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Title: Mogens, and Other Stories
Author: Jacobsen, J. P. (Jens Peter)
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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MOGENS AND OTHER STORIES

(1882)


By Jens Peter Jacobsen

(1847-1885)


Translated from the Danish By Anna Grabow

(1921)


CONTENTS


     INTRODUCTION

     MOGENS

     THE PLAGUE AT BERGAMO

     THERE SHOULD HAVE BEEN ROSES

     MRS. FONSS



INTRODUCTION

In the decade from 1870 to 1880 a new spirit was stirring in the
intellectual and literary world of Denmark. George Brandes was
delivering his lectures on the _Main Currents of Nineteenth Century
Literature_; from Norway came the deeply probing questionings of the
granitic Ibsen; from across the North Sea from England echoes of the
evolutionary theory and Darwinism. It was a time of controversy and
bitterness, of a conflict joined between the old and the new, both going
to extremes, in which nearly every one had a share. How many of the
works of that period are already out-worn, and how old-fashioned the
theories that were then so violently defended and attacked! Too much
logic, too much contention for its own sake, one might say, and too
little art.

This was the period when Jens Peter Jacobsen began to write, but he
stood aside from the conflict, content to be merely artist, a creator
of beauty and a seeker after truth, eager to bring into the realm of
literature “the eternal laws of nature, its glories, its riddles, its
miracles,” as he once put it. That is why his work has retained its
living colors until to-day, without the least trace of fading.

There is in his work something of the passion for form and style
that one finds in Flaubert and Pater, but where they are often hard,
percussive, like a piano, he is soft and strong and intimate like a
violin on which he plays his reading of life. Such analogies, however,
have little significance, except that they indicate a unique and
powerful artistic personality.

Jacobsen is more than a mere stylist. The art of writers who are too
consciously that is a sort of decorative representation of life, a
formal composition, not a plastic composition. One element particularly
characteristic of Jacobsen is his accuracy of observation and minuteness
of detail welded with a deep and intimate understanding of the human
heart. His characters are not studied tissue by tissue as under a
scientist’s microscope, rather they are built up living cell by living
cell out of the author’s experience and imagination. He shows how they
are conditioned and modified by their physical being, their inheritance
and environment, Through each of his senses he lets impressions from
without pour into him. He harmonizes them with a passionate desire for
beauty into marvelously plastic figures and moods. A style which grows
thus organically from within is style out of richness; the other is
style out of poverty.

In a letter he once stated his belief that every book to be of real
value must embody the struggle of one or more persons against all those
things which try to keep one from existing in one’s own way. That is the
fundamental ethos which runs through all of Jacobsen’s work. It is in
Marie Grubbe, Niels Lyhne, Mogens, and the infinitely tender Mrs. Fonss.

They are types of the kind he has described in the following passage:
“Know ye not that there is here in this world a secret confraternity,
which one might call the Company of Melancholiacs? That people there
are who by natural constitution have been given a different nature and
disposition than the others; that have a larger heart and a swifter
blood, that wish and demand more, have stronger desires and a yearning
which is wilder and more ardent than that of the common herd. They are
fleet as children over whose birth good fairies have presided; their
eyes are opened wider; their senses are more subtile in all their
perceptions. The gladness and joy of life, they drink with the roots of
their heart, the while the others merely grasp them with coarse hands.”

He himself was one of these, and in this passage his own art and
personality is described better than could be done in thousands of words
of commentary.

Jens Peter Jacobsen was born in the little town of Thisted in Jutland,
on April 7, 1847. In 1868 he matriculated at the University of
Copenhagen, where he displayed a remarkable talent for science, winning
the gold medal of the university with a dissertation on Seaweeds.
He definitely chose science as a career, and was among the first in
Scandinavia to recognize the importance of Darwin. He translated
the Origin of Species and Descent of Man into Danish. In 1872 while
collecting plants he contracted tuberculosis, and as a consequence,
was compelled to give up his scientific career. This was not as great
a sacrifice, as it may seem, for he had long been undecided whether to
choose science or literature as his life work.

The remainder of his short life--he died April 30, 1885--was one of
passionate devotion to literature and a constant struggle with ill
health. The greater part of this period was spent in his native town of
Thisted, but an advance royalty from his publisher enabled him to visit
the South of Europe. His journey was interrupted at Florence by a severe
hemorrhage.

He lived simply, unobtrusively, bravely. His method of work was slow
and laborious. He shunned the literary circles of the capital with their
countless intrusions and interruptions, because he knew that the time
allotted him to do his work was short. “When life has sentenced you to
suffer,” he has written in Niels Lyhne, “the sentence is neither a fancy
nor a threat, but you are dragged to the rack, and you are tortured, and
there is no marvelous rescue at the last moment,” and in this book there
is also a corollary, “It is on the healthy in you you must live, it
is the healthy that becomes great.” The realization of the former has
given, perhaps, a subdued tone to his canvasses; the recognition of the
other has kept out of them weakness or self-pity.

Under the encouragement of George Brandes his novel Marie Grubbe was
begun in 1873, and published in 1876. His other novel Niels Lyhne
appeared in 1880. Excluding his early scientific works, these two books
together with a collection of short stories, Mogens and Other Tales,
published in 1882, and a posthumous volume of poems, constitute
Jacobsen’s literary testament. The present volume contains Mogens, the
story with which he made his literary debut, and other characteristic
stories.

The physical measure of Jacobsen’s accomplishment was not great, but
it was an important milestone in northern literature. It is hardly
an exaggeration to say that in so far as Scandinavia is concerned he
created a new method of literary approach and a new artistic prose.
There is scarcely a writer in these countries, since 1880, with any
pretension toward literary expression who has not directly or indirectly
come under Jacobsen’s influence.

O. F. THEIS.



MOGENS


SUMMER it was; in the middle of the day; in a corner of the enclosure.
Immediately in front of it stood an old oaktree, of whose trunk one
might say, that it agonized in despair because of the lack of harmony
between its fresh yellowish foliage and its black and gnarled branches;
they resembled most of all grossly misdrawn old gothic arabesques.
Behind the oak was a luxuriant thicket of hazel with dark sheenless
leaves, which were so dense, that neither trunk nor branches could be
seen. Above the hazel rose two straight, joyous maple-trees with gayly
indented leaves, red stems and long dangling clusters of green fruit.
Behind the maples came the forest--a green evenly rounded slope, where
birds went out and in as elves in a grasshill.

All this you could see if you came wandering along the path through the
fields beyond the fence. If, however, you were lying in the shadow of
the oak with your back against the trunk and looking the other way--and
there was a some one, who did that--then you would see first your own
legs, then a little spot of short, vigorous grass, next a large
cluster of dark nettles, then the hedge of thorn with the big, white
convolvulus, the stile, a little of the ryefield outside, finally the
councilor’s flagpole on the hill, and then the sky.

It was stifling hot, the air was quivering with heat, and then it was
very quiet; the leaves were hanging from the trees as if asleep. Nothing
moved except the lady-birds and the nettles and a few withered leaves
that lay on the grass and rolled themselves up with sudden little jerks
as if they were shrinking from the sunbeams.

And then the man underneath the oak; he lay there gasping for air and
with a melancholy look stared helplessly towards the sky. He tried to
hum a tune, but gave it up; whistled, then gave that up too; turned
round, turned round again and let his eyes rest upon an old mole-hill,
that had become quite gray in the drought. Suddenly a small dark spot
appeared upon the light-gray mold, another, three, four, many, still
more, the entire mole-hill suddenly was quite dark-gray. The air was
filled with nothing but long, dark streaks, the leaves nodded and swayed
and there rose a murmur which turned into a hissing--rain was pouring
down. Everything gleamed, sparkled, spluttered. Leaves, branches,
trunks, everything shone with moisture; every little drop that fell on
earth, on grass, on the fence, on whatever it was, broke and scattered
in a thousand delicate pearls. Little drops hung for a while and became
big drops, trickled down elsewhere, joined with other drops, formed
small rivulets, disappeared into tiny furrows, ran into big holes and
out of small ones, sailed away laden with dust, chips of wood and ragged
bits of foliage, caused them to run aground, set them afloat, whirled
them round and again caused them to ground. Leaves, which had been
separated since they were in the bud, were reunited by the flood; moss,
that had almost vanished in the dryness, expanded and became soft,
crinkly, green and juicy; and gray lichens which nearly had turned to
snuff, spread their delicate ends, puffed up like brocade and with a
sheen like that of silk. The convolvuluses let their white crowns be
filled to the brim, drank healths to each other, and emptied the water
over the heads of the nettles. The fat black wood-snails crawled forward
on their stomachs with a will, and looked approvingly towards the
sky. And the man? The man was standing bareheaded in the midst of the
downpour, letting the drops revel in his hair and brows, eyes, nose,
mouth; he snapped his fingers at the rain, lifted a foot now and again
as if he were about to dance, shook his head sometimes, when there was
too much water in the hair, and sang at the top of his voice without
knowing what he was singing, so pre-occupied was he with the rain:

 Had I, oh had I a grandson, trala,
 And a chest with heaps and heaps of gold,
 Then very likely had I had a daughter, trala,
 And house and home and meadows untold.

 Had I, oh had I a daughter dear, trala,
 And house and home and meadows untold,
 Then very like had I had a sweetheart, trala.
 And a chest with heaps and heaps of gold.

There he stood and sang in the rain, but yonder between the dark
hazelbushes the head of a little girl was peeping out. A long end of
her shawl of red silk had become entangled in a branch which projected
a little beyond the others, and from time to time a small hand went
forward and tugged at the end, but this had no other result, further
than to produce a little shower of rain from the branch and its
neighbors. The rest of the shawl lay close round the little girl’s head
and hid half of the brow; it shaded the eyes, then turned abruptly and
became lost among the leaves, but reappeared in a big rosette of folds
underneath the girl’s chin. The face of the little girl looked very
astonished, she was just about to laugh; the smile already hovered
in the eyes. Suddenly he, who stood there singing in the midst of the
downpour, took a few steps to the side, saw the red shawl, the face, the
big brown eyes, the astonished little open mouth; instantly his position
became awkward, in surprise he looked down himself; but in the same
moment a small cry was heard, the projecting branch swayed violently,
the red end of the shawl disappeared in a flash, the girl’s face
disappeared, and there was a rustling and rustling further and further
away behind the hazelbushes. Then he ran. He did not know why, he did
not think at all. The gay mood, which the rainstorm had called forth,
welled up in him again, and he ran after the face of the little girl.
It did not enter his head that it was a person he pursued. To him it
was only the face of a little girl. He ran, it rustled to the right, it
rustled to the left, it rustled in front, it rustled behind, he rustled,
she rustled, and all these sounds and the running itself excited him,
and he cried: “Where are you? Say cuckoo!” Nobody answered. When he
heard his own voice, he felt just a little uneasy, but he continued
running; then a thought came to him, only a single one, and he murmured
as he kept on running: “What am I going to say to her? What am I
going to say to her?” He was approaching a big bush, there she had hid
herself, he could just see a corner of her skirt. “What am I going to
say to her? What am I going to say to her?” he kept on murmuring while
he ran. He was quite near the bush, then turned abruptly, ran on still
murmuring the same, came out upon the open road, ran a distance, stopped
abruptly and burst out laughing, walked smiling quietly a few paces,
then burst out laughing loudly again, and did not cease laughing all the
way along the hedge.

It was on a beautiful autumn day; the fall of the foliage was going
on apace and the path which led to the lake was quite covered with the
citron-yellow leaves from the elms and maples; here and there were spots
of a darker foliage. It was very pleasant, very clean to walk on this
tigerskin-carpet, and to watch the leaves fall down like snow; the birch
looked even lighter and more graceful with its branches almost bare and
the roan-tree was wonderful with its heavy scarlet cluster of berries.
And the sky was so blue, so blue, and the wood seemed so much bigger,
one could look so far between the trunks. And then of course one could
not help thinking that soon all this would be of the past. Wood, field,
sky, open air, and everything soon would have to give way to the time of
the lamps, the carpets, and the hyacinths. For this reason the councilor
from Cape Trafalgar and his daughter were walking down to the lake,
while their carriage stopped at the bailiff’s.

The councilor was a friend of nature, nature was something quite
special, nature was one of the finest ornaments of existence. The
councilor patronized nature, he defended it against the artificial;
gardens were nothing but nature spoiled; but gardens laid out in
elaborate style were nature turned crazy. There was no style in nature,
providence had wisely made nature natural, nothing but natural. Nature
was that which was unrestrained, that which was unspoiled. But with the
fall of man civilization had come upon mankind; now civilization had
become a necessity; but it would have been better, if it had not
been thus. The state of nature was something quite different, quite
different. The councilor himself would have had no objection to
maintaining himself by going about in a coat of lamb-skin and shooting
hares and snipes and golden plovers and grouse and haunches of venison
and wild boars. No, the state of nature really was like a gem, a perfect
gem.

The councilor and his daughter walked down to the lake. For some time
already it had glimmered between the trees, but now when they turned the
corner where the big poplar stood, it lay quite open before them. There
it lay with large spaces of water clear as a mirror, with jagged tongues
of gray-blue rippled water, with streaks that were smooth and streaks
that were rippled, and the sunlight rested on the smooth places and
quivered in the ripples. It captured one’s eye and drew it across its
surface, carried it along the shores, past slowly rounded curves, past
abruptly broken lines, and made it swing around the green tongues of
land; then it let go of one’s glance and disappeared in large bays, but
it carried along the thought--Oh, to sail! Would it be possible to hire
boats here?

No, there were none, said a little fellow, who lived in the white
country-house near by, and stood at the shore skipping stones over the
surface of the water. Were there really no boats at all?

Yes, of course, there were some; there was the miller’s, but it could
not be had; the miller would not permit it. Niels, the miller’s son, had
nearly gotten a spanking when he had let it out the other day. It was
useless to think about it; but then there was the gentleman, who lived
with Nicolai, the forest-warden. He had a fine boat, one which was black
at the top and red at the bottom, and he lent it to each and every one.

The councilor and his daughter went up to Nicolai’s, the forest-warden.
At a short distance from the house they met a little girl. She was
Nicolai’s, and they told her to run in and ask if they might see the
gentleman. She ran as if her life depended on it, ran with both arms and
legs, until she reached the door; there she placed one leg on the high
doorstep, fastened her garter, and then rushed into the house. She
reappeared immediately afterwards with two doors ajar behind her and
called long before she reached the threshold, that the gentleman would
be there in a moment; then she sat down on the doorstep, leaned against
the wall, and peered at the strangers from underneath one of her arms.

The gentleman came, and proved to be a tall strongly-built man of some
twenty years. The councilor’s daughter was a little startled, when she
recognized in him the man, who had sung during the rainstorm. But he
looked so strange and absentminded; quite obviously he had just been
reading a book, one could tell that from the expression in his eyes,
from his hair, from the abstracted way in which he managed his hands.

The councilor’s daughter dropped him an exuberant courtesy and said
“Cuckoo,” and laughed.

“Cuckoo?” asked the councilor. Why, it was the little girl’s face! The
man went quite crimson, and tried to say something when the councilor
came with a question about the boat. Yes, it was at his service. But who
was going to do the rowing? Why, he of course, said the girl, and paid
no attention to what her father said about it; it was immaterial whether
it was a bother to the gentleman, for sometimes he himself did not mind
at all troubling other people. Then they went down to the boat, and on
the way explained things to the councilor. They stepped into the boat,
and were already a good ways out, before the girl had settled herself
comfortably and found time to talk.

“I suppose it was something very learned you were reading,” she said,
“when I came and called cuckoo and fetched you out sailing?”

“Rowing, you mean. Something learned! It was the ‘History of Sir Peter
with the Silver Key and the Beautiful Magelone.’”

