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And it was no light hay to move; she must have worked hard, and all
the cows and goats to milk besides.... "Go in and get something to
eat," he said to Sivert.

"Aren't you coming, then?"

"No."

A little while after, Inger came out and stood humbly on the door-slab
and said:

"If you'd think of yourself a little - and come in and have a bite to
eat."

Isak grumbled at that and said "H'm." But it was so strange a thing
of late for Inger to be humble in any way, that his stubbornness was
shaken.

"If you could manage to set a couple of teeth in my rake, I could get
on again with the hay," said she. Ay, she came to her husband, the
master of the place, to ask for something, and was grateful that he
did not turn scornfully away.

"You've worked enough," said he, "raking and carting and all."

"No, 'tis not enough."

"I've no time, anyway, to mend rakes now. You can see there's rain
coming soon."

And Isak went off to his work.

It was all meant to save her, no doubt; for the couple of minutes it
would have taken to mend the rake would have been more than tenfold
repaid by letting Inger work on. Anyhow, Inger came out with her rake
as it was, and fell to haymaking with a will; Sivert came up with the
horse and haycart, and all went at it, sweating at the work, and
the hay was got in. It was a good stroke of work, and Isak fell to
thinking once more of the powers above that guide all our ways - from
stealing a _Daler_ to getting a crop of hay. Moreover, there lay
the boat; after half a generation of thinking it over, the boat was
finished; it was there, up on the lake.

"Eyah, _Herregud_!" said Isak.




Chapter XV


It was a strange evening altogether: a turning-point. Inger had been
running off the line for a long time now; and one lift up from the
floor had set her in her place again. Neither spoke of what had
happened. Isak had felt ashamed of himself after - all for the sake of
a _Daler_, a trifle of money, that he would have had to give her after
all, because he himself would gladly have let the boy have it. And
then again - was not the money as much Inger's as his own? There came a
time when Isak found it his turn to be humble.

There came many sorts of times. Inger must have changed her mind
again, it seemed; once more she was different, gradually forgetting
her fine ways and turning earnest anew: a settler's wife, earnest and
thoughtful as she had been before. To think that a man's hard grip
could work such wonders! But it was right; here was a strong and
healthy woman, sensible enough, but spoiled and warped by long
confinement in an artificial air - and she had butted into a man who
stood firmly on his feet. Never for a moment had he left his natural
place on the earth, on the soil. Nothing could move him.

Many sorts of times. Next year came the drought again, killing the
growth off slowly, and wearing down human courage. The corn stood
there and shrivelled up; the potatoes - the wonderful potatoes - they
did not shrivel up, but flowered and flowered. The meadows turned
grey, but the potatoes flowered. The powers above guided all things,
no doubt, but the meadows were turning grey.

Then one day came Geissler - ex-Lensmand Geissler came again at last.
It was good to find that he was not dead, but had turned up again. And
what had he come for now?

Geissler had no grand surprises with him this time, by the look of it;
no purchases of mining rights and documents and such-like. Geissler
was poorly dressed, his hair and beard turned greyer, and his eyes
redder at the edges than before. He had no man, either, to carry his
things, but had his papers in a pocket, and not even a bag.

"_Goddag_" said Geissler.

"_Goddag_" answered Isak and Inger. "Here's the like of visitors to
see this way!"

Geissler nodded.

"And thanks for all you did that time - in Trondhjem," said Inger all
by herself.

And Isak nodded at that, and said: "Ay, 'tis two of us owe you thanks
for that."

But Geissler - it was not his way to be all feelings and sentiments; he
said: "Yes, I'm just going across to Sweden."

For all their trouble of mind over the drought, Sellanraa's folk were
glad to see Geissler again; they gave him the best they had, and were
heartily glad to do what they could for him after all he had done.

Geissler himself had no troubles that could be seen; he grew talkative
at once, looked out over the fields and nodded. He carried himself
upright as ever, and looked as if he had several hundreds of _Daler_
in his pockets. It livened them up and brightened everything to have
him there; not that he made any boisterous fun, but a lively talker,
that he was.

"Fine place, Sellanraa, splendid place," he said. "And now there's
others coming up one after another, since you've started, Isak. I
counted five myself. Are there any more?"

