he had meditated cutting the matter short and moving
down to his sweetheart's, without regard to the law. She was quite
willing, he knew; she badly needed a man's hand in the house.
And they were being talked about, anyhow; it would not make much
difference if he and the boy went as her lodgers, especially when
they worked independently.

But the boy was not to be persuaded; he was jealous for his father's
honor. Whenever Lasse touched upon the subject he became strangely
sullen. Lasse pretended it was Madam Olsen's idea, and not his.

"I'm not particularly in favor of it, either," he said. "People are
sure to believe the worst at once. But we can't go on here wearing
ourselves to a thread for nothing. And you can't breathe freely on
this farm--always tied!"

Pelle made no answer to this; he was not strong in reasons, but knew
what he wanted.

"If I ran away from here one night, I guess you'd come trotting
after me."

Pelle maintained a refractory silence.

"I think I'll do it, for this isn't to be borne. Now you've got to
have new school-trousers, and where are they coming from?"

"Well, then, do it! Then you'll do what you say."

"It's easy for you to pooh-pooh everything," said Lasse despondingly,
"for you've time and years before you. But I'm beginning to get old,
and I've no one to trouble about me."

"Why, don't I help you with everything?" asked Pelle reproachfully.

"Yes, yes, of course you do your very best to make things easier for
me, and no one could say you didn't. But, you see--there are certain
things you don't--there's something--" Lasse came to a standstill.
What was the use of explaining the longings of a man to a boy? "You
shouldn't be so obstinate, you know!" And Lasse stroked the boy's
arm imploringly.

But Pelle _was_ obstinate. He had already put up with plenty
of sarcastic remarks from his schoolfellows, and fought a good many
battles since it had become known that his father and Madam Olsen
were sweethearts. If they now started living together openly, it
would become quite unbearable. Pelle was not afraid of fighting,
but he needed to have right on his side, if he was to kick out
properly.

"Move down to her, then, and I'll go away!"

"Where'll you go to?"

"Out into the world and get rich!"

Lasse raised his head, like an old war-horse that hears a signal;
but then it dropped again.

"Out into the world and get rich! Yes, yes," he said slowly; "that's
what I thought, too, when I was your age. But things don't happen
like that--if you aren't born with a caul."

Lasse was silent, and thoughtfully kicked the straw in under a cow.
He was not altogether sure that the boy was not born with a caul,
after all. He was a late-born child, and they were always meant
for the worst or the best; and then he had that cow's-lick on his
forehead, which meant good fortune. He was merry and always singing,
and neat-handed at everything; and his nature made him generally
liked. It was very possible that good fortune lay waiting for him
somewhere out there.

"But the very first thing you need for that is to be properly
confirmed. You'd better take your books and learn your lesson
for the priest, so that you don't get refused! I'll do the rest
of the foddering."

Pelle took his books and seated himself in the foddering-passage
just in front of the big bull. He read in an undertone, and Lasse
passed up and down at his work. For some time each minded his own;
but then Lasse came up, drawn by the new lesson-books Pelle had got
for his confirmation-classes.

"Is that Bible history, that one there?"

"Yes."

"Is that about the man who drank himself drunk in there?"

Lasse had long since given up learning to read; he had not the head
for it. But he was always interested in what the boy was doing, and
the books exerted a peculiar magic effect upon him. "Now what does
that stand for?" he would ask wonderingly, pointing to something
printed; or "What wonderful thing have you got in your lesson
to-day?" Pelle had to keep him informed from day to day. And the
same questions often came again, for Lasse had not a good memory.

"You know--the one whose sons pulled off his trousers and shamed
their own father?" Lasse continued, when Pelle did not answer.

"Oh, Noah!"

"Yes, of course! Old Noah--the one that Gustav had that song about.
I wonder what he made himself drunk on, the old man?"

"Wine."

"Was it wine?" Lasse raised his eyebrows. "Then that Noah must have
been a fine gentleman! The owner of the estate at home drank wine,
too, on grand occasions. I've heard that it takes a lot of that to
make a man tipsy--and it's expensive! Does the book tell you, too,
about him that was such a terrible swindler? What was his name
again?"

"Laban, do you mean?"

"Laban, yes of course! To think that I could forget it, too, for he
was a regular Laban, [Footnote: An ordinary expression in Danish for
a mean, deceitful person.] so the name suits him just right. It was
him that let his son-in-law have both his daughters, and off their
price on his daily wage too! If they'd been alive now, they'd have
got hard labor, both him and his son-in-law; but in those days the
police didn't look so close at people's papers. Now I should like
to know whether a wife was allowed to have two husbands in those
days. Does the book say anything about that?" Lasse moved his head
inquisitively.

"No, I don't think it does," answered Pelle absently.

"Oh, well, I oughtn't to disturb you," said Lasse, and went to his
work. But in a very short time he was back again. "Those two names
have slipped my memory; I can't think where my head could have been
at the moment. But I know the greater prophets well enough, if you
like to hear me."

"Say them, then!" said Pelle, without raising his eyes from
his book.

"But you must stop reading while I say them," said Lasse, "or you
might go wrong." He did not approve of Pelle's wanting to treat it
as food for babes.

"Well, I don't suppose I could go wrong in the four greater!"
said Pelle, with an air of superiority, but nevertheless shutting
the book.

Lasse took the quid out from his lower lip with his forefinger,
and threw it on the ground so as to have his mouth clear, and then
hitched up his trousers and stood for a little while with closed
eyes while he moved his lips in inward repetition.

"Are they coming soon?" asked Pelle.

"I must first make sure that they're there!" answered Lasse,
in vexation at the interruption, and beginning to go over them
again. "Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel!" he said, dashing
them off hastily, so as not to lose any of them on the way.

"Shall we take Jacob's twelve sons, too?"

"No, not to-day. It might be too much for me all at once. At my age
you must go forward gently; I'm not as young as you, you know. But
you might go through the twelve lesser prophets with me."

Pelle went through them slowly, and Lasse repeated them one by
one. "What confounded names they did think of in those days!" he
exclaimed, quite out of breath. "You can hardly get your tongue
round them! But I shall manage them in time."

"What do you want to know them for, father?" asked Pelle suddenly.

"What do I want to know them for?" Lasse scratched one ear. "Why,
of course I--er--what a terrible stupid question! What do _you_
want to know them for? Learning's as good for the one to have as for
the other, and in my youth they wouldn't let me get at anything fine
like that. Do you want to keep it all to yourself?"

"No, for I wouldn't care a hang about all this prophet business
if I didn't _have_ to."

Lasse almost fainted with horror.

"Then you're the most wicked little cub I ever knew, and deserve
never to have been born into the world! Is that all the respect you
have for learning? You ought to be glad you were born in an age when
the poor man's child shares in it all as well as the rich. It wasn't
so in my time, or else--who knows--perhaps I shouldn't be going
about here cleaning stables if I'd learned something when I was
young. Take care you don't take pride in your own shame!"

Pelle half regretted his words now, and said, to clear himself:
"I'm in the top form now!"

"Yes, I know that well enough, but that's no reason for your putting
your hands in your trouser-pockets; while you're taking breath, the
others eat the porridge. I hope you've not forgotten anything in the
long Christmas holidays?"

"Oh, no, I'm sure I haven't!" said Pelle, with assurance.

Lasse did not doubt it either, but only made believe he did to
take the boy in. He knew nothing more splendid than to listen to
a rushing torrent of learning, but it was becoming more and more
difficult to get the laddie to contribute it. "How can you be sure?"
he went on. "Hadn't you better see? It would be such a comfort to
know that you hadn't forgotten anything--so much as you must have
in your head."

Pelle felt flattered and yielded. He stretched out his legs, closed
his eyes, and began to rock backward and forward. And the Ten
Commandments, the Patriarchs, the Judges, Joseph and his brethren,
the four major and the twelve minor prophets--the whole learning
of the world poured from his lips in one long breath. To Lasse it
seemed as if the universe itself were whizzing round the white-
bearded countenance of the Almighty. He had to bend his head and
cross himself in awe at the amount that the boy's little head could
contain.

"I wonder what it costs to be a student?" said Lasse, when he once
more felt earth beneath his feet.

"It must be expensive--a thousand krones, I suppose, at least,"
Pelle thought. Neither of them connected any definite idea with
the number; it merely meant the insurmountably great.

"I wonder if it would be so terrible dear," said Lasse. "I've been
thinking that when we have something of our own--I suppose it'll
come to something some day--you might go to Fris and learn the
trade of him fairly cheap, and have your meals at home. We ought
to be able to manage it that way."

Pelle did not answer; he felt no desire to be apprenticed to the
clerk. He had taken out his knife, and was cutting something on a
post of one of the stalls. It represented the big bull with his head
down to the ground, and its tongue hanging out of one corner of its
mouth. One hoof right forward at its mouth indicated that the animal
was pawing up the ground in anger. Lasse could not help stopping,
for now it was beginning to be like something. "That's meant to be
a cow, isn't it?" he said. He had been wondering every day, as it
gradually grew.

"It's Volmer that time he took you on his horns," said Pelle.

