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The Century, Volume 11 online

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she was content to expend the surplus
energy, which seemed to accumulate within
her Arough the long eventless winters, upon
the Zulu Mission, and other legitimate ob-
jects, 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 extrava-
gant. 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 die
depth of his heart, restrain the wish that she
might have been more like other young giris,
and less ardendy solicitous about the fate of

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her kind. Affecdonate and indulgent, how-
ever, as the pastCMT was, he would often, in
the next moment^ do penance for his unre-
generate thought, and thank God for having
made her so fair to behold, so pure, and so

Toward Amfinn, Augusta had, although
of his own age, es^Ay assumed a kind of
dder-sisteriy relation ; she had been his
comforter during all the trials of his boy-
hood ; had 3rielded him her sympathy with
that eager impulse which lay so aeep in her
nature, and had felt foricmi 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 imchristian, and Inga had play-
fiiUy remarked that the hope that some one
mi^t soon find the open Polar Sea would
go fas 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 for-
getfulness; and Amfinn was once more
with her, no longer a child, and no longer
appealing to her for aid and S3rmpathy ; man
enough, apparendy, to have outgrown his
bo3ri:!£ needs, and still boy enough to be
ashamed of having ever had them.

It was the thin! Sunday after Amfinn's
return. He and Augusta were climbing the
hill-side to the " Giants Hood," from whence
diey bad 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 Amfinn's
companion. As they reached the crest of
the ** Hood," Augusta seated herself on a
flat bowlder, and the yoimg student flung
himself on a patch of greensward at her
fieet The intense light of the late sun fdl
upon the girl's unconscious face, and Amfinn
lay, gazing up into it, and wondering at its
rare beauty ; but he saw onl^ the clean cut
of its features and the [Hurity of its form,
being too shallow to recognize the strong
and heroic soul which had sdruggled so long
for utterance in the life of which he had been
a blind and unmindful witness.

" Gracious, how beautifid you are, cousin I "
he broke forth heedlessly, striking his leg
with his slender cane ; " pity you were not
bom a queen ; you would be equal to almost
anything, even if it were to discover the Polar
" I thought you were looking at the sun,
, Amfinn,'' answered she, smiling reluctantly.

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

" That compliment is rather stale."

" But the opportunity was too tempting."

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

" 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 retumed 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, fix)m
long experience," she answered, widi the
same sad, sweet smile. " I am afi^id there
must be something 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 fiiend 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 profoimd
respect for hobbies in general, and is univer-
sally charitable toward those of others."

"Your fiiend is a great man," said the
girl, eamestly. " 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 5iis moment the conversation was
intermpted 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 bams 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

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have him arrested ?" said Amfinn, 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 bams in the out-

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

The moon came up pale and mist-like
over the eastern mountain ridges, strug^ed
for a few brief moments feebly widi the sun-
light, and then vanished.

" It is strange," said Amfinn, "how every-
thing 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
voicfs, 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 confi-
dence 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 beautifiil life he must
lead whom Nature takes thus into her confi-
dence; who has, as it were, an inner and sub-
tler 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 fiill
pathos of joy or sorrow in the song of the
bit our woodlands."
e has any such second set of
speak of, I don't know; but
lo doubt that his familiarity,
macy, with birds and beasts
at advantage as a naturalist
know that his little book has
into French, and rewarded
nedal of the Academy."
\2X is that ? " Augusta sprang
er hand to her ear.
•lorn mountain-cock playing
pine copse," suggested Am-
: his cousin's eagerness.
)oy! Don't you know the
never plays except at sun-
have a sorry time of it now,
re is no sunrise."
has ; he does not play except

