Pelle the Conqueror, Complete
Martin Anderson Nexo
Part 5 out of 23
face half turned toward the wall. He stationed himself there every
morning at about four, and waited for the bailiff to come down. It
was now six, and had just begun to grow light.
Lasse and Pelle had finished cleaning out the cow-stable and
distributing the first feed, and they were hungry. They were
standing at the door of the stable, waiting for the breakfast-bell
to ring; and at the doors of the horse-stables, the men were doing
the same. At a quarter-past the hour they went toward the basement,
with Karl Johan at their head, and Lasse and Pelle also turned out
and hurried to the servants' room, with every sign of a good
"Now, Erik, we're going down to breakfast!" shouted Karl Johan as
they passed, and Erik came out of his corner by the steps, and
shuffled along after them. There was nothing the matter with his
digestive powers at any rate.
They ate their herring in silence; the food stopped their mouths
completely. When they had finished, the head man knocked on the
table with the handle of his knife, and Karna came in with two
dishes of porridge and a pile of bread-and-dripping.
"Where's Bodil to-day?" asked Gustav.
"How should I know? Her bed was standing untouched this morning,"
answered Karna, with an exulting look.
"It's a lie!" cried Gustav, bringing down his spoon with a bang
upon the table.
"You can go into her room and see for yourself; you know the way!"
said Karna tartly.
"And what's become of the pupil to-day, as he hasn't rung?" said
Karl Johan. "Have any of you girls seen him?"
"No, I expect he's overslept himself," cried Bengta from the
wash-house. "And so he may! _I_ don't want to run up and
shake life into him every morning!"
"Don't you think you'd better go up and wake him, Gustav?" said
Anders with a wink. "You might see something funny." The others
laughed a little.
"If I wake him, it'll be with this rabbit-skinner," answered Gustav,
exhibiting a large knife. "For then I think I should put him out of
At this point the farmer himself came down. He held a piece of paper
in his hand, and appeared to be in high good humor. "Have you heard
the latest news, good people? At dead of night Hans Peter has eloped
"My word! Are the babes and sucklings beginning now?" exclaimed
Lasse with self-assurance. "I shall have to look after Pelle there,
and see that he doesn't run away with Karna. She's fond of young
people." Lasse felt himself to be the man of the company, and was
not afraid of giving a hit at any one.
"Hans Peter is fifteen," said Kongstrup reprovingly, "and passion
rages in his heart." He said this with such comical gravity that
they all burst into laughter, except Gustav, who sat blinking his
eyes and nodding his head like a drunken man.
"You shall hear what he says. This lay upon his bed." Kongstrup
held the paper out in a theatrical attitude and read:
"When you read this, I shall have gone forever. Bodil and I have
agreed to run away to-night. My stern father will never give his
consent to our union, and therefore we will enjoy the happiness
of our love in a secret place where no one can find us. It will be
doing a great wrong to look for us, for we have determined to die
together rather than fall into the wicked hands of our enemies.
I wet this paper with Bodil's and my own tears. But you must not
condemn me for my last desperate step, as I can do nothing else
for the sake of my great love.
"That fellow reads story-books," said Karl Johan. "He'll do great
things some day."
"Yes, he knows exactly what's required for an elopement," answered
Kongstrup merrily. "Even to a ladder, which he's dragged up to the
girl's window, although it's on a level with the ground. I wish he
were only half as thorough in his agriculture."
"What's to be done now? I suppose they must be searched for?" asked
the head man.
"Well, I don't know. It's almost a shame to disturb their young
happiness. They'll come of their own accord when they get hungry.
What do you think, Gustav? Shall we organize a battue?"
Gustav made no answer, but rose abruptly and went across to the
men's rooms. When the others followed him, they found him in bed.
All day he lay there and never uttered a syllable when any one came
in to him. Meanwhile the work suffered, and the bailiff was angry.
He did not at all like the new way Kongstrup was introducing--with
liberty for every one to say and do exactly as they liked.
"Go in and pull Gustav out of bed!" he said, in the afternoon, when
they were in the threshing-barn, winnowing grain. "And if he won't
put his own clothes on, dress him by force."
But Kongstrup, who was there himself, entering the weight,
interfered. "No, if he's ill he must be allowed to keep his bed,"
he said. "But it's our duty to do something to cure him."
"How about a mustard-plaster?" suggested Mons, with a defiant
glance at the bailiff.
Kongstrup rubbed his hands with delight. "Yes, that'll be splendid!"
he said. "Go you across, Mons, and get the girls to make a mustard-
plaster that we can stick on the pit of his stomach; that's where
the pain is."
When Mons came back with the plaster, they went up in a procession
to put it on, the farmer himself leading. Kongstrup was well aware
of the bailiff's angry looks, which plainly said, "Another waste
of work for the sake of a foolish prank!" But he was inclined for
a little fun, and the work would get done somehow.
Gustav had smelt a rat, for when they arrived he was dressed. For
the rest of the day he did his work, but nothing could draw a smile
out of him. He was like a man moonstruck.
A few days later a cart drove up to Stone Farm. In the driving-seat
sat a broad-shouldered farmer in a fur coat, and beside him, wrapped
up from head to foot, sat Hans Peter, while at the back, on the
floor of the cart, lay the pretty Bodil on a little hay, shivering
with cold. It was the pupil's father who had brought back the two
fugitives, whom he had found in lodgings in the town.
Up in the office Hans Peter received a thrashing that could be
heard, and was then let out into the yard, where he wandered about
crying and ashamed, until he began to play with Pelle behind the
Bodil was treated more severely. It must have been the strange
farmer who required that she should be instantly dismissed, for
Kongstrup was not usually a hard man. She had to pack her things,
and after dinner was driven away. She looked good and gentle as she
always did; one would have thought she was a perfect angel--if one
had not known better.
Next morning Gustav's bed was empty. He had vanished completely,
with chest, wooden shoes and everything.
Lasse looked on at all this with a man's indulgent smile--children's
tricks! All that was wanting now was that Karna should squeeze
her fat body through the basement window one night, and she too
disappear like smoke--on the hunt for Gustav.
This did not happen, however; and she became kindly disposed toward
Lasse again, saw after his and Pelle's clothes, and tried to make
Lasse was not blind; he saw very well which way the wind blew, and
enjoyed the consciousness of his power. There were now two that he
could have whenever he pleased; he only had to stretch out his hand,
and the women-folk snatched at it. He went about all day in a state
of joyful intoxication, and there were days in which he was in such
an elevated condition of mind that he had inward promptings to make
use of his opportunity. He had always trodden his path in this world
so sedately, done his duty and lived his life in such unwavering
decency. Why should not he too for once let things go, and try to
leap through the fiery hoops? There was a tempting development of
power in the thought.
But the uprightness in him triumphed. He had always kept to the one,
as the Scriptures commanded, and he would continue to do so. The
other thing was only for the great--Abraham, of whom Pelle had begun
to tell him, and Kongstrup. Pelle, too, must never be able to say
anything against his father in that way; he must be clean in his
child's eyes, and be able to look him in the face without shrinking.
And then--well, the thought of how the two women would take it in
the event of its being discovered, simply made Lasse blink his red
eyes and hang his head.
* * * * *
Toward the middle of March, Fru Kongstrup returned unexpectedly.
The farmer was getting along very comfortably without her, and
her coming took him rather by surprise. Fair Maria was instantly
turned out and sent down to the wash-house. Her not being sent away
altogether was due to the fact that there was a shortage of maids at
the farm now that Bodil had left. The mistress had brought a young
relative with her, who was to keep her company and help her in the
They appeared to get on very well together. Kongstrup stayed at home
upon the farm and was steady. The three drove out together, and the
mistress was always hanging on his arm when they went about showing
the place to the young lady. It was easy to see why she had come
home; she could not live without him!
But Kongstrup did not seem to be nearly so pleased about it. He
had put away his high spirits and retired into his shell once more.
When he was going about like this, he often looked as if there was
something invisible lying in ambush for him and he was afraid of
being taken unawares.
This invisible something reached out after the others, too. Fru
Kongstrup never interfered unkindly in anything, either directly
or in a roundabout way; and yet everything became stricter. People
no longer moved freely about the yard, but glanced up at the tall
windows and hurried past. The atmosphere had once more that
oppression about it that made one feel slack and upset and
Mystery once again hung heavy over the roof of Stone Farm. To many
generations it had stood for prosperity or misfortune--these had
been its foundations, and still it drew to itself the constant
thoughts of many people. Dark things--terror, dreariness, vague
suspicions of evil powers--gathered there naturally as in a
And now it all centered round this woman, whose shadow was so heavy
that everything brightened when she went away. Her unceasing,
wailing protest against her wrongs spread darkness around and
brought weariness with it. It was not even with the idea of
submitting to the inevitable that she came back, but only to go on
as before, with renewed strength. She could not do without him, but
neither could she offer him anything good; she was like those beings
who can live and breathe only in fire, and yet cry out when burnt.
She writhed in the flames, and yet she herself fed them. Fair Maria
was her own doing, and now she had brought this new relative into
the house. Thus she herself made easy the path of his infidelity,
and then shook the house above him with her complaining.
An affection such as this was not God's work; powers of evil had
their abode in her.
Oh, how bitterly cold it was! Pelle was on his way to school,
leaning, in a jog-trot, against the wind. At the big thorn Rud was
standing waiting for him; he fell in, and they ran side by side like
two blown nags, breathing hard and with heads hanging low. Their
coat-collars were turned up about their ears, and their hands pushed
into the tops of their trousers to share in the warmth of their
bodies. The sleeves of Pelle's jacket were too short, and his wrists
were blue with cold.
They said little, but only ran; the wind snatched the words from
their mouths and filled them with hail. It was hard to get enough
breath to run with, or to keep an eye open. Every other minute they
had to stop and turn their back to the wind while they filled their
lungs and breathed warm breath up over their faces to bring feeling
into them. The worst part of it was the turning back, before they
got quite up against the wind and into step again.
The four miles came to an end, and the boys turned into the village.
Down here by the shore it was almost sheltered; the rough sea broke
the wind. There was not much of the sea to be seen; what did appear
here and there through the rifts in the squalls came on like a
moving wall and broke with a roar into whitish green foam. The wind
tore the top off the waves in ill-tempered snatches, and carried
salt rain in over the land.
