Still at two o’clock

The kitchen at Gilje was completely given over to Christmas
preparations.

There was a cold draught from the porch, an odor in the air of mace,
ginger, and cloves–a roar of chopping-knives, and dull rumbling and
beating so that the floor shook from the wooden mortar, where Great-Ola
himself was stationed with a white apron and a napkin around his head.

At the head of the long kitchen table Ma was sitting, with a
darning-needle and linen thread, sewing collared beef, while some of
the crofter women and Thea, white as angels, were scraping meat for the
fine meat-balls.

There, on the kitchen bench, with bloody, murderous arms, sat Thinka,
who had recently returned home, stuffing sausages over a large trough.
It went with great skill through the filler, and she fastened up the
ends with wooden skewers, and struggled with one dark, disagreeable,
gigantic leech after another, while their brothers or sisters were
boiling in the mighty kettle, around which the flames crackled and
floated off in the open fireplace.

The captain had come into the kitchen, and stood surveying the field
of battle with a sort of pleasure. There were many kinds of agreeable
prospects here for the thoughts to dwell upon, and samples of the
finished products were continually being sent up to the office for him
to give his opinion on.

“I’ll show you how you should chop, girls,” he said sportively, and
took the knives from Torbjörg.

The two chopping-knives in his hands went up and down in the
chopping-tray so furiously that they could hardly be distinguished, and
awakened unmistakable admiration in the whole kitchen, while all paused
in bewilderment at the masterpiece.

It is true, it continued for only two or three minutes, while Torbjörg
and Aslak must stand with linen towels on their heads and chop all day.

But victory is still victory, and when the captain afterwards went
into the sitting-room, humming contentedly, it was not without a
little amused recollection of his strategy,–for, “yes, upon my soul,”
he could feel that his arms ached afterwards, nevertheless. And he
rubbed them two or three times before he tied a napkin around his neck
and seated himself at the table in order to do justice to the warm
blood-pudding, with raisins and butter on it, which Thinka brought in
to him.

“A little mustard, Thinka.”

Thinka’s quiet figure glided to the corner cupboard after the desired
article.

“The plate might have been warmer for this kind of thing–it really
ought to be almost burning hot for the raisins and butter.”

The always handy Thinka was out by the chimney in a moment with a
plate. She came in again with it in a napkin; it could not be held in
any other way.

“Just pour it all over on to this plate, father, and then you will see.”

One of the happy domestic traits which Thinka had disclosed since her
return home was a wonderful knack of managing her father; there was
hardly any trace of peevishness any longer.

Thinka’s quiet, agreeable pliancy and cool, even poise spread comfort
in the house. The captain knew that he only needed to put her on the
track of some good idea or other in the way of food, and something
always came of it. She was so handy, while, when Ma yielded, it was
always done so clumsily and with difficulty, just as if she creaked on
being moved, so to speak, that he became fretful, and began to dispute
in spite of it, notwithstanding she knew very well he could not bear it.

A very great deal had been done since Monday morning, and to-morrow
evening it was to be hoped they would be ready. Two cows, a heifer, and
a hog, that was no little slaughtering–besides the sheep carcasses.

“The sheriff–the sheriff’s horse is in the yard,” was suddenly
reported in the twilight into the bustle of the kitchen.

The sheriff! It was lightning that struck.

“Hurry up to the office and get your father down to receive him,
Jörgen,” said Ma, composing herself. “You will have to take off the
towels and then stop pounding, Great-Ola, exasperating as it is.”

“They smell it when the pudding smokes in the kettle, I think,”
exclaimed Marit, in her lively mountain dialect. “Isn’t it the second
year he has come here just at the time of the Christmas slaughtering?
So they are rid of the menfolk lying in the way at home among
themselves.”

“Your tongue wags, Marit,” said Ma, reprovingly. “The sheriff certainly
does not find it any too pleasant at home since he lost his wife, poor
man.”

But it was dreadfully unfortunate that he came just now–excessively
unfortunate. She must keep her ground; it wouldn’t do to stop things
out here now. The captain came hastily out into the kitchen. “The
sheriff will stay here till to-morrow–it can’t be helped, Ma. I will
take care of him, if we only get a little something to eat.”

“Yes, that is easy to say, Jäger–just as all of us have our hands
full.”