The noise, at first faint, now grew louder.
It began with a series of mellow, plaintive
clucks that followed thickly, one upon an-
other, like smooth pearls of sound that rolled
through the throat in a continuous cument;
then came a few sharp notes as of a Xaxjgpe
bird that snaps his bill; then a long^, li^dl^
melodious rumbling, intermingled with
lings and snaps, and, at last, a sort of dumtm-
uendo movement of the same round, peszly
clucks. There was a whizzing of win^-
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 thin^,"
said Augusta imder 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," respond-
ed Amfinn, 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 togedier,
and now and then the shnll response of a
snipe to the cry of its lonely mate, fdl upon
the summer night, not as an intemiptiony
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 Amfiim fbl-
lowed impatiently after. Suddenly she mo-
tioned to him to stand still, and herself bent
forward in an attitude of surprise and eager
observation. On the ground, some fiAy
steps fi-om where she was stationed, she saw
a man stretched out full length, with a knap-
sack 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 cu-
rious, 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 moimtain-hen alighted close
to the man's head, stretched out her neck
toward him, cocked her head, called her scat-
tered brood together, and departed with
slow and deliberate wing-beats.

Again there was a firightened 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 imder her
weight — hence the sudden confusion and
flight. The unknown man had sprung up,
and his eye, after a moment's search, had

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founci 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
consoous of seeing. But, while to the girl
the sight, as it were, hung trembling in the
range of mere physical perception, while its
soddenness held it aloof fix>m moral reflec-
tion, there came a great shout firom behind,
and Amfinn, whom in her surprise she had
quite forgotten, came bounding forward,
grasped the stranger by the hand with much
vigor, laughing heartily, and pouring forth a
confined stream of delighted interjections,
bocrowed fix>m all manner of classical and
unclassical tongues.

"Strand! Strand!" he cried, when the
first tumult of excitement had subsided;
"you most marvelous and incomprehensi-
ble Strand ! From what region of heaven
or earth did you jump down into our
prosaic neighborhood? And what in the
woild induced you to choose our bams as
the center 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
fiiend, the woild-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 pro-
found abstractions into which he was apt to
&U- when under the sway of a strong im-
pression, pressed it with increasing cordial-
ity, whUe he endeavored to find fitting
answers to Amfinn's multifarious questions.
*-To ten the truth, Vording," he said, in
a deep, full-ringing bass, " I didn't know
that these were your cousin's bams — I mean
that your uncle " — giving the unhappy hand
an emphatic shake — ^" inhabited these bams."
"No, thank heaven, we are not quite
reduced to that," cried Amfinn gayly;
"wc still boast a parsonage, as you will
presendy 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 hj

a hot coal, blushed to the edge of his hair,
and made another profound reverence. He
was a tall, huge-limbed youth, withi a frame
of gigantic mold, and a large, blonde,
shaggy head, like that of some good nat-
ured 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 veiy 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
fiishion upon their coats, their mustaches,
and their speech. And Strand, with his
large sun-bumed face, his wild-growing
beard, blue woolen shirt, top boots, and
unkempt appearance generally, was a suffi-
ciently startling phenomenon to satisfy even
so exacting a fancy as hers ; for, after read-
ing 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 de-
cided just in what way he was to differ.

" Suppose I help you to carry your knap-
sack," said Amfinn, who was flitting about
like a small nimble spaniel trying to make
fiiends with some large, good-natured New-
foundland. "You must be very tired,
having roamed about so long in this Quix-
otic fe^hion!"

"No, I thank you," responded Strand,
with an incredulous laugh, glancing alter-
nately firom Amfinn to the knapsack, as if
estimating their proportionate weight. " I
am afiaid you would me 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 firom his pocket. " I pre-
fer live creatures. Their anatomical and
physiological peculiarities have been studied
by others, and volumes have been written
about them. It is their psychological traits,
if you will allow the expression, which inter-
est me, and those I can only get at while
they are alive."