Lasse could see at once that it was that, now that he had been told.
"It's really very like," he said; "but he wasn't so angry as you've
made him! Well, well, you'd better get to work again; that there
fooling can't make a living for a man."

Lasse did not like this defect in the boy--making drawings with
chalk or his penknife all over; there would soon not be a beam or
a wall in the place that did not bear marks of one or the other. It
was useless nonsense, and the farmer would probably be angry if he
came into the stable and happened to see them. Lasse had every now
and then to throw cow-dung over the most conspicuous drawings, so
that they should not catch the eye of people for whom they were not
intended.

Up at the house, Kongstrup was just going in, leaning on his wife's
arm. He looked pale but by no means thin. "He's still rather lame,"
said Lasse, peeping out; "but it won't be long before we have him
down here, so you'd better not quite destroy the post."

Pelle went on cutting.

"If you don't leave off that silly nonsense, I'll throw dirt over
it!" said Lasse angrily.

"Then I'll draw you and Madam Olsen on the big gate!" answered Pelle
roguishly.

"You--you'd better! I should curse you before my face, and get the
parson to send you away--if not something worse!" Lasse was quite
upset, and went off down to the other end of the cow-stable and
began the afternoon's cleaning, knocking and pulling his implements
about. In his anger he loaded the wheelbarrow too full, and then
could neither go one way nor the other, as his feet slipped.

Pelle came down with the gentlest of faces. "Mayn't I wheel the
barrow out?" he said. "Your wooden shoes aren't so firm on the
stones."

Lasse growled some reply, and let him take it. For a very short time
he was cross, but it was no good; the boy could be irresistible when
he liked.



XXI

Pelle had been to confirmation-class, and was now sitting in the
servants' room eating his dinner--boiled herring and porridge. It
was Saturday, and the bailiff had driven into the town, so Erik was
sitting over the stove. He never said anything of his own accord,
but always sat and stared; and his eyes followed Pelle's movements
backward and forward between his mouth and his plate. He always kept
his eyebrows raised, as if everything were new to him; they had
almost grown into that position. In front of him stood a mug of beer
in a large pool, for he drank constantly and spilt some every time.

Fair Maria was washing up, and looked in every now and then to see
if Pelle were finished. When he licked his horn spoon clean and
threw it into the drawer, she came in with something on a plate:
they had had roast loin of pork for dinner upstairs.

"Here's a little taste for you," she said. "I expect you're still
hungry. What'll you give me for it?" She kept the plate in her hand,
and looked at him with a coaxing smile.

Pelle was still very hungry--ravenous; and he looked at the titbit
until his mouth watered. Then he dutifully put up his lips and
Maria kissed him. She glanced involuntarily at Erik, and a gleam of
something passed over his foolish face, like a faint reminiscence.

"There sits that great gaby making a mess!" she said, scolding as
she seized the beer-mug from him, held it under the edge of the
table, and with her hand swept the spilt beer into it.

Pelle set to work upon the pork without troubling about anything
else; but when she had gone out, he carefully spat down between his
legs, and went through a small cleansing operation with the sleeve
of his blouse.

When he was finished he went into the stable and cleaned out the
mangers, while Lasse curried the cows; it was all to look nice for
Sunday. While they worked, Pelle gave a full account of the day's
happenings, and repeated all that the parson had said. Lasse
listened attentively, with occasional little exclamations. "Think of
that!" "Well, I never!" "So David was a buck like that, and yet he
walked in the sight of God all the same! Well, God's long-suffering
is great--there's no mistake about that!"

There was a knock at the outer door. It was one of Kalle's children
with the message that grandmother would like to bid them good-bye
before she passed away.

"Then she can't have long to live," exclaimed Lasse. "It'll be
a great loss to them all, so happy as they've been together. But
there'll be a little more food for the others, of course."

They agreed to wait until they were quite finished, and then
steal away; for if they asked to be let off early, they would not
be likely to get leave for the funeral. "And that'll be a day's
feasting, with plenty of food and drink, if I know anything of
Brother Kalle!" said Lasse.

When they had finished their work and had their supper, they stole
out through the outside door into the field. Lasse had heaped up the
quilt, and put an old woolly cap just sticking out at the pillow-end;
in a hurry it could easily be mistaken for the hair of a sleeper, if
any one came to see. When they had got a little way, Lasse had to go
back once more to take precautions against fire.

It was snowing gently and silently, and the ground was frozen so
that they could go straight on over everything. Now that they knew
the way, it seemed no distance at all; and before they knew where
they were, the fields came to an end and the rock began.

There was a light in the cottage. Kalle was sitting up waiting for
them. "Grandmother hasn't long to live," he said, more seriously
than Lasse ever remembered to have heard him speak before.

Kalle opened the door to grandmother's room, and whispered something,
to which his wife answered softly out of the darkness.

"Oh, I'm awake," said the old woman, in a slow, monotonous voice.
"You can speak out, for I am awake."

Lasse and Pelle took off their leather shoes and went in in their
stockings. "Good evening, grandmother!" they both said solemnly,
"and the peace of God!" Lasse added.

"Well, here I am," said the old woman, feebly patting the quilt.
She had big woollen gloves on. "I took the liberty of sending for
you for I haven't long to live now. How are things going on in the
parish? Have there been any deaths?"

"No, not that I know of," answered Lasse. "But you look so well,
grandmother, so fat and rosy! We shall see you going about again
in two or three days."

"Oh, I dare say!" said the old woman, smiling indulgently. "I
suppose I look like a young bride after her first baby, eh? But
thank you for coming; it's as if you belonged to me. Well, now I've
been sent for, and I shall depart in peace. I've had a good time
in this world, and haven't anything to complain of. I had a good
husband and a good daughter, not forgetting Kalle there. And I got
my sight back, so that I saw the world once more."

"But you only saw it with one eye, like the birds, grandmother,"
said Kalle, trying to laugh.

"Yes, yes, but that was quite good enough; there was so much that
was new since I lost my sight. The wood had grown bigger, and a
whole family had grown up without my quite knowing it. Ah! yes, it
has been good to live in my old age and have them all about me--
Kalle and Maria and the children. And all of my own age have gone
before me; it's been nice to see what became of them all."

"How old are you now, grandmother?" asked Lasse.

"Kalle has looked it up in the church-book, and from that I ought
to be almost eighty; but that can scarcely be right."

"Yes, it's right enough," said Kalle, "for the parson looked it up
for me himself."

"Well, well, then the time's gone quickly, and I shouldn't at all
mind living a little longer, if it was God's will. But the grave's
giving warning; I notice it in my eyelids." The old woman had a
little difficulty in breathing, but kept on talking.

"You're talking far too much, mother!" said Maria.

"Yes, you ought to be resting and sleeping," said Lasse. "Hadn't we
better say good-bye to you?"

"No, I really must talk, for it'll be the last time I see you and
I shall have plenty of time to rest. My eyes are so light thank God,
and I don't feel the least bit sleepy."

"Grandmother hasn't slept for a whole week, I think," said Kalle
doubtfully.

"And why should I sleep away the last of the time I shall have here,
when I shall get plenty of time for that afterward? At night when
you others are asleep, I lie and listen to your breathing, and feel
glad that you're all so well. Or I look at the heather-broom, and
think of Anders and all the fun we had together."

She lay silent for a little while, getting her breath, while she
gazed at a withered bunch of heather hanging from a beam.

"He gathered that for me the first time we lay in the flowering
heather. He was so uncommonly fond of the heather, was Anders, and
every year when it flowered, he took me out of my bed and carried me
out there--every year until he was called away. I was always as new
for him as on the first day, and so happiness and joy took up their
abode in my heart."

"Now, mother, you ought to be quiet and not talk so much!" said
Maria, smoothing the old woman's pillow. But she would not be
silenced, though her thoughts shifted a little.

"Yes, my teeth were hard to get and hard to lose, and I brought my
children into the world with pain, and laid them in the grave with
sorrow, one after another. But except for that, I've never been ill,
and I've had a good husband. He had an eye for God's creations, and
we got up with the birds every summer morning, and went out onto the
heath and saw the sun rise out of the sea before we set about our
days work."

The old woman's slow voice died away, and it was as though a song
ceased to sound in their ears. They sat up and sighed. "Ah, yes,"
said Lasse, "the voice of memory is pleasant!"

"What about you, Lasse?" said the old woman suddenly, "I hear you're
looking about for a wife!"

"Am I?" exclaimed Lasse, in alarm. Pelle saw Kalle wink at Maria,
so they knew about it too.

"Aren't you soon coming to show us your sweetheart?" asked Kalle.
"I hear it's a good match."

"I don't in the least know what you're talking about," said Lasse,
quite confused.

"Well, well, you might do worse than that!" said the grandmother.
"She's good enough--from what I know. I hope you'll suit one another
like Anders and me. It was a happy time--the days when we went about
and each did our best, and the nights when the wind blew. It was
good then to be two to keep one another warm."

"You've been very happy in everything, grandmother," exclaimed
Lasse.

