Pelle the Conqueror, Vol. 2
Martin Anderson Nexo
Part 6 out of 6
The "Great Power" ceased; his head drooped to one side, and at the
same moment the others ceased to sing.
They sat in the straw and gazed at him--his last words still rang
in their ears, like a crazy dream, which mingled oddly with the
victorious notes of the hymn.
They were all sensible of the silent accusation of the dead, and in
the solemnity of the moment they judged and condemned themselves.
"Yes, who knows what we might come to!" said one ragged fellow,
thoughtfully chewing a length of straw.
"I shall never do any good," said Emil dejectedly. "With me it's
always been from bad to worse. I was apprenticed, and when I became
a journeyman they gave me the sack; I had wasted five years of my
life and couldn't do a thing. Pelle--he'll get on all right."
Astonished, Pelle raised his head and gazed at Emil
"What use is it if a poor devil tries to make his way up? He'll
always be pushed down again!" said Olsen. "Just look at the 'Great
Power'; could any one have had a better claim than he? No, the big
folks don't allow us others to make our way up!"
"And have we allowed it ourselves?" muttered Strom. "We are always
uneasy if one of our own people wants to fly over our heads!"
"I don't understand why all the poor folk don't make a stand
together against the others," said Bergendal. "We suffer the same
wrongs. If we all acted together, and had nothing to do with them
that mean us harm, for instance, then it would soon be seen that
collective poverty is what makes the wealth of the others. And
I've heard that that's what they're doing elsewhere."
"But we shall never in this life be unanimous about anything
whatever," said an old stonemason sadly. "If one of the gentlemen
only scratches our neck a bit, then we all grovel at his feet, and
let ourselves be set on to one of our own chaps. If we were all
like the 'Great Power,' then things might have turned out
They were silent again; they sat there and gazed at the dead man;
there was something apologetic in the bearing of each and all.
"Yes, that comes late!" said Strom, with a sigh. Then he felt in
the straw and pulled out a bottle.
Some of the men still sat there, trying to put into words something
that ought perhaps to be said; but then came the doctor, and they
drew in their horns. They picked up their beer-cans and went out to
Silently Pelle gathered his possessions together and went to the
foreman. He asked for his wages.
"That's sudden," said the foreman. "You were getting on so well
just now. What do you want to do now?"
"I just want my wages," rejoined Pelle. What more he wanted, he
himself did not know. And then he went home and put his room in
order. It was like a pigsty; he could not understand how he could
have endured such untidiness. In the meantime he thought listlessly
of some way of escape. It had been very convenient to belong to the
dregs of society, and to know that he could not sink any deeper; but
perhaps there were still other possibilities. Emil had said a stupid
thing--what did he mean by it? "Pelle, he'll get on all right!"
Well, what did Emil know of the misery of others? He had enough
of his own.
He went down into the street in order to buy a little milk; then
he would go back and sleep. He felt a longing to deaden all the
thoughts that once more began to seethe in his head.
Down in the street he ran into the arms of Sort, the wandering
shoemaker. "Now we've got you!" cried Sort. "I was just coming here
and wondering how best I could get to speak with you. I wanted to
tell you that I begin my travelling to-morrow. Will you come with
me? It is a splendid life, to be making the round of the farms now
in the spring-time; and you'll go to the dogs if you stay here. Now
you know all about it and you can decide. I start at six o'clock!
I can't put it off any later!"
Sort had observed Pelle that evening at the prayer-meeting, and on
several occasions had spoken to him in the hope of arousing him. "He
can put off his travels for a fortnight as far as I'm concerned!"
thought Pelle, with a touch of self-esteem. He wouldn't go! To go
begging for work from farm to farm! Pelle had learned his craft in
the workshop, and looked down with contempt upon the travelling
cobbler, who lives from hand to mouth and goes from place to place
like a beggar, working with leather and waxed-ends provided on the
spot, and eating out of the same bowl as the farm servants. So much
pride of craft was still left in Pelle. Since his apprentice days,
he had been accustomed to regard Sort as a pitiful survival from
the past, a species properly belonging to the days of serfdom.
"You'll go to the dogs!" Sort had said. And all Marie Melsen's
covert allusions had meant the same thing. But what then? Perhaps he
had already gone to the dogs! Suppose there was no other escape than
this! But now he would sleep, and think no more of all these things.