“Some minced meat–fried meat-balls–a little blood-pudding. That is
easy enough. I told him that he would have slaughter-time fare–and
then, Thinka,” he nodded to her, “a little toddy as soon as possible.”

Thinka had already started; she only stopped a moment at her bureau
upstairs.

She was naturally so unassuming, and was not accustomed to feel
embarrassed. Therefore she brought in the toddy tray like the wind,
stopping only to put a clean blue apron on; and, after having spoken
to the sheriff, went to the cupboard after rum and arrack, and to the
tobacco table after some lighters, which she put down by the tray for
the gentlemen before she vanished out through the kitchen door again.

“You must wash your hands, Torbjörg, and put things to rights in the
guest-chamber; and then we must send a messenger for Anne Vaelta to
help us, little as she is fit for. Jörgen, hurry!” came from Ma, who
saw herself more and more deprived of her most needed forces.

Great-Ola had put up the sheriff’s horse, and now stood pounding again
at the mortar in his white surplice–thump, thump, thump, thump.

“Are you out of your senses out here? Don’t you think?” said the
captain, bouncing in; he spoke in a low voice, but for that reason the
more passionately. “Aren’t you going to mangle, too? Then the sheriff
would get a thundering with a vengeance, both over his head and under
his feet. It shakes the floor.”

A look of despair came over Ma’s face; in the sudden, dark, wild glance
of her eye there almost shone rebellion–now he was beginning to drive
her too far–But it ended in a resigned, “You can take the mortar with
you out on the stone floor of the porch, Great-Ola.”

And Thinka had to attend to the work of putting things in order and
carrying in the supper, so that it was only necessary for Ma to sit
there a little while, as they were eating, though she was on pins and
needles, it is true; but she must act as if there was nothing the
matter.

When Ma came in, there was a little formal talk in the beginning
between her and the sheriff about the heavy loss he had suffered.
She had not met him since he lost his wife, three months ago. It was
lonesome for him now that he had only his sister, Miss Gülcke, with
him. Both Viggo and Baldrian, which was a short name for Baltazar, were
at the Latin school, and would not come home again till next year, when
Viggo would enter the university.

The sheriff winked a little, and made a mournful gesture as if he
wanted to convey an idea of sadly wiping one eyelash, but no more. He
had given an exhibition of grief within nearly every threshold in the
district by this time, and here he was in the house of people of too
much common sense not to excuse him from any more protracted outburst
just before a spread table with hot plates.

It developed into a rather long session at the table–with ever
stronger compliments, as often as there was opportunity during the
meal-time to catch a glimpse of the hostess, for every new dish that
Thinka brought in smoking deliciously straight from the pan–actually a
slaughtering feast–with a fine bottle of old ale in addition–for the
new Christmas brew was too fresh as yet–and two or three good drams
brought in just at the right time.

The sheriff also understood very well what was going on in the house,
and how the hostess and Thinka were managing it.

The grown-up daughter cleared off the table and took care of everything
so handily and comfortably without any bother and fuss–and so
considerately. They had their pipes and a glass of toddy by their side
again there on the sofa, with a fresh steaming pitcher, before they
were aware of it.

The small inquisitive eyes of Sheriff Gülcke stood far apart; they
looked into two corners at once, while his round, bald head shone on
the one he talked to. He sat looking at the blond, rather slender
young lady, with the delicate, light complexion, who busied herself so
silently and gracefully.

“You are a fortunate man, you are, Captain,” he said, speaking into the
air.

“Have a little taste, Sheriff,” said the captain consolingly, and they
touched glasses.

“Nay, you who have a house full of comfort can talk–cushions about you
in every corner–so you can export to the city–But I, you see,”–his
eyes became moist–“sit there in my office over the records. I was very
much coddled, you know–oh, well, don’t let us talk about it. I must
have my punishment for one thing and another, I suppose, as well as
others.

“Isn’t it true, Miss Kathinka,” he asked when she came in, “it is
a bad sheriff who wholly unbidden falls straight down upon you in
slaughtering-time? But you must lend him a little home comfort, since
it is all over with such things at his own home.

“Bless me, I had almost forgotten it,” he exclaimed eagerly, and
hastened, with his pipe in his mouth, to his document case, which hung
on a chair near the door. “I have the second volume of _The Last of the
Mohicans_ for you from Bine Scharfenberg, and was to get–nay, what was
it? It is on a memorandum–_A Capricious Woman_, by Emilie Carlén.”