"Seven in all. There's two that can't be seen from the road."

"Seven holdings; say fifty souls. Why, it'll be a densely populated
neighbourhood before long. And you've a school already, so I hear?"

"Ay, we have."

"There - what did I say? A school all to yourselves, down by Brede's
place, being more in the middle. Fancy Brede as a farmer in the
wilds!" and Geissler laughed at the thought. "Ay, I've heard all about
you, Isak; you're the best man here. And I'm glad of it. Sawmill, too,
you've got?"

"Ay, such as it is. But it serves me well enough. And I've sawed a bit
now and again for them down below."

"Bravo! That's the way!"

"I'd be glad to hear what you think of it, Lensmand, if so be you'd
care to look at that sawmill for yourself."

Geissler nodded, with the air of an expert; yes, he would look at
it, examine it thoroughly. Then he asked: "You had two boys, hadn't
you - what's become of the other? In town? Clerk in an office? H'm,"
said Geissler. "But this one here looks a sturdy sort - what was your
name, now?"

"Sivert."

"And the other one?"

"Eleseus."

"And he's in an engineer's office - what's he reckon to learn there? A
starvation-business. Much better have come to me," said Geissler.

"Ay," said Isak, for politeness' sake. He felt a sort of pity for
Geissler at the moment. Oh, that good man did not look as if he could
afford to keep clerks; had to work hard enough by himself, belike.
That jacket - it was worn to fringes at the wrists.

"Won't you have some dry hose to put on?" said Inger, and brought out
a pair of her own. They were from her best days; fine and thin, with a
border.

"No, thanks," said Geissler shortly, though he must have been wet
through. - "Much better have come to me," he said again, speaking of
Eleseus. "I want him badly." He took a small silver tobacco box from
his pocket and sat playing with it in his fingers. It was perhaps the
only thing of value left him now.

But Geissler was restless, changing from one thing to another. He
slipped the thing back into his pocket again and started a new theme.
"But - what's that? Why, the meadow that's all grey. I thought it was
the shadow. The ground is simply parched. Come along with me, Sivert."

He rose from the table suddenly, thinking no more of food, turned in
the doorway to say "Thank you" to Inger for the meal, and disappeared,
Sivert following.

They went across to the river, Geissler peering keenly about all the
time. "Here!" he cried, and stopped. And then he explained: "Where's
the sense of letting your land dry up to nothing when you've a river
there big enough to drown it in a minute? We'll have, that meadow
green by tomorrow!"

Sivert, all astonishment, said "Yes."

"Dig down obliquely from here, see? - on a slope. The ground's level;
have to make some sort of a channel. You've a sawmill there - I suppose
you can find some long planks from somewhere? Good! Run and fetch a
pick and spade, and start here; I'll go back and mark out a proper
line."

He ran up to the house again, his boots squelching, for they were wet
through. He set Isak to work making pipes, a whole lot of them, to be
laid down where the ground could not well be cut with ditches. Isak
tried to object that the water might not get so far; the dry ground
would soak it up before it reached the parched fields. Geissler
explained that it would take some time; the earth must drink a little
first, but then gradually the water would go on - "field and meadow
green by this time tomorrow."

"Ho!" said Isak, and fell to boxing up long planks as hard as he
could.

Off hurries Geissler to Sivert once more: "That's right - keep at
it - didn't I say he was a sturdy sort? Follow these stakes, you
understand, where I've marked out. If you come up against heavy
boulders, or rock, then turn aside and go round, but keep the
level - the same depth; you see what I mean?"

Then back to Isak again: "That's one finished - good! But we shall want
more - half a dozen, perhaps. Keep at it, Isak; you see, we'll have it
all green by tomorrow - we've saved your crops!" And Geissler sat down
on the ground, slapped his knees with both hands and was delighted,
chattered away, thought in flashes of lightning. "Any pitch, any
oakum, or anything about the place? That's splendid - got everything.
These things'll leak at the edges you see, to begin with, but the
wood'll swell after a while, and they'll be as taut as a bottle. Oakum
and pitch - fancy you having it too! - What? Built a boat, you say?
Where is the boat? Up in the lake? Good! I must have a look at that
too."