He drank his bottle of milk and ate some bread with it, and went
to bed. He heard the church clock striking--it was midnight, and
glorious weather. But Pelle wanted to sleep--only to sleep! His
heart was like lead.
He awoke early next morning and was out of bed with one leap. The
sun filled his room, and he himself was filled with a sense of
health and well-being. Quickly he slipped into his clothes--there
was still so much that he wanted to do! He threw up the window, and
drank in the spring morning in a breath that filled his body with
a sense of profound joy. Out at sea the boats were approaching the
harbor; the morning sun fell on the slack sails, and made them glow;
every boat was laboring heavily forward with the aid of its tiller.
He had slept like a stone, from the moment of lying down until now.
Sleep lay like a gulf between yesterday and to-day. Whistling a tune
to himself, he packed his belongings and set out upon his way, a
little bundle under his arm. He took the direction of the church, in
order to see the time. It was still not much past five. Then he made
for the outermost suburb with vigorous steps, as joyful as though he
were treading the road to happiness.
Two men appeared from the wood and crossed the highroad. One was
little and hump-backed; he had a shoemaker's bench strapped tightly
on his back; the edge rested on his hump, and a little pillow was
thrust between, so that the bench should not chafe him. The other
was young and strongly built; a little thin, but healthy and fresh-
colored. He carried a great bundle of lasts on his back, which were
held in equilibrium by another box, which he carried on his chest,
and which, to judge by the sounds that proceeded from it, contained
tools. At the edge of the ditch he threw down his burden and
unstrapped the bench from the hunchback. They threw themselves
down in the grass and gazed up into the blue sky. It was a glorious
morning; the birds twittered and flew busily to and fro, and the
cattle were feeding in the dewy clover, leaving long streaks behind
them as they moved.
"And in spite of that, you are always happy?" said Pelle. Sort had
been telling him the sad story of his childhood.
"Yes, look you, it often vexes me that I take everything so easily--
but what if I can't find anything to be sad about? If I once go into
the matter thoroughly, I always hit on something or other that makes
me still happier--as, for instance, your society. You are young, and
health beams out of your eyes. The girls become so friendly wherever
we go, and it's as though I myself were the cause of their pleasure!"
"Where do you really get your knowledge of everything?" asked Pelle.
"Do you find that I know so much?" Sort laughed gaily. "I go about
so much, and I see so many different households, some where man and
wife are as one, and others where they live like cat and dog. I come
into contact with people of every kind. And I get to know a lot, too,
because I'm not like other men--more than one maiden has confided
her miseries to me. And then in winter, when I sit alone, I think
over everything--and the Bible is a good book, a book a man can draw
wisdom from. There a man learns to look behind things; and if you
once realize that everything has its other side, then you learn to
use your understanding. You can go behind everything if you want to,
and they all lead in the same direction--to God. And they all came
from Him. He is the connection, do you see; and once a man grasps
that, then he is always happy. It would be splendid to follow things
up further--right up to where they divide, and then to show, in
spite of all, that they finally run together in God again! But that
I'm not able to do."
"We ought to see about getting on." Pelle yawned, and he began
to bestir himself.
"Why? We're so comfortable here--and we've already done what we
undertook to do. What if there should be a pair of boots yonder
which Sort and Pelle won't get to sole before they're done with?
Some one else will get the job!"
Pelle threw himself on his back and again pulled his cap over his
eyes--he was in no hurry. He had now been travelling nearly a month
with Sort, and had spent almost as much time on the road as sitting
at his work. Sort could never rest when he had been a few days in
one place; he must go on again! He loved the edge of the wood and
the edge of the meadow, and could spend half the day there. And
Pelle had many points of contact with this leisurely life in the
open air; he had his whole childhood to draw upon. He could lie
for hours, chewing a grass-stem, patient as a convalescent, while
sun and air did their work upon him.
"Why do you never preach to me?" he said suddenly, and he peeped
mischievously from tinder his cap.
"Why should I preach to you? Because I am religious? Well, so are
you; every one who rejoices and is content is religious."