The master had not yet arrived. Up at his desk stood Nilen, busily
picking its lock to get at a pipe that Fris had confiscated during
lessons. "Here's your knife!" he cried, throwing a sheath-knife to
Pelle, who quickly pocketed it. Some peasant boys were pouring coal
into the stove, which was already red-hot; by the windows sat a
crowd of girls, hearing one another in hymns. Outside the waves
broke without ceasing, and when their roar sank for a moment, the
shrill voices of boys rose into the air. All the boys of the village
were on the beach, running in and out under the breakers that looked
as if they would crush them, and pulling driftwood upon shore.
Pelle had hardly thawed himself when Nilen made him go out with
him. Most of the boys were wet through, but they were laughing and
panting with eagerness. One of them had brought in the name-board
of a ship. _The Simplicity_ was painted on it. They stood round
it and wrangled about what kind of vessel it was and what was its
"Then the ship's gone down," said Pelle gravely. The others did not
answer; it was so self-evident.
"Well," said a boy hesitatingly, "the name-board may have been
torn away by the waves; it's only been nailed on." They examined
it carefully again; Pelle could not discover anything special
"I rather think the crew have torn it off and thrown it into the
sea. One of the nails has been pulled out," said Nilen, nodding
with an air of mystery.
"But why should they do that?" asked Pelle, with incredulity.
"Because they've killed the captain and taken over the command
themselves, you ass! Then all they've got to do is to christen the
ship again, and sail as pirates." The other boys confirmed this with
eyes that shone with the spirit of adventure; this one's father had
told him about it, and that one's had even played a part in it. He
did not want to, of course, but then he was tied to the mast while
the mutiny was in progress.
On a day like this Pelle felt small in every way. The raging of the
sea oppressed him and made him feel insecure, but the others were
in their element. They possessed themselves of all the horror of the
ocean, and represented it in an exaggerated form; they heaped up all
the terrors of the sea in play upon the shore: ships went to the
bottom with all on board or struck on the rocks; corpses lay rolling
in the surf, and drowned men in sea-boots and sou'westers came
up out of the sea at midnight, and walked right into the little
cottages in the village to give warning of their departure. They
dwelt upon it with a seriousness that was bright with inward joy,
as though they were singing hymns of praise to the mighty ocean.
But Pelle stood out side all this, and felt himself cowardly when
listening to their tales. He kept behind the others, and wished he
could bring down the big bull and let it loose among them. Then they
would come to him for protection.
The boys had orders from their parents to take care of themselves,
for Marta, the old skipper's widow, had three nights running heard
the sea demand corpses with a short bark. They talked about that,
too, and about when the fishermen would venture out again, while
they ran about the beach. "A bottle, a bottle!" cried one of them
suddenly, dashing off along the shore; he was quite sure he had
seen a bottle bob up out of the surf a little way off, and disappear
again. The whole swarm stood for a long time gazing eagerly out into
the seething foam, and Kilen and another boy had thrown off their
jackets to be ready to jump out when it appeared again.
The bottle did not appear again, but it had given a spur to the
imagination, and every boy had his own solemn knowledge of such
things. Just now, during the equinoctial storms, many a bottle went
over a ship's side with a last message to those on land. Really and
truly, of course, that was why you learned to write--so as to be
able to write your messages when your hour came. Then perhaps the
bottle would be swallowed by a shark, or perhaps it would be fished
up by stupid peasants who took it home with them to their wives
to put drink into--this last a good-natured hit at Pelle. But it
sometimes happened that it drifted ashore just at the place it was
meant for; and, if not, it was the finder's business to take it to
the nearest magistrate, if he didn't want to lose his right hand.
Out in the harbor the waves broke over the mole; the fishermen had
drawn their boats up on shore. They could not rest indoors in their
warm cottages; the sea and bad weather kept them on the beach night
and day. They stood in shelter behind their boats, yawning heavily
and gazing out to sea, where now and then a sail fluttered past like
a storm-beaten bird.
"In, in!" cried the girls from the schoolroom door, and the boys
sauntered slowly up. Pris was walking backward and forward in front
of his desk, smoking his pipe with the picture of the king on it,
and with the newspaper sticking out of his pocket. "To your places!"
he shouted, striking his desk with the cane.
"Is there any news?" asked a boy, when they had taken their places.
Fris sometimes read aloud the Shipping News to them.
"I don't know," answered Fris crossly. "You can get out your slates
"Oh, we're going to do sums, oh, that's fun!" The whole class was
rejoicing audibly as they got out their things.
Fris did not share the children's delight over arithmetic; his
gifts, he was accustomed to say, were of a purely historical nature.
But he accommodated himself to their needs, because long experience
had taught him that a pandemonium might easily arise on a stormy
day such as this; the weather had a remarkable influence upon
the children. His own knowledge extended only as far as Christian
Hansen's Part I.; but there were two peasant boys who had worked
on by themselves into Part III., and they helped the others.
The children were deep in their work, their long, regular breathing
rising and falling in the room like a deep sleep. There was a
continual passing backward and forward to the two arithmeticians,
and the industry was only now and then interrupted by some little
piece of mischief that came over one or another of the children as
a reminder; but they soon fell into order again.
At the bottom of the class there was a sound of sniffing, growing
more and more distinct. Fris laid down his newspaper impatiently.
"Peter's crying," said those nearest.
"Oh-o!" said Fris, peering over his spectacles. "What's the matter
"He says he can't remember what twice two is."
Fris forced the air through his nostrils and seized the cane, but
thought better of it. "Twice two's five!" he said quietly, at which
there was a laugh at Peter's expense, and work went on again.
For some time they worked diligently, and then Nilen rose. Fris
saw it, but went on reading.
"Which is the lightest, a pound of feathers or a pound of lead?
I can't find it in the answers."
Fris's hands trembled as he held the paper up close to his face to
see something or other better. It was his mediocrity as a teacher
of arithmetic that the imps were always aiming at, but he would
_not_ be drawn into a discussion with them. Nilen repeated his
question, while the others tittered; but Fris did not hear--he was
too deep in his paper. So the whole thing dropped.
Fris looked at his watch; he could soon give them a quarter of an
hour's play, a good long quarter of an hour. Then there would only
be one little hour's worry left, and that school-day could be laid
by as another trouble got through.
Pelle stood up in his place in the middle of the class. He had some
trouble to keep his face in the proper folds, and had to pretend
that his neighbors were disturbing him. At last he got out what he
wanted to say, but his ears were a little red at the tips. "If a
pound of flour costs twelve ores, what will half a quarter of coal
Fris sat for a little while and looked irresolutely at Pelle. It
always hurt him more when Pelle was naughty than when it was one
of the others, for he had an affection for the boy. "Very well!" he
said bitterly, coming slowly down with the thick cane in his hand.
"Look out for yourself!" whispered the boys, preparing to put
difficulties in the way of Fris's approach.
But Pelle did one of those things that were directly opposed to all
recognized rules, and yet gained him respect. Instead of shielding
himself from the thrashing, he stepped forward and held out both
hands with the palms turned upward. His face was crimson.
Fris looked at him in surprise, and was inclined to do anything
but beat him; the look in Pelle's eyes rejoiced his heart. He did
not understand boys as boys, but with regard to human beings his
perceptions were fine, and there was something human here; it would
be wrong not to take it seriously. He gave Pelle a sharp stroke
across his hands, and throwing down the cane, called shortly,
"Playtime!" and turned away.
The spray was coming right up to the school wall. A little way out
there was a vessel, looking very much battered and at the mercy of
the storm; she moved quickly forward a little way, and stood still
and staggered for a time before moving on again, like a drunken man.
She was going in the direction of the southern reef.
The boys had collected behind the school to eat their dinner
in shelter, but suddenly there was the hollow rattling sound
of wooden-soled boots over on the shore side, and the coastguard
and a couple of fishermen ran out. Then the life-saving apparatus
came dashing up, the horses' manes flying in the wind. There was
something inspiriting in the pace, and the boys threw down
everything and followed.
The vessel was now right down by the point. She lay tugging at her
anchor, with her stern toward the reef, and the waves washing over
her; she looked like an old horse kicking out viciously at some
obstacle with its hind legs. The anchor was not holding, and she
was drifting backward on to the reef.
There were a number of people on the shore, both from the coast and
from inland. The country-people must have come down to see whether
the water was wet! The vessel had gone aground and lay rolling on
the reef; the people on board had managed her like asses, said the
fishermen, but she was no Russian, but a Lap vessel. The waves went
right over her from end to end, and the crew had climbed into the
rigging, where they hung gesticulating with their arms. They must
have been shouting something, but the noise of the waves drowned it.
Pelle's eyes and ears were taking in all the preparations. He was
quivering with excitement, and had to fight against his infirmity,
which returned whenever anything stirred his blood. The men on the
beach were busy driving stakes into the sand to hold the apparatus,
and arranging ropes and hawsers so that everything should go
smoothly. Special care was bestowed upon the long, fine line that
the rocket was to carry out to the vessel; alterations were made
in it at least twenty times.
The foreman of the trained Rescue Party stood and took aim with the
rocket-apparatus; his glance darted out and back again to measure
the distance with the sharpness of a claw. "Ready!" said the others,
moving to one side. "Ready!" he answered gravely. For a moment all
was still, while he placed it in another position and then back
Whe-e-e-e-ew! The thin line stood like a quivering snake in the air,
with its runaway head boring through the sodden atmosphere over the
sea and its body flying shrieking from the drum and riding out with
deep humming tones to cut its way far out through the storm. The
rocket had cleared the distance capitally; it was a good way beyond
the wreck, but too far to leeward. It had run itself out and now
stood wavering in the air like the restless head of a snake while
"It's going afore her," said one fisherman. The others were silent,
but from their looks it was evident that they were of the same
opinion. "It may still get there," said the foreman. The rocket had
struck the water a good way to the north, but the line still stood
in an arch in the air, held up by the stress. It dropped in long
waves toward the south, made a couple of folds in the wind, and
dropped gently across the fore part of the vessel. "That's it! It
got there, all right!" shouted the boys, and sprang on to the sand.
The fishermen stamped about with delight, made a sideways movement
with their heads toward the foreman and nodded appreciatively at
one another. Out on the vessel a man crawled about in the rigging
until he got hold of the line, and then crept down into the shrouds
to the others again. Their strength could not be up to much, for
except for that they did not move.
