He sang so that the window-panes rattled

It was midsummer. The mountain region was hazy in the heat; all the
distance was as if enveloped in smoke. The girls on the farm went about
barefooted, in waists and short petticoats. It was a scorching heat,
so that the pitch ran in sticky white lines down from the fat knots in
the timber of the newly built pigsty, where Marit was giving swill to
the hogs. Some sand-scoured wooden milk-pans stood on edge by the well,
drying, while one or two sparrows and wagtails hopped about or perched
nodding on the well-curb, and the blows of the axe resounded from the
wood-shed in the quiet of the afternoon. Pasop lay panting in the shade
behind the outer door, which stood open.

The captain had finished his afternoon nap, and stood by the field
looking at Great-Ola and the horses ploughing up an old grassland which
was to be laid down again.

The bumble-bee was humming in the garden. With about the same
monotonous voice, Thinka and Inger-Johanna, sitting by the stone table
in the summer-house over the cracked blue book-cover and the dog-eared,
well-thumbed leaves, mumbled the Catechism and Commentary, with elbows
and heads close to each other. They had to learn pages eighty-four to
eighty-seven before supper time, and they held their fingers in their
ears so as not to disturb each other.

There was darkness like a shadow just outside of the garden fence. But
they saw nothing, heard nothing; the long passage of Scripture went way
over on the second page.

Then there was a gay clearing of a throat. “Might one interrupt the two
young ladies with earthly affairs?”

They both looked up at the same time. The light hop leaves about the
summer-house had not yet entirely covered the trellis.

With his arms leaning on the garden fence there stood a young man–he
might have been standing there a long time–with a cap almost without a
visor over thick brown hair. His face was sunburned and swollen.

The eyes, which gazed on them, looked dreadfully wicked.

Neither of them saw more; for, by a common impulse at the phenomenon,
they ran in utter panic out of the door, leaving the books spread
open behind them, and up the steps in to Ma, who was in the kitchen
buttering bread for lunch.

“There was a man standing–there was a man out by the garden fence. It
was certainly not any one who goes around begging or anything like that.”

“Hear what he has to say, Jörgen,” said Ma, quickly comprehending the
situation; “this way, out the veranda door. Appear as if you came of
your own accord.”

Both the girls flew in to the windows of the best room in order to peep
out under the curtains.

He was coming in by the steps to the outer door with Jörgen, who
suddenly vanished from his sight into the kitchen.

Little Thea stood in the door of the sitting-room with a piece of bread
and butter, clutching the latch, and, holding the door half shut and
half open, stared at him; she was altogether out of it.

“Is your father at home?”

“Yes, but you must go by the kitchen path, do you hear? And wait till
we have had lunch; he is not going up to the office before that.” She
took him for a man who was going to be put on the roll.

“But I am not going to the office, you see.”

Ma herself came now; she had managed to get her cap on in her hurry,
but it was all awry.

“A young man, I see, who has perhaps come a long distance to-day.
Please walk in.”

Her smile was kind, but her eye underneath it was as sharp as an
officer’s review; here were holes and darns with coarse thread for the
nonce and rents in abundance, and it was not easy to free herself from
the suspicion of some questionable rover, especially when he dropped
straight in through the door with the remark: “I come like a tramp
from the mountain wilds, madam. I must make many excuses.”

Ma’s searching look had in the mean time broken through the shell. The
white streak on the upper part of the forehead, under the shade where
the skin had not been reddened by the sunburn, and his whole manner
determined her to scrutinize him prudently. “Please sit down, Jäger is
coming soon.” She incidentally passed by the sewing-table and shut it.
“Won’t you let me send you a glass of milk in the mean time?”

A girl came in with a great basin, shaped like a bowl, and vanished
again.

He put it to his mouth, noted with his eye how much he had drunk, drank
again, and took another view.

“It is delightful–is not at all like the mistress of the house, for
she seemed like sour milk, and”–he suppressed a sigh–“dangerously
dignified.”

He drank again.

“Yes, now one really must stop; but since and whereas–”

He placed the basin quite empty on the plate.

“Best to attack him at once. Dead broke, will you on my honest face
lend me four–no, that does not sound well, better out with it at
once–five dollars, so that I can get to Christiania?”

The small eyes twinkled quickly. If only the captain had come then!
Some one was walking about out there.

He gazed abstractedly; he repeated his speech to himself. It was always
altered, and now he stood again at the ticklish point–the amount. He
considered if perhaps he only needed to ask for four–three?

There was a growling out in the hall; the dog rushed out, barking
loudly. It was plainly the captain.

The young man rose hurriedly, but sat down again like a spring ready to
jump up out of a chair: he had been in too great haste.

“In the parlor–some sort of fellow who wants to talk with me?” It was
out on the stairs that some one was speaking.

A moment or two later, and the captain appeared in the door.

“I must beg you to excuse me, Captain. I have unfortunately,
unfortunately”–here he began to stammer; bad luck would have it that
one of the two young girls whom he had seen in the summer-house, the
dark one, came in after her father; and so it would not do–“come over
the mountain,” he continued. “You will understand that one cannot
exactly appear in the best plight.” The last came in a tone of forced
ease.

The captain at that moment did not appear exactly agreeably surprised.

“My name is Arent Grip!”

“Arent Grip!” rejoined the captain, looking at him. “Grip! the same
phiz and eyes! You can never be the son of Perpetuum–cadet at
Lurleiken? He is a farmer, or proprietor I suppose he calls himself,
somewhere among the fjords.”

“He is my father, Captain.”

“Does he still work as hard as ever at his mechanical ideas?” asked the
captain. “I heard that he had carried the water for his mill straight
through the roof of the cow-barn, so that the cows got a shower bath,
when the pipes sprung a leak.”

Inger-Johanna caught a movement of indignation, as if the stranger
suddenly grasped after his cap. “Shame, shame, that those times did not
give a man like my father a scientific education.” He said this with a
seriousness utterly oblivious of the captain.

“So, so. Well, my boy, you must be kind enough to take a little lunch
with us, before you start off. Inger-Johanna, tell Ma that we want
something to drink and bread and butter. You must be hungry coming down
from the mountains. Sit down.–And what is now your–your occupation or
profession in the world? if I might ask.” The captain sauntered around
the floor.

