Pelle the Conqueror, Complete
Martin Anderson Nexo
Part 22 out of 23
The doctor was very doubtful about Johanna's condition. "I'm afraid that
the fits will increase rather than decrease," he said in a whisper. "It
would be better if she were sent to the hospital as soon as she's able
to be moved."
"Would it be better for her?" asked Ellen.
"No, not exactly for her, but--she'll be a difficult patient, you know!"
"Then she shall remain here," said Ellen; "she shall be well looked
Lasse Frederik had to take his bicycle and ride to the chemist's, and
immediately after the doctor drove away.
They sat outside the garden door, so that they could hear any sound from
the sick girl, and talked together in low tones. It was sad to see
Morten; Johanna's flight from him had wounded him deeply.
"I wonder why she did it?" said Pelle.
"She's been strange ever since you came up and proposed that she should
come out to you," said Morten sadly. "She got it into her head that she
was a burden to me and that I would like to get rid of her. Two or three
days ago she got up while I was out, and began working in the house--I
suppose as a return for my keeping her. She's morbidly sensitive. When I
distinctly forbade her she declared that she wouldn't owe me anything
and meant to go away. I knew that she might very likely do it in spite
of her being ill, so I stayed at home. At midday to-day I just went down
to fetch milk, and when I came up she was gone. It was a good thing she
came out here; I think she'd do anything when once the idea's taken her
that she's a burden."
"She must be very fond of you," said Ellen, looking at him.
"I don't think so," answered Morten, with a sad smile. "At any rate,
she's hidden it well. My impression is that she's hated me ever since
the day we spoke of her coming out here.--May I stay here for the
"If you can put up with what we have," answered Ellen. "It won't be a
luxurious bed, but it'll be something to lie down on."
Morten did not want a bed, however. "I'll sit up and watch over
Johanna," he said.
The house was thus transformed into a nursing home. It was a hard hit at
their careless happiness, but they took it as it came. Neither of them
demanded more of life than it was capable of.
Ellen was with the sick girl day and night until the worst was over; she
neglected both Pelle and the children to give all her care to Johanna.
"You've got far too much to do," said Pelle anxiously. "It'll end in
your being ill too. Do let us have help!" And as Ellen would not hear of
it, he took the matter into his own hands, and got "Queen Theresa" to be
out there during the day.
In the course of a few days Morten arranged his affairs, got rid of his
flat, and moved out to them. "You won't be able to run away from me,
after all," he said to Johanna, who was sitting up in bed listening to
the carrying upstairs of his things. "When you're well enough you shall
be moved up into the big attic; and then we two shall live upstairs and
be jolly again, won't we?"
She made no answer, but flushed with pleasure.
Ellen now received from Morten the amount he usually spent in a month on
food and house-rent. She was quite disconcerted. What was she to do with
all that money? It was far too much! Well, they need no longer be
anxious about their rent.
Johanna was soon so far recovered as to be able to get up for a little.
The country air had a beneficial effect upon her nerves, and Ellen knew
how to keep her in good spirits. Old Brun made her a present of a
beautiful red and yellow reclining chair of basket work; and when the
sun shone she was carried out onto the grass, where she lay and watched
the children's play, sometimes joining in the game from her chair, and
ordering them hither and thither. Boy Comfort submitted to it good-
naturedly, but Sister was a little more reserved. She did not like this
stranger to call Pelle "father"; and when she was in a teasing mood she
would stand a little way off and repeat again and again: "He's not your
father, for he's mine!" until Ellen took her away.
Johanna mostly lay, however, gazing into space with an expression of the
utmost weariness. For a moment her attention would be attracted by
anything new, but then her eyes wandered away again. She was never well
enough to walk about; even when she felt well, her legs would not
support her. Brun came out to "Daybreak" every afternoon to see her. The
old man was deeply affected by her sad fate, and had given up his usual
holiday trip in order to keep himself acquainted with her condition. "We
must do something for her," he said to the doctor, who paid a daily
visit at his request. "Is there nothing that can be done?"
The doctor shook his head. "She couldn't be better off anywhere than she
is here," he said.
They were all fond of her, and did what they could to please her. Brun
always brought something with him, expensive things, such as beautiful
silk blankets that she could have over her when she lay out in the
garden, and a splendid coral necklace. He got her everything that he
could imagine she would like. Her eyes sparkled whenever she received
anything new, and she put everything on. "Now I'm a princess in all her
finery," she whispered, smiling at him; but a moment after she had
forgotten all about it. She was very fond of the old man, made him sit
beside her, and called him "grandfather" with a mournful attempt at
roguishness. She did not listen to what he told her, however, and when
the little ones crept up and wanted him to come with them to play in the
field, he could quite well go, for she did not notice it.
Alas! nothing could reconcile her child's soul to her poor, maltreated
body, neither love nor trinkets. It was as though it were weary of its
covering and had soared as far out as possible, held captive by a thin
thread that would easily wear through. She grew more transparent every
day; it could be clearly seen now that she had the other children beside
her. They ate and throve for her as well as themselves! When Ellen was
not on the watch, Boy Comfort would come and eat up Johanna's invalid
food, though goodness knew he wasn't starved! Johanna herself looked on
calmly; it was all a matter of such indifference to her.
It was an unusually fine summer, dry and sunny, and they could nearly
always be in the garden. They generally gathered there toward evening;
Ellen and "Queen Theresa" had finished their house work, and sat by
Johanna with their sewing, Brun kept them company with his cheerful
talk, and Johanna lay and dozed with her face toward the garden gate.
They laughed and joked with her to keep her in good spirits. Brun had
promised her a trip to the South if she would make haste to use her
legs, and told her about the sun down there and the delicious grapes and
oranges that she would be allowed to pick herself. She answered
everything with her sad smile, as though she knew all too well what
awaited her. Her thick, dark hair overshadowed more and more her pale
face; it was as if night were closing over her. She seemed to be dozing
slowly out of existence, with her large eyes turned toward the garden
Morten was often away on lecturing tours, sometimes for several days at
a time. When at last he entered the gate, life flashed into her face. He
was the only one who could recall her spirit to its surroundings; it was
as though it only lingered on for him. She was no longer capricious with
him. When she had the strength for it, she sat up and threw her arms
round his neck; her tears flowed silently, and her longing found free
vent. Ellen understood the child's feelings, and signed to the others to
leave the two together. Morten would then sit for hours beside her,
telling her all that he had been doing; she never seemed to grow weary,
but lay and listened to him with shining eyes, her transparent hand
resting upon his arm. Every step he took interested her; sometimes a
peculiar expression came into her eyes, and she fell suspiciously upon
some detail or other. Her senses were morbidly keen; the very scent of
strange people about him made her sullen and suspicious.
"The poor, poor child! She loves him!" said Ellen one day to Pelle, and
suddenly burst into tears. "And there she lies dying!" Her own happiness
made her so fully conscious of the child's condition.
"But dearest Ellen!" exclaimed Pelle in protest. "Don't you think I can
see? That's of course why she's always been so strange to him. How sad
The child's sad fate cast a shadow over the others, but the sun rose
high in the heavens and became still stronger.
"Pelle," said Ellen, stroking his hair, "the light nights will soon be
Morten continued obstinately to believe that little Johanna would
recover, but every one else could see distinctly what the end was to be.
Her life oozed away with the departing summer. She became gentler and
more manageable every day. The hatred in her was extinguished; she
accepted all their kindness with a tired smile. Through her spoiled
being there radiated a strange charm, bearing the stamp of death, which
seemed to unfold itself the more as she drew nearer to the grave.
Later in the autumn her nature changed. Suddenly, when Pelle or Morten
approached, her eyes would fill with horror and she would open her mouth
to cry out; but when she recognized them, she nestled down in their
arms, crying pitifully. She could no longer go into the garden, but
always kept her bed. She could not bear the noise of the children; it
tortured her and carried her thoughts back to the narrow streets: they
had to keep out of doors all day. Delirious attacks became more
frequent, and her thin, languid voice became once more rough and hoarse.
She lay fighting with boys and roughs and high hats, defended herself
with nicknames and abusive epithets, and snarled at every one, until she
at last gave in and asked for brandy, and lay crying softly to herself.
Old Brun never dared show himself at her bedside; she took him for an
old chamberlain that the street-boys had set onto her, and received him
with coarse demands.
This insight into the child's terrible existence among the timber-stacks
affected them all. It seemed as if the malignity of life would not relax
its hold on this innocent victim, but would persecute her as long as
life remained, and made all their love useless. Morten stayed with her
during the days in which she fought her battle with death; he sat
watching her from a corner, only venturing nearer when she dozed. Ellen
was the only one who had the strength to meet it. She was with Johanna
night and day, and tried to make death easier for her by her unwearying
care; and when the fits came over the child, she held her in her arms
and sought to calm her with a mother's love.
She had never been in a death-chamber before, but did not quail; and the
child died upon her breast.
* * * * *
Johanna's death had completely paralyzed Morten. As long as he possibly
could he had clung to the belief that her life might be saved; if not,
it would be so unreasonably unjust; and when her hopeless condition
became apparent to him, he collapsed. He did nothing, but wandered about
dully, spoke to no one and ate very little. It was as though he had
received a blow on the head from a heavy hand.
After the funeral he and Pelle walked home together while the others
drove. Pelle talked of indifferent matters in order to draw Morten's
thoughts away from the child, but Morten did not listen to him.
"My dear fellow, you can't go on like this," said Pelle suddenly,
putting his arm through Morten's. "You've accompanied the poor child
along the road as far as you could, and the living have some claim on
Morten raised his head. "What does it matter whether I write a few pages
more or less?" he said wearily.
"Your pen was given you to defend the defenceless with; you mustn't give
up," said Pelle.
Morten laughed bitterly. "And haven't I pleaded the cause of the
children as well as I could, and been innocent enough to believe that
there, at any rate, it was only necessary to open people's eyes in order
to touch their hearts? And what has been gained? The addition, at the
most, of one more volume to the so-called good literature. Men are
practical beings; you can with the greatest ease get them to shed
theater tears; they're quite fond of sitting in the stalls and weeping
with the unfortunate man; but woe to him if they meet him again in the
street! The warmest words that have ever been spoken to me about my
descriptions of children were from an old gentleman whom I afterward
found to be trying to get hold of little children."