“Who is that by?”

“By no one in particular. Books of that sort never are. ‘Vigoleis
with the Golden Wheel’ isn’t by anybody either, neither is ‘Bryde, the
Hunter.’”

“I have never heard of those titles before.”

“Please move a little to the side, otherwise we will list.--Oh no, that
is quite likely, they aren’t fine books at all; they are the sort you
buy from old women at fairs.”

“That seems strange. Do you always read books of that kind?”

“Always? I don’t read many books in the course of a year, and the kind I
really like the best are those that have Indians in them.”

“But poetry? Oehlenschlager, Schiller, and the others?”

“Oh, of course I know them; we had a whole bookcase full of them at
home, and Miss Holm--my mother’s companion--read them aloud after lunch
and in the evenings; but I can’t say that I cared for them; I don’t like
verse.”

“Don’t like verse? You said had, isn’t your mother living any more?”

“No, neither is my father.”

He said this with a rather sullen, hostile tone, and the conversation
halted for a time and made it possible to hear clearly the many little
sounds created by the movement of the boat through the water. The girl
broke the silence:

“Do you like paintings?”

“Altar-pieces? Oh, I don’t know.”

“Yes, or other pictures, landscapes for instance?”

“Do people paint those too? Of course they do, I know that very well.”

“You are laughing at me?”

“I? Oh yes, one of us is doing that”

“But aren’t you a student?”

“Student? Why should I be? No, I am nothing.”

“But you must be something. You must do something?”

“But why?”

“Why, because--everybody does something!”

“Are you doing something?”

“Oh well, but you are not a lady.”

“No, heaven be praised.”

“Thank you.”

He stopped rowing, drew the oars out of the water, looked her into the
face and asked:

“What do you mean by that?--No, don’t be angry with me; I will tell you
something, I am a queer sort of person. You cannot understand it. You
think because I wear good clothes, I must be a fine man. My father was a
fine man; I have been told that he knew no end of things, and I daresay
he did, since he was a district-judge. I know nothing because mother and
I were all to each other, and I did not care to learn the things they
teach in the schools, and don’t care about them now either. Oh, you
ought to have seen my mother; she was such a tiny wee lady. When I was
no older than thirteen I could carry her down into the garden. She was
so light; in recent years I would often carry her on my arm through the
whole garden and park. I can still see her in her black gowns with the
many wide laces....”

He seized the oars and rowed violently. The councilor became a little
uneasy, when the water reached so high at the stern, and suggested, that
they had better see about getting home again; so back they went.

“Tell me,” said the girl, when the violence of his rowing had decreased
a little. “Do you often go to town?”

“I have never been there.”

“Never been there? And you only live twelve miles away?”

“I don’t always live here, I live at all sorts of places since my
mother’s death, but the coming winter I shall go to town to study
arithmetic.”

“Mathematics?”

“No, timber,” he said laughingly, “but that is something you don’t
understand. I’ll tell you, when I am of age I shall buy a sloop and sail
to Norway, and then I shall have to know how to figure on account of the
customs and clearance.”

“Would you really like that?”

“Oh, it, is magnificent on the sea, there is such a feeling of being
alive in sailing--here we are at the landing-stage!”

He came alongside; the councilor and his daughter stepped ashore after
having made him promise to come and see them at Cape Trafalgar. Then
they returned to the bailiff’s, while he again rowed out on the lake. At
the poplar they could still hear the sounds of the oars.

“Listen, Camilla,” said the councilor, who had been out to lock the
outer door, “tell me,” he said, extinguishing his hand-lamp with the
bit of his key, “was the rose they had at the Carlsens a Pompadour or
Maintenon?”

“Cendrillon,” the daughter answered.

“That’s right, so it was,--well, I suppose we had better see that we get
to bed now; good night, little girl, good night, and sleep well.”

When Camilla had entered her room, she pulled up the blind, leaned
her brow against the cool pane, and hummed Elizabeth’s song from “The
Fairy-hill.” At sunset a light breeze had begun to blow and a few tiny,
white clouds, illumined by the moon, were driven towards Camilla. For
a long while she stood regarding them; her eye followed them from a
far distance, and she sang louder and louder as they drew nearer, kept
silent a few seconds while they disappeared above her, then sought
others, and followed them too. With a little sigh she pulled down the
blind. She went to the dressing table, rested her elbows against her
clasped hands and regarded her own picture in the mirror without really
seeing it.

She was thinking of a tall young man, who carried a very delicate,
tiny, blackdressed lady in his arms; she was thinking of a tall man,
who steered his small ship in between cliffs and rocks in a devastating
gale. She heard a whole conversation over again. She blushed: Eugene
Carlson might have thought that you were paying court to him! With a
little jealous association of ideas she continued: No one would ever run
after Clara in a wood in the rainstorm, she would never have invited
a stranger--literally asked him--to sail with her. “Lady to her
fingertips,” Carlson had said of Clara; that really was a reprimand
for you, you peasant-girl Camilla! Then she undressed with affected
slowness, went to bed, took a small elegantly bound book from the
bookshelf near by and opened the first page. She read through a short
hand-written poem with a tired, bitter expression on her face, then let
the book drop to the floor and burst into tears; afterwards she tenderly
picked it up again, put it back in its place and blew out the candle;
lay there for a little while gazing disconsolately at the moonlit blind,
and finally went to sleep.

A few days later the “rainman” started on his way to Cape Trafalgar. He
met a peasant driving a load of rye straw, and received permission to
ride with him. Then he lay down on his back in the straw and gazed at
the cloudless sky. The first couple of miles he let his thoughts come
and go as they listed, besides there wasn’t much variety in them. Most
of them would come and ask him how a human being possibly could be so
wonderfully beautiful, and they marveled that it really could be an
entertaining occupation for several days to recall the features of a
face, its changes of expression and coloring, the small movements of a
head and a pair of hands, and the varying inflections in a voice. But
then the peasant pointed with his whip towards the slate-roof about a
mile away and said that the councilor lived over there, and the good
Mogens rose from the straw and stared anxiously towards the roof. He had
a strange feeling of oppression and tried to make himself believe that
nobody was at home, but tenaciously came back to the conception that
there was a large party, and he could not free himself from that idea,
even though he counted how many cows “Country-joy” had on the meadow
and how many heaps of gravel he could see along the road. At last the
peasant stopped near a small path leading down to the country-house, and
Mogens slid down from the cart and began to brush away the bits of straw
while the cart slowly creaked away over the gravel on the road.

He approached the garden-gate step by step, saw a red shawl disappear
behind the balcony windows, a small deserted white sewing-basket on the
edge of the balcony, and the back of a still moving empty rocking-chair.
He entered the garden, with his eyes fixed intently on the balcony,
heard the councilor say good-day, turned his head toward the sound, and
saw him standing there nodding, his arms full of empty flowerpots. They
spoke of this and that, and the councilor began to explain, as one might
put it, that the old specific distinction between the various kinds of
trees had been abolished by grafting, and that for his part he did not
like this at all. Then Camilla slowly approached wearing a brilliant
glaring blue shawl. Her arms were entirely wrapped up in the shawl,
and she greeted him with a slight inclination of the head and a faint
welcome. The councilor left with his flower-pots, Camilla stood looking
over her shoulders towards the balcony; Mogens looked at her. How had
he been since the other day? Thank you, nothing especial had been the
matter with him. Done much rowing? Why, yes, as usual, perhaps not quite
as much. She turned her head towards him, looked coldly at him, inclined
her head to one side and asked with half-closed eyes and a faint smile
whether it was the beautiful Magelone who had engrossed his time. He did
not know what she meant, but he imagined it was. Then they stood for a
while and said nothing. Camilla took a few steps towards a corner, where
a bench and a garden-chair stood. She sat down on the bench and asked
him, after she was seated, looking at the chair, to be seated; he must
be very tired after his long walk. He sat down in the chair.

Did he believe anything would come of the projected royal alliance?
Perhaps, he was completely indifferent? Of course, he had no interest
in the royal house. Naturally he hated aristocracy? There were very few
young men who did not believe that democracy was, heaven only knew what.
Probably he was one of those who attributed not the slightest political
importance to the family alliances of the royal house? Perhaps he was
mistaken. It had been seen.... She stopped suddenly, surprised
that Mogens who had at first been somewhat taken aback at all this
information, now looked quite pleased. He wasn’t to sit there, and laugh
at her! She turned quite red.

“Are you very much interested in politics?” she asked timidly.

“Not in the least.”

“But why do you let me sit here talking politics eternally?”

“Oh, you say everything so charmingly, that it does not matter what you
are talking about.”

“That really is no compliment.”

“It certainly is,” he assured her eagerly, for it seemed to him she
looked quite hurt.

Camilla burst out laughing, jumped up, and ran to meet her father, took
his arm, and walked back with him to the puzzled Mogens.

When dinner was through and they had drunk their coffee up on the
balcony, the councilor suggested a walk. So the three of them went along
the small way across the main road, and along a narrow path with stubble
of rye on both sides, across the stile, and into the woods. There was
the oak and everything else; there even were still convolvuluses on the
hedge. Camilla asked Mogens to fetch some for her. He tore them all off,
and came back with both hands full.

“Thank you, I don’t want so many,” she said, selected a few and let the
rest fall to the ground. “Then I wish I had let them be,” Mogens said
earnestly.

Camilla bent down and began to gather them up. She had expected him to
help her and looked up at him in surprise, but he stood there quite
calm and looked down at her. Now as she had begun, she had to go on, and
gathered up they were; but she certainly did not talk to Mogens for a
long while. She did not even look to the side where he was. But somehow
or other they must have become reconciled, for when on their way back
they reached the oak again, Camilla went underneath it and looked up
into its crown. She tripped from one side to the other, gesticulated
with her hands and sang, and Mogens had to stand near the hazelbushes to
see what sort of a figure he had cut. Suddenly Camilla ran towards him,
but Mogens lost his cue, and forgot both to shriek and to run away, and
then Camilla laughingly declared that she was very dissatisfied with
herself and that she would not have had the boldness to remain
standing there, when such a horrible creature--and she pointed towards
herself--came rushing towards her. But Mogens declared that he was very
well satisfied with himself.

When towards sunset he was going home the councilor and Camilla
accompanied him a little way. And as they were going home she said to
her father that perhaps they ought to invite that lonesome young man
rather frequently during the month, while it was still possible to stay
in the country. He knew no one here about, and the councilor said “yes,”
 and smiled at being thought so guileless, but Camilla walked along and
looked so gentle and serious, that one would not doubt but that she was
the very personification of benevolence itself.

The autumn weather remained so mild that the councilor stayed on at Cape
Trafalgar for another whole month, and the effect of the benevolence was
that Mogens came twice the first week and about every day the third.

It was one of the last days of fair weather.

It had rained early in the morning and had remained overclouded far
down into the forenoon; but now the sun had come forth. Its rays were
so strong and warm, that the garden-paths, the lawns and the branches
of the trees were enveloped in a fine filmy mist. The councilor walked
about cutting asters. Mogens and Camilla were in a corner of the garden
to take down some late winter apples. He stood on a table with a basket
on his arm, she stood on a chair holding out a big white apron by the
corners.

“Well, and what happened then?” she called impatiently to Mogens, who
had interrupted the fairy-tale he was telling in order to reach an apple
which hung high up.

“Then,” he continued, “the peasant began to run three times round
himself and to sing: ‘To Babylon, to Babylon, with an iron ring through
my head.’ Then he and his calf, his great-grandmother, and his black
rooster flew away. They flew across oceans as broad as Arup Vejle, over
mountains as high as the church at Jannerup, over Himmerland and through
the Holstein lands even to the end of the world. There the kobold sat
and ate breakfast; he had just finished when they came.

“‘You ought to be a little more god-fearing, little father,’ said the
peasant, ‘otherwise it might happen that you might miss the kingdom of
heaven.’”

“Well, he would gladly be god-fearing.”

“‘Then you must say grace after meals,’ said the peasant....”

“No, I won’t go on with the story,” said Mogens impatiently.

“Very well, then don’t,” said Camilla, and looked at him in surprise.

“I might as well say it at once,” continued Mogens, “I want to ask you
something, but you mustn’t laugh at me.”

Camilla jumped down from the chair.

“Tell me--no, I want to tell you something myself--here is the table and
there is the hedge, if you won’t be my bride, I’ll leap with the basket
over the hedge and stay away. One!”

Camilla glanced furtively at him, and noticed that the smile had
vanished from his face.

“Two!”

He was quite pale with emotion.

“Yes,” she whispered, and let go the ends of her apron so that the
apples rolled toward all corners of the world and then she ran. But she
did not run away from Mogens.

“Three,” said she, when he reached her, but he kissed her nevertheless.

The councilor was interrupted among his asters, but the district-judge’s
son was too irreproachable a blending of nature and civilization for the
councilor to raise objections.

*****

It was late winter; the large heavy cover of snow, the result of a whole
week’s uninterrupted blowing, was in the process of rapidly melting
away. The air was full of sunlight and reflection from the white snow,
which in large, shining drops dripped down past the windows. Within the
room all forms and colors had awakened, all lines and contours had come
to life. Whatever was flat extended, whatever was bent curved, whatever
was inclined slid, and whatever was broken refracted the more. All kinds
of green tones mingled on the flower-table, from the softest dark-green
to the sharpest yellow-green. Reddish brown tones flooded in flames
across the surface of the mahogany table, and gold gleamed and sparkled
from the knick-knacks, from the frames and moldings, but on the carpet
all the colors broke and mingled in a joyous, shimmering confusion.

Camilla sat at the window and sewed, and she and the Graces on the
mantle were quite enveloped in a reddish light from the red curtains
Mogens walked slowly up and down the room, and passed every moment in
and out of slanting beams of light of pale rainbow-colored dust.

He was in talkative mood.

“Yes,” he said, “they are a curious kind of people, these with whom
you associate. There isn’t a thing between heaven and earth which they
cannot dispose of in the turn of a hand. This is common, and that
is noble; this is the most stupid thing that has been done since the
creation of the world, and that is the wisest; this is so ugly, so
ugly, and that is so beautiful it cannot be described. They agree so
absolutely about all this, that it seems as if they had some sort of a
table or something like that by which they figured things out, for they
always get the same result, no matter what it may be. How alike they are
to each other, these people! Every one of them knows the same things and
talks about the same things, and all of them have the same words and the
same opinions.”

“You don’t mean to say,” Camilla protested, “that Carlsen and Ronholt
have the same opinions.”

“Yes, they are the finest of all, they belong to different parties!
Their fundamental principles are as different as night and day. No, they
are not. They are in such agreement that it is a perfect joy. Perhaps
there may be some little point about which they don’t agree; perhaps,
it is merely a misunderstanding. But heaven help me, if it isn’t
pure comedy to listen to them. It is as if they had prearranged to do
everything possible not to agree. They begin by talking in a loud voice,
and immediately talk themselves into a passion. Then one of them in his
passion says something which he doesn’t mean, and then the other one
says the direct opposite which he doesn’t mean either, and then the one
attacks that which the other doesn’t mean, and the other that which the
first one didn’t mean, and the game is on.”

“But what have they done to you?”

“They annoy me, these fellows. If you look into their faces it is just
as if you had it under seal that nothing especial is ever going to
happen in the world in the future.” Camilla laid down her sewing,
went over and took hold of the corners of his coat collar and looked
roguishly and questioningly at him.

“I cannot bear Carlsen,” he said angrily, and tossed his head.

“Well, and then.”

“And then you are very, very sweet,” he murmured with a comic
tenderness.

“And then?”

“And then,” he burst out, “he looks at you and listens to you and talks
to you in a way I don’t like. He is to quit that, for you are mine and
not his. Aren’t you? You are not his, not his in any way. You are mine,
you have bonded yourself to me as the doctor did to the devil; you are
mine, body and soul, skin and bones, till all eternity.”