Oh, Geissler was all promises. Light come, light go - and he seemed
more giving to fussing about than before. He worked at things by
fits and starts, but at a furious rate when he did work. There was
a certain superiority about him after all. True, he exaggerated a
bit - it was impossible, of course, to get all green by this time
tomorrow, as he had said, but for all that, Geissler was a sharp
fellow, quick to see and take a decision; ay, a strange man was
Geissler. And it was he and no other that saved the crops that year at
Sellanraa.

"How many have you got done? Not enough. The more wood you can lay,
the quicker it'll flow. Make them twenty feet long or twenty-five,
if you can. Any planks that length on the place? Good; fetch them
along - you'll find it'll pay you at harvest-time!"

Restless again - up and off to Sivert once more. "That's the way,
Sivert man; getting on finely. Your father's turning out culverts like
a poet, there'll be more than I ever thought. Run across and get some
now, and we'll make a start."

All that afternoon was one hurrying spell; Sivert had never seen such
a furious piece of work; he was not accustomed to see things done at
that pace. They hardly gave themselves time to eat. But the water was
flowing already! Here and there they had to dig deeper, a culvert had
to be raised or lowered, but it flowed. The three men were at it till
late that night, touching up their work, and keenly on the look out
for any fault. But when the water began to trickle out over the driest
spots, there was joy and delight at Sellanraa. "I forgot to bring my
watch," said Geissler. "What's the time, I wonder? Ay, she'll be green
by this time tomorrow!" said he.

Sivert got up in the middle of the night to see how things were going,
and found his father out already on the same errand. Oh, but it was a
thrilling time - a day of great events!

But next day, Geissler stayed in bed till nearly noon, worn out now
that the fit had passed. He did not trouble to go up and look at the
boat on the lake; and but for what he had said the day before, he
would never have bothered to look at the sawmill. Even the irrigation
works interested him less than at first - and when he saw that neither
field nor meadow had turned green in the course of the night, he lost
heart, never thinking of how the water flowed, and flowed all the
time, and spread out farther and farther over the ground. He backed
down a little, and said now: "It may take time - you won't see any
change perhaps before tomorrow again. But it'll be all right, never
fear."

Later in the day Brede Olsen came lounging in; he had brought some
samples of rock he wanted Geissler to see. "And something out of the
common, this time, to my mind," said Brede.

Geissler would not look at the things. "That the way you manage a
farm," he asked scornfully, "pottering about up in the hills looking
for a fortune?"

Brede apparently did not fancy being taken to task now by his former
chief; he answered sharply, without any form of respect, treating the
ex-Lensmand as an equal: "If you think I care what you say ..."

"You've no more sense than you had before," said Geissler. "Fooling
away your time."

"What about yourself?" said Brede. "What about you, I'd like to know?
You've got a mine of your own up here, and what have you done with it?
Huh! Lies there doing nothing. Ay, you're the sort to have a mine,
aren't you? He he!"

"Get out of this," said Geissler. And Brede did not stay long, but
shouldered his load of samples and went down to his own _menage_,
without saying good-bye.

Geissler sat down and began to look over some papers with a thoughtful
air. He seemed to have caught a touch of the fever himself, and wanted
now to look over that business of the copper mine, the contract, the
analyses. It was fine ore, almost pure copper; he must do something
with it, and not let everything slide.

"What I really came up for was to get the whole thing settled," he
said to Isak. "I've been thinking of making a start here, and that
very soon. Get a lot of men to work, and run the thing properly. What
do you think?"

Isak felt sorry for the man, and would not say anything against it.

"It's a matter that concerns you as well, you know. There'll be a lot
of bother, of course; a lot of men about the place, and a bit rowdy at
times, perhaps. And blasting up in the hills - I don't know how you'll
like that. On the other hand, there'll be more life in the district
where we begin, and you'll have a good market close at hand for farm
produce and that sort of thing. Fix your own price, too."

"Ay," said Isak.

"Besides your share in the mine - you'll get a high percentage of
earnings, you know. Big money, Isak."

Said Isak: "You've paid me fairly already, and more than enough...."