He took it out eagerly and handed it over to her, not without a certain
gallantry.

“Now you must not forget to give it to me to-morrow morning, Miss
Kathinka,” he said threateningly, “or else you will make me very
unhappy down at Bine Scharfenberg’s. It won’t do to offend her, you
know.”

Even while the sheriff was speaking, Thinka’s eye glided eagerly over
the first lines–only to make sure about the continuation–and in a
twinkling she was down again from her room with the read-through book
by Carlén and the first volume of the Mohicans done up in paper and
tied with a bit of thread.

“You are as prompt as a man of business, Miss Thinka,” he said
jokingly, as with a sort of slow carefulness he put the package into
his case; his two small eyes shone tenderly upon her.

Notwithstanding there had been slaughtering and hubbub ever since early
in the morning, Thinka must still, after she had gone to bed, allow
herself to peep a little in the entertaining book.

It was one chapter, and one more, and still one more, with ever
weakening determination to end with the next.

Still at two o’clock in the morning she lay with her candlestick behind
her on the pillow, and steadily read _The Last of the Mohicans_, with
all the vicissitudes of the pursuits and dangers of the noble Uncas.

Ma wondered, it is true, that so many of the slender tallow candles
were needed this winter.

The sheriff must have a little warm breakfast before going away in the
morning.

And now he took leave, and thanked them for the hours that had been
so agreeable and cheering, although he came so inconveniently–oh,
madame, he knew he came at an inconvenient time. “Although now you have
certainly got a right hand in household matters. Yes, Miss Thinka, I
have tested you; one does not have the eye of a policeman for nothing.

“Invisible, and yet always at hand, like a quiet spirit in the
house–is not that the best that can be said of a woman?” he asked,
complimenting her fervently, when he had got his scarf around his
fur coat, and went down to the sleigh with beaming eyes and a little
grayish stubble of beard–for he had not shaved himself to-day.

“Pleasant man, the sheriff. His heart is in the right place,” said the
captain when, enlivened and rubbing his hands from the cold, he came in
again into the sitting-room.

But father became ill after all the rich food at the slaughtering-time.

The army doctor advised him to drink water and exercise a good deal; a
toddy spree now and then would not do him any harm.

And it did not improve the rush of blood to his head that Christmas
came so soon after.

Father was depressed, but was reluctant to be bled, except the
customary twice a year, in the spring and autumn.

After the little party for Buchholtz, the judge’s chief clerk, on
Thursday, he was much worse. He went about unhappy, and saw loss and
neglect and erroneous reckonings in all quarters.

There was no help for it, a messenger must go now after the parish
clerk, Öjseth.

Besides his clerical duties, he taught the youth, vaccinated, and let
blood.

What he was good for in the first named direction shall be left unsaid;
but in the last it could safely be said that he had very much, nay,
barrels, of the blood of the district on his conscience, and not least
that of the full-blooded captain, whom he had bled regularly now for a
series of years.

The effect was magnificent. After the sultry and oppressive stormy and
pessimistic mood, which filled, so to speak, every groove in the house
and oppressed all faces, even down to Pasop–a brilliant fair weather,
jokes with Thinka, and wild plans that the family should go down in the
summer and see the manoeuvres.

It was at the point of complete good humor that Ma resolutely seized
the opportunity to speak about Jörgen’s going to school–all that Aunt
Alette had offered of board and lodging, and what she thought could be
managed otherwise.

There was a reckoning and studying, with demonstration and
counter-demonstration, down to the finest details of the cost of
existence in the city.

The captain represented the items of expenditure and the debit side
in the form of indignant questions and conjectures for every single
one, as to whether she wanted to ruin him, and Ma stubbornly and
persistently defended the credit side, while she went over and went
over again all the items to be deducted.

When, time after time, things whirled round and round in the continual
repetition, so that she got confused, there were bad hours before she
succeeded in righting herself in the storm.

The captain must be accustomed to it slowly, until it penetrated so
far into him that he began to see and think. But, like a persistent,
untiring cruiser, she always had the goal before her eyes and drew near
to it imperceptibly.

“This ready money”–it was for Ma to touch a sore, which nevertheless
must be opened. The result was that the captain allowed himself to be
convinced, and now became himself the most zealous for the plan.

Jörgen was examined in all directions. He was obliged to sit in the
office, and the captain subjected him to the cramming process.