She nodded a little frightened, looked trustfully at him; her eyes
filled with tears, then she pressed close to him and he put his arms
around her, bent over her, and kissed her on the forehead.

The same evening Mogens went to the station with the councilor who had
received a sudden order in reference to an official tour which he was to
make. On this account Camilla was to go to her aunt’s the next morning
and stay there until he returned.

When Mogens had seen his future father-in-law off, he went home,
thinking of the fact that he now would not see Camilla for several days.
He turned into the street where she lived. It was long and narrow and
little frequented. A cart rumbled away at the furthest end; in this
direction, too, there was the sound of footsteps, which grew fainter and
fainter. At the moment he heard nothing but the barking of a dog within
the building behind him. He looked up at the house in which Camilla
lived; as usual the ground-floor was dark. The white-washed panes
received only a little restless life from the flickering gleam of the
lantern of the house next door. On the second story the windows were
open and from one of them a whole heap of planks protruded beyond the
window-frame. Camilla’s window was dark, dark also was everything above,
except that in one of the attic windows there shimmered a white-golden
gleam from the moon. Above the house the clouds were driving in a wild
flight. In the houses on both sides the windows were lighted.

The dark house made Mogens sad. It stood there so forlorn and
disconsolate; the open windows rattled on their hinges; water ran
monotonously droning down the rainpipe; now and then a little water fell
with a hollow dull thud at some spot which he could not see; the wind
swept heavily through the street. The dark, dark house! Tears came into
Mogen’s eyes, an oppressive weight lay on his chest, and he was
seized by a strange dark sensation that he had to reproach himself for
something concerning Camilla. Then he had to think of his mother, and he
felt a great desire of laying his head on her lap and weeping his fill.

For a long while he stood thus with his hand pressed against his breast
until a wagon went through the street at a sharp pace; he followed it
and went home. He had to stand for a long time and rattle the front door
before it would open, then he ran humming up the stairs, and when he
had entered the room he threw himself down on the sofa with one of
Smollett’s novels in his hand, and read and laughed till after midnight.
At last it grew too cold in the room, he leaped up and went stamping up
and down to drive away the chill. He stopped at the window. The sky in
one corner was so bright, that the snow-covered roofs faded into it. In
another corner several long-drawn clouds drifted by, and the atmosphere
beneath them had a curious reddish tinge, a sheen that wavered
unsteadily, a red smoking fog. He tore open the window, fire had broken
out in the direction of the councilor’s. Down the stairs, down the
street as fast as he could; down a cross-street, through a side-street,
and then straight ahead. As yet he could not see anything, but as he
turned round the corner he saw the red glow of fire. About a score of
people clattered singly down the street. As they ran past each other,
they asked where the fire was. The answer was “The sugar-refinery.”
 Mogens kept on running as quickly as before, but much easier at heart.
Still a few streets, there were more and more people, and they
were talking now of the soap-factory. It lay directly opposite the
councilor’s. Mogens ran on as if possessed. There was only a
single slanting cross-street left. It was quite filled with people:
well-dressed men, ragged old women who stood talking in a slow, whining
tone, yelling apprentices, over-dressed girls who whispered to each
other, corner-loafers who stood as if rooted to the spot and cracked
jokes, surprised drunkards and drunkards who quarreled, helpless
policemen, and carriages that would go neither forwards nor backwards.
Mogens forced his way through the multitude. Now he was at the corner;
the sparks were slowly falling down upon him. Up the street; there
were showers of sparks, the window-panes on both sides were aglow, the
factory was burning, the councilor’s house was burning and the house
next door also. There was nothing but smoke, fire and confusion, cries,
curses, tiles that rattled down, blows of axes, wood that splintered,
window-panes that jingled, jets of water that hissed, spluttered, and
splashed, and amid all this the regular dull sob-like throb of the
engines. Furniture, bedding, black helmets, ladders, shining buttons,
illuminated faces, wheels, ropes, tarpaulin, strange instruments; Mogens
rushed into their midst, over, under it all, forward to the house.

The facade was brightly illuminated by the flames from the burning
factory, smoke issued from between the tiles of the roof and rolled
out of the open windows of the first story. Within the fire rumbled and
crackled. There was a slow groaning sound, that turned into a rolling
and crashing, and ended in a dull boom. Smoke, sparks, and flames issued
in torment out of all the openings of the house. And then the flames
began to play and crackle with redoubled strength and redoubled
clearness. It was the middle part of the ceiling of the first floor that
fell. Mogens with both hands seized a large scaling-ladder which leaned
against the part of the factory which was not yet in flames. For a
moment he held it vertically, but then it slipped away from him and fell
over toward the councilor’s house where it broke in a window-frame on
the second story. Mogens ran up the ladder, and in through the opening.
At first he had to close his eyes on account of the pungent wood-smoke,
and the heavy suffocating fumes which rose from the charred wood that
the water had reached took his breath away. He was in the dining-room.
The living-room was a huge glowing abyss; the flames from the lower part
of the house, now and then, almost reached up to the ceiling; the few
boards that had remained hanging when the floor fell burned in brilliant
yellowish-white flames; shadows and the gleam of flames flooded over the
walls; the wall-paper here and there curled up, caught fire, and flew
in flaming tatters down into the abyss; eager yellow flames licked their
way up on the loosened moldings and picture-frames. Mogens crept over
the ruins and fragments of the fallen wall towards the edge of the
abyss, from which cold and hot blasts of air alternately struck his
face; on the other side so much of the wall had fallen, that he could
look into Camilla’s room, while the part that hid the councilor’s office
still stood. It grew hotter and hotter; the skin of his face became
taut, and he noticed, that his hair was crinkling. Something heavy
glided past his shoulder and remained lying on his back and pressed him
down to the floor; it was the girder which slowly had slipped out of
place. He could not move, breathing became more and more difficult, his
temples throbbed violently; to his left a jet of water splashed against
the wall of the dining-room, and the wish rose in him, that the cold,
cold drops, which scattered in all directions might fall on him. Then he
heard a moan on the other side of the abyss, and he saw something white
stir on the floor in Camilla’s room. It was she. She lay on her knees,
and while her hips were swaying, held her hands pressed against each
side of her head. She rose slowly, and came towards the edge of the
abyss. She stood straight upright, her arms hung limply down, and the
head went to and fro limply on the neck. Very, very slowly the upper
part of her body fell forward, her long, beautiful hair swept the floor;
a short violent flash of flame, and it was gone, the next moment she
plunged down into the flames.

Mogens uttered a moaning sound, short, deep and powerful, like the roar
of a wild beast, and at the same time made a violent movement, as if to
get away from the abyss. It was impossible on account of the girder. His
hands groped over the fragments of wall, then they stiffened as it were
in a mighty clasp over the debris, and he began to strike his forehead
against the wreckage with a regular beat, and moaned: “Lord God, Lord
God, Lord God.”

Thus he lay. In the course of a little while, he noticed that there was
something standing beside him and touching him. It was a fireman who had
thrown the girder aside, and was about to carry him out of the house.
With a strong feeling of annoyance, Mogens noticed that he was lifted up
and led away. The man carried him to the opening, and then Mogens had a
clear perception that a wrong was being committed against him, and that
the man who was carrying him had designs on his life. He tore himself
out of his arms, seized a lathe that lay on the floor, struck the man
over the head with it so that he staggered backward; he himself issued
from the opening and ran erect down the ladder, holding the lathe above
his head. Through the tumult, the smoke, the crowd of people, through
empty streets, across desolate squares, out into the fields. Deep snow
everywhere, at a little distance a black spot, it was a gravel-heap,
that jutted out above the snow. He struck at it with the lathe, struck
again and again, continued to strike at it; he wished to strike it dead,
so that it might disappear; he wanted to run far away, and ran round
about the heap and struck at it as if possessed. It would not, would not
disappear; he hurled the lathe far away and flung himself upon the black
heap to give it the finishing stroke. He got his hands full of small
stones, it was gravel, it was a black heap of gravel. Why was he out
here in the field burrowing in a black gravel-heap?--He smelled the
smoke, the flames flashed round him, he saw Camilla sink down into them,
he cried out aloud and rushed wildly across the field. He could not
rid himself of the sight of the flames, he held his eyes shut: Flames,
flames! He threw himself on the ground and pressed his face down into
the snow: Flames! He leaped up, ran backward, ran forward, turned aside:
Flames everywhere! He rushed further across the snow, past houses, past
trees, past a terror-struck face, that stared out through a window-pane,
round stacks of grain and through farm-yards, where dogs howled and tore
at their chains. He ran round the front wing of a building and stood
suddenly before a brightly, restlessly lighted window. The light did him
good, the flames yielded to it; he went to the window and looked in. It
was a brew-room, a girl stood at the hearth and stirred the kettle. The
light which she held in her hand had a slightly reddish sheen on account
of the dense fumes. Another girl was sitting down, plucking poultry, and
a third was singeing it over a blazing straw-fire. When the flames grew
weaker, new straw was put on, and they flared up again; then they again
became weaker and still weaker; they went out. Mogens angrily broke a
pane with his elbow, and slowly walked away. The girls inside screamed.
Then he ran again for a long time with a low moaning. Scattered flashes
of memory of happy days came to him, and when they had passed the
darkness was twice as black. He could not bear to think of what had
happened. It was impossible for it to have happened. He threw himself
down on his knees and raised his hands toward heaven, the while he
pleaded that that which had happened might be as though it had not
occurred. For a long time he dragged himself along on his knees with his
eyes steadfastly fixed on the sky, as if afraid it might slip away from
him to escape his pleas, provided he did not keep it incessantly in his
eye. Then pictures of his happy time came floating toward him, more and
more in mist-like ranks. There were also pictures that rose in a sudden
glamor round about him, and others flitted by so indefinite, so distant,
that they were gone before he really knew what they were. He sat
silently in the snow, overcome by light and color, by light and
happiness, and the dark fear which he had had at first that something
would come and extinguish all this had gone. It was very still round
about him, a great peace was within him, the pictures had disappeared,
but happiness was here. A deep silence! There was not a sound, but
sounds were in the air. And there came laughter and song and low words
came and light and footsteps and dull sobbing of the beats of the pumps.
Moaning he ran away, ran long and far, came to the lake, followed the
shore, until he stumbled over the root of a tree, and then he was so
tired that he remained lying.

With a soft clucking sound the water ran over the small stones;
spasmodically there was a soft soughing among the barren limbs; now and
then a crow cawed above the lake; and morning threw its sharp bluish
gleam over forest and sea, over the snow, and over the pallid face.

At sunrise he was found by the ranger from the neighboring forest, and
carried up to the forester Nicolai; there he lay for weeks and days
between life and death.

*****

About the time when Mogens was being carried up to Nicolai’s, a crowd
collected around a carriage at the end of the street where the councilor
lived. The driver could not understand why the policeman wanted to
prevent him from carrying out his legitimate order, and on that account
they had an argument. It was the carriage which was to take Camilla to
her aunt’s.

*****

“No, since poor Camilla lost her life in that dreadful manner, we have
not seen anything of him!”

“Yes, it is curious, how much may lie hidden in a person. No one would
have suspected anything, so quiet and shy, almost awkward. Isn’t it so?
You did not suspect anything?”

“About the sickness! How can you ask such a question! Oh, you mean--I
did not quite understand you--you mean it was in the blood, something
hereditary?--Oh, yes, I remember there was something like that, they
took his father to Aarhus. Wasn’t it so, Mr. Carlsen?”

“No! Yes, but it was to bury him, his first wife is buried there. No,
what I was thinking of was the dreadful--yes, the dreadful life he has
been leading the last two or two and a half years.”

“Why no, really! I know nothing about that.”

“Well, you see, of course, it is of the things one doesn’t like to talk
about.... You understand, of course, consideration for those nearest.
The councilor’s family....”

“Yes, there is a certain amount of justice in what you say--but on the
other hand--tell me quite frankly, isn’t there at present a false,
a sanctimonious striving to veil, to cover up the weaknesses of our
fellow-men? As for myself I don’t understand much about that sort of
thing, but don’t you think that truth or public morals, I don’t mean
this morality, but--morals, conditions, whatever you will, suffer under
it?”

“Of course, and I am very glad to be able to agree so with you, and in
this case... the fact simply is, that he has given himself to all sorts
of excesses. He has lived in the most disreputable manner with the
lowest dregs, people without honor, without conscience, without
position, religion, or anything else, with loafers, mountebanks,
drunkards, and--and to tell the truth with women of easy virtue.”

“And this after having been engaged to Camilla, good heavens, and after
having been down with brain-fever for three months!”

“Yes--and what tendencies doesn’t this let us suspect, and who knows
what his past may have been, what do you think?”

“Yes, and heaven knows how things really were with him during the time
of their engagement? There always was something suspicious about him.
That is my opinion.

“Pardon me, and you, too, Mr. Carlsen, pardon me, but you look at the
whole affair in rather an abstract way, very abstractedly. By chance I
have in my possession a very concrete report from a friend in Jutland,
and can present the whole affair in all its details.”

“Mr. Ronholt, you don’t mean to...?”

“To give details? Yes, that is what I intend. Mr. Carlsen, with the
lady’s permission. Thank you! He certainly did not live as one should
live after a brain-fever. He knocked about from fair to fair with a
couple of boon-companions, and, it is said, was somewhat mixed up with
troupes of mountebanks, and especially with the women of the company.
Perhaps it would be wisest if I ran upstairs, and got my friend’s
letter. Permit me. I’ll be back in a moment.”

“Don’t you think, Mr. Carlsen, that Ronholt is in a particularly good
humor to-day?”

“Yes, but you must not forget that he exhausted all his spleen on an
article in the morning paper. Imagine, to dare to maintain--why, that is
pure rebellion, contempt of law, for him....”

“You found the letter?”

“Yes, I did. May I begin? Let me see, oh yes: ‘Our mutual friend whom we
met last year at Monsted, and whom, as you say, you knew in Copenhagen,
has during the last months haunted the region hereabouts. He looks just
as he used to, he is the same pale knight of the melancholy mien. He is
the most ridiculous mixture of forced gayety and silent hopelessness,
he is affected--ruthless and brutal toward himself and others. He is
taciturn and a man of few words, and doesn’t seem to be enjoying himself
at all, though he does nothing but drink and lead a riotous life. It
is as I have already said, as if he had a fixed idea that he received
a personal insult from destiny. His associates here were especially a
horse-dealer, called “Mug-sexton,” because he does nothing but sing and
drink all the time, and a disreputable, lanky, over-grown cross
between a sailor and peddler, known and feared under the name of Peter
“Rudderless,” to say nothing of the fair Abelone. She, however, recently
has had to give way to a brunette, belonging to a troupe of mountebanks,
which for some time has favored us with performances of feats of
strength and rope-dancing. You have seen this kind of women with
sharp, yellow, prematurely-aged faces, creatures that are shattered by
brutality, poverty, and miserable vices, and who always over-dress in
shabby velvet and dirty red. There you have his crew. I don’t understand
our friend’s passion. It is true that his fiancee met with a horrible
death, but that does not explain the matter. I must still tell you how
he left us. We had a fair a few miles from here. He, “Rudderless,” the
horse-dealer, and the woman sat in a drinking-tent, dissipating until
far into the night. At three o’clock or thereabouts they were at last
ready to leave. They got on the wagon, and so far everything went all
right; but then our mutual friend turns off from the main road and
drives with them over fields and heath, as fast as the horses can go.
The wagon is flung from one side to the other. Finally things get too
wild for the horse-dealer and he yells that he wants to get down. After
he has gotten off our mutual friend whips up the horses again, and
drives straight at a large heather-covered hill. The woman becomes
frightened and jumps off, and now up the hill they go and down on the
other side at such a terrific pace that it is a miracle the wagon did
not arrive at the bottom ahead of the horses. On the way up Peter had
slipped from the wagon, and as thanks for the ride he threw his big
clasp-knife at the head of the driver.’”