"But what are you going to do?" said Pelle, looking at him with concern.
"Yes, what am I going to do--tell me that! You're right in saying I'm
indifferent, but can one go on taking part in a battle that doesn't even
spare the children? Do you remember my little sister Karen, who had to
drown herself? How many thousand children are there not standing behind
her and Johanna! They call this the children's century, and the
children's blood is crying out from the earth! They're happy when they
can steal away. Fancy if Johanna had lived on with her burden! The
shadows of childhood stretch over the whole of life."
"Yes, and so does the sunshine of childhood!" exclaimed Pelle. "That's
why we mustn't fail the poor little ones. We shall need a race with warm
"That's just what I've thought," said Morten sadly. "Do you know, Pelle,
I _loved_ that child who came to me from the very lowest depth. She
was everything to me; misery has never come so cruelly near to me
before. It was a beautiful dream of mine--a foolish dream--that she
would live. I was going to coax life and happiness into her again, and
then I would have written a book about all that triumphs. I don't know
whether you understand me--about misery that becomes health and
happiness beneath the sunshine of kindness. She was that; life could
hardly be brought lower! But did you notice how much beauty and delicacy
there was after all buried beneath the sewer-mud in her? I had looked
forward to bringing it out, freed from all want and ugliness, and
showing the world how beautiful we are down here when the mud is scraped
off us. Perhaps it might have induced them to act justly. That's what I
dreamed, but it's a bitter lot to have the unfortunates appointed to be
one's beloved. My only love is irretrievably dead, and now I cannot
write about anything that triumphs. What have I to do with that?"
"I think it's Victor Hugo who says that the heart is the only bird that
carries its cage," said Pelle, "but your heart refuses to take it when
there is most use for it."
"Oh, no!" said Morten with a little more energy. "I shan't desert you;
but this has been a hard blow for me. If only I had a little more of
your clear faith! Well, I must be glad that I have you yourself," he
added, holding out his hand to Pelle with a bright smile.
The librarian came across the fields to meet them. "It's taken you two
Dioseuri a long time," he said, looking at them attentively. "Ellen's
waiting with the dinner."
The three men walked together up the bare stubblefield toward the house.
"The best of the summer's over now," said Brun, looking about with a
sigh. "The wheel has turned on one more cog!"
"Death isn't the worst thing that can happen to one," answered Morten,
who was still in a morbid mood.
"That's the sort of thing one says while one's young and prosperous--and
doesn't mean seriously. To-morrow life will have taken you and your
sorrow into its service again. But I have never been young until now
that I've learned to know you two, so I count every fleeting hour like a
miser--and envy you who can walk so quickly," he added with a smile.
They walked up more slowly, and as they followed the hedge up toward the
house they heard a faint whimpering in the garden. In a hole in an empty
bed, which the two children had dug with their spades, sat Boy Comfort,
and Sister was busy covering him with earth; it was already up to his
neck. He was making no resistance, but only whimpered a little when the
mould began to get near his mouth.
Pelle gave the alarm and leaped the hedge, and Ellen at the same moment
came running out. "You might have suffocated little brother!" she said
with consternation, taking the boy in her arms.
"I was only planting him," said Anna, offended at having her work
destroyed. "He wanted to be, and of course he'd come up again in the
spring!" The two children wanted a little brother, and had agreed that
Boy Comfort should sacrifice himself.
"You mustn't do such things," said Ellen quietly. "You'll get a little
brother in the spring anyhow." And she looked at Pelle with a loving
Work went on steadily in the cooperative works. It made no great stir;
in the Movement they had almost forgotten that it existed at all. It was
a long and difficult road that Pelle had set out on, but he did not for
a moment doubt that it led to the end he had in view, and he set about
it seriously. Never had his respiration been so slow.
At present he was gaining experience. He and Peter Dreyer had trained a
staff of good workmen, who knew what was at stake, and did not allow
themselves to be upset even if a foreign element entered. The business
increased steadily and required new men; but Pelle had no difficulty
with the new forces; the undertaking was so strong that it swallowed
them and remodelled them.
The manufacturers at any rate remembered his existence, and tried to
injure him at every opportunity. This pleased him, for it established
the fact that he was a danger to them. Through their connections they
closed credit, and when this did not lead to anything, because he had
Brun's fortune to back him up, they boycotted him with regard to
materials by forcing the leather-merchants not to sell to him. He then
had to import his materials from abroad. It gave him a little extra
trouble, and now it was necessary to have everything in order, so that
they should not come to a standstill for want of anything.
One day an article was lacking in a new consignment, and the whole thing
was about to come to a standstill. He managed to obtain it by stratagem,
but he was angry. "I should like to hit those leather-merchants back,"
he said to Brun. "If we happen to be in want of anything, we're obliged
to get it by cunning. Don't you think we might take the shop next door,
and set up a leather business? It would be a blow to the others, and
then we should always have what we want to use. We shouldn't get rich on
it, so I think the small masters in out-of-the-way corners would be glad
to have us."
Brun had no objection to making a little more war to the knife. There
was too little happening for his taste!
The new business opened in October. Pelle would have had Peter Dreyer to
be at the head of it, but he refused. "I'm sure I'm not suited for
buying and selling," he said gloomily, so Pelle took one of the young
workmen from the workshop into the business, and kept an eye upon it
It at once put a little more life into things; there was always plenty
of material. They now produced much more than they were able to sell in
the shop, and Pelle's leather shop made the small masters independent of
private capital. Many of them sold a little factory foot-wear in
addition to doing repairs, and these now took their goods from him. Out
in the provinces his boots and shoes had already gained a footing in
many places; it had come about naturally, in the ordinary sequence of
things. The manufacturers followed them up there too, wherever they
could; but the consequence was that the workmen patronized them and
forced them in again to the shops of which they themselves were the
customers. A battle began to rage over Pelle's boots and shoes.
He knew, however, that it was only the beginning. It would soon come to
a great conflict, and were his foundations sufficiently strong for that?
The manufacturers were establishing a shop opposite his, where the goods
were to be sold cheap in order to ruin his sales, and one day they put
the prices very much down on everything, so as to extinguish him
"Let them!" said Brun. "People will be able to get shoes cheap!" Pelle
was troubled, however, at this fresh attack. Even if they held out, it
might well exhaust their economic strength.
The misfortune was that they were too isolated; they were as yet like
men washed up onto an open shore; they had nothing to fall back upon.
The employers had long since discovered that they were just as
international as the workmen, and had adopted Pelle's old organization
idea. It was not always easy, either, to get materials from abroad; he
noticed the connection. Until he had got the tanners to start a
cooperative business, he ran the risk of having his feet knocked away
from under him at any moment. And in the first place he must have the
great army of workmen on his side; that was whither everything pointed.
One day he found himself once more after many years on the lecturer's
platform, giving his first lecture on cooperation. It was very strange
to stand once more before his own people and feel their faces turned
toward him. At present they looked upon him as one who had come from
abroad with new ideas, or perhaps only a new invention; but he meant to
win them! Their very slowness promised well when once it was overcome.
He knew them again; they were difficult to get started, but once started
could hardly be stopped again. If his idea got proper hold of these men
with their huge organizations and firm discipline, it would be
insuperable. He entered with heart and soul into the agitation, and gave
a lecture every week in a political or trade association.
"Pelle, how busy you are!" said Ellen, when he came home. Her condition
filled him with happiness; it was like a seal upon their new union. She
had withdrawn a little more into herself, and over her face and figure
there was thrown a touch of dreamy gentleness. She met him at the gate
now a little helpless and remote--a young mother, to be touched with
careful hands. He saw her thriving from day to day, and had a happy
feeling that things were growing for him on all sides.
They did not see much of Morten. He was passing through a crisis, and
preferred to be by himself. He was always complaining that he could not
get on with his work. Everything he began, no matter how small, stuck
"That's because you don't believe in it any longer," said Pelle. "He who
doubts in his work cuts through the branch upon which he is himself
Morten listened to him with an expression of weariness. "It's much more
than that," he said, "for it's the men themselves I doubt, Pelle. I feel
cold and haven't been able to find out why; but now I know. It's because
men have no heart. Everything growing is dependent upon warmth, but the
whole of our culture is built upon coldness, and that's why it's so cold
"The poor people have a heart though," said Pelle. "It's that and not
common sense that keeps them up. If they hadn't they'd have gone to ruin
long ago--simply become animals. Why haven't they, with all their
misery? Why does the very sewer give birth to bright beings?"
"Yes, the poor people warm one another, but they're blue with cold all
the same! And shouldn't one rather wish that they had no heart to be
burdened with in a community that's frozen to the very bottom? I envy
those who can look at misery from a historical point of view and comfort
themselves with the future. I think myself that the good will some day
conquer, but it's nevertheless fearfully unreasonable that millions
shall first go joyless to the grave in the battle to overcome a folly.
I'm an irreconcilable, that's what it is! My mind has arranged itself
for other conditions, and therefore I suffer under those that exist.
Even so ordinary a thing as to receive money causes me suffering. It's
mine, but I can't help following it back in my thoughts. What want has
been caused by its passing into my hands? How much distress and weeping
may be associated with it? And when I pay it out again I'm always
troubled to think that those who've helped me get too little--my
washerwoman and the others. They can scarcely live, and the fault is
mine among others! Then my thoughts set about finding out the others'
wants and I get no peace; every time I put a bit of bread into my mouth,
or see the stores in the shops, I can't help thinking of those who are
starving. I suffer terribly through not being able to alter conditions
of which the folly is so apparent. It's of no use for me to put it down
to morbidness, for it's not that; it's a forestalling in myself. We must
all go that way some day, if the oppressed do not rise before then and
turn the point upward. You see I'm condemned to live in all the others'
miseries, and my own life has not been exactly rich in sunshine. Think
of my childhood, how joyless it was! I haven't your fund to draw from,
Pelle, remember that!"
No, there had not been much sunshine on Morten's path, and now he
cowered and shivered with cold.
One evening, however, he rushed into the sitting-room, waving a sheet of
paper. "I've received a legacy," he cried. "Tomorrow morning I shall
start for the South."
"But you'll have to arrange your affairs first," said Pelle.