* * * * *

“That’s as old as the hills,” read the captain. “If you swing a
hen round and put her down backwards with a chalk mark in front of
her beak, she will lie perfectly still; will not dare to move. She
certainly believes it is a string that holds her. I have tried it ever
so many times–that you may safely tell her, Thinka.”

“But why does Inger-Johanna write that?” asked Ma, rather seriously.

“Oh, oh,–for nothing–only so–”

Thinka had yesterday received her own letter, enclosed in that to her
parents; it was a letter in regard to Ma’s approaching birthday, which
was under discussion between the sisters. And Inger-Johanna had given
her a lecture in it, something almost inciting her to rebellion and to
stick to her flame there in the west, if there really was any fire in
it. That about the hen and the chalk mark was something at second-hand
from Grip. Women could be made to believe everything possible, and
gladly suffered death when they got such a chalk mark before their
beaks!

That might be true enough, Thinka thought. But now, when all were so
against it, and she saw how it would distress her father and mother,
then–she sighed and had a lump in her throat–the chalk mark was
really thicker than she could manage, nevertheless.

Inger-Johanna’s letter had made her very heavy hearted. She felt so
unhappy that she could have cried, if any one only looked at her; and
as Ma did that several times during the day, she probably went about a
little red-eyed.

At night she read _Arwed Gyllenstjerna_, by Van der Velde, so that the
bitter tears flowed.

Her sister’s letter also contained something on her own account, which
was not meant for her father and mother.

For you see, Thinka, when you have gone through balls here as I have,
you do not any longer skip about blindly with all the lights in your
eyes. You know a little by yourself; one way or another, there ought to
be something in the manner of the person. Oh, this ball chat! I say,
as Grip does: I am tired, tired, tired of it. Aunt isn’t any longer so
eager that I shall be there, though many times more eager than I.

There I am now looked upon as haughty and critical and whatever else
it is, only because I will not continually find something to talk
away about! Aunt now thinks that I have got a certain coldness of my
own in my “too lively nature,” a reserved calm, which is imposing and
piquant–that is what she wants, I suppose! In all probability just
like the ice in the steaming hot pudding among the Chinese, which we
read about, you remember, in the _Bee_.

Aunt has so many whims this winter. Now we two must talk nothing but
French together! But that she should write to Captain Rönnow that I was
so perfect in it, I did not like at all; I have no desire to figure as
a school-girl before him when he returns; neither is my pronunciation
so “sweet,” as she says!

I really don’t understand her any longer. If there was any one who
could and ought to defend Grip at this time, it should be she; but
instead of that, she attacks him whenever she can.

He has begun to keep a free Sunday-school or lecture for those who
choose to come, in a hall out on Storgaden. It is something, you know,
which creates a sensation. And aunt shrugs her shoulders, and looks
forward to the time when he will vanish out of good society, although
she has always been the first to interest herself in him and to say
that he came with something new. It is extremely mean of her, I think.

Jörgen must start on his journey before the sleighing disappeared, for
the bad roads when the frost was coming out might last till St. John’s
Day, and to harness the horses in such going would be stark madness.
If he were not to lose a whole year, he must go early and be prepared
privately for admission to school.

Jörgen was lost in meditations and thoughts about all that from which
he was about to be separated. The gun, the sleds, the skis, the
turning-lathe, the tools, the wind-mill, and the corn-mill left behind
there on the hills, all must be devised with discretion–naturally to
Thea first and foremost, on condition that she should take care of them
till he came home again.

If he had been asked what he would rather be, he would doubtless have
answered “turner,” “miller,” or “smith;” the last thing in the world
which would have presented itself to his range of ideas, to say nothing
of coming up as a bent or a longing, would have been the lifting up to
the loftier regions of books. But Greece and Latium were lying like an
unalterable fate across his path, so that there was nothing to do or
even to think about.

On the day of his departure, the pockets of his new clothes, which were
made out of the captain’s old ones, were a complete depository for
secret despatches.

First, a long letter of fourteen pages, written in the night, blotted
with tears, from Thinka to Inger-Johanna, in which with full details
she gave the origin, continuation, and hopeless development of her
love for Aas. She had three keepsakes from him–a little breastpin,
the cologne bottle which he had given her on the Christmas tree, and
then his letter to her with a lock of his hair on the morning he had to
leave the office. And even if she could not now act against the wishes
of her parents, but would rather make herself unhappy, still she had
promised herself faithfully never to forget him, to think of him till
the last hour.