“The poor fellow, but this business of the woman is nasty.”

“Disgusting, madam, decidedly disgusting. Do you really think, Mr.
Ronholt, that this description puts the man in a better light?”

“No, but in a surer one; you know in the darkness things often seem
larger than they are.”

“Can you think of anything worse?”

“If not, then this is the worst, but you know one should never think the
worst of people.”

“Then you really mean, that the whole affair is not so bad, that there
is something bold in it, something in a sense eminently plebeian, which
pleases your liking for democracy.”

“Don’t you see, that in respect to his environment his conduct is quite
aristocratic?”

“Aristocratic? No, that is lather paradoxical. If he is not a democrat,
then I really don’t know what he is.”

“Well, there are still other designations.”

*****

White alders, bluish lilac, red hawthorn, and radiant laburnum were in
flower and gave forth their fragrance in front of the house. The windows
were open and the blinds were drawn. Mogens leaned in over the sill and
the blinds lay on his back. It was grateful to the eye after all the
summer-sun on forest and water and in the air to look into the subdued,
soft, quiet light of a room. A tall woman of opulent figure stood
within, the back toward the window, and was putting flowers in a large
vase. The waist of her pink morning-gown was gathered high up below,
the bosom by a shining black leather-belt; on the floor behind her lay a
snow-white dressing-jacket; her abundant, very blond hair was hanging in
a bright-red net.

“You look rather pale after the celebration last night,” was the first
thing Mogens said.

“Good-morning,” she replied and held out without turning around her
hand with the flowers in it towards him. Mogens took one of the flowers.
Laura turned the head half towards him, opened her hand slightly and
let the flowers fall to the floor in little lots. Then she again busied
herself with the vase.

“Ill?” asked Mogens.

“Tired.”

“I won’t eat breakfast with you to-day.”

“No?”

“We can’t have dinner together either.”

“You are going fishing?”

“No--Good-by!”

“When are you coming back?”

“I am not coming back.”

“What do you mean by that?” she asked arranging her gown; she went to
the window, and there sat down on the chair.

“I am tired of you. That’s all.”

“Now you are spiteful, what’s the matter with you? What have I done to
you?”

“Nothing, but since we are neither married nor madly in love with each
other, I don’t see anything very strange in the fact, that I am going my
own way.”

“Are you jealous?” she asked very softly.

“Of one like you! I haven’t lost my senses!”

“But what is the meaning of all this?”

“It means that I am tired of your beauty, that I know your voice and
your gestures by heart, and that neither your whims nor your stupidity
nor your craftiness can any longer entertain me. Can you tell me then
why I should stay?”

Laura wept. “Mogens, Mogens, how can you have the heart to do this?
Oh, what shall I, shall I, shall I, shall I do! Stay only today, only
to-day, Mogens. You dare not go away from me!”

“Those are lies, Laura, you don’t even believe it yourself. It is not
because you think such a terrible lot of me, that you are distressed
now. You are only a little bit alarmed because of the change, you are
frightened because of the slight disarrangement of your daily habits.
I am thoroughly familiar with that, you are not the first one I have
gotten tired of.”

“Oh, stay with me only to-day, I won’t torment you to stay a single hour
longer.

“You really are dogs, you women! You haven’t a trace of fine feelings in
your body. If one gives you a kick, you come crawling back again.”

“Yes, yes, that’s what we do, but stay only for to-day--won’t
you--stay!”

“Stay, stay! No!”

“You have never loved me, Mogens!”

“No!”

“Yes, you did; you loved me the day when there was such a violent wind,
oh, that beautiful day down at the sea-shore, when we sat in the shelter
of the boat.”

“Stupid girl!”

“If I only were a respectable girl with fine parents, and not such a one
as I am, then you would stay with me; then you would not have the heart
to be so hard--and I, who love you so!”

“Oh, don’t bother about that.”

“No, I am like the dust beneath your feet, you care no more for me. Not
one kind word, only hard words; contempt, that is good enough for me.”

“The others are neither better nor worse than you. Good-by, Laura!”

He held out his hand to her, but she kept hers on her back and wailed:
“No, no, not good-by! not good-by!”

Mogens raised the blind, stepped back a couple of paces and let it
fall down in front of the window. Laura quickly leaned down over the
window-sill beneath it and begged: “Come to me! come and give me your
hand.”

“No.”

When he had gone a short distance she cried plaintively:

“Good-by, Mogens!”

He turned towards the house with a slight greeting. Then he walked on:
“And a girl like that still believes in love!--no, she does not!”

*****

The evening wind blew from the ocean over the land, the strand-grass
swung its pale spikes to and fro and raised its pointed leaves a little,
the rushes bowed down, the water of the lake was darkened by thousands
of tiny furrows, and the leaves of the water-lilies tugged restlessly at
their stalks. Then the dark tops of the heather began to nod, and on
the fields of sand the sorrel swayed unsteadily to and fro. Towards the
land! The stalks of oats bowed downward, and the young clover trembled
on the stubble-fields, and the wheat rose and fell in heavy billows; the
roofs groaned, the mill creaked, its wings swung about, the smoke was
driven back into the chimneys, and the window-panes became covered with
moisture.

There was a swishing of wind in the gable-windows, in the poplars of the
manor-house; the wind whistled through tattered bushes on the green hill
of Bredbjerg. Mogens lay up there, and gazed out over the dark earth.
The moon was beginning to acquire radiance, and mists were drifting down
on the meadow. Everything was very sad, all of life, all of life, empty
behind him, dark before him. But such was life. Those who were happy
were also blind. Through misfortune he had learned to see; everything
was full of injustice and lies, the entire earth was a huge, rotting
lie; faith, friendship, mercy, a lie it was, a lie was each and
everything; but that which was called love, it was the hollowest of all
hollow things, it was lust, flaming lust, glimmering lust, smoldering
lust, but lust and nothing else. Why had he to know this? Why had he not
been permitted to hold fast to his faith in all these gilded lies? Why
was he compelled to see while the others remained blind? He had a right
to blindness, he had believed in everything in which it was possible to
believe.

Down in the village the lights were being lit.

Down there home stood beside home. My home! my home! And my childhood’s
belief in everything beautiful in the world.--And what if they were
right, the others! If the world were full of beating hearts and the
heavens full of a loving God! But why do I not know that, why do I know
something different? And I do know something different, cutting, bitter,
true...

He rose; fields and meadows lay before him bathed in moonlight. He went
down into the village, along the way past the garden of the manor-house;
he went and looked over the stone-wall. Within on a grass-plot in
the garden stood a silver poplar, the moonlight fell sharply on the
quivering leaves; sometimes they showed their dark side, sometimes
their white. He placed his elbows on the wall and stared at the tree; it
looked as if the leaves were running in a fine rain down the limbs.
He believed, that he was hearing the sound which the foliage produced.
Suddenly the lovely voice of a woman became audible quite near by:

 “Flower in dew! Flower in dew!
 Whisper to me thy dreams, thine own.
 Does in them lie the same strange air
 The same wonderful elfin air,
 As in mine own?
 Are they filled with whispers and sobbing and sighing
 Amid radiance slumbering and fragrances dying,
 Amid trembling ringing, amid rising singing:
 In longing,
 In longing,
 I live.”

Then silence fell again. Mogens drew a long breath and listened
intently: no more singing; up in the house a door was heard. Now he
clearly heard the sound from the leaves of the silver poplar. He bowed
his head in his arms and wept.

The next day was one of those in which late summer is rich. A day with
a brisk, cool wind, with many large swiftly flying clouds, with
everlasting alternations of darkness and light, according as the clouds
drift past the sun. Mogens had gone up to the cemetery, the garden of
the manor abutted on it. Up there it looked rather barren, the grass
had recently been cut; behind an old quadrangular iron-fence stood a
wide-spreading, low elder with waving foliage. Some of the graves had
wooden frames around them, most were only low, quadrangular hills; a
few of them had metal-pieces with inscriptions on them, others wooden
crosses from which the colors had peeled, others had wax wreaths, the
greater number had nothing at all. Mogens wandered about hunting for a
sheltered place, but the wind seemed to blow on all sides of the church.
He threw himself down near the embankment, drew a book out of his
pocket; but he did not get on with his reading; every time when a cloud
went past the sun, it seemed to him as though it were growing chilly,
and he thought of getting up, but then the light came again and he
remained lying. A young girl came slowly along the way, a greyhound and
a pointer ran playfully ahead of her. She stopped and it seemed as if
she wanted to sit down, but when she saw Mogens she continued her walk
diagonally across the cemetery out through the gate. Mogens rose and
looked after her; she walked down on the main road, the dogs still
played. Then he began reading the inscription on one of the graves;
it quickly made him smile. Suddenly a shadow fell across the grave and
remained lying there, Mogens looked sideways. A tanned, young man stood
there, one hand in his game-bag, in the other he held his gun.

“It isn’t really half bad,” he said, indicating the inscription.

“No,” said Mogens and straightened up from his bent position.

“Tell me,” continued the hunter, and looked to the side, as if seeking
something, “you have been here for a couple of days, and I have been
going about wondering about you, but up to the present didn’t come near
you. You go and drift about so alone, why haven’t you looked in on us?
And what in the world do you do to kill the time? For you haven’t any
business in the neighborhood, have you?”

“No, I am staying here for pleasure.”

“There isn’t much of that here,” the stranger exclaimed and laughed,
“don’t you shoot? Wouldn’t you like to come with me? Meanwhile I have
to go down to the inn and get some small shot, and while you are getting
ready, I can go over, and call down the blacksmith. Well! Will you
join?”

“Yes, with pleasure.”

“Oh, by the way,--Thora! haven’t you seen a girl?” he jumped up on the
embankment.

“Yes, there she is, she is my cousin, I can’t introduce you to her,
but come along, let us follow her; we made a wager, now you can he the
judge. She was to be in the cemetery with the dogs and I was to pass
with gun and game-bag, but was not to call or to whistle, and if the
dogs nevertheless went with me she would lose; now we will see.”

After a little while they overtook the lady; the hunter looked straight
ahead, but could not help smiling; Mogens bowed when they passed. The
dogs looked in surprise after the hunter and growled a bit; then
they looked up at the lady and barked, she wanted to pat them, but
indifferently they walked away from her and barked after the hunter.
Step by step they drew further and further away from her, squinted
at her, and then suddenly darted off after the hunter. And when they
reached him, they were quite out of control; they jumped up on him and
rushed off in every direction and back again.

“You lose,” he called out to her; she nodded smilingly, turned round and
went on.

They hunted till late in the afternoon. Mogens and William got along
famously and Mogens had to promise that he would come to the manor-house
in the evening. This he did, and later he came almost every day, but in
spite of all the cordial invitations he continued living at the inn.

Now came a restless period for Mogens. At first Thora’s proximity
brought back to life all his sad and gloomy memories. Often he had
suddenly to begin a conversation with one of the others or leave, so
that his emotion might not completely master him. She was not at all
like Camilla, and yet he heard and saw only Camilla. Thora was small,
delicate, and slender, roused easily to laughter, easily to tears, and
easily to enthusiasm. If for a longer time she spoke seriously with some
one, it was not like a drawing near, but rather as if she disappeared
within her own self. If some one explained something to her or developed
an idea, her face, her whole figure expressed the most intimate trust
and now and again, perhaps, also expectancy. William and his little
sister did not treat her quite like a comrade, but yet not like
a stranger either. The uncle and the aunt, the farm-hands, the
maid-servants, and the peasants of the neighborhood all paid court to
her, but very carefully, and almost timidly. In respect to her they were
almost like a wanderer in the forest, who sees close beside him one
of those tiny, graceful song-birds with very clear eyes and light,
captivating movements. He is enraptured by this tiny, living creature,
he would so much like to have it come closer and closer, but he does not
care to move, scarcely to take breath, lest it may be frightened and fly
away.

As Mogens saw Thora more and more frequently, memories came more and
more rarely, and he began to see her as she was. It was a time of peace
and happiness when he was with her, full of silent longing and quiet
sadness when he did not see her. Later he told her of Camilla and of
his past life, and it was almost with surprise that he looked back upon
himself. Sometimes it seemed inconceivable to him that it was he who had
thought, felt, and done all the strange things of which he told.

On an evening he and Thora stood on a height in the garden, and watched
the sunset. William and his little sister were playing hide-and-seek
around the hill. There were thousands of light, delicate colors,
hundreds of strong radiant ones. Mogens turned away from them and
looked at the dark figure by his side. How insignificant it looked in
comparison with all this glowing splendor; he sighed, and looked up
again at the gorgeously colored clouds. It was not like a real thought,
but it came vague and fleeting, existed for a second and disappeared; it
was as if it had been the eye that thought it.

“The elves in the green hill are happy now that the sun has gone down,”
 said Thora.

“Oh--are they?”

“Don’t you know that elves love darkness?”

Mogens smiled.

“You don’t believe in elves, but you should. It is beautiful to believe
in all that, in gnomes and elves. I believe in mermaids too, and
elder-women, but goblins! What can one do with goblins and three-legged
horses? Old Mary gets angry when I tell her this; for to believe what
I believe, she says is not God-fearing. Such things have nothing to do
with people, but warnings and spirits are in the gospel, too. What do
you say?”

“I, oh, I don’t know--what do you really mean?”

“You surely don’t love nature?”

“But, quite the contrary.”

“I don’t mean nature, as you see it from benches placed where there is
a fine view on hills up which they have built steps; where it is like a
set scene, but nature every day, always.”

“Just so! I can take joy in every leaf, every twig, every beam of light,
every shadow. There isn’t a hill so barren, nor a turf-pit so square,
nor a road so monotonous, that I cannot for a moment fall in love with
it.”

“But what joy can you take in a tree or a bush, if you don’t imagine
that a living being dwells within it, that opens and closes the flowers
and smooths the leaves? When you see a lake, a deep, clear lake, don’t
you love it for this reason, that you imagine creatures living deep,
deep down below, that have their own joys and sorrows, that have their
own strange life with strange yearnings? And what, for instance, is
there beautiful about the green hill of Berdbjerg, if you don’t imagine,
that inside very tiny creatures swarm and buzz, and sigh when the sun
rises, but begin to dance and play with their beautiful treasure-troves,
as soon as evening comes.”

“How wonderfully beautiful that is! And you see that?”

“But you?”

“Yes, I can’t explain it, but there is something in the color, in the
movements, and in the shapes, and then in the life which lives in them;
in the sap which rises in trees and flowers, in the sun and rain that
make them grow, in the sand which blows together in hills, and in the
showers of rain that furrow and fissure the hillsides. Oh, I cannot
understand this at all, when I am to explain it.”

“And that is enough for you?”

“Oh, more than enough sometimes--much too much! And when shape and color
and movement are so lovely and so fleeting and a strange world lies
behind all this and lives and rejoices and desires and can express all
this in voice and song, then you feel so lonely, that you cannot come
closer to this world, and life grows lusterless and burdensome.”

“No, no, you must not think of your fiancee in that way.”

“Oh, I am not thinking of her.”

William and his sister came up to them, and together they went into the
house.

*****

On a morning several days later Mogens and Thora were walking in the
garden. He was to look at the grape-vine nursery, where he had not yet
been. It was a rather long, but not very high hothouse. The sun sparkled
and played over the glass-roof. They entered, the air was warm and
moist, and had a peculiar heavy aromatic odor as of earth that has just
been turned. The beautiful incised leaves and the heavy dewy grapes were
resplendent and luminous under the sunlight. They spread out beneath the
glass-cover in a great green field of blessedness. Thora stood there
and happily looked upward; Mogens was restless and stared now and then
unhappily at her, and then up into the foliage.