"Arrange?" Morten laughed. "Oh, no! You're always ready to start on a
journey. All my life I've been ready for a tour round the world at an
hour's notice!" He walked to and fro, rubbing his hands. "Ah, now I
shall drink the sunshine--let myself be baked through and through! I
think it'll be good for my chest to hop over a winter."
"How far are you going?" asked Ellen, with shining eyes.
"To Southern Italy and Spain. I want to go to a place where the cold
doesn't pull off the coats of thousands while it helps you on with your
furs. And then I want to see people who haven't had a share in the
blessings of mechanical culture, but upon whom the sun has shone to make
up for it--sunshine-beings like little Johanna and her mother and
grandmother, but who've been allowed to live. Oh, how nice it'll be to
see for once poor people who aren't cold!"
"Just let him get off as quickly as possible," said Ellen, when Morten
had gone up to pack; "for if he once gets the poor into his mind, it'll
all come to nothing. I expect I shall put a few of your socks and a
little underclothing into his trunk; he's got no change. If only he'll
see that his things go to the wash, and that they don't ruin them with
"Don't you think you'd better look after him a little while he's
packing?" asked Pelle. "Or else I'm afraid he'll not take what he'll
really want. Morten would sometimes forget his own head."
Ellen went upstairs with the things she had looked out. It was fortunate
that she did so, for Morten had packed his trunk quite full of books,
and laid the necessary things aside. When she took everything out and
began all over again, he fidgeted about and was quite unhappy; it had
been arranged so nicely, the fiction all together in one place, the
proletariat writings in another; he could have put his hand in and taken
out anything he wanted. But Ellen had no mercy. Everything had to be
emptied onto the floor, and he had to bring every stitch of clothing he
possessed and lay them on chairs, whence she selected the necessary
garments. At each one that was placed in the trunk, Morten protested
meekly: it really could not be worth while to take socks with him, nor
yet several changes of linen; you simply bought them as you required
them. Indeed? Could it not? But it was worth while lugging about a big
trunk full of useless books like any colporteur, was it?
Ellen was on her knees before the trunk, and was getting on with her
task. Pelle came up and stood leaning against the door-jamb, looking at
them. "That's right! Just give him a coating of paint that will last
till he gets home again!" he said, laughing. "He may need it badly."
Morten sat upon a chair looking crestfallen. "Thank goodness, I'm not
married!" he said. "I really begin to be sorry for you, Pelle." It was
evident that he was enjoying being looked after.
"Yes, now you can see what a domestic affliction I have to bear," Pelle
Ellen let them talk. The trunk was now cram full, and she had the
satisfaction of knowing that he would not be going about like a tramp.
There were only his toilet articles left now; even those he had
forgotten. She drew a huge volume out of the pocket for these articles
inside the lid of the trunk to make room for his washing things; but at
that Morten sprang forward. "I _must_ have that with me, whatever
else is left out," he said with determination. It was Victor Hugo's "Les
Miserables," Morten's Bible.
Ellen opened it at the title-page to see if it really was so necessary
to travel about with such a monster; it was as big as a loaf.
"There's no room for it," she declared, and quietly laid it on one side,
"that's to say if you want things to wash yourself with; and you're sure
to meet plenty of unhappy people wherever you go, for there's always
enough of them everywhere."
"Then perhaps Madam will not permit me to take my writing things with
me?" questioned Morten, in a tone of supplication.
"Oh, yes!" answered Ellen, laughing, "and you may use them too, to do
something beautiful--that's to say if it's us poor people you're writing
for. There's sorrow and misery enough!"
"When the sun's shone properly upon me, I'll come home and write you a
book about it," said Morten seriously.
The following day was Sunday. Morten was up early and went out to the
churchyard. He was gone a long time, and they waited breakfast for him.
"He's coming now!" cried Lasse Frederik, who had been up to the hill
farm for milk. "I saw him down in the field."
"Then we can put the eggs on," said Ellen to Sister, who helped her a
little in the kitchen.
Morten was in a solemn mood. "The roses on Johanna's grave have been
picked again," he said. "I can't imagine how any one can have the heart
to rob the dead; they are really the poorest of us all."
"I'm glad to hear you say that!" exclaimed Pelle. "A month ago you
thought the dead were the only ones who were well off."
"You're a rock!" said Morten, smiling and putting his hands on the
other's shoulders. "If everything else were to change, we should always
know where you were to be found."
"Come to table!" cried Ellen, "but at once, or the surprise will be
cold." She stood waiting with a covered dish in her hand.
"Why, I believe you've got new-laid eggs there!" exclaimed Pelle, in
"Yes, the hens have begun to lay again the last few days. It must be in
"No, it's in honor of the fine weather, and because they're allowed to
run about anywhere now," said Lasse Frederik.
Morten laughed. "Lasse Frederik's an incorrigible realist," he said.
"Life needs no adornment for him."
Ellen looked well after Morten. "Now you must make a good breakfast,"
she said. "You can't be sure you'll get proper food out there in foreign
countries." She was thinking with horror of the messes her lodgers in
the "Palace" had put together.
The carriage was at the door, the trunk was put up beside the driver,
and Morten and Pelle got into the carriage, not before it was time
either. They started at a good pace, Lasse Frederik and Sister each
standing on a step all the way down to the main road. Up at the gable
window Ellen stood and waved, holding Boy Comfort by the hand.
"It must be strange to go away from everything," said Pelle.
"Yes, it might be strange for you," answered Morten, taking a last look
at Pelle's home. "But I'm not going away from anything; on the contrary,
I'm going to meet things."
"It'll be strange at any rate not having you walking about overhead any
more, especially for Ellen and the children. But I suppose we shall hear
"Oh, yes! and you'll let me hear how your business gets on, won't you?"
The train started. Pelle felt his heart contract as he stood and gazed
after it, feeling as though it were taking part of him with it. It had
always been a dream of his to go out and see a little of the world; ever
since "Garibaldi" had appeared in the little workshop at home in the
provincial town he had looked forward to it. Now Morten was going, but
he himself would never get away; he must be content with the "journey
abroad" he had had. For a moment Pelle stood looking along the lines
where the train had disappeared, with his thoughts far away in
melancholy dreams; then he woke up and discovered that without intending
it he had been feeling his home a clog upon his feet. And there were
Ellen and the children at home watching for his coming, while he stood
here and dreamed himself away from them! They would do nothing until he
came, for Sunday was his day, the only day they really had him. He
hurried out and jumped onto a tram.
As he leaped over the ditch into the field at the tramway terminus, he
caught sight of Brun a little farther along the path. The old librarian
was toiling up the hill, his asthma making him pause every now and then.
"He's on his way to us!" said Pelle to himself, touched at the thought;
it had not struck him before how toilsome this walk over ploughed fields
and along bad roads must be for the old man; and yet he did it several
times in the week to come out and see them.
"Well, here I am again!" said Brun. "I only hope you're not getting
tired of me."
"There's no danger of that!" answered Pelle, taking his arm to help him
up the hill. "The children are quite silly about you!"
"Yes, the children--I'm safe enough with them, and with you too, Pelle;
but your wife makes me a little uncertain."
"Ellen's rather reserved, but it's only her manner; she's very fond of
you," said Pelle warmly. "Any one who takes the children on his knee
wins Ellen's heart."
"Do you really think so? I've always despised woman because she lacks
personality--until I got to know your wife. She's an exceptional wife
you've got, Pelle; hers is a strong nature, so strong that she makes me
uncertain. Couldn't you get her to leave off calling me Mr. Brun?"
"I'll tell her," said Pelle, laughing; "but I'm not sure it'll be of any
"This _Mr. Brun_ is beginning to be an intolerable person, let me
tell you; and in your house I should like to get away from him. Just
imagine what it means to be burdened all your life with a gentleman like
that, who doesn't stand in close relationship to anybody at all. Others
are called 'Father,' 'Grandfather'--something or other human; but all
conditions of life dispose of me with a 'Mr. Brun'! 'Thank you, Mr.
Brun!' 'Many thanks, Mr. Brun!'" The old man had worked himself up, and
made the name a caricature.
"These are bad roads out here," he said suddenly, stopping to take
breath. "It's incomprehensible that these fields should be allowed to
lie here just outside the town--that speculation hasn't got hold of
"I suppose it's because of the boggy ground down there," said Pelle.
"They've begun to fill it in, however, at the north end, I see."
Brun peered in that direction with some interest, but gave it up,
shaking his head.
"No, I can't see so far without glasses; that's another of the blessings
bestowed by books. Yes, it is! Old people in the country only make use
of spectacles when they want to look at a book, but I have to resort to
them when I want to find my way about the world: that makes a great
difference. It's the fault of the streets and those stupid books that
I'm shortsighted; you don't get any outlook if you don't live in the
country. The town shuts up all your senses, and the books take you away
from life; so I'm thinking of moving out too."
"Is that wise now just before the winter? It wouldn't do for you to go
in and out in all kinds of weather."
"Then I'll give up the library," answered Brun. "I shan't miss it much;
I've spent enough of my life there. Fancy, Pelle! it occurred to me last
night that I'd helped to catalogue most of the literature of the world,
but haven't even seen a baby dressed! What right have people like me to
have an opinion?"
"I can't understand that," said Pelle. "Books have given me so much
"Yes, because you had the real thing. If I were young, I would go out
and set to work with my hands. I've missed more through never having
worked with my body till I was hot and tired, than you have through not
knowing the great classic writers. I'm discovering my own poverty,
Pelle; and I would willingly exchange everything for a place as
grandfather by a cozy fireside."
The children came running across the field. "Have you got anything for
us to-day?" they cried from a long distance.
"Yes, but not until we get into the warmth. I daren't unbutton my coat
out here because of my cough."
"Well, but you walk so slowly," said Boy Comfort. "Is it because you're
"Yes, that's it," answered the old man, laughing. "You must exercise a
Patience, however, was a thing of which the children possessed little,
and they seized hold of his coat and pulled him along. He was quite out
of breath when they reached the house.
Ellen looked severely at the children, but said nothing. She helped Brun
off with his coat and neckerchief, and after seeing him comfortably
seated in the sitting-room, went out into the kitchen. Pelle guessed
there was something she wanted to say to him, and followed her.
