The Song Of The Blood-Red Flower
Part 2 out of 5
but upward. And he saw how the look in her eyes changed, first to
ineffable tenderness, then to pious prayer--until it seemed freed
from all earth, gazing at some blessed vision afar off. As long as
she stood thus he could not move a limb. Then her eyelids quivered,
closed--and she drew her lips away.
He looked at them, saw a white, bloodless line--and he felt in that
moment as if some ineradicable, eternal seal had been pressed upon his
"I can't leave you like this!" he cried desperately. "Look! To-night
we shall be at Kirveskallio--I can come from there. And I will come
every night as long as we are within reach."
The girl's face lit with a pale gleam as of autumn sunlight, but she
said no word. Only looked at him strangely, as he had never seen her
look before--and stood there, gazing at him still, as he passed out.
"Rowan--do you know why I call you so?" he asked, holding the girl's
hand clasped in his.
"It must have been because I blushed so when you spoke to me first,"
she answered shyly.
"No, no! Guess again."
"I can't guess, I'm sure. I never thought why it was--only that it was
a pretty name, and nice of you to call me so."
"Did you think I should give you an ugly name?" said the young man,
with a laugh. "But there's much in that name, if you only knew."
"Perhaps I know." She looked at him trustingly as she spoke.
"Not altogether. But never mind--I'll tell you some of it, though.
See, this last spring was all so wonderful to me, somehow, and I was
happy just to be alive. But then came the summer, and autumn: the
grass began to wither, and the leaves turned yellow, and it made my
heart ache to see."
"You weren't happy last summer?" she asked tenderly.
"No. You see, I could not forget the spring that had been so
wonderful, and I was longing for it all the time. If I'd stayed in the
same place, then perhaps.... But I'm a wanderer, once and for all...."
"Why do you never stay anywhere?"
"'Tis my nature, I suppose," he answered, staring before him.
"And where were you--that time?" asked the girl timidly, watching his
"Oh, a long way off. Don't ask of that. I'm not thinking of that
spring now any more. It was only to tell you--who it was showed me
that the autumn can be lovely, too."
"Did someone show you that?"
"Yes, someone showed me--or, rather, I saw it the moment I set eyes on
He took the girl's hands in his, and looked into her eyes.
"It was a little cluster of rowan berries. When I saw you, you were
like a young red rowan on the hillside. The birch was fading already,
the ash stood solemn and dull, but you were there with the red
berries, calling to me--no, not calling, but I saw you. And I stood
and looked as if a miracle had come, and said to myself, should I
speak to her, or just go by?"
"If you had just gone by...."
"I thought of going by--seeing I'm one that has no right ever to
stay.... I couldn't see if it was right to stop and look at you."
"Now I don't quite understand."
"You can't understand it at all--'twas only something I was trying to
think out myself.... But I did stop and look--and 'tis thanks to that
I've had this lovely autumn, after all."
"And I, too," whispered the girl.
"Yes, thanks to you, I have learned that autumn can be beautiful as
well; lovelier even than the spring--for the autumn is cooler, calmer,
and gentler than the spring. And it was then I learned for the first
time what it is that makes life beautiful--what it is that human
The girl has slipped down to the ground, and sat now looking up at
him, resting her arms on his knees.
"Tell me more--more about that. It's so pretty to hear, and I
understand it all, though I could never say it that way myself."
"Yes, you know, and all know, that there is nothing beautiful in life
but that one thing--and all of us live for that, and nothing else.
Without that we have only our hands and work for them, our teeth and
food for them; but, when that comes, all is changed. You have seen
yourself, and felt, how it changes everything."
"Oh, have I not! How could I help it?"
"How sad faces learn to smile, and eyes to speak, and how we learn a
new tongue altogether. Even the voice is changed, to a silvery ring.
All the world is changed, to something lovelier--and we ourselves grow
beautiful beyond words."
"Yes, yes--Olof, how wonderful of you! It is all like a beautiful
"Do you remember the time when you first began to care for me?"
"I shall always remember that time--always."
"It was pretty to watch--how you blushed and paled, and blushed again,
and never knew which way to turn your eyes, and your heart throbbed,
and you never dared confess even to yourself what made it so. I
watched you then, and I found myself wishing you might not see me at
all, only that I might watch you for ever from some secret place."
"Oh, but you don't know how it hurt, all the same--how anxious I was
all the time--I could not have borne it long, I know."
"Yes--I understand.... And you were more beautiful still when you
opened your heart to me. I read in your eyes as in an open book, and
it made life bright and beautiful again for me."
"I--I have done nothing at all ..." said the girl, blushing, and
looking down. But she raised her head again, laid one hand on his
knee, and looked questioningly at him.
He laughed in reply.
Slowly she drew herself up into his embrace, and put her arms about
"May I sit here like this?"
"Yes, you may--like this," said he, slipping an arm round her waist.
The girl's face drew nearer to his own, still questioning.
"No, no," he murmured, and laid one hand gently on her shoulder, as if
seeking tenderly to hold her back.
"Why not?" asked the girl earnestly.
"Because it is better so. It would only hurt you more when we had to
"Oh, but that's just why!" she cried passionately.
"No, no--I ask it of you," said he. And, taking the girl's head in his
two hands, he kissed her softly on the brow.
A gleam of infinite tenderness shone in her eyes, but she did not
speak, only bowed her head and nestled close to his breast.
A strange joy thrilled him--he felt he had won a victory over himself.
Through his thin shirt he could feel the girl's warm breath like a
wave of summer sunshine, and, smiling with happiness, he stroked her
It was in his mind to ask her if she did not think herself it was best
as he said, when suddenly, ere he could speak, a burning gasp struck
him like a flame; the girl's hot lips were pressing fiery kisses on
his breast; her arms slipped from his neck and twined themselves close
about his waist.
"God in heaven--be careful, child!" He took her arms and tried to
draw himself away. But, ere he could loosen her hold, he felt his body
thrill in answer to her passionate caress--a torrent of passion rose
within him: all thought of self-restraint was whirled away.
"Love, love!" he gasped, his voice almost breaking in tears. He drew
her up to him, and closed her thirsting lips with his own, crushing
her body against his own till both lay breathless....
THE FIRST SNOWFALL
This year, it came later than usual--not until just before Christmas.
And when it did come, it was like a rain of silver.
The children greeted it with joyful shouts and a wild throwing of
snowballs; the women carried shovelfuls of snow into the rooms and
spread it on the floor before sweeping; the men hung tinkling bells to
their horses' harness.
Men hurried briskly along the forest tracks, and the great high road
to the town was packed with an unbroken throng of pilgrims. All coming
and going exchanged greetings, even with strangers--a gay wave of the
hand and a few words about the snow.
* * * * *
Twilight was falling.
Olof had just come in from his work in the forest, and was sitting
in his little room in the peasant's hut where he was quartered. An
elderly man stepped in--a farmer from the same village.
"Evening--and greetings from the town."
"Evening," said Olof heartily. "Come in and sit down."
"I've little time to sit. I'd a message for you, that was all. Stopped
at Valimaki on the way out, and someone gave me this for you."
He took out a small packet and handed it across.
Olof blushed up to the eyes, and stammered a word of thanks.
The messenger pretended not to notice his confusion, and went on,
"I asked if maybe there was any message besides, and they said no,
just give it you as it was--but happen you'd like to hear how 'twas
"Go on--tell me," said the young man, still with some embarrassment.
"Well, I pulled up there, as I said, and started off again just
towards dusk about. Got down just past the meadow below the house, and
hears someone running after. Thought maybe I'd left something behind,
and so I stopped. 'Twas a neat little maid, with red cheeks, and no
kerchief on her head. 'What's wrong?' says I.
"'Nothing,' says the little maid, and looks down at her shoes. 'Only
you said--didn't you say Olof was staying your way just now?'
"Well, that was right enough, and I said so. 'And what then?'
"'Why,' says she, 'I know him--and I'd a message for him.'