“Listen,” Thora said gayly, “I think, I am now beginning to understand
what you said the other day on the hill about form and color.”

“And you understood nothing besides?” Mogens asked softly and seriously.

“No,” she whispered, looked quickly at him, dropped the glance, and grew
red, “not then.”

“Not then,” Mogens repeated softly and kneeled down before her, “but
now, Thora?” She bent down toward him, gave him one of her hands,
and covered her eyes with the other and wept. Mogens pressed the hand
against his breast, as he rose; she lifted her head, and he kissed her
on the forehead. She looked up at him with radiant, moist eyes, smiled
and whispered: “Heaven be praised!”

Mogens stayed another week. The arrangement was that the wedding was to
take place in midsummer. Then he left, and winter came with dark days,
long nights, and a snowstorm of letters.

*****

All the windows of the manor-house were lighted, leaves and flowers were
above every door, friends and acquaintances in a dense crowd stood on
the large stone stairway, all looking out into the dusk.--Mogens had
driven off with his bride.

The carriage rumbled and rumbled. The closed windows rattled. Thora
sat and looked out of one of them, at the ditch of the highway, at the
smith’s hill where primroses blossomed in spring, at Bertel Nielsen’s
huge elderberry bushes, at the mill and the miller’s geese, and the hill
of Dalum where not many years ago she and William slid down on sleighs,
at the Dalum meadows, at the long, unnatural shadows of the horses that
rushed over the gravel-heaps, over the turf-pits and rye-field. She sat
there and wept very softly; from time to time when wiping the dew
from the pane, she looked stealthily over towards Mogens. He sat bowed
forward, his traveling-cloak was open, his hat lay and rocked on the
front seat; his hands he held in front of his face. All the things he
had to think of! It had almost robbed him of his courage. She had had
to say good-by to all her relatives and friends and to an infinity of
places, where memories lay ranged in strata, one above the other, right
up to the sky, and all this so that she might go away with him. And was
he the right sort of a man to place all one’s trust in, he with his past
of brutalities and debaucheries! It was not even certain that all
this was merely his past. He had changed, it is true, and he found it
difficult to understand what he himself had been. But one never can
wholly escape from one’s self, and what had been surely still was there.
And now this innocent child had been given him to guard and protect.
He had managed to get himself into the mire till over his head, and
doubtless he would easily succeed in drawing her down into it too. No,
no, it shall not be thus--no, she is to go on living her clear, bright
girl’s life in spite of him. And the carriage rattled and rattled.
Darkness had set in, and here and there he saw through the thickly
covered panes, lights in the houses and yards past which they drove.
Thora slumbered. Toward morning they came to their new home, an estate
that Mogens had bought. The horses steamed in the chill morning air; the
sparrows twittered on the huge linden in the court, and the smoke rose
slowly from the chimneys. Thora looked smiling and contented at all this
after Mogens had helped her out of the carriage; but there was no other
way about, she was sleepy and too tired to conceal it. Mogens took her
to her room and then went into the garden, sat down on a bench, and
imagined that he was watching the sunrise, but he nodded too violently
to keep up the deception. About noon he and Thora met again, happy and
refreshed. They had to look at things and express their surprise; they
consulted and made decisions; they made the absurdest suggestions;
and how Thora struggled to look wise and interested when the cows
were introduced to her; and how difficult it was not to be all too
unpractically enthusiastic over a small shaggy young dog; and how Mogens
talked of drainage and the price of grain, while he stood there and in
his heart wondered how Thora would look with red poppies in her hair!
And in the evening, when they sat in their conservatory and the moon so
clearly drew the outline of the windows on the floor, what a comedy they
played, he on his part seriously representing to her that she should
go to sleep, really go to sleep, since she must be tired, the while
he continued to hold her hand in his; and she on her part, when she
declared he was disagreeable and wanted to be rid of her, that he
regretted having taken a wife. Then a reconciliation, of course,
followed, and they laughed, and the hour grew late. Finally Thora went
to her room, but Mogens remained sitting in the conservatory, miserable
that she had gone. He drew black imaginings for himself, that she was
dead and gone, and that he was sitting here all alone in the world and
weeping over her, and then he really wept. At length he became angry at
himself and stalked up and down the floor, and wanted to be sensible.
There was a love, pure and noble, without any coarse, earthly passion;
yes, there was, and if there was not, there was going to be one. Passion
spoiled everything, and it was very ugly and unhuman. How he hated
everything in human nature that was not tender and pure, fine and
gentle! He had been subjugated, weighed down, tormented, by this ugly
and powerful force; it had lain in his eyes and ears, it had poisoned
all his thoughts.

He went to his room. He intended to read and took a book; he read, but
had not the slightest notion what--could anything have happened to her!
No, how could it? But nevertheless he was afraid, possibly there might
have--no, he could no longer stand it. He stole softly to her door; no,
everything was still and peaceful. When he listened intently it seemed
as if he could hear her breathing--how his heart throbbed, it seemed, he
could hear it too. He went back to his room and his book. He closed his
eyes; how vividly he saw her; he heard her voice, she bent down toward
him and whispered--how he loved her, loved her, loved her! It was like a
song within him; it seemed as if his thoughts took on rhythmic form,
and how clearly he could see everything of which he thought! Still and
silent she lay and slept, her arm beneath the neck, her hair loosened,
her eyes were closed, she breathed very softly--the air trembled within,
it was red like the reflection of roses. Like a clumsy faun, imitating
the dance of the nymphs, so the bed-cover with its awkward folds
outlined her delicate form. No, no, he did not want to think of her, not
in that way, for nothing in all the world, no; and now it all came back
again, it could not be kept away, but he would keep it away, away! And
it came and went, came and went, until sleep seized him, and the night
passed.

*****

When the sun had set on the evening of the next day, they walked about
together in the garden. Arm in arm they walked very slowly and very
silently up one path and down the other, out of the fragrance of
mignonettes through that of roses into that of jasmine. A few moths
fluttered past them; out in the grain-field a wild duck called,
otherwise most of the sounds came from Thora’s silk dress.

“How silent we can be,” exclaimed Thora.

“And how we can walk!” Mogens continued, “we must have walked about four
miles by now.”

Then they walked again for a while and were silent.

“Of what are you thinking now?” she asked.

“I am thinking of myself.”

“That’s just what I am doing.”

“Are you also thinking of yourself?”

“No, of yourself--of you, Mogens.”

He drew her closer. They were going up to the conservatory. The door
was open; it was very light in there, and the table with the snowy-white
cloth, the silver dish with the dark red strawberries, the shining
silver pot and the chandelier gave quite a festive impression.

“It is as in the fairy-tale, where Hansel and Gretel come to the
cake-house out in the wood,” Thora said.

“Do you want to go in?”

“Oh, you quite forget, that in there dwells a witch, who wants to put us
unhappy little children into an oven and eat us. No, it is much better
that we resist the sugar-panes and the pancake-roof, take each other by
the hand, and go back into the dark, dark wood.”

They walked away from the conservatory. She leaned closely toward Mogens
and continued: “It may also be the palace of the Grand Turk and you are
the Arab from the desert who wants to carry me off, and the guard is
pursuing us; the curved sabers flash, and we run and run, but they have
taken your horse, and then they take us along and put us into a big bag,
and we are in it together and are drowned in the sea.--Let me see, or
might it be...?”

“Why might it not be, what it is?”

“Well, it might be that, but it is not enough.... If you knew how I love
you, but I am so unhappy--I don’t know what it is--there is such a great
distance between us--no--”

She flung her arms round his neck and kissed him passionately and
pressed her burning cheek against his:

“I don’t know how it is, but sometimes I almost wish that you beat me--I
know it is childish, and that I am very happy, very happy, and yet I
feel so unhappy!”

She laid her head on his breast and wept, and then she began while her
tears were still streaming, to sing, at first very gently, but then
louder and louder:

 “In longing
  In longing! live!”

“My own little wife!” and he lifted her up in his arms and carried her
in.

In the morning he stood beside her bed. The light came faintly and
subdued through the drawn blinds. It softened all the lines in the room
and made all the colors seem sated and peaceful. It seemed to Mogens
as if the air rose and fell with her bosom in gentle rarifications.
Her head rested a little sidewise on the pillow, her hair fell over her
white brow, one of her cheeks was a brighter red than the other, now and
then there was a faint quivering in the calmly-arched eyelids, and
the lines of her mouth undulated imperceptibly between unconscious
seriousness and slumbering smiles. Mogens stood for a long time
and looked at her, happy and quiet. The last shadow of his past had
disappeared. Then he stole away softly and sat down in the living-room
and waited for her in silence. He had sat there for a while, when he
felt her head on his shoulder and her cheek against his.

*****

They went out together into the freshness of the morning. The sunlight
was jubilant above the earth, the dew sparkled, flowers that had
awakened early gleamed, a lark sang high up beneath the sky, swallows
flew swiftly through the air. He and she walked across the green field
toward the hill with the ripening rye; they followed the footpath which
led over there. She went ahead, very slowly and looked back over her
shoulder toward him, and they talked and laughed. The further they
descended the hill, the more the grain intervened, soon they could no
longer be seen.



THE PLAGUE IN BERGAMO


Old Bergamo lay on the summit of a low mountain, hedged in by walls and
gates, and New Bergamo lay at the foot of the mountain, exposed to all
winds.

One day the plague broke out in the new town and spread at a terrific
speed; a multitude of people died and the others fled across the plains
to all four corners of the world. And the citizens in Old Bergamo set
fire to the deserted town in order to purify the air, but it did no
good. People began dying up there too, at first one a day, then five,
then ten, then twenty, and when the plague had reached its height, a
great many more.

And they could not flee as those had done, who lived in the new town.

There were some, who tried it, but they led the life of a hunted animal,
hid in ditches and sewers, under hedges, and in the green fields; for
the peasants, into whose homes in many places the first fugitives had
brought the plague, stoned every stranger they came across, drove him
from their lands, or struck him down like a mad dog without mercy or
pity, in justifiable self-defense, as they believed.

The people of Old Bergamo had to stay where they were, and day by day it
grew hotter; and day by day the gruesome disease became more voracious
and more grasping. Terror grew to madness. What there had been of order
and good government was as if the earth had swallowed it, and what was
worst in human nature came in its stead.

At the very beginning when the plague broke out people worked together
in harmony and concord. They took care that the corpses were duly and
properly buried, and every day saw to it that big bonfires were lighted
in squares and open places so that the healthful smoke might drift
through the streets. Juniper and vinegar were distributed among the
poor, and above all else, the people sought the churches early and late,
alone and in processions. Every day they went with their prayers before
God and every day when the sun was setting behind the mountains, all the
churchbells called wailingly towards heaven from hundreds of swinging
throats. Fasts were ordered and every day holy relics were set out on
the altars.

At last one day when they did not know what else to do, from the balcony
of the town hall, amid the sound of trumpets and horns, they proclaimed
the Holy Virgin, podesta or lordmayor of the town now and forever.

But all this did not help; there was nothing that helped.

And when the people felt this and the belief grew stronger that heaven
either would not or could not help, they not only let their hands lie
idly in the lap, saying, “Let there come what may.” Nay, it seemed, as
if sin had grown from a secret, stealthy disease into a wicked, open,
raging plague, which hand in hand with the physical contagion sought
to slay the soul as the other strove to destroy the body, so incredible
were their deeds, so enormous their depravity! The air was filled with
blasphemy and impiety, with the groans of the gluttons and the howling
of drunkards. The wildest night hid not greater debauchery than was here
committed in broad daylight.

“To-day we shall eat, for to-morrow we die!”--It was as if they had set
these words to music, and played on manifold instruments a never-ending
hellish concert. Yea, if all sins had not already been invented, they
would have been invented here, for there was no road they would not have
followed in their wickedness. The most unnatural vices flourished among
them, and even such rare sins as necromancy, magic, and exorcism were
familiar to them, for there were many who hoped to obtain from the
powers of evil the protection which heaven had not vouchsafed them.

Whatever had to do with mutual assistance or pity had vanished from
their minds; each one had thoughts only for himself. He who was sick
was looked upon as a common foe, and if it happened that any one was
unfortunate enough to fall down on the street, exhausted by the first
fever-paroxysm of the plague, there was no door that opened to him,
but with lance-pricks and the casting of stones they forced him to drag
himself out of the way of those who were still healthy.

And day by day the plague increased, the summer’s sun blazed down upon
the town, not a drop of rain fell, not the faintest breeze stirred. From
corpses that lay rotting in the houses and from corpses that were only
half-buried in the earth, there was engendered a suffocating stench
which mingled with the stagnant air of the streets and attracted swarms
and clouds of ravens and crows until the walls and roofs were black with
them. And round about the wall encircling the town sat strange,
large, outlandish birds from far away with beaks eager for spoil and
expectantly crooked claws; and they sat there and looked down with their
tranquil greedy eyes as if only waiting for the unfortunate town to turn
into one huge carrion-pit.

It was just eleven weeks since the plague had broken out, when the
watchman in the tower and other people who were standing in high places
saw a strange procession wind from the plain into the streets of the new
town between the smoke-blackened stone walls and the black ash-heaps of
the wooden houses. A multitude of people! At least, six hundred or more,
men and women, old and young, and they carried big black crosses between
them and above their heads floated wide banners, red as fire and blood.
They sing as they are moving onward and heartrending notes of despair
rise up into the silent sultry air.

Brown, gray, and black are their clothes, but all wear a red badge on
their breast. A cross it proves to be, as they draw nearer. For all the
time they are drawing nearer. They press upward along the steep road,
flanked by walls, which leads up to the old town. It is a throng of
white faces; they carry scourges in their hands. On their red banners
a rain of fire is pictured. And the black crosses sway from one side to
the other in the crowd.

From the dense mass there rises a smell of sweat, of ashes, of the dust
of the roadway, and of stale incense.

They no longer sing, neither do they speak, nothing is audible but the
tramping, herd-like sound of their naked feet.

Face after face plunges into the darkness of the tower-gate, and emerges
into the light on the other side with a dazed, tired expression and
half-closed lids.

Then the singing begins again: a miserere; they grasp their scourges
more firmly and walk with a brisker step as if to a war-song.

They look as if they came from a famished city, their cheeks are hollow,
their bones stand out, their lips are bloodless, and they have dark
rings beneath their eyes.

The people of Bergamo have flocked together and watch them with
amazement--and uneasiness. Red dissipated faces stand contrasted with
these pale white ones; dull glances exhausted by debauchery are
lowered before these piercing, flaming eyes; mocking blasphemers stand
open-mouthed before these hymns.

And there is blood on their scourges.

A feeling of strange uneasiness filled the people at the sight of these
strangers.

But it did not take long, however, before they shook off this
impression. Some of them recognized a half-crazy shoemaker from Brescia
among those who bore crosses, and immediately the whole mob through him
became a laughingstock. Anyhow, it was something new, a distraction
amid the everyday, and when the strangers marched toward the cathedral,
everybody followed behind as they would have followed a band of jugglers
or a tame bear.

But as they pushed their way forward they became embittered; they felt
so matter-of-fact in comparison with the solemnity of these people. They
understood very well, that those shoemakers and tailors had come here
to convert them, to pray for them, and to utter the words which they did
not wish to hear. There were two lean, gray-haired philosophers who had
elaborated impiety into a system; they incited the people, and out of
the malice of their hearts stirred their passions, so that with each
step as they neared the church the attitude of the crowd became more
threatening and their cries of anger wilder. It would not have taken
much to have made them lay violent hands on those unknown flagellants.
Not a hundred steps from the church entrance, the door of a tavern was
thrown open, and a whole flock of carousers tumbled out, one on top of
the other. They placed themselves at the head of the procession and led
the way, singing and bellowing with grotesquely solemn gestures--all
except one who turned handsprings right up the grass-grown stones of
the church-steps. This, of course, caused laughter, and so all entered
peacefully into the sanctuary.