"Pelle," she said gravely, "the children are much too free with Mr.
Brun. I can't think how you can let them do it."
"Well, but he likes it, Ellen, or of course I should stop them. It's
just what he likes. And do you know what I think he would like still
better? If you would ask him to live with us."
"That I'll never do!" declared Ellen decidedly. "It would look so
extraordinary of me."
"But if he wants a home, and likes us? He's got no friends but us."
No--no, Ellen could not understand that all the same, with the little
they had to offer. And Brun, who could afford to pay for all the
comforts that could be had for money! "If he came, I should have to have
new table-linen at any rate, and good carpets on the floors, and lots of
"You can have them too," said Pelle. "Of course we'll have everything as
nice as we can, though Brun's quite as easily pleased as we are."
That might be so, but Ellen was the mistress of the house, and there
were things she could not let go. "If Mr. Brun would like to live with
us, he shall be made comfortable," she said; "but it's funny he doesn't
propose it himself, for he can do it much better than we can."
"No, it must come from us--from _you,_ Ellen. He's a little afraid
"Of me?" exclaimed Ellen, in dismay. "And I who would--why, there's no
one I'd sooner be kind to! Then I'll say it, Pelle, but not just now."
She put up her hands to her face, which was glowing with pleasure and
confusion at the thought that her little home was worth so much.
Pelle went back to the sitting-room. Brun was sitting on the sofa with
Boy Comfort on his knee. "He's a regular little urchin!" he said. "But
he's not at all like his mother. He's got your features all through."
"Ellen isn't his mother," said Pelle, in a low voice.
"Oh, isn't she! It's funny that he should have those three wrinkles in
his forehead like you; they're like the wave-lines in the countenance of
Denmark. You both look as if you were always angry."
"So we were at that time," said Pelle.
"Talking of anger"--Brun went on--"I applied to the police authorities
yesterday, and got them to promise to give up their persecution of Peter
Dreyer, on condition that he ceases his agitation among the soldiers."
"We shall never get him to agree to that; it would be the same thing as
requiring him to swear away his rights as a man. He has taught himself,
by a great effort, to use parliamentary expressions, and nobody'll ever
get him to do more. In the matter of the Cause itself he'll never yield,
and there I agree with him. If you mayn't even fight the existing
conditions with spiritual weapons, there'll be an end of everything."
"Yes, that's true," said Brun, "only I'm sorry for him. The police keep
him in a perpetual state of inflammation. He can't have any pleasure in
Pelle was always hoping that Peter Dreyer would acquire a calmer view of
life. It was his intention to start a cooperative business in the course
of the spring at Aarhus too, and Peter was appointed to start it. But
his spirit seemed incurable; every time he calmed down a little,
conditions roused him to antagonism again. This time it was the increase
of unemployment that touched him.
The senseless persecution, moreover, kept him in a state of perpetual
irritation. Even when he was left alone, as now, he had the feeling that
they were wondering how they could get him to blunder--apparently closed
their eyes in order to come down upon him with all the more force. He
never knew whether he was bought or sold.
The business was now so large that they had to move the actual factory
into the back building, and take the whole of the basement for the
repairing workshop. Peter Dreyer managed this workshop, and there was no
fault to find with his management; he was energetic and vigilant. He was
not capable, however, of managing work on a large scale, for his mind
was in constant oscillation. In spite of his abilities he was burning to
"He might drop his agitation and take up something more useful," said
Brun, one evening when he and Pelle sat discussing the matter.
"Nothing's accomplished by violence anyhow! And he's only running his
head against a brick wall himself!"
"You didn't think so some time ago," said Pelle. It was Brun's pamphlets
on the rights of the individual that had first roused Peter Dreyer's
"No, I know that. I once thought that the whole thing must be smashed to
pieces in order that a new world might arise out of chaos. I didn't know
you, and I didn't think my own class too good to be tossed aside; they
were only hindering the development. But you've converted me. I was a
little too quick to condemn your slowness; you have more connectedness
in you than I. Our little business in there has proved to me that the
common people are wise to admit their heritage from and debt to the
upper class. I'm sorry to see Peter running off the track; he's one of
your more talented men. Couldn't we get him out here? He could have one
of my rooms. I think he needs a few more comforts."
"You'd better propose it to him yourself," said Pelle.
The next day Brun went into town with Pelle and proposed it, but Peter
Dreyer declined with thanks. "I've no right to your comforts as long as
there are twenty thousand men that have neither food nor firing," he
said, dismissing the subject. "But you're an anarchist, of course," he
added scornfully, "and a millionaire, from what I hear; so the
unemployed have nothing to fear!" He had been disappointed on becoming
personally acquainted with the old philosopher, and never disguised his
"I think you know that I _have_ already placed my fortune at the
disposal of the poor," said Brun, in an offended tone, "and my manner of
doing so will, I hope, some day justify itself. If I were to divide what
I possess to-day among the unemployed, it would have evaporated like dew
by to-morrow, so tremendous, unfortunately, is the want now."
Peter Dreyer shrugged his shoulders. The more reason was there, he
thought, to help.
"Would you have us sacrifice our great plan of making all want
unnecessary, for one meal of food to the needy?" asked Pelle.
Yes, Peter saw only the want of to-day; it was such a terrible reality
to him that the future must take care of itself.
A change had taken place in him, and he seemed quite to have given up
"He sees too much," said Pelle to Brun, "and now his heart has dominated
his reason. We'd better leave him alone; we shan't in any case get him
to admit anything, and we only irritate him. It's impossible to live
with all that he always has before his eyes, and yet keep your head
clear; you must either shut your eyes and harden yourself, or let
yourself be broken to pieces."
Peter Dreyer's heart was the obstruction. He often had to stop in the
middle of his work and gasp for breath. "I'm suffocated!" he would say.
There were many like him. The ever-increasing unemployment began to
spread panic in men's minds. It was no longer only the young, hot-headed
men who lost patience. Out of the great compact mass of organization, in
which it had hitherto been impossible to distinguish the individual
beings, simple-minded men suddenly emerged and made themselves
ridiculous by bearing the truth of the age upon their lips. Poor people,
who understood nothing of the laws of life, nevertheless awakened,
disappointed, out of the drowsiness into which the rhythm had lulled
them, and stirred impatiently. Nothing happened except that one picked
trade after another left them to become middle-class.
The Movement had hitherto been the fixed point of departure; from it
came everything that was of any importance, and the light fell from it
over the day. But now suddenly a germ was developed in the simplest of
them, and they put a note of interrogation after the party-cry. To
everything the answer was: When the Movement is victorious, things will
be otherwise. But how could they be otherwise when no change had taken
place even now when they had the power? A little improvement, perhaps,
but no change. It had become the regular refrain, whenever a woman gave
birth to a child in secret, or a man stole, or beat his wife:--It is a
consequence of the system! Up and vote, comrades! But now it was
beginning to sound idiotic in their ears. They were voting, confound it,
with all their might, but all the same everything was becoming dearer!
Goodness knows they were law-abiding enough. They were positively
perspiring with parliamentarianism, and would soon be doing nothing but
getting mandates. And what then? Did any one doubt that the poor man was
in the majority--an overwhelming majority? What was all this nonsense
then that the majority were to gain? No, those who had the power would
take good care to keep it; so they might win whatever stupid mandates
Men had too much respect for the existing conditions, and so they were
always being fooled by them. It was all very well with all this
lawfulness, but you didn't only go gradually from the one to the other!
How else was it that nothing of the new happened? The fact was that
every single step toward the new was instantly swallowed up by the
existing condition of things, and turned to fat on its ribs. Capital
grew fat, confound it, no matter what you did with it; it was like a
cat, which always falls upon its feet. Each time the workmen obtained by
force a small rise in their wages, the employers multiplied it by two
and put it onto the goods; that was why they were beginning to be so
accommodating with regard to certain wage-demands. Those who were rather
well off, capital enticed over to its side, leaving the others behind as
a shabby proletariat. It might be that the Movement had done a good
piece of work, but you wanted confounded good eyes to see it.
Thus voices were raised. At first it was only whiners about whom nobody
needed to trouble-frequenters of public-houses, who sat and grumbled in
their cups; but gradually it became talk that passed from mouth to
mouth; the specter of unemployment haunted every home and made men think
over matters once more on their own account; no one could know when his
turn would come to sweep the pavement.
Pelle had no difficulty in catching the tone of all this; it was his own
settlement with the advance on coming out of prison that was now about
to become every one's. But now he was another man! He was no longer sure
that the Movement had been so useless. It had not done anything that
marked a boundary, but it had kept the apparatus going and strengthened
it. It had carried the masses over a dead period, even if only by
letting them go in a circle. And now the idea was ready to take them
again. Perhaps it was a good thing that there had not been too great
progress, or they would probably never have wakened again. They might
very well starve a little longer, until they could establish themselves
in their own world; fat slaves soon lost sight of liberty.
Behind the discontented fussing Pelle could hear the new. It expressed
itself in remarkable ways. A party of workmen--more than two hundred--
who were employed on a large excavation work, were thrown out of work by
the bankruptcy of the contractor. A new contractor took over the work,
but the men made it a condition for beginning work again that he should
pay them the wages that were due to them, and also for the time they
were unemployed. "We have no share in the cake," they said, "so you must
take the risk too!" They made the one employer responsible for the
other! And capriciously refused good work at a time when thousands were
unemployed! Public opinion almost lost its head, and even their own
press held aloof from them; but they obstinately kept to their
determination, and joined the crowd of unemployed until their
unreasonable demand was submitted to.
Pelle heard a new tone here. For the first time the lower class made
capital responsible for its sins, without any petty distinction between
Tom, Dick, and Harry. There was beginning to be perspective in the
feeling of solidarity.