"Yes, and I'm departing in peace and can lie quiet in my grave. I've
not been treated unfairly in any way, and I've got nothing to haunt
any one for. If only Kalle takes care to have me carried out feet
first, I don't expect I shall trouble you."

"Just you come and visit us now and then if you like! We shan't be
afraid to welcome you, for we've been so happy together here," said
Kalle.

"No, you never know what your nature may be in the next life. You
must promise to have me carried out feet first! I don't want to
disturb your night's rest, so hard as you two have to work all day.
And, besides, you've had to put up with me long enough, and it'll
be nice for you to be by yourselves for once; and there'll be a bit
more for you to eat after this."

Maria began to cry.

"Now look here!" exclaimed Kalle testily. "I won't hear any more of
that nonsense, for none of us have had to go short because of you.
If you aren't good, I shall give a big party after you, for joy that
you're gone!"

"No, you won't!" said the old woman quite sharply. "I won't hear
of a three days' wake! Promise me now, Maria, that you won't go and
ruin yourselves to make a fuss over a poor old soul like me! But you
must ask the nearest neighbors in in the afternoon, with Lasse and
Pelle, of course. And if you ask Hans Henrik, perhaps he'd bring his
concertina with him, and you could have a dance in the barn."

Kalle scratched the back of his head. "Then, hang it, you must wait
until I've finished threshing, for I can't clear the floor now.
Couldn't we borrow Jens Kure's horse, and take a little drive over
the heath in the afternoon?"

"You might do that, too, but the children are to have a share in
whatever you settle to do. It'll be a comfort to think they'll have
a happy day out of it, for they don't have too many holidays; and
there's money for it, you know."

"Yes, would you believe it, Lasse--grandmother's got together fifty
krones that none of us knew anything about, to go toward her
funeral-party!"

"I've been putting by for it for twenty years now, for I'd like to
leave the world in a decent way, and without pulling the clothes off
my relations' backs. My grave-clothes are all ready, too, for I've
got my wedding chemise lying by. It's only been used once, and more
than that and my cap I don't want to have on."

"But that's so little," objected Maria. "Whatever will the neighbors
say if we don't dress you properly?"

"I don't care!" answered the old woman decidedly. "That's how Anders
liked me best, and it's all I've worn in bed these sixty years. So
there!" And she turned her head to the wall.

"You shall have it all just as you like, mother!" said Maria.

The old woman turned round again, and felt for her daughter's hand
on the quilt. "And you must make rather a soft pillow for my old
head, for it's become so difficult to find rest for it."

"We can take one of the babies' pillows and cover it with white,"
said Maria.

"Thank you! And then I think you should send to Jacob Kristian's for
the carpenter to-morrow--he's somewhere about, anyhow--and let him
measure me for the coffin; then I could have my say as to what it's
to be like. Kalle's so free with his money."

The old woman closed her eyes. She had tired herself out, after all.

"Now I think we'll creep out into the other room, and let her be
quiet," whispered Kalle, getting up; but at that she opened her
eyes.

"Are you going already?" she asked.

"We thought you were asleep, grandmother," said Lasse.

"No, I don't suppose I shall sleep any more in this life; my eyes are
so light, so light! Well, good-bye to you, Lasse and Pelle! May you
be very, very happy, as happy as I've been. Maria was the only one
death spared, but she's been a good daughter to me; and Kalle's been
as good and kind to me as if I'd been his sweetheart. I had a good
husband, too, who chopped firewood for me on Sundays, and got up
in the night to look after the babies when I was lying-in. We were
really well off--lead weights in the clock and plenty of firing;
and he promised me a trip to Copenhagen. I churned my first butter
in a bottle, for we had no churn to begin with; and I had to break
the bottle to get it out, and then he laughed, for he always laughed
when I did anything wrong. And how glad he was when each baby was
born! Many a morning did he wake me up and we went out to see the
sun come up out of the sea. 'Come and see, Anna,' he would say, 'the
heather's come into bloom in the night.' But it was only the sun
that shed its red over it! It was more than two miles to our nearest
neighbor, but he didn't care for anything as long as he had me. He
found his greatest pleasures in me, poor as I was; and the animals
were fond of me too. Everything went well with us on the whole."

She lay moving her head from side to side, and the tears were
running down her cheeks. She no longer had difficulty in breathing,
and one thing recalled another, and fell easily in one long tone
from her lips. She probably did not now know what she was saying,
but could not stop talking. She began at the beginning and repeated
the words, evenly and monotonously, like one who is carried away and
_must_ talk.

"Mother!" said Maria anxiously, putting her hands on her mother's
shaking head. "Recollect yourself, mother!"

The old woman stopped and looked at her wonderingly. "Ah, yes!" she
said. "Memories came upon me so fast! I almost think I could sleep
a little now."

Lasse rose and went up to the bed. "Good-bye, grandmother!" he said,
"and a pleasant journey, in case we shouldn't meet again!" Pelle
followed him and repeated the words. The old woman looked at them
inquiringly, but did not move. Then Lasse gently took her hand, and
then Pelle, and they stole out into the other room.

"Her flame's burning clear to the end!" said Lasse, when the door
was shut. Pelle noticed how freely their voices rang again.

"Yes, she'll be herself to the very end; there's been extra good
timber in her. The people about here don't like our not having the
doctor to her. What do you think? Shall we go to the expense?"

"I don't suppose there's anything more the matter with her than
that she can't live any longer," said Lasse thoughtfully.

"No, and she herself won't hear of it. If he could only keep life
in her a little while longer!"

"Yes, times are hard!" said Lasse, and went round to look at the
children. They were all asleep, and their room seemed heavy with
their breathing. "The flock's getting much smaller."

"Yes; one or two fly away from the nest pretty well every year,"
answered Kalle, "and now I suppose we shan't have any more. It's an
unfortunate figure we've stopped at--a horrid figure; but Maria's
become deaf in that ear, and I can't do anything alone." Kalle had
got back his roguish look.

"I'm sure we can do very well with what we've got," said Maria.
"When we take Anna's too, it makes fourteen."

"Oh, yes, count the others too, and you'll get off all the easier!"
said Kalle teasingly.

Lasse was looking at Anna's child, which lay side by side with
Kalle's thirteenth. "She looks healthier than her aunt," he said.
"You'd scarcely think they were the same age. She's just as red as
the other's pale."

"Yes, there is a difference," Kalle admitted, looking affectionately
at the children. "It must be that Anna's has come from young people,
while _our_ blood's beginning to get old. And then the ones
that come the wrong side of the blanket always thrive best--like
our Albert, for instance. He carries himself quite differently from
the others. Did you know, by-the-by, that he's to get a ship of his
own next spring?"

"No, surely not! Is he really going to be a captain?" said Lasse,
in the utmost astonishment.

"It's Kongstrup that's at the back of that--that's between ourselves,
of course!"

"Does the father of Anna's child still pay what he's bound to?"
asked Lasse.

"Yes, he's honest enough! We get five krones a month for having the
child, and that's a good help toward expenses."

Maria had placed a dram, bread and a saucer of dripping on the table,
and invited them to take their places at it.

"You're holding out a long time at Stone Farm," said Kalle, when they
were seated. "Are you going to stay there all your life?" he asked,
with a mischievous wink.

"It's not such a simple matter to strike out into the deep!" said
Lasse evasively.

"Oh, we shall soon be hearing news from you, shan't we?" asked
Maria.

Lasse did not answer; he was struggling with a crust.

"Oh, but do cut off the crust if it's too much for your teeth!"
said Maria. Every now and then she listened at her mother's door.
"She's dropped off, after all, poor old soul!" she said.

Kalle pretended to discover the bottle for the first time. "What!
Why, we've got gin on the table, too, and not one of us has smelt
it!" he exclaimed, and filled their glasses for the third time. Then
Maria corked the bottle. "Do you even grudge us our food?" he said,
making great eyes at her--what a rogue he was! And Maria stared at
him with eyes that were just as big, and said: "Yah! you want to
fight, do you?" It quite warmed Lasse's heart to see their
happiness.

"How's the farmer at Stone Farm? I suppose he's got over the worst
now, hasn't he?" said Kalle.

"Well, I think he's as much a man as he'll ever be. A thing like
that leaves its mark upon any one," answered Lasse. Maria was
smiling, and as soon as they looked at her, she looked away.

"Yes, you may grin!" said Lasse; "but I think it's sad!" Upon which
Maria had to go out into the kitchen to have her laugh out.

"That's what all the women do at the mere mention of his name," said
Kalle. "It's a sad change. To-day red, to-morrow dead. Well, she's
got her own way in one thing, and that is that she keeps him to
herself--in a way. But to think that he can live with her after
that!"

"They seem fonder of one another than they ever were before; he
can't do without her for a single minute. But of course he wouldn't
find any one else to love him now. What a queer sort of devilment
love is! But we must see about getting home."

"Well, I'll send you word when she's to be buried," said Kalle,
when they got outside the house.

"Yes, do! And if you should be in want of a ten-krone note for
the funeral, let me know. Good-bye, then!"