It seemed strange to be here again, to pass through this great cool
space, in this atmosphere pungent with the smell of old drippings from
wax candles--across the sunken flag-stones which their feet knew so well
and over these stones whose worn-down designs and bright inscriptions
had so often caused their thoughts to grow weary. And while their eyes
half-curiously, half-unwillingly sought rest in the gently subdued
light underneath the vaults or glided over the dim manifoldness of the
gold-dust and smoke-stained colors, or lost themselves in the strange
shadows of the altar, there rose in their hearts a longing which could
not be suppressed.

In the meantime those from the tavern continued their scandalous
behavior upon the high altar. A huge, massive butcher among them, a
young man, had taken off his white apron and tied it around his neck, so
that it hung down his back like a surplice, and he celebrated mass
with the wildest and maddest words, full of obscenity and blasphemy. An
oldish little fellow with a fat belly, active and nimble in spite of
his weight, with a face like a skinned pumpkin was the sacristan
and responded with the most frivolous refrains. He kneeled down and
genuflected and turned his back to the altar and rang the bell as though
it were a jester’s and swung the censer round like a wheel. The others
lay drunk on the steps at full length, bellowing with laughter and
hiccoughing with drunkenness.

The whole church laughed and howled and mocked at the strangers. They
called out to them to pay close attention so that they might know what
the people thought of their God, here in Old Bergamo. For it was not so
much their wish to insult God that made them rejoice in the tumult; but
they felt satisfaction in knowing that each of their blasphemies was a
sting in the hearts of these holy people.

They stopped in the center of the nave and groaned with pain, their
hearts boiling with hatred and vengeance. They lifted their eyes and
hands to God, and prayed that His vengeance might fall because of
the mock done to Him here in His own house. They would gladly go to
destruction together with these fool-hardy, if only He would show His
might. Joyously they would let themselves be crushed beneath His heel,
if only He would triumph, that cries of terror, despair, and repentance,
that were too late, might rise up toward Him from these impious lips.

And they struck up a miserere. Every note of it sounded like a cry for
the rain of fire that overwhelmed Sodom, for the strength which
Samson possessed when he pulled down the columns in the house of the
Philistines. They prayed with song and with words; they denuded their
shoulders and prayed with their scourges. They lay kneeling row after
row, stripped to their waist, and swung the sharp-pointed and knotted
cords down on their bleeding backs. Wildly and madly they beat
themselves so that the blood clung in drops on their hissing whips.
Every blow was a sacrifice to God. Would that they might beat themselves
in still another way, would that they might tear themselves into a
thousand bloody shreds here before His eyes! This body with which
they had sinned against His commandments had to be punished, tortured,
annihilated, that He might see how hateful it was to them, that He might
see how they became like unto dogs in order to please Him, lower than
dogs before His will, the lowliest of vermin that ate the dust beneath
the soles of His feet! Blow upon blow--until their arms dropped or
until cramps turned them to knots. There they lay row on row with eyes
gleaming with madness, with foam round their mouths, the blood trickling
down their flesh.

And those who watched this suddenly felt their hearts throb, noticed how
hotness rose into their cheeks and how their breathing grew difficult.
It seemed as if something cold was growing out beneath their scalps,
and their knees grew weak. It seized hold of them; in their brains was a
little spot of madness which understood this frenzy.

To feel themselves the slaves of a harsh and powerful deity, to thrust
themselves down before His feet; to be His, not in gentle piety, not
in the inactivity of silent prayer, but madly, in a frenzy of
self-humiliation, in blood, and wailing, beneath wet gleaming
scourges--this they were capable of understanding. Even the butcher
became silent, and the toothless philosophers lowered their gray heads
before the eyes that roved about.

And it became quite still within the church; only a slight wave-like
motion swept through the mob.

Then one from among the strangers, a young monk, rose up and spoke. He
was pale as a sheet of linen, his black eyes glowed like coals, which
are just going to die out, and the gloomy, pain-hardened lines around
his mouth were as if carven in wood with a knife, and not like the folds
in the face of a human being.

He raised his thin, sickly hands toward heaven in prayer, and the
sleeves of his robe slipped down over his lean, white arms.

Then he spoke.

Of hell he spoke, that it is infinite as heaven is infinite, of the
lonely world of torments which each one of the condemned must endure and
fill with his wails. Seas of sulphur were there, fields of scorpions,
flames that wrap themselves round a person like a cloak, and silent
flames that have hardened and plunged into the body like a spear twisted
round in a wound.

It was quite still; breathlessly they listened to his words, for he
spoke as if he had seen it with his own eyes, and they asked themselves:
is he one of the condemned, sent up to us from the caverns of hell to
bear witness before us?

Then he preached for a long time concerning the law and the power of
the law, that its every title must be fulfilled, and that every
transgression of which they were guilty would be counted against them
by grain and ounce. “But Christ died for our sins, say ye, and we are no
longer subject to the law. But I say unto you, hell will not be cheated
of a single one of you, and not a single iron tooth of the torture
wheel of hell shall pass beside your flesh. You build upon the cross of
Golgotha, come, come! Come and look at it! I shall lead you straight to
its foot. It was on a Friday, as you know, that they thrust Him out
of one of their gates and laid the heavier end of a cross upon His
shoulders. They made Him bear it to a barren and unfruitful hill without
the city, and in crowds they followed Him, whirling up the dust with
their many feet so that it seemed a red cloud was over the place. And
they tore the garments from Him and bared His body, as the lords of the
law have a malefactor exposed before the eyes of all, so that all may
see the flesh that is to be committed to torture. And they flung Him on
the cross and stretched Him out and they drove a nail of iron through
each of His resistant hands and a nail through His crossed feet. With
clubs they struck the nails till they were in to the heads. And they
raised upright the cross in a hole in the ground, but it would not stand
firm and straight, and they moved it from one side to the other, and
drove wedges and posts all around, and those who did this pulled down
the brims of their hats so that the blood from His hands might not drop
into their eyes. And He on the cross looked down on the soldiers, who
were casting lots for His unstitched garment and down on the whole
turbulent mob, for whose sake He suffered, that they might be saved; and
in all the multitude there was not one pitiful eye.

“And those below looked up toward Him, who hung there suffering and
weak; they looked at the tablet above His head, whereon was written
‘King of the Jews,’ and they reviled Him and called out to Him: ‘Thou
that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself.
If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.’ Then He, the only
begotten Son of God was taken with anger, and saw that they were not
worthy of salvation, these mobs that fill the earth. He tore free His
feet over the heads of the nails, and He clenched His hands round the
nails and tore them out, so that the arms of the cross bent like a bow.
Then He leaped down upon the earth and snatched up His garment so that
the dice rolled down the slope of Golgotha, and flung it round himself
with the wrath of a king and ascended into heaven. And the cross stood
empty, and the great work of redemption was never fulfilled. There is
no mediator between God and us; there is no Jesus who died for us on the
cross; there is no Jesus who died for us on the cross, there is no Jesus
who died for us on the cross!”

He was silent.

As he uttered the last words he leaned forward over the multitude and
with his lips and hands hurled the last words over their heads. A groan
of agony went through the church, and in the corners they had begun to
sob.

Then the butcher pushed forward with raised, threatening hands, pale
as a corpse, and shouted: “Monk, monk, you must nail Him on the cross
again, you must!” and behind him there was a hoarse, hissing sound:
“Yea, yea, crucify, crucify Him!” And from all mouths, threatening,
beseeching, peremptory, rose a storm of cries up to the vaulted roof:
“Crucify, crucify Him!”

And clear and serene a single quivering voice: “Crucify Him!”

But the monk looked down over this wave of outstretched hands, upon
these distorted faces with the dark openings of screaming lips, where
rows of teeth gleamed white like the teeth of enraged beasts of prey,
and in a moment of ecstasy he spread out his arms toward heaven and
laughed. Then he stepped down, and his people raised their banners with
the rain of fire and their empty black crosses, and crowded their way
out of the church and again passed singing across the square and again
through the opening of the tower-gate.

And those of Old Bergamo stared after them, as they went down the
mountain. The steep road, lined by walls, was misty in the light of the
sun setting beyond the plain, but on the red wall encircling the city
the shadows of the great crosses which swayed from side to side in the
crowd stood out black and sharply outlined.

Further away sounded the singing; one or another of the banners still
gleamed red out of the new town’s smoke-blackened void; then they
disappeared in the sun-lit plain.



THERE SHOULD HAVE BEEN ROSES


There should have been roses

Of the large, pale yellow ones.

And they should hang in abundant clusters over the garden-wall,
scattering their tender leaves carelessly down into the wagon-tracks on
the road: a distinguished glimmer of all the exuberant wealth of flowers
within.

And they should have the delicate, fleeting fragrance of roses, which
cannot be seized and is like that of unknown fruits of which the senses
tell legends in their dreams.

Or should they have been red, the roses?

Perhaps.

They might be of the small, round, hardy roses, and they would have to
hang down in slender twining branches with smooth leaves, red and fresh,
and like a salutation or a kiss thrown to the wanderer, who is walking,
tired and dusty, in the middle of the road, glad that he now is only
half a mile from Rome.

Of what may he be thinking? What may be his life?

And now the houses hide him, they hide everything on that side. They
hide one another and the road and the city, but on the other side there
is still a distant view. There the road swings in an indolent, slow
curve down toward the river, down toward the mournful bridge. And behind
this lies the immense Campagna. The gray and the green of such large
plains.... It is as if the weariness of many tedious miles rose out of
them and settled with a heavy weight upon one, and made one feel lonely
and forsaken, and filled one with desires and yearning. So it is much
better that one should take one’s ease here in a corner between high
garden-walls, where the air lies tepid and soft and still--to sit on the
sunny side, where a bench curves into a niche of the wall, to sit there
end gaze upon the shimmering green acanthus in the roadside ditches,
upon the silver-spotted thistles, and the pale-yellow autumn flowers.

The roses should have been on the long gray wall opposite, a wall full
of lizard holes and chinks with withered grass; and they should have
peeped out at the very spot where the long, monotonous flatness is
broken by a large, swelling basket of beautiful old wrought iron, a
latticed extension, which forms a spacious balcony, reaching higher than
the breast. It must have been refreshing to go up there when one was
weary of the enclosed garden.

And this they often were.

They hated the magnificent old villa, which is said to be within, with
its marble stair-cases and its tapestries of coarse weave; and the
ancient trees with their proud large crowns, pines and laurels, ashes,
cypresses, and oaks. During all the period of their growth they were
hated with the hatred which restless hearts feel for that which is
commonplace, trivial, uneventful, for that which stands still and
therefore seems hostile.

But from the balcony one could at least range outside with one’s eyes,
and that is why they stood there, one generation after the other, and
all stared into the distance, each one with pro and each one with his
con. Arms adorned with golden bracelets have lain on the edge of the
iron railing and many a silk-covered knee has pressed against the black
arabesques, the while colored ribbons waved from all its points as
signals of love and rendezvous. Heavy, pregnant housewives have also
stood here and sent impossible messages out into the distance. Large,
opulent, deserted women, pale as hatred... could one but kill with a
thought or open hell with a wish!... Women and men! It is always women
and men, even these emaciated white virgin souls which press against the
black latticework like a flock of lost doves and cry out, “Take us!” to
imagined, noble birds of prey.

One might imagine a _proverbe_ here.

The scenery would be very suitable for a _proverbe_.

The wall there, just as it is; only the road would have to be wider and
expand into a circular space. In its center there would have to be
an old, modest fountain of yellowish tuff and with a bowl of broken
porphyry. As figure for the fountain a dolphin with a broken-off tail,
and one of the nostrils stopped up. From the other the fine jet of water
rises. On one side of the fountain a semicircular bench of tuff and
terracotta.

The loose, grayish white dust; the reddish, molded stone, the hewn,
yellowish, porous tuff; the dark, polished porphyry, gleaming with
moisture, and the living, tiny, silvery jet of water: material and
colors harmonize rather well.

The characters: two pages.

Not of a definite, historical period, for the pages of reality in no
way correspond with the pages of the ideal. The pages here, however, are
pages such as dream in pictures and books. Accordingly it is merely the
costume which has a historical effect.

The actress who is to represent the youngest of the pages wears thin
silk which clings closely and is pale-blue, and has heraldic lilies of
the palest gold woven into it. This and as much lace as can possibly be
employed are the most distinctive feature of the costume. It does
not aim at any definite century, but seeks to emphasize the youthful
voluptuousness of the figure, the magnificent blond hair, and the clear
complexion.

She is married, but it lasted only a year and a half, when she was
divorced from her husband, and she is said to have acted in anything but
a proper fashion towards him. And that may well be, but it is impossible
to imagine anything more innocent in appearance than she. That is
to say, it is not the gracious elemental innocence which has such
attractive qualities; but it is rather the cultivated, mature innocence,
in which no one can be mistaken, and which goes straight to the heart.
It captivates one with all the power which something that has reached
completion only can have.

The second actress in the _proverbe_ is slender and melancholy. She is
unmarried and has no past, absolutely none. There is no one who knows
the least thing about her. Yet these finely delineated, almost lean
limbs, and these amber-pale, regular features are vocal. The face is
shaded by raven-black curls, and borne on a strong masculine neck. Its
mocking smile, in which there is also hungry desire, allures. The eyes
are unfathomable and their depths are as soft and luminous as the dark
petals in the flower of the pansy.

The costume is of pale-yellow, in the manner of a corselet with wide,
up-and-down stripes, a stiff ruff and buttons of topaz. There is
a narrow frilled stripe on the edge of the collar, and also on the
close-fitting sleeves. The trunks are short, wide-slashed, and of
a dead-green color with pale purple in the slashes. The hose is
gray.--Those of the blue page, of course, are pure white.--Both wear
barrets.

Such is their appearance.

And now the yellow one is standing up on the balcony, leaning over the
edge, the while the blue is sitting on the bench down by the fountain,
comfortably leaning back, with his ring-covered hands clasped around one
knee. He stares dreamily out upon the Campagna.

Now he speaks:

“No, nothing exists in the world but women!--I don’t understand it...
there must be a magic in the lines out of which they are created, merely
when I see them pass: Isaura, Rosamond, and Donna Lisa, and the others.
When I see how their garment clings around their figure and how it
drapes as they walk, it is as if my heart drank the blood out of all
my arteries, and left my head empty and without thoughts and my limbs
trembling and without strength. It is as though my whole being were
gathered into a single, tremulous, uneasy breath of desire. What is it?
Why is it? It is as if happiness went invisibly past my door, and I
had to snatch it and hold it close, and make it my own. It is so
wonderful--and yet I cannot seize it, for I cannot see it.”

Then the other page speaks from his balcony:

“And if now you sat at her feet, Lorenzo, and lost in her thoughts she
had forgotten why she had called you, and you sat silent and waiting,
and her lovely face were bent over you further from you in the clouds of
its dreams than the star in the heavens, and yet so near you that every
expression was surrendered to your admiration, every beauty-engendered
line, every tint of the skin in its white stillness as well as in its
soft rosy glow--would it not then be as if she who is sitting there
belonged to another world than the one in which you kneel in adoration!
Would it not be as if hers were another world, as if another world
surrounded her, in which her festively garbed thoughts are going out to
meet some goal which is unknown to you? Her love is far away from all
that is yours, from your world, from everything. She dreams of far
distances and her desires are of far distances. And it seems as if not
the slightest space could be found for you in her thoughts, however
ardently you might desire to sacrifice yourself for her, your life, your
all, to the end that that might be between her and you which is hardly a
faint glimmer of companionship, much less a belonging together.”