Next morning Geissler left, hurrying off eastward, over toward Sweden.
"No, thanks," he said shortly, when Isak offered to go with him. It
was almost painful to see him start off in that poor fashion, on foot
and all alone. Inger had put up a fine parcel of food for him to take,
all as nice as she could make it, and made some wafers specially to
put in. Even that was not enough; she would have given him a can of
cream and a whole lot of eggs, but he wouldn't carry them, and Inger
was disappointed.

Geissler himself must have found it hard to leave Sellanraa without
paying as he generally did for his keep; so he pretended that he had
paid; made as if he had laid down a big note in payment, and said to
little Leopoldine: "Here, child, here's something for you as well."
And with that he gave her the silver box, his tobacco box. "You can
rinse it out and use it to keep pins and things in," he said. "It's
not the sort of thing for a present really. If I were at home I could
have found her something else; I've a heap of things...."

But Geissler's waterwork remained after Geissler had gone; there it
was, working wonders day and night, week after week; the fields turned
green, the potatoes ceased to flower, the corn shot up....

The settlers from the holdings farther down began to come up, all
anxious to see the marvel for themselves. Axel Ström, - the neighbour
from Maaneland, the man who had no wife, and no woman to help him, but
managed for himself, - he came too. He was in a good humour that day;
he told them how he had just got a promise of a girl to help through
the summer - and that was a weight off his mind. He did not say who the
girl was, and Isak did not ask, but it was Brede's girl Barbro who was
to come. It would cost the price of a telegram to Bergen to fetch her;
but Axel paid the money, though he was not one of your extravagant
sort, but rather something of a miser.

It was the waterwork business that had enticed him up today; he had
looked it over from one end to the other, and was highly interested.
There was no big river on his land, but he had a bit of a stream; he
had no planks, either, to make culverts with, but he would dig his
channels in the earth; it could be done. Up to now, things were not
absolutely at their worst on his land, which lay lower down the
slopes; but if the drought continued, he, too, would have to irrigate.
When he had seen what he wanted, he took his leave and went back at
once. No, he would not come in, hadn't the time; he was going to start
ditching that same evening. And off he went.

This was something different from Brede's way.

Oh, Brede, he could run about the moorland farms now telling news:
miraculous waterworks at Sellanraa! "It doesn't pay to work your soil
overmuch," he had said. "Look at Isak up there; he's dug and dug about
so long that at last he's had to water the whole ground."

Isak was patient, but he wished many a time that he could get rid of
the fellow, hanging about Sellanraa with his boastful ways. Brede put
it all down to the telegraph; as long as he was a public official, it
was his duty to keep the line in order. But the telegraph company had
already had occasion several times to reprimand him for neglect, and
had again offered the post to Isak. No, it was not the telegraph that
was in Brede's mind all the time, but the ore up in the hills; it was
his one idea now, a mania.

He took to dropping in often now at Sellanraa, confident that he had
found the treasure; he would nod his head and say: "I can't tell
you all about it yet, but I don't mind saying I've struck something
remarkable this time." Wasting hours and energy all for nothing. And
when he came back in the evening to his little house, he would fling
down a little sack of samples on the floor, and puff and blow after
his day's work, as if no man could have toiled harder for his daily
bread. He grew a few potatoes on sour, peaty soil, and cut the tufts
of grass that grew by themselves on the ground about the house - that
was Brede's farming. He was never made for a farmer, and there could
be but one end to it all. His turf roof was falling to pieces already,
and the steps to the kitchen were rotten with damp; a grindstone lay
on the ground, and the cart was still left uncovered in the open.

Brede was fortunate perhaps in that such little matters never troubled
him. When the children rolled his grindstone about for play, he was
kind and indulgent, and would even help them to roll it himself. An
easy-going, idle nature, never serious, but also never down-hearted, a
weak, irresponsible character; but he managed to find food, such as it
was, and kept himself and his alive from day to day; managed to keep
them somehow. But it was not to be expected that the storekeeper could
go on feeding Brede and his family for ever; he had said so more than
once to Brede himself, and he said it now in earnest. Brede admitted
he was right, and promised to turn over a new leaf - he would sell his
place, and very likely make a good thing out of it - and pay what he
owed at the store!

