ON the second day of June, 186-, a young Norseman, Halfdan Bjerk by name,
landed on the pier at Castle Garden.  He passed through the straight and narrow
gate where he was asked his name, birthplace, and how much money he
had, — at which he grew very much frightened.

"And your destination?" — demanded the gruff-looking functionary at the

"America," said the youth, and touched his hat politely.

"Do you think I have time for joking?" roared the official, with an oath.

The Norseman ran his hand through his hair, smiled his timidly conciliatory
smile, and tried his best to look brave; but his hand trembled and his heart
thumped away at an alarmingly quickened tempo.

"Put him down for Nebraska!" cried a stout red-cheeked individual (inwrapped in
the mingled fumes of tobacco and whisky) whose function it was to open and shut
the gate.

"There aint many as go to Nebraska."

"All right, Nebraska."

The gate swung open and the pressure from behind urged the timid traveler on,
while an extra push from the gate-keeper sent him flying in the direction of a
board fence, where he sat down and tried to realize that he was now in the land
of liberty.

Halfdan Bjerk was a tall, slender-limbed youth of very delicate frame; he had a
pair of wonderfully candid, unreflecting blue eyes, a smooth, clear, beardless
face, and soft, wavy light hair, which was pushed back from his forehead
without parting.  His mouth and chin were well cut, but their lines were,
perhaps, rather weak for a man.  When in repose, the ensemble of his features
was exceedingly pleasing and somehow reminded one of Correggio's St. John.  He
had left his native land because he was an ardent republican and was abstractly
convinced that man, generically and individually, lives more happily in a
republic than in a monarchy. He had anticipated with keen pleasure the large,
freely breathing life he was to lead in a land where every man was his
neighbor's brother, where no senseless traditions kept a jealous watch over
obsolete systems and shrines, and no chilling prejudice blighted the
spontaneous blossoming of the soul.

Halfdan was an only child.  His father, a poor government official, had died
during his infancy, and his mother had given music lessons, and kept boarders,
in order to gain the means to give her son what is called a learned education.
In the Latin school Halfdan had enjoyed the reputation of being a bright youth,
and at the age of eighteen, he had entered the university under the most
promising auspices.  He could make very fair verses, and play all imaginable
instruments with equal ease, which made him a favorite in society.  Moreover,
he possessed that very old-fashioned accomplishment of cutting silhouettes; and
what was more, he could draw the most charmingly fantastic arabesques for
embroidery patterns, and he even dabbled in portrait and landscape painting.
Whatever he turned his hand to, he did well, in fact, astonishingly well for a
dilettante, and yet not well enough to claim the title of an artist.  Nor did
it ever occur to him to make such a claim.  As one of his fellow-students
remarked in a fit of jealousy, "Once when Nature had made three geniuses, a
poet, a musician, and a painter, she took all the remaining odds and ends and
shook them together at random and the result was Halfdan Bjerk."  This
agreeable melange of accomplishments, however, proved very attractive to the
ladies, who invited the possessor to innumerable afternoon tea-parties, where
they drew heavy drafts on his unflagging patience, and kept him steadily
engaged with patterns and designs for embroidery, leather flowers, and other
dainty knickknacks. And in return for all his exertions they called him "sweet"
and "beautiful," and applied to him many other enthusiastic adjectives seldom
heard in connection with masculine names.  In the university, talents of this
order gained but slight recognition, and when Halfdan had for three years been
preparing himself in vain for the examen philosophicum, he found himself slowly
and imperceptibly drifting into the ranks of the so-called studiosi perpetui,
who preserve a solemn silence at the examination tables, fraternize with every
new generation of freshmen, and at last become part of the fixed furniture of
their Alma Mater.  In the larger American colleges, such men are mercilessly
dropped or sent to a Divinity School; but the European universities, whose
tempers the centuries have mellowed, harbor in their spacious Gothic bosoms a
tenderer heart for their unfortunate sons.  There the professors greet them at
the green tables with a good-humored smile of recognition; they are treated
with gentle forbearance, and are allowed to linger on, until they die or become
tutors in the families of remote clergymen, where they invariably fall in love
with the handsomest daughter, and thus lounge into a modest prosperity.

If this had been the fate of our friend Bjerk, we should have dismissed him
here with a confident "vale" on his life's pilgrimage.  But, unfortunately,
Bjerk was inclined to hold the government in some way responsible for his own
poor success as a student, and this, in connection with an aesthetic enthusiasm
for ancient Greece, gradually convinced him that the republic was the only form
of government under which men of his tastes and temperament were apt to
flourish. It was, like everything that pertained to him, a cheerful, genial
conviction, without the slightest tinge of bitterness.  The old institutions
were obsolete, rotten to the core, he said, and needed a radical renovation. 
He could sit for hours of an evening in the Students' Union, and discourse over
a glass of mild toddy, on the benefits of universal suffrage and trial by jury,
while the picturesqueness of his language, his genial sarcasms, or occasional
witty allusions would call forth uproarious applause from throngs of admiring
freshmen.  These were the sunny days in Halfdan's career, days long to be
remembered.  They came to an abrupt end when old Mrs. Bjerk died, leaving
nothing behind her but her furniture and some trifling debts.  The son, who was
not an eminently practical man, underwent long hours of misery in trying to
settle up her affairs, and finally in a moment of extreme dejection sold his
entire inheritance in a lump to a pawnbroker (reserving for himself a few rings
and trinkets) for the modest sum of 250 dollars specie.  He then took formal
leave of the Students' Union in a brilliant speech, in which he traced the
parallelisms between the lives of Pericles and Washington,— in his
opinion the two greatest men the world had ever seen, — expounded his
theory of democratic government, and explained the causes of the rapid rise of
the American Republic. The next morning he exchanged half of his worldly
possessions for a ticket to New York, and within a few days set sail for the
land of promise, in the far West.


From Castle Garden, Halfdan made his way up through Greenwich street, pursued
by a clamorous troop of confidence men and hotel runners.

"Kommen Sie mit mir.  Ich bin auch Deutsch," cried one.  "Voila, voila, je
parle Francais," shouted another, seizing hold of his valise.  "Jeg er Dansk. 
Tale Dansk,"[1] roared a third, with an accent which seriously impeached his
truthfulness.  In order to escape from these importunate rascals, who were
every moment getting bolder, he threw himself into the first street-car which
happened to pass; he sat down, gazed out of the windows and soon became so
thoroughly absorbed in the animated scenes which moved as in a panorama before
his eyes, that he quite forgot where he was going. The conductor called for
fares, and received an English shilling, which, after some ineffectual
expostulation, he pocketed, but gave no change. At last after about an hour's
journey, the car stopped, the conductor called out "Central Park," and Halfdan
woke up with a start.  He dismounted with a timid, deliberate step, stared in
dim bewilderment at the long rows of palatial residences, and a chill sense of
loneliness crept over him.  The hopeless strangeness of everything he saw,
instead of filling him with rapture as he had once anticipated, Sent a cold
shiver to his heart.  It is a very large affair, this world of ours — a
good deal larger than it appeared to him gazing out upon it from his snug
little corner up under the Pole; and it was as unsympathetic as it was large;
he suddenly felt what he had never been aware of before— that he was a
very small part of it and of very little account after all.  He staggered over
to a bench at the entrance to the park, and sat long watching the fine
carriages as they dashed past him; he saw the handsome women in brilliant
costumes laughing and chatting gayly; the apathetic policemen promenading in
stoic dignity up and down upon the smooth pavements; the jauntily attired
nurses, whom in his Norse innocence he took for mothers or aunts of the chil-
dren, wheeling baby-carriages which to Norse eyes seemed miracles of dainty
ingenuity, under the shady crowns of the elm-trees.  He did not know how long
he had been sitting there, when a little bright-eyed girl with light kid
gloves, a small blue parasol and a blue polonaise, quite a lady of fashion en
miniature, stopped in front of him and stared at him in shy wonder.  He had
always been fond of children, and often rejoiced in their affectionate ways and
confidential prattle, and now it suddenly touched him with a warm sense of
human fellowship to have this little daintily befrilled and crisply starched
beauty single him out for notice among the hundreds who reclined in the arbors,
or sauntered to and fro under the great trees.

[1] "I am a Dane.  I speak Danish."

"What is your name, my little girl?" he asked, in a tone of friendly interest.

"Clara," answered the child, hesitatingly; then, having by another look assured
herself of his harmlessness, she added:  "How very funny you speak!"

"Yes," he said, stooping down to take he tiny begloved hand.  "I do not speak
as well as you do, yet; but I shall soon learn."

Clara looked puzzled.

"How old are you?" she asked, raising her parasol, and throwing back her head
with an air of superiority.

"I am twenty-four years old."

She began to count half aloud on her fingers: "One, two, three, four," but,
before she reached twenty, she lost her patience.

"Twenty-four," she exclaimed, "that is a great deal.  I am only seven, and papa
gave me a pony on my birthday.  Have you got a pony?"

"No; I have nothing but what is in this valise, and you know I could not very
well get a pony into it."

Clara glanced curiously at the valise and laughed; then suddenly she grew
serious again, put her hand into her pocket and seemed to be searching eagerly
for something.  Presently she hauled out a small porcelain doll's head, then a
red-painted block with letters on it, and at last a penny.

"Do you want them?" she said, reaching him her treasures in both hands.  "You
may have them all."

Before he had time to answer, a shrill, penetrating voice cried out:

"Why, gracious! child, what are you doing ? "

And the nurse, who had been deeply absorbed in "The New York Ledger," came
rushing up, snatched the child away, and retreated as hastily as she had come.

Halfdan rose and wandered for hours aimlessly along the intertwining roads and
footpaths. He visited the menageries, admired the statues, took a very light
dinner, consisting of coffee, sandwiches, and ice, at the Chinese Pavilion,
and, toward evening, discovered an inviting leafy arbor, where he could
withdraw into the privacy of his own thoughts, and ponder upon the still
unsolved problem of his destiny.  The little incident with the child had taken
the edge off his unhappiness and turned him into a more conciliatory mood
toward himself and the great pitiless world, which seemed to take so little
notice of him.  And he, who had come here with so warm a heart and so ardent a
will to join in the great work of human advancement — to find himself thus
harshly ignored and buffeted about, as if he were a hostile intruder!  Before
him lay the huge unknown city where human life pulsated with large, full
heart-throbs, where a breathless, weird intensity, a cold, fierce passion
seemed to be hurrying everything onward in a maddening whirl, where a gentle,
warm- blooded enthusiast like himself had no place and could expect naught but
a speedy destruction. A strange, unconquerable dread took possession of him, as
if he had been caught in a swift, strong whirlpool, from which he vainly
struggled to escape.  He crouched down among the foliage and shuddered.  He
could not return to the city.  No, no: he never would return.  He would remain
here hidden and unseen until morning, and then he would seek a vessel bound for
his dear native land, where the great mountains loomed up in serene majesty
toward the blue sky, where the pine-forests whispered their dreamily
sympathetic legends, in the long summer twilights, where human existence flowed
on in calm beauty with the modest aims, small virtues, and small vices which
were the happiness of modest, idyllic souls.  He even saw himself in spirit
recounting to his astonished countrymen the wonderful things he had heard and
seen during his foreign pilgrimage, and smiled to himself as he imagined their
wonder when he should tell them about the beautiful little girl who had been
the first and only one to offer him a friendly greeting in the strange land. 
During these reflections he fell asleep, and slept soundly for two or three
hours.  Once, he seemed to hear footsteps and whispers among the trees, and
made an effort to rouse himself, but weariness again overmastered him and he
slept on.  At last, he felt himself seized violently by the shoulders, and a
gruff voice shouted in his ear:

"Get up, you sleepy dog."

He rubbed his eyes, and, by the dim light of the moon, saw a Herculean
policeman lifting a stout stick over his head.  His former terror came upon him
with increased violence, and his heart stood for a moment still, then, again,
hammered away as if it would burst his sides.

"Come along!" roared the policeman, shaking him vehemently by the collar of his

In his bewilderment he quite forgot where he was, and, in hurried Norse
sentences, assured his persecutor that he was a harmless, honest traveler, and
implored him to release him.  But the official Hercules was inexorable.

"My valise, my valise;" cried Halfdan. "Pray let me get my valise."

They returned to the place where he had slept, but the valise was nowhere to be
found. Then, with dumb despair he resigned himself to his fate, and after a
brief ride on a street-car, found himself standing in a large, low-ceiled room;
he covered his face with his hands and burst into tears.

"The grand-the happy republic," he murmured, "spontaneous blossoming of the
soul. Alas! I have rooted up my life; I fear it will never blossom."

All the high-flown adjectives he had employed in his parting speech in the
Students' Union, when he paid his enthusiastic tribute to the Grand Republic,
now kept recurring to him, and in this moment the paradox seemed cruel.  The
Grand Republic, what did it care for such as he?  A pair of brawny arms fit to
wield the pick-axe and to steer the plow it received with an eager welcome; for
a child-like, loving heart and a generously fantastic brain, it had but the
stern greeting of the law.


The next morning, Halfdan was released from the Police Station, having first
been fined five dollars for vagrancy.  All his money, with the exception of a
few pounds which he had exchanged in Liverpool, he had lost with his valise,
and he had to his knowledge not a single acquaintance in the city or on the
whole continent.  In order to increase his capital he bought some fifty
"Tribunes," but, as it was already late in the day, he hardly succeeded in
selling a single copy.  The next morning, he once more stationed himself on the
corner of Murray street and Broadway, hoping in his innocence to dispose of the
papers he had still on hand from the previous day, and actually did find a few
customers among the people who were jumping in and out of the omnibuses that
passed up and down the great thoroughfare. To his surprise, however, one of
these gentlemen returned to him with a very wrathful countenance, shook his
fist at him, and vociferated with excited gestures something which to Halfdan's
ears had a very unintelligible sound. He made a vain effort to defend himself;
the situation appeared so utterly incomprehensible to him, and in his dumb
helplessness he looked pitiful enough to move the heart of a stone. No English
phrase suggested itself to him, only a few Norse interjections rose to his
lips.  The man's anger suddenly abated; he picked up the paper which he had
thrown on the sidewalk, and stood for a while regarding Halfdan curiously.

"Are you a Norwegian?" he asked.

"Yes, I came from Norway yesterday."

"What's your name?"

"Halfdan Bjerk."

"Halfdan Bjerk!  My stars!  Who would have thought of meeting you here!  You do
not recognize me, I suppose."

Halfdan declared with a timid tremor in his voice that he could not at the
moment recall his features.

"No, I imagine I must have changed a good deal since you saw me," said the man,
suddenly dropping into Norwegian.  "I am Gustav Olson, I used to live in the
same house with you once, but that is long ago now."

Gustav Olson — to be sure, he was the porter's son in the house, where his
mother had once during his childhood, taken a flat.  He well remembered having
clandestinely traded jack- knives and buttons with him, in spite of the
frequent warnings he had received to have nothing to do with him; for Gustav,
with his broad freckled face and red hair, was looked upon by the genteel
inhabitants of the upper flats as rather a disreputable character.  He had once
whipped the son of a colonel who had been impudent to him, and thrown a
snow-ball at the head of a new-fledged lieutenant, which offenses he had duly
expiated at a house of correction. Since that time he had vanished from
Halfdan's horizon.  He had still the same broad freckled face, now covered with
a lusty growth of coarse red beard, the same rebellious head of hair, which
refused to yield to the subduing influences of the comb, the same plebeian
hands and feet, and uncouth clumsiness of form.  But his linen was
irreproachable, and a certain dash in his manner, and the loud fashionableness
of his attire, gave unmistakable evidences of prosperity.

"Come, Bjerk," said he in a tone of good- fellowship, which was not without its
sting to the idealistic republican, "you must take up a better business than
selling yesterday's `Tribune.' That won't pay here, you know.  Come along to
our office and I will see if something can't be done for you."

"But I should be sorry to give you trouble," stammered Halfdan, whose native
pride, even in his present wretchedness, protested against accepting a favor
from one whom he had been wont to regard as his inferior.

"Nonsense, my boy.  Hurry up, I haven't much time to spare.  The office is only
two blocks from here.  You don't look as if you could afford to throw away a
friendly offer."

The last words suddenly roused Halfdan from his apathy; for he felt that they
were true.  A drowning man cannot afford to make nice distinctions — cannot
afford to ask whether the helping hand that is extended to him be that of an
equal or an inferior.  So he swallowed his humiliation and threaded his way
through the bewildering turmoil of Broadway, by the side of his officious

They entered a large, elegantly furnished office, where clerks with sleek and
severely apathetic countenances stood scribbling at their desks.

"You will have to amuse yourself as best you can," said Olson.  "Mr. Van Kirk
will be here in twenty minutes.  I haven't time to entertain you."

A dreary half hour passed.  Then the door opened and a tall, handsome man, with
a full grayish beard, and a commanding presence, entered and took his seat at a
desk in a smaller adjoining office.  He opened, with great dispatch, a pile of
letters which lay on the desk before him, called out in a sharp, ringing tone
for a clerk, who promptly appeared, handed him half-a-dozen letters,
accompanying each with a brief direction, took some clean paper from a drawer
and fell to writing.  There was something brisk, determined, and business-like
in his manner, which made it seem very hopeless to Halfdan to appear before him
as a petitioner. Presently Olson entered the private office, closing the door
behind him, and a few minutes later re-appeared and summoned Halfdan into the
chief's presence.

"You are a Norwegian, I hear," said the merchant, looking around over his
shoulder at the supplicant, with a preoccupied air.  "You want work.  What can
you do?"

What can you do?  A fatal question.  But here was clearly no opportunity for
mental debate.  So, summoning all his courage, but feeling nevertheless very
faint, he answered:

"I have passed both examen artium and philosophicum,[2] and got my laud clear
in the former, but in the latter haud on the first point."

[2]  Examen artium is the entrance examination to the Norwegian University, and
philosophicum the first degree.  The ranks given at these are Laudabilis prae
ceteris (in student's parlance, prae), laudabilis or laud, haud illaudabilis,
or haud, etc.

Mr. Van Kirk wheeled round on his chair and faced the speaker:

"That is all Greek to me," he said, in a severe tone.  "Can you keep accounts?"

"No.  I am afraid not."

Keeping accounts was not deemed a classical accomplishment in Norway.  It was
only "trade- rats" who troubled themselves about such gross things, and if our
Norseman had not been too absorbed with the problem of his destiny, he would
have been justly indignant at having such a question put to him.

"Then you don't know book-keeping?"

"I think not.  I never tried it."

"Then you may be sure you don't know it. But you must certainly have tried your
hand at something.  Is there nothing you can think of which might help you to
get a living?"

"I can play the piano — and — and the violin."

"Very well, then.  You may come this afternoon to my house.  Mr. Olson will
tell you the address.  I will give you a note to Mrs. Van Kirk.  Perhaps she
will engage you as a music teacher for the children.  Good morning."


At half-past four o'clock in the afternoon, Halfdan found himself standing in a
large, dimly lighted drawing-room, whose brilliant upholstery, luxurious
carpets, and fantastically twisted furniture dazzled and bewildered his senses.
 All was so strange, so strange; nowhere a familiar object to give rest to the
wearied eye.  Wherever he looked he saw his shabbily attired figure repeated in
the long crystal mirrors, and he became uncomfortably conscious of his
threadbare coat, his uncouth boots, and the general incongruity of his
appearance.  With every moment his uneasiness grew; and he was vaguely
considering the propriety of a precipitate flight, when the rustle of a dress
at the farther end of the room startled him, and a small, plump lady, of a
daintily exquisite form, swept up toward him, gave a slight inclination of her
head, and sank down into an easy-chair:

"You are Mr. — — , the Norwegian, who wishes to give music lessons?"
she said, holding a pair of gold-framed eyeglasses up to her eyes, and running
over the note which she held in her hand.  It read as follows:

DEAR MARTHA, — The bearer of this note is a young Norwegian, I forgot to
ascertain his name, a friend of Olson's.  He wishes to teach music.  If you can
help the poor devil and give him something to do, you will oblige, Yours,      
       H. V. K.

Mrs. Van Kirk was evidently, by at least twelve years, her husband's junior,
and apparently not very far advanced in the forties.  Her blonde hair, which
was freshly crimped, fell lightly over her smooth, narrow forehead; her nose,
mouth and chin had a neat distinctness of outline; her complexion was either
naturally or artificially perfect, and her eyes, which were of the purest blue,
had, owing to their near-sightedness, a certain pinched and scrutinizing look.
This look, which was without the slightest touch of severity, indicating merely
a lively degree of interest, was further emphasized by three small
perpendicular wrinkles, which deepened and again relaxed according to the
varying intensity of observation she bestowed upon the object which for the
time engaged her attention.

"Your name, if you please?" said Mrs. Van Kirk, having for awhile measured her
visitor with a glance of mild scrutiny.

"Halfdan Bjerk."

"Half-dan B —— , how do you spell that?"


"B-jerk.  Well, but I mean, what is your name in English?"

Halfdan looked blank, and blushed to his ears.

"I wish to know," continued the lady energetically, evidently anxious to help
him out, "what your name would mean in plain English. Bjerk, it certainly must
mean something."

"Bjerk is a tree — a birch-tree."

"Very well, Birch, — that is a very respectable name.  And your first name?
 What did you say that was?


"Half Dan.  Why not a whole Dan and be done with it?  Dan Birch, or rather
Daniel Birch.  Indeed, that sounds quite Christian."

"As you please, madam," faltered the victim,; looking very unhappy.

"You will pardon my straightforwardness, won't you?  B-jerk.  I could never
pronounce that, you know."

"Whatever may be agreeable to you, madam, will be sure to please me."

"That is very well said.  And you will find that it always pays to try to
please me.  And you wish to teach music?  If you have no objection I will call
my oldest daughter.  She is an excellent judge of music, and if your playing
meets with her approval, I will engage you, as my husband suggests, not to
teach Edith, you understand, but my youngest child, Clara."

Halfdan bowed assent, and Mrs. Van Kirk rustled out into the hall where she
rang a bell, and re-entered.  A servant in dress-coat appeared, and again
vanished as noiselessly as he had come.  To our Norseman there was some thing
weird and uncanny about these silent entrances and exits; he could hardly
suppress a shudder.  He had been accustomed to hear the clatter of people's
heels upon the bare floors, as they approached, and the audible crescendo of
their footsteps gave one warning, and prevented one from being taken by
surprise.  While absorbed in these reflections, his senses must have been
dormant; for just then Miss Edith Van Kirk entered, unheralded by anything but
a hovering perfume, the effect of which was to lull him still deeper into his
wondering abstraction.

"Mr. Birch," said Mrs. Van Kirk, "this is my daughter Miss Edith," and as
Halfdan sprang to his feet and bowed with visible embarrassment, she continued:

"Edith, this is Mr. Daniel Birch, whom your father has sent here to know if he
would be serviceable as a music teacher for Clara.  And now, dear, you will
have to decide about the merits of Mr. Birch.  I don't know enough about music
to be anything of a judge."

"If Mr. Birch will be kind enough to play," said Miss Edith with a languidly
musical intonation," I shall be happy to listen to him."

Halfdan silently signified his willingness and followed the ladies to a smaller
apartment which was separated from the drawing-room by folding doors.  The
apparition of the beautiful young girl who was walking at his side had suddenly
filled him with a strange burning and shuddering happiness; he could not tear
his eyes away from her; she held him as by a powerful spell.  And still, all
the while he had a painful sub-consciousness of his own unfortunate appearance,
which was thrown into cruel relief by her splendor.  The tall, lithe
magnificence of her form, the airy elegance of her toilet, which seemed the
perfection of self-concealing art, the elastic deliberateness of her
step — all wrought like a gentle, deliciously soothing opiate upon the
Norseman's fancy and lifted him into hitherto unknown regions of mingled misery
and bliss.  She seemed a combination of the most divine contradictions, one
moment supremely conscious, and in the next adorably child-like and simple, now
full of arts and coquettish innuendoes, then again naïve, unthinking and
almost boyishly blunt and direct; in a word, one of those miraculous New York
girls whom abstractly one may disapprove of, but in the concrete must abjectly
adore.  This easy predominance of the masculine heart over the mas- culine
reason in the presence of an impressive woman, has been the motif of a thousand
tragedies in times past, and will inspire a thousand more in times to come.

Halfdan sat down at the grand piano and played Chopin's Nocturne in G major,
flinging out that elaborate filigree of sound with an impetuosity and superb
ABANDON which caused the ladies to exchange astonished glances behind his back.
 The transitions from the light and ethereal texture of melody to the simple,
more concrete theme, which he rendered with delicate shadings of articulation,
were sufficiently startling to impress even a less cultivated ear than that of
Edith Van Kirk, who had, indeed, exhausted whatever musical resources New York
has to offer.  And she was most profoundly impressed.  As he glided over the
last pianissimo notes toward the two concluding chords (an ending so
characteristic of Chopin) she rose and hurried to his side with a heedless
eagerness, which was more eloquent than emphatic words of praise.

"Won't you please repeat this passage?" she said, humming the air with soft
modulations; "I have always regarded the monotonous repetition of this strain"
(and she indicated it lightly by a few touches of the keys) "as rather a
blemish of an otherwise perfect composition. But as you play it, it is anything
but monotonous. You put into this single phrase a more intense meaning and a
greater variety of thought than I ever suspected it was capable of expressing."

"It is my favorite composition," answered he, modestly.  "I have bestowed more
thought upon it than upon anything I have ever played, unless perhaps it be the
one in G minor, which, with all its difference of mood and phraseology,
expresses an essentially kindred thought."

"My dear Mr. Birch," exclaimed Mrs. Van Kirk, whom his skillful employment of
technical terms (in spite of his indifferent accent) had impressed even more
than his rendering of the music, — "you are a comsummate{sic} artist, and
we shall deem it a great privilege if you will undertake to instruct our child.
 I have listened to you with profound satisfaction."

Halfdan acknowledged the compliment by a bow and a blush, and repeated the
latter part of the nocturne according to Edith's request.

"And now," resumed Edith, "may I trouble you to play the G minor, which has
even puzzled me more than the one you have just played."

"It ought really to have been played first," replied Halfdan.  "It is far
intenser in its coloring and has a more passionate ring, but its conclusion
does not seem to be final.  There is no rest in it, and it seems oddly enough
to be a mere transition into the major, which is its proper supplement and
completes the fragmentary thought."

Mother and daughter once more telegraphed wondering looks at each other, while
Halfdan plunged into the impetuous movements of the minor nocturne, which he
played to the end with ever-increasing fervor and animation.

"Mr. Birch," said Edith, as he arose from the piano with a flushed face, and
the agitation of the music still tingling through his nerves. "You are a far
greater musician than you seem to be aware of.  I have not been taking lessons
for some time, but you have aroused all my musical ambition, and if you will
accept me too, as a pupil, I shall deem it a favor."

"I hardly know if I can teach you anything," answered he, while his eyes dwelt
with keen delight on her beautiful form.  "But in my present position I can
hardly afford to decline so flattering an offer."

"You mean to say that you would decline it if you were in a position to do so,"
said she, smiling.

"No, only that I should question my convenience more closely."

"Ah, never mind.  I take all the responsibility. I shall cheerfully consent to
being imposed upon by you."

Mrs. Van Kirk in the mean while had been examining the contents of a fragrant
Russia-leather pocket-book, and she now drew out two crisp ten-dollar notes,
and held them out toward him.

"I prefer to make sure of you by paying you in advance," said she, with a
cheerfully familiar nod, and a critical glance at his attire, the meaning of
which he did not fail to detect.  "Somebody else might make the same discovery
that we have made to-day, and outbid us.  And we do not want to be cheated out
of our good fortune in having been the first to secure so valuable a prize."

"You need have no fear on that score, madam," retorted Halfdan, with a vivid
blush, and purposely misinterpreting the polite subterfuge. "You may rely upon
my promise.  I shall be here again, as soon as you wish me to return."

"Then, if you please, we shall look for you to-morrow morning at ten o'clock."

And Mrs. Van Kirk hesitatingly folded up her notes and replaced them in her

To our idealist there was something extremely odious in this sudden offer of
money.  It was the first time any one had offered to pay him, and it seemed to
put him on a level with a common day-laborer.  His first impulse was to resent
it as a gratuitous humiliation, but a glance at Mrs. Van Kirk's countenance,
which was all aglow with officious benevolence, re-assured him, and his
indignation died away.

That same afternoon Olson, having been informed of his friend's good fortune,
volunteered a loan of a hundred dollars, and accompanied him to a fashionable
tailor, where he underwent a pleasing metamorphosis.


In Norway the ladies dress with the innocent purpose of protecting themselves
against the weather; if this purpose is still remotely present in the toilets
of American women of to-day, it is, at all events, sufficiently disguised to
challenge detection, very much like a primitive Sanscrit root in its French and
English derivatives. This was the reflection which was uppermost in Halfdan's
mind as Edith, ravishing to behold in the airy grace of her fragrant morning
toilet, at the appointed time took her seat at his side before the piano.  Her
presence seemed so intense, so all-absorbing, that it left no thought for the
music.  A woman, with all the spiritual mysteries which that name implies, had
always appeared to him rather a composite phenomenon, even apart from those
varied accessories of dress, in which as by an inevitable analogy, she sees fit
to express the inner multiformity of her being.  Nevertheless, this former
conception of his, when compared to that wonderful complexity of ethereal
lines, colors, tints and half- tints which go to make up the modern New York
girl, seemed inexpressibly simple, almost what plain arithmetic must appear to
a man who has mastered calculus.

Edith had opened one of those small red- covered volumes of Chopin where the
rich, wondrous melodies lie peacefully folded up like strange exotic flowers in
an herbarium.  She began to play the fantasia impromtu, which ought to be
dashed off at a single "heat," whose passionate impulse hurries it on
breathlessly toward its abrupt finale.  But Edith toiled considerably with her
fingering, and blurred the keen edges of each swift phrase by her indistinct
ar- ticulation.  And still there was a sufficiently ardent intention in her
play to save it from being a failure.  She made a gesture of disgust when she
had finished, shut the book, and let her hands drop crosswise in her lap.

"I only wanted to give you a proof of my incapacity," she said, turning her
large luminous gaze upon her instructor, "in order to make you duly appreciate
what you have undertaken. Now, tell me truly and honestly, are you not

"Not by any means," replied he, while the rapture of her presence rippled
through his nerves, "you have fire enough in you to make an admirable musician.
 But your fingers, as yet, refuse to carry out your fine intentions. They only
need discipline."

"And do you suppose you can discipline them?  They are a fearfully obstinate
set, and cause me infinite mortification."

"Would you allow me to look at your hand?"

She raised her right hand, and with a sort of impulsive heedlessness let it
drop into his.  An exclamation of surprise escaped him.

`{`}If you will pardon me," he said, "it is a superb hand — a hand capable
of performing mira- cles — musical miracles I mean.  Only look here"
—(and he drew the fore and second fingers apart) —"so firmly set in
the joint and still so flexible. I doubt if Liszt himself can boast a finer row
of fingers.  Your hands will surely not prevent you from becoming a second Von
Bulow, which to my mind means a good deal more than a second Liszt."

"Thank you, that is quite enough," she exclaimed, with an incredulous laugh;
"you have done bravely.  That at all events throws the whole burden of
responsibility upon myself, if I do not become a second somebody.  I shall be
perfectly satisfied, however, if you can only make me as good a musician as you
are yourself, so that I can render a not too difficult piece without feeling
all the while that I am committing sacrilege in mutilating the fine thoughts of
some great composer."

"You are too modest; you do not — "

"No, no, I am not modest," she interrupted him with an impetuosity which
startled him. "I beg of you not to persist in paying me compliments.  I get too
much of that cheap article elsewhere.  I hate to be told that I am better than
I know I am.  If you are to do me any good by your instruction, you must be
perfectly sincere toward me, and tell me plainly of my short-comings.  I
promise you beforehand that I shall never be offended.  There is my hand. Now,
is it a bargain?"

His fingers closed involuntarily over the soft beautiful hand, and once more
the luxury of her touch sent a thrill of delight through him.

"I have not been insincere," he murmured, "but I shall be on my guard in
future, even against the appearance of insincerity."

"And when I play detestably, you will say so, and not smooth it over with
unmeaning flatteries?"

"I will try."

"Very well, then we shall get on well together.  Do not imagine that this is a
mere feminine whim of mine.  I never was more in earnest.  Men, and I believe
foreigners, to a greater degree than Americans, have the idea that women must
be treated with gentle forbearance; that their follies, if they are foolish,
must be glossed over with some polite name. They exert themselves to the utmost
to make us mere playthings, and, as such, contemptible both in our own eyes and
in theirs.  No sincere respect can exist where the truth has to be avoided. 
But the majority of American women are made of too stern a stuff to be dealt
with in that way.  They feel the lurking insincerity even where politeness
forbids them to show it, and it makes them disgusted both with themselves, and
with the flatterer.  And now you must pardon me for having spoken so plainly to
you on so short an acquaintance; but you are a foreigner, and it may be an act
of friendship to initiate you as soon as possible into our ways and customs."