XXII

Grandmother's funeral was still like a bright light behind
everything that one thought and did. It was like certain kinds
of food, that leave a pleasant taste in the mouth long after they
have been eaten and done with. Kalle had certainly done everything
to make it a festive day; there was an abundance of good things to
eat and drink, and no end to his comical tricks. And, sly dog that
he was, he had found an excuse for asking Madam Olsen; it was really
a nice way of making the relation a legitimate one.

It gave Lasse and Pelle enough to talk about for a whole month,
and after the subject was quite talked out and laid on one side for
other things, it remained in the background as a sense of well-being
of which no one quite knew the origin.

But now spring was advancing, and with it came troubles--not the
daily trifles that could be bad enough, but great troubles that
darkened everything, even when one was not thinking about them.
Pelle was to be confirmed at Easter, and Lasse was at his wits' end
to know how he was going to get him all that he would need--new
clothes, new cap, new shoes! The boy often spoke about it; he must
have been afraid of being put to shame before the others that day
in church.

"It'll be all right," said Lasse; but he himself saw no way at all
out of the difficulty. At all the farms where the good old customs
prevailed, the master and mistress provided it all; out here
everything was so confoundedly new-fangled, with Prompt payments
that slipped away between one's fingers. A hundred krones a year
in wages seemed a tremendous amount when one thought of it all in
one; but you only got them gradually, a few ores at a time, without
your being able to put your finger anywhere and say: You got a good
round sum there! "Yes, yes, it'll be all right!" said Lasse aloud,
when he had got himself entangled in absurd speculations; and Pelle
had to be satisfied with this. There was only one way out of the
difficulty--to borrow the money from Madam Olsen; and that Lasse
would have to come to in the end, loth as he was to do it. But Pelle
must not know anything about it.

Lasse refrained as long as he possibly could, hoping that something
or other would turn up to free him from the necessity of so
disgraceful a proceeding as borrowing from his sweetheart. But
nothing happened, and time was passing. One morning he cut the matter
short; Pelle was just setting out for school. "Will you run in to
Madam Olsen's and give her this?" he said, handing the boy a packet.
"It's something she's promised to mend for us." Inside on the paper,
was the large cross that announced Lasse's coming in the evening.

From the hills Pelle saw that the ice had broken up in the night.
It had filled the bay for nearly a month with a rough, compact mass,
upon which you could play about as safely as on dry land. This was
a new side of the sea, and Pelle had carefully felt his way forward
with the tips of his wooden shoes, to the great amusement of the
others. Afterward he learned to walk about freely on the ice without
constantly shivering at the thought that the great fish of the sea
were going about just under his wooden shoes, and perhaps were only
waiting for him to drop through. Every day he went out to the high
rampart of pack-ice that formed the boundary about a mile out, where
the open water moved round in the sunshine like a green eye. He went
out because he would do what the others did, but he never felt safe
on the sea.

Now it was all broken up, and the bay was full of heaving ice-floes
that rubbed against one another with a crackling sound; and the
pieces farthest out, carrying bits of the rampart, were already on
their way out to sea. Pelle had performed many exploits out there,
but was really quite pleased that it was now packing up and taking
its departure, so that it would once more be no crime to stay on dry
land.

Old Fris was sitting in his place. He never left it now during a
lesson, however badly things might go down in the class, but contented
himself with beating on the desk with his cane. He was little more
than a shadow of his former self, his head was always shaking, and
his hands were often incapable of grasping an object. He still brought
the newspaper with him, and opened it out at the beginning of the
lesson, but he did not read. He would fall into a dream, sitting bolt
upright, with his hands on the desk and his back against the wall.
At such times the children could be as noisy as they liked, and he
did not move; only a slight change in the expression of his eyes
showed that he was alive at all.

It was quieter in school now. It was not worth while teasing the
master, for he scarcely noticed it, and so the fun lost most of its
attraction. A kind of court of justice had gradually formed among the
bigger boys; they determined the order of the school-lessons, and
disobedience and disputes as to authority were respectively punished
and settled in the playground--with fists and tips of wooden shoes.
The instruction was given as before, by the cleverer scholars teaching
what they knew to the others; there was rather more arithmetic and
reading than in Fris's time, but on the other hand the hymns suffered.

It still sometimes happened that Fris woke up and interfered in the
instruction. "Hymns!" he would cry in his feeble voice, and strike
the desk from habit; and the children would put aside what they were
doing to please the old man, and begin repeating some hymn or other,
taking their revenge by going through one verse over and over again
for a whole hour. It was the only real trick they played the old man,
and the joke was all on their side, for Fris noticed nothing.

Fris had so often talked of resigning his post, but now he did not
even think of that. He shuffled to and from school at the regular
times, probably without even knowing he did it. The authorities
really had not the heart to dismiss him. Except in the hymns, which
came off with rather short measure, there was nothing to say against
him as teacher; for no one had ever yet left his school without being
able both to write his name and to read a printed book--if it were in
the old type. The new-fashioned printing with Latin letters Fris did
not teach, although he had studied Latin in his youth.

Fris himself probably did not feel the change, for he had ceased to
feel both for himself and for others. None now brought their human
sorrows to him, and found comfort in a sympathetic mind; his mind
was not there to consult. It floated outside him, half detached, as
it were, like a bird that is unwilling to leave its old nest to set
out on a flight to the unknown. It must have been the fluttering mind
that his eyes were always following when they dully gazed about into
vacancy. But the young men who came home to winter in the village,
and went to Fris as to an old friend, felt the change. For them there
was now an empty place at home; they missed the old growler, who,
though he hated them all in the lump at school, loved them all
afterward, and was always ready with his ridiculous "He was my best
boy!" about each and all of them, good and bad alike.

The children took their playtime early, and rushed out before Pelle
had given the signal; and Fris trotted off as usual into the village,
where he would be absent the customary two hours. The girls gathered
in a flock to eat their dinners, and the boys dashed about the
playground like birds let loose from a cage.

Pelle was quite angry at the insubordination, and pondered over a
way of making himself respected; for to-day he had had the other big
boys against him. He dashed over the playground like a circling gull,
his body inclined and his arms stretched out like a pair of wings.
Most of them made room for him, and those who did not move willingly
were made to do so. His position was threatened, and he kept moving
incessantly, as if to keep the question undecided until a possibility
of striking presented itself.

This went on for some time; he knocked some over and hit out at
others in his flight, while his offended sense of power grew. He
wanted to make enemies of them all. They began to gather up by the
gymnastic apparatus, and suddenly he had the whole pack upon him. He
tried to rise and shake them off, flinging them hither and thither,
but all in vain; down through the heap came their remorseless
knuckles and made him grin with pain. He worked away indefatigably
but without effect until he lost patience and resorted to less
scrupulous tactics--thrusting his fingers into eyes, or attacking
noses, windpipes, and any vulnerable part he could get at. That
thinned them out, and he was able to rise and fling a last little
fellow across the playground.

Pelle was well bruised and quite out of breath, but contented. They
all stood by, gaping, and let him brush himself down; he was the
victor. He went across to the girls with his torn blouse, and they
put it together with pins and gave him sweets; and in return he
fastened two of them together by their plaits, and they screamed
and let him pull them about without being cross; it was all just
as it should be.

But he was not quite secure after his victory. He could not, like
Henry Boker in his time, walk right through the whole flock with
his hands in his pockets directly after a battle, and look as if
they did not exist. He had to keep stealing glances at them while he
strolled down to the beach, and tried with all his might to control
his breathing; for next to crying, to be out of breath was the
greatest disgrace that could happen to you.

Pelle walked along the beach, regretting that he had not leaped upon
them again at once while the flush of victory was still upon him: it
was too late now. If he had, it might perhaps have been said of him
too that he could lick all the rest of the class together; and now
he must be content with being the strongest boy in the school.

A wild war-whoop from the school made him start. The whole swarm of
boys was coming round the end of the house with sticks and pieces
of wood in their hands. Pelle knew what was at stake if he gave way,
and therefore forced himself to stand quietly waiting although his
legs twitched. But suddenly they made a wild rush at him, and with a
spring he turned to fly. There lay the sea barring his way, closely
packed with heaving ice. He ran out on to an ice-floe, leaped from
it to the next, which was not large enough to bear him--had to go on.

The idea of flight possessed him and made the fear of what lay
behind overpoweringly great. The lumps of ice gave way beneath him,
and he had to leap from piece to piece; his feet moved as fast as
fingers over the notes of a piano. He just noticed enough to take
the direction toward the harbor breakwater. The others stood gaping
on the beach while Pelle danced upon the water like a stone making
ducks and drakes. The pieces of ice bobbed under as soon as he
touched them, or turned up on edge; but Pelle came and slid by with
a touch, flung himself to one side with lightning rapidity, and
changed his aim in the middle of a leap like a cat. It was like
a dance on red-hot iron, so quickly did he pick up his feet, and
spring from one place to another. The water spurted up from the
pieces of ice as he touched them, and behind him stretched a crooked
track of disturbed ice and water right back to the place where the
boys stood and held their breath. There was nobody like Pelle, not
one of them could do what he had done there! When with a final leap
he threw himself upon the breakwater, they cheered him. Pelle had
triumphed in his flight!