“Student; and, Captain,” he gasped, in order to use quickly the moment
while they were alone, “since I have been so free as to come in here
thus without knowing you–”

“Student!” The captain stopped in the middle of the floor. “Yes, I
would have risked my head on it, saw it at the first glance, but yet
I was a little in doubt. Well, yes,” clearing his throat, “nearly
plucked, perhaps; eh, boy?” inquired he good-naturedly. “Your father
also had trouble with his examinations.”

“I have not the fractional part of my father’s brains, but with what I
have, they gave me this year _laudabilis praeceteris_.”

“Son of my friend, Fin Arentzen Grip!” He uttered each one of the
names with a certain tender recognition. “Your father was, all
things considered, a man of good ability, not to say a little of a
genius,–when he failed in his officer’s examination, it was all due
to his irregular notions. Well, so you are his son! Yes, he wrote many
a composition for me–the pinch was always with the compositions, you
see.”

“And, Captain,” began the young man again earnestly, now in a louder
and more decided tone, “since I can thus, without further ceremony,
confidently address you–”

“You can tell Ma,” said the captain, when Inger-Johanna again came in
with her taller, overgrown sister, “that it is Student Arent Grip, son
of my old delightful comrade at the Military School.”

The result of this last message was that the contemplated plate with a
glass and bread and butter was changed to a little lunch for him and
the captain, spread out on a tray.

The old bread-basket of red lacquer was filled with slices of black,
sour bread, the crusts of which were cracked off. More’s the pity, Ma
declared, it had been spoiled in the baking, and the gray, heavy crust
was due to the fact that so much of the grain on the captain’s farm
last year was harvested before it was ripe.

The student showed the sincerity of his forbearance of these defects
through an absolutely murderous appetite. The prudential lumps of
salt, which studded the fresh mountain butter with pearly tears in a
superfluous abundance, he had a knack of dodging boldly and incisively,
which did not escape admiring eyes; only a single short stroke of his
knife on the under side of the bread and butter, and the lumps of salt
rained and pattered over the plate.

“You will surely have some dried beef? I guess you have not had much
to eat to-day. Go and get some more, Thinka. A little dram with the
cheese, what? You can believe that we tested many a good old cheese
in the den at your father’s, and when we had a spree, we sent for
it, and it circulated round from one party to another; and then the
apples from Bergen which he got by the bushel by freighting-vessel
from home! He was such a greenhorn, and so kind hearted–too confiding
for such rascals as we! Oh, how we hunted through his closet and
boxes!–and then we did our exercises at the same time; it was only
his that the teacher corrected through the whole class.” The captain
emptied the second part of his long dram. “Ah!” He held his glass up
against the light, and looked through it, as he was accustomed to. “But
nevertheless, there was something odd about him, you know; you must see
that such a one, straight from the country, does not fit in at once.
Never forget when he first lectured us about perpetual motion. It was
done with only five apples in a wheel, he said, and the apples must be
absolutely mathematically exact. It was that which got out and ruined
him, so people came to–yes, you know–comment on it, and make fun of
him; and that hung on till the examination.”

The student wriggled about.

The young ladies, who were sitting with their sewing by the window,
also noticed how he had now forgotten himself; during the whole time he
had kept one boot under the chair behind the other in order to conceal
the sole of his shoes gaping wide open. They were in good spirits,
and hardly dared to look at each other–son of a man who was called
Perpetuum, was a cadet, and gave the cows a bath. Father was dreadfully
amusing when there were strangers present.

“Not a moment’s doubt that there were ideas–but there was something
obstinate about him. To come, as he did, straight from the farm, and
then to begin to dispute with the teacher about what is in the book,
never succeeds well, especially in physics in the Military School. And
you can believe that was a comedy.”

“Then I will bet my head that it was not my father who was wrong,
Captain.”

“Hm, hm–naturally yes, his father to a dot,” he mumbled–“Hm, well,
you have got _praeceteris_ all the same,–will you have a drop more?”
came the hospitable diversion.

“No, I thank you. But I will tell you how it was with my father. It
was just as it was with a hound they had once at the judge’s. There
was such blood and spirit in him that you would search long to find
his equal; but one day he bit a sheep, and so he had to be cured.
It was done by locking him up in a sheepfold. There he stood, alone
before the ram and all the sheepfold. It seemed to him splendid fun.
Then the ram came leaping at him, and the dog rolled heels over head.
Pshaw, that was nothing; but after the ram came tripping–before he
could rise–all the fifty sheep trip–trip–trip, over him; then he
was entirely confused. Again they stood opposite each other, and once
more the ram rushed in on the dog, and trip–trip–trip–trip, came the
feet of the whole flock of sheep over him. So they kept on for fully
two hours, until the dog lay perfectly quiet and completely stunned. He
was cured, never bit a sheep again. But what he was good for afterwards
we had better not talk about–he had been through the Military School,
Captain.”

When he looked up, he met the dark, intense eyes of the mistress fixed
on him; her capped head immediately bent down over the sewing again.

The captain had listened more and more eagerly. The cure of the hound
interested him. It was only at the last expression he discovered that
there was any hidden meaning in it.

“Hm–my dear Grip. Ah! Yes, you think that. Hm, can’t agree with
you. There were skilful teachers, and–ho, ho,–really we were not
sheep–rather wolves to meet with, my boy. But the cure, I must admit,
was disgraceful for a good dog, and in so far–well, a drop more?”

“Thank you, Captain.”

“But what kind of a road do you say you have been over, my boy?”

With the food and the glass and a half of cordial which he had enjoyed,
new life had come into the young man. He looked at his clothes, and was
even so bold as to put his boots out; a great seam went across one knee.

“I certainly might be set up as a scarecrow for a terror and warning to
all those who will depart from the highway. It was all because at the
post station I met a deer-hunter, an excellent fellow. The chap talked
to me so long of what there was on the mountain that I wanted to go
with him.”

“Extremely reasonable,” muttered the captain, “when a man is paying for
his son in Christiania.”

“I had become curious, I must tell you, and so started off for the
heart of the mountains.”

“Is he not even more aggravatingly mad than his father,–to start in
haphazard over the black, pathless mountain?”