"'Aha,' says I, and laughed a bit.
"''Twas no more than a greeting,' says she, all of a hurry like.
"Why, then, I could carry it, 'twas an easy matter enough.
"'Can I trust you?' says the girl.
"'Why, d'you think I'd lose it on the way?' says I.
"'If you did--or if you went and told about it...'
"'Nay,' says I. 'I'm an old man, my dear, and not given to playing
tricks that away.'
"'Yes, I know,' says she. 'I can trust you.' And then she gives me
"'That's for him?' says I. 'Give it him just as it is?'
"'Yes. You won't open it, I know. Though, to be sure, anyone can tell
what's inside. But be sure no one sees you give it him. There's no
message, only just that.'
"Well, I was just on the way to tell her I'd sense enough to do that
without being asked--but all of a sudden she's off, racing away with
her hair flying behind. Ay, that was the way of it, and now I've told
you, I'll be off."
"Good-night, then," said Olof. "And many thanks."
Olof sank into a chair by the table, holding the packet in his hand.
He knew well enough what was inside, but hesitated to open it. He was
thinking of what had happened there--he could see it himself as in
a vision. A bright-eyed girl, slight of figure, hardly more than
a child, sat at one end of the room, and at the other a traveller,
eating from the red-painted box in which he carried his food. The man
spoke of the weather, how the first snow had come, and it was good
going underfoot; where he came from, too, the woodcutters had already
started work. More work than usual this season, and the gang foreman
had taken on a new hand, a young fellow--Olof was his name.
And the girl all but cries his name aloud, blushes violently, and lays
down her work to listen. But the traveller says no more of what she is
longing to hear, only talks of this and that--all manner of trifling
things. The girl is restless, uncertain what to do--but she must do
something. And she watches the man's face closely as he sits smoking
his pipe on the bench. "He looks honest, and kindly," she thinks to
herself. "I could trust him, I know."
And then quietly she slips off to her own room, as if to fetch
something, and takes something from a drawer--a little thing she
has kept there long. Looks for some paper, or a bag, to put it in,
searches and looks again, and finds it at last, packs it up and ties
it round with string, tying the hardest knot she can manage, and
cutting the ends off close, so it can't be opened without being
seen--and laughs to herself.
Then she goes back to the room, with the thing in her pocket. The
traveller is getting ready to go.
"'Tis time to mix the cattle food," says the girl. And from the
kitchen window she can see the traveller come out to his horse and
make ready to start. He drives out of the yard and down the road at a
trot. "Now!" says she to herself, and races off after him.
Olof can see her as she runs--how her breast heaves as she comes up
with the cart and hails the driver. How she blushes and looks down,
and then, having gained her purpose, runs off again too full of joy
even to thank the messenger, running a race, as it were, with her own
delight. And then, once back at the house, she looks round anxiously
to every side, lest any should have seen her, and goes in to her work
Filled with a quiet joy, Olof opens the packet.
A big, dark red apple carries her greeting.
"The very colour of the rowans!" he cries--as if the girl had chosen
that very one from a great store, though he knows well enough it was
likely the only one she had.
And his heart swells with joy and pride at the thought. "Was there
ever such a greeting--or such a girl!"
Once more his mind goes back to that happy autumn; he turns the apple
in his hand caressingly, and looks out through the window and smiles.
Then he notices that the apple seems harder to the touch in one place,
as if to call his attention to something. He looks at it again, and
sees that the skin on one side is raised, with a cut all round, is if
done with a knife. He lifts the flap of skin, and it comes away like a
lid; underneath is a folded slip of paper.
"More!" he cries, and with trembling hands, with joy at heart,
he unfolds it. Only a tiny fragment, and on one side a few words
awkwardly traced with pencil:
"Now I know what it is to be sad. Have you quite forgotten your Rowan?
I think of you every night when I go to sleep."
The apple falls into his lap, the paper trembles in his hand, and a
moisture dims his eyes.
He looks up. Great soft snowflakes are dropping slowly to the ground.
Minutes pass. The twilight deepens, till at last all is darkness, but
he sits there still looking out, with the paper in his hand.
He can no longer see--but he feels how the great soft snowflakes are
The daisy bloomed on the window-sill ... in the window of a little
In spring and summer the daisy blooms--this one bloomed in the winter
"And I know, and you know why you bloom in the winter," said the girl.
"'Tis to smile at him in greeting."
The daisy blooms only a few months together ... this one was in flower
already when Christmas came, and flowered the rest of the winter
through, more beautiful every day.
"And I know, and you know how long you will bloom. 'Twas when I set
you here at first it all began ... and when he is gone, and there's
none for you to smile at any more, then it will all be over.'"
The girl bent lower over the flower.
"She has but a single flower--so neat and sweet," she whispered,
pressing her delicate lips to the pale posy petals just unfolded.
"She has but a single friend--so tender and dear," smiled the flower
in answer, nodding slowly over toward the fields.
A tall youth on ski came gliding by, his cap at the back of his head,
and a knapsack strapped at his shoulders.
"At last!" cried the girl, and jumping down, ran out through the
passage to the steps in front of the house.
"Daisy!" said the newcomer. His voice was hardly audible, but his
eyes spoke plainly enough, as he stepped up and set his ski and staves
against the wall.
The girl answered with a nod and a radiant smile.
He hurried up the steps, and stood beside her.
"Daisy!" he said again, and pressed his cold hands playfully against
"No, thank you!" cried the girl merrily, grasping his wrists. "I've
been waiting for you, though, ever so long. Mother's gone in to town,
and the men haven't come back from the woods yet."
"And you've been left all alone, and horribly frightened, of course,"
laughed the young man, holding the girl's head between his hands, and
pushing her before him in through the doorway.
They went inside, and he hung up his knapsack on the wall.
"Guess what I've been thinking of to-day all the way home?"
"Oh, you know I never can guess your riddles. What is it?"
"Only"--he drew her down on the seat beside him--"that you ought to
have a pair of ski too. If only I can get hold of some proper wood,
I'll make a pair in no time."
"No, no, 'tis not worth it. And I can't use them if you did."
"That's just why. You've got to learn. And then you'll be able to
come out with me. Come out to the forest one day, and I'll show you
"What'll that be, I'd like to know? Only your ugly old stacks of
"Why, as to that, they're none so ugly, after all. And I'll lift you
up and set you on top of the highest of all.... No, that wasn't what
I meant. But you ought to see.... Out there in the forest, it's a
different world altogether. Roads and villages of its own--ay, and
churches and priests...."
"What nonsense you do talk!" laughed the girl.
"'Tis true, though, for all that. Come out with me, and see if it's
not as I say.... Come now, there's plenty of time."
"What are you thinking of? Of course we couldn't go now--nor any other
"Yes, we can. And now best of all."
He went across to the corner by the cupboard, took a woollen wrap that
had been hung on the line to dry, and fastened it laughingly round her
"There--now we're ready."
The girl laughed doubtfully, took off the wrap again, and stood
"Oh! Don't you understand yet?" He took the wrap and twisted it in his
hands. "You've got to pretend. It's two weeks gone now, and your ski
are all ready. We've tried them once or twice out in the meadow, and
you manage first-rate, able to go anywhere. And so off we go.... Look
The girl joined in the game. She moved across to the window, and
looked out into the yard.
"There! I've set the ski all ready, and we put them on. Father and
mother and brothers looking out to see us start. There--that's mother
knocking at the window.
"'Be careful not to take her up the big hills,' says mother. 'She'll
fall and hurt herself if you do!'
"And I tell her we're going up to the very top of the biggest hill we
can find. And off we go.
"And you get along splendidly. Fall--not a bit of it! Off we go to the
other end of the meadow, and then through the little copse out on to
Hirvisuo--all as easy as play.
"Then we come to a fence--and that's rather more than you can manage.
Nothing for it but I must pick you up and lift you over--and you put
your arms round me so prettily...."
Here the girl broke in hastily: "No, no! I shall turn back if you go
on like that!"