The second despatch was from Ma to Aunt Alette, and contained–besides
some economical propositions–a little suggestion about sounding
Inger-Johanna when Captain Rönnow returned from Paris. Ma could not
quite understand her this last time.

The captain had never imagined that there would be such a vacuum after
Jörgen was gone. In his way he had been the occasion of so much mental
excitement, so many exertions and anxieties, and so much heightened
furious circulation of blood, that now he was away the captain had lost
quite a stimulating influence. He had now no longer any one to look
after and supervise with eyes in the back of his head, to exercise his
acuteness on, or take by surprise–only the quiet, unassailable Thea to
keep school with.

The doctor prescribed a blood-purifying dandelion tonic for him.

And now when the spring came–dazzling light, gleaming water everywhere,
with melting patches of snow and its vanguards of red stone broken on
the steep mountain sides–Thinka, with a case-knife in her numb hands,
was out in the meadow gathering dandelion roots. They were small, young,
and still tender, but they were becoming stronger day by day.

The captain, with military punctuality, at seven o’clock every morning
emptied the cup prepared for him and stormed out.

To-day a fierce, boisterous, icy cold blast of rain with hail and snow
met him at the outer door and blew far in on the floor. The sides of
the mountains were white again.

These last mornings he was accustomed to run down over the newly
broken-up potato field, which was being ploughed; but in this weather–

“We must give up the field work, Ola,” he announced as his resolution
in the yard–“it looks as if the nags would rather have to go out with
the snow-plough.”

He trudged away; it was not weather to stand still in. The rain drove
and pounded in showers down over the windows in the sitting-room with
great ponds of water, so that it must be continually mopped up and
cloths placed on the window-seats.

Ma and Thinka stood there in the gray daylight over the fruit of their
common work at the loom this winter–a roller with still unbleached
linen, which they measured out into tablecloths and napkins.

The door opened wide, and the captain’s stout form appeared, enveloped
in a dripping overcoat.

“I met a stranger down here with something for you, Thinka–wrapped up
in oil-cloth. Can you guess whom it is from?”

Thinka dropped the linen, and blushing red advanced a step towards him,
but immediately shook her head.

“Rejerstad, that execution-horse, had it with him on his trip up. He
was to leave it here.” The captain stood inspecting the package. “The
sheriff’s seal–Bring me the scissors.”

In his officiousness, he did not give himself time to take his coat off.

“A para-sol!–A beautiful–new–” Thinka burst out. She remained
standing and gazing at it.

“See the old–Hanged if the sheriff isn’t making up to you, Thinka.”

“Don’t you see that here is ‘philopena’ on the seal, Jäger?” Ma put in,
to afford a cover.

“I won a philopena from him–on New Year’s Day, when father and I took
dinner at Pastor Horn’s–after church. I had entirely forgotten it,”
she said in a husky tone. Her eyes glanced from the floor halfway up to
her parents, as she quietly went out, leaving the parasol lying on the
table.

“I guess you will use your linen for a wedding outfit, Ma,” said the
captain, slapping his hands and swinging his hat with a flourish. “What
would you say to the sheriff for a son-in-law here at Gilje?”

“You saw that Thinka went out, Jäger.” Ma’s voice trembled a little.
“Very likely she is thinking that it is not long since his wife was
laid in the grave. Thinka is very good, and would like to submit to
us; but there may be limits to what we can ask.” There was something
precipitate in her movements over the linen, which indicated internal
disturbance.

“The sheriff, Ma; is not he a catch? Fine, handsome man in his best
years. Faith, I don’t know what you women will have. And, Gitta,” he
reminded her, a little moved, “it is just the men who have lived most
happily in their first marriage who marry again the soonest.”

Time flew with tearing haste towards St. John’s Day. Spring was brewing
in the air and over the lakes. The meadow stood moist and damp, hillock
on hillock, like the luxuriant forelocks of horses. The swollen brooks
sighed and roared with freshly shining banks. They boiled over, as it
were, with the power of the same generating life and sap that made the
buds burst in alder, willow, and birch almost audibly, and shows its
nature in the bouncing, vigorous movements of the mountain boy, in his
rapid speech, his lively, shining eyes, and his elastic walk.