The great weariness occasioned by wandering in a spiritual desert came
once more to the surface. He had experienced the same thing once before,
when the Movement was raised; but oddly enough the breaking out came
that time from the bottom of everything. It began with blind attacks on
parliamentarianism, the suffrage, and the paroles; there was in it an
unconscious rebellion against restraint and treatment in the mass. By an
incomprehensible process of renewal, the mass began to resolve itself
into individuals, who, in the midst of the bad times, set about an
inquiry after the ego and the laws for its satisfaction. They came from
the very bottom, and demanded that their shabby, ragged person should be
Where did they come from? It was a complete mystery! Did it not sound
foolish that the poor man, after a century's life in rags and
discomfort, which ended in his entire effacement in collectivism, should
now make his appearance with the strongest claim of all, and demand his
Pelle recognized the impatience of the young men in this commotion. It
was not for nothing that Peter Dreyer was the moving spirit at the
meetings of the unemployed. Peter wanted him to come and speak, and he
went with him two or three times, as he wanted to find out the relation
of these people to his idea; but he remained in the background and could
not be persuaded to mount the platform. He had nothing to do with these
confused crowds, who turned all his ideas upside down. In any case he
could not give them food to-day, and he had grown out of the use of
"Go up and say something nice to them! Don't you see how starved they
are?" said Peter Dreyer, one evening. "They still have confidence in you
from old days. But don't preach cooperation; you don't feed hungry men
with music of the future."
"Do you give them food then?" asked Pelle.
"No, I can't do that, but I give them a vent for their grievances, and
get them to rise and protest. It's something at any rate, that they no
longer keep silence and submit."
"And if to-morrow they get something to eat, the whole turmoil's
forgotten; but they're no further on than they were. Isn't it a matter
of indifference whether they suffer want today, as compared with the
question whether they will do so eternally?"
"If you can put the responsibility upon those poor creatures, you must
be a hard-hearted brute!" said Peter angrily.
Well, it was necessary now to harden one's heart, for nothing would be
accomplished with sympathy only! The man with eyes that watered would
not do for a driver through the darkness.
It was a dull time, and men were glad when they could keep their
situations. There was no question of new undertakings before the spring.
But Pelle worked hard to gain adherents to his idea. He had started a
discussion in the labor party press, and gave lectures. He chose the
quiet trade unions, disdained all agitation eloquence, and put forward
his idea with the clearness of an expert, building it up from his own
experience until, without any fuss, by the mere power of the facts, it
embraced the world. It was the slow ones he wanted to get hold of, those
who had been the firm nucleus of the Movement through all these years,
and steadfastly continued to walk in the old foot-prints, although they
led nowhere. It was the picked troops from the great conflict that must
first of all be called upon! He knew that if he got them to go into fire
for his idea with their unyielding discipline, much would be gained.
It was high time for a new idea to come and take them on; they had grown
weary of this perpetual goose-step; the Movement was running away from
them. But now he had come with an idea of which they would never grow
weary, and which would carry them right through. No one would be able to
say that he could not understand it, for it was the simple idea of the
home carried out so as to include everything. Ellen had taught it to
him, and if they did not know it themselves, they must go home to their
wives and learn it. _They_ did not brood over the question as to
which of the family paid least or ate most, but gave to each one
according to his needs, and took the will for the deed. The world would
be like a good, loving home, where no one oppressed the other--nothing
more complicated than that.
Pelle was at work early and late. Scarcely a day passed on which he did
not give a lecture or write about his cooperation idea. He was
frequently summoned into the provinces to speak. People wanted to see
and hear the remarkable manufacturer who earned no more than his work-
In these journeys he came to know the country, and saw that much of his
idea had been anticipated out there. The peasant, who stiffened with
horror at the word "socialist," put the ideas of the Movement into
practice on a large scale. He had arranged matters on the cooperative
system, and had knitted the country into supply associations.
"We must join on there when we get our business into better order," said
Pelle to Brun.
"Yes, if the farmers will work with us," said Brun doubtfully. "They're
conservative, you know."
This was now almost revolutionary. As far as Pelle could see, there
would soon be no place as big as his thumb-nail for capital to feed upon
out there. The farmers went about things so quickly! Pelle came of
peasant stock himself, and did not doubt that he would be able to get in
touch with the country when the time came.
The development was preparing on several sides; they would not break
with that if they wanted to attain anything.
It was like a fixed law relating to growth in existence, an inviolable
divine idea running through it all. It was now leading him and his
fellows into the fire, and when they advanced, no one must stay behind.
No class of the community had yet advanced with so bright and great a
call; they were going to put an end forever to the infamy of human
genius sitting and weighing the spheres in space, but forgetting to
weigh the bread justly.
He was not tired of the awakening discontent with the old condition of
things; it opened up the overgrown minds, and created possibility for
the new. At present he had no great number of adherents; various new
currents were fighting over the minds, which, in their faltering search,
were drawn now to one side, now to the other. But he had a buoyant
feeling of serving a world-idea, and did not lose courage.
Unemployment and the awakening ego-feeling brought many to join Peter
Dreyer. They rebelled against the conditions, and now saw no alternative
but to break with everything. They sprang naked out of nothing, and
demanded that their personality should be respected, but were unable as
yet to bear its burdens; and their hopeless view of their misery
threatened to stifle them. Then they made obstruction, their own broken-
down condition making them want to break down the whole. They were
Pelle's most troublesome opponents.
Up to the present they had unfortunately been right, but now he could
not comprehend their desperate impatience. He had given them an idea
now, with which they could conquer the world just by preserving their
coherence, and if they did not accept this, there must be something
wrong with them. Taking this view of the matter, he looked upon their
disintegrating agitation with composure; the healthy mind would be
Peter Dreyer was at present agitating for a mass-meeting of the
unemployed. He wanted the twenty thousand men, with wives and children,
to take up their position on the Council House Square or Amalienborg
Palace Square, and refuse to move away until the community took charge
"Then the authorities can choose between listening to their demands, and
driving up horses and cannon," he said. Perhaps that would open up the
"Take care then that the police don't arrest you," said Pelle, in a
warning voice; "or your people will be left without a head, and you will
have enticed them into a ridiculous situation which can only end in
"Let them take care, the curs!" answered Peter threateningly. "I shall
strike at the first hand that attempts to seize me!"
"And what then? What do you gain by striking the policemen? They are
only the tool, and there are plenty of them!".
Peter laughed bitterly. "No," he said, "it's not the policemen, nor the
assistant, nor the chief of police! It's no one! That's so convenient,
no one can help it! They've always stolen a march upon us in that way;
the evil always dives and disappears when you want to catch it. 'It
wasn't me!' Now the workman's demanding his right, the employer finds it
to his advantage to disappear, and the impersonal joint stock company
appears. Oh, this confounded sneaking out of a thing! Where is one to
apply? There's no one to take the blame! But something _shall_ be
done now! If I hit the hand, I hit what stands behind it too; you must
hit what you can see. I've got a revolver to use against the police; to
carry arms against one's own people shall not be made a harmless means
of livelihood unchallenged."
One Saturday evening Pelle came home by train from a provincial town
where he had been helping to start a cooperative undertaking.
It was late, but many shops were still open and sent their brilliant
light out into the drizzling rain, through which the black stream of the
streets flowed as fast as ever. It was the time when the working women
came from the center of the city--pale typists, cashiers with the
excitement of the cheap novel still in their eyes, seamstresses from the
large businesses. Some hurried along looking straight before them
without taking any notice of the solitary street-wanderers; they had
something waiting for them--a little child perhaps. Others had nothing
to hurry for, and looked weariedly about them as they walked, until
perhaps they suddenly brightened up at sight of a young man in the
Charwomen were on their way home with their basket on their arm. They
had had a long day, and dragged their heavy feet along. The street was
full of women workers--a changed world! The bad times had called the
women out and left the men at home. On their way home they made their
purchases for Sunday. In the butchers' and provision-dealers' they stood
waiting like tired horses for their turn. Shivering children stood on
tiptoe with their money clasped convulsively in one hand, and their chin
supported on the edge of the counter, staring greedily at the eatables,
while the light was reflected from their ravenous eyes.
Pelle walked quickly to reach the open country. He did not like these
desolate streets on the outskirts of the city, where poverty rose like a
sea-birds' nesting-place on both sides of the narrow cleft, and the
darkness sighed beneath so much. When he entered an endless brick
channel such as these, where one- and two-roomed flats, in seven stories
extended as far as he could see, he felt his courage forsaking him. It
was like passing through a huge churchyard of disappointed hopes. All
these thousands of families were like so many unhappy fates; they had
set out brightly and hopefully, and now they stood here, fighting with
Pelle walked quickly out along the field road. It was pitch-dark and
raining, but he knew every ditch and path by heart. Far up on the hill
there shone a light which resembled a star that hung low in the sky. It
must be the lamp in Brun's bedroom. He wondered at the old man being up
still, for he was soon tired now that he had given up the occupation of
a long lifetime, and generally went to bed early. Perhaps he had
forgotten to put out the lamp.
Pelle had turned his coat-collar up about his ears, and was in a
comfortable frame of mind. He liked walking alone in the dark. Formerly
its yawning emptiness had filled him with a panic of fear, but the
prison had made his mind familiar with it. He used to look forward to
these lonely night walks home across the fields. The noises of the city
died away behind him, and he breathed the pure air that seemed to come
straight to him out of space. All that a man cannot impart to others
arose in him in these walks. In the daily struggle he often had a
depressing feeling that the result depended upon pure chance. It was not
easy to obtain a hearing through the thousand-voiced noise. A sensation
was needed in order to attract attention, and he had presented himself
with only quite an ordinary idea, and declared that without stopping a
wheel it could remodel the world. No one took the trouble to oppose him,
and even the manufacturers in his trade took his enterprise calmly and
seemed to have given up the war against him. He had expected great
opposition, and had looked forward to overcoming it, and this
indifference sometimes made him doubt himself. His invincible idea would
simply disappear in the motley confusion of life!
But out here in the country, where night lay upon the earth like great
rest, his strength returned to him. All the indifference fell away, and
he saw that like the piers of a bridge, his reality lay beneath the
surface. Insignificant though he appeared, he rested upon an immense
foundation. The solitude around him revealed it to him and made him feel
his own power. While they overlooked his enterprise he would make it so
strong that they would run their head against it when they awoke.
Pelle was glad he lived in the country, and it was a dream of his to
move the workmen out there again some day. He disliked the town more and
more, and never became quite familiar with it. It was always just as
strange to go about in this humming hive, where each seemed to buzz on
his own account, and yet all were subject to one great will--that of
hunger. The town exerted a dull power over men's minds, it drew the poor
to it with lies about happiness, and when it once had them, held them
fiendishly fast. The poisonous air was like opium; the most miserable
beings dream they are happy in it; and when they have once got a taste
for it, they had not the strength of mind to go back to the uneventful
everyday life again. There was always something dreadful behind the
town's physiognomy, as though it were lying in wait to drag men into its
net and fleece them. In the daytime it might be concealed by the
multitudinous noises, but the darkness brought it out.