He hardly knew what to answer.  Her vehemence was so sudden, and the sentiments
she had uttered so different from those which he had habitually ascribed to
women, that he could only sit and gaze at her in mute astonishment. He could
not but admit that in the main she had judged him rightly, and that his own
attitude and that of other men toward her sex, were based upon an implied
assumption of superiority.

"I am afraid I have shocked you," she resumed, noticing the startled expression
of his countenance.  "But really it was quite inevitable, if we were at all to
understand each other. You will forgive me, won't you?"

"Forgive!" stammered he, "I have nothing to forgive.  It was only your
merciless truth- fulness which startled me.  I rather owe you thanks, if you
will allow me to be grateful to you.  It seems an enviable privilege."

"Now," interrupted Edith, raising her forefinger in playful threat, "remember
your promise."

The lesson was now continued without further interruption.  When it was
finished, a little girl, with her hair done up in curl-papers, and a very
stiffly starched dress, which stood out on all sides almost horizontally,
entered, accompanied by Mrs. Van Kirk.  Halfdan immediately recognized his
acquaintance from the park, and it appeared to him a good omen that this child,
whose friendly interest in him had warmed his heart in a moment when his
fortunes seemed so desperate, should continue to be associated with his life on
this new continent.  Clara was evidently greatly impressed by the change in his
appearance, and could with difficulty be restrained from commenting upon it.

She proved a very apt scholar in music, and enjoyed the lessons the more for
her cordial liking of her teacher.

It will be necessary henceforth to omit the less significant details in the
career of our friend "Mr. Birch."  Before a month was past, he had firmly
established himself in the favor of the different members of the Van Kirk
family. Mrs. Van Kirk spoke of him to her lady visitors as "a perfect jewel,"
frequently leaving them in doubt as to whether he was a cook or a coachman. 
Edith apostrophized him to her fashionable friends as "a real genius," leaving
a dim impression upon their minds of flowing locks, a shiny velvet jacket,
slouched hat, defiant neck-tie and a general air of disreputable
pretentiousness.  Geniuses of the foreign type were never, in the estimation of
fashionable New York society, what you would call "exactly nice," and against
prejudices of this order no amount of argument will ever prevail.  Clara, who
had by this time discovered that her teacher possessed an inexhaustible fund of
fairy stories, assured her playmates across the street that he was "just
splendid," and frequently invited them over to listen to his wonderful tales. 
Mr. Van Kirk himself, of course, was non-committal, but paid the bills

Halfdan in the meanwhile was vainly struggling against his growing passion for
Edith; but the more he rebelled the more hopelessly he found himself entangled
in its inextricable net.  The fly, as long as it keeps quiet in the spider's
web, may for a moment forget its situation; but the least effort to escape is
apt to frustrate itself and again reveal the imminent peril.  Thus he too
"kicked against the pricks," hoped, feared, rebelled against his destiny, and
again, from sheer weariness, relapsed into a dull, benumbed apathy.  In spite
of her friendly sympathy, he never felt so keenly his alienism as in her
presence.  She accepted the spontaneous homage he paid her, sometimes with
impatience, as something that was really beneath her notice; at other times she
frankly recognized it, bantered him with his "Old World chivalry," which would
soon evaporate in the practical American atmosphere, and called him her Viking,
her knight and her faithful squire. But it never occurred to her to regard his
devotion in a serious light, and to look upon him as a possible lover had
evidently never entered her head.  As their intercourse grew more intimate, he
had volunteered to read his favorite poets with her, and had gradually
succeeded in imparting to her something of his own passionate liking for Heine
and Björnson.  She had in return called his attention to the works of
American authors who had hitherto been little more than names to him, and they
had thus managed to be of mutual benefit to each other, and to spend many a
pleasant hour during the long winter afternoons in each other's company. But
Edith had a very keen sense of humor, and could hardly restrain her secret
amusement when she heard him reading Longfellow's "Psalm of Life" and Poe's
"Raven" (which had been familiar to her from her babyhood), often with false
accent, but always with intense enthusiasm. The reflection that he had had no
part of his life in common with her, — that he did not love the things
which she loved, — could not share her prejudices (and women have a feeling
akin to contempt for a man who does not respond to their
prejudices) — removed him at times almost beyond the reach of her sympathy.
 It was interesting enough as long as the experience was novel, to be thus
unconsciously exploring another person's mind and finding so many strange
objects there; but after a while the thing began to assume an uncomfortably
serious aspect, and then there seemed to be something almost terrible about it.
 At such times a call from a gentleman of her own nation, even though he were
one of the placidly stupid type, would be a positive relief; she could abandon
herself to the secure sense of being at home; she need fear no surprises, and
in the smooth shallows of their talk there were no unsuspected depths to excite
and to baffle her ingenuity. And, again, reverting in her thought to Halfdan,
his conversational brilliancy would almost repel her, as something odious and
un-American, the cheap result of outlandish birth and unrepublican education. 
Not that she had ever valued republicanism very highly; she was one of those
who associated politics with noisy vulgarity in speech and dress, and therefore
thanked fortune that women were permitted to keep aloof from it.  But in the
presence of this alien she found herself growing patriotic; that much-discussed
abstraction, which we call our country (and which is nothing but the aggregate
of all the slow and invisible influences which go toward making up our own
being), became by degrees a very palpable and intelligible fact to her.

Frequently while her American self was thus loudly asserting itself, Edith
inflicted many a cruel wound upon her foreign adorer.  Once,— it was the
Fourth of July, more than a year after Halfdan's arrival, a number of young
ladies and gentlemen, after having listened to a patriotic oration, were
invited in to an informal luncheon. While waiting, they naturally enough spent
their time in singing national songs, and Halfdan's clear tenor did good
service in keeping the straggling voices together.  When they had finished,
Edith went up to him and was quite effusive in her expressions of gratitude.

"I am sure we ought all to be very grateful to you, Mr. Birch," she said, "and
I, for my part, can assure you that I am."

"Grateful?  Why?" demanded Halfdan, looking quite unhappy.

"For singing OUR national songs, of course. Now, won't you sing one of your
own, please? We should all be so delighted to hear how a Swedish — or
Norwegian, is it? — national song sounds."

"Yes, Mr. Birch, DO sing a Swedish song," echoed several voices.

They, of course, did not even remotely suspect their own cruelty.  He had, in
his enthusiasm for the day allowed himself to forget that he was not made of
the same clay as they were, that he was an exile and a stranger, and must ever
remain so, that he had no right to share their joy in the blessing of liberty. 
Edith had taken pains to dispel the happy illusion, and had sent him once more
whirling toward his cold native Pole.  His passion came near choking him, and,
to conceal his impetuous emotion, he flung himself down on the piano-stool, and
struck some introductory chords with perhaps a little superfluous emphasis. 
Suddenly his voice burst out into the Swedish national anthem, "Our Land, our
Land, our Fatherland," and the air shook and palpitated with strong martial
melody. His indignation, his love and his misery, imparted strength to his
voice, and its occasional tremble in the PIANO passages was something more than
an artistic intention.  He was loudly applauded as he arose, and the young
ladies thronged about him to ask if he "wouldn't please write out the music for

Thus month after month passed by, and every day brought its own misery.  Mrs.
Van Kirk's patronizing manners, and ostentatious kindness, often tested his
patience to the utmost.  If he was guilty of an innocent witticism or a little
quaintness of expression, she always assumed it to be a mistake of terms and
corrected him with an air of benign superiority.  At times, of course, her
corrections were legitimate, as for instance, when he spoke of WEARING a cane,
instead of CARRYING one, but in nine cases out of ten the fault lay in her own
lack of imagination and not in his ignorance of English.  On such occasions
Edith often took pity on him, defended him against her mother's criticism, and
insisted that if this or that expression was not in common vogue, that was no
reason why it should not be used, as it was perfectly grammatical, and,
moreover, in keeping with the spirit of the language.  And he, listening
passively in admiring silence to her argument, thanked her even for the
momentary pain because it was followed by so great a happiness. For it was so
sweet to be defended by Edith, to feel that he and she were standing together
side by side against the outer world.  Could he only show her in the old heroic
manner how much he loved her!  Would only some one that was dear to her die, so
that he, in that breaking down of social barriers which follows a great
calamity, might comfort her in her sorrow. Would she then, perhaps, weeping,
lean her wonderful head upon his breast, feeling but that he was a
fellow-mortal, who had a heart that was loyal and true, and forgetting, for one
brief instant, that he was a foreigner.  Then, to touch that delicate
Elizabethan frill which wound itself so daintily about Edith's neck— what
inconceivable rapture!  But it was quite impossible.  It could never be.  These
were selfish thoughts, no doubt, but they were a lover's selfishness, and, as
such, bore a close kinship to all that is purest and best in human nature.

It is one of the tragic facts of this life, that a relation so unequal as that
which existed between Halfdan and Edith, is at all possible.  As for Edith, I
must admit that she was well aware that her teacher was in love with her. 
Women have wonderfully keen senses for phenomena of that kind, and it is an
illusion if any one imagines, as our Norseman did, that he has locked his
secret securely in the hidden chamber of his heart.  In fleeting intonations,
unconscious glances and attitudes, and through a hundred other channels it will
make its way out, and the bereaved jailer may still clasp his key in fierce
triumph, never knowing that he has been robbed.  It was of course no fault of
Edith's that she had become possessed of Halfdan's heart-secret.  She regarded
it as on the whole rather an absurd affair, and prized it very lightly.  That a
love so strong and yet so humble, so destitute of hope and still so unchanging,
reverent and faithful, had something grand and touching in it, had never
occurred to her.  It is a truism to say that in our social code the value of a
man's character is determined by his position; and fine traits in a foreigner
(unless he should happen to be something very great) strike us rather as part
of a supposed mental alienism, and as such, naturally suspicious.  It is rather
disgraceful than otherwise to have your music teacher in love with you, and
critical friends will never quite banish the suspicion that you have encouraged

Edith had, in her first delight at the discovery of Halfdan's talent, frankly
admitted him to a relation of apparent equality.  He was a man of culture, had
the manners and bearing of a gentleman, and had none of those theatrical airs
which so often raise a sort of invisible wall between foreigners and Americans.
 Her mother, who loved to play the patron, especially to young men, had invited
him to dinner-parties and introduced him to their friends, until almost every
one looked upon him as a protege of the family.  He appeared so well in a
parlor, and had really such a distinguished presence, that it was a pleasure to
look at him.  He was remarkably free from those obnoxious traits which
generalizing American travelers have led us to believe were inseparable from
foreign birth; his finger-nails were in no way conspicuous; he did not, as a
French count, a former adorer of Edith's, had done, indulge an unmasculine
taste for diamond rings (possibly because he had none); his politeness was
unobtrusive and subdued, and of his accent there was just enough left to give
an agreeable color of individuality to his speech.  But, for all that, Edith
could never quite rid herself of the impression that he was intensely
un-American. There was a certain idyllic quiescence about him, a child-like
directness and simplicity, and a total absence of "push," which were
startlingly at variance with the spirit of American life.  An American could
never have been content to remain in an inferior position without trying, in
some way, to better his fortunes. But Halfdan could stand still and see,
without the faintest stirring of envy, his plebeian friend Olson, whose
education and talents could bear no comparison with his own, rise rapidly above
him, and apparently have no desire to emulate him.  He could sit on a cricket
in a corner, with Clara on his lap, and two or three little girls nestling
about him, and tell them fairy stories by the hour, while his kindly face
beamed with innocent happiness.  And if Clara, to coax him into continuing the
entertainment, offered to kiss him, his measure of joy was full. This fair
child, with her affectionate ways, and her confiding prattle, wound herself
ever more closely about his homeless heart, and he clung to her with a touching
devotion.  For she was the only one who seemed to be unconscious of the
difference of blood, who had not yet learned that she was an American and
he — a foreigner.


Three years had passed by and still the situation was unchanged.  Halfdan still
taught music and told fairy stories to the children.  He had a good many more
pupils now than three years ago, although he had made no effort to solicit
patronage, and had never tried to advertise his talent by what he regarded as
vulgar and inartistic display.  But Mrs. Van Kirk, who had by this time
discovered his disinclination to assert himself, had been only the more active;
had "talked him up" among her aristocratic friends; had given musical soirees,
at which she had coaxed him to play the principal role, and had in various
other ways exerted herself in his behalf.  It was getting to be quite
fashionable to admire his quiet, unostentatious style of playing, which was so
far removed from the noisy bravado and clap-trap then commonly in vogue. Even
professional musicians began to indorse him, and some, who had discovered that
"there was money in him," made him tempting offers for a public engagement. 
But, with characteristic modesty, he distrusted their verdict; his sensitive
nature shrank from anything which had the appearance of self-assertion or

But Edith — ah, if it had not been for Edith he might have found courage to
enter at the door of fortune, which was now opened ajar. That fame, if he
should gain it, would bring him any nearer to her, was a thought that was alien
to so unworldly a temperament as his. And any action that had no bearing upon
his relation to her, left him cold — seemed unworthy of the effort.  If she
had asked him to play in public; if she had required of him to go to the North
Pole, or to cut his own throat, I verily believe he would have done it.  And at
last Edith did ask him to play.  She and Olson had plotted together, and from
the very friendliest motives agreed to play into each other's hands.

"If you only WOULD consent to play," said she, in her own persuasive way, one
day as they had finished their lesson, "we should all be so happy. Only think
how proud we should be of your success, for you know there is nothing you can't
do in the way of music if you really want to."

"Do you really think so?" exclaimed he, while his eyes suddenly grew large and

"Indeed I do," said Edith, emphatically.

"And if — if I played well," faltered he, "would it really please you?"

"Of course it would," cried Edith, laughing; "how can you ask such a foolish

"Because I hardly dared to believe it."

"Now listen to me," continued the girl, leaning forward in her chair, and
beaming all over with kindly officiousness; "now for once you must be rational
and do just what I tell you.  I shall never like you again if you oppose me in
this, for I have set my heart upon it; you must promise beforehand that you
will be good and not make any objection.  Do you hear?"

When Edith assumed this tone toward him, she might well have made him promise
to perform miracles.  She was too intent upon her benevolent scheme to heed the
possible inferences which he might draw from her sudden display of interest.

"Then you promise?" repeated she, eagerly, as he hesitated to answer.

"Yes, I promise."

"Now, you must not be surprised; but mamma and I have made arrangements with
Mr. S — — that you are to appear under his auspices at a concert
which is to be given a week from to-night.  All our friends are going, and we
shall take up all the front seats, and I have already told my gentlemen friends
to scatter through the audience, and if they care anything for my favor, they
will have to applaud vigorously."

Halfdan reddened up to his temples, and began to twist his watch-chain

"You must have small confidence in my ability," he murmured, "since you resort
to precautions like these."

"But my dear Mr. Birch," cried Edith, who was quick to discover that she had
made a mistake, "it is not kind in you to mistrust me in that way.  If a New
York audience were as highly cultivated in music as you are, I admit that my
precautions would be superfluous.  But the papers, you know, will take their
tone from the audience, and therefore we must make use of a little innocent
artifice to make sure of it. Everything depends upon the success of your first
public appearance, and if your friends can in this way help you to establish
the reputation which is nothing but your right, I am sure you ought not to bind
their hands by your foolish sensitiveness.  You don't know the American way of
doing things as well as I do, therefore you must stand by your promise, and
leave everything to me."

It was impossible not to believe that anything Edith chose to do was above
reproach.  She looked so bewitching in her excited eagerness for his welfare
that it would have been inhuman to oppose her.  So he meekly succumbed, and
began to discuss with her the programme for the concert.

During the next week there was hardly a day that he did not read some startling
paragraph in the newspapers about "the celebrated Scandinavian pianist," whose
appearance at S — — Hall was looked forward to as the principal event
of the coming season.  He inwardly rebelled against the well-meant
exaggerations; but as he suspected that it was Edith's influence which was in
this way asserting itself in his behalf, he set his conscience at rest and
remained silent.

The evening of the concert came at last, and, as the papers stated the next
morning, "the large hall was crowded to its utmost capacity with a select and
highly appreciative audience." Edith must have played her part of the
performance skillfully, for as he walked out upon the stage, he was welcomed
with an enthusiastic burst of applause, as if he had been a world- renowned
artist.  At Edith's suggestion, her two favorite nocturnes had been placed
first upon the programme; then followed one of those ballads of Chopin, whose
rhythmic din and rush sweep onward, beleaguering the ear like eager, melodious
hosts, charging in thickening ranks and columns, beating impetuous retreats,
and again uniting with one grand emotion the wide-spreading army of sound for
the final victory.  Besides these, there was one of Liszt's "Rhapsodies
Hongroises," an impromptu by Schubert, and several orchestral pieces; but the
greater part of the programme was devoted to Chopin, because Halfdan, with his
great, hopeless passion laboring in his breast, felt that he could interpret
Chopin better than he could any other composer.  He carried his audience by
storm.  As he retired to the dressing-room, after having finished the last
piece, his friends, among whom Edith and Mrs. Van Kirk were the most
conspicuous, thronged about him, showering their praises and congratulations
upon him.  They insisted with much friendly urging upon taking him home in
their carriage; Clara kissed him, Mrs. Van Kirk introduced him to her lady
acquaintances as "our friend, Mr. Birch," and Edith held his hand so long in
hers that he came near losing his presence of mind and telling her then and
there that he loved her.  As his eyes rested on her, they became suddenly
suffused with tears, and a vast bewildering happiness vibrated through his
frame.  At last he tore himself away and wandered aimlessly through the long,
lonely streets. Why could he not tell Edith that he loved her? Was there any
disgrace in loving?  This heavenly passion which so suddenly had transfused his
being, and year by year deadened the substance of his old self, creating in its
stead something new and wild and strange which he never could know, but still
held infinitely dear —had it been sent to him merely as a scourge to test
his capacity for suffering?

Once, while he was a child, his mother had told him that somewhere in this wide
world there lived a maiden whom God had created for him, and for him alone, and
when he should see her, he should love her, and his life should thenceforth be
all for her.  It had hardly occurred to him, then, to question whether she
would love him in return, it had appeared so very natural that she should.  Now
he had found this maiden, and she had been very kind to him; but her kindness
had been little better than cruelty, because he had demanded something more
than kindness.  And still he had never told her of his love.  He must tell her
even this very night while the moon rode high in the heavens and all the small
differences between human beings seemed lost in the vast starlit stillness.  He
knew well that by the relentless glare of the daylight his own insignificance
would be cruelly conspicuous in the presence of her splendor; his scruples
would revive, and his courage fade.

The night was clear and still.  A clock struck eleven in some church tower near
by.  The Van Kirk mansion rose tall and stately in the moonlight, flinging a
dense mass of shadow across the street.  Up in the third story he saw two
windows lighted; the curtains were drawn, but the blinds were not closed.  All
the rest of the house was dark.  He raised his voice and sang a Swedish
serenade which seemed in perfect concord with his own mood.  His clear tenor
rose through the silence of the night, and a feeble echo flung it back from the
mansion opposite:

     [3] "Star, sweet star, that brightly beamest,
          Glittering on the skies nocturnal,
          Hide thine eye no more from me,
          Hide thine eye no more from me!"

[3] Free translation of a Swedish serenade, the name of whose author I
have forgotten.                              H. H. B.

The curtain was drawn aside, the window cautiously raised, and the outline of
Edith's beautiful head appeared dark and distinct against the light within. 
She instantly recognized him.

"You must go away, Mr. Birch," came her voice in an anxious whisper out of the
shadow. "Pray go away.  You will wake up the people."

Her words were audible enough, but they failed to convey any meaning to his
excited mind.  Once more his voice floated upward to her opened window:

     "And I yearn to reach thy dwelling,
       Yearn to rise from earth's fierce turmoil;
       Sweetest star upward to thee,
       Yearn to rise, bright star to thee."

"Dear Mr. Birch," she whispered once more in tones of distress.  "Pray DO go
away.  Or perhaps," she interrupted herself " — wait one moment and I will
come down."

Presently the front door was noiselessly opened, and Edith's tall, lithe form,
dressed in a white flowing dress, and with her blonde hair rolling loosely over
her shoulders, appeared for an instant, and then again vanished.  With one leap
Halfdan sprang up the stairs and pushed through the half-opened door.  Edith
closed the door behind him, then with rapid steps led the way to the back
parlor where the moon broke feebly through the bars of the closed shutters.

"Now Mr. Birch," she said, seating herself upon a lounge, "you may explain to
me what this unaccountable behavior of yours means. I should hardly think I had
deserved to be treated in this way by you."

Halfdan was utterly bewildered; a nervous fit of trembling ran through him, and
he endeavored in vain to speak.  He had been prepared for passionate
reproaches, but this calm severity chilled him through, and he could only gasp
and tremble, but could utter no word in his defense.

"I suppose you are aware," continued Edith, in the same imperturbable manner,
"that if I had not interrupted you, the policeman would have h*eard you, and
you would have been arrested for street disturbance.  Then to-morrow we should
have seen it in all the newspapers, and I should have been the laughing-stock
of the whole town."

No, surely he had never thought of it in that light; the idea struck him as
entirely new. There was a long pause.  A cock crowed with a drowsy remoteness
in some neighboring yard, and the little clock on the mantel-piece ticked on
patiently in the moonlit dusk.

"If you have nothing to say," resumed Edith, while the stern indifference in
her voice perceptibly relaxed, "then I will bid you good- night."

She arose, and with a grand sweep of her drapery, moved toward the door.

"Miss Edith," cried he, stretching his hands despairingly after her, "you must
not leave me."

She paused, tossed her hair back with her hands, and gazed at him over her
shoulder.  He threw himself on his knees, seized the hem of her dress, and
pressed it to his lips.  It was a gesture of such inexpressible humility that
even a stone would have relented.

"Do not be foolish, Mr. Birch," she said, try- ing to pull her dress away from
him.  "Get up, and if you have anything rational to say to me, I will stay and

"Yes, yes," he whispered, hoarsely, "I shall be rational.  Only do not leave

She again sank down wearily upon the lounge, and looked at him in expectant

"Miss Edith," pleaded he in the same hoarse, passionate undertone, "have pity
on me, and do not despise me.  I love you — oh — if you would but allow
me to die for you, I should be the happiest of men."

Again he shuddered, and stood long gazing at her with a mute, pitiful appeal. 
A tear stole into Edith's eye and trickled down over her cheek.

"Ah, Mr. Birch," she murmured, while a sigh shook her bosom, "I am
sorry — very sorry that this misfortune has happened to you.  You have
deserved a better fate than to love me — to love a woman who can never give
you anything in return for what you give her."

"Never?" he repeated mournfully, "never?"

"No, never!  You have been a good friend to me, and as such I value you highly,
and I had hoped that you would always remain so.  But I see that it cannot be. 
It will perhaps be best for you henceforth not to see me, at least not
until — pardon the expression — you have out- lived this generous
folly.  And now, you know, you will need me no more.  You have made a splendid
reputation, and if you choose to avail yourself of it, your fortune is already
made.  I shall always rejoice to hear of your success, and —and if you
should ever need a FRIEND, you must come to no one but me.  I know that these
are feeble words, Mr. Birch, and if they seem cold to you, you must pardon me. 
I can say nothing more."

They were indeed feeble words, although most cordially spoken.  He tried to
weigh them, to measure their meaning, but his mind was as if benumbed, and
utterly incapable of thought. He walked across the floor, perhaps only to do
something, not feeling where he trod, but still with an absurd sensation that
he was taking immoderately long steps.  Then he stopped abruptly, wrung his
hands, and gazed at Edith. And suddenly, like a flash in a vacuum, the thought
shot through his brain that he had seen this very scene somewhere — in a
dream, in a remote childhood, in a previous existence, he did not know when or
where.  It seemed strangely familiar, and in the next instant strangely mean-
ingless and unreal.  The walls, the floor— everything began to move, to
whirl about him; he struck his hands against his forehead, and sank down into a
damask-covered easy-chair.  With a faint cry of alarm, Edith sprang up, seized
a bottle of cologne which happened to be within reach, and knelt down at his
side.  She put her arm around his neck, and raised his head.

"Mr. Birch, dear Mr. Birch," she cried, in a frightened whisper, "for God's
sake come to yourself!  O God, what have I done?"

She blew the eau-de-cologne into his face, and, as he languidly opened his
eyes, he felt the touch of her warm hand upon his cheeks and his forehead.

"Thank heaven! he is better," she murmured, still continuing to bathe his
temples.  "How do you feel now, Mr. Birch?" she added, in a tone of anxious

"Thank you, it was an unpardonable weakness," he muttered, without changing his
attitude. "Do not trouble yourself about me.  I shall soon be well."

It was so sweet to be conscious of her gentle ministry, that it required a
great effort, an effort of conscience, to rouse him once more, as his strength

"Had you not better stay?" she asked, as he rose to put on his overcoat.  "I
will call one of the servants and have him show you a room. We will say
to-morrow morning that you were taken ill, and nobody will wonder."

"No, no," he responded, energetically.  "I am perfectly strong now."  But he
still had to lean on a chair, and his face was deathly pale.

"Farewell, Miss Edith," he said; and a tender sadness trembled in his voice. 
"Farewell.  We shall — probably — never meet again."

"Do not speak so," she answered, seizing his hand.  "You will try to forget
this, and you will still be great and happy.  And when fortune shall again
smile upon you, and — and— you will be content to be my friend, then
we shall see each other as before."

"No, no," he broke forth, with a sudden hoarseness.  "It will never be."

He walked toward the door with the motions of one who feels death in his limbs;
then stopped once more and his eyes lingered with inexpressible sadness on the
wonderful, beloved form which stood dimly outlined before him in the twilight. 
Then Edith's measure of misery, too, seemed full.  With the divine heedlessness
which belongs to her sex, she rushed up toward him, and remembering only that
he was weak and unhappy, and that he suffered for her sake, she took his face
between her hands and kissed him.   He was too generous a man to misinterpret
the act; so he whispered but once more: "Farewell," and hastened away.


After that eventful December night, America was no more what it had been to
Halfdan Bjerk.  A strange torpidity had come over him; every rising day gazed
into his eyes with a fierce unmeaning glare.  The noise of the street annoyed
him and made him childishly fretful, and the solitude of his own room seemed
still more dreary and depressing.  He went mechanically through the daily
routine of his duties as if the soul had been taken out of his work, and left
his life all barrenness and desolation.  He moved restlessly from place to
place, roamed at all times of the day and night through the city and its
suburbs, trying vainly to exhaust his physical strength; gradually, as his
lethargy deepened into a numb, helpless despair, it seemed somehow to impart a
certain toughness to his otherwise delicate frame.  Olson, who was now a junior
partner in the firm of Remsen, Van Kirk and Co., stood by him faithfully in
these days of sorrow.  He was never effusive in his sympathy, but was patiently
forbearing with his friend's whims and moods, and humored him as if he had been
a sick child intrusted to his custody.  That Edith might be the moving cause of
Olson's kindness was a thought which, strangely enough, had never occurred to

At last, when spring came, the vacancy of his mind was suddenly invaded with a
strong desire to revisit his native land.  He disclosed his plan to Olson, who,
after due deliberation and several visits to the Van Kirk mansion, decided that
the pleasure of seeing his old friends and the scenes of his childhood might
push the painful memories out of sight, and renew his interest in life.  So,
one morning, while the May sun shone with a soft radiance upon the beautiful
harbor, our Norseman found himself standing on the deck of a huge black-hulled
Cunarder, shivering in spite of the warmth, and feeling a chill loneliness
creeping over him at the sight of the kissing and affectionate leave- takings
which were going on all around him. Olson was running back and forth, attending
to his baggage; but he himself took no thought, and felt no more responsibility
than if he had been a helpless child.  He half regretted that his own wish had
prevailed, and was inclined to hold his friend responsible for it; and still he
had not energy enough to protest now when the journey seemed inevitable.  His
heart still clung to the place which held the corpse of his ruined life, as a
man may cling to the spot which hides his beloved dead.

About two weeks later Halfdan landed in Norway.  He was half reluctant to leave
the steamer, and the land of his birth excited no emotion in his breast.  He
was but conscious of a dim regret that he was so far away from Edith.  At last,
however, he betook himself to a hotel, where he spent the afternoon sitting
with half-closed eyes at a window, watching listlessly the drowsy slow-pulsed
life which dribbled languidly through the narrow thoroughfare.  The noisy
uproar of Broadway chimed remotely in his ears, like the distant roar of a
tempest-tossed sea, and what had once been a perpetual annoyance was now a
sweet memory.  How often with Edith at his side had he threaded his way through
the surging crowds that pour, on a fine afternoon, in an unceasing current up
and down the street between Union and Madison Squares.  How friendly, and
sweet, and gracious, Edith had been at such times; how fresh her voice, how
witty and animated her chance remarks when they stopped to greet a passing
acquaintance; and, above all, how inspiring the sight of her heavenly beauty.
Now that was all past.  Perhaps he should never see Edith again.

The next day he sauntered through the city, meeting some old friends, who all
seemed changed and singularly uninteresting.  They were all engaged or married,
and could talk of nothing but matrimony, and their prospects of advancement in
the Government service.  One had an influential uncle who had been a chum of
the present minister of finance; another based his hopes of future prosperity
upon the family connections of his betrothed, and a third was waiting with a
patient perseverance, worthy of a better cause, for the death or resignation of
an antiquated chef-de-bureau, which, according to the promise of some mighty
man, would open a position for him in the Department of Justice. All had the
most absurd theories about American democracy, and indulged freely in
prophecies of coming disasters; but about their own government they had no
opinion whatever.  If Halfdan attempted to set them right, they at once grew
excited and declamatory; their opinions were based upon conviction and a
charming ignorance of facts, and they were not to be moved.  They knew all
about Tweed and the Tammany Ring, and believed them to be representative
citizens of New York, if not of the United States; but of Charles Sumner and
Carl Schurz they had never heard.  Halfdan, who, in spite of his misfortunes in
the land of his adoption, cherished a very tender feeling for it, was often so
thoroughly aroused at the foolish prejudices which everywhere met him, that his
torpidity gradually thawed away, and he began to look more like his former

Toward autumn he received an invitation to visit a country clergyman in the
North, a distant relative of his father's, and there whiled away his time,
fishing and shooting, until winter came.  But as Christmas drew near, and the
day wrestled feebly with the all-conquering night, the old sorrow revived.  In
the darkness which now brooded over land and sea, the thoughts needed no longer
be on guard against themselves; they could roam far and wide as they listed. 
Where was Edith now, the sweet, the wonderful Edith?  Was there yet the same
dancing light in her beautiful eyes, the same golden sheen in her hair, the
same merry ring in her voice?  And had she not said that when he was content to
be only her friend, he might return to her, and she would receive him in the
old joyous and confiding way?  Surely there was no life to him apart from her:
why should he not be her friend?  Only a glimpse of her lovely face — ah,
it was worth a lifetime; it would consecrate an age of misery, a glimpse of
Edith's face.  Thus ran his fancies day by day, and the night only lent a
deeper intensity to the yearnings of the day.  He walked about as in a dream,
seeing nothing, heeding nothing, while this one strong desire — to see
Edith once more —throbbed and throbbed with a slow, feverish perseverance
within him.  Edith — Edith, the very name had a strange, potent
fascination. Every thought whispered "Edith," — his pulse beat
"Edith," — and his heart repeated the beloved name.  It was his
pulse-beat, — his heartbeat, — his life-beat.

And one morning as he stood absently looking at his fingers against the
light — and they seemed strangely wan and transparent — the thought at
last took shape.  It rushed upon him with such vehemence, that he could no more
resist it.  So he bade the clergyman good-bye, gathered his few worldly goods
together and set out for Bergen.  There he found an English steamer which
carried him to Hull, and a few weeks later, he was once more in New York.

It was late one evening in January that a tug-boat arrived and took the cabin
passengers ashore.  The moon sailed tranquilly over the deep blue dome of the
sky, the stars traced their glittering paths of light from the zenith downward,
and it was sharp, bitter cold.  Northward over the river lay a great bank of
cloud, dense, gray and massive, the spectre of the coming snow-storm.  There it
lay so huge and fantastically human, ruffling itself up, as fowls do, in
defense against the cold.  Halfdan walked on at a brisk rate — strange to
say, all the street- cars he met went the wrong way — startling every now
and then some precious memory, some word or look or gesture of Edith's which
had hovered long over those scenes, waiting for his recognition.  There was the
great jewel-store where Edith had taken him so often to consult his taste
whenever a friend of hers was to be married.  It was there that they had had an
amicable quarrel over that bronze statue of Faust which she had found
beautiful, while he, with a rudeness which seemed now quite incomprehensible,
had insisted that it was not. And when he had failed to convince her, she had
given him her hand in token of reconciliation— and Edith had a wonderful
way of giving her hand, which made any one feel that it was a peculiar
privilege to press it — and they had walked out arm in arm into the
animated, gas- lighted streets, with a delicious sense of snugness and
security, being all the more closely united for their quarrel.  Here, farther
up the avenue, they had once been to a party, and he had danced for the first
time in his life with Edith.  Here was Delmonico's, where they had had such
fascinating luncheons together; where she had got a stain on her dress, and he
had been forced to observe that her dress was then not really a part of
herself, since it was a thing that could not be stained.  Her dress had always
seemed to him as something absolute and final, exalted above criticism,
incapable of improvement.