At the beginning of summer a letter came from Inger-Johanna, the
contents of which set the captain’s thoughts into a new flight:

_June 14, 1843_

DEAR PARENTS,–At last a little breath to write to you. Captain Rönnow
went away yesterday, and I have as yet hardly recovered my balance from
the two or three weeks of uninterrupted sociability while he was here.

It will be pleasant to get out to Tilderöd next week on top of all
this. It is beginning to be hot and oppressive here in the city.

There did not pass a day that we were not at a party, either at dinner
or in the evening; but the pearl of them was aunt’s own little dinners,
which she has a reputation for, and at which we spoke only French. The
conversation ran on so easily, one expresses one’s self so differently,
and our thoughts capture each other’s already half guessed. Rönnow
certainly speaks French brilliantly.

A man who carries himself as he does makes a certain noble, masterly
impression; you are transported into an atmosphere of chivalric manly
dignity, and hear the spurs jingle, I had almost said musically; you
almost forget that there are those who stamp their feet.

When I compare the awkward compliments at balls, which may come smack
in your face, with Captain Rönnow’s manner of saying and not saying and
yet getting a thing in, then I do not deny that I get the feeling of a
kind of exhilarating pleasure. He claimed that he had such an illusion
from sitting opposite me at the table. I resembled so much a portrait
of a historic lady which he had seen at the Louvre; naturally she
had black hair and carried her neck haughtily and looked before her,
smiling, with an expression which might have been characterized, “I
wait–and reject–till he comes, who can put me in my right place.”

Well, if it amuses him to think of such things, then I am happy
to receive the compliments. It is true there are such godfathers
and uncles who are utterly infatuated with their goddaughters, and
spoil them with nonsense and sweets. I am afraid that Rönnow is a
little inclined to this so far as I am concerned, for, sensible and
straightforward as he always is, he continually launches out into
superlatives in relation to me; and I really cannot help thinking that
it is both flattering and pleasant when he is continually saying that
I am made for presiding where ladies and gentlemen of the higher
circles are received. He really must think more of me than I deserve,
because he sees that I am perhaps a little more open and direct than
others, and have no natural gift at concealing what I mean, when I am
in society.

Yes, yes, that is the thanks you get because you have continually
spoiled me; in any case, I do not immediately creep under a chair, but
try to sit where I am sitting as long as possible.

But, now, why hasn’t such a man married? If he had been younger, and I
just a little vainer, he might almost have been dangerous. He still has
fine black hair–a little thin, and perhaps he takes a little too much
pains with it. There is one thing I cannot understand, and that is why
people try to conceal their age.

The captain gave a poke at his wig: “When one goes a-courting, Ma,” he
said, smiling.

Two mail days later he came home from the post-office with a long
letter from Aunt Alette to Ma. She was not a favorite of his. In the
first place she was too “well read and cultured;” in the second place
she was “sweet;” lastly, she was an old maid.

He seated himself in an armchair, with his arms folded before him, to
have it read to him. He plainly regarded it as a bitter document.

MY DEAR GITTA,–It is no easy task, but really a rather complicated and
difficult one, you have laid upon the shoulders of an old maid, even if
she is your never failing, faithful Aunt Alette. If we could only have
talked together, you would have soon guessed my meaning; but now there
is no other way for me to free my conscience than to write and write,
till it has all come out that I have on my mind.

Now you know well enough that the governor’s wife is not in my
line, and if it had not been for what you wrote me when you sent
Inger-Johanna here, I certainly should not have moved my old limbs so
far out of the old town where I have my circle of firm friends, and
gone in to make formal calls at the governor’s, notwithstanding she is
always excessively friendly and means it, too, I dare say.

First and foremost, I must tell you that Inger-Johanna is a lady
in every respect, but still with more substance to her, if I may
express myself so, and stronger will than our poor Eleonore. It is
certain that she in many ways overawes, not to say domineers over,
your sister-in-law, strict and domineering as she otherwise has the
reputation of being. And, therefore, she must resort to underhand
means in many things, when she finds that it won’t do to play the game
openly before Inger-Johanna, which, according to my best convictions,
has been the case with regard to the captain. He certainly came here
this time from his trip to Paris with the full intent of completing his
courting, after, like a wise and prudent general, having first surveyed
the ground with his own eyes. Simply the manner in which he always
addressed and paid his respects to her would have convinced a blind
person of that.