Every evening before Pelle went to bed he went out to the end of the
house and gazed out into the night. It was an old peasant-custom that he
had inherited from Father Lasse and his father before him. His inquiring
gaze sought the town where his thoughts already were. On sunny days
there was only smoke and mist to be seen, but on a dark night like this
there was a cheerful glow above it. The town had a peculiar power of
shedding darkness round about it, and lighting white artificial light in
it. It lay low, like a bog with the land sloping down to it on all
sides, and all water running into it. Its luminous mist seemed to reach
to the uttermost borders of the land; everything came this way. Large
dragon-flies hovered over the bog in metallic splendor; gnats danced
above it like careless shadows. A ceaseless hum rose from it, and below
lay the depth that had fostered them, seething so that he could hear it
where he stood.
Sometimes the light of the town flickered up over the sky like the
reflection from a gigantic forge-fire. It was like an enormous heart
throbbing in panic in the darkness down there; his own caught the
infection and contracted in vague terror. Cries would suddenly rise from
down there, and one almost wished for them; a loud exclamation was a
relief from the everlasting latent excitement. Down there beneath the
walls of the city the darkness was always alive; it glided along like a
heavy life-stream, flowing slowly among taverns and low music-halls and
barracks, with their fateful contents of want and imprecations. Its
secret doings inspired him with horror; he hated the town for its
darkness which hid so much.
He had stopped in front of his house, and stood gazing downward.
Suddenly he heard a sound from within that made him start, and he
quickly let himself in. Ellen came out into the passage looking
"Thank goodness you've come!" she exclaimed, quite forgetting to greet
him. "Anna's so ill!"
"Is it anything serious?" asked Pelle, hurriedly removing his coat.
"It's the old story. I got a carriage from the farm to drive in for the
doctor. It was dear, but Brun said I must. She's to have hot milk with
Ems salts and soda water. You must warm yourself at the stove before you
go up to her, but make haste! She keeps on asking for you."
The sick-room was in semi-darkness, Ellen having put a red shade over
the lamp, so that the light should not annoy the child. Brun was sitting
on a chair by her bed, watching her intently as she lay muttering in a
feverish doze. He made a sign to Pelle to walk quietly. "She's asleep!"
he whispered. The old man looked unhappy.
Pelle bent silently over her. She lay with closed eyes, but was not
asleep. Her hot breath came in short gasps. As he was about to raise
himself again, she opened her eyes and smiled at him.
"What's the matter with Sister? Is she going to be ill again?" he said
softly. "I thought the sun had sent that naughty bronchitis away."
The child shook her head resignedly. "Listen to the cellarman!" she
whispered. He was whistling as hard as he could down in her windpipe,
and she listened to him with a serious expression. Then her hand stole
up and she stroked her father's face as though to comfort him.
Brun, however, put her hand down again immediately and covered her up
close. "We very nearly lost that doll!" he said seriously. He had
promised her a large doll if she would keep covered up.
"Shall I still get it?" she asked in gasps, gazing at him in dismay.
"Yes, of course you'll get it, and if you make haste and get well, you
shall have a carriage too with india rubber tires."
Here Ellen came in. "Mr. Brun," she said, "I've made your room all ready
for you." She laid a quieting hand upon the child's anxious face.
The librarian rose unwillingly. "That's to say Mr. Brun is to go to
bed," he said half in displeasure. "Well, well, goodnight then! I rely
upon your waking me if things become worse."
"How good he is!" said Ellen softly. "He's been sitting here all the
time to see that she kept covered up. He's made us afraid to move
because she's to be kept quiet; but he can't help chattering to her
himself whenever she opens her eyes."
Ellen had moved Lasse Frederik's bed down into their bedroom and put up
her own here so as to watch over the child. "Now you should go to bed,"
she said softly to Pelle. "You must be tired to death after your
journey, and you can't have slept last night in the train either."
He looked tired, but she could not persuade him; he meant to stay up
there. "I can't sleep anyhow as things are," he whispered, "and to-
"Then lie down on my bed! It'll rest you a little."
He lay down to please her, and stared up at the ceiling while he
listened to the child's short, rattling respiration. He could hear that
she was not asleep. She lay and played with the rattling sound, making
the cellar-man speak sometimes with a deep voice, sometimes with a high
one. She seemed quite familiar with this dangerous chatter, which had
already cost her many hours of illness and sounded so painful to Pelle's
ear. She bore her illness with the wonderful resignation that belonged
to the dwellers in the back streets. She did not become unreasonable or
exacting, but generally lay and entertained herself. It was as though
she felt grateful for her bed; she was always in the best spirits when
she was in it. The sun out here had made her very brown, but there must
be something in her that it had not prevailed against. It was not so
easy to move away from the bad air of the back streets.
Whenever she had a fit of coughing, Pelle raised her into a sitting
posture and helped her to get rid of the phlegm. She was purple in the
face with coughing, and looked at him with eyes that were almost
starting out of her head with the violent exertion. Then Ellen brought
her the hot milk and Ems salts, and she drank it with a resigned
expression and lay down again.
"It's never been so bad before," whispered Ellen, "so what can be the
use? Perhaps the country air isn't good for her."
"It ought to be though," said Pelle, "or else she's a poor little
Ellen's voice rang with the possibility of their moving back again to
the town for the sake of the child. To her the town air was not bad, but
simply milder than out here. Through several generations she had become
accustomed to it and had overcome its injurious effects; to her it
seemed good as only the air of home can be. She could live anywhere, but
nothing must be said against her childhood's home. Then she became
The child had wakened with their whispering, and lay and looked at them.
"I shan't die, shall I?" she asked.
They bent over her. "Now you must cover yourself up and not think about
such things," said Ellen anxiously.
But the child continued obstinately. "If I die, will you be as sorry
about me as you were about Johanna?" she asked anxiously, with her eyes
fixed upon them.
Pelle nodded. It was impossible for him to speak.
"Will you paint the ceiling black to show you're sorry about me? Will
you, father?" she continued inexorably, looking at him.
"Yes, yes!" said Ellen desperately, kissing her lips to make her stop
talking. The child turned over contentedly, and in another moment she
"She's not hot now," whispered Pelle. "I think the fever's gone." His
face was very grave. Death had passed its cold hand over it; he knew it
was only in jest, but he could not shake off the impression it had made.
They sat silent, listening to the child's breathing, which was now
quiet. Ellen had put her hand into Pelle's, and every now and then she
shuddered. They did not move, but simply sat and listened, while the
time ran singing on. Then the cock crew below, and roused Pelle. It was
three o'clock, and the child had slept for two hours. The lamp had
almost burned dry, and he could scarcely see Ellen's profile in the
semi-darkness. She looked tired.
He rose noiselessly and kissed her forehead. "Go downstairs and go to
bed," he whispered, leading her toward the door.
Stealthy footsteps were heard outside. It was Brun who had been down to
listen at the door. He had not been to bed at all. The lamp was burning
in his sitting-room, and the table was covered with papers. He had been
He became very cheerful when he heard that the attack was over. "I think
you ought rather to treat us to a cup of coffee," he answered, when
Ellen scolded him because he was not asleep.
Ellen went down and made the coffee, and they drank it in Brun's room.
The doors were left ajar so that they could hear the child.
"It's been a long night," said Pelle, passing his hand across his
"Yes, if there are going to be more like it, we shall certainly have to
move back into town," said Ellen obstinately.
"It would be a better plan to begin giving her a cold bath in the
morning as soon as she's well again, and try to get her hardened," said
"Do you know," said Ellen, turning to Brun, "Pelle thinks it's the bad
air and the good air fighting for the child, and that's the only reason
why she's worse here than in town."
"So it is," said Brun gravely; "and a sick child like that gives one
something to think about."
The next day they were up late. Ellen did not wake until about ten, and
was quite horrified; but when she got up she found the fire on and
everything in order, for Lasse Frederik had seen to it all. She could
start on breakfast at once.
Sister was quite bright again, and Ellen moved her into the sitting-room
and made up a bed on the sofa, where she sat packed in with pillows, and
had her breakfast with the others.
"Are you sorry Sister's getting well, old man?" asked Boy Comfort.
"My name isn't 'old man.' It's 'grandfather' or else 'Mr. Brun,'" said
the librarian, laughing and looking at Ellen, who blushed.
"Are you sorry Sister's getting well, grandfather?" repeated the boy
with a funny, pedantic literalness.
"And why should I be sorry for that, you little stupid?"
"Because you've got to give money!"
"The doll, yes! That's true! You'll have to wait till tomorrow, Sister,
because to-day's Sunday."
Anna had eaten her egg and turned the shell upside down in the egg-cup
so that it looked like an egg that had not been touched. She pushed it
slowly toward Brun.
"What's the matter now?" he exclaimed, pushing his spectacles up onto
his forehead. "You haven't eaten your egg!"
"I can't," she said, hanging her head.
"Why, there must be something wrong with her!" said the old man, in
amazement. "Such a big, fat egg too! Very well, then _I_ must eat
it." And he began to crack the egg, Anna and Boy Comfort following his
movements with dancing eyes and their hands over their mouths, until his
spoon went through the shell and he sprang up to throw it at their
heads, when their merriment burst forth. It was a joke that never
suffered by repetition.
While breakfast was in progress, the farmer from the hill farm came in
to tell them that they must be prepared to move out, as he meant to sell
the house. He was one of those farmers of common-land, whom the city had
thrown off their balance. He had lived up there and had seen one farm
after another grow larger and make their owners into millionaires, and
was always expecting that his turn would come. He neglected the land,
and even the most abundant harvest was ridiculously small in comparison
with his golden dreams; so the fields were allowed to lie and produce
Ellen was just as dismayed as Pelle at the thought of having to leave
"Daybreak." It was their home, their nest too; all their happiness and
welfare were really connected with this spot.
"You can buy the house of course," said the farmer. "I've had an offer
of fifteen thousand (L850) for it, and I'll let it go for that."