"But I'm not at all content!" retorted Pelle, and he rolled on his
back with all four limbs in the air. "But you--I don't understand
why you don't get a congregation; you've got such a power over
"Yes, if I were built as you are--fast enough. But I'm humpbacked!"
"What does that matter? You don't want to run after the women!"
"No, but one can't get on without them; they bring the men and the
children after them. And it's really queer that they should--for
women don't bother themselves about God! They haven't the faculty of
going behind things. They choose only according to the outside--they
want to hang everything on their bodies as finery--and the men too,
yes, and the dear God best of all--they've got a use for the lot!"
Pelle lay still for a time, revolving his scattered experiences.
"But Marie Nielsen wasn't like that," he said thoughtfully. "She'd
willingly give the shirt off her body and ask nothing for herself.
I've behaved badly to her--I didn't even say goodbye before I came
"Then you must look her up when we come to town and confess your
fault. There was no lovemaking between you?"
"She treated me like a child; I've told you."
Sort was silent a while.
"If you would help me, we'd soon get a congregation! I can see it
in your eyes, that you've got influence over them, if you only cared
about it; for instance, the girl at Willow Farm. Thousands would
come to us."
Pelle did not answer. His thoughts were roaming back wonderingly
to Willow Farm, where Sort and he had last been working; he was once
more in that cold, damp room with the over-large bed, on which the
pale girl's face was almost invisible. She lay there encircling her
thick braids with her transparent hand, and gazed at him; and the
door was gently closed behind him. "That was really a queer fancy,"
he said, and he breathed deeply; "some one she'd never laid eyes on
before; I could cry now when I think of it."
"The old folks had told her we were there, and asked if she wouldn't
like me to read something from God's word with her. But she'd rather
see you. The father was angry and didn't want to allow it. 'She has
never thought about young men before,' he said, 'and she shall stand
before the throne of God and the Lamb quite pure.' But I said, 'Do
you know so precisely that the good God cares anything for what you
call purity, Ole Jensen? Let the two of them come together, if they
can take any joy in it.' Then we shut the door behind you--and how
was it then?" Sort turned toward Pelle.
"You know," replied Pelle crossly. "She just lay there and looked at
me as though she was thinking: 'That's what he looks like--and he's
come a long way here.' I could see by her eyes that you had spoken
of me and that she knew about all my swinishness."
"Then she held out her hand to me. How like she is to one of God's
angels already--I thought--but it's a pity in one who's so young.
And then I went close to her and took her hand."
"And what then?" Sort drew nearer to Pelle. His eyes hung
expectantly on Pelle's lips.
"Then she stretched out her mouth to me a little--and at that very
moment I forgot what sort of a hog I'd been--and I kissed her!"
"Didn't she say anything to you--not a word?"
"She only looked at me with those eyes that you can't understand.
Then I didn't know what I--what I ought to do next, so I came away."
"Weren't you afraid that she might transfer death to you?"
"No; why should I be? I didn't think about it. But she could never
think of a thing like that--so child-like as she was!"
They both lay for a time without speaking. "You have something in
you that conquers them all!" said Sort at length. "If only you would
help me--I'd see to the preaching!"
Pelle stretched himself indolently--he felt no desire to create
a new religion. "No, I want to go away and see the world now," he
said. "There must be places in that world where they've already
begun to go for the rich folks--that's where I want to go!"
"One can't achieve good by the aid of evil--you had better stay
here! Here you know where you are--and if we went together--"
"No, there's nothing here for any one to do who is poor--if I go on
here any longer, I shall end in the mud again. I want to have my
share--even if I have to strike a bloodsucker dead to get it--and
that couldn't be any very great sin! But shan't we see about getting
on now? We've been a whole month now tramping round these Sudland
farms. You've always promised me that we should make our way toward
the heath. For months now I've heard nothing of Father Lasse and
Karna. When things began to go wrong with me, it was as though I
had quite forgotten them."
Sort rose quickly. "Good! So you've still thoughts for other things
than killing bloodsuckers! How far is it, then, to Heath Farm?"
"A good six miles."
"We'll go straight there. I've no wish to begin anything to-day."
They packed their possessions on their backs and trudged onward in
cheerful gossip. Sort pictured their arrival to Pelle. "I shall go
in first and ask whether they've any old boots or harness that we
can mend; and then you'll come in, while we're in the middle of a
Pelle laughed. "Shan't I carry the bench for you? I can very well
strap it on the other things."