He lay upon the breakwater, exhausted and gasping for breath,
and gazed without interest at a brig that had cast anchor off the
village. A boat was rowing in--perhaps with a sick man to be put in
quarantine. The weather-beaten look of the vessel told of her having
been out on a winter voyage, in ice and heavy seas.

Fishermen came down from the cottages and strolled out to the place
where the boat would come in, and all the school-children followed.
In the stern of the boat sat an elderly, weather-beaten man with a
fringe of beard round his face; he was dressed in blue, and in front
of him stood a sea-chest. "Why, it's Boatswain Olsen!" Pelle heard
one fisherman say. Then the man stepped ashore, and shook hands with
them all; and the fisherman and the school-children closed round him
in a dense circle.

Pelle made his way up, creeping along behind boats and sheds; and
as soon as he was hidden by the school-building, he set off running
straight across the fields to Stone Farm. His vexation burnt his
throat, and a feeling of shame made him keep far away from houses
and people. The parcel that he had had no opportunity of delivering
in the morning was like a clear proof to everybody of his shame, and
he threw it into a marl-pit as he ran.

He would not go through the farm, but thundered on the outside
door to the stable. "Have you come home already?" exclaimed Lasse,
pleased.

"Now--now Madam Olsen's husband's come home!" panted Pelle, and went
past his father without looking at him.

To Lasse it was as if the world had burst and the falling fragments
were piercing into his flesh. Everything was failing him. He moved
about trembling and unable to grasp anything; he could not talk,
everything in him seemed to have come to a standstill. He had picked
up a piece of rope, and was going backward and forward, backward and
forward, looking up.

Then Pelle went up to him. "What are you going to do with that?"
he asked harshly.

Lasse let the rope fall from his hand and began to complain of the
sadness and poverty of existence. One feather fell off here, and
another there, until at last you stood trampling in the mud like
a featherless bird--old and worn-out and robbed of every hope of a
happy old age. He went on complaining in this way in an undertone,
and it eased him.

Pelle made no response. He only thought of the wrong and the shame
that had come upon them, and found no relief.

Next morning he took his dinner and went off as usual, but when
he was halfway to school he lay down under a thorn. There he lay,
fuming and half-frozen, until it was about the time when school
would be over, when he went home. This he did for several days.
Toward his father he was silent, almost angry. Lasse went about
lamenting, and Pelle had enough with his own trouble; each moved
in his own world, and there was no bridge between; neither of them
had a kind word to say to the other.

But one day when Pelle came stealing home in this way, Lasse
received him with a radiant face and weak knees. "What on earth's
the good of fretting?" he said, screwing up his face and turning
his blinking eyes upon Pelle--for the first time since the bad news
had come. "Look here at the new sweetheart I've found! Kiss her,
laddie!" And Lasse drew from the straw a bottle of gin, and held
it out toward him.

Pelle pushed it angrily from him.

"Oh, you're too grand, are you?" exclaimed Lasse. "Well, well, it
would be a sin and a shame to waste good things upon you." He put
the bottle to his lips and threw back his head.

"Father, you shan't do that!" exclaimed Pelle, bursting into tears
and shaking his father's arm so that the liquid splashed out.

"Ho-ho!" said Lasse in astonishment, wiping his mouth with the back
of his hand. "She's uncommonly lively, ho-ho!" He grasped the bottle
with both hands and held it firmly, as if it had tried to get away
from him. "So you're obstreperous, are you?" Then his eye fell upon
Pelle. "And you're crying! Has any one hurt you? Don't you know
that your father's called Lasse--Lasse Karlsson from Kungstorp? You
needn't he afraid, for Lasse's here, and he'll make the whole world
answer for it."

Pelle saw that his father was quickly becoming more fuddled, and
ought to be put to bed for fear some one should come and find him
lying there. "Come now, father!" he begged.

"Yes, I'll go now. I'll make him pay for it, if it's old Beelzebub
himself! You needn't cry!" Lasse was making for the yard.

Pelle stood in front of him. "Now you must come with me, father!
There's no one to make pay for anything."

"Isn't there? And yet you're crying! But the farmer shall answer
to me for all these years. Yes, my fine landed gentleman, with your
nose turned up at every one!"

This made Pelle afraid. "But father, father!" he cried. "Don't go up
there! He'll be in such a rage, he'll turn us out! Remember you're
drunk!"

"Yes, of course I'm drunk, but there's no harm in me." He stood
fumbling with the hook that fastened the lower half of the door.

It was wrong to lay a hand upon one's own father, but now Pelle
was compelled to set aside all such scruples. He took a firm hold
of the old man's collar. "Now you come with me!" he said, and drew
him along toward their room.

Lasse laughed and hiccupped and struggled; clutched hold of
everything that he could lay hands on--the posts and the animals'
tails--while Pelle dragged him along. He had hold of him behind,
and was half carrying him. In the doorway they stuck fast, as the
old man held on with both hands; and Pelle had to leave go of him
and knock his arms away so that he fell, and then drag him along
and on to the bed.

Lasse laughed foolishly all the time, as if it were a game. Once
or twice when Pelle's back was turned, he tried to get up; his eyes
had almost disappeared, but there was a cunning expression about
his mouth, and he was like a naughty child. Suddenly he fell back
in a heavy sleep.

The next day was a school holiday, so there was no need for Pelle
to hide himself. Lasse was ashamed and crept about with an air of
humility. He must have had quite a clear idea of what had happened
the day before, for suddenly he touched Pelle's arm. "You're like
Noah's good son, that covered up his father's shame!" he said;
"but Lasse's a beast. It's been a hard blow on me, as you may well
believe! But I know quite well that it doesn't mend matters to drink
one's self silly. It's a badly buried trouble that one has to lay
with gin; and what's hidden in the snow comes up in the thaw, as
the saying is."

Pelle made no answer.

"How do people take it?" asked Lasse cautiously. He had now got so
far as to have a thought for the shameful side of the matter.
"I don't think they know about it yet here on the farm; but what
do they say outside?"

"How should I know?" answered Pelle sulkily.

"Then you've heard nothing?"

"Do you suppose I'll go to school to be jeered at by them all?"
Pelle was almost crying again.

"Then you've been wandering about and let your father believe that
you'd gone to school? That wasn't right of you, but I won't find
fault with you, considering all the disgrace I've brought upon you.
But suppose you get into trouble for playing truant, even if you
don't deserve it? Misfortunes go hand in hand, and evils multiply
like lice in a fur coat. We must think what we're about, we two;
we mustn't let things go all to pieces!"

Lasse walked quickly into their room and returned with the bottle,
took out the cork, and let the gin run slowly out into the gutter.
Pelle looked wonderingly at him. "God forgive me for abusing his
gifts!" said Lasse; "but it's a bad tempter to have at hand when
you've a sore heart. And now if I give you my word that you shall
never again see me as I was yesterday, won't you have a try at
school again to-morrow, and try and get over it gradually? We might
get into trouble with the magistrate himself if you keep on staying
away; for there's a heavy punishment for that sort of thing in this
country."

Pelle promised and kept his word; but he was prepared for the worst,
and secretly slipped a knuckle-duster into his pocket that Erik had
used in his palmy days when he went to open-air fetes and other
places where one had to strike a blow for one's girl. It was not
required, however, for the boys were entirely taken up with a ship
that had had to be run aground to prevent her sinking, and now lay
discharging her cargo of wheat into the boats of the village. The
wheat already lay in the harbor in great piles, wet and swollen with
the salt water.

And a few days later, when this had become stale, something happened
which put a stop forever to Pelle's school attendance. The children
were busy at arithmetic, chattering and clattering with their
slates, and Fris was sitting as usual in his place, with his head
against the wall and his hands resting on the desk. His dim eyes
were somewhere out in space, and not a movement betrayed that he
was alive. It was his usual position, and he had sat thus ever
since playtime.

The children grew restless; it was nearly time for them to go home.
A farmer's son who had a watch, held it up so that Pelle could see
it, and said "Two" aloud. They noisily put away their slates and
began to fight; but Fris, who generally awoke at this noise of
departure, did not stir. Then they tramped out, and in passing, one
of the girls out of mischief stroked the master's hand. She started
back in fear. "He's quite cold!" she said, shuddering and drawing
back behind the others.

They stood in a semicircle round the desk, and tried to see into
Fris's half-closed eyes; and then Pelle went up the two steps and
laid his hand upon his master's shoulder. "We're going home," he
said, in an unnatural voice. Fris's arm dropped stiffly down from
the desk, and Pelle had to support his body. "He's dead!" the words
passed like a shiver over the children's lips.

Fris was dead--dead at his post, as the honest folks of the parish
expressed it. Pelle had finished his schooling for good, and could
breathe freely.

He helped his father at home, and they were happy together and drew
together again now that there was no third person to stand between
them. The gibes from the others on the farm were not worth taking
notice of; Lasse had been a long time on the farm, and knew too much
about each of them, so that he could talk back. He sunned himself
in Pelle's gently childlike nature, and kept up a continual chatter.
One thing he was always coming back to. "I ought to be glad I had
you, for if you hadn't held back that time when I was bent upon
moving down to Madam Olsen's, we should have been in the wrong box.
I should think he'd have killed us in his anger. You were my good
angel as you always have been."