"No, you mustn't. It's a very high fence, this one. You can get over
the others, perhaps, by yourself. We'll see.--And so we go on, and
make our way up the slope of Kaltasenmaki--it's a heavy climb there.
But you know the ground--you've fetched the cows home from there many
a time. And it's just there the woodcutting begins.
"Now we're up at the top. It's early morning, of course, I forgot
that. The sun's just up, and the snow all glittering underfoot and
the frost like stars hung in the branches overhead. There! look at
the trees over there on the other side. All white and clean and
lovely--just like you. And stars of frost there too, sparkling like
your eyes. And you think it's lovely too--never dreamed the forest was
like that. And of course you haven't--for nobody can till they've
seen it for themselves. There! look at that great road there lower
down--that's the main track, where all the heavy timber goes--hauled
up from a dozen little paths either side--a score of loads sometimes,
one after another. And some of the men come singing, or whistling,
some talking and calling out to the rest; 'tis a merry business
carting down the timber loads to the river. And see there on the
slope--a couple of empty sledges on the way back--isn't it fine?
"And of course you say it is, and it was true all I told you about the
forest before. And it gets finer as we go on--you can hear the axe at
work all round about, echoing over across the valley. Now we must go
and say a word to the men.
"But you don't want to, but I say we must, and you can stay behind a
little if you like. And so off we go down the hillside--hey, what a
pace! And up the next, and there we are on the top. We can see them
at work down in the valley below. It looks like a lot of ants at work,
you think. And so it does. And we go across, and you've got to be
careful and show how nicely you can go. The snow's all frozen, and
creaks underfoot; the men look up, and the stupid ones stand staring
open-mouthed. And I bid them good-day, and go up to them a little
ahead, and they answer again, and some of them touch their caps, not
knowing quite what to do. All of them look astonished--what's this
come to see them now? And I tell them it's just a young lady from the
town, come out to see a bit of the country, and I'm showing her
round. They understand that all right. And then I tell them you're a
foreigner, and can't speak a word of their tongue, and that's why you
stay behind and won't come up. Then they're all surprised again at
that, and some of them won't believe there can be folk that don't
speak their language at all; but I tell them it's true all the same,
and they stare again, the stupid ones gaping wider than before.
"'She's put on country clothes so as not to be noticed,' I tell them;
'and if you saw her in her fine dresses, with a real hat on her head
and all--why, your eyes'd fall out of your heads, if you stare like
that now.' And they laugh at that, a roar of laugh that echoes all
"Then I come back to you, and we go on again.
"But now you begin scolding me for playing silly tricks and telling
them all those wild tales--there's neither sense nor meaning in it,
you say. But then I simply ask you if you didn't see yourself what a
treat it was for the men. Simple woodcutter folk--it'll be something
to remember all their lives, how one day a beautiful foreign lady came
out to visit them in the forest. And then you must remember to be a
foreigner all day. If I have to speak to you when there's anyone else
about, I say it in Swedish; you can't speak Swedish, of course,
but all you have to do is just nod and smile and speak with your
eyes--that's all that's needed.
"'But I won't,' you say. 'I'm not going to pretend like that.'"
Here the girl herself broke in: "No, that I certainly wouldn't either,
so that's true enough."
"Oh, but you'd have to, you know, once we've started. And so we go
on. There's nobody from our parts among the gangs at work there, so
there's no risk of anyone knowing you really.
"And so we go on, from one gang to another. And it all goes off
splendidly. But then we come to a clearing, where the men are just
lighting a fire of pine knots. It's their dinner-time, and we're going
to sit down and have dinner with them, say I.
"But of course you make a fuss, and say you won't, but you give
in after a bit--it's easy enough. You've only to sit down, and say
'_Tack, Tack_' in Swedish whenever I pass you anything.
"The men are at work about the fire as we come up. And you're all
excitement, and red and white by turns, just like any grand lady from
foreign parts. And I tell them the same thing again, about you putting
on country clothes and all that, and ask if we may sit down--and
perhaps the foreign young lady might like to eat a morsel too.
"'We've naught that's fit to offer the likes of her,' say the men.
"'She can eat what other folks can, I suppose,' say I.
"Then they all tumble over one another to make a nice seat for you
with twigs of pine. Then we sit down, and I'm on the outside, in case
you want anything.
"Oh, it's grand. The fire flames up, and the snow melting like butter
all round and under, and the men's faces all aglow. One of them's
roasting a piece of meat, another fish, on a skewer, and the others
bring out their frozen bread and thaw it soft and fresh as if it had
just come out of the oven. And I do the same, toasting a piece of meat
and thawing some bread, and put one on the other and cut up your part
with my knife, to neat little bits all ready.
"And the men are all so interested they forget to eat.
"'I hope it's to your taste, my lady?' That's me talking in Swedish
as I pass it. And you nod and smile, and eat just a little to try, and
the moment you've tasted it you open your mouth and I know as sure as
anything you're just on the point of saying right out in Finnish that
it's first-rate, and you've never tasted anything so good.... So I
have to put in a word myself or you'll spoil it all. 'A little more,
if you please, my lady?' Like that."
But here the girl could contain herself no longer, and laughed
"What are you laughing at? That's not right a bit. No, you just blush,
and go on nibbling at a crust of bread, just like a tiny mouse....
"And the men nudge each other to look. Here's a fine lady sitting down
to eat as natural as can be, for all there's neither plate nor fork.
And it's all I can do to keep from laughing myself, and you have to
bite your lips and bend down behind me.
"Then I take out our milk bottle, that's been warming by the fire.
"'How'll they manage now?' says one, and all the rest look on to see.
"'Why, we'll just have to share and share about, unless the lady's to
go without,' say I. And then I make believe to whisper something in
"And you nod, and take the bottle and drink, and hand it to me after.
"''Tis as good as newly milked,' say I. And you laugh, and the men
"Then I take a drink, and you again. I wipe the mouth of the bottle on
my sleeve each time before giving it you. And the men, of course, they
think that's a mighty fine way of doing things.
"'Never would have thought it,' says one of them. And they go on with
"'Do as the folks you fall in with, it seems,' says one bolder than
"'Just so,' say I, 'and that's as it should be'; and there's no saying
anything against that, and so we get on finely.
"Then when the meal's over, we lie down by the fire a bit. One man
takes out some leaf tobacco from his pack, and cuts it up on a tree
stump--hadn't had time before. Then he passes it round, and I fill my
pipe too, for all that I'm in company with a fine lady.
"And then we go on our way. But when we've got a few paces off, I turn
round suddenly and say, 'Here, you, Heikki, give us a bit of a sermon
for the young lady. 'Tis just the place for church.'
"'H'm,' says Heikki. 'I doubt it wouldn't do.'
"''Twill please her, for sure--I'll answer for that,' say I. 'And you
do it better than anything else. Antti can help with the service.'
"'Yes, yes!' cry the others. 'If she's wanting to see things out here.
"Heikki climbs up on a big rock, and Antti on a tree stump, and Heikki
starts off, grumbling out just like the priest at Kakela.
"'Is--any soul--from Keituri--here in--church to-day?'
"'Ay, lord and noble master, here be I,' says Antti in a deep base
that goes rumbling through the woods.
"And so they go through the service, and after, Heikki begins to
preach. It's the wildest nonsense, Swedish and Finnish and gipsy-talk
and all sorts of odd lingo muddled up together, and he pours out the
words like a river in flood. The men are in fits of laughter all the
time, and you--you're near to bursting.
"'The young lady bids me thank you very much,' say I, when it's over.
'Both of you. Says she's never heard so fine a sermon all her life.'
"''Tis well said,' say the men. 'Heikki, he's a wonder to preach, that
"And so they wave their caps to us as we go off."
"Oh!" said the girl delightedly. "And is it really like that, I
"Yes, of course. Only you mustn't say anything. We must go home
now--then we can talk all about it after.
"And we go up the hill and start off down the other side.