"You shan't sweat for me as well as yourself!" rejoined Sort,
laughing. "You'd want to take off even your trousers then."
They had chattered enough, and tramped on in silence. Pelle stepped
forward carelessly, drinking in the fresh air. He was conscious of
a superfluity of strength and well-being; otherwise he thought of
nothing, but merely rejoiced unconsciously over his visit to his
home. At every moment he had to moderate his steps, so that Sort
should not be left behind.
"What are you really thinking about now?" he asked suddenly. He
would always have it that Sort was thinking of something the moment
he fell silent. One could never know beforehand in what region he
would crop up next.
"That's just what the children ask!" replied Sort, laughing. "They
always want to know what's inside."
"Tell me, then--you might as well tell me!"
"I was thinking about life. Here you walk at my side, strong and
certain of victory as the young David. And yet a month ago you
were part of the dregs of society!"
"Yes, that is really queer," said Pelle, and he became thoughtful.
"But how did you get into such a mess? You could quite well have
kept your head above water if you had only wanted to!"
"That I really don't know. I tell you, it's as if some one had hit
you over the head; and then you run about and don't know what you're
doing; and it isn't so bad if you've once got there. You work and
drink and bang each other over the head with your beer-cans or
"You say that so contentedly--you don't look behind things--that's
the point! I've seen so many people shipwrecked; for the poor man
it's only one little step aside, and he goes to the dogs; and he
himself believes he's a devilish fine fellow. But it was a piece of
luck that you got out of it all! Yes, it's a wonder remorse didn't
make your life bitter."
"If we felt remorse we had brandy," said Pelle, with an experienced
air. "That soon drives out everything else."
"Then it certainly has its good points--it helps a man over the time
"Do you really believe that an eternal kingdom is coming--the
'thousand-year kingdom'--the millennium? With good times for all,
for the poor and the miserable?"
Sort nodded. "God has promised it, and we must believe His Word.
Something is being prepared over on the mainland, but whether it's
the real millennium, I don't know."
They tramped along. The road was stony and deserted. On either side
the rocky cliffs, with their scrubby growth, were beginning to rise
from the fields, and before them ranged the bluish rocky landscape
of the heath or moorland. "As soon as we've been home, I shall
travel; I must cross the sea and find out what they do really intend
there," said Pelle.
"I have no right to hold you back," answered Sort quietly, "but it
will be lonely travelling for me. I shall feel as if I'd lost a son.
But of course you've got other things to think of than to remember
a poor hunchback! The world is open to you. Once you've feathered
your nest, you'll think no more of little Sort!"
"I shall think of you, right enough," replied Pelle. "And as soon as
I'm doing well I shall come back and look out for you--not before.
Father will be sure to object to my idea of travelling--he would so
like me to take over Heath Farm from him; but there you must back
me up. I've no desire to be a farmer."
"I'll do that."
"Now just look at it! Nothing but stone upon stone with heather and
scrubby bushes in between! That's what Heath Farm was four years ago
--and now it's quite a fine property. That the two of them have done
--without any outside help."
"You must be built of good timber," said Sort. "But what poor fellow
is that up on the hill? He's got a great sack on his back and he's
walking as if he'd fall down at every step."
"That--that is Father Lasse! Hallo!" Pelle waved his cap.
Lasse came stumbling up to them; he dropped his sack and gave them
his hand without looking at them.
"Are you coming this way?" cried Pelle joyfully; "we were just going
on to look for you!"
"You can save yourself the trouble! You've become stingy about using
your legs. Spare them altogether!" said Lasse lifelessly.
Pelle stared at him. "What's the matter? Are you leaving?"
"Yes, we're leaving!" Lasse laughed--a hollow laugh. "Leaving--yes!
We've left--indeed, we've each of us gone our own way. Karna has
gone where there's no more care and trouble--and here's Lasse, with
all that's his!" He struck his foot against the sack, and stood
there with face averted from them, his eyes fixed upon the ground.