Oh, but Brede would sell out anyhow, even at a loss; what was the good
of a farm for him? He was home-sick for the village again, the easy
gossiping life there, and the little shop - it suited him better than
settling down here to work, and trying to forget the world outside.
Could he ever forget the Christmas trees and parties, or the
national feastings on Constitution Day, or the bazaars held in the
meeting-rooms? He loved to talk with his kind, to exchange news and
views, but who was there to talk with here? Inger up at Sellanraa
had seemed to be one of his sort for a while, but then she had
changed - there was no getting a word out of her now. And besides, she
had been in prison; and for a man in his position - no, it would never
do.

No, he had made a mistake in ever leaving the village; it was throwing
himself away. He noted with envy that the Lensmand had got another
assistant, and the doctor another man to drive for him; he had run
away from the people who needed him, and now that he was no longer
there, they managed without him. But the men who had taken his
place - they were no earthly good, of course. Properly speaking, he,
Brede, ought to be fetched back to the village in triumph!

Then there was Barbro - why had he backed up the idea of getting her to
go as help to Sellanraa? Well, that was after talking over things with
his wife. If all went well, it might mean a good future for the girl,
perhaps a future of a sort for all of them. All very well to be
housekeeper for two young clerks in Bergen, but who could say what she
would get out of that in the long run? Barbro was a pretty girl, and
liked to look well; there might be a better chance for her here, after
all. For there were two sons at Sellanraa.

But when Brede saw that this plan would never come to anything, he
hit on another. After all, there was no great catch in marrying into
Inger's lot - Inger who had been in prison. And there were other lads
to be thought of besides those two Sellanraa boys - there was Axel
Ström, for instance. He had a farm and a hut of his own, he was a man
who scraped and saved and little by little managed to get hold of a
bit of live stock and such-like, but with no wife, and no woman to
help him. "Well, I don't mind telling you, if you take Barbro, she'll
be all the help you'll need," said Brede to him. "Look, here's her
picture; you can see."

And after a week or so, came Barbro. Axel was in the midst of his
haymaking, and had to do his mowing by day and haymaking by night, and
all by himself - and then came Barbro! It was a godsend. Barbro soon
showed she was not afraid of work; she washed clothes and cleaned
things, cooked and milked and helped in the hayfield - helped to carry
in the hay, she did. Axel determined to give her good wages, and not
lose by it.

She was not merely a photograph of a fine lady here. Barbro was
straight and thin, spoke somewhat hoarsely, showed sense and
experience in various ways - she was not a child. Axel wondered what
made her so thin and haggard in the face. "I'd know you by your
looks," he said; "but you're not like the photograph."

"That's only the journey," she said, "and living in town air all that
time."

And indeed, she very soon grew plump and well-looking again. "Take my
word for it," said Barbro, "it pulls you down a bit, a journey
like that, and living in town like that." She hinted also at the
temptations of life in Bergen - one had to be careful there. But
while they sat talking, she begged him to take in a paper - a Bergen
newspaper - so that she could read a bit and see the news of the world.
She had got accustomed to reading, and theatres and music, and it was
so dull in a place like this.

Axel was pleased with the results of his summer help, and took in a
paper. He also bore with the frequent visits of the Brede family, who
were constantly dropping in at his place and eating and drinking. He
was anxious to show that he appreciated this servant-girl of his.
And what could be nicer and homelier than when Barbro sat there of a
Sunday evening twanging the strings of a guitar and singing a little
with her hoarse voice? Axel, was touched by it all, by the pretty,
strange songs, by the mere fact that some one really sat there singing
on his poor half-baked farm.

True, in the course of the summer he learned to know other sides of
Barbro's character, but on the whole, he was content. She had her
fancies, and could answer hastily at times; was somewhat over-quick to
answer back. That Saturday evening, for instance, when Axel himself
had to go down to the village to get some things, it was wrong of
Barbro to run away from the hut and the animals and leave the place to
itself. They had a few words over that. And where had she been? Only
to her home, to Breidablik, but still ... When Axel came back to the
hut that night, Barbro was not there; he looked to the animals, got
himself something to eat, and turned in. Towards morning Barbro came.
"I only wanted to see what it was like to step on a wooden floor
again," she said, somewhat scornfully. And Axel could find nothing
much to say to that, seeing that he had as yet but a turf hut with a
floor of beaten earth. He did say, however, that if it came to that,
he could get a few planks himself, and no doubt but he'd have a house



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