On shore there was activity. The roller was fixed more firmly to
the ground and the cradle made ready; the thin line was knotted to
a thicker rope, which again was to draw the heavy hawser on board:
it was important that everything should hold. To the hawser was
attached a pulley as large as a man's head for the drawing-ropes
to run in, for one could not know what appliances they would have
on board such an old tub. For safety's sake a board was attached
to the line, upon which were instructions, in English, to haul it
until a hawser of such-and-such a thickness came on board. This was
unnecessary for ordinary people, but one never knew how stupid such
Finn-Lapps could be.
"They may haul away now as soon as they like, and let us get done
with it," said the foreman, beating his hands together.
"Perhaps they're too exhausted," said a young fisherman. "They must
have been through a hard time!"
"They must surely be able to haul in a three-quarter-inch rope!
Fasten an additional line to the rope, so that we can give them
a hand in getting the hawser on board--when they get so far."
This was done. But out on the wreck they hung stupidly in the
rigging without ever moving; what in the world were they thinking
about? The line still lay, motionless on the sand, but it was not
fast to the bottom, for it moved when it was tightened by the water;
it must have been made fast to the rigging.
"They've made it fast, the blockheads," said the foreman. "I suppose
they're waiting for us to haul the vessel up on land for them--with
that bit of thread!" He laughed in despair.
"I suppose they don't know any better, poor things!" said "the
No one spoke or moved. They were paralyzed by the incomprehensibility
of it, and their eyes moved in dreadful suspense from the wreck down
to the motionless line and back again. The dull horror that ensues
when men have done their utmost and are beaten back by absolute
stupidity, began to creep over them. The only thing the shipwrecked
men did was to gesticulate with their arms. They must have thought
that the men on shore could work miracles--in defiance of them.
"In an hour it'll be all up with them," said the foreman sadly.
"It's hard to stand still and look on."
A young fisherman came forward. Pelle knew him well, for he had met
him occasionally by the cairn where the baby's soul burned in the
"If one of you'll go with me, I'll try to drift down upon them!"
said Niels Koller quietly.
"It'll be certain death, Niels!" said the foreman, laying his hand
upon the young man's shoulder. "You understand that, I suppose! I'm
not one to be afraid, but I won't throw away my life. So you know
what I think."
The others took the same view. A boat would be dashed to pieces
against the moles. It would be impossible to get it out of the
harbor in this weather, let alone work down to the wreck with wind
and waves athwart! It might be that the sea had made a demand upon
the village--no one would try to sneak out of his allotted share;
but this was downright madness! With Niels Koller himself it must
pass; his position was a peculiar one--with the murder of a child
almost on his conscience and his sweetheart in prison. He had his
own account to settle with the Almighty; no one ought to dissuade
"Then will none of you?" asked Niels, and looked down at the ground.
"Well, then I must try it alone." He went slowly up the beach. How
he was going to set about it no one knew, nor did he himself; but
the spirit had evidently come over him.
They stood looking after him. Then a young sailor said slowly:
"I suppose I'd better go with him and take the one oar. He can
do nothing by himself." It was Nilen's brother.
"It wouldn't sound right if I stopped you from going, my son,"
said "the Mormon." "But can two of you do more than one?"
"Niels and I were at school together and have always been friends,"
answered the young man, looking into his father's face. Then he
moved away, and a little farther off began to run to catch up
The fishermen looked after them in silence. "Youth and madness!"
one of them then said. "One blessing is that they'll never be able
to get the boat out of the harbor."
"If I know anything of Karl, they will get the boat out!" said
"the Mormon" gloomily.
Some time passed, and then a boat appeared on the south side of the
harbor, where there was a little shelter. They must have dragged it
in over land with the women's help. The harbor projected a little,
so that the boat escaped the worst of the surf before emerging from
its protection. They were working their way out; it was all they
could do to keep the boat up against the wind, and they scarcely
moved. Every other moment the whole of the inside of the boat was
visible, as if it would take nothing to upset it; but that had one
advantage, in that the water they shipped ran out again.
It was evident that they meant to work their way out so far that
they could make use of the high sea and scud down upon the wreck--a
desperate idea! But the whole thing was such sheer madness, one
would never have thought they had been born and bred by the water.
After half an hour's rowing, it seemed they could do no more; and
they were not more than a couple of good cable-lengths out from the
harbor. They lay still, one of them holding the boat up to the waves
with the oars, while the other struggled with something--a bit of
sail as big as a sack. Yes, yes, of course! Now if they took in the
oars and left themselves at the mercy of the weather--with wind and
waves abaft and beam!--they would fill with water at once!
But they did not take in the oars. One of them sat and kept a
frenzied watch while they ran before the wind. It looked very
awkward, but it was evident that it gave greater command of the
boat. Then they suddenly dropped the sail and rowed the boat hard
up against the wind--when a sea was about to break. None of the
fishermen could recollect ever having seen such navigation before;
it was young blood, and they knew what they were about. Every
instant one felt one must say Now! But the boat was like a living
thing that understood how to meet everything; it always rose above
every caprice. The sight made one warm, so that for a time one
forgot it was a sail for life or death. Even if they managed to
get down to the wreck, what then? Why, they would be dashed against
the side of the vessel!
Old Ole Koller, Niels's father, came down over the sandbanks. "Who's
that out there throwing themselves away?" he asked. The question
sounded harsh as it broke in upon the silence and suspense. No one
looked at him--Ole was rather garrulous. He glanced round the flock,
as though he were looking for some particular person. "Niels--have
any of you seen Niels?" he asked quietly. One man nodded toward the
sea, and he was silent and overcome.
The waves must have broken their oars or carried them away, for they
dropped the bit of sail, the boat burrowed aimlessly with its prow,
and settled down lazily with its broadside to the wind. Then a great
wave took them and carried them in one long sweep toward the wreck,
and they disappeared in the breaking billow.
When the water sank to rest, the boat lay bottom upward, rolling in
the lee of the vessel.
A man was working his way from the deck up into the rigging. "Isn't
that Niels?" said Ole, gazing until his eyes watered. "I wonder if
that isn't Niels?"
"No; it's my brother Karl," said Nilen.
"Then Niels is gone," said Ole plaintively. "Then Niels is gone."
The others had nothing to answer; it was a matter of course that
Niels would be lost.
Ole stood for a little while shrinkingly, as if expecting that some
one would say it was Niels. He dried his eyes, and tried to make it
out for himself, but they only filled again. "Your eyes are young,"
he said to Pelle, his head trembling. "Can't you see that it's
"No, it's Karl," said Pelle softly.
And Ole went with bowed head through the crowd, without looking at
any one or turning aside for anything. He moved as though he were
alone in the world, and walked slowly out along the south shore.
He was going to meet the dead body.
There was no time to think. The line began to be alive, glided
out into the sea, and drew the rope after it. Yard after yard it
unrolled itself and glided slowly into the sea like an awakened
sea-animal, and the thick hawser began to move.
Karl fastened it high up on the mast, and it took all the men--and
boys, too--to haul it taut. Even then it hung in a heavy curve from
its own weight, and the cradle dragged through the crests of the
waves when it went out empty. It was more under than above the water
as they pulled it back again with the first of the crew, a funny
little dark man, dressed in mangy gray fur. He was almost choked in
the crossing, but when once they had emptied the water out of him he
quite recovered and chattered incessantly in a curious language that
no one understood. Five little fur-clad beings, one by one, were
brought over by the cradle, and last of all came Karl with a little
squealing pig in his arms.
"They _were_ a poor lot of seamen!" said Karl, in the intervals
of disgorging water. "Upon my word, they understood nothing. They'd
made the rocket-line fast to the shrouds, and tied the loose end
round the captain's waist! And you should just have seen the muddle
on board!" He talked loudly, but his glance seemed to veil something.
The men now went home to the village with the shipwrecked sailors;
the vessel looked as if it would still keep out the water for some
Just as the school-children were starting to go home, Ole came
staggering along with his son's dead body on his back. He walked
with loose knees bending low and moaning under his burden. Fris
stopped him and helped him to lay the dead body in the schoolroom.
There was a deep wound in the forehead. When Pelle saw the dead
body with its gaping wound, he began to jump up and down, jumping
quickly up, and letting himself drop like a dead bird. The girls
drew away from him, screaming, and Fris bent over him and looked
sorrowfully at him.
"It isn't from naughtiness," said the other boys. "He can't help
it; he's taken that way sometimes. He got it once when he saw a man
almost killed." And they carried him off to the pump to bring him
to himself again.
Fris and Ole busied themselves over the dead body, placed something
under the head, and washed away the sand that had got rubbed into
the skin of the face. "He was my best boy," said Fris, stroking the
dead man's head with a trembling hand. "Look well at him, children,
and never forget him again; he was my best boy."
He stood silent, looking straight before him, with dimmed spectacles
and hands hanging loosely. Ole was crying; he had suddenly grown
pitiably old and decrepit. "I suppose I ought to get him home?" he
said plaintively, trying to raise his son's shoulders; but he had
not the strength.
"Just let him lie!" said Fris. "He's had a hard day, and he's
"Yes, he's had a hard day," said Ole, raising his son's hand to
his mouth to breathe upon it. "And look how he's used the oar!
The blood's burst out at his finger-tips!" Ole laughed through his
tears. "He was a good lad. He was food to me, and light and heat
too. There never came an unkind word out of his mouth to me that
was a burden on him. And now I've got no son, Fris! I'm childless
now! And I'm not able to do anything!"
"You shall have enough to live upon, Ole," said Fris.
"Without coming on the parish? I shouldn't like to come upon
"Yes, without coming on the parish, Ole."
"If only he can get peace now! He had so little peace in this world
these last few years. There's been a song made about his misfortune,
Fris, and every time he heard it he was like a new-born lamb in
the cold. The children sing it, too." Ole looked round at them
imploringly. "It was only a piece of boyish heedlessness, and now
he's taken his punishment."
"Your son hasn't had any punishment, Ole, and neither has he
deserved any," said Fris, putting his arm about the old man's
shoulder. "But he's given a great gift as he lies there and cannot
say anything. He gave five men their lives and gave up his own in
return for the one offense that he committed in thoughtlessness! It
was a generous son you had, Ole!" Fris looked at him with a bright
"Yes," said Ole, with animation. "He saved five people--of course
he did--yes, he did!" He had not thought of that before; it would
probably never have occurred to him. But now some one else had given
it form, and he clung to it. "He saved five lives, even if they were
only Finn-Lapps; so perhaps God will not disown him."