All signs of life had vanished from Pelle's face. Horrified, he
stared at his father, and his lips moved, but he could form no
"Here I must meet my own son by accident in the middle of the empty
fields! So often as I've looked for you and asked after you! No one
knew anything about you. Your own flesh and blood has turned from
you, I thought--but I had to tell Karna you were ill. She fully
expected to see you before she went away. Then you must give him my
love, she said, and God grant all may go well with him. She thought
more about you than many a mother would have done! Badly you've
repaid it. It's a long time ago since you set foot in our house."
Still Pelle did not speak; he stood there swaying from side to side;
every word was like the blow of a club.
"You mustn't be too hard on him!" said Sort. "He's not to blame--ill
as he's been!"
"Ah, so you too have been through bad times and have got to fight
your way, eh? Then, as your father, I must truly be the last to
blame you." Lasse stroked his son's sleeve, and the caress gave
Pelle pleasure. "Cry, too, my son--it eases the mind. In me the
tears are dried up long ago. I must see how I can bear my grief;
these have become hard times for me, you may well believe. Many
a night have I sat by Karna and been at my wits' end--I could not
leave her and go for help, and everything went wrong with us all at
the same time. It almost came to my wishing you were ill. You were
the one who ought to have had a kindly thought for us, and you could
always have sent us news. But there's an end of it all!"
"Are you going to leave Heath Farm, father?" asked Pelle quietly.
"They have taken it away from me," replied Lasse wretchedly. "With
all these troubles, I couldn't pay the last instalment, and now
their patience is at an end. Out of sheer compassion they let me
stay till Karna had fought out her fight and was happily buried
in the earth--every one could see it wasn't a matter of many days
"If it is only the interest," said Sort, "I have a few hundred
kroner which I've saved up for my old days."
"Now it's too late; the farm is already taken over by another man.
And even if that were not the case--what should I do there without
Karna? I'm no longer any use!"
"We'll go away together, father!" said Pelle, raising his head.
"No; I go nowhere now except to the churchyard. They have taken
my farm away from me, and Karna has worked herself to death, and I
myself have left what strength I had behind me. And then they took
it away from me!"
"I will work for us both--you shall be comfortable and enjoy your
old days!" Pelle saw light in the distance.
Lasse shook his head. "I can no longer put things away from me--I
can no longer leave them behind and go on again!"
"I propose that we go into the town," said Sort. "Up by the church
we are sure to find some one who will drive us in."
They collected their things and set off. Lasse walked behind the
others, talking to himself; from time to time he broke out into
lamentation. Then Pelle turned back to him in silence and took his
"There is no one to help us and give us good advice. On the contrary,
they'd gladly see us lose life and fortune if they could only earn
a few shillings on that account. Even the authorities won't help the
poor man. He's only there so that they can all have a cut at him and
then each run off with his booty. What do they care that they bring
need and misery and ruin upon us? So long as they get their taxes
and their interest! I could stick them all in the throat, in cold
So he continued a while, increasing in bitterness, until he broke
down like a little child.
They lived with Sort, who had his own little house in the outermost
suburb. The little travelling cobbler did not know what to do for
them: Lasse was so dejected and so aimless. He could not rest; he
did not recover; from time to time he broke out into lamentation.
He had grown very frail, and could no longer lift his spoon to his
mouth without spilling the contents. If they tried to distract him,
he became obstinate.
"Now we must see about fetching your things," they would both say
repeatedly. "There is no sense in giving your furniture to the
But Lasse would not have them sent for. "They've taken everything
else from me; they can take that, too," he said. "And I won't go
out there again--and let myself be pitied by every one."
"But you'll beggar yourself," said Sort.
"They've done that already. Let them have their way. But they'll
have to answer for it in the end!"
Then Pelle procured a cart, and drove over himself to fetch them.
There was quite a load to bring back. Mother Bengta's green chest
he found upstairs in the attic; it was full of balls of thread. It
was so strange to see it again--for many years he had not thought
of his mother. "I'll have that for a travelling trunk," he thought,
and he took it with him.
Lasse was standing before the door when he returned.
"See, I've brought everything here for you, father!" he cried,
lustily cracking his whip. But Lasse went in without saying a word.