“The track led over the débris and stones at the foot at first for five
hours. But I don’t know what it is upon the mountain; it was as if
something got into my legs. The air was so fine and light, as if I had
been drinking champagne; it intoxicated me. I should have liked to walk
on my hands, and it would have been of no consequence to any one in the
whole wide world, for I was on the summit. And never in my life have I
seen such a view as when we stood, in the afternoon, on the mountain
crest,–only cool, white, shining snow, and dark blue sky, peak on
peak, one behind the other, in a glory as far as the eye could reach.”

“Yes, we have snow enough, my boy. It stands close up against the walls
of the house here all winter, as clear, white, and cold as any one
could wish. We find ourselves very well satisfied with that,–but show
me a beautiful green meadow or a fine field of grain, my boy.”

“It seemed to me as if one great fellow of a mountain stood by the side
of another and said: You poor, thin-legged, puny being, are you not
going to be blown away in the blue draught, here on the snow-field,
like a scrap of paper? If you wish to know what is great, take your
standard from us.”

“You got _praeceteris_, you said, my man? Yes, yes, yes, yes! What do
you say if we get the shoemaker to put a little patch on your shoes
to-night?”

It was as much as an invitation to stay all night!–Extremely tempting
to postpone the request till next day. “Thank you, Captain, I will not
deny that it might be decidedly practical.”

“Tell the shoemaker, Jörgen, to take them as soon as he has put the
heel-irons on those I am to have for the survey of the roads.”

Oh! So he is going away, perhaps early to-morrow morning; it must be
done this evening, nevertheless! Now, when the daughters were beginning
to clear off the table, it was best to watch his chance.

The captain began walking up and down the floor with short steps. “Yes,
yes, true! Yes, yes, true! Would you like to see some fine pigs, Grip?”

The student immediately sprang up. The way out! He grabbed his cap. “Do
you keep many, Captain?” he asked, extremely interested.

“Come!–oh, it is no matter about going through the kitchen–come out
a little while on the porch steps. Do you see that light spot in the
woods up there? That is where we took the timber for the cow-house and
the pigsty, two years ago.”

He went out into the farmyard bare-headed.

“Marit, Marit, here is some one who wants to see your pigs. Now you
shall be reviewed. There are a sow and seven–you see. Ugh, ugh, yes.
Hear your little ones, Marit!–But it was the brick wall, you see.
Right here was a swamp hole; it oozed through from the brook above. And
now–see the drain there?–as dry as tinder.”

Now or never the petition must be presented.

“And now they live like lords all together there,” continued the
captain.

“All seven of the dollars–what am I saying, all five of the pigs.”

“What?”

“Here is your hat, father!”–Jörgen came from the house–“and there are
some of the people down from Fosse standing there and waiting.”

“So? We will only just look into the stable a little.”

There stood Svarten and Brunen, just unharnessed, still dripping wet
and with stiff hair after the work at the plough.

“Fine stall, eh?–and very light; the horses don’t come out of the door
half blind. Ho, Svarten, are you sweaty now?”

There was a warm and pleasant smell of the stable–and finally–

“Captain, I am going to make a re–”

“But, Ola,” interrupted the latter, “see Brunen’s crib there! I don’t
like those bits. It can’t be that he bites it?”

“Ha, ha, ha–no, by no means.” Ola grinned slyly; he was not going to
admit in a stranger’s presence that the captain’s new bay was a cribber!

The captain had become very red; he pulled off his cap, and hurriedly
walked along with it in his hand–“such a rascal of a horse-trader!”

He no longer looked as if he would listen to a request.

Out of the afternoon shade by the stable walls the two men just spoken
of appeared.

“Is this a time of day to come to people?” he blurted out. “Ah well–go
up to the office.”

At this he strode over the yard, peeped into the well, and turned
towards the window of the sitting-room.

“Girls! Inger-Johanna–Thinka,” he called in a loud tone. “Ask Ma if
that piece of meat is going to lie there by the well and rot.”

“Marit has taken it up, we are going to have it for supper,” Thinka
tried to whisper.

“Oh! Is it necessary on that account to keep it where Pasop can get
it?–Show the student down into the garden, so that he can get some
currants,” he called out of the door, as he went up by the stables to
his office.

Arent Grip’s head, covered with thick brown hair, with the scanty flat
cap upon it, could now be seen for a good long time among the currant
bushes by the side of Thinka’s little tall, blond one. At first he
talked a great deal, and the sprightly, bright, brown eyes were not
in the least wicked, Thinka thought. She began to feel rather a warm
interest in him.

He found his boots in the morning standing mended before his bed, and a
tray with coffee and breakfast came up to him. He had said he must be
off early.

Now it all depended on making his decisive leap with closed eyes in the
dark.

When he came down, the captain stood on the stairs with his pipe. Over
his fat neck, where the buckle of his military stock shone, grayish
locks of hair stuck out under his reddish wig. He was looking out a
little discontentedly into the morning fog, speculating on whether it
would settle or rise so that he would dare order the mowing to go on.

“So you are going to start, my boy?”

“Captain, can–will you lend me–” in his first courage of the morning
he had thought of five, but it sank to four even while he was on the
stairs, and now in the presence of the captain to–“three dollars? I
have used up every shilling I had to get to Christiania with. You shall
have them by money order immediately.”

The captain hemmed and hawed. He had almost suspected something of the
sort yesterday in the fellow’s face–yes, such a student was the kind
of a fellow to send back a money order!

There began to be a sort of an ugly grin on his face. But suddenly
he assumed a good-natured, free and easy mien. “Three dollars, you
say?–If I had three in the house, my boy! But here, by fits and starts
in the summer, it is as if the ready money was clean swept away.”
He stuck his unoccupied hand in the breast of his uniform coat, and
looked vacantly out into the air. “Ah! hm-hm,” came after a dreadfully
oppressive pause. “If I was only sure of getting them back again, I
would see if I could pick up three or four shillings at any rate in
Ma’s household box–so that you could get down to the sheriff or the
judge. They are excellent people, I know them; they help at the first
word.”