As I have said, Halfdan walked briskly up the avenue, and it was something
after eleven when he reached the house which he sought.  The great cloud-bank
in the north had then begun to expand and stretched its long misty arms
eastward and westward over the heavens.  The windows on the ground-floor were
dark, but the sleeping apartments in the upper stories were lighted.  In
Edith's room the inside shutters were closed, but one of the windows was a
little down at the top.  And as he stood gazing with tremulous happiness up to
that window, a stanza from Heine which he and Edith had often read together,
came into his head.  It was the story of the youth who goes to the Madonna at
Kevlar and brings her as a votive offering a heart of wax, that she may heal
him of his love and his sorrow.

     "I bring this waxen image,
       The image of my heart,
       Heal thou my bitter sorrow,
       And cure my deadly smart!"[4]

[4] Translation, from "Exotics.  By J. F. C. & C. L." 

Then came the thought that for him, too, as for the poor youth of Cologne,
there was healing only in death.  And still in this moment he was so near
Edith, should see her perhaps, and the joy at this was stronger than all else,
stronger even than death.  So he sat down beside the steps of the mansion
opposite, where there was some shelter from the wind, and waited patiently till
Edith should close her win- dow.  He was cold, perhaps, but, if so, he hardly
knew it, for the near joy of seeing her throbbed warmly in his veins.  Ah,
there — the blinds were thrown open; Edith, in all the lithe magnificence
of her wonderful form, stood out clear and beautiful against the light within;
she pushed up the lower window in order to reach the upper one, and for a
moment leaned out over the sill.  Once more her wondrous profile traced itself
in strong relief against the outer gloom.  There came a cry from the street
below, a feeble involuntary one, but still distinctly audible.  Edith peered
anxiously out into the darkness, but the darkness had grown denser and she
could see nothing.  The window was fastened, the shutters closed, and the broad
pathway of light which she had flung out upon the night had vanished.

Halfdan closed his eyes trying to retain the happy vision.  Yes, there she
stood still, and there was a heavenly smile upon her lips — ugh, he
shivered — the snow swept in a wild whirl up the street.  He wrapped his
plaid more closely about him, and strained his eyes to catch one more glimpse
of the beloved Edith.  Ah, yes; there she was again; she came nearer and
nearer, and she touched his cheek, gently, warily smiling all the while with a
strange wistful smile which was surely not Edith's.  There, she bent over
him, — touched him again, — how cold her hands were; the touch chilled
him to the heart. The snow had now begun to fall in large scattered flakes,
whirling fitfully through the air, following every chance gust of wind, but
still falling, falling, and covering the earth with its white, death-like

But surely — there was Edith again, — how wonderful! — in a long
snow-white robe, grave and gracious, still with the wistful smile on her lips. 
See, she beckons to him with her hand, and he rises to follow, but something
heavy clings to his feet and he cannot stir from the spot.  He tries to cry for
help, but he cannot,— can only stretch out his hands to her, and feel
very unhappy that he cannot follow her.  But now she pauses in her flight,
turns about, and he sees that she wears a myrtle garland in her hair like a
bride.  She comes toward him, her countenance all radiant with love and
happiness, and she stoops down over him and speaks:

"Come; they are waiting for us.  I will follow thee in life and in death,
wherever thou goest.  Come," repeats Edith, "they have long been waiting.  They
are all here."

And he imagines he knows who they all are, although he has never heard of them,
nor can he recall their names.

"But — but," he stammers, "I — I—am a foreigner "

It appeared then that for some reason this was an insurmountable objection. 
And Edith's happiness dies out of her beautiful face, and she turns away

"Edith, beloved!"

Then she is once more at his side.

"Thou art no more a foreigner to me, beloved. Whatever thou art, I am."

And she presses her lips to his — it was the sweetest kiss of his
life — the kiss of death.

The next morning, as Edith, after having put the last touch to her toilet,
threw the shutters open, a great glare of sun-smitten snow burst upon her and
for a moment blinded her eyes. On the sidewalk opposite, half a dozen men with
snow-shovels in their hands and a couple of policeman had congregated, and,
judging by their manner, were discussing some object of interest.  Presently
they were joined by her father, who had just finished his breakfast and was on
his way to the office.  Now he stooped down and gazed at something half
concealed in the snow, then suddenly started back, and as she caught a glimpse
of his face, she saw that it was ghastly white.  A terrible foreboding seized
her.  She threw a shawl about her shoulders and rushed down-stairs.  In the
hall she was met by her father, who was just entering, followed by four men,
carrying something between them.  She well knew what it was.  She would fain
have turned away, but she could not: grasping her father's arm and pressing it
hard, she gazed with blank, frightened eyes at the white face, the lines of
which Death had so strangely emphasized.  The snow-flakes which hung in his
hair had touched him with their sudden age, as if to bridge the gulf between
youth and death.  And still he was beautiful — the clear brow, the
peaceful, happy indolence, the frozen smile which death had perpetuated.
Smiling, he had departed from the earth which had no place for him, and smiling
entered the realm where, among the many mansions, there is, perhaps, also one
for a gentle, simple-hearted enthusiast.


THERE was an ancient feud between the families; and Bjarne Blakstad was not the
man to make it up, neither was Hedin Ullern.  So they looked askance at each
other whenever they met on the highway, and the one took care not to cross the
other's path.  But on Sundays, when the church- bells called the parishioners
together, they could not very well avoid seeing each other on the church-yard;
and then, one day, many years ago, when the sermon had happened to touch
Bjarne's heart, he had nodded to Hedin and said:  "Fine weather to-day;" and
Hedin had returned the nod and answered:  "True is that." "Now I have done my
duty before God and men," thought Bjarne, "and it is his turn to take the next
step."  "The fellow is proud," said Hedin to himself, "and he wants to show off
his generosity.  But I know the wolf by his skin, even if he has learned to
bleat like a ewe-lamb."

What the feud really was about, they had both nearly forgotten.  All they knew
was that some thirty years ago there had been a quarrel between the pastor and
the parish about the right of carrying arms to the church.  And then Bjarne's
father had been the spokesman of the parish, while Hedin's grandsire had been a
staunch defender of the pastor.  There was a rumor, too, that they had had a
fierce encounter somewhere in the woods, and that the one had stabbed the other
with a knife; but whether that was really true, no one could tell.

Bjarne was tall and grave, like the weather- beaten fir-trees in his
mast-forest.  He had a large clean-shaven face, narrow lips, and small fierce
eyes.  He seldom laughed, and when he did, his laugh seemed even fiercer than
his frown.  He wore his hair long, as his fathers had done, and dressed in the
styles of two centuries ago; his breeches were clasped with large silver
buckles at the knees, and his red jerkin was gathered about his waist with a
leathern girdle.  He loved everything that was old, in dress as well as in
manners, took no newspapers, and regarded railroads and steamboats as
inventions of the devil.  Bjarne had married late in life, and his marriage had
brought him two daughters, Brita and Grimhild.

Hedin Ullern was looked upon as an upstart. He could only count three
generations back, and he hardly knew himself how his grandfather had earned the
money that had enabled him to buy a farm and settle down in the valley.  He had
read a great deal, and was well informed on the politics of the day; his name
had even been mentioned for storthingsmand, or member of parliament from the
district, and it was the common opinion, that if Bjarne Blakstad had not so
vigorously opposed him, he would have been elected, being the only "cultivated"
peasant in the valley.  Hedin was no unwelcome guest in the houses of
gentlefolks, and he was often seen at the judge's and the pastor's omber
parties.  And for all this Bjarne Blakstad only hated him the more.  Hedin's
wife, Thorgerda, was fair-haired, tall and stout, and it was she who managed
the farm, while her husband read his books, and studied politics in the
newspapers; but she had a sharp tongue and her neighbors were afraid of her. 
They had one son, whose name was Halvard.

Brita Blakstad, Bjarne's eldest daughter, was a maid whom it was a joy to look
upon.  They called her "Glitter-Brita," because she was fond of rings and
brooches, and everything that was bright; while she was still a child, she once
took the old family bridal-crown out from the storehouse and carried it about
on her head. "Beware of that crown, child," her father had said to her, "and
wear it not before the time. There is not always blessing in the bridal
silver."  And she looked wonderingly up into his eyes and answered:  "But it
glitters, father;" and from that time forth they had named her Glitter-Brita.

And Glitter-Brita grew up to be a fair and winsome maiden, and wherever she
went the wooers flocked on her path.  Bjarne shook his head at her, and often
had harsh words upon his lips, when he saw her braiding field- flowers into her
yellow tresses or clasping the shining brooches to her bodice; but a look of
hers or a smile would completely disarm him.  She had a merry way of doing
things which made it all seem like play; but work went rapidly from her hands,
while her ringing laughter echoed through the house, and her sunny presence
made it bright in the dusky ancestral halls.  In her kitchen the long rows of
copper pots and polished kettles shone upon the walls, and the neatly scoured
milk-pails stood like soldiers on parade about the shelves under the ceiling. 
Bjarne would often sit for hours watching her, and a strange spring-feeling
would steal into his heart.  He felt a father's pride in her stately growth and
her rich womanly beauty. "Ah!" he would say to himself, "she has the pure blood
in her veins and, as true as I live, the farm shall be hers."  And then, quite
contrary to his habits, he would indulge in a little reverie, imagining the
time when he, as an aged man, should have given the estate over into her hands,
and seeing her as a worthy matron preside at the table, and himself rocking his
grandchildren on his knee.  No wonder, then, that he eyed closely the young
lads who were beginning to hover about the house, and that he looked with
suspicion upon those who selected Saturday nights for their visits.[5] When
Brita was twenty years old, however, her father thought that it was time for
her to make her choice.  There were many fine, brave lads in the valley, and,
as Bjarne thought, Brita would have the good sense to choose the finest and the
bravest.  So, when the winter came, he suddenly flung his doors open to the
youth of the parish, and began to give parties with ale and mead in the grand
old style.  He even talked with the young men, at times, encouraged them to
manly sports, and urged them to taste of his home-brewed drinks and to tread
the spring-dance briskly.  And Brita danced and laughed so that her hair flew
around her and the silver brooches tinkled and rang on her bosom.  But when the
merriment was at an end, and any one of the lads remained behind to offer her
his hand, she suddenly grew grave, told him she was too young, that she did not
know herself, and that she had had no time as yet to decide so serious a
question.  Thus the winter passed and the summer drew near.

[5] In the country districts of Norway Saturday evening is regarded as "the
wooer's eve."

In the middle of June, Brita went to the saeter[6] with the cattle; and her
sister, Grimhild, remained at home to keep house on the farm.  She loved the
life in the mountains; the great solitude sometimes made her feel sad, but it
was not an unpleasant sadness, it was rather a gentle toning down of all the
shrill and noisy feelings of the soul.  Up there, in the heart of the primeval
forest, her whole being seemed to herself a symphony of melodious whispers with
a vague delicious sense of remoteness and mystery in them, which she only felt
and did not attempt to explain.  There, those weird legends which, in former
days, still held their sway in the fancy of every Norsewoman, breathed their
secrets into her ear, and she felt her nearness and kinship to nature, as at no
other time.

[6] The saeter is a place in the mountains where the Norwegian peasants spend
their summers pasturing their cattle. Every large farm has its own saeter,
consisting of one or more chalets, hedged in by a fence of stone or planks.

One night, as the sun was low, and a purple bluish smoke hung like a thin veil
over the tops of the forest, Brita had taken out her knitting and seated
herself on a large moss-grown stone, on the croft.  Her eyes wandered over the
broad valley which was stretched out below, and she could see the red roofs of
the Blakstad mansion peeping forth between the fir-trees.  And she wondered
what they were doing down there, whether Grimhild had done milking, and whether
her father had returned from the ford, where it was his habit at this hour to
ride with the footmen to water the horses.  As she sat thus wondering, she was
startled by a creaking in the dry branches hard by, and lifting her eye, she
saw a tall, rather clumsily built, young man emerging from the thicket.  He had
a broad but low forehead, flaxen hair which hung down over a pair of dull
ox-like eyes; his mouth was rather large and, as it was half open, displayed
two massive rows of shining white teeth.  His red peaked cap hung on the back
of his head and, although it was summer, his thick wadmal vest was buttoned
close up to his throat; over his right arm he had flung his jacket, and in his
hand he held a bridle.

"Good evening," said Brita, "and thanks for last meeting;" although she was not
sure that she had ever seen him before.

"It was that bay mare, you know," stammered the man in a half apologetic tone,
and shook the bridle, as if in further explanation.

"Ah, you have lost your mare," said the girl, and she could not help smiling at
his helplessness and his awkward manner.

"Yes, it was the bay mare," answered he, in the same diffident tone; then,
encouraged by her smile, he straightened himself a little and continued rather
more fluently:  "She never was quite right since the time the wolves were after
her.  And then since they took the colt away from her the milk has been
troubling her, and she hasn't been quite like herself."

"I haven't seen her anywhere hereabouts," said Brita; "you may have to wander
far, before you get on the track of her."

"Yes, that is very likely.  And I am tired already."

"Won't you sit down and rest yourself?"

He deliberately seated himself in the grass, and gradually gained courage to
look her straight in the face; and his dull eye remained steadfastly fixed on
her in a way which bespoke unfeigned surprise and admiration.  Slowly his mouth
broadened into a smile; but his smile had more of sadness than of joy in it. 
She had, from the moment she saw him, been possessed of a strangely patronizing
feeling toward him. She could not but treat him as if he had been a girl or
some person inferior to her in station. In spite of his large body, the
impression he made upon her was that of weakness; but she liked the sincerity
and kindness which expressed themselves in his sad smile and large, honest blue
eyes.  His gaze reminded her of that of an ox, but it had not only the ox's
dullness, but also its simplicity and good-nature.

They sat talking on for a while about the weather, the cattle, and the
prospects of the crops.

"What is your name?" she asked, at last.

"Halvard Hedinson Ullern."

A sudden shock ran through her at the sound of that name; in the next moment a
deep blush stole over her countenance.

"And my name," she said, slowly, "is Brita Bjarne's daughter Blakstad."

She fixed her eyes upon him, as if to see what effect her words produced.  But
his features wore the same sad and placid expression; and no line in his face
seemed to betray either surprise or ill-will.  Then her sense of patronage grew
into one of sympathy and pity.  "He must either be weak-minded or very
unhappy," thought she, "and what right have I then to treat him harshly."  And
she continued her simple, straightforward talk with the young man, until he,
too, grew almost talkative, and the sadness of his smile began to give way to
something which almost resembled happiness. She noticed the change and
rejoiced.  At last, when the sun had sunk behind the western mountain tops, she
rose and bade him good- night; in another moment the door of the saeter-
cottage closed behind her, and he heard her bolting it on the inside.  But for
a long time he remained sitting on the grass, and strange thoughts passed
through his head.  He had quite forgotten his bay mare.

The next evening when the milking was done, and the cattle were gathered within
the saeter enclosure, Brita was again sitting on the large stone, looking out
over the valley.  She felt a kind of companionship with the people when she saw
the smoke whirling up from their chimneys, and she could guess what they were
going to have for supper.  As she sat there, she again heard a creaking in the
branches, and Halvard Ullern stood again before her, with his jacket on his
arm, and the same bridle in his hand.

"You have not found your bay mare yet?" she exclaimed, laughingly.  "And you
think she is likely to be in this neighborhood?"

"I don't know," he answered; "and I don't care if she isn't."

He spread his jacket on the grass, and sat down on the spot where he had sat
the night before.  Brita looked at him in surprise and remained silent; she
didn't know how to interpret this second visit.

"You are very handsome," he said, suddenly, with a gravity which left no doubt
as to his sincerity.

"Do you think so?" she answered, with a merry laugh.  He appeared to her almost
a child, and it never entered her mind to feel offended.  On the contrary, she
was not sure but that she felt pleased.

"I have thought of you ever since yesterday," he continued, with the same
imperturbable manner.  "And if you were not angry with me, I thought I would
like to look at you once more. You are so different from other folks."

"God bless your foolish talk," cried Brita, with a fresh burst of merriment. 
"No, indeed I am not angry with you; I should just as soon think of being angry
with — with that calf," she added for want of another comparison.

"You think I don't know much," he stammered.  "And I don't."  The sad smile
again settled on his countenance.

A feeling of guilt sent the blood throbbing through her veins.  She saw that
she had done him injustice.  He evidently possessed more sense, or at least a
finer instinct, than she had given him credit for.

"Halvard," she faltered, "if I have offended you, I assure you I didn't mean to
do it; and a thousand times I beg your pardon."

"You haven't offended me, Brita," answered he, blushing like a girl.  "You are
the first one who doesn't make me feel that I am not so wise as other folks."

She felt it her duty to be open and confiding with him in return; and in order
not to seem ungenerous, or rather to put them on an equal footing by giving him
also a peep into her heart, she told him about her daily work, about the merry
parties at her father's house, and about the lusty lads who gathered in their
halls to dance the Halling and the spring-dance.  He listened attentively while
she spoke, gazing earnestly into her face, but never interrupting her.  In his
turn he described to her in his slow deliberate way, how his father constantly
scolded him because he was not bright, and did not care for politics and
newspapers, and how his mother wounded him with her sharp tongue by making
merry with him, even in the presence of the servants and strangers.  He did not
seem to imagine that there was anything wrong in what he said, or that he
placed himself in a ludicrous light; nor did he seem to speak from any unmanly
craving for sympathy.  His manner was so simple and straightforward that what
Brita probably would have found strange in another, she found perfectly natural
in him.

It was nearly midnight when they parted{.} She hardly slept at all that night,
and she was half vexed with herself for the interest she took in this simple
youth.  The next morning her father came up to pay her a visit and to see how
the flocks were thriving.  She understood that it would be dangerous to say
anything to him about Halvard, for she knew his temper and feared the result,
if he should ever discover her secret.  Therefore, she shunned an opportunity
to talk with him, and only busied herself the more with the cattle and the
cooking. Bjarne soon noticed her distraction, but, of course, never suspected
the cause.  Before he left her, he asked her if she did not find it too lonely
on the saeter, and if it would not be well if he sent her one of the maids for
a companion. She hastened to assure him that that was quite unnecessary; the
cattle-boy who was there to help her was all the company she wanted. Toward
evening, Bjarne Blakstad loaded his horses with buckets, filled with cheese and
butter, and started for the valley.  Brita stood long looking after him as he
descended the rocky slope, and she could hardly conceal from herself that she
felt relieved, when, at last, the forest hid him from her sight.  All day she
had been walking about with a heavy heart; there seemed to be something
weighing on her breast, and she could not throw it off.  Who was this who had
come between her and her father? Had she ever been afraid of him before, had
she been glad to have him leave her?  A sudden bitterness took possession of
her, for in her distress, she gave Halvard the blame for all that had happened.
 She threw herself down on the grass and burst into a passionate fit of
weeping; she was guilty, wretchedly miserable, and all for the sake of one whom
she had hardly known for two days.  If he should come in this moment, she would
tell him what he had done toward her; and her wish must have been heard, for as
she raised her eyes, he stood there at her side, the sad feature about his
mouth and his great honest eyes gazing wonderingly at her. She felt her purpose
melt within her; he looked so good and so unhappy.  Then again came the thought
of her father and of her own wrong, and the bitterness again revived.

"Go away," cried she, in a voice half reluctantly tender and half defiant.  "Go
away, I say; I don't want to see you any more."

"I will go to the end of the world if you wish it," he answered, with a strange

He picked up his jacket which he had dropped on the ground, then turned slowly,
gave her mother long look, an infinitely sad and hopeless one, and went.  Her
bosom heaved violently —remorse, affection and filial duty wrestled
desperately in her heart.

"No, no," she cried, "why do you go?  I did not mean it so.  I only
wanted — "

He paused and returned as deliberately as he had gone.

Why should I dwell upon the days that followed— how her heart grew ever
more restless, how she would suddenly wake up at nights and see those large
blue eyes sadly gazing at her, how by turns she would condemn herself and him,
and how she felt with bitter pain that she was growing away from those who had
hitherto been nearest and dearest to her.  And strange to say, this very
isolation from her father made her cling only the more desperately to him.  It
seemed to her as if Bjarne had deliberately thrown her off; that she herself
had been the one who took the first step had hardly occurred to her.  Alas, her
grief was as irrational as her love.  By what strange devious process of
reasoning these convictions became settled in her mind, it is difficult to
tell.  It is sufficient to know that she was a woman and that she loved. She
even knew herself that she was irrational, and this very sense drew her more
hopelessly into the maze of the labyrinth from which she saw no escape.

His visits were as regular as those of the sun. She knew that there was only a
word of hers needed to banish him from her presence forever. And how many times
did she not resolve to speak that word?  But the word was never spoken.  At
times a company of the lads from the valley would come to spend a merry evening
at the saeter; but she heeded them not, and they soon disappeared.  Thus the
summer went amid passing moods of joy and sorrow.  She had long known that he
loved her, and when at last his slow confession came, it added nothing to her
happiness; it only increased her fears for the future.  They laid many plans
together in those days; but winter came as a surprise to both, the cattle were
removed from the mountains, and they were again separated.

Bjarne Blakstad looked long and wistfully at his daughter that morning, when he
came to bring her home.  She wore no more rings and brooches, and it was this
which excited Bjarne's suspicion that everything was not right with her. 
Formerly he was displeased because she wore too many; now he grumbled because
she wore none.


The winter was half gone; and in all this time Brita had hardly once seen
Halvard.  Yes, once, — it was Christmas-day, — she had ventured to peep
over to his pew in the church, and had seen him, sitting at his father's side,
and gazing vacantly out into the empty space; but as he had caught her glance,
he had blushed, and began eagerly to turn the leaves of his hymn- book.  It
troubled her that he made no effort to see her; many an evening she had walked
alone down at the river-side, hoping that he might come; but it was all in
vain.  She could not but believe that his father must have made some discovery,
and that he was watched.  In the mean time the black cloud thickened over her
head; for a secret gnawed at the very roots of her heart.  It was a time of
terrible suspense and suffering — such as a man never knows, such as only a
woman can endure.  It was almost a relief when the cloud burst, and the storm
broke loose, as presently it did.

One Sunday, early in April, Bjarne did not return at the usual hour from
church.  His daughters waited in vain for him with the dinner, and at last
began to grow uneasy.  It was not his habit to keep irregular hours.  There was
a great excitement in the valley just then; the America-fever had broken out. 
A large vessel was lying out in the fjord, ready to take the emigrants away;
and there was hardly a family that did not mourn the loss of some brave-hearted
son, or of some fair and cherished daughter.  The old folks, of course, had to
remain behind; and when the children were gone, what was there left for them
but to lie down and die?  America was to them as distant as if it were on
another planet.  The family feeling, too, has ever been strong in the
Norseman's breast; he lives for his children, and seems to live his life over
again in them.  It is his greatest pride to be able to trace his blood back
into the days of Sverre and St. Olaf, and with the same confidence he expects
to see his race spread into the future in the same soil where once it has
struck root.  Then comes the storm from the Western seas, wrestles with the
sturdy trunk, and breaks it; and the shattered branches fly to all the four
corners of the heavens.  No wonder, then, like a tree that has lost its crown,
his strength is broken and he expects but to smoulder into the earth and die.

Bjarne Blakstad, like the sturdy old patriot that he was, had always fiercely
denounced the America rage; and it was now the hope of his daughters that,
perhaps, he had stayed behind to remind the restless ones among the youth of
their duty toward their land, or to frighten some bold emigration agent who
might have been too loud in his declamations.  But it was already eight o'clock
and Bjarne was not yet to be seen. The night was dark and stormy; a cold sleet
fiercely lashed the window-panes, and the wind roared in the chimney. 
Grimhild, the younger sister, ran restlessly out and in and slammed the doors
after her.  Brita sat tightly pressed up against the wall in the darkest corner
of the room.  Every time the wind shook the house she started up; then again
seated herself and shuddered.  Dark forebodings filled her soul.

At last, — the clock had just struck ten, — there was a noise heard in
the outer hall.  Grimhild sprang to the door and tore it open.  A tall,
stooping figure entered, and by the dress she at once recognized her father.

"Good God," cried she, and ran up to him.

"Go away, child," muttered he, in a voice that sounded strangely unfamiliar,
and he pushed her roughly away.  For a moment he stood still, then stalked up
to the table, and, with a heavy thump, dropped down into a chair.  There he
remained with his elbows resting on his knees, and absently staring on the
floor.  His long hair hung in wet tangles down over his face, and the wrinkles
about his mouth seemed deeper and fiercer than usual.  Now and then he sighed,
or gave vent to a deep groan.  In a while his eyes began to wander uneasily
about the room; and as they reached the corner where Brita was sitting, he
suddenly darted up, as if stung by something poisonous, seized a brand from the
hearth, and rushed toward her.

"Tell me I did not see it," he broke forth, in a hoarse whisper, seizing her by
the arm and thrusting the burning brand close up to her face. "Tell me it is a
lie — a black, poisonous lie."

She raised her eyes slowly to his and gazed steadfastly into his face.  "Ah,"
he continued in the same terrible voice, "it was what I told them down there at
the church — a lie — an infernal lie.  And I drew blood — blood, I
say — I did — from the slanderer.  Ha, ha, ha!  What a lusty sprawl
that was!"

The color came and departed from Brita's cheeks.  And still she was strangely
self possessed.  She even wondered at her own calmness. Alas, she did not know
that it was a calmness that is more terrible than pain, the corpse of a forlorn
and hopeless heart.

"Child," continued Bjarne, and his voice assumed a more natural tone, "why dost
thou not speak?  They have lied about thee, child, because thou art fair, they
have envied thee." Then, almost imploringly, "Open thy mouth, Brita, and tell
thy father that thou art pure— pure as the snow, child — my
own — my beautiful child."

There was a long and painful pause, in which the crackling of the brand, and
the heavy breathing of the old man were the only sounds to break the silence. 
Pale like a marble image stood she before him; no word of excuse, no prayer for
forgiveness escaped her; only a convulsive quivering of the lips betrayed the
life that struggled within her.  With every moment the hope died in Bjarne's
bosom.  His visage was fearful to behold.  Terror and fierce indomitable hatred
had grimly distorted his features, and his eyes burned like fire-coals beneath
his bushy brows.

"Harlot," he shrieked, "harlot!"

A cold gust of wind swept through the room. The windows shook, the doors flew
open, as if touched by a strong invisible hand — and the old man stood
alone, holding the flickering brand above his head.

It was after midnight, the wind had abated, but the snow still fell, thick and
silent, burying paths and fences under its cold white mantle. Onward she
fled — onward and ever onward. And whither, she knew not.  A cold numbness
had chilled her senses, but still her feet drove her irresistibly onward.  A
dark current seemed to have seized her, she only felt that she was adrift, and
she cared not whither it bore her. In spite of the stifling dullness which
oppressed her, her body seemed as light as air.  At last,— she knew not
where, — she heard the roar of the sea resounding in her ears, a genial
warmth thawed the numbness of her senses, and she floated joyfully among the
clouds — among golden, sun-bathed clouds.  When she opened her eyes, she
found herself lying in a comfortable bed, and a young woman with a kind
motherly face was sitting at her side.  It was all like a dream, and she made
no effort to account for what appeared so strange and unaccountable.

What she afterward heard was that a fisher- man had found her in a snow-drift
on the strand, and that he had carried her home to his cottage and had given
her over to the charge of his wife.  This was the second day since her arrival.
They knew who she was, but had kept the doors locked and had told no one that
she was there. She heard the story of the good woman without emotion; it seemed
an intolerable effort to think. But on the third day, when her child was born,
her mind was suddenly aroused from its lethargy, and she calmly matured her
plans; and for the child's sake she resolved to live and to act. That same
evening there came a little boy with a bundle for her.  She opened it and found
therein the clothes she had left behind, and— her brooches.  She knew
that it was her sister who had sent them; then there was one who still thought
of her with affection.  And yet her first impulse was to send it all back, or
to throw it into the ocean; but she looked at her child and forbore.

A week passed, and Brita recovered.  Of Halvard she had heard nothing.  One
night, as she lay in a half doze, she thought she had Seen a pale, frightened
face pressed up against the window-pane, and staring fixedly at her and her
child; but, after all, it might have been merely a dream.  For her fevered
fancy had in these last days frequently beguiled her into similar visions.  She
often thought of him, but, strangely enough, no more with bitterness, but with
pity.  Had he been strong enough to be wicked, she could have hated him, but he
was weak, and she pitied him.  Then it was that; one evening, as she heard that
the American vessel was to sail at daybreak, she took her little boy and
wrapped him carefully in her own clothes, bade farewell to the good fisherman
and his wife, and walked alone down to the strand.  Huge clouds of fantastic
shapes chased each other desperately along the horizon, and now and then the
slender new moon glanced forth from the deep blue gulfs between.  She chose a
boat at random and was about to unmoor it, when she saw the figure of a man
tread carefully over the stones and hesitatingly approach her.

"Brita," came in a whisper from the strand.

"Who's there?"

"It is I.  Father knows it all, and he has nearly killed me; and mother, too."

"Is that what you have come to tell me?"

"No, I would like to help you some.  I have been trying to see you these many
days."  And he stepped close up to the boat.

"Thank you; I need no help."

"But, Brita," implored he, "I have sold my gun and my dog, and everything I
had, and this is what I have got for it."  He stretched out his hand and
reached her a red handkerchief with something heavy bound up in a corner. She
took it mechanically, held it in her hand for a moment, then flung it far out
into the water. A smile of profound contempt and pity passed over her

"Farewell, Halvard," said she, calmly, and pushed the boat into the water.

"But, Brita," cried he, in despair, "what would you have me do?"

She lifted the child in her arms, then pointed to the vacant seat at her side. 
He understood what she meant, and stood for a moment wavering. Suddenly, he
covered his face with his hands and burst into tears.  Within half an hour,
Brita boarded the vessel, and as the first red stripe of the dawn illumined the
horizon, the wind filled the sails, and the ship glided westward toward that
land where there is a home for them whom love and misfortune have exiled.

It was a long and wearisome voyage.  There was an old English clergyman on
board, who collected curiosities; to him she sold her rings and brooches, and
thereby obtained more than sufficient money to pay her passage.  She hardly
spoke to any one except her child.  Those of her fellow-parishioners who knew
her, and perhaps guessed her history, kept aloof from her, and she was grateful
to them that they did. From morning till night, she sat in a corner between a
pile of deck freight and the kitchen skylight, and gazed at her little boy who
was lying in her lap.  All her hopes, her future, and her life were in him. 
For herself, she had ceased to hope.

"I can give thee no fatherland, my child," she said to him.  "Thou shalt never
know the name of him who gave thee life.  Thou and I, we shall struggle
together, and, as true as there is a God above, who sees us, He will not leave
either of us to perish.  But let us ask no questions, child, about that which
is past.  Thou shalt grow and be strong, and thy mother must grow with thee."

During the third week of the voyage, the English clergyman baptized the boy,
and she called him Thomas, after the day in the almanac on which he was born. 
He should never know that Norway had been his mother's home; therefore she
would give him no name which might betray his race.  One morning, early in the
month of June, they hailed land, and the great New World lay before them.


Why should I speak of the ceaseless care, the suffering, and the hard toil,
which made the first few months of Brita's life on this continent a mere
continued struggle for existence?  They are familiar to every emigrant who has
come here with a brave heart and an empty purse. Suffice it to say that at the
end of the second month, she succeeded in obtaining service as milkmaid with a
family in the neighborhood of New York.  With the linguistic talent peculiar to
her people, she soon learned the English language and even spoke it well.  From
her countrymen, she kept as far away as possible, not for her own sake, but for
that of her boy; for he was to grow great and strong, and the knowledge of his
birth might shatter his strength and break his courage.  For the same reason
she also exchanged her picturesque Norse costume for that of the people among
whom she was living.  She went commonly by the name of Mrs. Brita, which
pronounced in the English way, sounded very much like Mrs. Bright, and this at
last became the name by which she was known in the neighborhood.