"When we get down on the flat, you begin putting on the pace, to see
if you can go as fast as I can--and it's all I can do to keep up with
you. And your cheeks are red as roses, and you're so hot you take off
your kerchief and fasten it round your waist like a sash. And there
you are running beside me, bareheaded, and your bright hair lifting as
you go. I've never seen you look so beautiful before, and I tell you
so. You ought to be like that always.
"And so we come home, as happy as can be.... And here we are!"
"You _can_ make stories!" cried the girl. "It was wonderful! Just as
if we'd really been there and seen it all."
"Ah, we'll do it really one day, we must. And it'll be ever so much
easier then, after you've seen it once to-day."
"No, no! I never can, I know."
"Wait and see," said he. "Now you know what a grand life it is in the
forest in winter. A glorious life--though there's trouble, too, at
times--danger and hurt; but who cares for that? Do you wonder that I'm
always in high spirits when I come home? And when I am here, why,
'tis just like another little world, as clean and fresh as there....
Daisy--sit here, and let me look at you."
The girl sat down on his knee and rested one hand on his shoulder.
"Don't laugh at me," she said softly. "I'm not a bit clever, I know.
Just nothing--to you."
"You don't know a bit what you are--but I do. And shall I tell you,
just for once, what you are to me?"
The girl laughed happily. "If you'll be sure and only tell the truth!"
"The truth--of course! How could I help it? Now, listen. Once I was
in a big town, where there was a picture gallery, and lots of marble
statues--like the old Greeks used to make. You've read about them,
"Yes, I think so. But I've never seen them."
"Well, there were lots of these statues, white as snow, and looking
just like life. And they were all naked, with never a rag to cover
them, but for all that one could look at them, as calm and pure as on
the face of God. For they were so beautiful that one could think
of nothing but the sacred beauty God has given to the human form.
And--can you guess what I'm going to say now?"
"How should I guess?" said the girl, looking down shyly, as if with
some inkling she would not confess of what was in his mind.
"Just this--you are like that to me: a marble statue, white and cool,
with a beauty that is holy in itself. And I thank God that made you so
beautiful and pure."
"Now you're laughing at me again," said the girl sadly.
"'Tis solemn earnest. Listen. Ask yourself, in the time we've been
together here, have we ever exchanged a single kiss, a single touch,
with any thought of passion?"
"Passion?" The girl's eyes looked frankly into his.
"Yes.... It might have been, you know. I am passionate by nature, but
when I look at you, it cools and dies. I am telling you the truth when
I say you have been like a healing, cooling draught to one in a fever.
And I believe you have changed me altogether, now and for ever after."
"I don't think I understand--not all of it. But have you really been
"So unspeakably happy. Yes. And glad to feel myself strong and
self-restrained. I have often thought that no one could ever dream
what happiness and beauty can live in one little grey village. Do you
know what I think? I believe that in every little grey village there
is a quiet, secret happiness, that no one knows."
"Not everywhere, Olof. It is not everywhere there is anyone like you."
"But you! I don't mean to say, of course, it should be just like ours.
But a happiness...."
He drew the girl to him, and their lips met in a long, gentle kiss.
"Can everyone kiss like you?" she whispered shyly, with a tender gleam
in her eyes.
"Maybe. I don't know."
"No, no--there's no one in the world like you. None that can talk like
you, or kiss like you. Do you know what I always think--always look
at, when you kiss me?"
"No--tell me, tell me!" he cried eagerly.
"No--I don't think I can."
"Something you can't tell _me_, Daisy-flower? Come, don't you think
it's your turn to tell me something now?"
"Well, then--only, you mustn't laugh. I know it's silly. I always--I
always look at your neck. There's a big vein just there, and it beats
so prettily all the time. And then I feel as if your soul were flowing
through it--right into me. And it does, for I can feel it!"
"That's the loveliest thing you've ever said in all your life," said
he solemnly. "We won't talk any more now, only be together...."
* * * * *
Spring was near; it was open war between the sun and the cold. The
snowdrifts had begun to disappear.
Strange dreams were at work in Olof's mind.
"She loves me--warmly and truly," he told himself. "But is her love
deep and strong enough for her to forget all else, and give herself up
fully and freely to her lover?"
"And could you let her? Could you accept that sacrifice--from one like
"No, no. I didn't mean that, of course. But if only I could be
sure--could feel beyond all doubt that she _would_; that she was ready
to give up everything for my sake...."
"And you count _that_ the final test of love? Shame on you!"
The colour faded from the evening sky; the stars were lit ... the
errant fancies died away.
* * * * *
In the brilliant sunlight they returned--the same strange dreams
welling up on every side, like the waters of spring. Behind and before
him, everywhere, insistently, an irresistible song.
"I must know--I must sound the uttermost depths of her love!"
"Can you not see how cruel it would be--cruel to her beyond all
"But only to know! To ask as if only in jest...."
"In jest? And you would jest with such a thing as this!"
And the dreams sank down into the hurrying waters; yet still the warm
clouds sailed across the sky.
* * * * *
Like a rushing flood--the old desire again.
"Can anything be cruel that is meant in love? A question only--showing
in itself how deeply I love her? It is torture not to know; I must
break through it--I must learn the truth!"
"..." But the other voice was lost in a rush of foaming waters.
* * * * *
He took the girl's hand in his, and spoke warmly, with beautiful
Her fair brow darkened under a cloud--so dark seemed any cloud there
that for a moment he wished he had not spoken.
"I never thought you could doubt me," she murmured, almost in tears.
"Or ask--or ask for that!"
"Oh, my love," he thought. "If you only knew! Just one word, and then
I can tell you all--and we shall be doubly happy after."
So he thought, but he did not speak. And now he could think of nothing
but the moment when he could tell her that it was but a question in
all innocence--a trial of her love.
"It is because I love you as I do," she said, "that I could not do it.
We have been so happy--but _that_ would be something strange between
us. And now that you are going away...." She stopped, and the two
looked at each other sorrowfully. It was as if already something
strange had crept between them, as if they had hurt each other
unwittingly, and suffered at the thought.
* * * * *
Day by day their parting drew nearer, the sun was veiled in a dreary
Then one day she came to him, strangely moved, and clung to him,
slight and yielding as the drooping curtains of the birch, swayed
by the wind. Clung to him, threw her arms warmly round his neck, and
looked into his eyes with a new light in her own.
"What--what is it?" he asked, with emotion, hovering between fear and
a strange delight.
"Olof--I am ... I can say it now...."
A tumult of joy rose up in him at her words. He clasped her to him in
a fervent embrace, and opened his lips to tell her the secret at last.
But his heart beat all too violently, a hand seemed clutching his
throat, and he could not utter a word, but crushed her closer to him,
and pressed his lips to hers.
Drawn two ways, he seemed, and now but one; all thought of the other
vanished utterly. His breast was almost bursting with a desperate
regret; he could not speak, and would not even if he could.
And then, as he felt the pressure of her embrace return his own,
regret was drowned in an ecstasy of surrender.
"I love you," she whispered, "as only _your mother_ ever could!"
Olof turned cold. It was as if a stranger had surprised them in an
"Olof," she murmured, with an unspeakable tenderness in her eyes. And
as if some great thing had suddenly come into her mind she went on:
"You have never told me about your mother.... No, don't tell me now;
I know it all myself. She is tall like you, and stately, and upright
still as ever. And she has just the same bright eyes, and little
hollows at the temples, like you have. And she wears a dark striped
apron, with a little pocket at the side, where she keeps her knitting,
and takes it out now and then to work at as she goes."
"How could you know!" he cried, in pleased surprise. His fear was gone
now, and he felt only a wonderful depth of happiness at hearing the
girl speak so tenderly of his mother.
"'Tis only guessing. But do you know--I should so like to see her,
your mother, that...."
"Only ... only, I should like to see her so. Then I'd put my arms
round her neck and ... Olof, did your mother often kiss you?"
"No. Not often."