The captain, puffing vigorously at his pipe, went into the kitchen to
Ma, who was standing in the pantry and dealing out the breakfast.
She had the hay-making and the whole of the outside affairs upon her
shoulders.

He was away quite a little time.

“Well, if Ma did not have the three dollars after all! So I have got
them for you. And so good-by from Gilje! Let us hear when you get
there.”

“You shall hear in a money order,” and the student strode jubilantly
away.

It is true that at first Ma had stopped for a moment and pinched her
lips together, and then she had declared as her most settled opinion
that, if the captain was going to help at all, it must be with all
three. He did not seem one of those who shirked everything–was not one
who was all surface–and it would not do at all to let him beg at the
judge’s, the sheriff’s, and perhaps the minister’s, because he could
not get a loan of more than three shillings at Gilje.

From time to time Thinka told of all that she and the student had
talked about together.

“What did he say then?” urged Inger-Johanna.

“Oh, he was entertaining almost all the time; I have never heard any
one so entertaining.”

“Yes, but do you remember that he said anything?”

“Oh, yes, he asked why you were reading French. Perhaps you were to be
trained to be a parrot, so that you could chatter when you came to the
city.

“So,–how did he know that I was going to the city?”

“He asked how old you were; and then I said that you were to be
confirmed and to go there. He was very well acquainted at the
governor’s house; he had done extra writing, or something of that sort,
at the office, since he had been a student.”

“That kind of acquaintance, yes.”

“But you wouldn’t suit exactly there, he said; and do you know why?”

“No.”

“Do you want to know? He thought you had too much backbone.”

“What–did he say?”

She wrinkled her eyebrows and looked up sharply, so that Thinka
hastened to add: “Whoever comes there must be able to wind like a
sewing thread around the governor’s wife, he said; it would be a shame
for your beautiful neck to get a twist so early.”

Inger-Johanna threw her head back and smiled: “Did you ever hear such a
man!”

* * * * *

Thinka had gone to Ryfylke. Her place at the table, in the living-room,
in the bed-chamber, was empty air. The captain started out time after
time to call her.

And now the last afternoon had come, when Inger-Johanna was also going
away.

The sealskin trunk with new iron bands stood open in the hall ready for
packing. The cariole was standing in the shed, greased so that the oil
was running out of the ends of the axles, and Great-Ola, who was to
start the next morning on the three days’ journey, was giving Svarten
oats.

The captain had been terribly busy that day: no one understood how to
pack as he did.

Ma handed over to him one piece of the new precious stuff after the
other; the linen from Gilje would bear the eye of the governor’s wife.

But the misfortune of it was that the blood rushed so to Jäger’s head
when he stooped over.

“Hullo, good! I don’t understand what you are thinking of, Ma, to come
with all that load of cotton stockings at once! It is this, this, this
I want.”

Naturally, used to travelling as he was–“But it is so bad for you to
stoop over, Jäger.”

He straightened up hurriedly. “Do you think Great-Ola has the wit to
rub Svarten with Riga liniment on the bruise on his neck and to take
the bottle with him in his bag? If I had not thought of that now,
Svarten would have had to trot with it. Run down and tell him that,
Thea.–Oh, no!” he drew a despairing breath; “I must go myself, and
see that it is done right.”

There was a pause until his footfall had ceased to creak on the lowest
step. Then Ma began to pack with precipitous haste: “It is best to
spare your father from the rush of blood to his head.”

The contents of the trunk rose layer upon layer, until the white napkin
was at last spread over it and covered the whole, and it only remained
to sit upon the lid and force the key to turn in the lock.

Towards supper time the worst hubbub and trouble were over. Ma’s
hasty-pudding, as smooth as velvet, with raspberry sauce, was standing
on the table, and solemnly reminded them that again there would be one
less in the daily circle.

They ate in silence without any other sound than the rattling of the
spoons.

“There, child, take my large cup. Take it when your father bids you.”

Certainly she is beautiful, the apple of his eye. Only look at her
hands when she is eating! She is as delicate and pale as a nun.

He sighed, greatly down-hearted, and shoved his plate from him.

Tears burst from Inger-Johanna’s eyes.

No one would have any more.

Now he walked and whistled and gazed on the floor.

It was a pity to see how unhappy father was.

“You must write every month, child–at length and about everything–do
you hear?–large and small, whatever you are thinking of, so that your
father may have something to take pleasure in,” Ma admonished, while
they were clearing off the table. “And listen now, Inger-Johanna,” she
continued when they were alone in the pantry: “If it is so that the
governor’s wife wants to read your letters, then put a little cross by
the signature. But if there is anything the matter, tell it to old Aunt
Alette out in the bishop’s mansion; then I shall know it when Great-Ola
is in for the city load. You know your father can bear so little that
is disagreeable.”

“The governor’s wife read what I write to you and father! That I will
defy her to do.”

“You must accommodate yourself to her wishes, child. You can do it
easily when you try, and your aunt is extremely kind and good to those
she likes, when she has things her own way. You know how much may
depend on her liking you, and–you understand–getting a little fond of
you. She has certainly not asked you there without thinking of keeping
you in the place of a daughter.”

“Any one else’s daughter? Take me from you and father? No, in that case
I would rather never go there.”

She seated herself on the edge of the meal-chest and began to sob
violently.

“Come, come, Inger-Johanna.” Ma stroked her hair with her hand. “We do
not wish to lose you; you know that well enough,”–her voice trembled.
“It is for your own advantage, child. What do you think you three
girls have to depend upon, if your father should be taken away? We
must be glad if a place offers, and even take good care not to lose
it; remember that, always remember that, Inger-Johanna. You have
intelligence enough, if you can also learn to control your will; that
is your danger, child.”

Inger-Johanna looked up at her mother with an expression almost of
terror. She had a bitter struggle to understand. In her, in whom she
had always found aid, there was suddenly a glimpse of the helpless.

“I can hardly bear to lose the young one out of my sight to-night, and
you leave me alone in there,” came the captain, creaking in the door.
“You haven’t a thought of how desolate and lonesome it will be for me,
Ma.” He blew out like a whale.

“We are all coming in now, and perhaps father will sing a little this
evening,” Ma said encouragingly.

The captain’s fine, now a little hoarse, bass was his pride and renown
from his youth up.