The only one, however, who does not understand it, notwithstanding
she is besieged in a thousand ways, is the object of his attentions
herself. She sits there in the midst of the incense, truly protected
against the shrewdness of the whole world by her natural innocence,
which is doubly surprising, and, old Aunt Alette says, to be admired in
her who is so remarkably clever.

I will not, indeed, absolve her from being a little giddy at all the
incense which he and your sister-in-law incessantly burn before her
(and what elderly, experienced person would not tolerate and forgive
this in a young girl!) But the giddiness does not tend to the desired
result, namely, the falling in love, but only makes her a little puffed
up in her feeling of being a perfect lady, and is limited to her doing
homage to him as the knightly cavalier and–her father’s highly honored
friend.

It is this, which he, so to speak, is for the present beaten back by,
so he is going abroad again, and this evidently after consultation
with your sister-in-law. Inger-Johanna, if my old eyes do not deceive
me,–and something we two have seen and experienced, both separately
and together, in this world, dear Gitta,–is not found ready for the
matrimonial question, inasmuch as her vanity and pride have hitherto
appeared as a feeling entirely isolated from this.

There was a snore from the leather-covered chair, and Ma continued,
more softly:

She may, indeed, and that tolerably earnestly, wish to rule over a fine
salon; but she has not yet been brought clearly to comprehend that with
it she must take the man who owns it. There is something in her open
nature which always keeps the distance between these two questions too
wide for even a captain of cavalry to leap over it. God bless her!

Love is like an awakening, without which we neither know nor understand
anything of its holy language; and unhappy are they who learn to know
it too late, when they have imprisoned themselves in the so-called
bonds of duty. I am almost absolutely sure that love has not yet been
awakened in Inger-Johanna–may a good angel protect her!

“Ouf!–such old maids,” said the captain, waking up. “Go on, go on–is
there any more?”

How far the young student who has a position in the office is in any
degree a hindrance to these plans, I don’t dare to say, either pro or
con. But the governor’s wife thinks or fears something, I am firmly
convinced from her whole manner of treating him lately, although she is
far too bright to let Inger-Johanna get even the slightest suspicion of
her real reason.

I heard it plainly when I took coffee there on Sunday, before they
went away to Tilderöd, and she had the maid tell him that she could
not see him. There was a not very gracious allusion to his “Sunday
professorship of pettifogging ideas,” as she called it.

I suppose these must be something of the same sort of ideas that I was
enthusiastic about when I was young and read Rousseau’s _Émile_, which
absorbed me very much, nay, which can yet occupy some of my thoughts.
For she stated, as one of his leading ideas, that he, in his headlong
blindness, thought that he could simplify the world, and first and
foremost education, to a very few natural propositions or so-called
principles. And you know, we–still, that is going to be quite too
long. To be brief, when Inger-Johanna with impetuosity rushed to the
defence of Grip, she saw in him only the son of the idiotic “cadet at
Lurleiken,” as he is called, one of the well-known, amusing figures
of the country; but this one, in addition to his father’s distracted
ideas, was also equipped with a faculty of using that fearful weapon,
satire–_voilà_ the phantom Grip!

Youthful student ideas could perhaps be used gracefully enough as
piquant topics of conversation; but instead of that, to set them in
motion in a headlong and sensational manner, without regard to the
opinion of older people, was a great step, was pretentious, and showed
something immature, something raw, which by no means ought to be
relished.

I have reported this so much at length in order to show you by the
very expressions that there may be here a “good deal of cotton in the
linen,” as the saying is.

And since I am going to bring my innermost heart to light, I shall
have to tell you that he appears to me to be a trustworthy, truthful
young man, whose natural disposition is as he speaks and not otherwise,
and he carries a beautiful stamp on his countenance and in his whole
bearing. If possibly he is a little forgetful of “My son, if you want
to get on in the world, then bow,” that is worst for him and not to his
dishonor, we know.

It was also a truly refreshing enjoyment for me, as if looking into the
kingdom of youth, awakening many thoughts, to talk with him, the two
evenings this winter when he accompanied me, an old woman, home from
the governor’s (for him, I have no doubt, a very small pleasure), all
the way out to the old town, when otherwise I should have been obliged
to go anxiously with my servant-girl and a lantern.

“Bah! nobody will attack her,” growled the captain, bored.