Lasse's words had the pleasant effect of caresses on Pelle; he was
happy in it all, and was more of a child than his years would have
indicated.

But one Saturday he came home from the parson's altogether changed.
He was as slow about everything as a dead herring, and did not go
across to his dinner, but came straight in through the outer door,
and threw himself face downward upon a bundle of hay.

"What's the matter now?" asked Lasse, coming up to him. "Has any
one been unkind to you?"

Pelle did not answer, but lay plucking at the hay. Lasse was going
to turn his face up to him, but Pelle buried it in the hay. "Won't
you trust your own father? You know I've no other wish in the world
but for your good!" Lasse's voice was sad.

"I'm to be turned out of the confirmation-class," Pelle managed to
say, and then burrowed into the hay to keep back his tears.

"Oh, no, surely not!" Lasse began to tremble. "Whatever have you
done?"

"I've half killed the parson's son."

"Oh, that's about the worst thing you could have done--lift your
hand against the parson's son! I'm sure he must have deserved it,
but--still you shouldn't have done it. Unless he's accused you of
thieving, for no honest man need stand that from any one, not even
the king himself."

"He--he called you Madam Olsen's concubine." Pelle had some
difficulty in getting this out.

Lasse's mouth grew hard and he clenched his fists. "Oh, he did! Oh,
did he! If I had him here, I'd kick his guts out, the young monkey!
I hope you gave him something he'll remember for a long time?"

"Oh, no, it wasn't very much, for he wouldn't stand up to me--he
threw himself down and screamed. And then the parson came!"

For a little while Lasse's face was disfigured with rage, and he
kept uttering threats. Then he turned to Pelle. "And they've turned
you out? Only because you stood up for your old father! I'm always
to bring misfortune upon you, though I'm only thinking of your good!
But what shall we do now?"

"I won't stay here any longer," said Pelle decidedly.

"No, let's get away from here; nothing has ever grown on this farm
for us two but wormwood. Perhaps there are new, happy days waiting
for us out there; and there are parsons everywhere. If we two work
together at some good work out there, we shall earn a peck of money.
Then one day we'll go up to a parson, and throw down half a hundred
krones in front of his face, and it 'u'd be funny if he didn't
confirm you on the spot--and perhaps let himself be kicked into
the bargain. Those kind of folk are very fond of money."

Lasse had grown more erect in his anger, and had a keen look in
his eyes. He walked quickly along the foddering passage, and threw
the things about carelessly, for Pelle's adventurous proposal had
infected him with youth. In the intervals of their work, they
collected all their little things and packed the green chest. "What
a surprise it'll be to-morrow morning when they come here and find
the nest empty!" said Pelle gaily. Lasse chuckled.

Their plan was to take shelter with Kalle for a day or two, while
they took a survey of what the world offered. When everything was
done in the evening, they took the green chest between them, and
stole out through the outside door into the field. The chest was
heavy, and the darkness did not make walking easier. They moved on
a little way, changed hands, and rested. "We've got the night before
us!" said Lasse cheerfully.

He was quite animated, and while they sat resting upon the chest
talked about everything that awaited them. When he came to a
standstill Pelle began. Neither of them had made any distinct plans
for their future; they simply expected a fairy-story itself with its
inconceivable surprises. All the definite possibilities that they
were capable of picturing to themselves fell so far short of that
which must come, that they left it alone and abandoned themselves
to what lay beyond their powers of foresight.

Lasse was not sure-footed in the dark, and had more and more
frequently to put down his burden. He grew weary and breathless,
and the cheerful words died away upon his lips. "Ah, how heavy it
is!" he sighed. "What a lot of rubbish you do scrape together in
the course of time!" Then he sat down upon the chest, quite out of
breath. He could do no more. "If only we'd had something to pick
us up a little!" he said faintly. "And it's so dark and gloomy
to-night."

"Help me to get it on my back," said Pelle, "and I'll carry it
a little way."

Lasse would not at first, but gave in, and they went on again,
he running on in front and giving warning of ditches and walls.
"Suppose Brother Kalle can't take us in!" he said suddenly.

"He's sure to be able to. There's grandmother's bed; that's big
enough for two."

"But suppose we can't get anything to do, then we shall be a burden
on him."

"Oh, we shall get something to do. There's a scarcity of laborers
everywhere."

"Yes, they'll jump at you, but I'm really too old to offer myself
out." Lasse had lost all hope, and was undermining Pelle's too.

"I can't do any more!" said Pelle, letting the chest down. They
stood with arms hanging, and stared into the darkness at nothing
particular. Lasse showed no desire to take hold again, and Pelle
was now tired out. The night lay dark around them, and its all-
enveloping loneliness made it seem as if they two were floating
alone in space.

"Well, we ought to be getting on," exclaimed Pelle, taking a handle
of the chest; but as Lasse did not move, he dropped it and sat down.
They sat back to back, and neither could find the right words to
utter, and the distance between them seemed to increase. Lasse
shivered with the night cold. "If only we were at home in our good
bed!" he sighed.

Pelle was almost wishing he had been alone, for then he would have
gone on to the end. The old man was just as heavy to drag along as
the chest.

"Do you know I think I'll go back again!" said Lasse at last in
crestfallen tone. "I'm afraid I'm not able to tread uncertain paths.
And you'll never be confirmed if we go on like this! Suppose we go
back and get Kongstrup to put in a good word for us with the parson."
Lasse stood and held one handle of the chest.

Pelle sat on as if he had not heard, and then he silently took hold,
and they toiled along on their weary way homeward across the fields.
Every other minute Pelle was tired and had to rest; now that they
were going home, Lasse was the more enduring. "I think I could carry
it a little way alone, if you'd help me up with it," he said; but
Pelle would not hear of it.

"Pee-u-ah!" sighed Lasse with pleasure when they once more stood
in the warmth of the cow-stable and heard the animals breathing in
indolent well-being--"it's comfortable here. It's just like coming
into one's old home. I think I should know this stable again by the
air, if they led me into it blindfold anywhere in the world."

And now they were home again, Pelle too could not help thinking
that it really was pleasant.



XXIII

On Sunday morning, between watering and midday feed, Lasse and Pelle
ascended the high stone steps. They took off their wooden shoes in
the passage, and stood and shook themselves outside the door of the
office; their gray stocking-feet were full of chaff and earth. Lasse
raised his hand to knock, but drew it back. "Have you wiped your nose
properly?" he asked in a whisper, with a look of anxiety on his face.
Pelle performed the operation once more, and gave a final polish with
the sleeve of his blouse.

Lasse lifted his hand again; he looked greatly oppressed. "You might
keep quiet then!" he said irritably to Pelle, who was standing as
still as a mouse. Lasse's knuckles were poised in the air two or
three times before they fell upon the door; and then he stood with
his forehead close to the panel and listened. "There's no one there,"
he whispered irresolutely.

"Just go in!" exclaimed Pelle. "We can't stand here all day."

"Then you can go first, if you think you know better how to behave!"
said Lasse, offended.

Pelle quickly opened the door and went in. There was no one in the
office, but the door was open into the drawing-room, and the sound
of Kongstrup's comfortable breathing came thence.

"Who's there?" he asked.

"It's Lasse and Pelle," answered Lasse in a voice that did not sound
altogether brave.

"Will you come in here?"

Kongstrup was lying on the sofa reading a magazine, and on the table
beside him stood a pile of old magazines and a plateful of little
cakes. He did not raise his eyes from his book, not even while his
hand went out to the plate for something to put in his mouth. He lay
nibbling and swallowing while he read, and never looked at Lasse and
Pelle, or asked them what they wanted, or said anything to give them
a start. It was like being sent out to plough without knowing where.
He must have been in the middle of something very exciting.

"Well, what do you want?" asked Kongstrup at last in slow tones.

"Well--well, the master must excuse us for coming like this about
something that doesn't concern the farm; but as matters now stand,
we've no one else to go to, and so I said to the laddie: 'Master
won't be angry, I'm sure, for he's many a time been kind to us poor
beggars--and that.' Now it's so in this world that even if you're a
poor soul that's only fit to do others' dirty work, the Almighty's
nevertheless given you a father's heart, and it hurts you to see
the father's sin standing in the son's way."

Lasse came to a standstill. He had thought it all out beforehand,
and so arranged it that it should lead up, in a shrewd, dignified
way, to the matter itself. But now it was all in a muddle like a
slattern's pocket-handkerchief, and the farmer did not look as if
he had understood a single word of it. He lay there, taking a cake
now and then, and looking helplessly toward the door.

"It sometimes happens too, that a man gets tired of the single
state," began Lasse once more, but at once gave up trying to go on.
No matter how he began, he went round and round the thing and got
no hold anywhere! And now Kongstrup began to read again. A tiny
question from him might have led to the very middle of it; but he
only filled his mouth full and began munching quite hard.