Fris shook his head until his gray hair fell over his eyes. "Never
forget him, children!" he said; "and now go quietly home." The
children silently took up their things and went; at that moment
they would have done anything that Fris told them: he had complete
power over them.
Ole stood staring absently, and then took Fris by the sleeve and
drew him up to the dead body. "He's rowed well!" he said. "The
blood's come out at his finger-ends, look!" And he raised his son's
hands to the light. "And there's a wrist, Fris! He could take up
an old man like me and carry me like a little child." Ole laughed
feebly. "But I carried him; all the way from the south reef I
carried him on my back. I'm too heavy for you, father! I could hear
him say, for he was a good son; but I carried him, and now I can't
do anything more. If only they see that!"--he was looking again at
the blood-stained fingers. "He did do his best. If only God Himself
would give him his discharge!"
"Yes," said Fris. "God will give him his discharge Himself, and he
sees everything, you know, Ole."
Some fishermen entered the room. They took off their caps, and
one by one went quietly up and shook hands with Ole, and then,
each passing his hand over his face, turned questioningly to the
schoolmaster. Fris nodded, and they raised the dead body between
them, and passed with heavy, cautious steps out through the entry
and on toward the village, Ole following them, bowed down and
moaning to himself.
It was Pelle who, one day in his first year at school, when he was
being questioned in Religion, and Fris asked him whether he could
give the names of the three greatest festivals in the year, amused
every one by answering: "Midsummer Eve, Harvest-home and--and----"
There was a third, too, but when it came to the point, he was shy
of mentioning it--his birthday! In certain ways it was the greatest
of them all, even though no one but Father Lasse knew about it--and
the people who wrote the almanac, of course; they knew about simply
It came on the twenty-sixth of June and was called Pelagius in the
calendar. In the morning his father kissed him and said: "Happiness
and a blessing to you, laddie!" and then there was always something
in his pocket when he came to pull on his trousers. His father was
just as excited as he was himself, and waited by him while he
dressed, to share in the surprise. But it was Pelle's way to spin
things out when something nice was coming; it made the pleasure all
the greater. He purposely passed over the interesting pocket, while
Father Lasse stood by fidgeting and not knowing what to do.
"I say, what's the matter with that pocket? It looks to me so fat!
You surely haven't been out stealing hens' eggs in the night?"
Then Pelle had to take it out--a large bundle of paper--and undo
it, layer after layer. And Lasse would be amazed.
"Pooh, it's nothing but paper! What rubbish to go and fill your
pockets with!" But in the very inside of all there was a pocket-
knife with two blades.
"Thank you!" whispered Pelle then, with tears in his eyes.
"Oh, nonsense! It's a poor present, that!" said Lasse, blinking
his red, lashless eyelids.
Beyond this the boy did not come in for anything better on that
day than usual, but all the same he had a solemn feeling all day.
The sun never failed to shine--was even unusually bright; and the
animals looked meaningly at him while they lay munching. "It's my
birthday to-day!" he said, hanging with his arms round the neck of
Nero, one of the bullocks. "Can you say 'A happy birthday'?" And
Nero breathed warm breath down his back, together with green juice
from his chewing; and Pelle went about happy, and stole green corn
to give to him and to his favorite calf, kept the new knife--or
whatever it might have been--in his hand the whole day long, and
dwelt in a peculiarly solemn way upon everything he did. He could
make the whole of the long day swell with a festive feeling; and
when he went to bed he tried to keep awake so as to make the day
Nevertheless, Midsummer Eve was in its way a greater day; it had
at any rate the glamour of the unattainable over it. On that day
everything that could creek and walk went up to the Common; there
was not a servant on the whole island so poor-spirited as to submit
to the refusal of a holiday on that day--none except just Lasse and
Every year they had seen the day come and go without sharing in
its pleasure. "Some one must stay at home, confound it!" said the
bailiff always. "Or perhaps you think I can do it all for you?"
They had too little power to assert themselves. Lasse helped to pack
appetizing food and beverages into the carts, and see the others off,
and then went about despondently--one man to all the work. Pelle
watched from the field their merry departure and the white stripe
of dust far away behind the rocks. And for half a year afterward,
at meals, they heard reminiscences of drinking and fighting and
love-making--the whole festivity.
But this was at an end. Lasse was not the man to continue to let
himself be trifled with. He possessed a woman's affection, and a
house in the background. He could give notice any day he liked.
The magistrate was presumably busy with the prescribed advertising
for Madam Olsen's husband, and as soon as the lawful respite was
over, they would come together.
Lasse no longer sought to avoid the risk of dismissal. As long ago
as the winter, he had driven the bailiff into a corner, and only
agreed to be taken on again upon the express condition that they
both took part in the Midsummer Eve outing; and he had witnesses
to it. On the Common, where all lovers held tryst that day, Lasse
and she were to meet too, but of this Pelle knew nothing.
"To-day we can say the day after to-morrow, and to-morrow we can say
to-morrow," Pelle went about repeating to his father two evenings
before the day. He had kept an account of the time ever since May
Day, by making strokes for all the days on the inside of the lid
of the chest, and crossing them out one by one.
"Yes, and the day after to-morrow we shall say to-day," said Lasse,
with a juvenile fling.
They opened their eyes upon an incomprehensibly brilliant world,
and did not at first remember that this was the day. Lasse had
anticipated his wages to the amount of five krones, and had got an
old cottager to do his work--for half a krone and his meals. "It's
not a big wage," said the man; "but if I give you a hand, perhaps
the Almighty'll give me one in return."
"Well, we've no one but Him to hold to, we poor creatures," answered
Lasse. "But I shall thank you in my grave."
The cottager arrived by four o'clock, and Lasse was able to begin
his holiday from that hour. Whenever he was about to take a hand in
the work, the other said: "No, leave it alone! I'm sure you've not
often had a holiday."
"No; this is the first real holiday since I came to the farm," said
Lasse, drawing himself up with a lordly air.
Pelle was in his best clothes from the first thing in the morning,
and went about smiling in his shirt-sleeves and with his hair
plastered down with water; his best cap and jacket were not to be
put on until they were going to start. When the sun shone upon his
face, it sparkled like dewy grass. There was nothing to trouble
about; the animals were in the enclosure and the bailiff was going
to look after them himself.
He kept near his father, who had brought this about. Father Lasse
was powerful! "What a good thing you threatened to leave!" he kept
on exclaiming. And Lasse always gave the same answer: "Ay, you must
carry things with a high hand if you want to gain anything in this
world!"--and nodded with a consciousness of power.
They were to have started at eight o'clock, but the girls could
not get the provisions ready in time. There were jars of stewed
gooseberries, huge piles of pancakes, a hard-boiled egg apiece,
cold veal and an endless supply of bread and butter. The carriage
boxes could not nearly hold it all, so large baskets were pushed
in under the seats. In the front was a small cask of beer, covered
with green oats to keep the sun from it; and there was a whole keg
of spirits and three bottles of cold punch. Almost the entire bottom
of the large spring-wagon was covered, so that it was difficult to
find room for one's feet.
After all, Fru Kongstrup showed a proper feeling for her servants
when she wanted to. She went about like a kind mistress and saw that
everything was well packed and that nothing was wanting. She was not
like Kongstrup, who always had to have a bailiff between himself
and them. She even joked and did her best, and it was evident that
whatever else there might be to say against her, she wanted them
to have a merry day. That her face was a little sad was not to be
wondered at, as the farmer had driven out that morning with her
At last the girls were ready, and every one got in--in high spirits.
The men inadvertently sat upon the girls' laps and jumped up in
alarm. "Oh, oh! I must have gone too near a stove!" cried the rogue
Mons, rubbing himself behind. Even the mistress could not help
"Isn't Erik going with us?" asked his old sweetheart Bengta, who
still had a warm spot in her heart for him.
The bailiff whistled shrilly twice, and Erik came slowly up from the
barn, where he had been standing and keeping watch upon his master.
"Won't you go with them to the woods to-day, Erik man?" asked the
bailiff kindly. Erik stood twisting his big body and murmuring
something that no one could understand, and then made an unwilling
movement with one shoulder.
"You'd better go with them," said the bailiff, pretending he was
going to take him and put him into the cart. "Then I shall have
to see whether I can get over the loss."
Those in the cart laughed, but Erik shuffled off down through the
yard, with his dog-like glance directed backward at the bailiff's
feet, and stationed himself at the corner of the stable, where he
stood watching. He held his cap behind his back, as boys do when
they play at "Robbers."
"He's a queer customer!" said Mons. Then Karl Johan guided the
horses carefully through the gate, and they set off with a crack
of the whip.
Along all the roads, vehicles were making their way toward the
highest part of the island, filled to overflowing with merry people,
who sat on one another's laps and hung right over the sides. The
dust rose behind the conveyances and hung white in the air in
stripes miles in length, that showed how the roads lay like spokes
in a wheel all pointing toward the middle of the island. The air
hummed with merry voices and the strains of concertinas. They missed
Gustav's playing now--yes, and Bodil's pretty face, that always
shone so brightly on a day like this.
Pelle had the appetite of years of fasting for the great world,
and devoured everything with his eyes. "Look there, father! Just
look!" Nothing escaped him. It made the others cheerful to look at
him--he was so rosy and pretty. He wore a newly-washed blue blouse
under his waistcoat, which showed at the neck and wrists and did
duty as collar and cuffs; but Fair Maria bent back from the box-seat,
where she was sitting alone with Karl Johan, and tied a very white
scarf round his neck, and Karna, who wanted to be motherly to him,
went over his face with a corner of her pocket-handkerchief, which
she moistened with her tongue. She was rather officious, but for
that matter it was quite conceivable that the boy might have got
dirty again since his thorough morning wash.
The side roads continued to pour their contents out on to the
high-roads, and there was soon a whole river of conveyances,
extending as far as the eye could see in both directions. One would
hardly have believed that there were so many vehicles in the whole
world! Karl Johan was a good driver to have; he was always pointing
with his whip and telling them something. He knew all about every
single house. They were beyond the farms and tillage by now; but on
the heath, where self-sown birch and aspen trees stood fluttering
restlessly in the summer air, there stood desolate new houses with
bare, plastered walls, and not so much as a henbane in the window
or a bit of curtain. The fields round them were as stony as a
newly-mended road, and the crops were a sad sight; the corn was
only two or three inches in height, and already in ear. The people
here were all Swedish servants who had saved a little--and had now
become land-owners. Karl Johan knew a good many of them.