"But she stroked your hair, and often talked with you all alone, I
"Yes ... yes."
His arms loosed their hold of the girl, and almost unconsciously he
thrust her a little away, staring out into the distance with a faint
smile on his lips and deepest earnest in his eyes.
The girl looked at him wonderingly.
"What is it?" she asked anxiously, as if fearing to have hurt him. But
he did not seem to hear, only stood looking out at nothing as before.
"Olof--what is it?" she asked again, in evident distress.
"Only--it was only my mother speaking to me all alone," he answered in
a low voice.
"Oh!" The girl sighed deeply. "Now--was it just now she spoke?"
The girl glanced at him and hesitated. "Won't you--won't you tell me
what she said?" she asked timidly.
"She told me it was wrong--a sinful wrong even to ask you...."
The girl gazed at him for a long time without speaking; the tenderness
in her eyes grew to unutterable depths.
"Oh," she whispered at last, very softly, "if she only knew how I love
her now--your mother! I never loved her so before." And she clasped
her arms round his neck.
The rapids at Kohiseva are well known; none so well known, nor so ill
famed, in all the length of Nuoli River.
And the homestead at Moisio is a well-known place, for they are a
stubborn race that hold it; for generations past the masters of Moisio
have been known among their neighbours as men of substance, and hard
in their dealings to boot--unswerving and pitiless as the waters of
The daughter at Moisio is well known too; none carries her head so
high, and a tender glance from her eyes is more than any of the young
men round can boast of having won.
Kyllikki is her name--and no one ever had such a name--at least, folk
say there's no such name in the calendar.
* * * * *
The lumbermen's rearguard had come to Kohiseva. They came by night,
and here they were at their first day's work there now. Some were
still busy floating the last of the timber down; others were clearing
the banks of lumber that had driven ashore.
It was evening, and the men were on their way to their quarters in the
In the garden at Moisio a young girl was watering some plants newly
A youth came walking down the road beyond the fence. Some distance
off, he caught sight of the girl, and watched her critically as he
"This must be the one they spoke of," he said to himself. "The girl
that's proud beyond winning!"
The girl's slender figure straightened as she rose from her stooping
position, and threw back the plaited hair that had fallen forward over
one shoulder; she bowed her head in demure self-consciousness.
"She's all they say, by her looks," thought the youth, and slackened
his steps involuntarily as he passed.
The girl watched him covertly. "So that's the one they've all been
talking about," she said to herself. "The one that's not like any of
She bent down to fill her can.
"Shall I speak to her?" the young man asked himself.
"But suppose she'll have nothing to do with you?"
"H'm. 'Twould be the first that ever took it so!" And he smiled.
The girl bent over her work again; the young man came nearer.
"I wonder if he'll have the impudence to speak to me," she thought.
"'Twould be like him, from what they say. But let him try it with
"Like to like's the best way, I doubt," said the youth to himself. "If
she's so proud, I'd better be the same." And he walked by resolutely,
without so much as a glance at her, after all.
"Ho!" The girl spilled some of the water with a splash to one side.
"So that's his way, is it?"
She cast a look of displeasure at him as he passed down the road--to
go by like that without a word was almost a greater offence than if he
* * * * *
Next evening she was there again.
And this time he stopped.
"Good evening," he said, raising his hat with rather more of pride
"Good evening." She flung the words at him over her shoulder, turning
her head but just so much as to show the corner of an eye.
"What lovely roses!"
The speech was pleasant enough in itself, almost a compliment. But
there was a challenge in the words--as the speaker himself was aware.
"They're well enough," she answered carelessly, as if to imply that
she had no more to say--he could go on if he cared to.
"I wonder, now, if you'd give me one--one of the red ones yonder--if
it's not too much to ask?"
The girl drew herself up. "'Tis not our way at Moisio to give roses
over the fence to strangers--though there may be those elsewhere that
are willing enough."
"Though there may be those elsewhere...." The young man flushed. He
understood what was in her mind--the tone of her voice was enough. He
had expected something of this at their first encounter, but for all
that he was startled at the fierce resolution in her opening thrust.
"'Tis not my way to beg for roses over every fence," he answered
proudly. "Nor to ask a thing twice of anyone. Good-night!"
The girl looked at him, astonished. She had not expected anything like
He walked on a few paces, then stopped suddenly, and clearing the
ditch with a leap, stood leaning against the fence.
"There's just one thing I'd like to say--if I may," he said, glancing
sharply at her.
"You can say what you please, I suppose," she answered.
"Just this, then," he went on. "If any day you should find you have
set too high a price upon your roses, then take the one I asked for,
and wear it yourself. It could not hurt your pride, I think. It would
only show that you counted me a fellow-creature at least."
"Too high at least to be given to any tramp that is bold enough to
ask," said the girl, facing him squarely. "If anyone cares for them,
he must venture more than that."
They looked each other straight in the eyes for a moment.
"I'll bear that in mind," said the youth, with emphasis. "Good-bye."
"Good-bye," said the girl.
He walked on, and she stood watching him.
"Not like the others--they were right in that," said she, and went on
with her work.
* * * * *
That Sunday afternoon a crowd of people gathered on Kohiseva bridge.
There was not room for all, and the banks were thickly lined on either
There were rumours of unusual doings abroad--and folk had come out to
"Next Sunday afternoon at four," the news had run, "a match at
Kohiseva--shooting the rapids."
And folk pricked up their ears aghast--down the rapids at Kohiseva on
a stick of timber; it was more than any had ever ventured yet. True,
there was the man some ten years back--a foolhardy fellow from a
neighbouring district--who had tried the lower reach, which was less
dangerous by far, but he was dead when he came ashore.
Anyhow, it was to be done now. There were two gangs of lumbermen in
the place, and, as it chanced, men of unusual daring and skill in
each. A dispute had arisen between the headmen as to the merits of
their respective parties, and the only way to settle it was by a
match, the headman of the losing gang to stand treat all round.
All Kohiseva was afoot, and many had come in from the villages round.
It was no light thing to try the rapids there.
The sight-seers on the bridge moved this way and that, eagerly
discussing the event.
"'Tis a mad idea, for sure."
"Ay, they'll have been drunk the time, no doubt."
"There's no man in his sober senses would ever try it."
"But which of them is it?" asked one. "Who's going down?"
"One of them's just a mad young fool that'll do anything if you dare
"Ay, there's some of that sort most ways to be found. But 'tis a mad
thing to do."
"None so mad, perhaps," put in another. "They say he's the cleverest
of them all."
"I doubt but Kohiseva'll be one too clever for him. And the
"Why, didn't you know? There he is standing over there; Olof, they
say's his name."
"That one? He looks a sight too fine for a lumberman at all."
"'Tis him none the less for that."
"What's he doing in the gang, anyway? 'Tis not his business, by the
look of him."
"Ay, you may say so, but there's none knows more about him than all
can see. Book-learned, they say he is, and speaks foreign lingos, but
Olof's all the name he goes by."
"H'm. Must be a queer sort."
"Ah, there's more than one queer sort among these gangs. But if any
ever gets through the rapids, I say 'twill be him and no other."
"Wait and see," grumbled an adherent of the opposite party.
"Hey--look! there's old man Moisio pushing through to the foremen.
Now, what's he want with them, I wonder?"
The foremen stood midway across the bridge. One of them, Falk, was
leaning against the parapet, puffing at his tasselled pipe, and
smiling. The other, Vantti he was called, a sturdy, thick-set fellow,
stood with his hands in his pockets and a cigar between his teeth.
Vantti came from the north-east, from Karelen, and was proud of it,
as he was proud of his Karelen dialect and his enormous Karelen
boots--huge, crook-toed thigh-boots that seemed to swallow him up to
Moisio came up to the two. "What's this about the rapids?" he said
sternly. "If you've put up a match, as they're saying here, then I've
come to say you'd better put it off before harm comes of it. Five
men's lives the river's taken here in my time. And we've no wish for
"Easy, Moisio," says Vantti, taking the cigar from his mouth, and
spitting a thin jet sideways. "No call to take it that way. 'Tis but a
bit of a show we've got up to amuse the village folk."