Thus five years passed; then there was a great rage for emigrating to the far
West, and Brita, with many others, started for Chicago.  There she arrived in
the year 1852, and took up her lodgings with an Irish widow, who was living in
a little cottage in what was then termed the outskirts of the city.  Those who
saw her in those days, going about the lumber-yards and doing a man's work,
would hardly have recognized in her the merry Glitter-Brita, who in times of
old trod the spring-dance so gayly in the well-lighted halls of the Blakstad
mansion. And, indeed, she was sadly changed!  Her features had become sharper,
and the firm lines about her mouth expressed severity, almost sternness.  Her
clear blue eyes seemed to have grown larger, and their glance betrayed secret,
ever-watchful care.  Only her yellow hair had resisted the force of time and
sorrow; for it still fell in rich and wavy folds over a smooth white forehead. 
She was, indeed, half ashamed of it, and often took pains to force it into a
sober, matronly hood.  Only at nights, when she sat alone talking with her boy,
she would allow it to escape from its prison; and he would laugh and play with
it, and in his child's way even wonder at the contrast between her stern face
and her youthful maidenly tresses.

This Thomas, her son, was a strange child. He had a Norseman's taste for the
fabulous and fantastic, and although he never heard a tale of Necken or the
Hulder, he would often startle his mother by the most fanciful combinations of
imagined events, and by bolder personifications than ever sprung from the
legendary soil of the Norseland.  She always took care to check him whenever he
indulged in these imaginary flights, and he at last came to look upon them as
something wrong and sinful.  The boy, as he grew up, often strikingly reminded
her of her father, as, indeed, he seemed to have inherited more from her own
than from Halvard's race.  Only the bright flaxen hair and his square, somewhat
clumsy stature might have told him to be the latter's child.  He had a hot
temper, and often distressed his mother by his stubbornness; and then there
would come a great burst of repentance afterwards, which distressed her still
more.  For she was afraid it might be a sign of weakness.  "And strong he must
be," said she to herself, "strong enough to overcome all resistance, and to
conquer a great name for himself, strong enough to bless a mother who brought
him into the world nameless."

Strange to say, much as she loved this child, she seldom caressed him.  It was
a penance she had imposed upon herself to atone for her guilt. Only at times,
when she had been sitting up late, and her eyes would fall, as it were, by
accident upon the little face on the pillow, with the sweet unconsciousness of
sleep resting upon it like a soft, invisible veil, would she suddenly throw
herself down over him, kiss him, and whisper tender names in his ear, while her
tears fell hot and fast on his yellow hair and his rosy countenance.  Then the
child would dream that he was sailing aloft over shining forests, and that his
mother, beaming with all the beauty of her lost youth, flew before him,
showering golden flowers on his path.  These were the happiest moments of
Brita's joyless life, and even these were not unmixed with bitterness; for into
the midst of her joy would steal a shy anxious thought which was the more
terrible because it came so stealthily, so soft-footed and unbidden.  Had not
this child been given her as a punishment for her guilt?  Had she then a right
to turn God's scourge into a blessing? Did she give to God "that which
belongeth unto God," as long as all her hopes, her thoughts, and her whole
being revolved about this one earthly thing, her son, the child of her sorrow?
She was not a nature to shrink from grave questions; no, she met them boldly,
when once they were there, wrestled fiercely with them, was defeated, and again
with a martyr's zeal rose to renew the combat.  God had Himself sent her this
perplexing doubt and it was her duty to bear His burden.  Thus ran Brita's
reasoning. In the mean while the years slipped by, and great changes were
wrought in the world about her.

The few hundred dollars which Brita had been able to save, during the first
three years of her stay in Chicago, she had invested in a piece of land.  In
the mean while the city had grown, and in the year 1859 she was offered five
thousand dollars for her lot; this offer she accepted and again bought a small
piece of property at a short distance from the city.  The boy had since his
eighth year attended the public school, and had made astonishing progress. 
Every day when school was out, she would meet him at the gate, take him by the
hand and lead him home. If any of the other boys dared to make sport of her, or
to tease him for his dependence upon her, it was sure to cost that boy a black
eye{.} He soon succeeded in establishing himself in the respect of his
school-mates, for he was the strongest boy of his own age, and ever ready to
protect and defend the weak and defenseless. When Thomas Bright (for that was
the name by which he was known) was fifteen years old he was offered a position
as clerk in the office of a lumber-merchant, and with his mother's consent he
accepted it.  He was a fine young lad now, large and well-knit, and with a
clear earnest countenance.  In the evening he would bring home books to read,
and as it had always been Brita's habit to interest herself in whatever
interested him, she soon found herself studying and discussing with him things
which had in former years been far beyond the horizon of her mind.  She had at
his request reluctantly given up her work in the lumber-yards, and now spent
her days at home, busying herself with sewing and reading and such other things
as women find to fill up a vacant hour.

One evening, when Thomas was in his nineteenth year, he returned from his
office with a graver face than usual.  His mother's quick eye immediately saw
that something had agitated him, but she forbore to ask.

"Mother," said he at last, "who is my father? Is he dead or alive?"

"God is your father, my son," answered she, tremblingly.  "If you love me, ask
me no more."

"I do love you, mother," he said, and gave her a grave look, in which she
thought she detected a mingling of tenderness and reproach. "And it shall be as
you have said."

It was the first time she had had reason to blush before him, and her emotion
came near overwhelming her; but with a violent effort she stifled it, and
remained outwardly calm. He began pacing up and down the floor with his head
bent and his hands on his back.  It suddenly occurred to her that he was a
grown man, and that she could no longer hold the same relation to him as his
supporter and protector.  "Alas," thought she, "if God will but let me remain
his mother, I shall bless and thank Him."

It was the first time this subject had been broached, and it gave rise to many
a doubt and many a question in the anxious mother's mind. Had she been right in
concealing from him that which he might justly claim to know?  What had been
her motive in keeping him ignorant of his origin and of the land of his birth? 
She had wished him to grow to the strength of man- hood, unconscious of guilt,
so that he might bear his head upright, and look the world fearlessly in the
face.  And still, had there not in all this been a lurking thought of herself,
a fear of losing his love, a desire to stand pure and perfect in his eye?  She
hardly dared to answer these questions, for, alas, she knew not that even our
purest motives are but poorly able to bear a searching scrutiny.  She began to
suspect that her whole course with her son had been wrong from the very
beginning.  Why had she not told him the stern truth, even if he should despise
her for it, even if she should have to stand a blushing culprit in his
presence?  Often, when she heard his footsteps in the hall, as he returned from
the work of the day, she would man herself up and the words hovered upon her
lips: "Son, thou art a bastard born, a child of guilt, and thy mother is an
outcast upon the earth." But when she met those calm blue eyes of his, saw the
unsuspecting frankness of his manner and the hopefulness with which he looked
to the future, her womanly heart shrank from its duty, and she hastened out of
the room, threw herself on her bed, and wept.  Fiercely she wrestled with God
in prayer, until she thought that even God had deserted her.  Thus months
passed and years, and the constant care and anxiety began to affect her health.
 She grew pale and nervous, and the slightest noise would annoy her.  In the
mean while, her manner toward the young man had become strangely altered, and
he soon noticed it, although he forbore to speak.  She was scrupulously mindful
of his comfort, anxiously anticipated his wants, and observed toward him an
ever vigilant consideration, as if he had been her master instead of her son.

When Thomas was twenty-two years of age, he was offered a partnership in his
employer's business, and with every year his prospects brightened.  The sale of
his mother's property brought him a very handsome little fortune, which enabled
him to build a fine and comfortable house in one of the best portions of the
city.  Thus their outward circumstances were greatly improved, and of comfort
and luxury Brita had all and more than she had ever desired; but her health was
broken down, and the physicians declared that a year of foreign travel and a
continued residence in Italy might possibly restore her.  At last, Thomas, too,
began to urge her, until she finally yielded.  It was on a bright morning in
May that they both started for New York, and three days later they took the
boat for Europe.  What countries they were to visit they had hardly decided,
but after a brief stay in England we find them again on a steamer bound for


Warm and gentle as it is, June often comes to the fjord-valleys of Norway with
the voice and the strength of a giant.  The glaciers totter and groan, as if in
anger at their own weakness, and send huge avalanches of stones and ice down
into the valleys.  The rivers swell and rush with vociferous brawl out over the
mountain- sides, and a thousand tiny brooks join in the general clamor, and
dance with noisy chatter over the moss-grown birch-roots.  But later, when the
struggle is at an end, and June has victoriously seated herself upon her
throne, her voice becomes more richly subdued and brings rest and comfort to
the ear and to the troubled heart.  It was while the month was in this latter
mood that Brita and her son entered once more the valley whence, twenty-five
years ago, they had fled.  Many strange, turbulent emotions stirred the
mother's bosom, as she saw again the great snow-capped mountains, and the calm,
green valley, her childhood's home, lying so snugly sheltered in their mighty
embrace. Even Thomas's breast was moved with vaguely sympathetic throbs, as
this wondrous scene spread itself before him.  They soon succeeded in hiring a
farm-house, about half an hour's walk from Blakstad, and, according to Brita's
wish, established themselves there for the summer. She had known the people
well, when she was young, but they never thought of identifying her with the
merry maid, who had once startled the parish by her sudden flight; and she,
although she longed to open her heart to them, let no word fall to betray her
real character.  Her conscience accused her of playing a false part, but for
her son's sake she kept silent.

Then, one day, — it was the second Sunday after their arrival, — she
rose early in the morning, and asked Thomas to accompany her on a walk up
through the valley.  There was Sabbath in the air; the soft breath of summer,
laden with the perfume of fresh leaves and field-flowers, gently wafted into
their faces.  The sun glittered in the dewy grass, the crickets sung with a
remote voice of wonder, and the air seemed to be half visible, and moved in
trem- bling wavelets on the path before them.  Resting on her son's arm, Brita
walked slowly up through the flowering meadows; she hardly knew whither her
feet bore her, but her heart beat violently, and she often was obliged to pause
and press her hands against her bosom, as if to stay the turbulent emotions.

"You are not well, mother," said the son. "It was imprudent in me to allow you
to exert yourself in this way."

"Let us sit down on this stone," answered she.  "I shall soon be better.  Do
not look so anxiously at me.  Indeed, I am not sick."

He spread his light summer coat on the stone and carefully seated her.  She
lifted her veil and raised her eyes to the large red-roofed mansion, whose dark
outlines drew themselves dimly on the dusky background of the pine forest. Was
he still alive, he whose life-hope she had wrecked, he who had once driven her
out into the night with all but a curse upon his lips? How would he receive
her, if she were to return?  Ah, she knew him, and she trembled at the very
thought of meeting him.  But was not the guilt hers?  Could she depart from
this valley, could she die in peace, without having thrown herself at his feet
and implored his for- giveness?  And there, on the opposite side of the valley,
lay the home of him who had been the cause of all her misery.  What had been
his fate, and did he still remember those long happy summer days, ah! so long,
long ago? She had dared to ask no questions of the people with whom she lived,
but now a sudden weakness had overtaken her, and she felt that to-day must
decide her fate; she could no longer bear this torture of uncertainty.  Thomas
remained standing at her side and looked at her with anxiety and wonder.  He
knew that she had concealed many things from him, but whatever her reasons
might be, he was confident that they were just and weighty.  It was not for him
to question her about what he might have no right to know.  He felt as if he
had never loved her as in this moment, when she seemed to be most in need of
him, and an overwhelming tenderness took possession of his heart. He suddenly
stooped down, took her pale, thin face between his hands and kissed her.  The
long pent-up emotion burst forth in a flood of tears; she buried her face in
her lap and wept long and silently.  Then the church-bells began to peal down
in the valley, and the slow mighty sound floated calmly and solemnly up to
them. How many long-forgotten memories of childhood and youth did they not wake
in her bosom —memories of the time when the merry Glitter- Brita, decked
with her shining brooches, wended her way to the church among the gayly-dressed
lads and maidens of the parish?

A cluster of white-stemmed birches threw its shadow over the stone where the
penitent mother was sitting, and the tall grass on both sides of the path
nearly hid her from sight. Presently the church-folk began to appear, and Brita
raised her head and drew her veil down over her face.  No one passed without
greeting the strangers, and the women and maidens, according to old fashion,
stopped and courtesied.  At last, there came an old white-haired man, leaning
on the arm of a middle-aged woman.  His whole figure was bent forward, and he
often stopped and drew his breath heavily.

"Oh, yes, yes," he said, ill a hoarse, broken voice, as he passed before them,
"age is gaining on me fast.  I can't move about any more as of old.  But to
church I must this day.  God help me!  I have done much wrong and need to pray
for forgiveness."

"You had better sit down and rest, father," said the woman.  "Here is a stone,
and the fine lady, I am sure, will allow a weak old man to sit down beside

Thomas rose and made a sign to the old man to take his seat.

"O yes, yes," he went on murmuring, as if talking to himself.  "Much
wrong — much forgiveness.  God help us all — miserable sinners. He who
hateth not father and mother — and daughter is not worthy of me.  O,
yes — yes— God comfort us all.  Help me up, Grimhild.  I think I can
move on again, now."

Thomas, of course, did not understand a word of what he said, but seeing that
he wished to rise, he willingly offered his assistance, supported his arm and
raised him.

"Thanks to you, young man," said the peasant. "And may God reward your

And the two, father and daughter, moved on, slowly and laboriously, as they had
come. Thomas stood following them with his eyes, until a low, half-stifled moan
suddenly called him to his mother's side.  Her frame trembled violently.

"Mother, mother," implored he, stooping over her, "what has happened?  Why are
you no more yourself?"

"Ah, my son, I can bear it no longer," sobbed she.  "God forgive me — thou
must know it all."

He sat down at her side and drew her closely up to him and she hid her face on
his bosom. There was a long silence, only broken by the loud chirruping of the

"My son," she began at last, still hiding her face, "thou art a child of

"That has been no secret to me, mother," answered he, gravely and tenderly,
"since I was old enough to know what guilt was."

She quickly raised her head, and a look of amazement, of joyous surprise, shone
through the tears that veiled her eyes.  She could read nothing but filial love
and confidence in those grave, manly features, and she saw in that moment that
all her doubts had been groundless, that her long prayerful struggle had been
for naught.

"I brought thee into the world nameless," she whispered, "and thou hast no word
of reproach for me?"

"With God's help, I am strong enough to conquer a name for myself, mother," was
his answer.

It was the very words of her own secret wish, and upon his lips they sounded
like a blessed assurance, like a miraculous fulfillment of her motherly prayer.

"Still, another thing, my child," she went on in a more confident voice.  "This
is thy native land, — and the old man who was just sitting here at my side
was — my father."

And there, in the shadow of the birch-trees, in the summer stillness of that
hour, she told him the story of her love, of her flight, and of the misery of
these long, toilsome five and twenty years.

Late in the afternoon, Brita and her son were seen returning to the farm-house.
 A calm, subdued happiness beamed from the mother's countenance; she was again
at peace with the world and herself, and her heart was as light as in the days
of her early youth.  But her bodily strength had given out, and her limbs
almost refused to support her.  The strain upon her nerves and the constant
effort had hitherto enabled her to keep up, but now, when that strain was
removed, exhausted nature claimed its right.  The next day — she could not
leave her bed, and with every hour her strength failed.  A physician was sent
for.  He gave medicine, but no hope.  He shook his head gravely, as he went,
and both mother and son knew what that meant.

Toward evening, Bjarne Blakstad was summoned, and came at once.  Thomas left
the room, as the old man entered, and what passed in that hour between father
and daughter, only God knows.  When the door was again opened, Brita's eyes
shone with a strange brilliancy, and Bjarne lay on his knees before the bed,
pressing her hand convulsively between both of his.

"This is my son, father," said she, in a language which her son did not
understand; and a faint smile of motherly pride and happiness flitted over her
pale features.  "I would give him to thee in return for what thou hast lost;
but God has laid his future in another land."

Bjarne rose, grasped his grandson's hand, and pressed it; and two heavy tears
ran down his furrowed cheeks.  "Alas," murmured he, "my son, that we should
meet thus."

There they stood, bound together by the bonds of blood, but, alas, there lay a
world between them.

All night they sat together at the dying woman's bedside.  Not a word was
spoken. Toward morning, as the sun stole into the darkened chamber, Brita
murmured their names, and they laid their hands in hers.

"God be praised," whispered she, scarcely audibly, "I have found you
both — my father and my son."  A deep pallor spread over her countenance. 
She was dead.

Two days later, when the body was laid out, Thomas stood alone in the room. 
The windows were covered with white sheets, and a subdued light fell upon the
pale, lifeless countenance. Death had dealt gently with her, she seemed younger
than before, and her light wavy hair fell softly over the white forehead.  Then
there came a middle-aged man, with a dull eye, and a broad forehead, and
timidly approached the lonely mourner.  He walked on tip-toe and his figure
stooped heavily.  For a long while he stood gazing at the dead body, then he
knelt down at the foot of the coffin, and began to sob violently.  At last he
arose, took two steps toward the young man, paused again, and departed silently
as he had come.  It was Halvard.

Close under the wall of the little red-painted church, they dug the grave; and
a week later her father was laid to rest at his daughter's side.

But the fresh winds blew over the Atlantic and beckoned the son to new fields
of labor in the great land of the future.


RALPH GRIM was born a gentleman. He had the misfortune of coming into the world
some ten years later than might reasonably have been expected. Colonel Grim and
his lady had celebrated twelve anniversaries of their wedding-day, and had
given up all hopes of ever having a son and heir, when this late-comer startled
them by his unexpected appearance.  The only previous addition to the family
had been a daughter, and she was then ten summers old.

Ralph was a very feeble child, and could only with great difficulty be
persuaded to retain his hold of the slender thread which bound him to
existence.  He was rubbed with whisky, and wrapped in cotton, and given mare's
milk to drink, and God knows what not, and the Colonel swore a round oath of
paternal delight when at last the infant stopped gasping in that distressing
way and began to breathe like other human beings.  The mother, who, in spite of
her anxiety for the child's life, had found time to plot for him a career of
future magnificence, now suddenly set him apart for literature, because that
was the easiest road to fame, and disposed of him in marriage to one of the
most distinguished families of the land.  She cautiously suggested this to her
husband when he came to take his seat at her bedside; but to her utter
astonishment she found that he had been indulging a similar train of thought,
and had already destined the infant prodigy for the army.  She, however, could
not give up her predilection for literature, and the Colonel, who could not
bear to be contradicted in his own house, as he used to say, was getting every
minute louder and more flushed, when, happily, the doctor's arrival interrupted
the dispute.

As Ralph grew up from infancy to childhood, he began to give decided promise of
future distinction.  He was fond of sitting down in a corner and sucking his
thumb, which his mother interpreted as the sign of that brooding disposition
peculiar to poets and men of lofty genius. At the age of five, he had become
sole master in the house.  He slapped his sister Hilda in the face, or pulled
her hair, when she hesitated to obey him, tyrannized over his nurse, and
sternly refused to go to bed in spite of his mother's entreaties.  On such
occasions, the Colonel would hide his face behind his newspaper, and chuckle
with delight; it was evident that nature had intended his son for a great
military commander.  As soon as Ralph himself was old enough to have any
thoughts about his future destiny, he made up his mind that he would like to be
a pirate.  A few months later, having contracted an immoderate taste for candy,
he contented himself with the comparatively humble position of a baker; but
when he had read "Robinson Crusoe," he manifested a strong desire to go to sea
in the hope of being wrecked on some desolate island.  The parents spent long
evenings gravely discussing these indications of uncommon genius, and each
interpreted them in his or her own way.

"He is not like any other child I ever knew," said the mother.

"To be sure," responded the father, earnestly. "He is a most extraordinary
child.  I was a very remarkable child too, even if I do say it myself; but, as
far as I remember, I never aspired to being wrecked on an uninhabited is land."

The Colonel probably spoke the truth; but he forgot to take into account that
he had never read "Robinson Crusoe."

Of Ralph's school-days there is but little to report, for, to tell the truth,
he did not fancy going to school, as the discipline annoyed him. The day after
his having entered the gymnasium, which was to prepare him for the Military
Academy, the principal saw him waiting at the gate after his class had been
dismissed.  He approached him, and asked why he did not go home with the rest.

"I am waiting for the servant to carry my books," was the boy's answer.

"Give me your books," said the teacher.

Ralph reluctantly obeyed.  That day the Colonel was not a little surprised to
see his son marching up the street, and every now and then glancing behind him
with a look of discomfort at the principal, who was following quietly in his
train, carrying a parcel of school-books. Colonel Grim and his wife, divining
the teacher's intention, agreed that it was a great outrage, but they did not
mention the matter to Ralph. Henceforth, however, the boy refused to be
accompanied by his servant.  A week later he was impudent to the teacher of
gymnastics, who whipped him in return.  The Colonel's rage knew no bounds; he
rode in great haste to the gymnasium, reviled the teacher for presuming to
chastise HIS son, and committed the boy to the care of a private tutor.

At the age of sixteen, Ralph went to the capital with the intention of entering
the Military Academy.  He was a tall, handsome youth, slender of stature, and
carried himself as erect as a candle.  He had a light, clear complexion of
almost feminine delicacy; blonde, curly hair, which he always kept carefully
brushed; a low forehead, and a straight, finely modeled nose. There was an
expression of extreme sensitiveness about the nostrils, and a look of indolence
in the dark-blue eyes.  But the ensemble of his features was pleasing, his
dress irreproachable, and his manners bore no trace of the awkward
self-consciousness peculiar to his age.  Immediately on his arrival in the
capital he hired a suite of rooms in the aristocratic part of the city, and
furnished them rather expensively, but in excellent taste.  From a bosom
friend, whom he met by accident in the restaurant's pavilion in the park, he
learned that a pair of antlers, a stuffed eagle, or falcon, and a couple of
swords, were indispensable to a well-appointed apartment.  He accordingly
bought these articles at a curiosity-shop.  During the first weeks of his
residence in the city he made some feeble efforts to perfect himself in
mathematics, in which he suspected he was somewhat deficient. But when the same
officious friend laughed at him, and called him "green," he determined to trust
to fortune, and henceforth devoted himself the more assiduously to the French
ballet, where he had already made some interesting acquaintances.

The time for the examination came; the French ballet did not prove a good
preparation; Ralph failed.  It quite shook him for the time, and he felt
humiliated.  He had not the courage to tell his father; so he lingered on from
day to day, sat vacantly gazing out of his window, and tried vainly to interest
himself in the busy bustle down on the street.  It provoked him that everybody
else should be so light- hearted, when he was, or at least fancied himself, in
trouble.  The parlor grew intolerable; he sought refuge in his bedroom.  There
he sat one evening (it was the third day after the examination), and stared out
upon the gray stone walls which on all sides enclosed the narrow court-yard. 
The round stupid face of the moon stood tranquilly dozing like a great
Limburger cheese suspended under the sky.

Ralph, at least, could think of a no more fitting simile.  But the bright-eyed
young girl in the window hard by sent a longing look up to the same moon, and
thought of her distant home on the fjords, where the glaciers stood like hoary
giants, and caught the yellow moonbeams on their glittering shields of snow. 
She had been reading "Ivanhoe" all the afternoon, until the twilight had
overtaken her quite unaware, and now she suddenly remembered that she had
forgotten to write her German exercise. She lifted her face and saw a pair of
sad, vacant eyes, gazing at her from the next window in the angle of the court.
 She was a little startled at first, but in the next moment she thought of her
German exercise and took heart.

"Do you know German?" she said; then immediately repented that she had said it.

"I do," was the answer.

She took up her apron and began to twist it with an air of embarrassment.

"I didn't mean anything," she whispered, at last. "I only wanted to know."

"You are very kind."

That answer roused her; he was evidently making sport of her.

"Well, then, if you do, you may write my exercise for me.  I have marked the
place in the book."

And she flung her book over to his window, and he caught it on the edge of the
sill, just as it was falling.

"You are a very strange girl," he remarked, turning over the leaves of the
book, although it was too dark to read.  "How old are you?"

"I shall be fourteen six weeks before Christmas," answered she, frankly.

"Then I excuse you."

"No, indeed," cried she, vehemently.  "You needn't excuse me at all.  If you
don't want to write my exercise, you may send the book back again.  I am very
sorry I spoke to you, and I shall never do it again."

"But you will not get the book back again without the exercise," replied he,
quietly. "Good-night."

The girl stood long looking after him, hoping that he would return.  Then, with
a great burst of repentance, she hid her face in her lap, and began to cry.

"Oh, dear, I didn't mean to be rude," she sobbed.  "But it was Ivanhoe and
Rebecca who upset me."

The next morning she was up before daylight, and waited for two long hours in
great suspense before the curtain of his window was raised.  He greeted her
politely; threw a hasty glance around the court to see if he was observed, and
then tossed her book dexterously over into her hands.

"I have pinned the written exercise to the fly- leaf," he said.  "You will
probably have time to copy it before breakfast."

"I am ever so much obliged to you," she managed to stammer.

He looked so tall and handsome, and grown- up, and her remorse stuck in her
throat, and threatened to choke her.  She had taken him for a boy as he sat
there in his window the evening before.

"By the way, what is your name?" he asked, carelessly, as he turned to go.


"Well, my dear Bertha, I am happy to have made your acquaintance."

And he again made her a polite bow, and entered his parlor.

"How provokingly familiar he is," thought she; "but no one can deny that he is

The bright roguish face of the young girl haunted Ralph during the whole next
week. He had been in love at least ten times before, of course; but, like most
boys, with young ladies far older than himself.  He found himself frequently
glancing over to her window in the hope of catching another glimpse of her
face; but the curtain was always drawn down, and Bertha remained invisible. 
During the second week, however, she relented, and they had many a pleasant
chat together.  He now volunteered to write all her exercises, and she made no
objections.  He learned that she was the daughter of a well-to-do peasant in
the sea-districts of Norway (and it gave him quite a shock to hear it), and
that she was going to school in the city, and boarded with an old lady who kept
a pension in the house adjoining the one in which he lived.

One day in the autumn Ralph was surprised by the sudden arrival of his father,
and the fact of his failure in the examination could no longer be kept a
secret.  The old Colonel flared up at once when Ralph made his confession; the
large veins upon his forehead swelled; he grew coppery- red in his face, and
stormed up and down the floor, until his son became seriously alarmed; but, to
his great relief, he was soon made aware

that his father's wrath was not turned against him personally, but against the
officials of the Military Academy who had rejected him.  The Colonel took it as
an insult to his own good name and irreproachable standing as an officer; he
promptly refused any other explanation, and vainly racked his brain to remember
if any youthful folly of his could possibly have made him enemies among the
teachers of the Academy. He at last felt satisfied that it was envy of his own
greatness and rapid advancement which had induced the rascals to take vengeance
on his son.  Ralph reluctantly followed his father back to the country town
where the latter was stationed, and the fair-haired Bertha vanished from his
horizon.  His mother's wish now prevailed, and he began, in his own easy way,
to prepare himself for the University.  He had little taste for Cicero, and
still less for Virgil, but with the use of a "pony" he soon gained sufficient
knowledge of these authors to be able to talk in a sort of patronizing way
about them, to the great delight of his fond parents.  He took quite a fancy,
however, to the ode in Horace ending with the lines:

 Dulce ridentem,
 Dulce loquentem,
 Lalagen amabo.

And in his thought he substituted for Lalage the fair-haired Bertha, quite
regardless of the requirements of the metre.

To make a long story short, three years later Ralph returned to the capital,
and, after having worn out several tutors, actually succeeded in entering the

The first year of college life is a happy time to every young man, and Ralph
enjoyed its processions, its parliamentary gatherings, and its leisure, as well
as the rest.  He was certainly not the man to be sentimental over the loss of a
young girl whom, moreover, he had only known for a few weeks.  Nevertheless, he
thought of her at odd times, but not enough to disturb his pleasure.  The
standing of his family, his own handsome appearance, and his immaculate linen
opened to him the best houses of the city, and he became a great favorite in
society.  At lectures he was seldom seen, but more frequently in the theatres,
where he used to come in during the middle of the first act, take his station
in front of the orchestra box, and eye, through his lorgnettes, by turns, the
actresses and the ladies of the parquet.


Two months passed, and then came the great annual ball which the students give
at the opening of the second semester.  Ralph was a man of importance that
evening; first, because he belonged to a great family; secondly, because he was
the handsomest man of his year.  He wore a large golden star on his breast (for
his fellow- students had made him a Knight of the Golden Boar), and a badge of
colored ribbons in his button-hole.

The ball was a brilliant affair, and everybody was in excellent spirits,
especially the ladies. Ralph danced incessantly, twirled his soft mustache, and
uttered amiable platitudes.  It was toward midnight, just as the company was
moving out to supper, that he caught the glance of a pair of dark-blue eyes,
which suddenly drove the blood to his cheeks and hastened the beating of his
heart.  But when he looked once more the dark-blue eyes were gone, and his
unruly heart went on hammering against his side. He laid his hand on his breast
and glanced furtively at his fair neighbor, but she looked happy and
unconcerned, for the flavor of the ice-cream was delicious.  It seemed an
endless meal, but, when it was done, Ralph rose, led his partner back to the
ball-room, and hastily excused himself.  His glance wandered round the wide
hall, seeking the well-remembered eyes once more, and, at length, finding them
in a remote corner, half hid behind a moving wall of promenaders. In another
moment he was at Bertha's side.

"You must have been purposely hiding yourself, Miss Bertha," said he, when the
usual greetings were exchanged.  "I have not caught a glimpse of you all this
evening, until a few moments ago."

"But I have seen you all the while," answered the girl, frankly.  "I knew you
at once as I entered the hall."

"If I had but known that you were here," resumed Ralph, as it were, invisibly
expanding with an agreeable sense of dignity, "I assure you, you would have
been the very first one I should have sought."

She raised her large grave eyes to his, as if questioning his sincerity; but
she made no answer.

"Good gracious!" thought Ralph.  "She takes things terribly in earnest."

"You look so serious, Miss Bertha," said he, after a moment's pause.  "I
remember you as a bright-eyed, flaxen-haired little girl, who threw her German
exercise-book to me across the yard, and whose merry laughter still rings
pleasantly in my memory.  I confess I don't find it quite easy to identify this
grave young lady with my merry friend of three years ago."

"In other words, you are disappointed at not finding me the same as I used to

"No, not exactly that; but — "

Ralph paused and looked puzzled.  There was something in the earnestness of her
manner which made a facetious compliment seem grossly inappropriate, and in the
moment no other escape suggested itself.

"But what?" demanded Bertha, mercilessly.

"Have you ever lost an old friend?" asked he, abruptly.

"Yes; how so?"

"Then," answered he, while his features lighted up with a happy
inspiration — "then you will appreciate my situation.  I fondly cherished
my old picture of you in my memory.  Now I have lost it, and I cannot help
regretting the loss.  I do not mean, however, to imply that this new
acquaintance — this second edition of yourself, so to speak — will
prove less interesting."

She again sent him a grave, questioning look, and began to gaze intently upon
the stone in her bracelet.

"I suppose you will laugh at me," began she, while a sudden blush flitted over
her countenance. "But this is my first ball, and I feel as if I had rushed into
a whirlpool, from which I have, since the first rash plunge was made, been
vainly trying to escape.  I feel so dreadfully forlorn.  I hardly know anybody
here except my cousin, who invited me, and I hardly think I know him either."

"Well, since you are irredeemably committed," replied Ralph, as the music,
after some prefatory flourishes, broke into the delicious rhythm of a Strauss
waltz, "then it is no use struggling against fate.  Come, let us make the
plunge together.  Misery loves company."

He offered her his arm, and she arose, somewhat hesitatingly, and followed.

"I am afraid," she whispered, as they fell into line with the procession that
was moving down the long hall, "that you have asked me to dance merely because
I said I felt forlorn.  If that is the case, I should prefer to be led back to
my seat."

"What a base imputation!" cried Ralph.

There was something so charmingly naïive in this
self-depreciation — something so altogether novel in his experience, and,
he could not help adding, just a little bit countrified.  His spirits rose; he
began to relish keenly his position as an experienced man of the world, and, in
the agreeable glow of patronage and conscious superiority, chatted with hearty
ABANDON with his little rustic beauty.

"If your dancing is as perfect as your German exercises were," said she,
laughing, as they swung out upon the floor, "then I promise myself a good deal
of pleasure from our meeting."

"Never fear," answered he, quickly reversing his step, and whirling with many a
capricious turn away among the thronging couples.

When Ralph drove home in his carriage toward morning he briefly summed up his
impressions of Bertha in the following adjectives: intelligent, delightfully
unsophisticated, a little bit verdant, but devilish pretty.