The clavichord was cleared of its books and papers–the cover must be
entirely lifted when father was to sing.

It stood there with its yellow teeth, its thin, high tone, and its four
dead keys; and Ma must play the accompaniment, in which always, in some
part or other, she was left lying behind, like a sack that has fallen
out of a wagon, while the horse patiently trots on over the road. His
impatience she bore with stoical tranquillity.

This evening he went through _Heimkringlas panna_, _du höga Nord_, and
_Vikingebalken_, to

_Lo! the chase’s empress cometh! Hapless Frithjof, glance away!
Like a star on spring cloud sitteth she upon her courser gray._

He sang so that the window-panes rattled.

The year had turned. It was as long after Christmas as the middle of
February.

In the evening the captain was sitting, with two candles in tin
candlesticks, smoking and reading _Hermoder_. At the other end of the
table the light was used by Jörgen, who was studying his lessons; he
must worry out the hours that had been assigned, whether he knew the
lessons or not.

The frosty panes shone almost as white as marble in the moonlight,
which printed the whole of a pale window on the door panel in the
lower, unlighted end of the sitting-room.

Certainly there were bells!

Jörgen raised his head, covered with coarse, yellow hair, from his
book. It was the second time he had heard them, far away on the hill;
but, like the sentinels of Haakon Adelstensfostre at the beacon, of
whom he was just reading, he did not dare to jump up from his reading
and give the alarm until he was sure.

“I think there are bells on the road,” he gently remarked, “far off.”

“Nonsense! attend to your lesson.”

But, notwithstanding he pretended that he was deeply absorbed in the
esthetic depths of _Hermoder_, the captain also sat with open ears.

“The trader’s bells–they are so dull and low,” Jörgen put in again.

“If you disturb me again, Jörgen, you shall hear the bells about your
own ears.”

The trader, Öjseth, was the last one the captain could think of wishing
to see at the farm. He kept writing and writing after those paltry
thirty dollars of his, as if he believed he would lose them. “Hm! hm!”
He grew somewhat red in the face, and read on, determined not to see
the man before he was standing in the room.

The bells plainly stopped before the door.

“Hm! hm!”

Jörgen moved uneasily.

“If you move off the spot, boy, I’ll break your arms and legs in
pieces!” foamed the captain, now red as copper. “Sit–sit still and
read!”

He intended also to sit still himself. That scoundrel of a trader–he
should fasten his horse himself at the doorsteps, and help himself as
he could.

“I hear them talking–Great-Ola.”

“Hold your tongue!” said the captain in a murderous deep bass, and with
a pair of eyes fixed on his son as if he could eat him.

“Yes; but, father, it is really–”

A pull on his forelock and a box on the ears sent him across the floor.

“The doctor,” roared Jörgen.

The truth of his martyrdom was established in the same moment, because
the short, square form of the military doctor appeared in the door.

His fur coat was all unbuttoned, and the tip of his long scarf trailed
behind him on the threshold. He held his watch out: “What time is it?”

“Now, then, may the devil take your body and soul to hell, where you
long ago belonged, if it isn’t you, Rist!”

“What time is it? I say–Look!”

“And here I go and lick Jörgen for–well, well, boy, you shall be
excused from your lesson and can ask for syrup on your porridge this
evening. Go out to Ma, and tell her Rist is here.”

The captain opened the kitchen door: “Hullo, Marit! Siri! A girl in
here to pull off the doctor’s boots! All the diseases of the country
are in your clothes.”

“What time is it, I say–can you see?”

“Twenty-five minutes of seven.”

“Twenty-one miles in two hours and a quarter–from Jölstad here, with
my bay!”

The doctor had got his fur coat off. The short, muscular man, with
broad face and reddish-gray whiskers, stood there in a fur cap,
swallowed up in a pair of long travelling boots.

“No, no,” he exclaimed to the girl, who was making an effort to pull
them off. “Oh, listen, Jäger; will you go out and feel of the bay’s
hind leg, if there is a wind-gall? He began to stumble a little, just
here on the hill, I thought, and to limp.”

“He has very likely got bruised.” The captain eagerly grabbed his hat
from the clavichord and went with him.

Outside by the sleigh they stood, thinly clothed in the severe frost,
and felt over the hamstring and lifted up the left hind foot of the
bay. For a final examination, they went into the stable.

When they came out there was a veritable wild dispute.

“I tell you, you might just as well have said he had glanders in his
hind legs. If you are not a better judge of curing men than you are
of horses, I wouldn’t give four shillings for your whole medical
examination.”

“That brown horse of yours, Jäger–that is a strange fodder he takes.
Doesn’t he content himself with crib-splinters?” retorted the doctor,
slyly bantering.

“What? Did you see that, you–knacker?”

“Heard it, heard it; he gnawed like a saw there in the crib. He has
cheated you unmercifully–that man from Filtvedt, you know.”

“Oh, oh, in a year he will be tall enough for a cavalry horse. But
this I shall concede, it was a good trade when you got the bay for
sixty-five.”

“Sixty and a binding dram, not a doit more. But I would not sell him,
if you offered me a hundred on the spot.”

Ma was waiting in her parlor.

Now, it was Aslak of Vaelta who had cut his foot last Thursday hewing
timber–Ma had bandaged him–and then Anders, who lived in the cottage,
was in a lung fever. The parish clerk had been there and bled him; six
children up in that hut–not good if he should be taken away.

“We will put a good Spanish-fly blister on his back, and, if that does
not make him better, then a good bleeding in addition.”

“He came near fainting the last time,” suggested Ma, doubtfully.

“Bleed–bleed–it is the blood which must be got away from the chest,
or the inflammation will make an end of him. I will go and see him
to-morrow morning–and for Thea’s throat, camphor oil and a piece of
woollen cloth, and to bed to sweat–and a good spoonful of castor-oil
to-night–you can also rub the old beggar woman about the body with
camphor, if she complains too much. I will give you some more.”

After supper the old friend of the house sat with his pipe and his
glass of punch at one end of the sofa, and the captain at the other.
The red tint of the doctor’s nose and cheeks was not exclusively to
be attributed to the passage from the cold to the snug warmth of
the room. He had the reputation of rather frequently consoling his
bachelorhood with ardent spirits.