"Call it what you please," answered Moisio. "You'll mark what I
say. I'm answerable for order in this place, and if any harm comes
afterwards, I'll call you to account for it. 'Tis no lawful way, to
risk men's lives for a bet."
"Moisio's right," cried several among the crowd.
The two headmen consulted in a whisper.
"Ay, if that's the way of it," says Vantti at last, and offers his
hand. Falk takes it, and turns to face the crowd.
"Listen," he says aloud. "Vantti, here, and I, we take you to witness
that we've called off our bet here and now. So there's none can blame
us afterwards. If the two men who've entered for the match will cry
off too, there's an end of it. If not, 'tis their own affair."
All eyes were turned towards the two competitors, who stood facing
each other, with their friends around.
One of them, a young man in a bright red coat, lifts his head boldly.
"I'm not afraid of drowning, and not going to drown," he cries.
"You draw back, then," says Moisio to Olof. "He'll not care to make
the trip alone. No man's gone down the rapids here and lived--'tis
madness to try."
Olof scans the water with a critical eye, the crowd waiting
expectantly the while.
"I'll not deny it," says he at last. "Don't think I'm paying no heed
to what you say. But I've a reason of my own for doing something more
than most would venture--and I'll not draw back." He spoke loudly and
clearly; all on the bridge could hear his words.
Moisio said no more, but drew back a little.
"Well, who's to go first?" said Falk.
"Let me," says Redjacket.
"As you please," said Olof.
Moisio turned to the headmen again. "You'll have some men on the
farther bank," he said, "in case of accidents."
"Not on my account," puts in Redjacket scornfully. "But if the other
man here wants fishing up...."
"Have them there if you like," says Olof. "'Twill do no harm."
The men take up their poles; those on the bridge look expectantly down
Kohiseva Rapids are a lordly sight in spring, when the river is full.
The strong arch of the bridge spans its powerful neck, and just below,
the rapids begin, rushing down the first straight reach with a slight
fall here and there. Then curving to the right, and breaking in foam
against the rocky wall of Akeanlinna--a mighty fortress of stone
rising straight up in midstream, with a clump of bushes like a helmet
plume on its top. The river then divides, the left arm racing in spate
down to the mill, the right turning off through a channel blasted
out of the rock for the passage of timber going down. A wild piece of
water this; the foam dances furiously in the narrow cut, but it ends
as swiftly as the joy of life; over a ledge of rock the waves are
flung a couple of fathoms down into the whirlpool called Eva's Pool.
Here they check and subside, the channel widens out below, and the
water passes on at a slower pace through the easier rapids below.
That is Kohiseva. The rock of Akeanlinna would be left untroubled were
it not for the lumbermen and their work. In the floating season, the
channel between it and the left bank is filled with timber, gathering
like a great bridge, against which new arrivals fling themselves in
fury, till they are drawn down through the cut.
The task which the rival champions have set themselves to-day is to
make their way down the upper rapids as far as Akeanlinna, and there
spring off--if they can--at the block--for there is no getting down
through the cut on a timber baulk, and none could go over the ledge to
Eva's Pool and live.
The men have taken up their places on the bank, and the two
competitors are preparing to start.
"Wouldn't it be as well to send a couple of baulks down first, for
whirlpools and hidden rocks?" suggests Olof.
"Ho, yes!" cries his rival. "And get a surveyor to mark it all out
neatly on a chart--a fine idea!"
Redjacket's party burst out laughing at this, and all looked at Olof.
He flushes slightly, but says nothing, only bites his lip and turns
away to study the river once more.
Redjacket looks at him sneeringly, and, pole in hand, steps out on to
the boom, a little way above the bridge. Then, springing over to the
raft, he chooses his craft for the voyage--a buoyant pine stem, short
and thick, and stripped of its bark.
The young man smiles, with a curious expression, as he looks on.
"Did you see?" whispers one on the bridge to his neighbour. "Mark my
words, he knows what he's about."
"Look out ahead!" Redjacket slips his tree trunk under the boom, and
steps out on to it. Then with a touch of his foot he sends it round
and round--spinning it, and sending up the water on either side.
"Ay, he's a smart lad," say the onlookers on the bridge.
Redjacket stops his manoeuvres now, gives a bold glance towards the
bridge, then, with a shrill whistle, fixes the point of his pole in
the wood; and, stepping back a little, with his hands on his hips,
begins, mockingly, to "say his prayers."
"There! Ever see such a lad?" Redjacket's partisans look round proudly
at the rest.
"Look at him--look!"
"Have done with that!" cries a stern voice from the crowd. "'Tis no
time for mockery."
"What's it to you whether I choose to sing or pray?" cries Redjacket,
with an oath. But he stops his show of praying, all the same, and
picks up his pole again. He is nearing the bridge now.
Already the angry water swirls over the stem and laps his boots, but
he stands fast.
The speed increases, the log itself disappears in a flurry of
foam--those on the bridge hold their breath.
Then it comes up again. The current thrusts against its hinder end,
and the buoyant wood answers to it like the tail of a fish, slipping
sideways round; the steersman sways, but with a swing of his pole
recovers his balance, and stands steady as before.
A sigh of relief from the watchers.
"Tra la la la!" sings Redjacket, undismayed. And he takes a couple of
dance-steps on his log.
"He's no greenhorn, anyhow," the crowd agree. And some of them glance
at Olof--to see how he takes their praise of his rival.
But Olof does not seem to heed; he is watching the water with a
certain impatience--no more.
Just then Redjacket's log strikes a sunken rock, and is thrust
backward. A swift movement--the log comes down with a splash into the
foam; the man bends over, straightens his body, and stands upright as
before, then strikes an attitude, and sails on past the obstacle.
"Well done--well done!"
"'Twas a marvel he cleared it."
The log goes on its way, the man standing easily as ever.
Then once more it collides. The fore end lifts--an oath is heard--next
second the red jacket shows in a whirl of water. Then it disappears.
A movement of anxiety on the bridge--the watchers on the bank spring
to their feet.
He is up again, swimming athwart the stream. A few powerful strokes,
and he reaches the dead water close inshore.
Cursing aloud, he sits down and pours the water from his boots. One of
the men posted at Akeanlinna brings him his pole--but his hat is gone.
He hurries up along the bank.
"Enough--give over now!" cry those on the bridge.
"Go and tell your mother!" he answers furiously.
"Maybe he'd like to have that chart now, after all," says one, with a
He pulls off his red coat. "Seeing I've lost my hat, I can do without
a jacket." A blue shirt shows up on the raft; he picks out a fresh
log, thrusts it angrily under the boom, and comes floating down
towards the bridge.
"Now you can stare till you think you'll know me again."
Not a sound from those on the bridge.
The log shoots down, the man stands erect, and passes proudly under
the gaze of all. He plies his pole to the right, and the log swerves
a little to the opposite side--the first obstacle is safely passed,
though it almost cost him his footing again.
"Aha! He's on his guard this time! Maybe he'll do it, after all!"
"Well, he said you'd know him again!" Redjacket's party are recovering
The log hurries on, the man balancing carefully with his pole.
Nearing the second rock now--the figure crouches down and steps a
little back. A sudden shock, a crash--his pole has broken, and the
blue shirt disappears in the rapids.
"Look! Right down there! He'll never get ashore this time." The
onlookers crowd together, straining to see.
The blue shirt comes into view for a moment.
"He'll never do it--'tis right out in midstream."
"Hi--look out there on the bank!"
"He'll be smashed to pieces on the Malli Rock."
"No, no! he's too far out."
The blue shirt is carried past the threatening rock, but making
straight for the big raft below. A clenched hand is raised to bid the
men there stand aside--he will manage alone. But they take no heed.