"It looks very miserable," said Lasse, comparing in his own mind
the stones here with Madam Olsen's fat land.
"Oh, well," answered the head man, "it's not of the very best, of
course; but the land yields something, anyhow." And he pointed to
the fine large heaps of road-metal and hewn stone that surrounded
every cottage. "If it isn't exactly grain, it gives something to
live on; and then it's the only land that'll suit poor people's
purses." He and Fair Maria were thinking of settling down here
themselves. Kongstrup had promised to help them to a farm with two
horses when they married.
In the wood the birds were in the middle of their morning song; they
were later with it here than in the sandbanks plantation, it seemed.
The air sparkled brightly, and something invisible seemed to rise
from the undergrowth; it was like being in a church with the sun
shining down through tall windows and the organ playing. They drove
round the foot of a steep cliff with overhanging trees, and into
It was almost impossible to thread your way through the crowd of
unharnessed horses and vehicles. You had to have all your wits about
you to keep from damaging your own and other people's things. Karl
Johan sat watching both his fore wheels, and felt his way on step
by step; he was like a cat in a thunderstorm, he was so wary. "Hold
your jaw!" he said sharply, when any one in the cart opened his lips.
At last they found room to unharness, and a rope was tied from tree
to tree to form a square in which the horses were secured. Then they
got out the curry-combs--goodness, how dusty it had been! And at
last--well, no one said anything, but they all stood expectant,
half turned in the direction of the head man.
"Well, I suppose we ought to go into the wood and look at the view,"
They turned it over as they wandered aimlessly round the cart,
looking furtively at the provisions.
"If only it'll keep!" said Anders, lifting a basket.
"I don't know how it is, but I feel so strange in my inside to-day,"
Mons began. "It can't be consumption, can it?"
"Perhaps we ought to taste the good things first, then?" said
Yes--oh, yes--it came at last!
Last year they had eaten their dinner on the grass. It was Bodil who
had thought of that; she was always a little fantastic. This year
nobody would be the one to make such a suggestion. They looked at
one another a little expectant; and they then climbed up into the
cart and settled themselves there just like other decent people.
After all, the food was the same.
The pancakes were as large and thick as a saucepan-lid. It reminded
them of Erik, who last year had eaten ten of them.
"It's a pity he's not here this year!" said Karl Johan. "He was
a merry devil."
"He's not badly off," said Mons. "Gets his food and clothes given
him, and does nothing but follow at the bailiff's heels and copy
him. And he's always contented now. I wouldn't a bit mind changing
"And run about like a dog with its nose to the ground sniffing at
its master's footsteps? Oh no, not I!"
"Whatever you may say, you must remember that it's the Almighty
Himself who's taken his wits into safekeeping," said Lasse
admonishingly; and for a little while they were quite serious
at the thought.
But seriousness could not claim more than was its due. Anders wanted
to rub his leg, but made a mistake and caught hold of Lively Sara's,
and made her scream; and this so flustered his hand that it could
not find its way up, but went on making mistakes, and there was much
laughter and merriment.
Karl Johan was not taking much part in the hilarity; he looked as if
he were pondering something. Suddenly he roused himself and drew out
his purse. "Here goes!" he said stoutly. "I'll stand beer! Bavarian
beer, of course. Who'll go and fetch it?"
Mons leaped quickly from the cart. "How many?"
"Four." Karl Johan's eye ran calculating over the cart. "No; just
bring five, will you? That'll be a half each," he said easily. "But
make sure that it's real Bavarian beer they give you."
There was really no end to the things that Karl Johan knew about;
and he said the name "Bavarian beer" with no more difficulty than
others would have in turning a quid in their mouth. But of course
he was a trusted man on the farm now and often drove on errands
into the town.
This raised their spirits and awakened curiosity, for most of them
had never tasted Bavarian beer before. Lasse and Pelle openly
admitted their inexperience; but Anders pretended he had got drunk
on it more than once, though every one knew it was untrue.
Mons returned, moving cautiously, with the beer in his arms; it was
a precious commodity. They drank it out of the large dram-glasses
that were meant for the punch. In the town, of course, they drank
beer out of huge mugs, but Karl Johan considered that that was
simply swilling. The girls refused to drink, but did it after all,
and were delighted. "They're always like that," said Mons, "when
you offer them something really good." They became flushed with the
excitement of the occurrence, and thought they were drunk. Lasse
took away the taste of his beer with a dram; he did not like it at
all. "I'm too old," he said, in excuse.
The provisions were packed up again, and they set out in a body to
see the view. They had to make their way through a perfect forest
of carts to reach the pavilion. Horses were neighing and flinging
up their hind legs, so that the bark flew off the trees. Men hurled
themselves in among them, and tugged at their mouths until they
quieted down again, while the women screamed and ran hither and
thither like frightened hens, with skirts lifted.
From the top they could form some idea of the number of people. On
the sides of the hill and in the wood beyond the roads--everywhere
carts covered the ground; and down at the triangle where the two
wide high-roads met, new loads were continually turning in. "There
must be far more than a thousand pairs of horses in the wood to-day,"
said Karl Johan. Yes, far more! There were a million, if not more,
thought Pelle. He was quite determined to get as much as possible
out of everything to-day.
There stood the Bridge Farm cart, and there came the people from
Hammersholm, right out at the extreme north of the island. Here
were numbers of people from the shore farms at Dove Point and Ronne
and Nekso--the whole island was there. But there was no time now
to fall in with acquaintances. "We shall meet this afternoon!" was
the general cry.
Karl Johan led the expedition; it was one of a head man's duties
to know the way about the Common. Fair Maria kept faithfully by his
side, and every one could see how proud she was of him. Mons walked
hand in hand with Lively Sara, and they went swinging along like a
couple of happy children. Bengta and Anders had some difficulty in
agreeing; they quarrelled every other minute, but they did not mean
much by it. And Karna made herself agreeable.
They descended into a swamp, and went up again by a steep ascent
where the great trees stood with their feet in one another's necks.
Pelle leaped about everywhere like a young kid. In under the firs
there were anthills as big as haycocks, and the ants had broad
trodden paths running like foothpaths between the trees, on and
on endlessly; a multitude of hosts passed backward and forward
upon those roads. Under some small fir-trees a hedgehog was busy
attacking a wasps' nest; it poked its nose into the nest, drew it
quickly back, and sneezed. It looked wonderfully funny, but Pelle
had to go on after the others. And soon he was far ahead of them,
lying on his face in a ditch where he had smelt wild strawberries.
Lasse could not keep pace with the younger people up the hill, and
it was not much better with Karna. "We're getting old, we two," she
said, as they toiled up, panting.
"Oh, are we?" was Lasse's answer. He felt quite young in spirit;
it was only breath that he was short of.
"I expect you think very much as I do; when you've worked for others
for so many years, you feel you want something of your own."
"Yes, perhaps," said Lasse evasively.
"One wouldn't come to it quite empty-handed, either--if it should
Karna continued in this way, but Lasse was always sparing with his
words, until they arrived at the Rockingstone, where the others were
standing waiting. That was a block and a half! Fifty tons it was
said to weigh, and yet Mons and Anders could rock it by putting
a stick under one end of it.
"And now we ought to go to the Robbers' Castle," said Karl Johan,
and they trudged on, always up and down. Lasse did his utmost to
keep beside the others, for he did not feel very brave when he
was alone with Karna. What a fearful quantity of trees there were!
And not all of one sort, as in other parts of the world. There
were birches and firs, beech and larch and mountain ash all mixed
together, and ever so many cherry-trees. The head man lead them
across a little, dark lake that lay at the foot of the rock, staring
up like an evil eye. "It was here that Little Anna drowned her baby
--she that was betrayed by her master," he said lingeringly. They
all knew the story, and stood silent over the lake; the girls had
tears in their eyes.
As they stood there silent, thinking of Little Anna's sad fate,
an unspeakably soft note came up to them, followed by a long,
affecting sobbing. They moved nearer to one another. "Oh, Lord!"
whispered Fair Maria, shivering. "That's the baby's soul crying!"
Pelle stiffened as he listened, and cold waves seemed to flow down
"Why, that's a nightingale," said Karl Johan, "Don't you even know
that? There are hundreds of them in these woods, and they sing in
the middle of the day." This was a relief to the older people, but
Pelle's horror was not so easily thrown off. He had gazed into the
depths of the other world, and every explanation glanced off him.
But then came the Robbers' Castle as a great disappointment. He had
imagined it peopled with robbers, and it was only some old ruins
that stood on a little hill in the middle of a bog. He went by
himself all round the bottom of it to see if there were not a secret
underground passage that led down to the water. If there were, he
would get hold of his father without letting the others know, and
make his way in and look for the chests of money; or else there
would be too many to share in it. But this was forgotten as a
peculiar scent arrested his attention, and he came upon a piece of
ground that was green with lily-of-the-valley plants that still bore
a few flowers, and where there were wild strawberries. There were so
many that he had to go and call the others.
But this was also forgotten as he made his way through the underwood
to get up. He had lost the path and gone astray in the damp, chilly
darkness under the cliff. Creeping plants and thorns wove themselves
in among the overhanging branches, and made a thick, low roof. He
could not see an opening anywhere, and a strange green light came
through the matted branches, the ground was slippery with moisture
and decaying substances; from the cliff hung quivering fern-fronds
with their points downward, and water dripping from them like wet
hair. Huge tree-roots, like the naked bodies of black goblins
writhing to get free, lay stretched across the rocks. A little
further on, the sun made a patch of burning fire in the darkness,
and beyond it rose a bluish vapor and a sound as of a distant
Pelle stood still, and his terror grew until his knees trembled;
then he set off running as if he were possessed. A thousand shadow-
hands stretched out after him as he ran; and he pushed his way
through briars and creepers with a low cry. The daylight met him
with the force of a blow, and something behind him had a firm grasp
on his clothes; he had to shout for Father Lasse with all his might
before it let go.