“Yes, you know that it is thus. But....” Now a greenish-yellow lizard
runs along the edge of the balcony. It stops and looks about The tail
moves....

If one could only find a stone...

Look out, my four-legged friend.

No, you cannot hit them, they hear the stone long before it reaches
them. Anyhow he got frightened.

But the pages disappeared at the same moment.

The blue one had been sitting there so prettily. And in her eyes lay
a yearning which was genuine and unconscious and in her movements a
nervousness that was full of presentiment. Around her mouth was a faint
expression of pain, when she spoke, and even more when she listened to
the soft, somewhat low voice of the yellow page, which spoke to her
from the balcony in words that were provocative and at the same time
caressing, that had a note of mockery and a note of sympathy.

And doesn’t it seem now as if both were still here!

They are there, and have carried on the action of the _proverbe_, while
they were gone. They have spoken of that vague young love which never
finds peace but unceasingly flits through all the lands of foreboding
and through all the heavens of hope; this love that is dying to satisfy
itself in the powerful, fervent glow of a single great emotion! Of this
they spoke; the younger one in bitter complaint, the elder one with
regretful tenderness. Now the latter said--the yellow one to the
blue--that he should not so impatiently demand the love of a woman to
capture him and hold him bound.

“For believe me,” he said, “the love that you will find in the clasp of
two white arms, with two eyes as your immediate heaven and the certain
bliss of two lips--this love lies nigh unto the earth and unto the dust.
It has exchanged the eternal freedom of dreams for a happiness which is
measured by hours and which hourly grows older. For even if it always
grows young again, yet each time it loses one of the rays which in a
halo surround the eternal youth of dreams. No, you are happy.”

“No, you are happy,” answered the blue one, “I would give a world, were
I as you are.”

And the blue one rises, and begins to walk down the road to the
Campagna, and the yellow one looks after him with a sad smile and says
to himself: “No, he is happy!”

But far down the road the blue one turns round once more toward the
balcony, and raising his barret calls: “No, you are happy!”

*****

There should have been roses.

And now a breath of wind might come and shake a rain of rose-leaves from
the laden branches, and whirl them after the departing page.



MRS. FONSS


In the graceful pleasure-gardens behind the Pope’s ancient palace
in Avignon stands a bench from which one can overlook the Rhone, the
flowery banks of the Durance, hills and fields, and a part of the town.

One October afternoon two Danish ladies were seated on this bench, Mrs.
Fonss, a widow, and her daughter Elinor.

Although they had been here several days and were already familiar with
the view before them, they nevertheless sat there and marveled that this
was the way the Provence looked.

And this really was the Provence! A clayey river with flakes of muddy
sand, and endless shores of stone-gray gravel; pale-brown fields without
a blade of grass, pale-brown slopes, pale-brown hills and dust-colored
roads, and here and there near the white houses, groups of black trees,
absolutely black bushes and trees. Over all this hung a whitish sky,
quivering with light, which made everything still paler, still dryer and
more wearily light; never a glimmer of luxuriant, satiated hues, nothing
but hungry, sun-parched colors; not a sound in the air, not a scythe
passing through the grass, not a wagon rattling over the roads; and the
town stretching out on both sides was also as if built of silence with
all the streets still as at noon time, with all the houses deaf and
dumb, every shutter closed, every blind drawn, each and every one;
houses that could neither see nor hear.

Mrs. Fonss viewed this lifeless monotony with a resigned smile, but
it made Elinor visibly nervous; not actively nervous as in the case of
annoyance, but mournful and weary, as one often becomes after many days
of rain, when all one’s gloomy thoughts seem to pour down upon one with
the rain; or as at the idiotically consoling tick-tack of a clock, when
one sits and grows incurably tired of one’s self; or at watching the
flowers of the wall-paper, when the same chain of worn-out dreams clanks
about against one’s will in the brain and the links are joined and come
apart and in a stifling endlessness are united again. It actually had a
physical effect upon her, this landscape, almost causing her to faint.
To-day everything seemed to have conspired with the memories of a
hope which was dead and of sweet and lively dreams which had become
disagreeable and nauseous; dreams which caused her to redden when she
thought of them and which yet she could not forget. And what had all
that to do with the region here? The blow had fallen upon her far from
here amid the surroundings of her home, by the edge of a sound with
changing waters, under pale green beech-trees. Yet it hovered on the
lips of every pale brown hill, and every green-shuttered house stood
there and held silence concerning it.

It was the old sorrow for young hearts which had touched her. She had
loved a man and believed in his love for her, and suddenly he had chosen
some one else. Why? For what reason? What had she done to him? Had she
changed? Was she no longer the same? And all the eternal questions over
again. She had not said a word about it to her mother, but her mother
had understood every bit of it, and had been very concerned about her.
She could have screamed at this thoughtfulness which knew and yet should
not have known; her mother understood this also, and for that reason
they had gone traveling.

The whole purpose of the journey was only that she might forget.

Mrs. Fonss did not need to make her daughter feel uneasy by scrutinizing
her face in order to know where her thoughts were. All she had to do
was to watch the nervous little hand which lay beside her and with
such futile despair stroked the bars of the bench; they changed their
position every moment like a fever-patient tossing from side to side in
his hot bed. When she did this and looked at the hand, she also knew how
life-weary the young eyes were that stared out into the distance, how
pain quivered through every feature of the delicate face, how pale it
was beneath its suffering, and how the blue veins showed at the temples
beneath the soft skin.

She was very sorry for her little girl, and would have loved to have had
her lean against her breast, and to whisper down to her all the words of
comfort she could think of, but she had the conviction that there
were sorrows which could only die away in secret and which must not
be expressed in loud words, not even between a mother and daughter.
Otherwise some day under new circumstances, when everything is building
for joy and happiness, these words may become an obstacle, something
that weighs heavily and takes away freedom. The person who has spoken
hears their whisper in the soul of the other, imagines them turned over
and judged in the thoughts of the other.

Then, too, she was afraid of doing injury to her daughter if she made
confidences too easy. She did not wish to have Elinor blush before her;
she did want, however much of a relief it might be, to help her over the
humiliation, which lies in opening the inmost recesses of one’s soul to
the gaze of another. On the contrary the more difficult it became for
both, the more she was pleased, that the aristocracy of soul which
she herself possessed was repeated in her young daughter in a certain
healthy inflexibility.

Once upon a time--it was a time many, many years ago, when she herself
had been an eighteen-year old girl, she had loved with all her soul,
with every sense in her body, every living hope, every thought. It was
not to be, could not be. He had had nothing to offer except his loyalty
which would have involved the test of an endlessly long engagement, and
there were circumstances in her home which could not wait. So she had
taken the one whom they had given her, the one who was master over these
circumstances. They were married, then came children: Tage, the son,
who was with her in Avignon, and the daughter, who sat beside her,
Everything had turned out so much better than she could have hoped for,
both easier and more friendly. Eight years it lasted, then the husband
died, and she mourned him with a sincere heart. She had learned to love
his fine, thin-blooded nature which with a tense, egotistic, almost
morbid love loved whatever belonged to it by ties of relationship or
family, and cared nought for anything in all the great world outside,
except for what they thought, what their opinion was--nothing else.
After her husband’s death she had lived chiefly for her children, but
she had not devoted herself exclusively to them; she had taken part in
social life, as was natural for so young and well-to-do a widow; and now
her son was twenty-one years old and she lacked not many days of forty.
But she was still beautiful. There was not a gray thread in her heavy
dark-blonde hair, not a wrinkle round her large, courageous eyes, and
her figure was slender with well-balanced fullness. The strong, fine
lines of her features were accentuated by the darker more deeply colored
complexion which the years had given her; the smile of her widely
sweeping lips was very sweet; an almost enigmatical youth in the dewy
luminosity of her brown eyes softened and mellowed everything again. And
yet she also had the round fullness of cheek, the strong-willed chin of
a mature woman.

“That surely is Tage coming,” said Mrs. Fonss to her daughter when she
heard laughter and some Danish exclamations on the other side of the
thick hedge of hornbeam.

Elinor pulled herself together.

And it was Tage, Tage and Kastager, a wholesale merchant from
Copenhagen, with his sister and daughter; Mrs. Kastager lay ill at home
in the hotel.

Mrs. Fonss and Elinor made room for the two ladies; the men tried for
a moment to converse standing, but were lured by the low wall of
stone which surrounded the spot. They sat there and said only what was
absolutely necessary, for the newcomers were tired from a little railway
excursion they had taken into the Provence with its blooming roses.

“Hello!” cried Tage, striking his light trousers with the flat of his
hand, “look!”

They looked.

Out in the brown landscape appeared a cloud of dust, over it a mantle
of dust, and between the two they caught sight of a horse. “That’s
the Englishman, I told you about, who came the other day,” said Tage,
turning toward his mother.

“Did you ever see any one ride like that?” he asked, turning toward
Kastager, “he reminds me of a gaucho.”

“Mazeppa?” said Kastager, questioningly.

The horseman disappeared.

Then they all rose, and set out for the hotel.

They had met the Kastagers in Belfort, and since they were pursuing the
same itinerary through southern France and along the Riviera, they for
the time being traveled together. Here in Avignon both families had made
a halt; Kastager because his wife had developed a varicose vein, the
Fonss’ because Elinor obviously needed a rest.

Tage was delighted at this living together. Day by day he fell more and
more incurably in love with the pretty Ida Kastager. Mrs. Fonss did not
especially like this. Though Tage was very self-reliant and mature for
his age, there was no reason for a hasty engagement--and there was
Mr. Kastager! Ida was a splendid little girl, Mrs. Kastager was a very
well-bred woman of excellent family, and Kastager himself was capable,
rich, and honest, but there was a hint of the absurd about him. A smile
came upon people’s lips and a twinkle into their eyes when any one
mentioned Mr. Kastager.

The reason for this was that he was full of fire and given to
extraordinary enthusiasms; he was frankly ingenuous, boisterous, and
communicative, and nowadays it requires a great deal of tact to be
lavish with enthusiasm. But Mrs. Fonss could not bear the thought that
Tage’s father-in-law should be mentioned with a twinkle in the eye and
a smile round the mouth, and for that reason she exhibited a certain
coldness toward the family to the great sorrow of the enamored Tage.

*****

On the morning of the following day Tage and his mother had gone to
look at the little museum of the town. They found the gate open, but the
doors to the collection locked; ringing the bell proved fruitless. The
gateway, however, gave admission to the not specially large court which
was surrounded by a freshly whitewashed arcade whose short squat columns
had black iron bars between them.

They walked about and looked at the objects placed along the wall: Roman
sepulchral monuments, pieces of sarcophagi, a headless draped figure,
the dorsal vertebra of a whale, and a series of architectural details.

On all the objects of interest there were fresh traces of the masons’
brushes.

By now they had come back to their starting point.

Tage ran up the stairs to see if there might not be people somewhere in
the house, and Mrs. Fonss in the meantime walked up and down the arcade.

As she was on the turn toward the gate a tall man with a bearded, tanned
face, appeared at the end of the passage directly in front of her. He
had a guide-book in his hand; he listened for something, and then looked
forward, straight at her.

The Englishman of yesterday immediately came to her mind.

“Pardon me?” he began interrogatively, and bowed.

“I am a stranger,” Mrs. Fonss replied, “nobody seems to be at home, but
my son has just run upstairs to see whether....”

These words were exchanged in French.

At this moment Tage arrived. “I have been everywhere,” he said, “even in
the living quarters, but didn’t find as much as a cat.”

“I hear,” said the Englishman, this time in Danish, “that I have the
pleasure of being with fellow-countrymen.”

He bowed again and retreated a couple of steps, as if to indicate that
he had merely said this to let them know that he understood what they
were saying. Suddenly he stepped closer than before with an intent,
eager expression on his face, and said to Mrs. Fonss, “is it possible
that you and I are old acquaintances?”

“Are you Emil Thorbrogger?” exclaimed Mrs. Fonss, and held out her hand.

He seized it. “Yes, I am he,” he said gayly, “and you are she?”

His eyes almost filled with tears as he looked at her.

Mrs Fonss introduced Tage as her son.

Tage had never in his life heard mention of Thorbrogger, but that was
not his thoughts; he thought only of the fact that this gaucho turned
out to be a Dane; when a pause set in, and some one had to say something
he could not help exclaiming, “and I who said yesterday that you
reminded me of a gaucho!”

“Well,” replied Thorbrogger, “that wasn’t far from the truth; for
twenty-one years I have lived in the plains of La Plata, and in those
years certainly spent more time on horse-back than on foot.”

And now he had come back to Europe!

Yes, he had sold his land and his sheep and had come back to have a look
around in the old world where he belonged, but to his shame he had
to confess that he often found it very much of a bore to travel about
merely for pleasure.

Perhaps, he was homesick for the prairies?

No, he had never had any special feeling for places and countries; he
thought it was only his daily work which he missed.

In that way they went on talking for a while. At last the custodian
appeared, hot and out of breath, with heads of lettuce under his arms
and a bunch of scarlet tomatoes in his hand, and they were admitted into
the small, stuffy collection of paintings, where they gained only the
vaguest impression of the yellow thunder-clouds and black waters of old
Vernet, but on the contrary told each other with considerable detail
of their lives and the happenings during all the years since they had
parted.

For it was he whom she had loved, at the time when she married another.
In the days which now followed they were much together, and the others
thinking that such old friends must have much to say to each other left
them often alone. In those days both soon noticed that however much
they might have changed during the course of the years, their hearts had
forgotten nothing.

Perhaps it was he who first became aware of this, for all the
uncertainty of youth, its sentimentality and its elegiac mood came upon
him simultaneously, and he suffered under it. It seemed out of place
to the mature man, that he should so suddenly be robbed of his peace of
life and the self-possession which he had acquired during the course of
time, and he wanted his love to bear a different stamp, wished it to be
graver, more subdued.

She did not feel herself younger, but it seemed to her as if a fountain
of tears that had been obstructed and dammed had burst open again and
begun to flow. There was great happiness and relief in crying, and these
tears gave her a feeling of richness; it was as if she had become more
precious, and everything had become more precious to her--in short it
was a feeling of youth after all.

*****

On an evening of one of these days Mrs. Fonss sat alone at home,
Elinor had gone to bed early, and Tage had gone to the theater with the
Kastagers. She had been sitting in the dull hotel-room and had dreamed
in the half light of a couple of candles. At length her dreams had come
to a stop after their incessant coming and going; she had grown tired,
but with that mild and smiling weariness which wraps itself round us,
when happy thoughts are falling asleep in our mind.

She could not go on sitting here, staring in front of her, the whole
evening long without so much as a book. It was still over an hour before
the theater let out. So she began to walk up and down the room, stood in
front of the mirror, and arranged her hair.

She would go down into the reading-room, and look over the illustrated
papers. At this time of the evening it was always empty there.

She threw a large black lace shawl over her head and went down.

The room was empty.

The small room, overfull with furniture, was brilliantly illuminated
by half a dozen large gas-flames; it was hot and the air was almost
painfully dry.

She drew the shawl down around the shoulders.

The white papers there on the table, the portfolios with their large
gilt letters, the empty plush chairs, the regular squares of the carpet
and the even folds of the rep curtains--all this looked dull under the
strong light.

She was still dreaming, and dreaming she stood, and listened to the
long-drawn singing of the gas-flames.

The heat was such as almost to make one dizzy.

To support herself she slowly reached out for a large, heavy bronze
vase which stood on a bracket fixed in the wall, and grasped the
flower-decorated edge.

It was comfortable to stand thus, and the bronze was gratefully cool to
the touch of her hand. But as she stood thus, there came another feeling
also. She began to feel a contentment in her limbs, in her body, because
of the plastically beautiful position which she had assumed. She was
conscious of how becoming it was to her, of the beauty which was hers
at the moment, and even of the physical sensation of harmony. All
this gathered in a feeling of triumph, and streamed through her like a
strange festive exultation.