One thrusts a pole between the swimmer's legs as he nears the raft,
another grasps him by the neck, and they haul him up--a heavy pull,
with the water striving all the time to suck him under. Inch by inch
the blue shirt rises above the edge.
He limps ashore, supported by a man on either side. One knee is
"'Tis more than man can do!" he cries in a broken voice, shaking his
fist toward the bridge.
* * * * *
There is a low murmur of voices on the bridge, an anxious whispering.
Olof picks up his pole. Close behind him a young girl plucks at the
sleeve of an elderly man, and seems to be urging him, entreating....
Moisio turns to Olof. "Once more I ask of you--let it be enough. You
have seen how your companion fared. Do not try it again."
"I must," answered Olof in a voice cold and hard as steel, with a ring
of confidence that impressed those who heard.
He goes off to the raft, picks out a log and tries its buoyancy with
care. A long pine stem, with the bark off, and floating deep in the
"Ah--he's choosing a horse of another sort!"
"Tis another sort of rider, too, by his looks."
Olof was nearing the bridge now--calmly, without a word, watching the
course of the river all the time. Reaching the bridge, he raised his
eyes for a moment, and met the glance of a girl looking down. A faint
smile, and the slightest inclination of the head, no more.
"Good luck to you!" cried several of the onlookers; a certain sympathy
was evident among the crowd.
Now he glides under the bridge, on towards the perilous stage of the
journey--all watch with eager eyes.
The strange craft cleaves the waves, sending up spray on either
hand--but the heavy log, floating deep, hardly moves; the steersman
keeps his footing steadily as on firm ground.
"That's the way! Ah, he knows the sort of craft to choose for the
The log hurries on, the lithe figure bends a little, balancing with
"Turn off--turn off! He's making straight for the rock!"
He stands poised, with muscles tense, his pole in readiness, his eyes
fixed on the whirl about the sunken rock, his knees slightly bent.
A shock--and he springs deftly in air as the heavy log is thrust
backward under him--taking his footing again as firmly as before.
"Bravo, bravo! Finely done!"
On again. A few quick, powerful strokes with the pole--and the rock
that had been his rival's undoing is safely passed.
"He'll do it! He's the man!" The onlookers were all excitement now.
The speed increases, the lithe figure swaying to either side. A thrust
from the left--he springs light-footed to meet it.
Once more his body is bent, his pole held firmly, knees crouching
deep--those on the bridge crane their necks to watch.
The next shock comes with a crash that is plainly heard by those
upstream; again he springs as the log thrusts back, and comes down
neatly as before. A few paces forward to get his balance, then back a
step or two like a tight-rope walker.
"That's the way, lad!"
"He knows how to dance!"
"Look out for Malli Rock!"
"Ay, if he can clear that!"
Malli Rock stands ready to meet the attack; the rapids are tearing
past on either side.
The log comes down, making full towards the smooth, sloping face of
Olof swerves a little to the right, and leaps off, coming down in a
whirl of spray. The rock has done its part, and sent the end of the
log high out of the water; Olof lands on it and goes on again, the log
scraping the face of the rock as it passes.
"Sticks like a leech, he does! He's done it now!"
A cheer from the crowd.
Straight down in midstream now. A little ahead the river bends--he is
nearing the block at Akeanlinna.
"Now for the last lap!"
"Ay--and the worst of all!"
Two--three short paces back--the log brings up full against the block.
A leap and a crash, a run almost to the fore end of the log before he
can check his pace. The log is flung out again into the current, and
shivers as if paralysed by the blow. Then the water carries it down
The men at their posts stare helplessly--one of them gives a cry, and
the onlookers shudder. "Heavens--he's missed it now!"
More shouting, and men running up and down the banks; others standing
as if rooted to the spot.
Olof glances at the mass of timber by the rock. A swing of the pole, a
sudden deft turn, and hurrying to the other end of the log, he begins
poling hard across the stream.
"He's making for the other bank!"
"He'll never do it--and there's no one there to help!"
"Oh--look! He'll be carried over the edge!"
Hard fighting now. Olof is striving to reach the farther bank,
the current is drawing the end of the log nearer and nearer the
falls--already the water is seething over it.
Two furious strokes, a swift step, and another, and, lifting his
pole, he flies through the air--toward the shore. The pole strikes
something, as all on the bridge can hear--then he is lost to sight.
A rush of men downstream, crying and shouting....
Then, a moment later, a waving of hats from the men at Akeanlinna, and
a cheer is passed from group to group upstream. Some stop, others race
on--he is saved--but how?
Then a tall figure appears standing on the shore, waving his hand
triumphantly. A mighty cheer from all the onlookers and a waving of
hats and kerchiefs. "There he is!"
Olof walks up with easy steps, but the blood is streaming down
his face. The first to meet him is a girl, her face pale, her body
trembling with emotion. She is standing by herself--the others are
still far off.
Olof stops and hesitates--shall he go to meet her, or turn off? The
girl casts down her eyes. He draws nearer--she looks up, and gives him
one deep, warm glance, and looks down again--her cheeks flushed.
Olof's face lights up, and he lifts his hat as he passes. Then the
crowd surges round him with shouts of applause.
"Bravo! Well done! Here's the man that's beaten Kohiseva! Who's the
best man now?"
Vantti steps forward and lays a hand on his shoulder. "Well done,
lad! 'Tis plain to see you're not born to be drowned." And the sturdy
fellow laughs till his great boots shake.
"You've made a name for yourself to-day," says Falk.
"'Olof' was a bit short, maybe...."
"So now they'll call you Kohiseva--and a good name too!"
"'Tis as good as another," said Olof, with a laugh. "And longer,
"And now we'll go down to the mill and see about drinks all round.
Twice round, it ought to be--'twas worth it!"
* * * * *
When Olof came home that evening, a girl sat anxiously waiting at
A bright rose was stuck between the palings of the fence beside the
road. Olof sprang across the ditch--the girl drew her head back behind
He fastened the rose in his coat. With a grateful glance he searched
the garden, up towards the house, but no one was to be seen.
In the safe shelter of her room a girl sat bowed over the table with
her face hidden in her arms, crying softly.
THE SONG OF THE BLOOD-RED FLOWER
"Why are you so sad this evening, Olof?" asked the girl.
"Sad?" he repeated, almost to himself, staring absently before him.
"Yes--I wish I knew."
"But how--when it is yourself--don't you know?"
"No--that's the strange thing about it. I don't know."
There was a pause.
"I won't ask you if you don't like it," she said, after a while. "But
if I were sad, and had a friend, I should want to."
"And make your friend sad too--by telling things no friend could
"Perhaps a friend might try."
But Olof seemed not to have heard. He leaned back, and his glance
"Life is very strange," he said dreamily. "Isn't it strange to have
cared very much for a thing--and then one day to feel it as nothing at
She looked inquiringly at him.
"My own life, for instance. Up to now, it has been a beautiful story,
"Now, I can't see what it is--or if it is anything at all. Going from
place to place, from river to river--from one adventure to another...."
Again there was a pause.
"But why do you live so?" she asked timidly. "I have so often
"I wonder myself sometimes why I must live so--or if I must--but it
goes on all the same."
"Must...? But your home ... your father and mother, are they still
alive? You have never spoken of them."
"Yes, they are still alive."
"And couldn't you live with them?"
"No," he said coldly. "They could not make me stay."
"But aren't you fond of them?" she asked in surprise.
He was silent a moment. "Yes," he said at last, "I am fond of them--as
I am fond of many other things. But there is nothing that can hold me
Something within him was striving for utterance--something he had long
"And now," he went on, almost violently, "I want...." He stopped.
"It is something to do with you, Kyllikki," he said earnestly, as if
"Tell me. You need not be afraid," said the girl in a low voice.
"I want to say good-bye to you--and _not_ as friends," he said
"Not--not as friends?"
"That is what I said. We met first--you know how it was--it was no
friendly meeting. And best if we could leave each other that way too."
"Because--shall I tell you?"
"I want you to."