Some weeks later Colonel Grim received an appointment at the fortress of
Aggershuus, and immediately took up his residence in the capital. He saw that
his son cut a fine figure in the highest circles of society, and expressed his
gratification in the most emphatic terms.  If he had known, however, that Ralph
was in the habit of visiting, with alarming regularity, at the house of a
plebeian merchant in a somewhat obscure street, he would, no doubt, have been
more chary of his praise.  But the Colonel suspected nothing, and it was well
for the peace of the family that he did not.  It may have been cowardice in
Ralph that he never mentioned Bertha's name to his family or to his
aristocratic acquaintances; for, to be candid, he himself felt ashamed of the
power she exerted over him, and by turns pitied and ridiculed himself for
pursuing so inglorious a conquest.  Nevertheless it wounded his egotism that
she never showed any surprise at seeing him, that she received him with a
certain frank unceremoniousness, which, however, was very becoming to her; that
she invariably went on with her work heedless of his presence, and in
everything treated him as if she had been his equal.  She persisted in talking
with him in a half sisterly fashion about his studies and his future career,
warned him with great solicitude against some of his reprobate friends, of
whose merry adventures he had told her; and if he ventured to compliment her on
her beauty or her accomplishments, she would look up gravely from her sewing,
or answer him in a way which seemed to banish the idea of love-making into the
land of the impossible.  He was constantly tormented by the suspicion that she
secretly disapproved of him, and that from a mere moral interest in his welfare
she was conscientiously laboring to make him a better man.  Day after day he
parted from her feeling humiliated, faint-hearted, and secretly indignant both
at himself and her, and day after day he returned only to renew the same
experience.  At last it became too intolerable, he could endure it no longer. 
Let it make or break, certainty, at all risks, was at least preferable to this
sickening suspense.  That he loved her, he could no longer doubt; let his
parents foam and fret as much as they pleased; for once he was going to stand
on his own legs. And in the end, he thought, they would have to yield, for they
had no son but him.

Bertha was going to return to her home on the sea-coast in a week.  Ralph stood
in the little low-ceiled parlor, as she imagined, to bid her good-bye.  They
had been speaking of her father, her brothers, and the farm, and she had
expressed the wish that if he ever should come to that part of the country he
might pay them a visit.  Her words had kindled a vague hope in his breast, but
in their very frankness and friendly regard there was something which slew the
hope they had begotten.  He held her hand in his, and her large confiding eyes
shone with an emotion which was beautiful, but was yet not love.

"If you were but a peasant born like myself," said she, in a voice which
sounded almost tender, "then I should like to talk to you as I would to my own
brother; but — "

"No, not brother, Bertha," cried he, with sudden vehemence; "I love you better
than I ever loved any earthly being, and if you knew how firmly this love has
clutched at the roots of my heart, you would perhaps — you would at least
not look so reproachfully at me."

She dropped his hand, and stood for a moment silent.

"I am sorry that it should have come to this, Mr. Grim," said she, visibly
struggling for calmness.  "And I am perhaps more to blame than you."

"Blame," muttered he, "why are you to blame?"

"Because I do not love you; although I sometimes feared that this might come. 
But then again I persuaded myself that it could not be so."

He took a step toward the door, laid his hand on the knob, and gazed down
before him.

"Bertha," began he, slowly, raising his head, "you have always disapproved of
me, you have despised me in your heart, but you thought you would be doing a
good work if you succeeded in making a man of me."

"You use strong language," answered she, hesitatingly; "but there is truth in
what you say."

Again there was a long pause, in which the ticking of the old parlor clock grew
louder and louder.

"Then," he broke out at last, "tell me before we part if I can do nothing to
gain — I will not say your love — but only your regard?  What would you
do if you were in my place?"

"My advice you will hardly heed, and I do not even know that it would be well
if you did. But if I were a man in your position, I should break with my whole
past, start out into the world where nobody knew me, and where I should be
dependent only upon my own strength, and there I would conquer a place for
myself, if it were only for the satisfaction of knowing that I was really a
man.  Here cushions are sewed under your arms, a hundred invisible threads bind
you to a life of idleness and vanity, everybody is ready to carry you on his
hands, the road is smoothed for you, every stone carefully moved out of your
path, and you will probably go to your grave without having ever harbored one
earnest thought, without having done one manly deed."

Ralph stood transfixed, gazing at her with open mouth; he felt a kind of stupid
fright, as if some one had suddenly seized him by the shoulders and shaken him
violently.  He tried vainly to remove his eyes from Bertha.  She held him as by
a powerful spell.  He saw that her face was lighted with an altogether new
beauty; he noticed the deep glow upon her cheek, the brilliancy of her eye, the
slight quiver of her lip.  But he saw all this as one sees things in a
half-trance, without attempting to account for them; the door between his soul
and his senses was closed.

"I know that I have been bold in speaking to you in this way," she said at
last, seating herself in a chair at the window.  "But it was yourself who asked
me.  And I have felt all the time that I should have to tell you this before we

"And," answered he, making a strong effort to appear calm, "if I follow your
advice, will you allow me to see you once more before you go?"

"I shall remain here another week, and shall, during that time, always be ready
to receive you."

"Thank you.  Good-bye."


Ralph carefully avoided all the fashionable thoroughfares; he felt degraded
before himself, and he had an idea that every man could read his humiliation in
his countenance.  Now he walked on quickly, striking the sidewalk with his
heels; now, again, he fell into an uneasy, reckless saunter, according as the
changing moods inspired defiance of his sentence, or a qualified surrender. 
And, as he walked on, the bitterness grew within him, and he pitilessly reviled
himself for having allowed himself to be made a fool of by "that little country
goose," when he was well aware that there were hundreds of women of the best
families of the land who would feel honored at receiving his attentions. But
this sort of reasoning he knew to he both weak and contemptible, and his better
self soon rose in loud rebellion.

"After all," he muttered, "in the main thing she was right.  I am a miserable
good-for- nothing, a hot-house plant, a poor stick, and if I were a woman
myself, I don't think I should waste my affections on a man of that calibre."

Then he unconsciously fell to analyzing Bertha's character, wondering vaguely
that a person who moved so timidly in social life, appearing so diffident, from
an ever-present fear of blundering against the established forms of etiquette,
could judge so quickly, and with such a merciless certainty, whenever a moral
question, a question of right and wrong, was at issue. And, pursuing the same
train of thought, he contrasted her with himself, who moved in the highest
spheres of society as in his native element, heedless of moral scruples, and
conscious of no loftier motive for his actions than the immediate pleasure of
the moment.

As Ralph turned the corner of a street, he heard himself hailed from the other
sidewalk by a chorus of merry voices.

"Ah, my dear Baroness," cried a young man, springing across the street and
grasping Ralph's hand (all his student friends called him the Baroness), "in
the name of this illustrious company, allow me to salute you.  But why the
deuce — what is the matter with you?  If you have the Katzenjammer,[7]
soda-water is the thing.  Come along, — it's my treat!"

[7] Katzenjammer is the sensation a man has the morning after a carousal.

The students instantly thronged around Ralph, who stood distractedly swinging
his cane and smiling idiotically.

"I am not quite well," said he; "leave me alone."

"No, to be sure, you don't look well," cried a jolly youth, against whom Bertha
had frequently warned him; "but a glass of sherry will soon restore you.  It
would be highly immoral to leave you in this condition without taking care of

Ralph again vainly tried to remonstrate; but the end was, that he reluctantly

He had always been a conspicuous figure in the student world; but that night he
astonished his friends by his eloquence, his reckless humor, and his capacity
for drinking.  He made a speech for "Woman," which bristled with wit, cynicism,
and sarcastic epigrams.  One young man, named Vinter, who was engaged,
undertook to protest against his sweeping condemnation, and declared that
Ralph, who was a Universal favorite among the ladies, ought to be the last to
revile them.

"If," he went on, "the Baroness should propose to six well-known ladies here in
this city whom I could mention, I would wager six Johannisbergers, and an equal
amount of champagne, that every one of them would accept him."

The others loudly applauded this proposal, and Ralph accepted the wager.  The
letters were written on the spot, and immediately dispatched. Toward morning,
the merry carousal broke up, and Ralph was conducted in triumph to his home.


Two days later, Ralph again knocked on Bertha's door.  He looked paler than
usual, almost haggard; his immaculate linen was a little crumpled, and he
carried no cane; his lips were tightly compressed, and his face wore an air of
desperate resolution.

"It is done," he said, as he seated himself opposite her.  "I am going."

"Going!" cried she, startled at his unusual appearance.  "How, where?"

"To America.  I sail to-night.  I have followed your advice, you see.  I have
cut off the last bridge behind me."

"But, Ralph," she exclaimed, in a voice of alarm.  "Something dreadful must
have happened. Tell me quick; I must know it."

"No; nothing dreadful," muttered he, smiling bitterly.  "I have made a little
scandal, that is all.  My father told me to-day to go to the devil, if I chose,
and my mother gave me five hundred dollars to help me along on the way. If you
wish to know, here is the explanation."

And he pulled from his pocket six perfumed and carefully folded notes, and
threw them into her lap.

"Do you wish me to read them?" she asked, with growing surprise.

"Certainly.  Why not?"

She hastily opened one note after the other, and read.

"But, Ralph," she cried, springing up from her seat, while her eyes flamed with
indignation, "what does this mean?  What have you done?"

"I didn't think it needed any explanation," replied he, with feigned
indifference.  "I proposed to them all, and, you see, they all accepted me.  I
received all these letters to-day. I only wished to know whether the whole
world regarded me as such a worthless scamp as you told me I was."

She did not answer, but sat mutely staring at him, fiercely crumpling a
rose-colored note in her hand.  He began to feel uncomfortable under her gaze,
and threw himself about uneasily in his chair.

"Well," said he, at length, rising, "I suppose there is nothing more. 

"One moment, Mr. Grim," demanded she, sternly.  "Since I have already said so
much, and you have obligingly revealed to me a new side of your character, I
claim the right to correct the opinion I expressed of you at our last meeting."

"I am all attention."

"I did think, Mr. Grim," began she, breathing hard, and steadying herself
against the table at which she stood, "that you were a very selfish
man — an embodiment of selfishness, absolute and supreme, but I did not
believe that you were wicked."

"And what convinced you that I was selfish, if I may ask?"

"What convinced me?" repeated she, in a tone of inexpressible contempt.  "When
did you ever act from any generous regard for others?  What good did you ever
do to anybody?"

"You might ask, with equal justice, what good I ever did to myself."

"In a certain sense, yes; because to gratify a mere momentary wish is hardly
doing one's self good."

"Then I have, at all events, followed the Biblical precept, and treated my
neighbor very much as I treat myself."

"I did think," continued Bertha, without heeding the remark, "that you were at
bottom kind-hearted, but too hopelessly well-bred ever to commit an act of any
decided complexion, either good or bad.  Now I see that I have misjudged you,
and that you are capable of outraging the most sacred feelings of a woman's
heart in mere wantonness, or for the sake of satisfying a base curiosity, which
never could have entered the mind of an upright and generous man."

The hard, benumbed look in Ralph's face thawed in the warmth of her presence,
and her words, though stern, touched a secret spring in his heart.  He made two
or three vain attempts to speak, then suddenly broke down, and cried:

"Bertha, Bertha, even if you scorn me, have patience with me, and listen."

And he told her, in rapid, broken sentences, how his love for her had grown
from day to day, until he could no longer master it; and how, in an unguarded
moment, when his pride rose in fierce conflict against his love, he had done
this reckless deed of which he was now heartily ashamed.  The fervor of his
words touched her, for she felt that they were sincere. Large mute tears
trembled in her eyelashes as she sat gazing tenderly at him, and in the depth
of her soul the wish awoke that she might have been able to return this great
and strong love of his; for she felt that in this love lay the germ of a new,
of a stronger and better man.  She noticed, with a half-regretful pleasure, his
handsome figure, his delicately shaped hands, and the noble cast of his
features; an overwhelming pity for him rose within her, and she began to
reproach herself for having spoken so harshly, and, as she now thought, so
unjustly.  Perhaps he read in her eyes the unspoken wish.  He seized her hand,
and his words fell with a warm and alluring cadence upon her ear.

"I shall not see you for a long time to come, Bertha," said he, "but if, at the
end of five or six years your hand is still free, and I return another
man — a man to whom you could safely intrust your happiness — would you
then listen to what I may have to say to you?  For I promise, by all that we
both hold sacred — "

"No, no," interrupted she, hastily.  "Promise nothing.  It would be unjust
to — yourself, and perhaps also to me; for a sacred promise is a terrible
thing, Ralph.  Let us both remain free; and, if you return and still love me,
then come, and I shall receive you and listen to you.  And even if you have
outgrown your love, which is, indeed, more probable, come still to visit me
wherever I may be, and we shall meet as friends and rejoice in the meeting."

"You know best," he murmured.  "Let it be as you have said."

He arose, took her face between his hands, gazed long and tenderly into her
eyes, pressed a kiss upon her forehead, and hastened away.

That night Ralph boarded the steamer for Hull, and three weeks later landed in
New York.


The first three months of Ralph's sojourn in America were spent in vain
attempts to obtain a situation.  Day after day he walked down Broadway, calling
at various places of business and night after night he returned to his cheer-
less room with a faint heart and declining spirits. It was, after all, a more
serious thing than he had imagined, to cut the cable which binds one to the
land of one's birth.  There a hundred subtile influences, the existence of
which no one suspects until the moment they are withdrawn, unite to keep one in
the straight path of rectitude, or at least of external respectability; and
Ralph's life had been all in society; the opinion of his fellow-men had been
the one force to which he implicitly deferred, and the conscience by which he
had been wont to test his actions had been nothing but the aggregate judgment
of his friends.  To such a man the isolation and the utter irresponsibility of
a life among strangers was tenfold more dangerous; and Ralph found, to his
horror, that his character contained innumerable latent possibilities which the
easy- going life in his home probably never would have revealed to him.  It
often cut him to the quick, when, on entering an office in his daily search for
employment, he was met by hostile or suspicious glances, or when, as it
occasionally happened, the door was slammed in his face, as if he were a
vagabond or an impostor.  Then the wolf was often roused within him, and he
felt a momentary wild desire to become what the people here evidently believed
him to be. Many a night he sauntered irresolutely about the gambling places in
obscure streets, and the glare of light, the rude shouts and clamors in the
same moment repelled and attracted him. If he went to the devil, who would
care?  His father had himself pointed out the way to him; and nobody could
blame him if he followed the advice.  But then again a memory emerged from that
chamber of his soul which still he held sacred; and Bertha's deep-blue eyes
gazed upon him with their earnest look of tender warning and regret.

When the summer was half gone, Ralph had gained many a hard victory over
himself, and learned many a useful lesson; and at length he swallowed his
pride, divested himself of his fine clothes, and accepted a position as
assistant gardener at a villa on the Hudson.  And as he stood perspiring with a
spade in his hand, and a cheap broad-brimmed straw hat on his head, he often
took a grim pleasure in picturing to himself how his aristocratic friends at
home would receive him, if he should introduce himself to them in this new

"After all, it was only my position they cared for," he reflected, bitterly;
"without my father's name what would I be to them?"

Then, again, there was a certain satisfaction in knowing that, for his present
situation, humble as it was, he was indebted to nobody but himself; and the
thought that Bertha's eyes, if they could have seen him now would have dwelt
upon him with pleasure and approbation, went far to console him for his aching
back, his sunburned face, and his swollen and blistered hands.

One day, as Ralph was raking the gravel- walks in the garden, his employer's
daughter, a young lady of seventeen, came out and spoke to him.  His culture
and refinement of manner struck her with wonder, and she asked him to tell her
his history; but then he suddenly grew very grave, and she forbore pressing
him.  From that time she attached a kind of romantic interest to him, and
finally induced her father to obtain him a situation that would be more to his
taste.  And, before winter came, Ralph saw the dawn of a new future glimmering
before him. He had wrestled bravely with fate, and had once more gained a
victory.  He began the career in which success and distinction awaited him, as
proof-reader on a newspaper in the city. He had fortunately been familiar with
the English language before he left home, and by the strength of his will he
conquered all difficulties. At the end of two years he became attached to the
editorial staff; new ambitious hopes, hitherto foreign to his mind, awoke
within him; and with joyous tumult of heart he saw life opening its wide vistas
before him, and he labored on manfully to repair the losses of the past, and to
prepare himself for greater usefulness in times to come.  He felt in himself a
stronger and fuller manhood, as if the great arteries of the vast universal
world-life pulsed in his own being.  The drowsy, indolent existence at home
appeared like a dull remote dream from which he had awaked, and he blessed the
destiny which, by its very sternness, had mercifully saved him; he blessed her,
too, who, from the very want of love for him, had, perhaps, made him worthier
of love.

The years flew rapidly.  Society had flung its doors open to him, and what was
more, he had found some warm friends, in whose houses he could come and go at
pleasure.  He enjoyed keenly the privilege of daily association with
high-minded and refined women; their eager activity of intellect stimulated
him, their exquisite ethereal grace and their delicately chiseled beauty
satisfied his aesthetic cravings, and the responsive vivacity of their nature
prepared him ever new surprises.  He felt a strange fascination in the presence
of these women, and the conviction grew upon him that their type of womanhood
was superior to any he had hitherto known.  And by way of refuting his own
argument, he would draw from his pocket-book the photograph of Bertha, which
had a secret compartment there all to itself, and, gazing tenderly at it, would
eagerly defend her against the disparaging reflections which the involuntary
comparison had provoked.  And still, how could he help seeing that her
features, though well molded, lacked animation; that her eye, with its deep,
trustful glance, was not brilliant, and that the calm earnestness of her face,
when compared with the bright, intellectual beauty of his present friends,
appeared pale and simple, like a violet in a bouquet of vividly colored roses?
It gave him a quick pang, when, at times, he was forced to admit this;
nevertheless, it was the truth.

After six years of residence in America, Ralph had gained a very high
reputation as a journalist of rare culture and ability, and, in 1867 he was
sent to the World's Exhibition in Paris, as correspondent of the paper on which
he had during all these years been employed. What wonder, then, that he started
for Europe a few weeks before his presence was needed in the imperial city, and
that he steered his course directly toward the fjord valley where Bertha had
her home?  It was she who had bidden him Godspeed when he fled from the land of
his birth, and she, too, should receive his first greeting on his return.


The sun had fortified itself behind a citadel of flaming clouds, and the upper
forest region shone with a strange ethereal glow, while the lower plains were
wrapped in shadow; but the shadow itself had a strong suffusion of color. The
mountain peaks rose cold and blue in the distance.

Ralph, having inquired his way of the boatman who had landed him at the pier,
walked rapidly along the beach, with a small valise in his hand, and a light
summer overcoat flung over his shoulder.  Many half-thoughts grazed his mind,
and ere the first had taken shape, the second, and the third came and chased it
away. And still they all in some fashion had reference to Bertha; for in a
misty, abstract way, she filled his whole mind; but for some indefinable
reason, he was afraid to give free rein to the sentiment which lurked in the
remoter corners of his soul.

Onward he hastened, while his heart throbbed with the quickening tempo of
mingled expectation and fear.  Now and then one of those chill gusts of air
which seem to be careering about aimlessly in the atmosphere during early
summer, would strike into his face, and recall him to a keener

Ralph concluded, from his increasing agitation, that he must be very near
Bertha's home. He stopped and looked around him.  He saw a large maple at the
roadside, some thirty steps from where he was standing, and the girl who was
sitting under it, resting her head in her hand and gazing out over the sea, he
recognized in an instant to be Bertha.  He sprang up on the road, not crossing,
however, her line of vision, and approached her noiselessly from behind.

"Bertha," he whispered.

She gave a little joyous cry, sprang up, and made a gesture as if to throw
herself in his arms; then suddenly checked herself, blushed crimson, and moved
a step backward.

"You came so suddenly," she murmured.

"But, Bertha," cried he (and the full bass of his voice rang through her very
soul), "have I gone into exile and waited these many years for so cold a

"You have changed so much, Ralph," she answered, with that old grave smile
which he knew so well, and stretched out both her hands toward him.  "And I
have thought of you so much since you went away, and blamed myself because I
had judged you so harshly, and wondered that you could listen to me so
patiently, and never bear me any malice for what I said."

"If you had said a word less," declared Ralph, seating himself at her side on
the greensward, "or if you had varnished it over with politeness, then you
would probably have failed to produce any effect and I should not have been
burdened with that heavy debt of gratitude which I now owe you.  I was a pretty
thick-skinned animal in those days, Bertha.  You said the right word at the
right moment; you gave me a hold and a good piece of advice, which my own
ingenuity would never have suggested to me.  I will not thank you, because, in
so grave a case as this, spoken thanks sound like a mere mockery.  Whatever I
am, Bertha, and whatever I may hope to be, I owe it all to that hour."

She listened with rapture to the manly assurance of his voice; her eyes dwelt
with unspeakable joy upon his strong, bronzed features, his full thick blonde
beard, and the vigorous proportions of his frame.  Many and many a time during
his absence had she wondered how he would look if he ever came back, and with
that minute conscientiousness which, as it were, pervaded her whole character,
she had held herself responsible before God for his fate, prayed for him, and
trembled lest evil powers should gain the ascendency over his soul.

On their way to the house they talked together of many things, but in a
guarded, cautious fashion, and without the cheerful abandonment of former
years.  They both, as it were, groped their way carefully in each other's
minds, and each vaguely felt that there was something in the other's thought
which it was not well to touch unbidden.  Bertha saw that all her fears for him
had been groundless, and his very appearance lifted the whole weight of
responsibility from her breast; and still, did she rejoice at her deliverance
from her burden?  Ah, no, in this moment she knew that that which she had
foolishly cherished as the best and noblest part of herself, had been but a
selfish need of her own heart.  She feared that she had only taken that
interest in him which one feels in a thing of one's own making; and now, when
she saw that he had risen quite above her; that he was free and strong, and
could have no more need of her, she had, instead of generous pleasure at his
success, but a painful sense of emptiness, as if something very dear had been
taken from her.

Ralph, too, was loath to analyze the impression his old love made upon him. 
His feelings were of so complex a nature, he was anxious to keep his more
magnanimous impulses active, and he strove hard to convince himself that she
was still the same to him as she had been before they had ever parted.  But,
alas! though the heart be warm and generous, the eye is a merciless critic. 
And the man who had moved on the wide arena of the world, whose mind had housed
the large thoughts of this century, and expanded with its invigorating
breath, — was he to blame because he had unconsciously outgrown his old
provincial self, and could no more judge by its standards?

Bertha's father was a peasant, but he had, by his lumber trade, acquired what
in Norway was called a very handsome fortune.  He received his guest with
dignified reserve, and Ralph thought he detected in his eyes a lurking look of
distrust.  "I know your errand," that look seemed to say, "but you had better
give it up at once.  It will be of no use for you to try."

And after supper, as Ralph and Bertha sat talking confidingly with each other
at the window, he sent his daughter a quick, sharp glance, and then, without
ceremony, commanded her to go to bed.  Ralph's heart gave a great thump within
him; not because he feared the old man, but because his words, as well as his
glances, revealed to him the sad history of these long, patient years.  He
doubted no longer that the love which he had once so ardently desired was his
at last; and he made a silent vow that, come what might, he would remain

As he came down to breakfast the next morning, he found Bertha sitting at the
window, engaged in hemming what appeared to be a rough kitchen towel.  She bent
eagerly over her work, and only a vivid flush upon her cheek told him that she
had noticed his coming.  He took a chair, seated himself opposite her, and bade
her "good-morning."  She raised her head, and showed him a sweet, troubled
countenance, which the early sunlight illumined with a high spiritual beauty. 
It reminded him forcibly of those pale, sweet-faced saints of Fra Angelico,
with whom the frail flesh seems ever on the point of yielding to the ardent
aspirations of the spirit.  And still, even in this moment he could not prevent
his eyes from observing that one side of her forefinger was rough from sewing,
and that the whiteness of her arm, which the loose sleeves displayed,
contrasted strongly with the browned and sun-burned complexion of her hands.

After breakfast they again walked together on the beach, and Ralph, having once
formed his resolution, now talked freely of the New World — of his sphere
of activity there; of his friends and of his plans for the future; and she
listened to him with a mild, perplexed look in her eyes, as if trying vainly to
follow the flight of his thoughts.  And he wondered, with secret dismay,
whether she was still the same strong, brave-hearted girl whom he had once
accounted almost bold; whether the life in this narrow valley, amid a hundred
petty and depressing cares, had not cramped her spiritual growth, and narrowed
the sphere of her thought.  Or was she still the same, and was it only he who
had changed?  At last he gave utterance to his wonder, and she answered him in
those grave, earnest tones which seemed in themselves to be half a refutation
of his doubts.

"It was easy for me to give you daring advice, then, Ralph," she said.  "Like
most school- girls, I thought that life was a great and glorious thing, and
that happiness was a fruit which hung within reach of every hand.  Now I have
lived for six years trying single-handed to relieve the want and suffering of
the needy people with whom I come in contact, and their squalor and
wretchedness have sickened me, and, what is still worse, I feel that all I can
do is as a drop in the ocean, and after all, amounts to nothing. I know I am no
longer the same reckless girl, who, with the very best intention, sent you
wandering through the wide world; and I thank God that it proved to be for your
good, although the whole now appears quite incredible to me.  My thoughts have
moved so long within the narrow circle of these mountains that they have lost
their youthful elasticity, and can no more rise above them."

Ralph detected, in the midst of her despondency, a spark of her former fire,
and grew eloquent in his endeavors to persuade her that she was unjust to
herself, and that there was but a wider sphere of life needed to develop all
the latent powers of her rich nature.

At the dinner-table, her father again sat eyeing his guest with that same cold
look of distrust and suspicion.  And when the meal was at an end, he rose
abruptly and called his daughter into another room.  Presently Ralph heard his
angry voice resounding through the house, interrupted now and then by a woman's
sobs, and a subdued, passionate pleading.  When Bertha again entered the room,
her eyes were very red, and he saw that she had been weeping. She threw a shawl
over her shoulders, beckoned to him with her hand, and he arose and followed
her.  She led the way silently until they reached a thick copse of birch and
alder near the strand.  She dropped down upon a bench between two trees, and he
took his seat at her side.

"Ralph," began she, with a visible effort, "I hardly know what to say to you;
but there is something which I must tell you — my father wishes you to
leave us at once."

"And YOU, Bertha?"

"Well — yes — I wish it too."

She saw the painful shock which her words gave him, and she strove hard to
speak.  Her lips trembled, her eyes became suffused with tears, which grew and
grew, but never fell; she could not utter a word.

"Well, Bertha," answered he, with a little quiver in his voice, "if you, too,
wish me to go, I shall not tarry.  Good-bye."

He rose quickly, and, with averted face, held out his hand to her; but as she
made no motion to grasp the hand, he began distractedly to button his coat, and
moved slowly away.


He turned sharply, and, before he knew it, she lay sobbing upon his breast.

"Ralph," she murmured, while the tears almost choked her words, "I could not
have you leave me thus.  It is hard enough — it is hard enough — "

"What is hard, beloved?"

She raised her head abruptly, and turned upon him a gaze full of hope and
doubt, and sweet perplexity.

"Ah, no, you do not love me," she whispered, sadly.

"Why should I come to seek you, after these many years, dearest, if I did not
wish to make you my wife before God and men?  Why should I — "

"Ah, yes, I know," she interrupted him with a fresh fit of weeping, "you are
too good and honest to wish to throw me away, now when you have seen how my
soul has hungered for the sight of you these many years, how even now I cling
to you with a despairing clutch. But you cannot disguise yourself, Ralph, and I
saw from the first moment that you loved me no more."

"Do not be such an unreasonable child," he remonstrated, feebly.  "I do not
love you with the wild, irrational passion of former years; but I have the
tenderest regard for you, and my heart warms at the sight of your sweet face,
and I shall do all in my power to make you as happy as any man can make you
who — "

"Who does not love me," she finished.

A sudden shudder seemed to shake her whole frame, and she drew herself more
tightly up to him.

"Ah, no," she continued, after a while, sinking back upon her seat.  "It is a
hopeless thing to compel a reluctant heart.  I will accept no sacrifice from
you.  You owe me nothing, for you have acted toward me honestly and uprightly,
and I shall be a stronger, or — at least— a better woman for what you
gave me — and— for what you could not give me, even though you

"But, Bertha," exclaimed he, looking mournfully at her, "it is not true when
you say that I owe you nothing.  Six years ago, when first I wooed you, you
could not return my love, and you sent me out into the world, and even refused
to accept any pledge or promise for the future."

"And you returned," she responded, "a man, such as my hope had pictured you;
but, while I had almost been standing still, you had outgrown me, and outgrown
your old self, and, with your old self, outgrown its love for me, for your love
was not of your new self, but of the old.  Alas! it is a sad tale, but it is

She spoke gravely now, and with a steadier voice, but her eyes hung upon his
face with an eager look of expectation, as if yearning to detect there some
gleam of hope, some contradiction of the dismal truth.  He read that look
aright, and it pierced him like a sharp sword. He made a brave effort to
respond to its appeal, but his features seemed hard as stone, and he could only
cry out against his destiny, and bewail his misfortune and hers.

Toward evening, Ralph was sitting in an open boat, listening to the measured
oar-strokes of the boatmen who were rowing him out to the nearest
stopping-place of the steamer.  The mountains lifted their great placid heads
up among the sun-bathed clouds, and the fjord opened its cool depths as if to
make room for their vast reflections.  Ralph felt as if he were floating in the
midst of the blue infinite space, and, with the strength which this feeling
inspired, he tried to face boldly the thought from which he had but a moment
ago shrunk as from something hopelessly sad and perplexing.

And in that hour he looked fearlessly into the gulf which separates the New
World from the Old.  He had hoped to bridge it; but, alas! it cannot be



THE steamer which as far back as 1860 passed every week on its northward way up
along the coast of Norway, was of a very sociable turn of mind.  It ran with
much shrieking and needless bluster in and out the calm, winding fjords, paid
unceremonious little visits in every out-of-the-way nook and bay, dropped now
and then a black heap of coal into the shining water, and sent thick volleys of
smoke and shrill little echoes careering aimlessly among the mountains.  It
seemed, on the whole, from an aesthetic point of view, an objectionable
phenomenon — a blot upon the perfect summer day.  By the inhabitants,
however, of these remote regions (with the exception of a few obstinate
individuals, who had at first looked upon it as the sure herald of dooms- day,
and still were vaguely wondering what the world was coming to,) it was regarded
in a very different light.  This choleric little monster was to them a friendly
and welcome visitor, which established their connection with the outside world,
and gave them a proud consciousness of living in the very heart of
civilization. Therefore, on steamboat days they flocked en masse down on the
piers, and, with an ever-fresh sense of novelty, greeted the approaching boat
with lively cheers, with firing of muskets and waving of handkerchiefs.  The
men of condition, as the judge, the sheriff, and the parson, whose dignity
forbade them to receive the steamer in person, contented themselves with
watching it through an opera-glass from their balconies; and if a high official
was known to be on board, they perhaps displayed the national banner from their
flag-poles, as a delicate compliment to their superior.

But the Rev. Mr. Oddson, the parson of whom I have to speak, had this day
yielded to the gentle urgings of his daughters (as, indeed, he always did), and
had with them boarded the steamer to receive his nephew, Arnfinn Vording, who
was returning from the university for his summer vacation.  And now they had
him between them in their pretty white-painted par- sonage boat, with the blue
line along the gunwale, beleaguering him with eager questions about friends and
relatives in the capital, chums, university sports, and a medley of other
things interesting to young ladies who have a collegian for a cousin.  His
uncle was charitable enough to check his own curiosity about the nephew's
progress in the arts and sciences, and the result of his recent examinations,
till he should have become fairly settled under his roof; and Arnfinn, who, in
spite of his natural brightness and ready humor, was anything but a "dig," was
grateful for the respite.

The parsonage lay snugly nestled at the end of the bay, shining contentedly
through the green foliage from a multitude of small sun- smitten windows.  Its
pinkish whitewash, which was peeling off from long exposure to the weather, was
in cheerful contrast to the broad black surface of the roof, with its glazed
tiles, and the starlings' nests under the chimney-tops. The thick-leaved maples
and walnut-trees which grew in random clusters about the walls seemed loftily
conscious of standing there for purposes of protection; for, wherever their
long-fingered branches happened to graze the roof, it was always with a touch,
light, graceful, and airily caressing.  The irregularly paved yard was inclosed
on two sides by the main building, and on the third by a species of log cabin,
which, in Norway, is called a brew-house; but toward the west the view was but
slightly obscured by an elevated pigeon cot and a clump of birches, through
whose sparse leaves the fjord beneath sent its rapid jets and gleams of light,
and its strange suggestions of distance, peace and unaccountable gladness.

Arnfinn Vording's career had presented that subtle combination of farce and
tragedy which most human lives are apt to be; and if the tragic element had
during his early years been preponderating, he was hardly himself aware of it;
for he had been too young at the death of his parents to feel that keenness of
grief which the same privation would have given him at a later period of his
life.  It might have been humiliating to confess it, but it was nevertheless
true that the terror he had once sustained on being pursued by a furious bull
was much more vivid in his memory than the vague wonder and depression which
had filled his mind at seeing his mother so suddenly stricken with age, as she
lay motionless in her white robes in the front parlor. Since then his uncle,
who was his guardian and nearest relative, had taken him into his family, had
instructed him with his own daughters, and finally sent him to the University,
leaving the little fortune which he had inherited to accumulate for future use.
 Arnfinn had a painfully distinct recollection of his early hardships in trying
to acquire that soft pronunciation of the r which is peculiar to the western
fjord districts of Norway, and which he admired so much in his cousins; for the
merry-eyed Inga, who was less scrupulous by a good deal than her older sister,
Augusta, had from the beginning persisted in interpreting their relation of
cousinship as an unbounded privilege on her part to ridicule him for his
personal peculiarities, and especially for his harsh r and his broad eastern
accent.  Her ridicule was always very good-natured, to be sure, but therefore
no less annoying.