They had talked themselves tired about horses and last year’s
reminiscences of the camp, and had now come to more domestic affairs.

“The news, you see, is blown here both from the city and the West; old
Aunt Alette wrote before Christmas that the governor’s wife had found
out she must drive with both snaffle and curb.”

“I thought so,” said the doctor, chewing his mouthpiece. “The first
thing of importance in managing is to study the nature of the beast;
and Inger-Johanna’s is to rear; she must be treated gently.”

“And that sister-in-law never believed that so much inborn stuff could
grow up in the wild mountain region.”

The captain began to puff impatiently. Ma would surely sometime get
supper ready and come in, so he could get to his daughter’s letters.

“You can believe he is a real pelican, that old judge down in Ryfylke!
Orders them round and bellows–keeps them hot both in the office and in
the house. I wonder if he won’t sometime apply for an office somewhere
else; for that is what he threatens to do every time he sees an office
vacant, Thinka writes. Let us have the letters, Ma, and my spectacles,”
he exclaimed, when she came in. “The first is of November, so you
shall hear about your goddaughter’s coming to the governor’s, Rist.”

He hummed over a part of the beginning and then read:

When Great-Ola put my baggage inside the street door, I almost wanted
to seat myself in the cariole and drive the three days home again; but
then at once I thought, best to march straight on, as father says!
I went past the servant and inside the hall door. It was very light
there, and a great many outside garments and hats and caps were hanging
on the pegs, and twice two servant-girls flew through with trays and
teacups, without troubling themselves about me in the least. But I
thought that the one who had fallen into the midst of things was your
beloved daughter. My outside garments were off in a jiffy; I knocked
once, twice, three times. I hardly knew what to do with myself, so I
gently turned the knob. Thank heaven, there was no one there. There was
another door with a portière, which I only needed to shove a little
aside, and then–I was plunged right into the centre of it. Nay, how
shall I describe it? It was a corner room that I had entered: there was
only mahogany furniture and upholstered easy chairs, and pictures in
gilded frames over the sofa; the other pictures were in dark frames;
but I did not see a doit of all that, for I thought at first that it
was dark. But it wasn’t dark at all. There was just a shade over
the astral lamp on the table, and neither more nor less than a whole
company. There in the lion’s den, with the married ladies on the corner
sofa, sat a number of people drinking tea.

I stood there in the middle of the floor, and the reddish brown
linsey-woolsey, I believed, could surely defend itself.

“Aunt Zittow,” I ventured.

“Who is it?–What? Can it be my dear Inger-Johanna? My husband’s
niece!” was said from the table. “You have come just like a wild
mountain rose, child, with the rain still on your face–and so cold!”
as she touched me. But I saw very well that she had her eye on my
dress. I am sure it is too long in the waist, I thought; that is what
I said at home. But then I forgot the whole dress, for it was indeed
my aunt, and she embraced me and said, “You are heartily welcome, my
dear child! I think now a cup of good hot tea will do her good, Miss
Jörgensen,–and will you ask Mina to put her room in order upstairs!”
And then she seated me on a soft cushioned chair by the side of the
wall.

There I sat in the twilight, with a teacup in my lap, and biscuits–how
I got them I cannot remember–and thought, is it I or not I?

At first it was not easy to see those who sat about in the soft stuffed
chairs; what I saw nearest to me was a piece of a foot, with spurs and
a broad red stripe along the side, which rocked up and down the whole
time. Now and then a head with a fine lace cap bobbed up into the light
to put down a cup or to replenish it. The lamp-shade made just a round
ring in the room, not a foot from the table.

Oh, how warm and delicate it was!

In the light under the astral lamp-shade, aunt was sitting, bowed down
over a little black contrivance with the image of a negro on it, and
was burning pastilles; her hair, on both sides of her forehead, was
made into stiff, grayish curls.

The bright, shining tea-kettle stood singing over the beautiful blue
cups of that old Copenhagen porcelain, of which you have four pairs in
the cabinet, which came from grandmother’s. I could not help looking
all the time on aunt’s face, with the great earrings showing through
the lace. I thought the antique tea-kettle, which is like a vase or
urn, resembled her so much, with the haughty stiff curve of her chin!
It was just as if they belonged together from–I don’t know from what
time, it could not be from the time of the creation, I suppose. And
then when the conversation among them came to a stop and it was still
as if there were not a human being there, the machine puffed and
snorted as it were with aunt’s fine Danish twist to the R: _Arvet!
Arvet!_ (inherited)–and in between it bubbled Zittow, von Zittow.
It was what you told me, mother, about the Danish Zittow, who was
diplomatist in Brussels, that was buzzing in me.

“The young one! She has got it in her blood,” whinnied the doctor.

But it really did not look as if aunt thought there was any hurry about
seeing uncle. And then when aunt sent Miss Jörgensen with some tea into
the next room, where they were playing cards, I at once asked if I
could be allowed to go with her.

“With all my heart, my child, it would be a shame to tax your patience
any longer. And then, Miss Jörgensen, take our little traveller up to
her room, and see that she has something to eat, and let her go to
bed.” But I saw very plainly that she pulled the lamp-shade down on the
side I was going; that I thought of afterwards.

“What? what? what?” said my uncle. You should have seen him gaze at me.
He looked so much like you, mother, about the forehead and eyes that I
threw my arms around his neck.

He held me before him with his arms stretched out. “But really I think
it is Aunt Eleonore all over! Well, well, now don’t fancy you are such
a beauty!”

That was the reception.

Shortly after I was lying in bed in my elegant little blue room, with
curtains with long fringes. There were pastilles on the stove, and Miss
Jörgensen–just think, she called me Miss!–almost undressed me and put
me between all the soft down quilts.

There I lay and thought it all over, and became hotter and hotter in
my head and face, till at last it seemed as if I was thumping in the
cariole with Svarten and Ola.

“No, the cariole came home again empty,” said the captain with a sigh.

“Look out if you don’t get her back to Gilje again in a carriage,”
added the doctor.