After he had gone they sat and discussed the matter. "It's very cheap,"
said Brun. "In a year or two you'll have the town spreading in this
direction, and then it'll be worth at least twice as much."
"Yes, that may be," said Pelle; "but you've both to get the amount and
make it yield interest."
"There's eight thousand (L450) in the first mortgage, and the loan
institution will lend half that. That'll make twelve thousand (L675).
That leaves three thousand (L175), and I'm not afraid of putting that in
as a third mortgage," said Brun.
Pelle did not like that. "There'll be need for your money in the
business," he said.
"Yes, yes! But when you put the house into repair and have it re-valued,
I'm certain you can get the whole fifteen thousand in the Loan
Societies," said Brun. "I think it'll be to your advantage to do it."
Ellen had taken pencil and paper, and was making calculations. "What
percentage do you reckon for interest and paying off by instalments?"
"Five," said the old man. "You do all the work of keeping it up
"Then I would venture," she said, looking dauntlessly at them. "It would
be nice to own the house ourselves, don't you think so, Pelle?"
"No, I think it's quite mad," Pelle answered. "We shall be saddled with
a house-rent of seven hundred and fifty kroner (over L40)."
Ellen was not afraid of the house-rent; the house and garden would bear
that. "And in a few years we can sell the ground for building and make a
lot of money." She was red with excitement.
Pelle laughed. "Yes, speculation! Isn't that what the hill farmer has
gone to pieces over?" Pelle had quite enough on his hands and had no
desire to have property to struggle with.
But Ellen became only more and more bent upon it. "Then buy it
yourself!" said Pelle, laughing. "I've no desire to become a
Ellen was quite ready to do it. "But then the house'll be _mine_,"
she declared. "And if I make money on it, I must be allowed to spend it
just as I like. It's not to go into your bottomless common cash-box!"
The men laughed.
"Brun and I are going for a walk," said Pelle, "so we'll go in and write
a contract note for you at once."
They went down the garden and followed the edge of the hill to the
south. The weather was clear; it had changed to slight frost, and white
rime covered the fields. Where the low sun's rays fell upon them, the
rime had melted and the withered green grass appeared. "It's really
pretty here," said Brun. "See how nice the town looks with its towers--
only one shouldn't live there. I was thinking of that last night when
the child was lying there with her cough. The work-people really get no
share of the sun, nor do those who in other respects are decently well
off. And then I thought I'd like to build houses for our people on the
ridge of the hill on both sides of 'Daybreak.' The people of the new age
ought to live in higher and brighter situations than others. I'll tell
you how I thought of doing it. I should in the meantime advance money
for the plots, and the business should gradually redeem them with its
surplus. That is quite as practical as dividing the surplus among the
workmen, and we thereby create values for the enterprise. Talking of
surplus--you've worked well, Pelle! I made an estimate of it last night
and found it's already about ten thousand (L555) this year. But to
return to what we were talking about--mortgage loans are generally able
to, cover the building expenses, and with amortization the whole thing
is unencumbered after some years have passed."
"Who's to own it?" asked Pelle. He was chewing a piece of grass and
putting his feet down deliberately like a farmer walking on ploughed
"The cooperative company. It's to be so arranged that the houses can't
be made over to others, nor encumbered with fresh loan. Our cooperative
enterprises must avoid all form of speculation, thereby limiting the
field for capital. The whole thing should be self-supporting and be able
to do away with private property within its boundaries. You see it's
your own idea of a community within the community that I'm building
upon. At present it's not easy to find a juridical form under which the
whole thing can work itself, but in the meantime you and I will manage
it, and Morten if he will join us. I expect he'll come home with renewed
"And when is this plan to be realized? Will it be in the near future?"
"This very winter, I had thought; and in this way we should also be able
to do a little for the great unemployment. Thirty houses! It would be a
beginning anyhow. And behind it lies the whole world, Pelle!"
"Shall you make the occupation of the houses obligatory for our
"Yes, cooperation makes it an obligation. You can't be half outside and
half inside! Well, what do you think of it?"
"It's a strong plan," said Pelle. "We shall build our own town here on
The old man's face shone with delight. "There's something in me after
all, eh? There's old business-blood in my veins too. My forefathers
built a world for themselves, and why should I do less than they? I
ought to have been younger, Pelle!"
They walked round the hill and came to the farm from the other side.
"The whole piece wouldn't really be too large if we're to have room to
extend ourselves," said Pelle, who was not afraid of a large outlay when
it was a question of a great plan.
"I was thinking the same thing," answered Bran. "How much is there here?
A couple of hundred acres? There'll be room for a thousand families if
each of them is to have a fair-sized piece of land."
They then went in and took the whole for a quarter of a million
"But Ellen!" exclaimed Pelle, when they were on their way home again.
"How are we going to come to terms with her?"
"Bless my soul! Why, it was her business we went upon! And now we've
done business for ourselves! Well, I suppose she'll give in when she
hears what's been done."
"I'm not so sure of that," said Pelle, laughing. "Perhaps when you
"Well, did you get the house?" asked Ellen, from the house door, where
she was standing to receive them.
"Yes, we got much more," said Brun airily. "We bought the whole
"Is that a fact, Pelle?"
"What about my house then?" she asked slowly.
"Well, we bought that together with all the rest," said Brun. "But as
far as that goes it can easily be separated from the rest, only it's
rather soon to break up the cooperation before it's started." He waited
a little, expecting that Ellen would say something, and when she
continued silent he went on, rather shortly: "Well, then there's nothing
more to be said about that? Fair play's a jewel, and to-morrow I'll make
arrangements for the conveyance of the house to you for the fifteen
thousand (L850). And then we must give up the whole concern, Pelle. It
won't do for the man at the head of it to live on his private property;
so that plan's come to nothing!"
"Unless Ellen and I live in separate houses," said Pelle slyly. "I might
build just the other side of the boundary, and then we could nod to one
another at any rate."
Ellen looked at him gravely. "I only think it's rather strange that you
settle my affairs without asking me first," she said at length.
"Yes, it was inconsiderate of us," answered Brun, "and we hope you'll
forget all about it. You'll give up the house then?"
"I'm pretty well obliged to when Pelle threatens to move out," Ellen
answered with a smile. "But I'm sorry about it. I'm certain that in a
short time there'd have been money to make over it."
"It'll be nice, won't it, if the women are going to move into our
forsaken snail-shells?" said Brun half seriously.
"Ellen's always been an incorrigible capitalist," Pelle put in.
"It's only that I've never had so much money that I shouldn't know what
it was worth," answered Ellen, with ready wit.
Old Brun laughed. "That was one for Mr. Brun!" he said. "But since
you've such a desire for land-speculation, Mistress Ellen, I've got a
suggestion to make. On the ground we've bought there's a piece of meadow
that lies halfway in to town, by the bog. We'll give you that. It's not
worth anything at present, and will have to be filled in to be of any
value; but it won't be very long before the town is out there wanting
Ellen had no objection to that. "But then," she said, "I must be allowed
to do what I like with what comes out of it."
The sun held out well that year. Remnants of summer continued to hang in
the air right into December. Every time they had bad weather Ellen said,
"Now it'll be winter, I'm sure!" But the sun put it aside once more; it
went far down in the south and looked straight into the whole sitting-
room, as if it were going to count the pictures.
The large yellow Gloire de Dijon went on flowering, and every day Ellen
brought in a large, heavy bunch of roses and red leaves. She was heavy
herself, and the fresh cold nipped her nose--which was growing sharper--
and reddened her cheeks. One day she brought a large bunch to Pelle, and
asked him: "How much money am I going to get to keep Christmas with?"
It was true! The year was almost ended!
After the new year winter began in earnest. It began with much snow and
frost, and made it a difficult matter to keep in communication with the
outside world, while indoors people drew all the closer to one another.
Anna should really have been going to school now, but she suffered a
good deal from the cold and was altogether not very strong, so Pelle and
Ellen dared not expose her to the long wading through the snow, and
taught her themselves.
Ellen had become a little lazy about walking, and seldom went into town;
the two men made the purchases for her in the evening on their way home.
It was a dull time, and no work was done by artificial light, so they
were home early. Ellen had changed the dinner-hour to five, so that they
could all have it together. After dinner Brun generally went upstairs to
work for another couple of hours. He was busy working out projects for
the building on the Hill Farm land, and gave himself no rest. Pelle's
wealth of ideas and energy infected him, and his plans grew and assumed
ever-increasing dimensions. He gave no consideration to his weak frame,
but rose early and worked all day at the affairs of the cooperative
works. He seemed to be vying with Pelle's youth, and to be in constant
fear that something would come up behind him and interrupt his work.
The other members of the family gathered round the lamp, each with some
occupation. Boy Comfort had his toy-table put up and was hammering
indefatigably with his little wooden mallet upon a piece of stuff that
Ellen had put between to prevent his marking the table. He was a sturdy
little fellow, and the fat lay in creases round his wrists. The wrinkles
on his forehead gave him a funny look when one did not recall the fact
that he had cost his mother her life. He looked as if he knew it
himself, he was so serious. He had leave to sit up for a little while
with the others, but he went to bed at six.
Lasse Frederik generally drew when he was finished with his lessons. He
had a turn for it, and Pelle, wondering, saw his own gift, out of which
nothing had ever come but the prison, repeated in the boy in an improved
form. He showed him the way to proceed, and held the pencil once more in
his own hand. His chief occupation, however, was teaching little Anna,
and telling her anything that might occur to him. She was especially
fond of hearing about animals, and Pelle had plenty of reminiscences of
his herding-time from which to draw.
"Have animals really intelligence?" asked Ellen, in surprise. "You
really believe that they think about things just as we do?"
It was nothing new to Sister; she talked every day to the fowls and
rabbits, and knew how wise they were.
"I wonder if flowers can think too," said Lasse Frederik. He was busy
drawing a flower from memory, and it _would_ look like a face:
hence the remark.
Pelle thought they could.
"No, no, Pelle!" said Ellen. "You're going too far now! It's only us
people who can think."
"They can feel at any rate, and that's thinking in a way, I suppose,
only with the heart. They notice at once if you're fond of them; if you
aren't they don't thrive."