And there he stood right out in the bog, while high up above
his head the others sat, upon a point of rock all among the trees.
From up there it looked as if the world were all tree-tops, rising
and falling endlessly; there was foliage far down beneath your
feet and out as far as the eye could see, up and down. You were
almost tempted to throw yourself into it, it looked so invitingly
soft. As a warning to the others, Karl Johan had to tell them
about the tailor's apprentice, who jumped out from a projecting
rock here, just because the foliage looked so temptingly soft,
Strange to say, he escaped with his life; but the high tree he
fell through stripped him of every stitch of clothing.
Mons had been teasing Sara by saying that he was going to jump
down, but now he drew back cautiously. "I don't want to risk my
confirmation clothes," he said, trying to look good.
After all, the most remarkable thing of all was the Horseman Hill
with the royal monument. The tower alone! Not a bit of wood had
been used in it, only granite; and you went round and round and
round. "You're counting the steps, I suppose?" said Karl Johan
admonishingly. Oh, yes, they were all counting to themselves.
It was clear weather, and the island lay spread out beneath them in
all its luxuriance. The very first thing the men wanted to do was to
try what it was like to spit down; but the girls were giddy and kept
together in a cluster in the middle of the platform. The churches
were counted under Karl Johan's able guidance, and all the well-
known places pointed out. "There's Stone Farm, too," said Anders,
pointing to something far off toward the sea. It was not Stone Farm,
but Karl Johan could say to a nicety behind which hill it ought to
lie, and then they recognized the quarries.
Lasse took no part in this. He stood quite still, gazing at the blue
line of the Swedish coast that stood out far away upon the shining
water. The sight of his native land made him feel weak and old; he
would probably never go home again, although he would have dearly
liked to see Bengta's grave once more. Ah yes, and the best that
could happen to one would be to be allowed to rest by her side, when
everything else was ended. At this moment he regretted that he had
gone into exile in his old age. He wondered what Kungstorp looked
like now, whether the new people kept the land cultivated at all.
And all the old acquaintances--how were they getting on? His
old-man's reminiscences came over him so strongly that for a time
he forgot Madam Olsen and everything about her. He allowed himself
to be lulled by past memories, and wept in his heart like a little
child. Ah! it was dreary to live away from one's native place and
everything in one's old age; but if it only brought a blessing on
the laddie in some way or other, it was all as it should be.
"I suppose that's the King's Copenhagen [Footnote: Country-people
speak of Copenhagen as "the King's Copehagen."] we see over there?"
"It's Sweden," said Lasse quietly.
"Sweden, is it? But it lay on that side last year, if I remember
"Yes, of course! What else should the world go round for?" exclaimed
Anders was just about to take this in all good faith when he caught
a grimace that Mons made to the others. "Oh, you clever monkey!" he
cried, and sprang at Mons, who dashed down the stone stairs; and the
sound of their footsteps came up in a hollow rumble as out of a huge
cask. The girls stood leaning against one another, rocking gently
and gazing silently at the shining water that lay far away round
the island. The giddiness had made them languid.
"Why, your eyes are quite dreamy!" said Karl Johan, trying to take
them all into his embrace. "Aren't you coming down with us?"
They were all fairly tired now. No one said anything, for of course
Karl Johan was leading; but the girls showed an inclination to sit
"Now there's only the Echo Valley left," he said encouragingly,
"and that's on our way back. We must do that, for it's well worth
it. You'll hear an echo there that hasn't its equal anywhere."
They went slowly, for their feet were tender with the leather boots
and much aimless walking; but when they had come down the steep
cliff into the valley and had drunk from the spring, they brightened
up. Karl Johan stationed himself with legs astride, and called
across to the cliff: "What's Karl Johan's greatest treat?" And the
echo answered straight away: "Eat!" It was exceedingly funny, and
they all had to try it, each with his or her name--even Pelle. When
that was exhausted, Mons made up a question which made the echo give
a rude answer.
"You mustn't teach it anything like that," said Lasse. "Just suppose
some fine ladies were to come here, and he started calling that out
after them?" They almost killed themselves with laughing at the old
man's joke, and he was so delighted at the applause that he went on
repeating it to himself on the way back. Ha, ha! he wasn't quite
fit for the scrap-heap yet.
When they got back to the cart they were ravenously hungry and
settled down to another meal. "You must have something to keep you
up when you're wandering about like this," said Mons.
"Now then," said Karl Johan, when they had finished, "every one may
do what they like; but at nine sharp we meet here again and drive
Up on the open ground, Lasse gave Pelle a secret nudge, and they
began to do business with a cake-seller until the others had got
well ahead. "It's not nice being third wheel in a carriage," said
Lasse. "We two'll go about by ourselves for a little now."
Lasse was craning his neck. "Are you looking for any one?" asked
"No, no one in particular; but I was wondering where all these
people come from. There are people from all over the country,
but I haven't seen any one from the village yet."
"Don't you think Madam Olsen'll be here to-day?"
"Can't say," said Lasse; "but it would be nice to see her, and
there's something I want to say to her, too. Your eyes are
young; you must keep a lookout."
Pelle was given fifty ore to spend on whatever he liked. Round the
ground sat the poor women of the Heath at little stalls, from which
they sold colored sugar-sticks, gingerbread and two-ore cigars. In
the meantime he went from woman to woman, and bought of each for
one or two ore.
Away under the trees stood blind Hoyer, who had come straight from
Copenhagen with new ballads. There was a crowd round him. He played
the tune upon his concertina, his little withered wife sang to it,
and the whole crowd sang carefully with her. Those who had learnt
the tunes went away singing, and others pushed forward into their
place and put down their five-ore piece.
Lasse and Pelle stood on the edge of the crowd listening. There
was no use in paying money before you knew what you would get for
it; and anyhow the songs would be all over the island by to-morrow,
and going gratis from mouth to mouth. "A Man of Eighty--a new and
pleasant ballad about how things go when a decrepit old man takes
a young wife!" shouted Hoyer in a hoarse voice, before the song
began. Lasse didn't care very much about that ballad; but then came
a terribly sad one about the sailor George Semon, who took a most
tender farewell of his sweetheart--
"And said, When here I once more stand,
We to the church will go hand in hand."
But he never did come back, for the storm was over them for
forty-five days, provisions ran short, and the girl's lover went
mad. He drew his knife upon the captain, and demanded to be taken
home to his bride; and the captain shot him down. Then the others
threw themselves upon the corpse, carried it to the galley, and
made soup of it.
"The girl still waits for her own true love,
Away from the shore she will not move.
Poor maid, she's hoping she still may wed,
And does not know that her lad is dead."
"That's beautiful," said Lasse, rummaging in his purse for a
five-ore. "You must try to learn that; you've got an ear for that
sort of thing." They pushed through the crowd right up to the
musician, and began cautiously to sing too, while the girls all
round were sniffing.
They wandered up and down among the trees, Lasse rather fidgety.
There was a whole street of dancing-booths, tents with conjurers and
panorama-men, and drinking-booths. The criers were perspiring, the
refreshment sellers were walking up and down in front of their tents
like greedy beasts of prey. Things had not got into full swing yet,
for most of the people were still out and about seeing the sights,
or amusing themselves in all seemliness, exerting themselves in
trials of strength or slipping in and out of the conjurers' tents.
There was not a man unaccompanied by a woman. Many a one came to a
stand at the refreshment-tents, but the woman pulled him past; then
he would yawn and allow himself to be dragged up into a roundabout
or a magic-lantern tent where the most beautiful pictures were shown
of the way that cancer and other horrible things made havoc in
"These are just the things for the women," said Lasse, breathing
forth a sigh at haphazard after Madam Olsen. On a horse on Madvig's
roundabout sat Gustav with his arm round Bodil's waist. "Hey, old
man!" he cried, as they whizzed past, and flapped Lasse on the ear
with his cap, which had the white side out. They were as radiant
as the day and the sun, those two.
Pelle wanted to have a turn on a roundabout. "Then blest if I won't
have something too, that'll make things go round!" said Lasse, and
went in and had a "cuckoo"--coffee with brandy in it. "There are
some people," he said, when he came out again, "that can go from
one tavern to another without its making any difference in their
purse. It would be nice to try--only for a year. Hush!" Over by Max
Alexander's "Green House" stood Karna, quite alone and looking about
her wistfully. Lasse drew Pelle round in a wide circle.
"There's Madam Olsen with a strange man!" said Pelle suddenly.
Lasse started. "Where?" Yes, there she stood, and had a man with
her! And talking so busily! They went past her without stopping;
she could choose for herself, then.
"Hi, can't you wait a little!" cried Madam Olsen, running after them
so that her petticoats crackled round her. She was round and smiling
as usual, and many layers of good home-woven material stood out
about her; there was no scrimping anywhere.
They went on together, talking on indifferent matters and now and
then exchanging glances about the boy who was in their way. They had
to walk so sedately without venturing to touch one another. He did
not like any nonsense.
It was black with people now up at the pavilion, and one could
hardly move a step without meeting acquaintances. "It's even worse
than a swarm of bees," said Lasse. "It's not worth trying to get
in there." At one place the movement was outward, and by following
it they found themselves in a valley, where a man stood shouting
and beating his fists upon a platform. It was a missionary meeting.
The audience lay encamped in small groups, up the slopes, and a man
in long black clothes went quietly from group to group, selling
leaflets. His face was white, and he had a very long, thin red
"Do you see that man?" whispered Lasse, giving Pelle a nudge. "Upon
my word, if it isn't Long Ole--and with a glove on his injured hand.
It was him that had to take the sin upon him for Per Olsen's false
swearing!" explained Lasse, turning to Madam Olsen. "He was standing
at the machine at the time when Per Olsen ought to have paid the
penalty with his three fingers, and so his went instead. He may be
glad of the mistake after all, for they say he's risen to great
things among the prayer-meeting folks. And his complexion's as fine
as a young lady's--something different to what it was when he was
carting manure at Stone Farm! It'll be fun to say good-day to him
Lasse was quite proud of having served together with this man,
and stationed himself in front of the others, intending to make an
impression upon his lady friend by saying a hearty: "Good-day, Ole!"
Long Ole was at the next group, and now he came on to them and was
going to hold out his tracts, when a glance at Lasse made him drop
both hand and eyes; and with a deep sigh he passed on with bowed
head to the next group.
"Did you see how he turned his eyes up?" said Lasse derisively.