She felt herself so strong at this hour, and life lay before her like
a great, radiant day; no longer like a day declining toward the calm,
melancholy hours of dusk. It seemed to her like an open, wide-awake
space of time, with hot pulses throbbing every second, with joyous
light, with energy and swiftness and an infinity without and within. And
she was thrilled with the fullness of life, and longed for it with the
feverish eagerness with which a traveler sets out on a journey.

For a long time she stood thus, wrapped in her thoughts, forgetting
everything around her. Then suddenly as if she heard the silence in the
room and the long-drawn singing of the gas-flames, she let her hand
drop from the vase and sat down by the table and began to turn over the
leaves of a portfolio.

She heard steps, passing by the door, heard them turn back, and saw
Thorbrogger enter.

They exchanged a few words but as she seemed occupied with the pictures,
he also began to look at the magazines that lay in front of him. They,
however, did not interest him very much for when a little later she
looked up, she met his eyes which rested searchingly upon her.

He looked as if he were just about to speak, and there was a nervous,
decided expression round his mouth, which told her so definitely what
his words would be that she reddened.

Instinctively, as if she wished to hold back these words, she held out
a picture across the table and pointed at some horsemen from the pampas,
who were throwing lassoes over wild steers.

He was just about to make some jesting remark about the draftsman’s
naive conception of the art of throwing a lasso. It was so enticingly
easy to speak of this rather than of that which he had on his mind.
Resolutely, however, he pushed the picture aside, leaned a little ways
across the table and said,

“I have thought a great deal about you since we met again; I have always
thought a great deal about you, both long ago in Denmark and over where
I was. And I have always loved you, and if it sometimes seems to me that
it is only now that I really love you since we have met again, it is not
true, however great my love may be, for I have always loved you, I have
always loved you. And if it should happen now that you would become
mine--you cannot imagine what that would mean to me, if you, who were
taken from me for so many years, were to come back.”

He was silent for a moment, then he rose, and came closer to her.

“Oh, do say a word! I am standing here talking blindly. I speak to you
as to an interpreter, a stranger, who has to repeat what I am saying to
the heart I am speaking to.. I don’t know... to stand here and weigh my
words... I don’t know, how far or how near. I dare not put into words
the adoration which fills me--or dare I?”

He let himself sink down on a chair by her side.

“Oh, if I might, if I didn’t have to be afraid--is it true! Oh, God
bless you, Paula.”

“There is nothing now that need keep us apart any longer,” said she,
with her hand in his, “whatever may happen I have the right to be happy
once, to live fully in accordance with my being, my desire, and my
dreams. I have never renounced. Even though happiness was not my share,
I have never believed that life was nothing but grayness and duty. I
knew that there are people who are happy.”

Silently he kissed her hand.

“I know,” she said sadly, “that those who will judge me least harshly
will not envy me the happiness which I shall have in having your love,
but they will also say that I should be satisfied.”

“But that would not be enough for me, and you have not the right to send
me away.”

“No,” she said, “no.”

A little later she went upstairs to Elinor.

Elinor slept.

Mrs. Fonss sat down by her bed and looked at her pale child whose
features she could only dimly distinguish under the faint yellow glow of
the night lamp.

For Elinor’s sake they would have to wait. In a few days they would
separate from Thorbrogger, go to Nice, and stay there by themselves.
During the winter she would live only that Elinor might regain her
health. But to-morrow she would tell the children what had happened
and what was to be expected. However they might receive the news it was
impossible for her to live with them day in, day out, and yet be almost
separated from them by a secret like this. And they would need time to
get used to the idea, because it would mean a separation between them,
whether greater or smaller would depend on the children themselves. The
arrangement of their lives in so far as it concerned her and him was to
be left entirely to them. She would demand nothing. It was for them to
_give_.

She heard Tage’s step in the sitting-room and went to him.

He was so radiant and at the same time so nervous that Mrs. Fonss knew
something had happened, and she had an intuition of what it was.

He sought for an opening to unburden his heart and sat and talked
absent-mindedly of the theater. Not until his mother went over to him
and put her hand on his forehead, forcing him to look at her, was he
able to tell her that he had wooed Ida Kastager and gained her “yes.”

They talked about it for a long time, but throughout Mrs. Fonss felt
a coldness in whatever she said, which she could not overcome. She was
afraid of being too sympathetic with Tage on account of her own emotion.
Besides, in the uncertain state of her mind she was distrustful of the
idea that there might be even the faintest shadow of an association
between her kindness of to-night and what she was to tell to-morrow..

Tage, however, did not notice any coolness.

Mrs. Fonss did not sleep much that night; there were too many thoughts
to keep her awake. She thought how strange it was that he and she should
have met and that when they met they should love each other as in the
old days.

It was long ago, especially for her; she was no longer, could no longer,
be young. And this would show; and he would be thoughtful with her, and
grow used to the fact that it was a long time since she was eighteen
years old. But she felt young, she was so in many respects, and yet all
the while she was conscious of her years. She saw it very clearly, in a
thousand movements, in expressions and gestures, in the way in which she
would respond to a hint, in the fashion in which she would smile at an
answer. Ten times a day she would betray her age, because she lacked the
courage to be outwardly as young as she was within.

And thoughts came and thoughts went, but through it all the same
question always rose, as to what her children would say.

On the forenoon of the following day she put the answer to the test.

They were in the sitting-room.

She said that she had something important to tell them, something
that would mean a great change in their lives, something that would
be unexpected news to them. She asked them to listen as calmly as they
could, and not to let themselves be carried away by the first impression
into thoughtlessness. They must know that what she was about to tell
them was definitely decided, and that nothing they might say could make
her alter her decision.

“I am going to marry again,” she said, and told them of how she had
loved Thorbrogger, before she had known their father; how she had become
separated from him, and how they had now met again.

Elinor cried, but Tage had risen from his seat, utterly bewildered. He
then went close to her, kneeled down before her, and seized her hand.
Sobbing, half-stifled with emotion, he pressed it against his cheek with
infinite tenderness, with an expression of helplessness in every line of
his face.

“Oh, but mother, dearest mother, what have we done to you, have we not
always loved you, have we not always, both when we were with you
and when we were away from from you, wanted you as the best thing we
possessed in the world? We have never known father except through you;
it was you who taught us to love him, and if Elinor and I are so close
to each other, is it not because day after day you always pointed out
to each of us what was best in the other? And has it not been thus with
every other person to whom we became attached, do we not owe everything
to you? We owe everything to you, and we worship you, mother, if you
only knew.... Oh, you cannot imagine, how much we want your love, want
you beyond all bounds and limits, but there again you have taught us to
restrain our love, and we never dare to come as close to your heart as
we should like. And now you say that you are going to leave us entirely,
and put us to one side. But that is impossible. Only one who wanted to
do us the greatest harm in the world could do anything as frightful as
that, and you don’t want to do us the greatest harm, you want only what
is best for us--how can it then be possible? Say quickly that it is not
true; say it is not true, Tage, it is not true, Elinor.”

“Tage, Tage, don’t be so distressed, and don’t make it so hard, both for
yourself and us others.”

Tage rose.

“Hard,” he said, “hard, hard, oh were it nothing but that, but it is
horrible--unnatural; it is enough to drive one insane, merely to think
of it. Have you any idea of the things you make me think of? My mother
loved by a strange man, my mother desired, held in the arms of another
and holding him in hers. Nice thoughts for a son, worse than the worst
insult--but it is impossible, must be impossible, must be! Are the
prayers of a son to be as powerless as that! Elinor, don’t sit there and
cry, come and help me beg mother to have pity on us.”

Mrs. Fonss made a restraining gesture with her hand and said: “Let
Elinor alone, she is probably tired enough, and besides I have told you
that nothing can be changed.”

“I wish I were dead,” said Elinor, “but, mother, everything that Tage
has said is true, and it never can be right that at our age you should
give us a step-father.”

“Step-father,” cried Tage, “I hope that he does not for one moment
dare.... You are mad. Where he enters, we go out. There isn’t any power
on earth that can force me into the slightest intimacy with that
person. Mother must choose--he or we! If they go to Denmark after their
marriage, then we are exiles; if they stay here, we leave.”

“And those are your intentions, Tage?” asked Mrs. Fonss.

“I don’t think you need doubt that; imagine the life. Ida and I are
sitting out there on the terrace on a moonlit evening, and behind the
laurel-bushes some one is whispering. Ida asks who is whispering, and
I reply that it is my mother and her new husband.--No, no, I shouldn’t
have said that; but you see the effect of it already, the pain it causes
me, and you may be sure that it won’t help Elinor’s health either.”

Mrs. Fonss let the children go while she remained sitting here.

No, Tage was right, it had not been good for them. How far from her they
had already gone in that short hour! How they looked at her, not like
her children, but like their father’s! How quick they were to desert her
as soon as they saw that not every motion of her heart was theirs! But
she was not only Tage’s and Elinor’s mother alone; she was also a human
being on her own account, with a life of her own and hopes of her own,
quite apart from them. But she was, perhaps, not quite as young as she
had believed herself to be. This had come to her in the conversation
with her children. Had she not sat there, timid, in spite of her words;
had she not almost felt like one who was trespassing upon the rights of
youth? Were not all the exorbitant demands of youth and all its naive
tyranny in everything they had said?--It is for us to love, life belongs
to us, and your life it is but to exist for us.

She began to understand that there might be a satisfaction in being
quite old; not that she wished it, but yet old age smiled faintly at
her like a far-distant peace, coming after all the agitation of recent
times, and now when the prospect of so much discord was so near. For she
did not believe that her children would ever change their mind, and yet
she had to discuss it with them over and over again before she gave up
hope. The best thing would be for Thorbrogger to leave immediately. With
his presence no longer here the children might be less irritable, and
she could try to show them how eager she was to be as considerate as
possible to them. In time the first bitterness would disappear, and
everything... no, she did not believe, that everything would turn out
well.

They agreed that Thorbrogger should leave for Denmark to arrange their
affairs. For the time being they would remain here. It seemed, however,
that nothing was gained by this. The children avoided her. Tage spent
all his time with Ida or her father, and Elinor stayed all the time
with the invalid, Mrs. Kastager. And when they happened to be actually
together, the old intimacy, the old feeling of comfort, was gone. Where
were the thousand subjects for conversation, and, when finally they
found one, where was the interest in it? They sat there keeping up
a conversation like people who for a while have enjoyed each other’s
company, and now must part. All the thoughts of those who are about to
leave are fixed on the journey’s end, and those who remain think only
of settling hack into the daily life and daily routine, as soon as the
strangers have left.

There was no longer any common interest in their life; all the feeling
of belonging together had disappeared. They were able to talk about
what they were going to do next week, next month, or even the month
following, but it did not interest them as though it had to do with days
out of their own lives. It was merely a time of waiting, which somehow
or other had to be endured, for all three mentally asked themselves: And
what then? They felt no solid foundation in their lives; there was no
ground to build upon before this, which had separated them, was settled.

Every day that passed the children forgot more and more what their
mother had meant to them, in the fashion in which children who believe
themselves wronged will forget a thousand benefactions for the sake of
one injustice.

Tage was the most sensitive of them, but also the one who was hurt
most deeply, because he had loved most. He had wept through long nights
because of his mother whom he could not retain in the way in which he
wanted. There were times when the memory of her love almost deafened all
other feelings in his heart. One day he even went to her and beseeched
and implored her that she might belong to them, to them alone, and not
to any other one, and the answer had been a “no.” And this “no” had made
him hard and cold. At first he had been afraid of this coldness, because
it was accompanied by a frightful emptiness.

The case with Elinor was different. In a strange way she had felt that
it was an injustice toward her father, and she began to worship him like
a fetish. Even though she but dimly remembered him, she recreated him
for herself in most vivid fashion by becoming absorbed in everything
she had ever heard about him. She asked Kastager about him and Tage,
and every morning and night she kissed a medallion-portrait of his which
belonged to her. She longed with a somewhat hysterical desire for some
letters from him which she had left at home, and for things which had
once belonged to him.

In proportion as the father in this way rose in her estimation, the
mother sank. The fact that she had fallen in love with a man harmed
her less in her daughter’s eyes; but she was no lenger the mother, the
unfailing, the wisest, the supreme, most beautiful. She was a woman like
other women; not quite, but just because not quite, it was possible to
criticize and judge her and to find weaknesses and faults in her. Elinor
was glad that she had not confided her unhappy love to her mother; but
she did not know how much it was due to her mother that she had not done
so.

One day passed like another, and their life became more and more
unendurable. All three felt that it was useless; instead of bringing
them together, it only drove them further apart.

Mrs. Kastager had now recovered. Though she had not played an active
part in anything that had happened, she knew more about the situation
than any one else, because everything had been told her. One day she
had a long talk with Mrs. Fonss who was glad that there was some one who
would quietly listen to her plans for the future. In this conversation
Mrs. Kastager suggested that the children go with her to Nice, while
they sent for Thorbrogger to come to Avignon, so that they might be
married. Kastager could stay on as witness.

Mrs. Fonss wavered a little while longer, for she had been unable to
discover what her children’s reaction would be. When they were told,
they accepted it with proud silence, and when they were pressed for
answer, they merely said that they would, of course, adjust themselves
to whatever she decided to do.

So things turned out as Mrs. Kastager had proposed. She said good-by to
the children, and they left; Thorbrogger came, and they were married.

Spain became their home; Thorbrogger chose it for the sake of
sheep-farming.

Neither of them wished to return to Denmark.

And they lived happily in Spain.

She wrote several times to her children, but in their first violent
anger that she had left them, they returned the letters. Later they
regretted it; they were unable, however, to admit this to their mother
and to write to her; for that reason all communication between them
ceased. But now and then in round about ways they heard about each
other’s lives.

For five years Thorbrogger and his wife lived happily, but then she
suddenly fell ill. It was a disease whose course ran swiftly and whose
end was necessarily fatal. Her strength dwindled hourly, and one day
when the grave was no longer far away she wrote to her children.

“Dear children,” she wrote, “I know that you will read this letter, for
it will not reach you until after my death. Do not be afraid, there are
no reproaches in these lines; would that I might make them bear enough
love.

“When people love, Tage and Elinor, little Elinor, the one who loves
most must always humble himself, and therefore I come to you once more,
as in my thoughts I shall come to you every hour as long as I am able.
One who is about to die, dear children, is very poor; I am very poor,
for all this beautiful world, which for so many years has been my
abundant and kindly home, is to be taken from me. My chair will stand
here empty, the door will close behind me, and never again will I set my
foot here. Therefore I look at everything with the prayer in my eye that
it shall hold me in kind memory. Therefore I come to you and beg that
you will love me with all the love which once you had for me; for
remember that not to be forgotten is the only part in the living world
which from now on is to be mine; just to be remembered, nothing more.

“I have never doubted your love; I knew very well that it was your great
love, that caused your great anger; had you loved me less, you would
have let me go more easily. And therefore I want to say to you, that
should some day it happen that a man bowed down with sorrow come to your
door to speak with you concerning me, to talk about me to relieve his
sorrow, then remember that no one has loved me as he has, and that all
the happiness which can radiate from a human heart has come from him to
me. And soon in the last great hour he will hold my hand in his when the
darkness comes, and his words will be the last I shall hear....

“Farewell, I say it here, but it is not the farewell which will be the
last to you; it I will say as late as I dare, and all my love will be
in it, and all the longings for so many, many years, and the memories
of the time when you were small, and a thousand wishes and a thousand
thanks. Farewell Tage, farewell Elinor, farewell until the last
farewell.

“YOUR MOTHER.”





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