"Yes, I do believe that, for if you're fond of them you take good care
of them," said the incorrigible Ellen.
"I'm not so sure of that," said Pelle, looking at her teasingly. "You're
very fond of your balsam, but a gardener would be sure to tell you that
you treat it like a cabbage. And look how industriously it flowers all
the same. They answer kind thoughts with gratitude, and that's a nice
way of thinking. Intelligence isn't perhaps worth as much as we human
beings imagine it to be. You yourself think with your heart, little
mother." It was his pet name for her just now.
After a little interlude such as this, they went on with their work.
Pelle had to tell Sister all about the animals in her alphabet-book--
about the useful cow and the hare that licked the dew off the clover and
leaped up under the very nose of the cowherd. In the winter it went into
the garden, gnawed the bark off the young trees and ate the farmer's
wife's cabbage. "Yes, I must acknowledge that," Ellen interposed, and
then they all laughed, for puss had just eaten her kail.
Then the child suddenly left the subject, and wanted to know whether
there had always, always been a Copenhagen. Pelle came to a standstill
for a moment, but by a happy inspiration dug Bishop Absalom out of his
memory. He took the opportunity of telling them that the capital had a
population of half a million.
"Have you counted them, father?" exclaimed Sister, in perplexity, taking
hold of his sleeve.
"Why, of course father hasn't, you little donkey!" said Lasse Frederik.
"One might be born while he was counting!"
Then they were at the cock again, which both began and ended the book.
He stood and crowed so proudly and never slept. He was a regular prig,
but when Sister was diligent he put a one-ore piece among the leaves.
But the hens laid eggs, and it was evident that they were the same as
the flowers; for when you were kind to them and treated them as if they
belonged to the family, they were industrious in laying, but if you
built a model house for them and treated them according to all
established rules, they did not even earn as much as would pay for their
food. At Uncle Kalle's there was a hen that came into the room among all
the children and laid its egg under the bed every single day all through
the winter, when no other hens were laying. Then the farmer of Stone
Farm bought it to make something by it. He gave twenty kroner (a guinea)
for it and thought he had got a gold mine; but no sooner did it come to
Stone Farm than it left off laying winter eggs, for there it was not one
of the family, but was only a hen that they wanted to make money out of.
"Mother's balsam flowers all the winter," said Sister, looking fondly at
"Yes, that's because it sees how industrious we all are," said Lasse
"Will you be quiet!" said Pelle, hitting out at him.
Ellen sat knitting some tiny socks. Her glance moved lingeringly from
one to another of them, and she smiled indulgently at their chatter.
They were just a lot of children!
"Mother, may I have those for my doll?" asked Anna, taking up the
"No, little sister's to have them when she comes."
"If it _is_ a girl," put in Lasse Frederik.
"When's little sister coming?"
"In the spring when the stork comes back to the farm; he'll bring her
"Pooh! The stork!" said Lasse Frederik contemptuously. "What a pack of
Sister too was wiser than that. When the weather was fine she fetched
milk from the farm, and had learned a few things there.
"Now you must go to bed, my child," said Ellen, rising. "I can see
you're tired." When she had helped the child into bed she came back and
sat down again with her knitting.
"Now I think you should leave off work for to-day," said Pelle.
"Then I shouldn't be ready in time," answered Ellen, moving her
knitting-needles more swiftly.
"Send it to a machine-knitter. You don't even earn your bread anyhow
with that handicraft; and there must be a time for work and a time for
rest, or else you'd not be a human being."
"Mother can make three ore (nearly a halfpenny) an hour by knitting,"
said Lasse Frederik, who had made a careful calculation.
What did it matter? Ellen did not think she neglected anything else in
"It is stupid though!" exclaimed Lasse Frederik suddenly. "Why doesn't
wool grow on one's legs? Then you'd have none of the bother of shearing
the wool off sheep, carding it, spinning it, and knitting stockings."
"Oh, what nonsense you're talking!" said Ellen, laughing.
"Well, men were hairy once," Lasse Frederik continued. "It was a great
pity that they didn't go on being it!"
Pelle did not think it such a pity, for it meant that they had taken
over the care of themselves. Animals were born fully equipped. Even
water-haters like cats and hens were born with the power of swimming;
but men had to acquire whatever they had a use for. Nature did not equip
them, because they had become responsible for themselves; they were the
lords of creation.
"But then the poor ought to be hairy all over their bodies," Ellen
objected. "Why doesn't Nature take as much care of the poor as of the
animals? They can't do it themselves."
"Yes, but that's just what they _can_ do!" said Pelle, "for it's
they who produce most things. Perhaps you think it's money that
cultivates the land, or weaves materials, or drags coal out of the
earth? It had to leave that alone; all the capital in the world can't so
much as pick up a pin from the ground if there are no hands that it can
pay to do it. If the poor were born hairy, it would simply stamp him as
an inferior being. Isn't it a wonder that Nature obstinately lets the
poor men's children be born just as naked as the king's, in spite of all
that we've gone through of want and hardship? If you exchange the
prince's and the beggar's new-born babies, no one can say which is
which. It's as if Providence was never tired of holding our stamp of
nobility up before us."
"Do you really think then that the world can be transformed?" said
Ellen, looking affectionately at him. It seemed so wonderful that this
Pelle, whom she could take in her arms, occupied himself with such great
matters. And Pelle looked back at her affectionately and wonderingly.
She was the same to-day as on the day he first got to know her, perhaps
as the day the world was created! She put nothing out on usury, but had
been born with all she had. The world could indeed be transformed, but
she would always remain as she was.
The post brought a letter from Morten. He was staying at present in
Sicily, and thought of travelling along the north coast of Africa to the
south of Spain. "And I may make an excursion in to the borders of the
Desert, and try what riding on a camel is like," he wrote. He was well
and in good spirits. It was strange to think that he was writing with
open doors, while here they were struggling with the cold. He drank wine
at every meal just as you drank pale ale here at home; and he wrote that
the olive and orange harvests were just over.
"It must be lovely to be in such a place just for once!" said Ellen,
with a sigh.
"When the new conditions gain a footing, it'll no longer be among
unattainable things for the working-man," Pelle answered.
Brun now came down, having at last finished his work. "Ah, it's good to
be at home!" he said, shaking himself; "it's a stormy night."
"Here's a letter from Morten," said Pelle, handing it to him.
The old man put on his spectacles.
As soon as it was possible to get at the ground, the work of excavating
for the foundations of the new workmen's houses was begun with full
vigor. Brun took a great interest in the work, and watched it out in the
cold from morning till evening. He wore an extra great-coat, and woollen
gloves outside his fur-lined ones. Ellen had knitted him a large scarf,
which he was to wrap round his mouth. She kept an eye on him from the
windows, and had to fetch him in every now and then to thaw him. It was
quite impossible, however, to keep him in; he was far too eager for the
work to progress. When the frost stopped it, he still wandered about out
there, fidgety and in low spirits.
On weekdays Pelle was never at home in daylight, but on Sunday he had to
go out with him and see what had been done, as soon as day dawned. The
old man came and knocked at Pelle's door. "Well, Pelle!" he said. "Will
you soon be out of bed?"
"He must really be allowed to lie there while he has his coffee!" cried
Ellen from the kitchen.
Brun ran once round the house to pass the time. He was not happy until
he had shown it all to Pelle and got him to approve of the alterations.
This was where he had thought the road should go. And there, where the
roads crossed, a little park with statuary would look nice. New ideas
were always springing up. The librarian's imagination conjured up a
whole town from the bare fields, with free schools and theaters and
comfortable dwellings for the aged. "We must have a supply association
and a school at once," he said; "and by degrees, as our numbers
increase, we shall get all the rest. A poor-house and a prison are the
only things I don't think we shall have any use for."
They would spend the whole morning out there, walking about and laying
plans. Ellen had to fetch them in when dinner-time came. She generally
found them standing over some hole in earnest conversation--just an
ordinary, square hole in the earth, with mud or ice at the bottom. Such
holes were always dug for houses; but these two talked about them as if
they were the beginning of an entirely new earth!
Brun missed Pelle during the day, and watched for him quite as eagerly
as Ellen when the time came for him to return from work. "I shall soon
be quite jealous of him," said Ellen, as she drew Pelle into the kitchen
to give him her evening greeting in private. "If he could he'd take you
quite away from me."
When Pelle had been giving a lecture, he generally came home after Brun
had gone to rest, and in the morning when he left home the old man was
not up. Brun never went to town. He laid the blame on the weather, but
in reality he did not know what he would do with himself in there. But
if a couple of days passed without his seeing Pelle, he became restless,
lost interest in the excavating, and wandered about feebly without doing
anything. Then he would suddenly put on his boots, excuse himself with
some pressing errand, and set off over the fields toward the tram, while
Ellen stood at the window watching him with a tender smile. She knew
what was drawing him!
One would have thought there were ties of blood between these two, so
dependent were they on one another. "How's the old man?" was Pelle's
first question on entering; and Brun could not have followed Pelle's
movements with tenderer admiration in his old days if he had been his
father. While Pelle was away the old man went about as if he were always
looking for something.
Ellen did not like his being out among the navvies in all kinds of
weather. In the evening the warmth of the room affected his lungs and
made him cough badly.
"It'll end in a regular cold," she said. She wanted him to stay in bed
for a few days and try to get rid of the cold before it took a firm
It was a constant subject of argument between them, but Ellen did not
give in until she got her way. When once he had made this concession to
the cold, it came on in earnest. The warmth of bed thawed the cold out
of his body and made both eyes and nose run.
"It's a good thing we got you to bed in time," said Ellen. "And now you
won't be allowed up until the worst cold weather is over, even if I have
to hide your clothes." She tended him like a child and made "camel tea"
for him from flowers that she had gathered and dried in the summer.
When once he had gone to bed he quite liked it and took delight in being
waited on, discovering a need of all kinds of things, so as to receive
them from Ellen's hands.
"Now you're making yourself out worse than you are!" she said, laughing
Brun laughed too. "You see, I've never been petted before," he said.
"From the time I was born, my parents hired people to look after me;
that's why I'm so shrivelled up. I've had to buy everything. Well,
there's a certain amount of justice in the fact that money kills
affection, or else you'd both eat your cake and have it."
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