"When beggars come to court, they don't know how to behave! He'd got
a watch in his pocket, too, and long clothes; and before he hadn't
even a shirt to his body. And an ungodly devil he was too! But the
old gentleman looks after his own, as the saying is; I expect it's
him that helped him on by changing places at the machine. The way
they've cheated the Almighty's enough to make Him weep!"
Madam Olsen tried to hush Lasse, but the "cuckoo" rose within him
together with his wrath, and he continued: "So _he's_ above
recognizing decent people who get what they have in an honorable
way, and not by lying and humbug! They do say he makes love to all
the farmers' wives wherever he goes; but there was a time when he
had to put up with the Sow."
People began to look at them, and Madam Olsen took Lasse firmly by
the arm and drew him away.
The sun was now low in the sky. Up on the open ground the crowds
tramped round and round as if in a tread-mill. Now and then a
drunken man reeled along, making a broad path for himself through
the crush. The noise came seething up from the tents--barrel-organs
each grinding out a different tune, criers, the bands of the various
dancing-booths, and the measured tread of a schottische or polka.
The women wandered up and down in clusters, casting long looks into
the refreshment-tents where their men were sitting; and some of them
stopped at the tent-door and made coaxing signs to some one inside.
Under the trees stood a drunken man, pawing at a tree-trunk, and
beside him stood a girl, crying with her black damask apron to her
eyes. Pelle watched them for a long time. The man's clothes were
disordered, and he lurched against the girl with a foolish grin
when she, in the midst of her tears, tried to put them straight.
When Pelle turned away, Lasse and Madam Olsen had disappeared in
They must have gone on a little, and he went down to the very end
of the street. Then he turned despondingly and went up, burrowing
this way and that in the stream of people, with eyes everywhere.
"Haven't you seen Father Lasse?" he asked pitifully, when he met
any one he knew.
In the thickest of the crush, a tall man was moving along, holding
forth blissfully at the top of his voice. He was a head taller than
anybody else, and very broad; but he beamed with good-nature, and
wanted to embrace everybody. People ran screaming out of his way,
so that a broad path was left wherever he went. Pelle kept behind
him, and thus succeeded in getting through the thickest crowds,
where policemen and rangers were stationed with thick cudgels.
Their eyes and ears were on the watch, but they did not interfere
in anything. It was said that they had handcuffs in their pockets.
Pelle had reached the road in his despairing search. Cart after cart
was carefully working its way out through the gloom under the trees,
then rolling out into the dazzling evening light, and on to the
high-road with much cracking of whips. They were the prayer-meeting
people driving home.
He happened to think of the time, and asked a man what it was. Nine!
Pelle had to run so as not to be too late in getting to the cart.
In the cart sat Karl Johan and Fair Maria eating. "Get up and have
something to eat!" they said, and as Pelle was ravenous, he forgot
everything while he ate. But then Johan asked about Lasse, and his
Karl Johan was cross; not one had returned to the cart, although
it was the time agreed upon. "You'd better keep close to us now,"
he said, as they went up, "or you might get killed."
Up at the edge of the wood they met Gustav running. "Have none
of you seen Bodil?" he asked, gasping. His clothes were torn and
there was blood on the front of his shirt. He ran on groaning, and
disappeared under the trees. It was quite dark there, but the open
ground lay in a strange light that came from nowhere, but seemed
to have been left behind by the day as it fled. Faces out there
showed up, some in ghostly pallor, some black like holes in the
light, until they suddenly burst forth, crimson with blood-red
The people wandered about in confused groups, shouting and screaming
at the top of their voices. Two men came along with arms twined
affectionately round one another's necks, and the next moment lay
rolling on the ground in a fight. Others joined the fray and took
sides without troubling to discover what it was all about, and the
contest became one large struggling heap. Then the police came up,
and hit about them with their sticks; and those who did not run away
were handcuffed and thrown into an empty stable.
Pelle was quite upset, and kept close to Karl Johan; he jumped
every time a band approached, and kept on saying in a whimpering
tone: "Where's Father Lasse? Let's go and find him."
"Oh, hold your tongue!" exclaimed the head man, who was standing and
trying to catch sight of his fellow-servants. He was angry at this
untrustworthiness. "Don't stand there crying! You'd do much more
good if you ran down to the cart and see whether any one's come."
Pelle had to go, little though he cared to venture in under the
trees. The branches hung silently listening, but the noise from
the open ground came down in bursts, and in the darkness under the
bushes living things rustled about and spoke in voices of joy or
sorrow. A sudden scream rang through the wood, and made his knees
Karna sat at the back of the cart asleep, and Bengta stood leaning
against the front seat, weeping. "They've locked Anders up," she
sobbed. "He got wild, so they put handcuffs on him and locked
him up." She went back with Pelle.
Lasse was with Karl Johan and Fair Maria; he looked defiantly at
Pelle, and in his half-closed eyes there was a little mutinous
"Then now there's only Mons and Lively Sara," said Karl Johan,
as he ran his eye over them.
"But what about Anders?" sobbed Bengta. "You surely won't drive
away without Anders?"
"There's nothing can he done about Anders!" said the head man.
"He'll come of his own accord when once he's let out."
They found out on inquiry that Mons and Lively Sara were down in one
of the dancing-booths, and accordingly went down there. "Now you
stay here!" said Karl Johan sternly, and went in to take a survey
of the dancers. In there blood burnt hot, and faces were like balls
of fire that made red circles in the blue mist of perspiring heat
and dust. Dump! Dump! Dump! The measure fell booming like heavy
blows; and in the middle of the floor stood a man and wrung the
moisture out of his jacket.
Out of one of the dancing-tents pushed a big fellow with two girls.
He had an arm about the neck of each, and they linked arms behind
his back. His cap was on the back of his head, and his riotous mood
would have found expression in leaping, if he had not felt himself
too pleasantly encumbered; so he opened his mouth wide, and shouted
joyfully, so that it rang again: "Devil take me! Deuce take me!
Seven hundred devils take me!" and disappeared under the trees with
"That was Per Olsen himself," said Lasse, looking after him. "What
a man, to be sure! He certainly doesn't look as if he bore any debt
of sin to the Almighty."
"His time may still come," was the opinion of Karl Johan.
Quite by chance they found Mons and Lively Sara sitting asleep
in one another's arms upon a bench under the trees.
"Well, now, I suppose we ought to be getting home?" said Karl Johan
slowly. He had been doing right for so long that his throat was
quite dry. "I suppose none of you'll stand a farewell glass?"
"I will!" said Mons, "if you'll go up to the pavilion with me to
drink it." Mons had missed something by going to sleep and had a
desire to go once round the ground. Every time a yell reached them
he gave a leap as he walked beside Lively Sara, and answered with
a long halloo. He tried to get away, but she clung to his arm; so
he swung the heavy end of his loaded stick and shouted defiantly.
Lasse kicked his old limbs and imitated Mons's shouts, for he
too was for anything rather than going home; but Karl Johan was
determined--they _were_ to go now! And in this he was
supported by Pelle and the women.
Out on the open ground a roar made them stop, and the women got
each behind her man. A man came running bareheaded and with a large
wound in his temple, from which the blood flowed down over his face
and collar. His features were distorted with fear. Behind him came
a second, also bareheaded, and with a drawn knife. A ranger tried
to bar his way, but received a wound in his shoulder and fell, and
the pursuer ran on. As he passed them, Mons uttered a short yell and
sprang straight up into the air, bringing down his loaded stick upon
the back of the man's neck. The man sank to the ground with a grunt,
and Mons slipped in among the groups of people and disappeared; and
the others found him waiting for them at the edge of the wood. He
did not answer any more yells.
Karl Johan had to lead the horses until they got out onto the road,
and then they all got in. Behind them the noise had become lost,
and only one long cry for help rang through the air and dropped
Down by a little lake, some forgotten girls had gathered on the
grass and were playing by themselves. The white mist lay over the
grass like a shining lake, and only the upper part of the girls'
bodies rose above it. They were walking round in a ring, singing
the mid-summer's-night song. Pure and clear rose the merry song,
and yet was so strangely sad to listen to, because they who sang
it had been left in the lurch by sots and brawlers.
"We will dance upon hill and meadow,
We will wear out our shoes and stockings.
Heigh ho, my little sweetheart fair,
We shall dance till the sun has risen high.
Heigh ho, my queen!
Now we have danced upon the green."
The tones fell so gently upon the ear and mind that memories and
thoughts were purified of all that had been hideous, and the day
itself could appear in its true colors as a joyful festival. For
Lasse and Pelle, indeed, it had been a peerless day, making up for
many years of neglect. The only pity was that it was over instead
of about to begin.
The occupants of the cart were tired now, some nodding and all
silent. Lasse sat working about in his pocket with one hand. He
was trying to obtain an estimate of the money that remained. It was
expensive to keep a sweetheart when you did not want to be outdone
by younger men in any way. Pelle was asleep, and was slipping
farther and farther down until Bengta took his head onto her lap.
She herself was weeping bitterly about Anders.
The daylight was growing rapidly brighter as they drove in to
The master and mistress of Stone Farm were almost always the subject
of common talk, and were never quite out of the thoughts of the
people. There was as much thought and said about Kongstrup and his
wife as about all the rest of the parish put together; they were
bread to so many, their Providence both in evil and good, that
nothing that they did could be immaterial.
No one ever thought of weighing them by the same standards as
they used for others; they were something apart, beings who were
endowed with great possessions, and could do and be as they liked,
disregarding all considerations and entertaining all passions. All
that came from Stone Farm was too great for ordinary mortals to sit
in judgment upon; it was difficult enough to explain what went on,
even when at such close quarters with it all as were Lasse and Pelle.
To them as to the others, the Stone Farm people were beings apart,
who lived their life under greater conditions, beings, as it were,
halfway between the human and the supernatural, in a world where
such things as unquenchable passion and frenzied love wrought havoc.
What happened, therefore, at Stone Farm supplied more excitement
than the other events of the parish. People listened with open-
mouthed interest to the smallest utterance from the big house,
and when the outbursts came, trembled and went about oppressed and
uncomfortable. No matter how clearly Lasse, in the calm periods,
might think he saw it all, the life up there would suddenly be
dragged out of its ordinary recognized form again, and wrap itself
around his and the boy's world like a misty sphere in which
capricious powers warred--just above their heads.