When they had unloaded the cart and went to look for him, he had
crawled into bed. There he lay with his face to the wall, and would
Pelle told him all sorts of news of Heath Farm, in order to put
a little life into him. "Now the parish has sold Heath Farm to the
Hill Farm man for five thousand kroner, and they say he's got a good
bargain. He wants to live there himself and to leave Hill Farm in
his son's hands."
Lasse half turned his head. "Yes, something grows there now. Now
they are making thousands--and the farmer will do better still,"
he said bitterly. "But it's well-manured soil. Karna overstrained
herself and died and left me.... And we went so well in harness
together. Her thousand kroner went into it, too ... and now I'm a
poor wreck. All that was put into the barren, rocky soil, so that
it became good and generous soil. And then the farmer buys it, and
now he wants to live there--we poor lice have prepared the way for
him! What else were we there for? Fools we are to excite ourselves
so over such a thing! But, how I loved the place!" Lasse suddenly
burst into tears.
"Now you must be reasonable and see about becoming cheerful again,"
said Sort. "The bad times for the poor man will soon be over. There
is a time coming when no one will need to work himself to death for
others, and when every one will reap what he himself has sown. What
injury have you suffered? For you are on the right side and have
thousands of kroner on which you can draw a bill. It would be still
worse if you owed money to others!"
"I haven't much more time," said Lasse, raising himself on his
"Perhaps not, you and I, for those who start on the pilgrimage must
die in the desert! But for that reason we are God's chosen people,
we poor folk. And Pelle, he will surely behold the Promised Land!"
"Now you ought to come in, father, and see how we have arranged it,"
Lasse stood up wearily and went with them. They had furnished one
of Sort's empty rooms with Lasse's things. It looked quite cozy.
"We thought that you would live here until Pelle is getting on
well 'over there,'" said Sort. "No, you don't need to thank me!
I'm delighted to think I shall have society, as you may well
"The good God will repay it to you," said Lasse, with a quavering
voice. "We poor folk have no one but Him to rely on."
Pelle could not rest, nor control his thoughts any longer; he must
be off! "If you'll give me what the fare comes to, as I've helped
you," he told Sort, "then I'll start this evening...."
Sort gave him thirty kroner.
"That's the half of what we took. There's not so much owing to me,"
said Pelle. "You are the master and had the tools and everything."
"I won't live by the work of other hands--only by that of my own,"
said Sort, and he pushed the money across to Pelle. "Are you going
to travel just as you stand?"
"No, I have plenty of money," said Pelle gaily. "I've never before
possessed so much money all at once! One can get quite a lot of
clothes for that."
"But you mustn't touch the money! Five kroner you'll need for the
passage and the like; the rest you must save, so that you can face
the future with confidence!"
"I shall soon earn plenty of money in Copenhagen!"
"He has always been a thoughtless lad," said Lasse anxiously. "Once,
when he came into town here to be apprenticed he had five kroner;
and as for what he spent them on, he could never give any proper
"Then I shall travel as I stand!" said Pelle resolutely. But that
wouldn't do, either!
He could not by any means please both--they were like two anxious
He had no lack of linen, for Lasse had just thought of his own
supply. Karna had looked after him well. "But it will be very short
for your long body. It's not the same now as it was when you left
Stone Farm--then we had to put a tuck in my shirt for you."
In the matter of shoes he was not well off. It would never do for
a journeyman shoemaker to look for work wearing such shoes as his.
Sort and Pelle must make a pair of respectable boots. "We must leave
ourselves time," said Sort. "Think! They must be able to stand the
judgment of the capital!" Pelle was impatient, and wanted to get
the work quickly out of hand.
Now there was only the question of a new suit. "Then buy it ready
made on credit," said Sort. "Lasse and I will be good enough
securities for a suit."
In the evening, before he started, he and Lasse went out to look
up Due. They chose the time when they were certain of meeting
Due himself. They neither of them cared much for Anna. As they
approached the house they saw an old richly-dressed gentleman go
in at the front door.
"That is the consul," said Pelle, "who has helped them to get on.
Then Due is out with the horses, and we are certainly not welcome."
"Is it like that with them?" said Lasse, standing still. "Then I
am sorry for Due when he first finds out how his affairs really
stand! He will certainly find that he has bought his independence
too dearly! Yes, yes; for those who want to get on the price is
hard to pay. I hope it will go well with you over there, my boy."