But — such is the perverseness of human nature— in spite of a series
of apparent rebuffs, interrupted now and then by fits of violent attachment,
Arnfinn had early selected this dimpled and yellow-haired young girl, with her
piquant little nose, for his favorite cousin.  It was the prospect of seeing
her which, above all else, had lent, in anticipation, an altogether new
radiance to the day when he should present him- self in his home with the
long-tasseled student cap on his head, the unnecessary "pinchers" on his nose,
and with the other traditional paraphernalia of the Norwegian student.  That
great day had now come; Arnfinn sat at Inga's side playing with her white
fingers, which lay resting on his knee, and covering the depth of his feeling
with harmless banter about her "amusingly unclassical little nose."  He had
once detected her, when a child, standing before a mirror, and pinching this
unhappy feature in the middle, in the hope of making it "like Augusta's;" and
since then he had no longer felt so utterly defenseless whenever his own
foibles were attacked.

"But what of your friend, Arnfinn?" exclaimed Inga, as she ran up the stairs of
the pier.  "He of whom you have written so much. I have been busy all the
morning making the blue guest-chamber ready for him."

"Please, cousin," answered the student, in a tone of mock entreaty, "only an
hour's respite! If we are to talk about Strand we must make a day of it, you
know.  And just now it seems so grand to be at home, and with you, that I would
rather not admit even so genial a subject as Strand to share my selfish

"Ah, yes, you are right.  Happiness is too often selfish.  But tell me only why
he didn't come and I'll release you."

"He IS coming."

"Ah!  And when?"

"That I don't know.  He preferred to take the journey on foot, and he may be
here at almost any time.  But, as I have told you, he is very uncertain.  If he
should happen to make the acquaintance of some interesting snipe, or crane, or
plover, he may prefer its company to ours, and then there is no counting on him
any longer.  He may be as likely to turn up at the North Pole as at the Gran

"How very singular.  You don't know how curious I am to see him."

And Inga walked on in silence under the sunny birches which grew along the
road, trying vainly to picture to herself this strange phenomenon of a man.

"I brought his book," remarked Arnfinn, making a gigantic effort to be
generous, for he felt dim stirrings of jealousy within him.  "If you care to
read it, I think it will explain him to you better than anything I could say."


The Oddsons were certainly a happy family though not by any means a harmonious
one. The excellent pastor, who was himself neutrally good, orthodox, and
kind-hearted, had often, in the privacy of his own thought, wondered what
hidden ancestral influences there might have been at work in giving a man so
peaceable and inoffensive as himself two daughters of such strongly defined
individuality.  There was Augusta, the elder, who was what Arnfinn called
"indiscriminately reformatory," and had a universal desire to improve
everything, from the Government down to agricultural implements and preserve
jars.  As long as she was content to expend the surplus energy, which seemed to
accumulate within her through the long eventless winters, upon the Zulu
Mission, and other legitimate objects, the pastor thought it all harmless
enough; although, to be sure, her enthusiasm for those naked and howling
savages did at times strike him as being somewhat extravagant.  But when
occasionally, in her own innocent way, she put both his patience and his
orthodoxy to the test by her exceedingly puzzling questions, then he could not,
in the depth of his heart, restrain the wish that she might have been more like
other young girls, and less ardently solicitous about the fate of her kind.
Affectionate and indulgent, however, as the pastor was, he would often, in the
next moment, do penance for his unregenerate thought, and thank God for having
made her so fair to behold, so pure, and so noble-hearted.

Toward Arnfinn, Augusta had, although of his own age, early assumed a kind of
elder-sisterly relation; she had been his comforter during all the trials of
his boyhood; had yielded him her sympathy with that eager impulse which lay so
deep in her nature, and had felt forlorn when life had called him away to where
her words of comfort could not reach him.  But when once she had hinted this to
her father, he had pedantically convinced her that her feeling was unchristian,
and Inga had playfully remarked that the hope that some one might soon find the
open Polar Sea would go far toward consoling her for her loss; for Augusta had
glorious visions at that time of the open Polar Sea. Now, the Polar Sea, and
many other things, far nearer and dearer, had been forced into uneasy
forgetfulness; and Arnfinn was once more with her, no longer a child, and no
longer appealing to her for aid and sympathy; man enough, ap- parently, to have
outgrown his boyish needs and still boy enough to be ashamed of having ever had

It was the third Sunday after Arnfinn's return.  He and Augusta were climbing
the hillside to the "Giant's Hood," from whence they had a wide view of the
fjord, and could see the sun trailing its long bridge of flame upon the water. 
It was Inga's week in the kitchen, therefore her sister was Arnfinn's
companion. As they reached the crest of the "Hood," Augusta seated herself on a
flat bowlder, and the young student flung himself on a patch of greensward at
her feet.  The intense light of the late sun fell upon the girl's unconscious
face, and Arnfinn lay, gazing up into it, and wondering at its rare beauty; but
he saw only the clean cut of its features and the purity of its form, being too
shallow to recognize the strong and heroic soul which had struggled so long for
utterance in the life of which he had been a blind and unmindful witness.

"Gracious, how beautiful you are, cousin!" he broke forth, heedlessly, striking
his leg with his slender cane; "pity you were not born a queen; you would be
equal to almost anything, even if it were to discover the Polar Sea."

"I thought you were looking at the sun, Arnfinn," answered she, smiling

"And so I am, cousin," laughed he, with an other-emphatic slap of his boot.

"That compliment is rather stale."

"But the opportunity was too tempting."

"Never mind, I will excuse you from further efforts.  Turn around and notice
that wonderful purple halo which is hovering over the forests below.  Isn't it

"No, don't let us be solemn, pray.  The sun I have seen a thousand times
before, but you I have seen very seldom of late.  Somehow, since I returned
this time, you seem to keep me at a distance.  You no longer confide to me your
great plans for the abolishment of war, and the improvement of mankind
generally.  Why don't you tell me whether you have as yet succeeded in
convincing the peasants that cleanliness is a cardinal virtue, that hawthorn
hedges are more picturesque than rail fences, and that salt meat is a very
indigestible article?"

"You know the fate of my reforms, from long experience," she answered, with the
same sad, sweet smile.  "I am afraid there must be some thing radically wrong
about my methods; and, moreover, I know that your aspirations and mine are no
longer the same, if they ever have been, and I am not ungenerous enough to
force you to feign an interest which you do not feel."

"Yes, I know you think me flippant and boyish," retorted he, with sudden
energy, and tossing a stone down into the gulf below. "But, by the way, my
friend Strand, if he ever comes, would be just the man for you.  He has quite
as many hobbies as you have, and, what is more, he has a profound respect for
hobbies in general, and is universally charitable toward those of others."

"Your friend is a great man," said the girl, earnestly.  "I have read his book
on `The Wading Birds of the Norwegian Highlands,' and none but a great man
could have written it."

"He is an odd stick, but, for all that, a capital fellow; and I have no doubt
you would get on admirably with him."

At this moment the conversation was interrupted by the appearance of the
pastor's man, Hans, who came to tell the "young miss" that there was a big
tramp hovering about the barns in the "out-fields," where he had been sleeping
during the last three nights.  He was a dangerous character, Hans thought, at
least judging from his looks, and it was hardly safe for the young miss to be
roaming about the fields at night as long as he was in the neighborhood.

"Why don't you speak to the pastor, and have him arrested?" said Arnfinn,
impatient of Hans's long-winded recital.

"No, no, say nothing to father," demanded Augusta, eagerly.  "Why should you
arrest a poor man as long as he does nothing worse than sleep in the barns in
the out-fields?"

"As you say, miss," retorted Hans, and departed.

The moon came up pale and mist-like over the eastern mountain ridges, struggled
for a few brief moments feebly with the sunlight, and then vanished.

"It is strange," said Arnfinn, "how everything reminds me of Strand to-night. 
What gloriously absurd apostrophes to the moon he could make!  I have not told
you, cousin, of a very singular gift which he possesses.  He can attract all
kinds of birds and wild animals to himself; he can imitate their voices, and
they flock around him, as if he were one of them, without fear of harm."

"How delightful," cried Augusta, with sudden animation.  "What a glorious man
your friend must be!"

"Because the snipes and the wild ducks like him? You seem to have greater
confidence in their judgment than in mine."

"Of course I have — at least as long as you persist in joking.  But,
jesting aside, what a wondrously beautiful life he must lead whom Nature takes
thus into her confidence; who has, as it were, an inner and subtler sense,
corresponding to each grosser and external one; who is keen-sighted enough to
read the character of every individual beast, and has ears sensitive to the
full pathos of joy or sorrow in the song of the birds that inhabit our

"Whether he has any such second set of senses as you speak of, I don't know;
but there can be no doubt that his familiarity, not to say intimacy, with birds
and beasts gives him a great advantage as a naturalist.  I suppose you know
that his little book has been translated into French, and rewarded with the
gold medal of the Academy."

"Hush!  What is that?" Augusta sprang up, and held her hand to her ear.

"Some love-lorn mountain-cock playing yonder in the pine copse," suggested
Arnfinn, amused at his cousin's eagerness.

"You silly boy!  Don't you know the mountain- cock never plays except at

"He would have a sorry time of it now, then, when there IS no sunrise."

"And so he has; he does not play except in early spring."

The noise, at first faint, now grew louder.  It began with a series of mellow,
plaintive clucks that followed thickly one upon another, like smooth pearls of
sound that rolled through the throat in a continuous current; then came a few
sharp notes as of a large bird that snaps his bill; then a long, half-melodious
rumbling, intermingled with cacklings and snaps, and at last, a sort of
diminuendo movement of the same round, pearly clucks.  There was a whizzing of
wing-beats in the air; two large birds swept over their heads and struck down
into the copse whence the sound had issued.

"This is indeed a most singular thing," said Augusta, under her breath, and
with wide-eyed wonder. "Let us go nearer, and see what it can be."

"I am sure I can go if you can," responded Arnfinn, not any too eagerly.  "Give
me your hand, and we can climb the better."

As they approached the pine copse, which

projected like a promontory from the line of the denser forest, the noise
ceased, and only the plaintive whistling of a mountain-hen, calling her
scattered young together, and now and then the shrill response of a snipe to
the cry of its lonely mate, fell upon the summer night, not as an interruption,
but as an outgrowth of the very silence.  Augusta stole with soundless tread
through the transparent gloom which lingered under those huge black crowns, and
Arnfinn followed impatiently after.  Suddenly she motioned to him to stand
still, and herself bent forward in an attitude of surprise and eager
observation. On the ground, some fifty steps from where she was stationed, she
saw a man stretched out full length, with a knapsack under his head, and
surrounded by a flock of downy, half-grown birds, which responded with a low,
anxious piping to his alluring cluck, then scattered with sudden alarm, only to
return again in the same curious, cautious fashion as before. Now and then
there was a great flapping of wings in the trees overhead, and a heavy brown
and black speckled mountain-hen alighted close to the man's head, stretched out
her neck toward him, cocked her head, called her scattered brood together, and
departed with slow and deliberate wing-beats.

Again there was a frightened flutter over- head, a shrill anxious whistle rose
in the air, and all was silence.  Augusta had stepped on a dry branch — it
had broken under her weight— hence the sudden confusion and flight.  The
unknown man had sprung up, and his eye, after a moment's search, had found the
dark, beautiful face peering forth behind the red fir-trunk. He did not speak
or salute her; he greeted her with silent joy, as one greets a wondrous vision
which is too frail and bright for consciousness to grasp, which is lost the
very instant one is conscious of seeing.  But, while to the girl the sight, as
it were, hung trembling in the range of mere physical perception, while its
suddenness held it aloof from moral reflection, there came a great shout from
behind, and Arnfinn, whom in her surprise she had quite forgotten, came
bounding forward, grasping the stranger by the hand with much vigor, laughing
heartily, and pouring forth a confused stream of delighted interjections,
borrowed from all manner of classical and unclassical tongues.

"Strand!  Strand!" he cried, when the first tumult of excitement had subsided;
"you most marvelous and incomprehensible Strand!  From what region of heaven or
earth did you jump down into our prosaic neighborhood?  And what in the world
possessed you to choose our barns as the centre of your operations, and nearly
put me to the necessity of having you arrested for vagrancy?  How I do regret
that Cousin Augusta's entreaties mollified my heart toward you.  Pardon me, I
have not introduced you.  This is my cousin, Miss Oddson, and this is my
miraculous friend, the world-renowned author, vagrant, and naturalist, Mr.
Marcus Strand."

Strand stepped forward, made a deep but somewhat awkward bow, and was dimly
aware that a small soft hand was extended to him, and, in the next moment, was
enclosed in his own broad and voluminous palm.  He grasped it firmly, and, in
one of those profound abstractions into which he was apt to fall when under the
sway of a strong impression, pressed it with increasing cordiality, while he
endeavored to find fitting answers to Arnfinn's multifarious questions.

"To tell the truth, Vording," he said, in a deep, full-ringing bass, "I didn't
know that these were your cousin's barns — I mean that your
uncle" — giving the unhappy hand an emphatic shake — "inhabited these

"No, thank heaven, we are not quite reduced to that," cried Arnfinn, gayly; "we
still boast a parsonage, as you will presently discover, and a very bright and
cozy one, to boot.  But, whatever you do, have the goodness to release
Augusta's hand.  Don't you see how desperately she is struggling, poor thing?"

Strand dropped the hand as if it had been a hot coal, blushed to the edge of
his hair, and made another profound reverence.  He was a tall, huge-limbed
youth, with a frame of gigantic mold, and a large, blonde, shaggy head, like
that of some good-natured antediluvian animal, which might feel the
disadvantages of its size amid the puny beings of this later stage of creation.
 There was a frank directness in his gaze, and an unconsciousness of self,
which made him very winning, and which could not fail of its effect upon a girl
who, like Augusta, was fond of the uncommon, and hated smooth, facile and
well-tailored young men, with the labels of society and fashion upon their
coats, their mustaches, and their speech.  And Strand, with his large
sun-burned face, his wild-growing beard, blue woolen shirt, top boots, and
unkempt appearance generally, was a sufficiently startling phenomenon to
satisfy even so exacting a fancy as hers; for, after reading his book about the
Wading Birds, she had made up her mind that he must have few points of
resemblance to the men who had hitherto formed part of her own small world,
although she had not until now decided just in what way he was to differ.

"Suppose I help you carry your knapsack," said Arnfinn, who was flitting about
like a small nimble spaniel trying to make friends with some large,
good-natured Newfoundland.  "You must be very tired, having roamed about in
this Quixotic fashion!"

"No, I thank you," responded Strand, with an incredulous laugh, glancing
alternately from Arnfinn to the knapsack, as if estimating their proportionate
weight.  "I am afraid you would rue your bargain if I accepted it."

"I suppose you have a great many stuffed birds at home," remarked the girl,
looking with self-forgetful admiration at the large brawny figure.

"No, I have hardly any," answered he, seating himself on the ground, and
pulling a thick note-book from his pocket.  "I prefer live creatures.  Their
anatomical and physiological peculiarities have been studied by others, and
volumes have been written about them.  It is their psychological traits, ii you
will allow the expression, which interest me, and those I can only get at while
they are alive."

"How delightful!"

Some minutes later they were all on their way to the Parsonage.  The sun, in
spite of its mid- summer wakefulness, was getting red-eyed and drowsy, and the
purple mists which hung in scattered fragments upon the forest below had lost
something of their deep-tinged brilliancy. But Augusta, quite blind to the
weakened light effects, looked out upon the broad landscape in ecstasy, and,
appealing to her more apathetic companions, invited them to share her joy at
the beauty of the faint-flushed summer night.

"You are getting quite dithyrambic, my dear," remarked Arnfinn, with an air of
cousinly superiority, which he felt was eminently becoming to him; and Augusta
looked up with quick surprise, then smiled in an absent way, and forgot what
she had been saying.  She had no suspicion but that her enthusiasm had been all
for the sunset.


In a life so outwardly barren and monotonous as Augusta's — a life in which
the small external events were so firmly interwoven with the subtler threads of
yearnings, wants, and desires —the introduction of so large and novel a
fact as Marcus Strand would naturally produce some perceptible result.  It was
that deplorable inward restlessness of hers, she reasoned, which had hitherto
made her existence seem so empty and unsatisfactory; but now his presence
filled the hours, and the newness of his words, his manner, and his whole
person afforded inexhaustible material for thought.  It was now a week since
his arrival, and while Arnfinn and Inga chatted at leisure, drew caricatures,
or read aloud to each other in some shady nook of the garden, she and Strand
would roam along the beach, filling the vast unclouded horizon with large
glowing images of the future of the human race.  He always listened in
sympathetic silence while she unfolded to him her often childishly daring
schemes for the amelioration of suffering and the righting of social wrongs;
and when she had finished, and he met the earnest appeal of her dark eye, there
would often be a pause, during which each, with a half unconscious lapse from
the impersonal, would feel more keenly the joy of this new and delicious mental
companionship.  And when at length he answered, sometimes gently refuting and
sometimes assenting to her proposition, it was always with a slow, deliberate
earnestness, as if he felt but her deep sincerity, and forgot for the moment
her sex, her youth, and her inexperience.  It was just this kind of fellowship
for which she had hungered so long, and her heart went out with a great
gratitude toward this strong and generous man, who was willing to recognize her
humanity, and to respond with an ever-ready frankness, unmixed with petty
suspicions and second thoughts, to the eager needs of her half- starved nature.
 It is quite characteristic, too, of the type of womanhood which Augusta
represents (and with which this broad continent of ours abounds), that, with
her habitual disregard of appearances, she would have scorned the notion that
their intercourse had any ultimate end beyond that of mutual pleasure and

It was early in the morning in the third week of Strand's stay at the
Parsonage.  A heavy dew had fallen during the night, and each tiny grass-blade
glistened in the sun, bending under the weight of its liquid diamond.  The
birds were improvising a miniature symphony in the birches at the end of the
garden; the song- thrush warbled with a sweet melancholy his long-drawn
contralto notes; the lark, like a prima donna, hovering conspicuously in mid
air, poured forth her joyous soprano solo; and the robin, quite unmindful of
the tempo, filled out the pauses with his thoughtless staccato chirp.  Augusta,
who was herself the early bird of the pastor's family, had paid a visit to the
little bath-house down at the brook, and was now hurrying homeward, her heavy
black hair confined in a delicate muslin hood, and her lithe form hastily
wrapped in a loose morning gown. She had paused for a moment under the birches
to listen to the song of the lark, when suddenly a low, half articulate sound,
very unlike the voice of a bird, arrested her attention; she raised her eyes,
and saw Strand sitting in the top of a tree, apparently conversing with
himself, or with some tiny thing which he held in his hands.

"Ah, yes, you poor little sickly thing!" she heard him mutter.  "Don't you make
such an ado now.  You shall soon be quite well, if you will only mind what I
tell you.  Stop, stop! Take it easy.  It is all for your own good, you know. 
If you had only been prudent, and not stepped on your lame leg, you might have
been spared this affliction.  But, after all, it was not your fault — it
was that foolish little mother of yours.  She will remember now that a skein of
hemp thread is not the thing to line her nest with.  If she doesn't, you may
tell her that it was I who said so."

Augusta stood gazing on in mute astonishment; then, suddenly remembering her
hasty toilet, she started to run; but, as chance would have it, a dry branch,
which hung rather low, caught at her hood, and her hair fell in a black wavy
stream down over her shoulders.  She gave a little cry, the tree shook
violently, and Strand was at her side.  She blushed crimson over neck and face,
and, in her utter bewilderment, stood like a culprit before him, unable to
move, unable to speak, and only returning with a silent bow his cordial
greeting.  It seemed to her that she had ungenerously intruded upon his
privacy, watching him, while he thought himself unobserved.  And Augusta was
quite unskilled in those social accomplishments which enable young ladies to
hide their inward emotions under a show of polite indifference, for, however
hard she strove, she could not suppress a slight quivering of her lips, and her
intense self-reproach made Strand's words fall dimly on her ears, and prevented
her from gathering the meaning of what he was saying.  He held in his hands a
young bird with a yellow line along the edge of its bill (and there was
something beautifully soft and tender in the way those large palms of his
handled any living thing), and he looked pityingly at it while he spoke.

"The mother of this little linnet," he said, smiling, "did what many foolish
young mothers are apt to do.  She took upon her the responsibility of raising
offspring without having acquired the necessary knowledge of housekeeping. So
she lined her nest with hemp, and the consequence was, that her first-born got
his legs entangled, and was obliged to remain in the nest long after his wings
had reached their full development.  I saw her feeding him about a week ago,
and, as my curiosity prompted me to look into the case, I released the little
cripple, cleansed the deep wound which the threads had cut in his flesh, and
have since been watching him during his convalescence.  Now he is quite in a
fair way, but I had to apply some salve, and to cut off the feathers about the
wound, and the little fool squirmed under the pain, and grew rebellious.  Only
notice this scar, if you please, Miss Oddson, and you may imagine what the poor
thing must have suffered."

Augusta gave a start; she timidly raised her eyes, and saw Strand's grave gaze
fixed upon her.  She felt as if some intolerable spell had come over her, and,
as her agitation increased, her power of speech seemed utterly to desert her.

"Ah, you have not been listening to me?" said Strand, in a tone of wondering
inquiry. "Pardon me for presuming to believe that my little invalid could be as
interesting to you as he is to me."

"Mr. Strand," stammered the girl, while the invisible tears came near choking
her voice. "Mr. Strand — I didn't mean — really — "

She knew that if she said another word she should burst into tears.  With a
violent effort, she gathered up her wrapper, which somehow had got unbuttoned
at the neck, and, with heedlessly hurrying steps, darted away toward the house.

Strand stood looking after her, quite unmindful of his feathered patient, which
flew chirping about him in the grass.  Two hours later Arnfinn found him
sitting under the birches with his hands clasped over the top of his head, and
his surgical instruments scattered on the ground around him.

"Corpo di Baccho," exclaimed the student, stooping to pick up the precious
tools; "have you been amputating your own head, or is it I who am dreaming?"

"Ah," murmured Strand, lifting a large, strange gaze upon his friend, "is it

"Who else should it be?  I come to call you to breakfast."


"I wonder what is up between Strand and Augusta?" said Arnfinn to his cousin
Inga.  The questioner was lying in the grass at her feet, resting his chin on
his palms, and gazing with roguishly tender eyes up into her fresh, blooming
face; but Inga, who was reading aloud from "David Copperfield," and was deep in
the matrimonial tribulations of that noble hero, only said "hush," and
continued reading.  Arnfinn, after a minute's silence, repeated his remark,
whereupon his fair cousin wrenched his cane out of his hand, and held it
threateningly over his head.

"Will you be a good boy and listen?" she exclaimed, playfully emphasizing each
word with a light rap on his curly pate.

"Ouch! that hurts," cried Arnfinn, and dodged.

"It was meant to hurt," replied Inga, with mock severity, and returned to

Presently the seed of a corn-flower struck the tip of her nose, and again the
cane was lifted; but Dora's housekeeping experiences were too absorbingly
interesting, and the blue eyes could not resist their fascination.

"Cousin Inga," said Arnfinn, and this time with as near an approach to
earnestness as he was capable of at that moment, "I do believe that Strand is
in love with Augusta."

Inga dropped the book, and sent him what was meant to be a glance of severe
rebuke, and then said, in her own amusingly emphatic way:

"I do wish you wouldn't joke with such things, Arnfinn."

"Joke!  Indeed I am not joking.  I wish to heaven that I were.  What a pity it
is that she has taken such a dislike to him!"

"Dislike!  Oh, you are a profound philosopher, you are!  You think that because
she avoids — "

Here Inga abruptly clapped her hand over her mouth, and, with sudden change of
voice and expression, said:

"I am as silent as the grave."

"Yes, you are wonderfully discreet," cried Arnfinn, laughing, while the girl
bit her under lip with an air of penitence and mortification which, in any
other bosom than a cousin's would have aroused compassion.

"Aha!  So steht's!" he broke forth, with another burst of merriment; then,
softened by the sight of a tear that was slowly gathering beneath her
eyelashes, he checked his laughter, crept up to her side, and in a half
childishly coaxing, half caressing tone, he whispered:

"Dear little cousin, indeed I didn't mean to hurt your feelings.  You are not
angry with me, are you?  And if you will only promise me not to tell, I have
something here which I should like to show you."

He well knew that there was nothing which would sooner soothe Inga's wrath than
confiding a secret to her; and while he was a boy, he had, in cases of sore
need, invented secrets lest his life should be made miserable by the sense that
she was displeased with him.  In this instance her anger was not strong enough
to resist the anticipation of a secret, probably relating to that little drama
which had, during the last weeks, been in progress under her very eyes. With a
resolute movement, she brushed her tears away, bent eagerly forward, and, in
the next moment, her face was all expectancy and animation.

Arnfinn pulled a thick black note-book from his breast pocket, opened it in his
lap, and read:

"August 3, 5 A. M. — My little invalid is doing finely; he seemed to relish
much a few dozen flies which I brought him in my hand.  His pulse is to-day,
for the first time, normal.  He is beginning to step on the injured leg without
apparent pain.

"10 A. M. — Miss Augusta's eyes have a strange, lustrous brilliancy
whenever she speaks of subjects which seem to agitate the depths of her being. 
How and why is it that an excessive amount of feeling always finds its first
expression in the eye?  One kind of emotion seems to widen the pupil, another
kind to contract it.  TO be noticed in future, how particular emotions affect
the eye.

"6 P. M. — I met a plover on the beach this afternoon.  By imitating his
cry, I induced him to come within a few feet of me.  The plover, as his cry
indicates, is a very melancholy bird. In fact I believe the melancholy
temperament to be prevailing among the wading birds, as the phlegmatic among
birds of prey.  The singing birds are choleric or sanguine.  Tease a thrush, or
even a lark, and you will soon be convinced. A snipe, or plover, as far as my
experience goes, seldom shows anger; you cannot tease them. To be considered,
how far the voice of a bird may be indicative of its temperament.

"August 5, 9 P. M. — Since the unfortunate meeting yesterday morning, when
my intense pre-occupation with my linnet, which had torn its wound open again,
probably made me commit some breach of etiquette, Miss Augusta avoids me.

"August 7 — I am in a most singular state. My pulse beats 85, which is a
most unheard-of thing for me, as my pulse is naturally full and slow.  And,
strangely enough, I do not feel at all unwell.  On the contrary, my physical
well- being is rather heightened than otherwise. The life of a whole week is
crowded into a day, and that of a day into an hour."

Inga, who, at several points of this narrative, had been struggling hard to
preserve her gravity, here burst into a ringing laugh.

"That is what I call scientific love-making," said Arnfinn, looking up from the
book with an expression of subdued amusement.

"But Arnfinn," cried the girl, while the laughter quickly died out of her face,
"does Mr. Strand know that you are reading this?"

"To be sure he does.  And that is just what to my mind makes the situation so
excessively comical.  He has himself no suspicion that this book contains
anything but scientific notes.  He appears to prefer the empiric method in love
as in philosophy.  I verily believe that he is innocently experimenting with
himself, with a view to making some great physiological discovery."

"And so he will, perhaps," rejoined the girl, the mixture of gayety and grave
solicitude making her face, as her cousin thought, particularly charming.

"Only not a physiological, but possibly a psychological one," remarked Arnfinn.
 "But listen to this.  Here is something rich:

"August 9 — Miss Augusta once said something about the possibility of
animals being immortal. Her eyes shone with a beautiful animation as she spoke.
 I am longing to continue the subject with her.  It haunts me the whole day
long.  There may be more in the idea than appears to a superficial observer."

"Oh, how charmingly he understands how to deceive himself," cried Inga.

"Merely a quid pro quo," said Arnfinn.

"I know what I shall do!"

"And so do I."

"Won't you tell me, please?"


"Then I sha'n't tell you either."

And they flew apart like two thoughtless little birds ("sanguine," as Strand
would have called them), each to ponder on some formidable plot for the
reconciliation of the estranged lovers.


During the week that ensued, the multifarious sub-currents of Strand's passion
seemed slowly to gather themselves into one clearly defined stream, and, after
much scientific speculation, he came to the conclusion that he loved Augusta. 
In a moment of extreme discouragement, he made a clean breast of it to Arnfinn,
at the same time informing him that he had packed his knapsack, and would start
on his wanderings again the next morning.  All his friend's entreaties were in
vain; he would and must go.  Strand was an exasperatingly head- strong fellow,
and persuasions never prevailed with him.  He had confirmed himself in the
belief that he was very unattractive to women, and that Augusta, of all women,
for some reason which was not quite clear to him, hated and abhorred him. 
Inexperienced as he was, he could see no reason why she should avoid him, if
she did not hate him.  They sat talking until mid- night, each entangling
himself in those passionate paradoxes and contradictions peculiar to passionate
and impulsive youth.  Strand paced the floor with large steps, pouring out his
long pent-up emotion in violent tirades of self- accusation and regret; while
Arnfinn sat on the bed, trying to soothe his excitement by assuring him that he
was not such a monster as, for the moment, he had believed himself to be, but
only succeeding, in spite of all his efforts, in pouring oil on the flames. 
Strand was scientifically convinced that Nature, in accordance with some
inscrutable law of equilibrium, had found it necessary to make him physically
unattractive, perhaps to indemnify mankind for that excess of intellectual
gifts which, at the expense of the race at large, she had bestowed upon him.

Early the next morning, as a kind of etherealized sunshine broke through the
white muslin curtains of Arnfinn's room, and long streaks of sun-illumined dust
stole through the air toward the sleeper's pillow, there was a sharp rap at the
door, and Strand entered.  His knapsack was strapped over his shoulders, his
long staff was in his hand, and there was an expression of conscious martyrdom
in his features.  Arnfinn raised himself on his elbows, and rubbed his eyes
with a desperate determination to get awake, but only succeeded in gaining a
very dim impression of a beard, a blue woolen shirt, and a disproportionately
large shoe buckle.  The figure advanced to the bed, extended a broad,
sun-burned hand, and a deep bass voice was heard to say:

"Good-bye, brother."

Arnfinn, who was a hard sleeper, gave another rub, and, in a querulously sleepy
tone, managed to mutter:

"Why, — is it as late as that — already?"

The words of parting were more remotely repeated, the hand closed about
Arnfinn's half- unfeeling fingers, the lock on the door gave a little sharp
click, and all was still.  But the sunshine drove the dust in a dumb, confused
dance through the room.

Some four hours later, Arnfinn woke up with a vague feeling as if some great
calamity had happened; he was not sure but that he had slept a fortnight or
more.  He dressed with a sleepy, reckless haste, being but dimly conscious of
the logic of the various processes of ablution which he underwent.  He hurried
up to Strand's room, but, as he had expected, found it empty.

During all the afternoon, the reading of "David Copperfield" was interrupted by
frequent mutual condolences, and at times Inga's hand would steal up to her eye
to brush away a treacherous tear.  But then she only read the faster, and David
and Agnes were already safe in the haven of matrimony before either she or
Arnfinn was aware that they had struggled successfully through the perilous
reefs and quick- sands of courtship.

Augusta excused herself from supper, Inga's forced devices at merriment were
too transparent, Arnfinn's table-talk was of a rambling, incoherent sort, and
he answered dreadfully malapropos, if a chance word was addressed to him, and
even the good-natured pastor began, at last, to grumble; for the inmates of the
Gran Parsonage seemed to have but one life and one soul in common, and any
individual disturbance immediately disturbed the peace and happiness of the
whole household.  Now gloom had, in some unaccountable fashion, obscured the
common atmosphere.  Inga shook her small wise head, and tried to extract some
little consolation from the consciousness that she knew at least some things
which Arnfinn did not know, and which it would be very unsafe to confide to


Four weeks after Strand's departure, as the summer had already assumed that
tinge of sadness which impresses one as a foreboding of coming death, Augusta
was walking along the beach, watching the flight of the sea-birds.  Her latest
"aberration," as Arnfinn called it, was an extraordinary interest in the habits
of the eider- ducks, auks, and sea-gulls, the noisy monotony of whose existence
had, but a few months ago, appeared to her the symbol of all that was vulgar
and coarse in human and animal life.  Now she had even provided herself with a
note-book, and (to use once more the language of her unbelieving cousin)
affected a half-scientific interest in their clamorous pursuits.  She had made
many vain attempts to imitate their voices and to beguile them into closer
intimacy, and had found it hard at times to suppress her indignation when they
persisted in viewing her in the light of an intruder, and in returning her
amiable approaches with shy suspicion, as if they doubted the sincerity of her

She was a little paler now, perhaps, than before, but her eyes had still the
same lustrous depth, and the same sweet serenity was still diffused over her
features, and softened, like a pervading tinge of warm color, the grand
simplicity of her presence.  She sat down on a large rock, picked up a
curiously twisted shell, and seeing a plover wading in the surf, gave a soft,
low whistle, which made the bird turn round and gaze at her with startled
distrust. She repeated the call, but perhaps a little too eagerly, and the bird
spread its wings with a frightened cry, and skimmed, half flying, half running,
out over the glittering surface of the fjord.  But from the rocks close by came
a long melancholy whistle like that of a bird in distress, and the girl rose
and hastened with eager steps toward the spot.  She climbed up on a stone,
fringed all around with green slimy sea- weeds, in order to gain a wider view
of the beach.  Then suddenly some huge figure started up between the rocks at
her feet; she gave a little scream, her foot slipped, and in the next moment
she lay — in Strand's arms.  He offered no apology, but silently carried
her over the slippery stones, and deposited her tenderly upon the smooth white
sand.  There it occurred to her that his attention was quite needless, but at
the moment she was too startled to make any remonstrance.