He looked her sharply and coldly in the eyes. "Because you have not
been what I hoped you would. Ay, and thought you would. I was proud
and happy when I knew I had won your friendship. But I thought I had
won more than that--something warmer and deeper--a thing complete."
She was silent for a moment.
"Warm and deep--a thing complete?" she repeated. "Did you _give_ that
"No! But I could have done. I wished to--but you made it impossible.
We have known each other now for a week--and what has come of it? I
have scarcely dared to take your hand."
"But what more could you...?"
"What more? Have you for my own--possess you. All or nothing!"
The girl seemed struggling with some inward feeling.
"May I ask you something?" she asked softly.
"Have me for your own, you said." She hesitated, but went on
resolutely: "Does that mean--have me for your own to-day, and go away
to-morrow--and then, perhaps, think of me at times as one among a host
of others you have 'possessed'?"
He shot a glance at her, almost of hatred, but said no word.
"Perhaps," went on the girl calmly, "perhaps you too have not been
what I hoped and thought. If you had...."
"What then?" he asked quickly, as if in challenge.
"Then you would not--speak as you are doing now," she answered
evasively. "And perhaps what makes you angry now is only this--that
you can never have more than you are able to take yourself."
He looked at her in wonder.
"And perhaps"--her voice was scarcely audible now--"perhaps you cannot
take more than you are able to keep?"
She looked down in confusion, hardly knowing what she had said, only
that she had been forced to say it.
He sat watching her for a while thoughtfully, as if he had heard
something new and unexpected, and was pondering over it.
"You must have known yourself that I could never keep--or keep
to--anyone," he said at last.
"I know that," she answered; "you don't want to."
It was as if a fine, sharp thorn had pierced him to the heart, and
left its point there. The two sat looking at each other without a
"And if I would...." He grasped her hand earnestly. "Do you think I
The girl turned pale, and did not speak.
"Answer me," he said insistently.
"Surely each must know that for himself," she answered at last,
speaking with difficulty.
"Kyllikki, Kyllikki, if you only knew!" he cried sorrowfully, and took
her hands in his. Then a sudden coldness came over him once more.
"And if I were to dare," he said, "there is one other besides you and
"Are you afraid of him?" she asked sharply.
"No. But if he turned me from his door in scorn...."
"If the thought of that counts for so much," she said, with emphasis,
"then it were better not to ask. For, after--whom would you love more,
do you think; yourself, or the one you think you love?"
He winced under her glance.
"If it were for your sake I feared?" he asked, with some feeling.
"No need of that--as long as I know you are sure in your own mind. And
if you were sure--you need have no fear for me."
He looked at her in surprise and admiration.
"You are a strange girl, Kyllikki," he said at last. "I am only just
beginning to understand you. You are not as I hoped you would be--but
you are something more. I know what it must have cost you to say so
much. I shall not forget."
Again the trouble rose within him. "You, I understand," he said
wearily. "Yes. But myself--"
"You will find that out as well, some day," she said tenderly.
"If only there was time now...." He sat for a moment in thought.
"We are leaving to-morrow afternoon. If I have got things clear in my
own mind by then, I will come and see you before we go. But it will
be at the last minute. For if it comes to what I think it will, then I
must not stay a moment longer."
The girl nodded. Both rose to their feet.
"Kyllikki," he said, with emotion, taking her hands, "it may be this
is the last time I see you alone. Do not think hardly of me because I
am what I am."
"You could not be otherwise," she answered warmly. "I understand."
"I shall be grateful to you for that always. And perhaps...." His voice
broke. "Good-bye, Kyllikki!"
* * * * *
It was Sunday afternoon. The lumbermen were getting ready to leave.
The young folk of the village, and some of the elders, had come down
to the creek at Kohiseva to see them start.
The water was almost clear of timber already, the boom was being
dragged slowly down the dead water by a few of the men. Some went
ahead, getting odd logs out of the way, others strolled idly about on
the shore, exchanging greetings with the villagers.
A little way down the bank a log is stranded with one end thrust far
inshore. Close by it lies a pole.
"That's Olof's," says one of the men. "He's not come down yet--busy up
at the village, it seems."
A girl in the group of lookers-on felt her heart beat suddenly.
"H'm--left it to ride down on, I suppose. Wants to take another turn
down the rapids before he goes."
"Ay, that's it. Likes that way better than going on a raft like
ordinary folk. That's him coming down, isn't it?"
Olof came racing down like the wind.
A girl in the group turned pale. She could see from his manner what
had passed. Something terrible it must have been to bring him down in
a fury like that.
He came nearer. His face was deadly pale, his lips compressed, and his
eyes flashed, though he looked out over the water all the time.
He raised his hat as he passed the group, but without a glance at
"What's happened now?" The question was in all eyes, but no one spoke.
Olof grasped his pole, thrust off the log, and sprang out on it. He
took a few powerful strokes, and turned, casting his eyes over the
group on the shore. He was looking for one amongst them--and found
"Good-bye!" he cried, waving his hat.
"Good-bye--good-bye! Come again some day to Kohiseva!"
The men waved their hats, the girls fluttered kerchiefs in farewell.
Olof was still facing toward the shore, paddling slowly out across the
Those on shore would have sent him a friendly word, but no one
spoke--all were looking at a girl whose face was strangely pale.
Paler than ever it seemed as the man stopped rowing, and fixed his
eyes on the group.
"Ay, cast your coins in a beggar's hat,
And he'll bless your charity.
I was good enough for the girl I loved,
But her kin were prouder than she!"
There was a depth of bitterness in the words--the listeners started
"What's taken him all at once? Never heard him sing that way before!"
The singer glanced down at the water, took a few strokes out, and went
"My home is where the rapids roar,
Below the river's brink.
All the rivers of all the world--
Who cares if he swim or sink?"
The listeners glanced at one another--the meaning of the song was
"'Twas no spring day that gave me life
With sunlit skies and clear,
But a leafless gloom that sent me forth
To wander many a year.
My mother wept in her garden lone,
Or ever I was born; Looked at a
blood-red flower and wept
For that her heart was torn."
He was midway across now, paddling slowly, bending a little forward.
Those on the shore stood still, waiting.
"And that same flower grew red in my way,
And I wished it for my own.
I won but little joy of its bloom
That was in sorrow grown.
But little joy when my father rose
And drove me from his door,
And my mother wept as I went to seek
What sorrow was yet in store."
A girl was crying softly. The rest stood silent.
"O blood-red flower, O flame-red flower,
That ever you grew so red!
Ask of my love if she knows you now,
When all her tears are shed!"
With a wave of his hand the singer turned, and made his way swiftly
across the river.
Those on the shore waved in return, and stood watching and waving
long, but he did not look back.
WATER-SPRITE AND WATER-WITCH
Slowly the river flowed; the waves plashed, and the reeds swayed
Green pine woods on one shore: the other was field and meadow, with a
road running through a little distance from the bank.
A girl came walking down the road, casting an anxious glance now and
again towards the river.
She stopped. A boom lay out in the river, lumbermen's poles were
strewn about on the farther bank. And something more--a man lay under
the trees at the edge of the wood, resting his head on one hand.
The girl looked at him thoughtfully. The man did not move. Still in
doubt, she took a step forward, and then drew back again. At last,
she turned off from the road, and walked resolutely down along a
watercourse straight towards the river.
Mingled emotion stirred in the young man's breast--joy at the meeting,
and wounded pride and bitterness. He felt an impulse to hurry across,
run to the girl and take her in his arms, forgetting all else. But
there was that between them cold and clear as the dividing water.
The girl reached the bank, and stood looking out over the water in
The young man could contain himself no longer. "You have come!" he
"How could I help it?" she said in a low voice--the words hardly
carried to the opposite bank.
"And I could not help thinking of you."
The river looked at the pair. "If only I were frozen over!"
* * * * *
"Couldn't you--couldn't you come across--just for a moment?" asked the
"Just what I was going to do. But we can't stay there on the bank--the
men will be coming down directly."
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