They had reached the church. There stood a cart full of green
plants; two men were carrying them into a dwelling-house.
"What festivity's going on here?" asked Pelle.
"There's to be a wedding to-morrow," answered one of the men.
"Merchant Lau's daughter is marrying that swaggering fellow, who's
always giving himself airs--Karlsen, he's called, and he's a poor
chap like ourselves. But do you suppose he'll notice us? When dirt
comes to honor, there's no bearing with it! Now he's become a
partner in the business!"
"Then I'll go to the wedding," said Lasse eagerly, while they
strolled on. "It is very interesting to see when one of a family
comes to something." Pelle felt that this was to some extent meant
as a reproach, but he said nothing.
"Shall we have one look at the new harbor?" he said.
"No, now the sun's going down, and I'll go home and get to bed.
I'm old--but you go. I shall soon find my way back." Pelle strolled
onward, but then turned aside toward the north--he would go and
bid Marie Nielsen good-bye. He owed her a friendly word for all
her goodness. Also, as an exception, she should for once see him in
respectable clothes. She had just come home from her work, and was
on the point of preparing her supper.
"No, Pelle, is that you?" she cried delightedly, "and so grand,
too--you look like a prince!" Pelle had to remain to supper.
"I have really only come to thank you for all your friendliness
and to say good-bye. To-morrow I go to Copenhagen."
She looked at him earnestly. "And you are glad!"
Pelle had to tell her what he had been doing since he had last seen
her. He sat there looking gratefully about the poor, clean room,
with the bed set so innocently against the wall, covered with a
snow-white counterpane. He had never forgotten that fragrance of
soap and cleanliness and her fresh, simple nature. She had taken
him in the midst of all his misery and had not thought her own white
bed too good for him while she scrubbed the mire from him. When he
reached the capital he would have himself photographed and send her
"And how are you doing now?" he asked gently.
"Just as when you last saw me--only a little more lonely," she
And then he must go. "Good-bye, and may everything go well with
you!" he said, and he shook her hand. "And many thanks for all
She stood before him silently, looking at him with an uncertain
smile. "Ah, no! I'm only a human being too!" she cried suddenly,
and she flung her arms about him in a passionate embrace.
And then the great day broke! Pelle awaked with the sun and had
the green chest already packed before the others were up, and then
he roamed about, not knowing what he should set his hand to, he
was so restless and so excited. He answered at random, and his eyes
were full of radiant dreams. In the morning he and Lasse carried the
chest to the steamer, in order to have the evening free. Then they
went to the church, in order to attend Alfred's wedding. Pelle would
gladly have stayed away; he had enough to do with his own affairs,
and he had no sympathy for Alfred's doings.
But Lasse pushed him along.
The sun stood high in heaven and blazed in the winding side-streets
so that the tarred timberwork sweated and the gutters stank; from
the harbor came the sound of the crier, with his drum, crying
herrings, and announcing an auction. The people streamed to church
in breathless conversation concerning this child of fortune, Alfred,
who had climbed so far.
The church was full of people. It was gaily decorated, and up by
the organ stood eight young women who were to sing "It is so lovely
together to be!" Lasse had never seen or heard of such a wedding.
"I feel quite proud!" he said.
"He's a bladder full of wind!" said Pelle. "He's taking her simply
on account of the honor."
And then the bridal pair stepped up to the altar. "It's tremendous
the way Alfred has greased his head!" whispered Lasse. "It looks
like a newly-licked calf's head! But she is pretty. I'm only puzzled
that she's not put on her myrtle-wreath--I suppose nothing has
"Yes, she's got a child," whispered Pelle. "Otherwise, he would
never in this world have got her!"
"Oh, I see! Yes, but that's smart of him, to catch such a fine
Now the young women sang, and it sounded just as if they were angels
from heaven who had come to seal the bond.
"We must take our places so that we can congratulate them," said
Lasse, and he wanted to push right through the crowd, but Pelle
held him back.
"I'm afraid he won't know us to-day; but look now, there's Uncle
Kalle stood squeezed among the hindmost chairs, and there he had
to stay until everybody had passed out. "Yes, I was very anxious to
take part in this great day," he said, "and I wanted to bring mother
with me, but she thought her clothes weren't respectable enough."