“She was so handsome, Rist,” exclaimed the captain, quite moved. “It
seems as if I see her, standing there in the middle of the floor at
brother-in-law’s, with her heavy black hair dressed upon her neck. From
the time when she used to run about here, with the three long braids
down her back, it was as if she developed into a swan all at once, when
she came to dress in the clothes of a full-grown person–You remember
her on confirmation day, Rist?”

“But, dear Jäger,” said Ma, trying to subdue him.

The captain cautiously unfolded a letter, closely written on a large
sheet of letter paper.

“And now you shall hear; this is dated January 23d.”

The money which I brought with me–

“Well, well–”

The bill of Larsen for–

“You can certainly skip over to the next page,” remarked Ma with a
certain emphasis.

“Well, yes, hm, hm,–mere trifles–here it is.”

To think that father, and you also, mother, cannot see my two new
dresses! Aunt is inconceivably good. It is impossible to walk any other
way than beautifully in this kind of shoes; and that aunt says I do;
it is just as if you always felt a dancing-floor under your feet. And
yesterday aunt gave me a pair of patent leather sandals with buckles on
the ankles. Did you ever hear of such! Yes–I kissed her for that, too,
this time; she could say what she liked. For you must know, she says
that the first rule of life for a lady is a kind of confident, reserved
repose, which, however, may be cordial! I have it naturally, aunt says,
and only need to cultivate it. I am going to learn to play on the piano
and go through a regular course of lessons in dancing.

Aunt is so extremely good to me, only she will have the windows shut
when I want them open. Of course I don’t mean in the sitting-room,
where they have pasted themselves in with double panes, but up in my
own room. Just fancy, first double windows and then stuffy curtains,
and then all the houses, which are near us across the street; you can’t
breathe, and much use it is to air out the rooms by the two upper panes
twice a day!

Aunt says that I shall gradually get accustomed to the city air. But
I don’t see how I can, when I never get acquainted with it. Not once
during the whole winter have I frozen my fingers! We go out for a short
drive in the forenoon, and then I go with aunt in the shops in the
afternoon, and that is the whole of it. And you can believe it is quite
another thing to go out here than at home; when I only jumped over a
little pile of shovelled-up snow, in order to get into the sleigh more
quickly, aunt said that every one could instantly see manners from my
state of nature, as she always says. For all the movements I make, I
might just as well have chains on both legs, like the prisoners we see
some days in the fort.

And now aunt wants me not to go bare-footed on the floor of my chamber.
Nay, you should have seen her horror when I told her how Thinka and I,
at the time of the breaking up of the ice last year, waded across the
mill stream in order to avoid the roundabout way by the bridge! At last
I got her to laughing with me. But I certainly believe that the pair of
elegant slippers with swansdown on them, which stuck out of a package
this morning, are for me! You see now, it is into them, nevertheless,
that my sweet little will must be put.

“She is on her guard lest they should want to put a halter about her
neck,” mumbled the doctor.

Ma sighed deeply. “Such sweet small wills are so apt to grow into big
ones, and”–again a sigh–“women don’t get on in the world with that.”

The doctor looked meditatively down into his glass: “One of woman’s
graces is flexibility, they say; but on the other hand, she is called
‘proud maiden’ in the ballad. There is something like a contradiction
in that.”

“Oh, the devil! Divide them into two platoons! It is mostly the ugly
who have to be pliable,” said the captain.

“Beauty does not last so very long, and so it is best to think of the
years when one has to be accommodating,” remarked Ma, down in her
knitting-work.

The captain continued reading the letter.

The French is done in a twinkling. I am always ready with that before
breakfast, and aunt is so contented with my pronunciation; but then the
piano comes from nine to eleven. Ugh! only exercises; and then aunt
receives calls. Guess who came day before yesterday? No one else than
Student Grip. It was just as if I must have known him ever so well,
and liked him even better, so glad was I at last to see any one who
knew about us at home. But just think, I am not entirely sure that he
did not try to dictate to aunt; and then he had the boldness to look
at me as if I should agree with him. Aunt helped him to a place in
uncle’s office, because she heard that he had passed such an excellent
examination and was so gifted, but had almost nothing from home to
study on.

“I ventured my three dollars on him–But how the fellow could manage to
take such high honors passes my comprehension,” threw out the captain.

“But he repaid them all right, Jäger, with postage and everything.”

The captain held the letter up to the light again.

And then aunt thought he would be the better for a little polish in his
ways, and enjoined him to come to her fortnightly receptions; she likes
to have young people about her; but he let aunt see that he regarded
that as a command and compulsion. And now he came in fact to make a
sort of excuse. But how they talked!

“Well, then, we shall see you again at some of our Thursday evenings?”
said aunt.

“Your ladyship no doubt remembers the occasion of my remaining away. It
was my ill-bred objections to the seven unanimous teacups which gave
supreme judgment in your celebrated small tea-fights.”

“See, see, see,” aunt smiled. “I can’t be wrong when I say that you are
really made for social life; there is need just there for all one’s
best sides.”

“All one’s smoothest, your ladyship means.”

“Well, well, no falling back, Mr. Grip, I beg you.”

“I did my best, your ladyship; for I really thought all one’s most
mendacious.”

“Now you are in the humor of contradiction again; and there one gets
entangled so easily, you know.”

“I only think that when one does not agree with what is said, and keeps
silent, one lies.”

“Then people offer up to good form, without which no social intercourse
can exist.”

“Yes, what do they offer up? Truth!”

“Perhaps more correctly a little of their vanity, an opportunity of
exhibiting some bright and shining talent; that tempts young men
greatly, I believe.”

“Possible, not impossible at any rate,” he admitted.

“Do you see?” But then aunt said, for she never abandons her text:
“A little good manners is not out of place; and when I see a bright
young student stand talking with his hands in his pockets, or riding
backwards on a chair, then, whether the one concerned takes my motherly
candor ill or not, I always try by a little hint to adjust the defects
in his education.”

You should have seen him! Hands out of his pockets, and at once he sat
up before her, as straight as a candle.

“If all were like your ladyship, I would recommend making calls,” said
he, “for you are an honest woman.”

“Woman! We say, lady.”

“I mean an honest governor’s lady; besides, I don’t at all say a
good-natured!” and then he shook that great brown lock of hair down
over his forehead.