It was now Jomfru Koller's second year at the farm, in spite of
all evil prophecies; and indeed things had turned out in such a
way that every one had to own that his prognostications had been
wrong. She was always fonder of driving with Kongstrup to the
town than of staying at home to cheer Fru Kongstrup up in her
loneliness; but such is youth. She behaved properly enough
otherwise, and it was well known that Kongstrup had returned to
his old hotel-sweethearting in the town. Fru Kongstrup herself,
moreover, showed no distrust of her young relative--if she had
ever felt any. She was as kind to her as if she had been her own
daughter; and very often it was she herself who got Jomfru Koller
to go in the carriage to look after her husband.
Otherwise the days passed as usual, and Fru Kongstrup was
continually giving herself up to little drinking-bouts and to grief.
At such times she would weep over her wasted life; and if he were
at home would follow him with her accusations from room to room,
until he would order the carriage and take flight, even in the
middle of the night. The walls were so saturated with her voice
that it penetrated through everything like a sorrowful, dull
droning. Those who happened to be up at night to look after animals
or the like, could hear her talking incessantly up there, even if
she were alone.
But then Jomfru Koller began to talk of going away. She suddenly got
the idea that she wanted to go to Copenhagen and learn something,
so that she could earn her own living. It sounded strange, as there
was every prospect of her some day inheriting the farmer's property.
Fru Kongstrup was quite upset at the thought of losing her, and
altogether forgot her other troubles in continually talking to her
about it. Even when everything was settled, and they were standing
in the mangling-room with the maids, getting Jomfru Koller's things
ready for her journey, she still kept on--to no earthly purpose.
Like all the Stone Farm family, she could never let go anything
she had once got hold of.
There was something strange about Jomfru Koller's obstinacy of
purpose; she was not even quite sure what she was going to do over
there. "I suppose she's going over to learn cooking," said one and
another with a covert smile.
Fru Kongstrup herself had no suspicion. She, who was always
suspecting something, seemed to be blind here. It must have been
because she had such complete trust in Jomfru Koller, and thought
so much of her. She had not even time to sigh, so busy was she in
putting everything into good order. Much need there was for it, too;
Jomfru Koller must have had her head full of very different things,
judging from the condition her clothes were in.
"I'm glad Kongstrup's going over with her," said Fru Kongstrup
to Fair Maria one evening when they were sitting round the big
darning-basket, mending the young lady's stockings after the wash.
"They say Copenhagen's a bad town for inexperienced young people
to come to. But Sina'll get on all right, for she's got the good
stock of the Kollers in her." She said it all with such childish
simplicity; you could tramp in and out of her heart with great
wooden shoes on, suspicious though she was. "Perhaps we'll come
over to see you at Christmas, Sina," she added in the goodness of
Jomfru Koller opened her mouth and caught her breath in terror, but
did not answer. She bent over her work and did not look at any one
all the evening. She never looked frankly at any one now. "She's
ashamed of her deceitfulness!" they said. The judgment would fall
upon her; she ought to have known what she was doing, and not gone
between the bark and the wood, especially here where one of them
trusted her entirely.
In the upper yard the new man Paer was busy getting the closed
carriage ready. Erik stood beside him idle. He looked unhappy and
troubled, poor fellow, as he always did when he was not near the
bailiff. Each time a wheel had to come off or be put on, he had to
put his giant's back under the big carriage and lift it. Every now
and then Lasse came to the stable-door to get an idea of what was
going on. Pelle was at school, it being the first day of the new
She was going away to-day, the false wretch who had let herself be
drawn into deceiving one who had been a mother to her! Fru Kongstrup
must be going with them down to the steamer, as the closed carriage
Lasse went into the bedroom to arrange one or two things so that
he could slip out in the evening without Pelle noticing it. He had
given Pelle a little paper of sweets for Madam Olsen, and on the
paper he had drawn a cross with a lead button; and the cross meant
in all secrecy that he would come to her that evening.
While he took out his best clothes and hid them under some hay close
to the outer door, he hummed:--
"Love's longing so strong
It helped me along,
And the way was made short with the nightingales' song."
He was looking forward so immensely to the evening; he had not been
alone with her now for nearly a quarter of a year. He was proud,
moreover, of having taken writing into his service, and that a
writing that Pelle, quick reader of writing though he was, would
not be able to make out.
While the others were taking their after-dinner nap, Lasse went out
and tidied up the dung-heap. The carriage was standing up there with
one large trunk strapped on behind, and another standing on one edge
on the box. Lasse wondered what such a girl would do when she was
alone out in the wide world and had to pay the price of her sin.
He supposed there must be places where they took in such girls in
return for good payment; everything could be got over there!
Johanna Pihl came waddling in at the gate up there. Lasse started
when he saw her; she never came for any good. When she boldly
exhibited herself here, she was always drunk, and then she stopped
at nothing. It was sad to see how low misfortune could drag a woman.
Lasse could not help thinking what a pretty girl she had been in
her youth. And now all she thought of was making money out of her
shame! He cautiously withdrew into the stable, so as not to be an
eye-witness to anything, and peered out from there.
The Sow went up and down in front of the windows, and called in
a thick voice, over which she had not full command: "Kongstrup,
Kongstrup! Come out and let me speak to you. You must let me have
some money, for your son and I haven't had any food for three days."
"That's a wicked lie!" said Lasse to himself indignantly, "for she
has a good income. But she wastes God's gifts, and now she's out to
do some evil." He would have liked to take the fork and chase her
out through the gate, but it was not well to expose one's self to
her venomous tongue.
She had her foot upon the step, but did not dare to mount. Fuddled
though she was, there was something that kept her in check. She
stood there groping at the handrail and mumbling to herself, and
every now and then lifting her fat face and calling Kongstrup.
Jomfru Koller came inadvertently up from the basement, and went
toward the steps; her eyes were on the ground, and she did not see
the Sow until it was too late, and then she turned quickly. Johanna
Pihl stood grinning.
"Come here, miss, and let me wish you good-day!" she cried. "You're
too grand, are you? But the one may be just as good as the other!
Perhaps it's because you can drive away in a carriage and have yours
on the other side of the sea, while I had mine in a beet-field! But
is that anything to be proud of? I say, just go up and tell my fine
gentleman that his eldest's starving! I daren't go myself because of
the evil eye."
Long before this Jomfru Koller was down in the basement again, but
Johanna Pihl continued to stand and say the same thing over and
over again, until the bailiff came dashing out toward her, when
she retired, scolding, from the yard.
The men had been aroused before their time by her screaming, and
stood drowsily watching behind the barn-doors. Lasse kept excited
watch from the stable, and the girls had collected in the wash-house.
What would happen now? They all expected some terrible outbreak.
But nothing happened. Now, when Fru Kongstrup had the right to shake
heaven and earth--so faithlessly had they treated her--now she was
silent. The farm was as peaceful as on the days when they had come
to a sort of understanding, and Kongstrup kept himself quiet. Fru
Kongstrup passed the windows up there, and looked just like anybody
else. Nothing happened!
Something must have been said, however, for the young lady had
a very tear-stained face when they got into the carriage, and
Kongstrup wore his confused air. Then Karl Johan drove away with
the two; and the mistress did not appear. She was probably ashamed
for what concerned the others.
Nothing had happened to relieve the suspense; it oppressed every one.
She must have accepted her unhappy lot, and given up standing out
for her rights, now, just when every one would have supported her.
This tranquillity was so unnatural, so unreasonable, that it made
one melancholy and low-spirited. It was as though others were
suffering on her behalf, and she herself had no heart.
But then it broke down, and the sound of weeping began to ooze out
over the farm, quiet and regular like flowing heart's blood. All
the evening it flowed; the weeping had never sounded so despairing;
it went to the hearts of all. She had taken in the poor child and
treated her as her own, and the poor child had deceived her. Every
one felt how she must suffer.
During the night the weeping rose to cries so heart-rending that
they awakened even Pelle--wet with perspiration. "It sounds like
some one in the last agonies!" said Lasse, and hastily drew on his
trousers with trembling, clumsy hands. "She surely hasn't laid hands
upon herself?" He lighted the lantern and went out into the stable,
Pelle following naked.
Then suddenly the cries ceased, as abruptly as if the sound had been
cut off with an axe, and the silence that followed said dumbly that
it was forever. The farm sank into the darkness of night like an
extinguished world. "Our mistress is dead!" said Lasse, shivering
and moving his fingers over his lips. "May God receive her kindly!"
They crept fearfully into bed.
But when they got up the next morning, the farm looked as it always
did, and the maids were chattering and making as much noise as
usual in the wash-house. A little while after, the mistress's voice
was heard up there, giving directions about the work. "I don't
understand it," said Lasse, shaking his head. "Nothing but death
can stop anything so suddenly. She must have a tremendous power
It now became apparent what a capable woman she was. She had not
wasted anything in the long period of idleness; the maids became
brisker and the fare better. One day she came to the cow-stable to
see that the milking was done cleanly. She gave every one his due,
too. One day they came from the quarry and complained that they had
had no wages for three weeks. There was not enough money on the
farm. "Then we must get some," said the mistress, and they had to
set about threshing at once. And one day when Karna raised too many
objections she received a ringing box on the ear.
"It's a new nature she's got," said Lasse. But the old workpeople
recognized several things from their young days. "It's her family's
nature," they said. "She's a regular Koller."
The time passed without any change; she was as constant in her
tranquillity as she had before been constant in her misery. It was
not the habit of the Kollers to change their minds once they had
made them up about anything. Then Kongstrup came home from his
journey. She did not drive out to meet him, but was on the steps
to greet him, gentle and kind. Everybody could see how pleased and
surprised he was. He must have expected a very different reception.
But during the night, when they were all sound asleep, Karna
came knocking at the men's window. "Get up and fetch the doctor!"
she cried, "and be quick!" The call sounded like one of life and
death, and they turned out headlong. Lasse, who was in the habit
of sleeping with one eye open, like the hens, was the first man on
the spot, and had got the horses out of the stable; and in a few
minutes Karl Johan was driving out at the gate. He had a man with
him to hold the lantern. It was pitch-dark, but they could hear the
carriage tearing along until the sound became very distant; then in
another moment the sound changed, as the vehicle turned on to the
metalled road a couple of miles off. Then it died away altogether.
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