Lasse was outwardly disheartened and inwardly angry, as he stood
there and prepared to go. Pelle was staring about at the pictures
and the old mahogany furniture, making up his mind about each thing.

Suddenly energetic steps sounded through the rooms; the ear could
follow their course right up from the kitchen. Kongstrup's eyes
brightened, and Lasse straightened himself up.

"Is that you two?" said Fru Kongstrup in her decided way that
indicated the manager. "But do sit down! Why didn't you offer
them a seat, old man?"

Lasse and Pelle found seats, and the mistress seated herself
beside her husband, with her arm leaning upon his pillow. "How
are you getting on, Kongstrup? Have you been resting?" she asked
sympathetically, patting his shoulder. Kongstrup gave a little
grunt, that might have meant yes, or no, or nothing at all.

"And what about you two? Are you in need of money?"

"No, it's the lad. He's to be dismissed from the confirmation-
class," answered Lasse simply. With the mistress you couldn't help
being decided.

"Are you to be dismissed?" she exclaimed, looking at Pelle as at
an old acquaintance. "Then what have you been doing?"

"Oh, I kicked the parson's son."

"And what did you do that for?"

"Because he wouldn't fight, but threw himself down."

Fru Kongstrup laughed and nudged her husband. "Yes, of course.
But what had he done to you?"

"He'd said bad things about Father Lasse."

"What were the things?"

Pelle looked hard at her; she meant to get to the bottom of
everything. "I won't tell you!" he said firmly.

"Oh, very well! But then we can't do anything about it
either."

"I may just as well tell you," Lasse interrupted. "He called
me Madam Olsen's concubine--from the Bible story, I suppose."

Kongstrup tried to suppress a chuckle, as if some one had
whispered a coarse joke in his ear, and he could not help it.
The mistress herself was serious enough.

"I don't think I understand," she said, and laid a repressing
hand upon her husband's arm. "Lasse must explain."

"It's because I was engaged to Madam Olsen in the village, who every
one thought was a widow; and then her husband came home the other
day. And so they've given me that nickname round about, I suppose."

Kongstrup began his suppressed laughter again, and Lasse blinked
in distress at it.

"Help yourselves to a cake!" said Fru Kongstrup in a very loud voice,
pushing the plate toward them. This silenced Kongstrup, and he lay
and watched their assault upon the cake-plate with an attentive eye.

Fru Kongstrup sat tapping the table with her middle finger while
they ate. "So that good boy Pelle got angry and kicked out, did he?"
she said suddenly, her eyes flashing.

"Yes, that's what he never ought to have done!" answered Lasse
plaintively.

Fru Kongstrup fixed her eyes upon him.

"No, for all that the poorer birds are for is to be pecked at! Well,
I prefer the bird that pecks back again and defends its nest, no
matter how poor it is. Well, well, we shall see! And is that boy
going to be confirmed? Why, of course! To think that I should be
so forgetful! Then we must begin to think about his clothes."

"That's two troubles got rid of!" said Lasse when they went down to
the stable again. "And did you notice how nicely I let her know that
you were going to be confirmed? It was almost as if she'd found it
out for herself. Now you'll see, you'll be as fine as a shop-boy in
your clothes; people like the master and mistress know what's needed
when once they've opened their purse. Well, they got the whole truth
straight, but confound it! they're no more than human beings. It's
always best to speak out straight." Lasse could not forget how well
it had turned out.

Pelle let the old man boast. "Do you think I shall get leather shoes
of them too?" he asked.

"Yes, of course you will! And I shouldn't wonder if they made a
confirmation-party for you too. I say _they_, but it's her
that's doing it all, and we may be thankful for that. Did you
notice that she said _we_--_we_ shall, and so on--always?
It's nice of her, for he only lies there and eats and leaves
everything to her. But what a good time he has! I think she'd go
through fire to please him; but upon my word, she's master there.
Well, well, I suppose we oughtn't to speak evil of any one; to you
she's like your own mother!"

Fru Kongstrup said nothing about the result of her drive to the
parson; it was not her way to talk about things afterward. But Lasse
and Pelle once more trod the earth with a feeling of security; when
she took up a matter, it was as good as arranged.

One morning later in the week, the tailor came limping in with his
scissors, tape-measure, and pressing-iron, and Pelle had to go down
to the servants' room, and was measured in every direction as if he
had been a prize animal. Up to the present, he had always had his
clothes made by guess-work. It was something new to have itinerant
artisans at Stone Farm; since Kongstrup had come into power, neither
shoemaker nor tailor had ever set foot in the servants' room. This
was a return to the good old farm-customs, and placed Stone Farm
once more on a footing with the other farms. The people enjoyed it,
and as often as they could went down into the servants' room for
a change of air and to hear one of the tailor's yarns. "It's the
mistress who's at the head of things now!" they said to one another.
There was good peasant blood in her hands, and she brought things
back into the good old ways. Pelle walked into the servants' room
like a gentleman; he was fitted several times a day.

He was fitted for two whole suits, one of which was for Rud, who was
to be confirmed too. It would probably be the last thing that Rud
and his mother would get at the farm, for Fru Kongstrup had carried
her point, and they were to leave the cottage in May. They would
never venture to set foot again in Stone Farm. Fru Kongstrup herself
saw that they received what they were to have, but she did not give
money if she could help it.

Pelle and Rud were never together now, and they seldom went to the
parson together. It was Pelle who had drawn back, as he had grown
tired of being on the watch for Rud's continual little lies and
treacheries. Pelle was taller and stronger than Rud, and his nature
--perhaps because of his physical superiority--had taken more open
ways. In ability to master a task or learn it by heart, Rud was also
the inferior; but on the other hand he could bewilder Pelle and the
other boys, if he only got a hold with his practical common sense.

On the great day itself, Karl Johan drove Pelle and Lasse in the
little one-horse carriage. "We're fine folk to-day!" said Lasse,
with a beaming face. He was quite confused, although he had not
tasted anything strong. There was a bottle of gin lying in the chest
to treat the men with when the sacred ceremony was over; but Lasse
was not the man to drink anything before he went to church. Pelle
had not _touched_ food; God's Word would take best effect in
that condition.

Pelle was radiant too, in spite of his hunger. He was in brand-new
twill, so new that it crackled every time he moved. On his feet he
wore elastic-sided shoes that had once belonged to Kongstrup himself.
They were too large, but "there's no difficulty with a sausage
that's too long," as Lasse said. He put in thick soles and paper
in the toes, and Pelle put on two pairs of stockings; and then the
shoes fitted as if they had been cast for his foot. On his head he
wore a blue cap that he had chosen himself down at the shop. It
allowed room for growing, and rested on his ears, which, for the
occasion, were as red as two roses. Round the cap was a broad ribbon
in which were woven rakes, scythes, and flails, interlaced with
sheaves all the way round.

"It's a good thing you came," said Pelle, as they drove up to the
church, and found themselves among so many people. Lasse had almost
had to give up thought of coming, for the man who was going to look
after the animals while he was away had to go off at the last moment
for the veterinary surgeon; but Karna came and offered to water and
give the midday feed, although neither could truthfully say that
they had behaved as they ought to have done to her.

"Have you got that thing now?" whispered Lasse, when they were
inside the church. Pelle felt in his pocket and nodded; the
little round piece of lignum-vitae that was to carry him over
the difficulties of the day lay there. "Then just answer loud and
straight out," whispered Lasse, as he slipped into a pew in the
background.

Pelle did answer straight out, and to Lasse his voice sounded really
well through the spacious church. And the parson did absolutely
nothing to revenge himself, but treated Pelle exactly as he did the
others. At the most solemn part of the ceremony, Lasse thought of
Karna, and how touching her devotion was. He scolded himself in an
undertone, and made a solemn vow. She should not sigh any longer in
vain.

For a whole month indeed, Lasse's thoughts had been occupied with
Karna, now favorably, now unfavorably; but at this solemn moment
when Pelle was just taking the great step into the future, and
Lasse's feelings were touched in so many ways, the thought of
Karna's devotion broke over him as something sad, like a song of
slighted affection that at last, at last has justice done to it.

Lasse shook hands with Pelle. "Good luck and a blessing!" he said
in a trembling voice. The wish also embraced his own vow and he had
some difficulty in keeping silence respecting his determination,
he was so moved. The words were heard on all sides, and Pelle went
round and shook hands with his comrades. Then they drove home.

"It all went uncommonly well for you to-day," said Lasse proudly;
"and now you're a man, you know."

"Yes, now you must begin to look about for a sweetheart," said Karl
Johan. Pelle only laughed.

In the afternoon they had a holiday. Pelle had first to go up to his
master and mistress to thank them for his clothes and receive their
congratulations. Fru Kongstrup gave him red-currant wine and cake,
and the farmer gave him a two-krone piece.

Then they went up to Kalle's by the quarry. Pelle was to exhibit
himself in his new clothes, and say good-bye to them; there was only
a fortnight to May Day. Lasse was going to take the opportunity of
secretly obtaining information concerning a house that was for sale
on the heath.