Kalle wore a new gray linsey-woolsey suit; he had grown smaller
and more bent with the years.
"Why do you stand right away in the corner here, where you can see
nothing? As the bridegroom's father, you must have been given your
place in the first row," said Lasse.
"I have been sitting there, too--didn't you see me sitting next
to Merchant Lau? We sang out of the same hymn-book. I only got
pushed here in the crowd. Now I ought to go to the wedding-feast.
I was properly invited, but I don't quite know...." He looked down
at himself. Suddenly he made a movement, and laughed in his own
reckless way. "Ugh--what am I doing standing here and telling
lies to people who don't believe me! No, pigs don't belong in the
counting-house! I might spread a bad smell, you know! People like
us haven't learned to sweat scent!"
"Bah! He's too grand to know his own father! Devil take it! Then
come with us so that you needn't go away hungry!" said Lasse.
"No--I've been so overfed with roast meats and wine and cakes that I
can't get any more down for the present. Now I must go home and tell
mother about all the splendid things. I've eighteen miles to go."
"And you came here on foot--thirty-six miles! That's too much for
"I had really reckoned that I'd stay the night here. I didn't think
... Well, an owl's been sitting there! Children can't very well
climb higher than that--not to recognize their own fathers! Anna is
now taking the best way to become a fine lady, too.... I shall be
wondering how long I shall know myself! Devil take it, Kalle Karlsen,
I'm of good family, too, look you! Well, then, ajoo!"
Wearily he set about tramping home. He looked quite pitiful in his
disappointment. "He's never looked so miserable in his life!" said
Lasse, gazing after him, "and it takes something, too, to make
Brother Kalle chuck his gun into the ditch!"
Toward evening they went through the town to the steamer. Pelle took
long strides, and a strange feeling of solemnity kept him silent.
Lasse trotted along at his side; he stooped as he went. He was in a
doleful mood. "Now you won't forget your old father?" he said, again
"There's no danger of that," rejoined Sort. Pelle heard nothing of
this; his thoughts were all set on his journey. The blue smoke of
kitchen fires was drifting down among the narrow lanes. The old
people were sitting out of doors on their front steps, and were
gossiping over the news of the day. The evening sun fell upon round
spectacles, so that great fiery eyes seemed to be staring out of
their wrinkled faces. The profound peace of evening lay over the
streets. But in the narrow lanes there was the breathing of that
eternal, dull unrest, as of a great beast that tosses and turns and
cannot sleep. Now and again it blazed up into a shout, or the crying
of a child, and then began anew--like heavy, labored breathing. Pelle
knew it well, that ghostly breathing, which rises always from the
lair of the poor man. The cares of poverty had shepherded the evil
dreams home for the night. But he was leaving this world of poverty,
where life was bleeding away unnoted in the silence; in his thoughts
it was fading away like a mournful song; and he gazed out over the
sea, which lay glowing redly at the end of the street. Now he was
going out into the world!
The crazy Anker was standing at the top of his high steps.
"Good-bye!" cried Pelle, but Anker did not understand. He turned
his face up to the sky and sent forth his demented cry.
Pelle threw a last glance at the workshop. "There have I spent many
a good hour!" he thought; and he thought, too, of the young master.
Old Jorgen was standing before his window, playing with the little
Jorgen, who sat inside on the windowseat. "Peep, peep, little one!"
he cried, in his shrill voice, and he hid, and bobbed up into sight
again. The young wife was holding the child; she was rosy with
"You'll be sure to let us hear from you," said Lasse yet again, as
Pelle stood leaning over the steamer's rail. "Don't forget your old
father!" He was quite helpless in his anxiety.
"I will write to you as soon as I'm getting on," said Pelle, for
the twentieth time at least. "Only don't worry!" Sure of victory,
he laughed down at the old man. For the rest they stood silent and
gazed at one another.
At last the steamer moved. "Good luck--take care of yourself!" he
cried for the last time, as they turned the pier-head; and as long
as he could see he waved his cap. Then he went right forward and sat
on a coil of rope.
He had forgotten all that lay behind him. He gazed ahead as though
at any moment the great world itself might rise in front of the
vessel's bow. He pictured nothing to himself of what was to come
and how he would meet it--he was only longing--longing!
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