"But how in the world, Mr. Strand, did you come here?" she managed at last to
stammer. "We all thought that you had gone away."

"I hardly know myself," said Strand, in a beseeching undertone, quite different
from his usual confident bass.  "I only know that — that I was very
wretched, and that I had to come back."

Then there was a pause, which to both seemed quite interminable, and, in order
to fill it out in some way, Strand began to move his head and arms uneasily,
and at length seated himself at Augusta's side.  The blood was beating with
feverish vehemence in her temples, and for the first time in her life she felt
something akin to pity for this large, strong man, whose strength and cheerful
self-reliance had hitherto seemed to raise him above the need of a woman's aid
and sympathy.  Now the very shabbiness of his appearance, and the look of
appealing misery in his features, opened in her bosom the gate through which
compassion could enter, and, with that generous self-forgetfulness which was
the chief factor of her character, she leaned over toward him, and said:

"You must have been very sick, Mr. Strand. Why did you not come to us and allow
us to take care of you, instead of roaming about here in this stony

"Yes; I have been sick," cried Strand, with sudden vehemence, seizing her hand;
"but it is a sickness of which I shall never, never be healed."

And with that world-old eloquence which is yet ever new, he poured forth his
passionate confession in her ear, and she listened, hungrily at first, then
with serene, wide-eyed happiness. He told her how, driven by his inward
restlessness, he had wandered about in the mountains, until one evening at a
saeter, he had heard a peasant lad singing a song, in which this stanza

     "A woman's frown, a woman's smile,
          Nor hate nor fondness prove;
       For maidens smile on him they hate,
          And fly from him they love."

Then it had occurred to him for the first time in his life that a woman's
behavior need not be the logical indicator of her deepest feelings, and,
enriched with this joyful discovery, inspired with new hope, he had returned,
but had not dared at once to seek the Parsonage, until he could invent some
plausible reason for his return; but his imagination was very poor, and he had
found none, except that he loved the pastor's beautiful daughter.

The evening wore on.  The broad mountain- guarded valley, flooded now to the
brim with a soft misty light, spread out about them, and filled them with a
delicious sense of security. The fjord lifted its grave gaze toward the sky,
and deepened responsively with a bright, ever- receding immensity.  The young
girl felt this blessed peace gently stealing over her; doubt and struggle were
all past, and the sun shone ever serene and unobscured upon the widening
expanses of the future.  And in his breast, too, that mood reigned in which
life looks boundless and radiant, human woes small or impossible, and one's own
self large and all-conquering. In that hour they remodeled this old and
obstinate world of ours, never doubting that, if each united his faith and
strength with the other's, they could together lift its burden.

That night was the happiest and most memorable night in the history of the Gran
Parsonage. The pastor walked up and down on the floor, rubbing his hands in
quiet contentment.  Inga, to whom an engagement was essentially a sol- emn
affair, sat in a corner and gazed at her sister and Strand with tearful
radiance.  Arnfinn gave vent to his joy by bestowing embraces promiscuously
upon whomsoever chanced to come in his way.

This story, however, has a brief but not unimportant sequel.  It was not many
weeks after this happy evening that Arnfinn and the maiden with the "amusingly
unclassical nose" presented themselves in the pastor's study and asked for his
paternal and unofficial blessing.  But the pastor, I am told, grew very wroth,
and demanded that his nephew should first take his second and third degrees,
attaching, besides, some very odious stipulations regarding average in study
and college standing, before there could be any talk about engagement or
matrimony. So, at present, Arnfinn is still studying, and the fair-haired Inga
is still waiting.


HE was born in the houseman's lodge; she in the great mansion.  He did not know
who his father was; she was the daughter of Grim of Skogli, and she was the
only daughter he had.  They were carried to baptism on the same day, and he was
called Truls, because they had to call him something; she received the name of
Borghild, because that had been the name of every eldest born daughter in the
family for thirty generations.  They both cried when the pastor poured the
water on their heads; his mother hushed him, blushed, and looked timidly around
her; but the woman who carried Borghild lifted her high up in her arms so that
everybody could see her, and the pastor smiled benignly, and the parishioners
said that they had never seen so beautiful a child.  That was the way in which
they began life — he as a child of sin, she as the daughter of a mighty

They grew up together.  She had round cheeks and merry eyes, and her lips were
redder than the red rose.  He was of slender growth, his face was thin and
pale, and his eyes had a strange, benumbed gaze, as if they were puzzling
themselves with some sad, life-long riddle which they never hoped to solve.  On
the strand where they played the billows came and went, and they murmured
faintly with a sound of infinite remoteness.  Borghild laughed aloud, clapped
her hands and threw stones out into the water, while he sat pale and silent,
and saw the great white-winged sea-birds sailing through the blue ocean of the

"How would you like to live down there in the deep green water?" she asked him
one day, as they sat watching the eider-ducks which swam and dived, and stood
on their heads among the sea-weeds.

"I should like it very well," he answered, "if you would follow me."

"No, I won't follow you," she cried.  "It is cold and wet down in the water. 
And I should spoil the ribbons on my new bodice.  But when I grow up and get
big and can braid my hair, then I shall row with the young lads to the church
yonder on the headland, and there the old pastor will marry me, and I shall
wear the big silver crown which my mother wore when she was married."

"And may I go with you?" asked he, timidly.

"Yes, you may steer my boat and be my helmsman, or — you may be my
bridegroom, if you would like that better."

"Yes, I think I should rather be your bridegroom," and he gave her a long,
strange look which almost frightened her.

The years slipped by, and before Borghild knew it, she had grown into
womanhood.  The down on Truls's cheeks became rougher, and he, too, began to
suspect that he was no longer a boy.  When the sun was late and the breeze
murmured in the great, dark-crowned pines, they often met by chance, at the
well, on the strand, or on the saeter-green.  And the oftener they met the more
they found to talk about; to be sure, it was she who did the talking, and he
looked at her with his large wondering eyes and listened.  She told him of the
lamb which had tumbled down over a steep precipice and still was unhurt, of the
baby who pulled the pastor's hair last Sunday during the baptismal ceremony, or
of the lumberman, Lars, who drank the kero- sene his wife gave him for brandy,
and never knew the difference.  But, when the milkmaids passed by, she would
suddenly forget what she had been saying, and then they sat gazing at each
other in silence.  Once she told him of the lads who danced with her at the
party at Houg; and she thought she noticed a deeper color on his face, and that
he clinched both his fists and —thrust them into his pockets.  That set
her thinking, and the more she thought, the more curious she grew.  He played
the violin well; suppose she should ask him to come and fiddle at the party her
father was to give at the end of the harvest.  She resolved to do it, and he,
not knowing what moved her, gave his promise eagerly.  It struck her,
afterward, that she had done a wicked thing, but, like most girls, she had not
the heart to wrestle with an uncomfortable thought; she shook it off and began
to hum a snatch of an old song.

 "O'er the billows the fleet-footed storm-wind rode,
   The billows blue are the merman's abode,
   So strangely that harp was sounding."

The memory of old times came back to her, the memory of the morning long years
ago, when they sat together on the strand, and he said; "I think I would rather
be your bride- groom, Borghild."  The memory was sweet but it was bitter too;
and the bitterness rose and filled her heart.  She threw her head back proudly,
and laughed a strange, hollow laugh. "A bastard's bride, ha, ha!  A fine tale
were that for the parish gossips."  A yellow butterfly lighted on her arm, and
with a fierce frown on her face she caught it between her fingers. Then she
looked pityingly on the dead wings, as they lay in her hand, and murmured
between her teeth:  "Poor thing!  Why did you come in my way, unbidden?"

The harvest was rich, and the harvest party was to keep pace with the harvest. 
The broad Skogli mansion was festively lighted (for it was already late in
September); the tall, straight tallow candles, stuck in many-armed
candlesticks, shone dimly through a sort of misty halo, and only suffused the
dusk with a faint glimmering of light.  And every time a guest entered, the
flames of the candles flickered and twisted themselves with the wind,
struggling to keep erect.  And Borghild's courage, too, rose and fell with the
flickering motion of a flame which wrestles with the wind.  Whenever the latch
clicked she lifted her eyes and looked for Truls, and one moment she wished
that she might never see his face again, and in the next she sent an eager
glance toward the door.  Presently he came, threw his fiddle on a bench, and
with a reckless air walked up to her and held out his hand.  She hesitated to
return his greeting, but when she saw the deep lines of suffering in his face,
her heart went forward with a great tenderness toward him, a tenderness such as
one feels for a child who is sick, and suffers without hope of healing.  She
laid her hand in his, and there it lay for a while listlessly; for neither
dared trust the joy which the sight of the other enkindled.  But when she tried
to draw her hand away, he caught it quickly, and with a sudden fervor of voice
he said:

"The sight of you, Borghild, stills the hunger which is raging in my soul. 
Beware that you do not play with a life, Borghild, even though it be a
worthless one."

There was something so hopelessly sad in his words, that they stung her to the
quick.  They laid bare a hidden deep in her heart, and she shrank back st the
sight of her own vileness. How could she repair the injury she had done him? 
How could she heal the wound she had inflicted?  A number of guests came up to
greet her and among them Syvert Stein, a bold-look- ing young man, who, during
that summer, had led her frequently in the dance.  He had a square face, strong
features, and a huge crop of towy hair.  His race was far-famed for wit and

"Tardy is your welcome, Borghild of Skogli," quoth he.  "But what a faint heart
does not give a bold hand can grasp, and what I am not offered I take

So saying, he flung his arm about her waist, lifted her from the floor and put
her down in the middle of the room.  Truls stood and gazed at them with large,
bewildered eyes.  He tried hard to despise the braggart, but ended with envying

"Ha, fiddler, strike up a tune that shall ring through marrow and bone,"
shouted Syvert Stein, who struck the floor with his heels and moved his body to
the measure of a spring-dance.

Truls still followed them with his eyes; suddenly he leaped up, and a wild
thought burned in his breast.  But with an effort he checked himself, grasped
his violin, and struck a wailing chord of lament.  Then he laid his ear close
to the instrument, as if he were listening to some living voice hidden there
within, ran wa- rily with the bow over the strings, and warbled, and caroled,
and sang with maddening glee, and still with a shivering undercurrent of woe. 
And the dusk which slept upon the black rafters was quickened and shook with
the weird sound; every pulse in the wide hall beat more rapidly, and every eye
kindled with a bolder fire. Pressently{sic} a Strong male voice sang out to the
measure of the violin:

"Come, fairest maid, tread the dance with me;
               O heigh ho!"

And a clear, tremulous treble answered:

"So gladly tread I the dance with thee;
               O heigh ho!"

Truls knew the voices only too well; it was Syvert Stein and Borghild who were
singing a stave.[8]

[8] A stave is an improvised responsive song.  It is an ancient pastime
in Norway, and is kept up until this day, especially among the peasantry. 
The students, also, at their social gatherings, throw improvised
rhymes to each other across the table, and the rest of the company
repeat the refrain.

Syvert — Like brier-roses thy red cheeks blush,
Borghild — And thine are rough like the thorny bush;
               Both — An' a heigho!

Syvert — So fresh and green is the sunny lea;
               O heigh ho!
Borghild — The fiddle twangeth so merrily;
               O heigh ho!
Syvert — So lightly goeth the lusty reel,
Borghild — And round we whirl like a spinning-wheel;
               Both — An' a heigho!

Syvert — Thine eyes are bright like the sunny fjord;
               O heigh ho!
Borghild — And thine do flash like a Viking's sword;
               O heigh ho!
Syvert — So lightly trippeth thy foot along,
Borghild — The air is teeming with joyful song;
               Both — An' a heigh ho!

Syvert — Then fairest maid, while the woods are green,
               O heigh ho!
Borghild — And thrushes sing the fresh leaves between;
               O heigh ho!
Syvert — Come, let us dance in the gladsome day,
Borghild — Dance hate, and sorrow, and care away;
               Both — An' a heigh ho!

The stave was at an end.  The hot and flushed dancers straggled over the floor
by twos and threes, and the big beer-horns were passed from hand to hand. 
Truls sat in his corner hugging his violin tightly to his bosom, only to do
something, for he was vaguely afraid of himself— afraid of the thoughts
that might rise — afraid of the deed they might prompt.  He ran his fingers
over his forehead, but he hardly felt the touch of his own hand.  It was as if
something was dead within him — as if a string had snapped in his breast,
and left it benumbed and voiceless.

Presently he looked up and saw Borghild standing before him; she held her arms
akimbo, her eyes shone with a strange light, and her features wore an air of
recklessness mingled with pity.

"Ah, Borghild, is it you?" said he, in a hoarse voice.  "What do you want with
me?  I thought you had done with me now."

"You are a very unwitty fellow," answered she, with a forced laugh.  "The
branch that does not bend must break."

She turned quickly on her heel and was lost in the crowd.  He sat long
pondering on her words, but their meaning remained hidden to him.  The branch
that does not bend must break.  Was he the branch, and must he bend or break? 
By-and-by he put his hands on his knees, rose with a slow, uncertain motion,
and stalked heavily toward the door.  The fresh night air would do him good. 
The thought breathes more briskly in God's free nature, under the broad canopy
of heaven.  The white mist rose from the fields, and made the valley below
appear like a white sea whose nearness you feel, even though you do not see it.
 And out of the mist the dark pines stretched their warning hands against the
sky, and the moon was swimming, large and placid, between silvery islands of
cloud.  Truls began to beat his arms against his sides, and felt the warm blood
spreading from his heart and thawing the numbness of his limbs.  Not caring
whither he went, he struck the path leading upward to the mountains.  He took
to humming an old air which happened to come into his head, only to try if
there was life enough left in him to sing. It was the ballad of Young Kirsten
and the Merman:

 "The billows fall and the billows swell,
   In the night so lone,
   In the billows blue doth the merman dwell,
   And strangely that harp was sounding."

could weep like her, and "weep like Aasa
Kvaerk," was soon also added to the stock of
parish proverbs.  And then her laugh!  Tears
may be inopportune enough, when they come
out of time, but laughter is far worse; and when
poor Aasa once burst out into a ringing laughter
in church, and that while the minister was
pronouncing the benediction, it was only with
the greatest difficulty that her father could
prevent the indignant congregation from seizing
her and carrying her before the sheriff for
violation of the church-peace.  Had she been poor
and homely, then of course nothing could He walked on briskly for a while, and, looking back upon the pain he had
endured but a moment ago, he found it quite foolish and irrational.  An absurd
merriment took possession of him; but all the while he did not know where his
foot stepped; his head swam, and his pulse beat feverishly.  About midway
between the forest and the mansion, where the field sloped more steeply, grew a
clump of birch-trees, whose slender stems glimmered ghostly white in the
moonlight.  Something drove Truls to leave the beaten road, and, obeying the
impulse, he steered toward the birches.  A strange sound fell upon his ear,
like the moan of one in distress.  It did not startle him; indeed, he was in a
mood when nothing could have caused him wonder.  If the sky had suddenly
tumbled down upon him, with moon and all, he would have taken it as a matter of
course.  Peering for a moment through the mist, he discerned the outline of a
human figure.  With three great strides he reached the birch-tree; at his feet
sat Borghild rocking herself to and fro and weeping piteously.  Without a word
he seated himself at her side and tried to catch a glimpse of her face; but she
hid it from him and went on sobbing.  Still there could be no doubt that it was
Borghild — one hour ago so merry, reckless, and defiant, now cowering at
his feet and weeping like a broken-hearted child.

"Borghild," he said, at last, putting his arm gently about her waist, "you and
I, I think, played together when we were children."

"So we did, Truls," answered she, struggling with her tears.

"And as we grew up, we spent many a pleasant hour with each other."

"Many a pleasant hour."

She raised her head, and he drew her more closely to him.

"But since then I have done you a great wrong," began she, after a while.

"Nothing done that cannot yet be undone," he took heart to answer.

It was long before her thoughts took shape, and, when at length they did, she
dared not give them utterance.  Nevertheless, she was all the time conscious of
one strong desire, from which her conscience shrank as from a crime; and she
wrestled ineffectually with her weakness until her weakness prevailed.

"I am glad you came," she faltered.  "I knew you would come.  There was
something I wished to say to you."

"And what was it, Borghild?"

"I wanted to ask you to forgive me — "

"Forgive you — "

He sprang up as if something had stung him.

"And why not?" she pleaded, piteously.

"Ah, girl, you know not what you ask," cried he, with a sternness which
startled her. "If I had more than one life to waste — but you caress with
one hand and stab with the other. Fare thee well, Borghild, for here our paths

He turned his back upon her and began to descend the slope.

"For God's sake, stay, Truls," implored she, and stretched her arms appealingly
toward him; "tell me, oh, tell me all."

With a leap he was again at her side, stooped down over her, and, in a hoarse,
passionate whisper, spoke the secret of his life in her ear. She gazed for a
moment steadily into his face, then, in a few hurried words, she pledged him
her love, her faith, her all.  And in the stillness of that summer night they
planned together their flight to a greater and freer land, where no world-old
prejudice frowned upon the union of two kindred souls.  They would wait in
patience and silence until spring; then come the fresh winds from the ocean,
and, with them, the birds of passage which awake the longings in the
Norsernen's breasts, and the American vessels which give courage to many a
sinking spirit, strength to the wearied arm, hope to the hopeless heart.

During that winter Truls and Borghild seldom saw each other.  The parish was
filled with rumors, and after the Christmas holiday it was told for certain
that the proud maiden of Skogli had been promised in marriage to Syvert Stein. 
It was the general belief that the families had made the match, and that
Borghild, at least, had hardly had any voice in the matter. Another report was
that she had flatly refused to listen to any proposal from that quarter, and
that, when she found that resistance was vain, she had cried three days and
three nights, and refused to take any food.  When this rumor reached the
pastor's ear, he pronounced it an idle tale; "for," said he, "Borghild has
always been a proper and well-behaved maiden, and she knows that she must honor
father and mother, that it may be well with her, and she live long upon the

But Borghild sat alone in her gable window and looked longingly toward the
ocean.  The glaciers glittered, the rivers swelled, the buds of the forest
burst, and great white sails began to glimmer on the far western horizon.

If Truls, the Nameless, as scoffers were wont to call him, had been a greater
personage in the valley, it would, no doubt, have shocked the gossips to know
that one fine morning he sold his cow, his gun and his dog, and wrapped sixty
silver dollars in a leathern bag, which he sewed fast to the girdle he wore
about his waist.  That same night some one was heard playing wildly up in the
birch copse above the Skogli mansion; now it sounded like a wail of distress,
then like a fierce, defiant laugh, and now again the music seemed to hush
itself into a heart-broken, sorrowful moan, and the people crossed themselves,
and whispered:  "Our Father;" but Borghild sat at her gable window and listened
long to the weird strain.  The midnight came, but she stirred not. With the
hour of midnight the music ceased. From the windows of hall and kitchen the
light streamed out into the damp air, and the darkness stood like a wall on
either side; within, maids and lads were busy brewing, baking, and washing, for
in a week there was to be a wedding on the farm.

The week went and the wedding came. Truls had not closed his eyes all that
night, and before daybreak he sauntered down along the beach and gazed out upon
the calm fjord, where the white-winged sea-birds whirled in great airy surges
around the bare crags.  Far up above the noisy throng an ospray sailed on the
blue expanse of the sky, and quick as thought swooped down upon a halibut which
had ventured to take a peep at the rising sun. The huge fish struggled for a
moment at the water's edge, then, with a powerful stroke of its tail, which
sent the spray hissing through the air, dived below the surface.  The bird of
prey gave a loud scream, flapped fiercely with its broad wings, and for several
minutes a thickening cloud of applauding ducks and seagulls and showers of
spray hid the combat from the observer's eye.  When the birds scattered, the
ospray had vanished, and the waters again glittered calmly in the morning sun. 
Truls stood long, vacantly staring out upon the scene of the conflict, and many
strange thoughts whirled through his head.

"Halloo, fiddler!" cried a couple of lads who had come to clear the wedding
boats, "you are early on foot to-day.  Here is a scoop.  Come on and help us
bail the boats."

Truls took the scoop, and looked at it as if he had never seen such a thing
before; he moved about heavily, hardly knowing what he did, but conscious all
the while of his own great misery. His limbs seemed half frozen, and a dull
pain gathered about his head and in his breast — in fact, everywhere and

About ten o'clock the bridal procession descended the slope to the fjord. 
Syvert Stein, the bridegroom, trod the earth with a firm, springy step, and
spoke many a cheery word to tho bride, who walked, silent and with downcast
eyes, at his side.  She wore the ancestral bridal crown on her head, and the
little silver disks around its edge tinkled and shook as she walked.  They
hailed her with firing of guns and loud hurrahs as she stepped into the boat;
still she did not raise her eyes, but remained silent.  A small cannon, also an
heir-loom in the family, was placed amidships, and Truls, with his violin, took
his seat in the prow.  A large solitary cloud, gold-rimmed but with thunder in
its breast, sailed across the sky and threw its shadow over the bridal boat as
it was pushed out from the shore, and the shadow fell upon the bride's
countenance too; and when she lifted it, the mother of the bridegroom, who sat
opposite her, shrank back, for the countenance looked hard, as if carved in
stone — in the eyes a mute, hopeless appeal; on the lips a frozen prayer. 
The shadow of thunder upon a life that was opening — it was an ill omen,
and its gloom sank into the hearts of the wedding guests.  They spoke in
undertones and threw pitying glances at the bride.  Then at length Syvert Stein
lost his patience.

"In sooth," cried he, springing up from his seat, "where is to-day the cheer
that is wont to abide in the Norseman's breast?  Methinks I see but sullen airs
and ill-boding glances.  Ha, fiddler, now move your strings lustily!  None of
your funeral airs, my lad, but a merry tune that shall sing through marrow and
bone, and make the heart leap in the bosom."

Truls heard the words, and in a slow, mechanical way he took the violin out of
its case and raised it to his chin.  Syvert in the mean while put a huge silver
beer-jug to his mouth, and, pledging his guests, emptied it even to the dregs. 
But the bride's cheek was pale; and it was so still in the boat that every man
could hear his own breathing.

"Ha, to-day is Syvert Stein's wedding-day!" shouted the bridegroom, growing hot
with wrath.  "Let us try if the iron voice of the cannon can wake my guests
from their slumber."

He struck a match and put it to the touch- hole of the cannon; a long boom
rolled away over the surface of the waters and startled the echoes of the
distant glaciers.  A faint hurrah sounded from the nearest craft, but there
came no response from the bridal boat.  Syvert pulled the powder-horn from his
pocket, laughed a wild laugh, and poured the whole contents of the horn into
the mouth of the cannon.

"Now may the devil care for his own," roared he, and sprang up upon the
row-bench.  Then there came a low murmuring strain as of wavelets that ripple
against a sandy shore.  Borghild lifted her eyes, and they met those of the

"Ah, I think I should rather be your bridegroom," whispered she, and a ray of
life stole into her stony visage.

And she saw herself as a little rosy-cheeked girl sitting at his side on the
beach fifteen years ago.  But the music gathered strength from her glance, and
onward it rushed through the noisy years of boyhood, shouting with wanton voice
in the lonely glen, lowing with the cattle on the mountain pastures, and
leaping like the trout at eventide in the brawling rapids; but through it all
there ran a warm strain of boyish loyalty and strong devotion, and it thawed
her frozen heart; for she knew that it was all for her and for her only.  And
it seemed such a beautiful thing, this long faithful life, which through sorrow
and joy, through sunshine and gloom, for better for worse, had clung so fast to
her.  The wedding guests raised their heads, and a murmur of applause ran over
the waters.

"Bravo!" cried the bridegroom.  "Now at last the tongues are loosed."

Truls's gaze dwelt with tender sadness on the bride.  Then came from the
strings some airy quivering chords, faintly flushed like the petals of the
rose, and fragrant like lilies of the valley; and they swelled with a strong,
awakening life, and rose with a stormy fullness until they seemed on the point
of bursting, when again they hushed themselves and sank into a low,
disconsolate whisper.  Once more the tones stretched out their arms
imploringly, and again they wrestled despairingly with themselves, fled with a
stern voice of warning, returned once more, wept, shuddered, and were silent.

"Beware that thou dost not play with a life!" sighed the bride, "even though it
be a worthless one."

The wedding guests clapped their hands and shouted wildly against the sky.  The
bride's countenance burned with a strange feverish glow.  The fiddler arose in
the prow of the boat, his eyes flamed, he struck the strings madly, and the air
trembled with melodious rapture.  The voice of that music no living tongue can
interpret.  But the bride fathomed its meaning; her bosom labored vehemently,
her lips quivered for an instant convulsively, and she burst into tears.  A
dark suspicion shot through the bridegroom's mind. He stared intently upon the
weeping Borghild then turned his gaze to the fiddler, who, still regarding her,
stood playing, with a half-frenzied look and motion.

"You cursed wretch!" shrieked Syvert, and made a leap over two benches to where
Truls was standing.  It came so unexpectedly that Truls had no time to prepare
for defense; so he merely stretched out the hand in which he held the violin to
ward off the blow which he saw was coming; but Syvert tore the instrument from
his grasp and dashed it against the cannon, and, as it happened, just against
the touch-hole. With a tremendous crash something black darted through the air
and a white smoke brooded over the bridal boat.  The bridegroom stood pale and
stunned.  At his feet lay Borghild— lay for a moment still, as if
lifeless, then rose on her elbows, and a dark red current broke from her
breast.  The smoke scattered. No one saw how it was done; but a moment later
Truls, the Nameless, lay kneeling at Borghild's side.

"It WAS a worthless life, beloved," whispered he, tenderly.  "Now it is at an

And he lifted her up in his arms as one lifts a beloved child, pressed a kiss
on her pale lips, and leaped into the water.  Like lead they fell into the sea.
 A throng of white bubbles whirled up to the surface.  A loud wail rose from
the bridal fleet, and before the day was at an end it filled the valley; but
the wail did not recall Truls, the Nameless, or Borghild his bride.

What life denied them, would to God that death may yield them!



IT was right up under the steel mountain wall where the farm of Kvaerk lay. 
How any man of common sense could have hit upon the idea of building a house
there, where none but the goat and the hawk had easy access, had been, and I am
afraid would ever be, a matter of wonder to the parish people.  However, it was
not Lage Kvaerk who had built the house, so he could hardly be made responsible
for its situation.  Moreover, to move from a place where one's life has once
struck deep root, even if it be in the chinks and crevices of stones and rocks,
is about the same as to destroy it.  An old tree grows but poorly in a new
soil.  So Lage Kvaerk thought, and so he said, too, whenever his wife Elsie
spoke of her sunny home at the river.

Gloomy as Lage usually was, he had his brighter moments, and people noticed
that these were most likely to occur when Aasa, his daughter, was near.  Lage
was probably also the only being whom Aasa's presence could cheer; on other
people it seemed to have the very opposite effect; for Aasa was — according
to the testimony of those who knew her — the most peculiar creature that
ever was born.  But perhaps no one did know her; if her father was right, no
one really did — at least no one but himself.

Aasa was all to her father; she was his past and she was his future, his hope
and his life; and withal it must be admitted that those who judged her without
knowing her had at least in one respect as just an opinion of her as he; for
there was no denying that she was strange, very strange.  She spoke when she
ought to be silent, and was silent when it was proper to speak; wept when she
ought to laugh, and laughed when it was proper to weep; but her laughter as
well as her tears, her speech like her silence, seemed to have their source
from within her own soul, to be occasioned, as it were, by something which no
one else could see or hear. It made little difference where she was; if the
tears came, she yielded to them as if they were something she had long desired
in vain.  Few have saved her; but she happened to be both rich and beautiful,
and to wealth and beauty much is pardoned.  Aasa's beauty, however, was also of
a very unusual kind; not the tame sweetness so common in her sex, but something
of the beauty of the falcon, when it swoops down upon the unwatchful sparrow or
soars round the lonely crags; something of the mystic depth of the dark tarn,
when with bodeful trembling you gaze down into it, and see its weird traditions
rise from its depth and hover over the pine-tops in the morning fog.  Yet, Aasa
was not dark; her hair was as fair and yellow as a wheat-field in August, her
forehead high and clear, and her mouth and chin as if cut with a chisel; only
her eyes were perhaps somewhat deeper than is common in the North, and the
longer you looked at them the deeper they grew, just like the tarn, which, if
you stare long enough into it, you will find is as deep as the heavens above,
that is, whose depth only faith and fancy can fathom.  But however long you
looked at Aasa, you could never be quite sure that she looked at you; she
seemed but to half notice whatever went on around her; the look of her eye was
always more than half inward, and when it shone the brightest, it might well
happen that she could not have told you how many years she had lived, or the
name her father gave her in baptism.

Now Aasa was eighteen years old, and could knit, weave, and spin, and it was
full time that wooers should come.  "But that is the consequence of living in
such an out-of-the-way place," said her mother; "who will risk his limbs to
climb that neck-breaking rock? and the round-about way over the forest is
rather too long for a wooer."  Besides handling the loom and the
spinning-wheel, Aasa had also learned to churn and make cheese to perfection,
and whenever Elsie grieved at her strange behavior she always in the end
consoled herself with the reflection that after all Aasa would make the man who
should get her an excellent housewife.

The farm of Kvaerk was indeed most singularly situated.  About a hundred feet
from the house the rough wall of the mountain rose steep and threatening; and
the most remarkable part of it was that the rock itself caved inward and formed
a lofty arch overhead, which looked like a huge door leading into the mountain.
 Some short distance below, the slope of the fields ended in an abrupt
precipice; far underneath lay the other farm-houses of the valley, scattered
like small red or gray dots, and the river wound onward like a white silver
stripe in the shelter of the dusky forest.  There was a path down along the
rock, which a goat or a brisk lad might be induced to climb, if the prize of
the experiment were great enough to justify the hazard.  The common road to
Kvaerk made a large circuit around the forest, and reached the valley far up at
its northern end.