I do not need to wish for any portrait of you, for I lie thinking,
in the evenings, that I am at home. I see father so plainly, walking
up and down the room whistling, and then starting off up the office
stairs; and I pull your hair, Jörgen! and poke your head down into the
geography, so that I get you after me, and we run round, in one door
and out another, up and down in the house. Nay, I long horribly at
times. But I must not let aunt see that; it would be ungrateful. She
does not believe that one can exist anywhere but in a city.

And then there are a lot of things which I have been obliged to draw
a black mark through, because I don’t at all understand them. Only
think, mother! Aunt says, that it may at most be allowable to say that
we have cows at home; but I must not presume to say that any one of
them has a calf! I should like to know how they think we get new cows,
when we kill the old ones for Christmas?

Here the captain interpolated some inarticulate noises. But an
expression of anxiety came over Ma’s face, and she said faintly:

“That is because, unfortunately, we have not been able to keep the
children sufficiently away from the servants’ room, and from everything
they hear there.”

“You see, madam,” declared the doctor, “in the city people are so proper
that a hen hardly dares to lay eggs–It is only the products of the
efforts of the land that they are willing to recognize, I can tell you.”

“No,” the captain put in, “it is not advisable for a poor mare to be so
indiscreet as to have a foal there.”

His wife coughed gently and made an errand to her sewing-table.

Ma had been gone upstairs for more than an hour, and the clock was
getting on towards twelve.

The captain and the doctor were now sitting somewhat stupidly over the
heeltaps in their mugs, a little like the dying tallow candles, which
stood with neglected wicks, almost burned down into the sockets and
running down.

“Keep your bay, Rist. Depend on me–he has got to get up early who
takes me in on a horse–with my experience, you see. All the cavalry
horses I have picked out in my time!”

The doctor sat looking down into his glass.

“You are thinking of the cribber,” said the captain, getting into a
passion; “but that was the most rascally villainy–pure cheating. He
might have been taken into court for that–But, as I tell you, keep
your bay.”

“I have become a little tired of him, you see.”

“See there, see there,–but that is your own fault and not the bay’s,
my boy. You are always tired of the beast you have. If you should count
all the horses you have swapped, it would be a rare stable.”

“They spoiled him for driving when he was a colt; he is one-sided,
he is.”

“That’s all bosh. I should cure him of that in a fortnight, with a
little breaking to harness.”

“Oh, I am tired of sitting and pulling and hauling on one rein to keep
him out of the side of the ditch; if it were not for that, the beast
should never go out of my hand. No, had it been only that he made a few
splinters in the crib.”

The captain assumed a thoughtful expression; he leaned against the back
of the sofa, and gave two or three deep, strong pulls on his pipe.

“But my Brunen is nothing at all to talk about–a little gnawing
only–with the one eye-tooth.”

“Nay, my bay also gives way only on one side of the road.”

Again two or three sounding puffs. The captain gave his wig a poke.

“If there is any one who could cure him of that, it is certainly I.”

Dense smoke poured out of his pipe.

Over in his corner of the sofa the doctor began to clean his out.

“Besides, my Brunen is a remarkably kind animal–thunders a little on
the crib down in the stall–a horse can hardly have less of a fault,
and then so thoroughly easy on the rein–knows if one only touches
it–so extremely sensitive in his mouth–a regular beauty to drive on
the country road.”

“Ye-s, ye-s; have nothing against that–fine animal!”

“Look here, Rist! All things considered, that was a driving horse for
you–stands so obediently, if one just lays the rein over his back.”

“Swap off the bay, do you mean?” pondered the doctor, in a doubting
tone,–“hadn’t really thought of that.” He shook his head–“Only I
can’t understand why he is so stiff on one rein.”

“No, my boy; but I can understand it.”

“If you are only not cheated in that, Jäger–trade is trade, you know.”

“I cheated? Ha, ha, ha!” The captain shook with laughter and with quiet
consciousness. “Done, boy! We will swap.”

“You are rather quick on the rein, Jäger.”

“Always my nature, you see–to get the thing closed up at once, on the
nail. And so we will take a drink to close the bargain,” shouted the
captain eagerly; he pulled his wig awry, and sprang up.

“Let us see if Ma has some cognac in the closet.”

What sort of a trick was it the horse had?

The captain was wholly absorbed in breaking the bay to harness. The
horse turned his head to the right, and kept over on the side of the
road just as far as he could for the rein. It was impossible to find
any reason for it.

This morning he had broken off one of the trace-pins by driving against
the gate-post. Was it possible that he was afraid of a shadow? That was
an idea!–and the captain determined to try him in the moonlight that
evening.

When he came down to the stable after dinner, he saw a wonderful sight.

Great-Ola had taken the bay out of his stall, and was standing shaking
his fist against the horse’s forehead.

“Well, I have tried him every way, Captain, but he wouldn’t wink, not
even if I broke his skull with the back of an axe–he doesn’t move!
And now see how he jumps!” He raised his hand towards the other side of
the horse’s head. “But in his left eye he is as blind as a shut cellar
door.”

The captain stood awhile without saying a word; the veins on his
forehead swelled up blue, and his face became as red as the collar on
his uniform coat.

“Well, then.” In a rage he gave Ola a box on his ears. “Are you
standing there threatening the horse, you dog?”

When Ola was feeding the horse at night, the captain went into the
stall. He took the lantern and let it shine on the bay. “No use to cure
you of going into the ditch–See there, Ola, take that shilling, so
that you at all events may profit by it.”

Ola’s broad face lighted up with cunning. “The doctor must provide
himself with planks, for the one he got ate up three two-inch boards
while we had him.”

“Look here, Ola,” nodded the captain, “it is not worth while to let him
hear anything but that the bay can see with both eyes here with us.”


When Great-Ola, in breaking-up time in spring, was driving a load
of wood home from the Gilje ridge, he was obliged to turn out on a
snow-drift for Dr. Rist, who was coming in a sleigh from the north.

“Driving with the bay, I see. Has the captain got him so that he’s all
right? Does he cling just as hard to the side of the road?”

“No, of course not. The captain was the man to make that all right. He
is no more one-sided now than I am.”

“As if I was going to believe that, you liar,” mumbled the doctor,
while he whipped his horse and drove on.