Some minutes later they were all on their
way to the Parsonage. The sun, in spite of
itr^iHil^ummer wakefulness, was getting red-

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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 com-
panions, invited them to share her joy at
the beauty of the faint-flushed summer

" You are getting quite dithyrambic, my
dear," remarked Amfinn, with an air of
cousinly superiority, which he felt was emi-
nently 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



In a life so outwardly barren and monot-
onous as Augusta's — a life in which the
small external events were so firmly inter-
woven with the subder 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 rest-
lestness of hers, she reasoned, which had
hitherto made her existence seem so empty
and imsatisfactory; 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 Amfinn and Inga chatted at leisure,
drew caricatiures, or read aloud to eadi
other in some shady nook of the garden,
she and Strand would roam along the beach,
filling the vast unclouded horizon with large
glowuig images of the fixture of the human
race. He always listened in sympathetic
silence while she imfolded to him her often
childishly daring schemes for the ameliora-
tion of suffering and the righting of social
wrongs; and when she had finished, and he
met the earnest appeal of her dark ejre,
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 companion-
ship. And when at length he answered,
sometimes gendy reftiting, 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 diis kind of fel-

lowship for ^hich she had hungered so
long, and her heart went out with a, gieat
gratitude toward this strong and genexous
man, who was willing to recognize her
humanity, and to r^pond with an ever-
ready frankness, unmixed with petty su^)>i-
cions and second thoughts, to the eager
needs of her half-starved nature. It is quite
characteristic, too, of the type of woman-
hood which Augusta represents (and votfa
which this broad continent of ours abounds),
that, with her habitual disregard of appe^-
ances, she would have scorned the notion
that their intercourse had any ultimate end
beyond that of mutual pleasure and instruc-

It was eariy 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 dia-
mond. The birds were improvising a min-
iature symphony in the birches at the ed|jge
of the ^uxlen ; the song-thrush waibled with
a sweet melancholy his long-drawn con-
tralto notes ; the lark, like a prima donna,
hovering conspicuously in mid air, poured
forth her joyous soprano solo ; and the robin,
quite unmindfid of the tempo, filled out liie
pauses with his thoughtless staccato chirp.
Augusta, who, was herself the early bird of
the pastor's family, had paid a visit to the
litde bath-house down at the brook, and
was now hurr3ring 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, anrested her attention ; she raised her
eyes, and saw Strand sitting in the top of a
tree, apparently conversing with himsdf, or
with some tiny thing whidi he held in his

"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 afflic-
tion. But, after all, it was not your fault —
it was that foolish litde 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."

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Augusta stood gazing on in mute aston-
islmient; then, suddenly remembering her
hasty toilet, she started to nm; but, as
chance would have it, a dry branch, which
hung rather low, caught at her hood, and
her hair fell in a black waving stream down
over her shoulders. She gave a little cry,
^e tree shook vidently, 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 retiuning
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 emotion under a show
of polite indifference, for, however hard she
strove, she could not suppress a slight quiv-
ering of her lips, and her mtense self-reproach
made Strand's words fall dimly on her ears,
and prevented her from gathering the mean-
ing of what he was saying. He held in his
hands a young bird with a yeUow line along
the edge of its bill (and there was something
beautifolly soft and tender in the way those
large palms of his handled any4iving thing),
and he looked pityingly at it while he ^)oke.
" The mother of this little linnet," he said,
smiling, "did what many foolish young
mothers are apt to do. She took upon her
die responsibility of raising oflkpring without
having acquired the necessary knowledge
of housekeeping. So she lined her nest with
hemp, and the consequence was, that her
first-bom 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 litde 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 &ir way, but I had to apply some
^ve, 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
vou may imagine what the poor thing must
nave 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 agita-
tion increased, her power of speech seemed
utteriy to desert her.

" Ah, you have not been listening to me ? **
said Strand, in a tone of wondering inquiry.
" Pardon me for presuming to bdieve that
my litde 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 —
reaUy— **

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 imbuttoned at the neck,
and, with heedlessly hurrying steps, darted
away toward the house.

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

^^Carpo di Baccho^' exclaimed the student,
stooping to pick up the precious tools ; "• have
^ou beoi amputating your own head, or is
It I who am dreaming ? **

*' Ah,** murmured Strand, lifting a large,
strange gaze upon his friend, " is it you ?**

" 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 Cop-
perfield,** 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 the 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 curl^ pate.

" Ouch 1 that hurts,** cned Amfinn, and

"It was meant to hurt,*' replied Inga,
with mock severity, and retumai to " Cop-

Online LibraryFrancis HallThe Century, Volume 11 → online text (page 39 of 163)