It was difficult to get anything to grow at Kvaerk.  In the spring all the
valley lay bare and green, before the snow had begun to think of melting up
there; and the night-frost would be sure to make a visit there, while the
fields along the river lay silently drinking the summer dew.  On such occasions
the whole family at Kvaerk would have to stay up during all the night and walk
back and forth on either side of the wheat-fields, carrying a long rope between
them and dragging it slowly over the heads of the rye, to prevent the frost
from settling; for as long as the ears could be kept in motion, they could not
freeze.  But what did thrive at Kvaerk in spite of both snow and night-frost
was legends, and they throve perhaps the better for the very sterility of its
material soil.  Aasa of course had heard them all and knew them by heart; they
had been her friends from childhood, and her only companions.  All the
servants, however, also knew them and many others besides, and if they were
asked how the mansion of Kvaerk happened to be built like an eagle's nest on
the brink of a precipice, they would tell you the following:

Saint Olaf, Norway's holy king, in the time of his youth had sailed as a Viking
over the wide ocean, and in foreign lands had learned the doctrine of Christ
the White.  When he came home to claim the throne of his hereditary kingdom, he
brought with him tapers and black priests, and commanded the people to
overthrow the altars of Odin and Thor and to believe alone in Christ the White.
 If any still dared to slaughter a horse to the old gods, he cut off their
ears, burned their farms, and drove them houseless from the smoking ruins. 
Here in the valley old Thor, or, as they called him, Asathor, had always helped
us to vengeance and victory, and gentle Frey for many years had given us fair
and fertile summers.  Therefore the peasants paid little heed to King Olaf's
god, and continued to bring their offerings to Odin and Asathor.  This reached
the king's ear, and he summoned his bishop and five black priests, and set out
to visit our valley.  Having arrived here, he called the peasants together,
stood up on the Ting-stone, told them of the great things that the White Christ
had done, and bade them choose between him and the old gods.  Some were scared,
and received baptism from the king's priests; others bit their lips and were
silent; others again stood forth and told Saint Olaf that Odin and Asathor had
always served them well, and that they were not going to give them up for
Christ the White, whom they had never seen and of whom they knew nothing. The
next night the red cock crew[9] over ten farms in the valley, and it happened
to he theirs who had spoken against King Olaf's god.  Then the peasants flocked
to the Ting-stone and received the baptism of Christ the White.  Some few, who
had mighty kinsmen in the North, fled and spread the evil tidings.  Only one
neither fled nor was baptized, and that one was Lage Ulfson Kvaerk, the
ancestor of the present Lage.  He slew his best steed before Asathor's altar,
and promised to give him whatever he should ask, even to his own life, if he
would save him from the vengeance of the king.  Asathor heard his prayer.  As
the sun set, a storm sprung up with thick darkness and gloom, the earth shook,
Asathor drove his chariot over the heavens with deafening thunder and swung his
hammer right and left, and the crackling lightning flew through the air like a
hail-storm of fire.  Then the peasants trembled, for they knew that Asathor was
wroth.  Only the king sat calm and fearless with his bishop and priests,
quaffing the nut-brown mead.  The tempest raged until morn.  When the sun rose,
Saint Olaf called his hundred swains, sprang into the saddle and rode down
toward the river.  Few men who saw the angry fire in his eye, and the frown on
his royal brow, doubted whither he was bound.  But having reached the ford, a
wondrous sight met his eye.  Where on the day before the highway had wound
itself up the slope toward Lage Kvaerk's mansion, lay now a wild ravine; the
rock was shattered into a thousand pieces, and a deep gorge, as if made by a
single stroke of a huge hammer, separated the king from his enemy.  Then Saint
Olaf made the sign of the cross, and mumbled the name of Christ the White; but
his hundred swains made the sign of the hammer under their cloaks, and thought,
Still is Asathor alive.

[9] "The red cock crew" is the expression used in the old Norwegian Fagas for
incendiary fire.

That same night Lage Ulfson Kvaerk slew a black ram, and thanked Asathor for
his deliverance; and the Saga tells that while he was sprinkling the blood on
the altar, the thundering god himself appeared to him, and wilder he looked
than the fiercest wild Turk.  Rams, said he, were every-day fare; they could
redeem no promise.  Brynhild, his daughter, was the reward Asathor demanded. 
Lage prayed and besought him to ask for something else.  He would gladly give
him one of his sons; for he had three sons, but only one daughter.  Asathor was
immovable; but so long Lage continued to beg, that at last he consented to come
back in a year, when Lage perchance would be better reconciled to the thought
of Brynhild's loss.

In the mean time King Olaf built a church to Christ the White on the headland
at the river, where it stands until this day.  Every evening, when the huge
bell rumbled between the mountains, the parishioners thought they heard heavy,
half-choked sighs over in the rocks at Kvaerk; and on Sunday mornings, when the
clear-voiced chimes called them to high-mass, a suppressed moan would mingle
with the sound of the bells, and die away with the last echo.  Lage Ulfson was
not the man to be afraid; yet the church- bells many a time drove the blood
from his cheeks; for he also heard the moan from the mountain.

The year went, and Asathor returned.  If he had not told his name, however,
Lage would not have recognized him.  That a year could work so great a change
in a god, he would hardly have believed, if his own eyes had not testified to
it.  Asathor's cheeks were pale and bloodless, the lustre of his eye more than
half quenched, and his gray hair hung in disorder down over his forehead.

"Methinks thou lookest rather poorly to-day," said Lage.

"It is only those cursed church-bells," answered the god; "they leave me no
rest day or night."

"Aha," thought Lage, "if the king's bells are mightier than thou, then there is
still hope of safety for my daughter."

"Where is Brynhild, thy daughter?" asked Asathor.

"I know not where she is," answered the father; and straightway he turned his
eyes toward the golden cross that shone over the valley from Saint Olaf's
steeple, and he called aloud on the White Christ's name.  Then the god gave a
fearful roar, fell on the ground, writhed and foamed and vanished into the
mountain.  In the next moment Lage heard a hoarse voice crying from within, "I
shall return, Lage Ulfson, when thou shalt least expect me!"

Lage Ulfson then set to work clearing a way through the forest; and when that
was done, he called all his household together, and told them of the power of
Christ the White.  Not long after he took his sons and his daughter, and
hastened with them southward, until he found King Olaf.  And, so the Saga
relates, they all fell down on their knees before him, prayed for his
forgiveness, and received baptism from the king's own bishop.

So ends the Saga of Lage Ulfson Kvaerk.


Aasa Kvaerk loved her father well, but especially in the winter.  Then, while
she sat turning her spinning-wheel in the light of the crackling logs, his
silent presence always had a wonderfully soothing and calming effect upon her. 
She never laughed then, and seldom wept; when she felt his eyes resting on her,
her thoughts, her senses, and her whole being seemed by degrees to be lured
from their hiding- place and concentrate on him; and from him they ventured
again, first timidly, then more boldly, to grasp the objects around him.  At
such times Aasa could talk and jest almost like other girls, and her mother, to
whom "other girls" represented the ideal of womanly perfection, would send
significant glances, full of hope and encouragement, over to Lage, and he would
quietly nod in return, as if to say that he entirely agreed with her.  Then
Elsie had bright visions of wooers and thrifty housewives, and even Lage
dreamed of seeing the ancient honor of the family re-established.  All depended
on Aasa.  She was the last of the mighty race. But when summer came, the bright
visions fled; and the spring winds, which to others bring life and joy, to
Kvaerk brought nothing but sorrow. No sooner had the mountain brooks begun to
swell, than Aasa began to laugh and to weep; and when the first birches budded
up in the glens, she could no longer be kept at home. Prayers and threats were
equally useless.  From early dawn until evening she would roam about in forests
and fields, and when late at night she stole into the room and slipped away
into some corner, Lage drew a deep sigh and thought of the old tradition.

Aasa was nineteen years old before she had a single wooer.  But when she was
least expecting it, the wooer came to her.

It was late one summer night; the young maiden was sitting on the brink of the
ravine, pondering on the old legend and peering down into the deep below.  It
was not the first time she had found her way hither, where but seldom a human
foot had dared to tread.  To her every alder and bramble-bush, that clothed the
naked wall of the rock, were as familiar as were the knots and veins in the
ceiling of the chamber where from her childhood she had slept; and as she sat
there on the brink of the precipice, the late summer sun threw its red lustre
upon her and upon the fogs that came drifting up from the deep.  With her eyes
she followed the drifting masses of fog, and wondered, as they rose higher and
higher, when they would reach her; in her fancy she saw herself dancing over
the wide expanse of heaven, clad in the sun-gilded evening fogs; and Saint
Olaf, the great and holy king, came riding to meet her, mounted on a flaming
steed made of the glory of a thousand sunsets; then Saint Olaf took her hand
and lifted her up, and she sat with him on the flaming steed: but the fog
lingered in the deep below, and as it rose it spread like a thin,
half-invisible gauze over the forests and the fields, and at last vanished into
the infinite space.  But hark! a huge stone rolls down over the mountain-side,
then another, and another; the noise grows, the birches down there in the gorge
tremble and shake.  Aasa leaned out over the brink of the ravine, and, as far
as she could distinguish anything from her dizzying height, thought she saw
something gray creeping slowly up the neck-breaking mountain path; she watched
it for a while, but as it seemed to advance no farther she again took refuge in
her reveries.  An hour might have passed, or perhaps more, when suddenly she
heard a noise only a few feet distant, and, again stooping out over the brink,
saw the figure of a man strug- gling desperately to climb the last great ledge
of the rock.  With both his hands he clung to a little birch-tree which
stretched its slender arms down over the black wall, but with every moment that
passed seemed less likely to accomplish the feat.  The girl for a while stood
watching him with unfeigned curiosity, then, suddenly reminding herself that
the situation to him must be a dangerous one, seized hold of a tree that grew
near the brink, and leaned out over the rock to give him her assistance. He
eagerly grasped her extended hand, and with a vigorous pull she flung him up on
the grassy level, where he remained lying for a minute or two, apparently
utterly unable to account for his sudden ascent, and gazing around him with a
half-frightened, half-bewildered look.  Aasa, to whom his appearance was no
less strange than his demeanor, unluckily hit upon the idea that perhaps her
rather violent treatment had momentarily stunned him, and when, as answer to
her sympathizing question if he was hurt, the stranger abruptly rose to his
feet and towered up before her to the formidable height of six feet four or
five, she could no longer master her mirth, but burst out into a most vehement
fit of laughter.  He stood calm and silent, and looked at her with a timid but
strangely bitter smile.  He was so very different from any man she had ever
seen before; therefore she laughed, not necessarily because he amused her, but
because his whole person was a surprise to her; and there he stood, tall and
gaunt and timid, and said not a word, only gazed and gazed.  His dress was not
the national costume of the valley, neither was it like anything that Aasa had
ever known.  On his head he wore a cap that hung all on one side, and was
decorated with a long, heavy silk tassel. A threadbare coat, which seemed to be
made expressly not to fit him, hung loosely on his sloping shoulders, and a
pair of gray pantaloons, which were narrow where they ought to have been wide,
and wide where it was their duty to be narrow, extended their service to a
little more than the upper half of the limb, and, by a kind of compromise with
the tops of the boots, managed to protect also the lower half.  His features
were delicate, and would have been called handsome had they belonged to a
proportionately delicate body; in his eyes hovered a dreamy vagueness which
seemed to come and vanish, and to flit from one feature to another, suggesting
the idea of remoteness, and a feeling of hopeless strangeness to the world and
all its concerns.

"Do I inconvenience you, madam?" were the first words he uttered, as Aasa in
her usual abrupt manner stayed her laughter, turned her back on him, and
hastily started for the house.

"Inconvenience?" said she, surprised, and again slowly turned on her heel; "no,
not that I know."

"Then tell me if there are people living here in the neighborhood, or if the
light deceived me, which I saw from the other side of the river."

"Follow me," answered Aasa, and she naïvely reached him her hand; "my
father's name is Lage Ulfson Kvaerk; he lives in the large house you see
straight before you, there on the hill; and my mother lives there too."

And hand in hand they walked together, where a path had been made between two
adjoining rye-fields; his serious smile seemed to grow milder and happier, the
longer he lingered at her side, and her eye caught a ray of more human
intelligence, as it rested on him.

"What do you do up here in the long winter?" asked he, after a pause.

"We sing," answered she, as it were at ran- dom, because the word came into her
mind; "and what do you do, where you come from?"

"I gather song."

"Have you ever heard the forest sing?" asked she, curiously.

"That is why I came here."

And again they walked on in silence.

It was near midnight when they entered the large hall at Kvaerk.  Aasa went
before, still leading the young man by the hand.  In the twilight which filled
the house, the space between the black, smoky rafters opened a vague vista into
the region of the fabulous, and every object in the room loomed forth from the
dusk with exaggerated form and dimensions.  The room appeared at first to be
but the haunt of the spirits of the past; no human voice, no human footstep,
was heard; and the stranger instinctively pressed the hand he held more
tightly; for he was not sure but that he was standing on the boundary of
dream-land, and some elfin maiden had reached him her hand to lure him into her
mountain, where he should live with her forever.  But the illusion was of brief
duration; for Aasa's thoughts had taken a widely different course; it was but
seldom she had found herself under the necessity of making a decision; and now
it evidently devolved upon her to find the stranger a place of rest for the
night; so instead of an elf-maid's kiss and a silver palace, he soon found
himself huddled into a dark little alcove in the wall, where he was told to go
to sleep, while Aasa wandered over to the empty cow-stables, and threw herself
down in the hay by the side of two sleeping milkmaids.


There was not a little astonishment manifested among the servant-maids at
Kvaerk the next morning, when the huge, gaunt figure of a man was seen to
launch forth from Aasa's alcove, and the strangest of all was, that Aasa
herself appeared to be as much astonished as the rest.  And there they stood,
all gazing at the bewildered traveler, who indeed was no less startled than
they, and as utterly unable to account for his own sudden apparition.  After a
long pause, he summoned all his courage, fixed his eyes intently on the group
of the girls, and with a few rapid steps advanced toward Aasa, whom he seized
by the hand and asked, "Are you not my maiden of yester-eve?"

She met his gaze firmly, and laid her hand on her forehead as if to clear her
thoughts; as the memory of the night flashed through her mind, a bright smile
lit up her features, and she answered, "You are the man who gathers song.
Forgive me, I was not sure but it was all a dream; for I dream so much."

Then one of the maids ran out to call Lage Ulfson, who had gone to the stables
to harness the horses; and he came and greeted the unknown man, and thanked him
for last meeting, as is the wont of Norse peasants, although they had never
seen each other until that morning. But when the stranger had eaten two meals
in Lage's house, Lage asked him his name and his father's occupation; for old
Norwegian hospitality forbids the host to learn the guest's name before he has
slept and eaten under his roof.  It was that same afternoon, when they sat
together smoking their pipes under the huge old pine in the yard, — it was
then Lage inquired about the young man's name and family; and the young man
said that his name was Trond Vigfusson, that he had graduated at the University
of Christiania, and that his father had been a lieutenant in the army; but both
he and Trond's mother had died, when Trond was only a few years old.  Lage then
told his guest Vigfusson something about his family, but of the legend of
Asathor and Saint Olaf he spoke not a word.  And while they were sitting there
talking together, Aasa came and sat down at Vigfusson's feet; her long golden
hair flowed in a waving stream down over her back and shoulders, there was a
fresh, healthful glow on her cheeks, and her blue, fathomless eyes had a
strangely joyous, almost triumphant expression. The father's gaze dwelt fondly
upon her, and the collegian was but conscious of one thought: that she was
wondrously beautiful.  And still so great was his natural timidity and
awkwardness in the presence of women, that it was only with the greatest
difficulty he could master his first impulse to find some excuse for leaving
her.  She, however, was aware of no such restraint.

"You said you came to gather song," she said; "where do you find it? for I too
should like to find some new melody for my old thoughts; I have searched so

"I find my songs on the lips of the people," answered he, "and I write them
down as the maidens or the old men sing them."

She did not seem quite to comprehend that. "Do you hear maidens sing them?"
asked she, astonished.  "Do you mean the troll-virgins and the elf-maidens?"

"By troll-virgins and elf-maidens, or what the legends call so, I understand
the hidden and still audible voices of nature, of the dark pine forests, the
legend-haunted glades, and the silent tarns; and this was what I referred to
when I answered your question if I had ever heard the forest sing."

"Oh, oh!" cried she, delighted, and clapped her hands like a child; but in
another moment she as suddenly grew serious again, and sat steadfastly gazing
into his eye, as if she were trying to look into his very soul and there to
find something kindred to her own lonely heart. A minute ago her presence had
embarrassed him; now, strange to say, he met her eye, and smiled happily as he
met it.

"Do you mean to say that you make your living by writing songs?" asked Lage.

"The trouble is," answered Vigfusson, "that I make no living at all; but I have
invested a large capital, which is to yield its interest in the future.  There
is a treasure of song hidden in every nook and corner of our mountains and
forests, and in our nation's heart.  I am one of the miners who have come to
dig it out before time and oblivion shall have buried every trace of it, and
there shall not be even the will-o'-the- wisp of a legend to hover over the
spot, and keep alive the sad fact of our loss and our blamable negligence."

Here the young man paused; his eyes gleamed, his pale cheeks flushed, and there
was a warmth and an enthusiasm in his words which alarmed Lage, while on Aasa
it worked like the most potent charm of the ancient mystic runes; she hardly
comprehended more than half of the speaker's meaning, but his fire and
eloquence were on this account none the less powerful.

"If that is your object," remarked Lage, "I think you have hit upon the right
place in coming here.  You will be able to pick up many an odd bit of a story
from the servants and others hereabouts, and you are welcome to stay here with
us as long as you choose."

Lage could not but attribute to Vigfusson the merit of having kept Aasa at home
a whole day, and that in the month of midsummer.  And while he sat there
listening to their conversation, while he contemplated the delight that beamed
from his daughter's countenance and, as he thought, the really intelligent
expression of her eyes, could he conceal from himself the pa- ternal hopes that
swelled his heart?  She was all that was left him, the life or the death of his
mighty race.  And here was one who was likely to understand her, and to whom
she seemed willing to yield all the affection of her warm but wayward heart. 
Thus ran Lage Ulfson's reflections; and at night he had a little consultation
with Elsie, his wife, who, it is needless to add, was no less sanguine than he.

"And then Aasa will make an excellent housewife, you know," observed Elsie.  "I
will speak to the girl about it to-morrow."

"No, for Heaven's sake, Elsie!" exclaimed Lage, "don't you know your daughter
better than that?  Promise me, Elsie, that you will not say a single word; it
would be a cruel thing, Elsie, to mention anything to her.  She is not like
other girls, you know."

"Very well, Lage, I shall not say a single word.  Alas, you are right, she is
not like other girls."  And Elsie again sighed at her husband's sad ignorance
of a woman's nature, and at the still sadder fact of her daughter's inferiority
to the accepted standard of womanhood.


Trond Vigfusson must have made a rich harvest of legends at Kvaerk, at least
judging by the time he stayed there; for days and weeks passed, and he had yet
said nothing of going. Not that anybody wished him to go; no, on the contrary,
the longer he stayed the more indispensable he seemed to all; and Lage Ulfson
could hardly think without a shudder of the possibility of his ever having to
leave them. For Aasa, his only child, was like another being in the presence of
this stranger; all that weird, forest-like intensity, that wild, half
supernatural tinge in her character which in a measure excluded her from the
blissful feeling of fellowship with other men, and made her the strange, lonely
creature she was, — all this seemed to vanish as dew in the morning sun
when Vigfusson's eyes rested upon her; and with every day that passed, her
human and womanly nature gained a stronger hold upon her.  She followed him
like his shadow on all his wanderings, and when they sat down together by the
wayside, she would sing, in a clear, soft voice, an ancient lay or ballad, and
he would catch her words on his paper, and smile at the happy prospect of
perpetuating what otherwise would have been lost. Aasa's love, whether
conscious or not, was to him an everlasting source of strength, was a
revelation of himself to himself, and a clearing and widening power which
brought ever more and more of the universe within the scope of his vision.  So
they lived on from day to day and from week to week, and, as old Lage remarked,
never had Kvaerk been the scene of so much happiness.  Not a single time during
Vigfusson's stay had Aasa fled to the forest, not a meal had she missed, and at
the hours for family devotion she had taken her seat at the big table with the
rest and apparently listened with as much attention and interest.  Indeed, all
this time Aasa seemed purposely to avoid the dark haunts of the woods, and,
whenever she could, chose the open highway; not even Vigfusson's entreaties
could induce her to tread the tempting paths that led into the forest's gloom.

"And why not, Aasa?" he would say; "summer is ten times summer there when the
drowsy noonday spreads its trembling maze of shadows between those huge,
venerable trunks.  You can feel the summer creeping into your very heart and
soul, there!"

"Oh, Vigfusson," she would answer, shaking her head mournfully, "for a hundred
paths that lead in, there is only one that leads out again, and sometimes even
that one is nowhere to be found."

He understood her not, but fearing to ask, he remained silent.

His words and his eyes always drew her nearer and nearer to him; and the forest
and its strange voices seemed a dark, opposing influence, which strove to take
possession of her heart and to wrest her away from him forever; she helplessly
clung to him; every thought and emotion of her soul clustered about him, and
every hope of life and happiness was staked on him.

One evening Vigfusson and old Lage Ulfson had been walking about the fields to
look at the crop, both smoking their evening pipes.  But as they came down
toward the brink whence the path leads between the two adjoining rye- fields,
they heard a sweet, sad voice crooning some old ditty down between the
birch-trees at the precipice; they stopped to listen, and soon recognized
Aasa's yellow hair over the tops the rye; the shadow as of a painful emotion
flitted over the father's countenance, and he turned his back on his guest and
started to go; then again paused, and said, imploringly, "Try to get her home
if you can, friend Vigfusson.'

Vigfusson nodded, and Lage went; the song had ceased for a moment, now it began

  "Ye twittering birdlings, in forest and glen
    I have heard you so gladly before;
    But a bold knight hath come to woo me,
    I dare listen to you no more.
  For it is so dark, so dark in the forest.

   "And the knight who hath come a-wooing to me,
    He calls me his love and his own;
    Why then should I stray through the darksome woods,
    Or dream in the glades alone?
  For it is so dark, so dark in the forest."

Her voice fell to a low unintelligible murmur; then it rose, and the last
verses came, clear, soft, and low, drifting on the evening breeze:

   "Yon beckoning world, that shimmering lay
     O'er the woods where the old pines grow,
     That gleamed through the moods of the summer day
     When the breezes were murmuring low
  (And it is so dark, so dark in the forest);

   "Oh let me no more in the sunshine hear
     Its quivering noonday call;
     The bold knight's love is the sun of my heart—
     Is my life, and my all in all.
  But it is so dark, so dark in the forest."

The young man felt the blood rushing to his face — his heart beat
violently.  There was a keen sense of guilt in the blush on his cheek, a loud
accusation in the throbbing pulse and the swelling heart-beat.  Had he not
stood there behind the maiden's back and cunningly peered into her soul's holy
of holies?  True, he loved Aasa; at least he thought he did, and the conviction
was growing stronger with every day that passed.  And now he had no doubt that
he had gained her heart.  It was not so much the words of the ballad which had
betrayed the secret; he hardly knew what it was, but somehow the truth had
flashed upon him, and he could no longer doubt.

Vigfusson sat down on the moss-grown rock and pondered.  How long he sat there
he did not know, but when he rose and looked around, Aasa was gone.  Then
remembering her father's request to bring her home, he hastened up the
hill-side toward the mansion, and searched for her in all directions.  It was
near midnight when he returned to Kvaerk, where Aasa sat in her high gable
window, still humming the weird melody of the old ballad.

By what reasoning Vigfusson arrived at his final conclusion is difficult to
tell.  If he had acted according to his first and perhaps most generous
impulse, the matter would soon have been decided; but he was all the time
possessed of a vague fear of acting dishonorably, and it was probably this very
fear which made him do what, to the minds of those whose friendship and
hospitality he had accepted, had something of the appearance he wished so
carefully to avoid.  Aasa was rich; he had nothing; it was a reason for delay,
but hardly a conclusive one. They did not know him; he must go out in the world
and prove himself worthy of her.  He would come back when he should have
compelled the world to respect him; for as yet he had done nothing.  In fact,
his arguments were good and honorable enough, and there would have been no
fault to find with him, had the object of his love been as capable of reasoning
as he was himself.  But Aasa, poor thing, could do nothing by halves; a nature
like hers brooks no delay; to her love was life or it was death.

The next morning he appeared at breakfast with his knapsack on his back, and
otherwise equipped for his journey.  It was of no use that Elsie cried and
begged him to stay, that Lage joined his prayers to hers, and that Aasa stood
staring at him with a bewildered gaze.  Vigfusson shook hands with them all,
thanked them for their kindness to him, and promised to return; he held Aasa's
hand long in his, but when he released it, it dropped helplessly at her side.


Far up in the glen, about a mile from Kvaerk, ran a little brook; that is, it
was little in summer and winter, but in the spring, while the snow was melting
up in the mountains, it overflowed the nearest land and turned the whole glen
into a broad and shallow river.  It was easy to cross, however; a light foot
might jump from stone to stone, and be over in a minute.  Not the hind herself
could be lighter on her foot than Aasa was; and even in the spring-flood it was
her wont to cross and recross the brook, and to sit dreaming on a large stone
against which the water broke incessantly, rushing in white torrents over its

Here she sat one fair summer day — the day after Vigfusson's departure.  It
was noon, and the sun stood high over the forest.  The water murmured and
murmured, babbled and whispered, until at length there came a sudden unceasing
tone into its murmur, then another, and it sounded like a faint whispering song
of small airy beings.  And as she tried to listen, to fix the air in her mind,
it all ceased again, and she heard but the monotonous murmuring of the brook. 
Everything seemed so empty and worthless, as if that faint melody had been the
world of the moment.  But there it was again; it sung and sung, and the birch
overhead took up the melody and rustled it with its leaves, and the grasshopper
over in the grass caught it and whirred it with her wings.  The water, the
trees, the air, were full of it.  What a strange melody!

Aasa well knew that every brook and river has its Neck, besides hosts of little
water-sprites. She had heard also that in the moonlight at midsummer, one might
chance to see them rocking in bright little shells, playing among the pebbles,
or dancing on the large leaves of the water-lily.  And that they could sing
also, she doubted not; it was their voices she heard through the murmuring of
the brook.  Aasa eagerly bent forward and gazed down into the water: the faint
song grew louder, paused suddenly, and sprang into life again; and its sound
was so sweet, so wonderfully alluring!  Down there in the water, where a
stubborn pebble kept chafing a precipitous little side current, clear tiny
pearl-drops would leap up from the stream, and float half-wonderingly downward
from rapid to rapid, until they lost themselves in the whirl of some stronger
current.  Thus sat Aasa and gazed and gazed, and in one moment she seemed to
see what in the next moment she saw not.  Then a sudden great hush stole
through the forest, and in the hush she could hear the silence calling her
name.  It was so long since she had been in the forest, it seemed ages and ages
ago.  She hardly knew herself; the light seemed to be shining into her eyes as
with a will and purpose, perhaps to obliterate something, some old dream or
memory, or to impart some new power — the power of seeing the unseen.  And
this very thought, this fear of some possible loss, brought the fading memory
back, and she pressed her hands against her throbbing temples as if to bind and
chain it there forever; and it was he to whom her thought returned.  She heard
his voice, saw him beckoning to her to follow him, and she rose to obey, but
her limbs were as petrified, and the stone on which she was sitting held her
with the power of a hundred strong arms.  The sunshine smote upon her eyelids,
and his name was blotted out from her life; there was nothing but emptiness all
around her.  Gradually the forest drew nearer and nearer, the water bubbled and
rippled, and the huge, bare- stemmed pines stretched their long gnarled arms
toward her.  The birches waved their heads with a wistful nod, and the profile
of the rock grew into a face with a long, hooked nose, and a mouth half open as
if to speak.  And the word that trembled on his lips was, "Come." She felt no
fear nor reluctance, but rose to obey. Then and not until then she saw an old
man standing at her side; his face was the face of the rock, his white beard
flowed to his girdle, and his mouth was half open, but no word came from his
lips.  There was something in the wistful look of his eye which she knew so
well, which she had seen so often, although she could not tell when or where. 
The old man extended his hand; Aasa took it, and fearlessly or rather
spontaneously followed.  They approached the steep, rocky wall; as they drew
near, a wild, fierce laugh rang through the forest.  The features of the old
man were twisted as it were into a grin; so also were the features of the rock;
but the laugh blew like a mighty blast through the forest.

Aasa clung to the old man's hand and followed him — she knew not whither.

At home in the large sitting-room at Kvaerk sat Lage, brooding over the wreck
of his hopes and his happiness.  Aasa had gone to the woods again the very
first day after Vigfusson's departure.  What would be the end of all this? It
was already late in the evening, and she had not returned.  The father cast
anxious glances toward the door, every time he heard the latch moving.  At
last, when it was near midnight, he roused all his men from their sleep, and
commanded them to follow him.  Soon the dusky forests resounded far and near
with the blast of horns, the report of guns, and the calling and shouting of
men.  The affrighted stag crossed and recrossed the path of the hunters, but
not a rifle was leveled at its head.  Toward morning— it was before the
sun had yet risen — Lage, weary and stunned, stood leaning up against a
huge fir.  Then suddenly a fierce, wild laugh rang through the forest.  Lage
shuddered, raised his hand slowly and pressed it hard against his forehead,
vainly struggling to clear his thoughts.  The men clung fearfully together; a
few of the more courageous ones drew their knives and made the sign of the
cross with them in the air.  Again the same mad laugh shook the air, and swept
over the crowns of the pine-trees.  Then Lage lifted his eyes toward heaven and
wrung his hands: for the awful truth stood before him.  He remained a long
while leaning against that old fir as in a dead stupor; and no one dared to
arouse him.  A suppressed murmur reached the men's ears. "But deliver us from
evil" were the last words they heard.

When Lage and his servants came home to Kvaerk with the mournful tidings of
Aasa's disappearance, no one knew what to do or say. There could be no doubt
that Aasa was "mountain- taken," as they call it; for there were Trolds and
dwarfs in all the rocks and forests round about, and they would hardly let slip
the chance of alluring so fair a maiden as Aasa was into their castles in the
mountains.  Elsie, her mother, knew a good deal about the Trolds, their tricks,
and their way of living, and when she had wept her fill, she fell to thinking
of the possibility of regaining her daughter from their power.  If Aasa had not
yet tasted of food or drink in the mountain, she was still out of danger; and
if the pastor would allow the church-bell to be brought up into the forest and
rung near the rock where the laugh had been heard, the Trolds could be
compelled to give her back.  No sooner had this been suggested to Lage, than
the command was given to muster the whole force of men and horses, and before
evening on the same day the sturdy swains of Kvaerk were seen climbing the
tower of the venerable church, whence soon the huge old bell descended, to the
astonishment of the throng of curious women and children who had flocked
together to see the extraordinary sight.  It was laid upon four large wagons,
which had been joined together with ropes and planks, and drawn away by twelve
strong horses.  Long after the strange caravan had vanished in the twilight,
the children stood gazing up into the empty bell-tower.

It was near midnight, when Lage stood at the steep, rocky wall in the forest;
the men were laboring to hoist the church-bell up to a staunch cross-beam
between two mighty fir-trees, and in the weird light of their torches, the wild
surroundings looked wilder and more fantastic. Anon, the muffled noise and
bustle of the work being at an end, the laborers withdrew, and a strange,
feverish silence seemed to brood over the forest.  Lage took a step forward,
and seized the bell-rope; the clear, conquering toll of the metal rung solemnly
through the silence, and from the rocks, the earth, and the tree- tops, rose a
fierce chorus of howls, groans, and screams.  All night the ringing continued;
the old trees swayed to and fro, creaked, and groaned, the roots loosened their
holds in the fissures of the rock, and the bushy crowns bowed low under their
unwonted burden.

It was well-nigh morn, but the dense fog still brooded over the woods, and it
was dark as night.  Lage was sitting on the ground, his head leaning on both
his elbows; at his side lay the flickering torch, and the huge bell hung dumb
overhead.  In the dark he felt a hand touch his shoulder; had it happened only
a few hours before, he would have shuddered; now the physical sensation hardly
communicated itself to his mind, or, if it did, had no power to rouse him from
his dead, hopeless apathy. Suddenly — could he trust his own
ears? — the church-bell gave a slow, solemn, quivering stroke, and the fogs
rolled in thick masses to the east and to the west, as if blown by the breath
of the sound.  Lage seized his torch, sprang to his feet, and
saw — Vigfusson.  He stretched his arm with the blazing torch closer to the
young man's face, stared at him with large eyes, and his lip quivered; but he
could not utter a word.

"Vigfusson?" faltered he at last.

"It is I;" and the second stroke followed, stronger and more solemn than the
first.  The same fierce, angry voices chorused forth from every nook of the
rock and the woods.  Then came the third — the noise grew; fourth — and
it sounded like a hoarse, angry hiss; when the twelfth stroke fell, silence
reigned again in the forest.  Vigfusson dropped the bell-rope, and with a loud
voice called Lage Kvaerk and his men.  He lit a torch, held it aloft over his
head, and peered through the dusky night.  The men spread through the highlands
to search for the lost maiden; Lage followed close in Vigfusson's footsteps. 
They had not walked far when they heard the babbling of the brook only a few
feet away.  Thither they directed their steps.  On a large stone in the middle
of the stream the youth thought he saw something white, like a large kerchief. 
Quick as thought he was at its side, bowed down with his torch, and — fell
backward.  It was Aasa, his beloved, cold and dead; but as the father stooped
over his dead child the same mad laugh echoed wildly throughout the wide woods,
but madder and louder than ever before, and from the rocky wall came a fierce,
broken voice:

"I came at last."

When, after an hour of vain search, the men returned to the place whence they
had started, they saw a faint light flickering between the birches not fifty
feet away; they formed a firm column, and with fearful hearts drew nearer.
There lay Lage Kvaerk, their master, still bending down over his child's pale
features, and staring into her sunken eyes as if he could not believe that she
were really dead.  And at his side stood Vigfusson, pale and aghast, with the
burning torch in his hand.  The footsteps of the men awakened the father, but
when he turned his face on them they shuddered and started back.  Then Lage
rose, lifted the maiden from the stone, and silently laid her in Vigfusson's
arms; her rich yellow hair flowed down over his shoulder.  The youth let his
torch fall into the waters, and with a sharp, serpent-like hiss its flame was
quenched.  He crossed the brook; the men followed, and the dark pine-trees
closed over the last descendant of Lage Ulfson's mighty race.