XXIV

They still talked about it every day for the short time that was left.
Lasse, who had always had the thought of leaving in his mind, and had
only stayed on and on, year after year, because the boy's welfare
demanded it--was slow to move now that there was nothing to hold him
back. He was unwilling to lose Pelle, and did all he could to keep
him; but nothing would induce him to go out into the world again.

"Stay here!" he said persuasively, "and we'll talk to the mistress
and she'll take you on for a proper wage. You're both strong and
handy, and she's always looked upon you with a friendly eye."

But Pelle would not take service with the farmer; it gave no position
and no prospects. He wanted to be something great, but there was no
possibility of that in the country; he would be following cows all
his days. He would go to the town--perhaps still farther, across the
sea to Copenhagen.

"You'd better come too," he said, "and then we shall get rich all
the quicker and be able to buy a big farm."

"Yes, yes," said Lasse, slowly nodding his head; "that's one for me
and two for yourself! But what the parson preaches doesn't always
come to pass. We might become penniless. Who knows what the future
may bring?"

"Oh, I shall manage!" said Pelle, nodding confidently. "Do you mean
to say I can't turn my hand to anything I like?"

"And I didn't give notice in time either," said Lasse to excuse
himself.

"Then run away!"

But Lasse would not do that. "No, I'll stay and work toward getting
something for myself about here," he said, a little evasively. "It
would be nice for you too, to have a home that you could visit now
and then; and if you didn't get on out there, it wouldn't be bad to
have something to fall back upon. You might fall ill, or something
else might happen; the world's not to be relied upon. You have to
have a hard skin all over out there."

Pelle did not answer. That about the home sounded nice enough, and
he understood quite well that it was Karna's person that weighed down
the other end of the balance. Well, she'd put all his clothes in order
for his going away, and she'd always been a good soul; he had nothing
against that.

It would be hard to live apart from Father Lasse, but Pelle felt
he must go. Away! The spring seemed to shout the word in his ears.
He knew every rock in the landscape and every tree--yes, every twig
on the trees as well; there was nothing more here that could fill
his blue eyes and long ears, and satisfy his mind.

The day before May Day they packed Pelle's things. Lasse knelt before
the green chest; every article was carefully folded and remarked
upon, before it was placed in the canvas bag that was to serve Pelle
as a traveling-trunk.

"Now remember not to wear your stockings too long before you mend
them!" said Lasse, putting mending wool on one side. "He who mends
his things in time, is spared half the work and all the disgrace."

"I shan't forget that," said Pelle quietly.

Lasse was holding a folded shirt in his hand. "The one you've got
on's just been washed," he said reflectively. "But one can't tell.
Two shirts'll almost be too little if you're away, won't they? You
must take one of mine; I can always manage to get another by the
time I want a change. And remember, you must never go longer than
a fortnight! You who are young and healthy might easily get vermin,
and be jeered at by the whole town; such a thing would never be
tolerated in any one who wants to get on. At the worst you can do
a little washing or yourself; you could go down to the shore in
the evening, if that was all!"

"Do they wear wooden shoes in the town?" asked Pelle.

"Not people who want to get on! I think you'd better let me keep
the wooden shoes and you take my boots instead; they always look
nice even if they're old. You'd better wear them when you go
to-morrow, and save your good shoes."

The new clothes were laid at the top of the bag, wrapped in an old
blouse to keep them clean.

"Now I think we've got everything in," said Lasse, with a searching
glance into the green chest. There was not much left in it. "Very
well, then we'll tie it up in God's name, and pray that, you may
arrive safely--wherever you decide to go!" Lasse tied up the sack;
he was anything but happy.

"You must say good-bye nicely to every one on the farm, so that they
won't have anything to scratch my eyes out for afterward," said Lasse
after a little. "And I should like you to thank Karna nicely for
having put everything in such good order. It isn't every one who'd
have bothered."

"Yes, I'll do that," said Pelle in a low voice. He did not seem to
be able to speak out properly to-day.

       *       *       *       *       *

Pelle was up and dressed at daybreak. Mist lay over the sea, and
prophesied well for the day. He went about well scrubbed and combed,
and looked at everything with wide-open eyes, and with his hands in
his pockets. The blue clothes which he had gone to his confirmation-
classes in, had been washed and newly mangled, and he still looked
very well in them; and the tabs of the old leather boots, which were
a relic of Lasse's prosperous days, stuck out almost as much as his
ears.

He had said his "Good-bye and thank-you for all your kindness!"
to everybody on the farm--even Erik; and he had had a good meal of
bacon. Now he was going about the stable, collecting himself, shaking
the bull by the horns, and letting the calves suck his fingers; it
was a sort of farewell too! The cows put their noses close up to him,
and breathed a long, comfortable breath when he passed, and the bull
playfully tossed its head at him. And close behind him went Lasse;
he did not say very much but he always kept near the boy.

It was so good to be here, and the feeling sank gently over Pelle
every time a cow licked herself, or the warm vapor rose from freshly-
falling dung. Every sound was like a mother's caress, and every thing
was a familiar toy, with which a bright world could be built. Upon
the posts all round there were pictures that he had cut upon them;
Lasse had smeared them over with dirt again, in case the farmer
should come and say that they were spoiling everything.

Pelle was not thinking, but went about in a dreamy state; it all sank
so warmly and heavily into his child's mind. He had taken out his
knife, and took hold of the bull's horn, as if he were going to carve
something on it. "He won't let you do that," said Lasse, surprised.
"Try one of the bullocks instead."

But Pelle returned his knife to his pocket; he had not intended to
do anything. He strolled along the foddering-passage without aim or
object. Lasse came up and took his hand.

"You'd better stay here a little longer," he said. "We're so
comfortable."

But this put life into Pelle. He fixed his big, faithful eyes upon
his father, and then went down to their room.

Lasse followed him. "In God's name then, if it has to be!" he said
huskily, and took hold of the sack to help Pelle get it onto his
back.

Pelle held out his hand. "Good-bye and thank you, father--for all
your kindness!" he added gently.

"Yes, yes; yes, yes!" said Lasse, shaking his head. It was all he
was able to say.

He went out with Pelle past the out-houses, and there stopped, while
Pelle went on along the dikes with his sack on his back, up toward
the high-road. Two or three times he turned and nodded; Lasse,
overcome, stood gazing, with his hand shading his eyes. He had never
looked so old before.

Out in the fields they were driving the seed-harrow; Stone Farm was
early with it this year. Kongstrup and his wife were strolling along
arm-in-arm beside a ditch; every now and then they stopped and she
pointed: they must have been talking about the crop. She leaned
against him when they walked; she had really found rest in her
affection now!

Now Lasse turned and went in. How forlorn he looked! Pelle felt a
quick desire to throw down the sack and run back and say something
nice to him; but before he could do so the impulse had disappeared
upon the fresh morning breeze. His feet carried him on upon the
straight way, away, away! Up on a ridge the bailiff was stepping out
a field, and close behind him walked Erik, imitating him with foolish
gestures.

On a level with the edge of the rocks, Pelle came to the wide high-
road. Here, he knew, Stone Farm and its lands would be lost to sight,
and he put down his sack. _There_ were the sand-banks by the
sea, with every tree-top visible; _there_ was the fir-tree that
the yellowhammer always built in; the stream ran milk-white after
the heavy thaw, and the meadow was beginning to grow green. But the
cairn was gone; good people had removed it secretly when Niels Koller
was drowned and the girl was expected out of prison.

And the farm stood out clearly in the morning light, with its high
white dwelling-house, the long range of barns, and all the out-houses.
Every spot down there shone so familiarly toward him; the hardships
he had suffered were forgotten, or only showed up the comforts in
stronger relief.

Pelle's childhood had been happy by virtue of everything; it had been
a song mingled with weeping. Weeping falls into tones as well as joy,
and heard from a distance it becomes a song. And as Pelle gazed down
upon his childhood's world, they were only pleasant memories that
gleamed toward him through the bright air. Nothing else existed,
or ever had done so.

He had seen enough of hardship and misfortune, but had come well
out of everything; nothing had harmed him. With a child's voracity
he had found nourishment in it all; and now he stood here, healthy
and strong--equipped with the Prophets, the Judges, the Apostles,
the Ten Commandments and one hundred and twenty hymns! and turned
an open, perspiring, victor's brow toward the world.

Before him lay the land sloping richly toward the south, bounded by
the sea. Far below stood two tall black chimneys against the sea as
background, and still farther south lay the Town! Away from it ran
the paths of the sea to Sweden and Copenhagen! This was the world--
the great wide world itself!

Pelle became ravenously hungry at the sight of the great world, and
the first thing he did was to sit down upon the ridge of the hill
with a view both backward and forward, and eat all the food Karna
had given him for the whole day. So his stomach would have nothing
more to trouble about!

He rose refreshed, got the sack onto his back, and set off downward
to conquer the world, pouring forth a song at the top of his voice
into the bright air as he went:--

  "A stranger I must wander
  Among the Englishmen;
  With African black negroes
  My lot it may be thrown.
  And then upon this earth there
  Are Portuguese found too,
  And every kind of nation
  Under heaven's sky so blue."





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