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"No, on the other side, man; not this way, 'twould be miles to go. No,
on the other side of the fjeld, straight down to the sea; a good fall,
and no distance to speak of. Run the ore down through the air in iron
tanks; oh, it'll work all right, you wait and see. But we'll have to
cart it down at first; make a road, and have it hauled down in carts.
We shall want fifty horses - you see, we'll get on finely. And we've
more men on the works than these few here - that's nothing. There's
more coming up from the other side, gangs of men, with huts all
ready to put up, and stores of provisions and material and tools and
things - then we meet and make connection with them half-way, on the
top, you see? We'll make the thing go, never fear - and ship the ore to
South America. There's millions to be made out of it."

"What about the other gentlemen," asked Isak, "that came up here
before?"

"What? Oh, they've sold out. So you remember them? No, they've sold.
And the people that bought them out have sold again. It's a big
company now that owns the mine - any amount of money behind it."

"And Geissler, where'll he be now?" asks Isak.

"Geissler? Never heard of him. Who's he?"

"Lensmand Geissler, that sold you the place first of all."

"Oh, him! Geissler was his name? Heaven knows where he is now. So you
remember him too?"

* * * * *

Blasting and working up in the hills, gangs of men at work all through
the summer - there was plenty doing about the place. Inger did a
busy trade in milk and farm produce, and it amused her - going into
business, as it were, and seeing all the many folk coming and going.
Isak tramped about with his lumbering tread, and worked on his land;
nothing disturbed him. Sivert and the two stoneworkers got the new
cowshed up. It was a fine building, but took a deal of time before it
was finished, with only three men to the work, and Sivert, moreover,
often called away to help in the fields. The mowing-machine was useful
now; and a good thing, too, to have three active women that could take
a turn at the haymaking.

All going well; there was life in the wilds now, and money growing,
blossoming everywhere.

And look at Storborg, the new trader's place - there was a business on
a proper scale! This Aron must be a wizard, a devil of a fellow; he
had learned somehow beforehand of the mining operations to come, and
was on the spot all ready, with his shop and store, to make the most
of it. Business? He did business enough for a whole State - ay, enough
for a king! To begin with, he sold all kinds of household utensils and
workmen's clothes; but miners earning good money are not afraid to
spend it; not content with buying necessaries only; they would buy
anything and everything. And most of all on Saturday evenings, the
trading station at Storborg was crowded with folk, and Aron raking
money in; his clerk and his wife were both called in to help behind
the counter, and Aron himself serving and selling as hard as he could
go at it - and even then the place would not be empty till late at
night. And the owners of horse-flesh in the village, they were right;
'twas a mighty carting and hauling of wares up to Storborg; more than
once they had to cut off corners of the old road and make new short
cuts - a fine new road it was at last, very different from Isak's
first narrow path up through the wilds. Aron was a blessing and a
benefactor, nothing less, with his store and his new road. His name
was not Aron really, that being only his Christian name; properly, he
was Aronsen, and so he called himself, and his wife called him the
same. They were a family not to be looked down upon, and kept two
servant-girls and a lad.

As for the land at Storborg, it remained untouched for the present.
Aronsen had no time for working on the soil - where was the sense of
digging up a barren moor? But Aronsen had a garden, with a fence all
round, and currant bushes and asters and rowans and planted trees - ay,
a real garden. There was a broad path down it, where Aronsen could
walk o' Sundays and smoke his pipe, and in the background was the
verandah of the house, with panes of coloured glass, orange and red
and blue. Storborg ... And there were children - three pretty little
things about the place. The girl was to learn to play her part as
daughter of a wealthy trader, and the boys were to learn the business
themselves - ay, three children with a future before them!

Aronsen was a man to take thought for the future, or he would not have
come there at all. He might have stuck to his fishery, and like enough
been lucky at that and made good money, but 'twas not like going into
business; nothing so fine, a thing for common folk at best. People
didn't take off their hats to a fisherman. Aronsen had rowed his boat
before, pulling at the oars; now he was going to sail instead. There
was a word he was always using: "Cash down." He used it all sorts of
ways. When things went well, they were going "cash down." His children
were to get on in the world, and live more "cash down" even than
himself. That was how he put it, meaning that they should have an
easier life of it than he had had.

And look you, things did go well; neighbours took notice of him, and
of his wife - ay, even of the children. It was not the least remarkable
thing, that folk took notice of the children. The miners came down
from their work in the hills, and had not seen a child's face for many
days; when they caught sight of Aronsen's little ones playing in the
yard, they would talk kindly to them at once, as if they had met three
puppies at play. They would have given them money, but seeing they
were the trader's children, it would hardly do. So they played music
for them on their mouth-organs instead. Young Gustaf came down, the
wildest of them all, with his hat over one ear, and his lips ever
ready with a merry word; ay, Gustaf it was that came and played with
them for long at a time. The children knew him every time, and ran to
meet them; he would pick them up and carry them on his back, all three
of them, and dance with them. "Ho!" said Gustaf, and danced with them.
And then he would take out his mouth-organ and play tunes and music
for them, till the two servant-girls would come out and look at him,
and listen, with tears in their eyes. Ay, a madcap was Gustaf, but he
knew what he was doing!

Then after a bit he would go into the shop and throw his money about,
buying up a whole knapsack full of things. And when he went back up
the road again, it was with a whole little stock-in-trade of his
own - and he would stop at Sellanraa on the way and open his pack and
show them. Notepaper with a flower in the corner, and a new pipe and
a new shirt, and a fringed neckerchief - sweets for the womenfolk, and
shiny things, a watch-chain with a compass, a pocket-knife - oh, a host
of things. Ay, there were rockets he had bought to let off on
Sunday, for every one to see. Inger gave him milk, and he joked with
Leopoldine, and picked up little Rebecca and swung her up in the
air - "_Hoy huit_!"

"And how's the building getting on?" he asked the Swedes - Gustaf was
a Swede himself, and made friends with them too. The building was
getting on as best it could, with but themselves to the work. Why,
then, he'd come and give them a hand himself, would Gustaf, though
that was only said in jest.

"Ay, if you only would," said Inger. For the cowshed ought to be ready
by the autumn, when the cattle were brought in.

Gustaf let off a rocket, and having let off one, there was no sense
in keeping the rest. As well let them off too - and so he did, half a
dozen of them, and the women and children stood round breathless at
the magic of the magician; and Inger had never seen a rocket before,
but the wild fire of them somehow reminded her of the great world she
had once seen. What was a sewing-machine to this? And when Gustaf
finished up by playing his mouth-organ, Inger would have gone off
along the road with him for sheer emotion....

The mine is working now, and the ore is carted down by teams of horses
to the sea; a steamer had loaded up one cargo and sailed away with it
to South America, and another steamer waits already for the next load.
Ay, 'tis a big concern. All the settlers have been up to look at the
wonderful place, as many as can walk. Brede Olsen has been up, with
his samples of stone, and got nothing for his pains, seeing that the
mining expert was gone back to Sweden again. On Sundays, there was a
crowd of people coming up all the way from the village; ay, even Axel
Str√ґm, who had no time to throw away, turned off from his proper road
along the telegraph line to look at the place. Hardly a soul now but
has seen the mine and its wonders. And at last Inger herself, Inger
from Sellanraa, puts on her best, gold ring and all, and goes up to
the hills. What does she want there?

Nothing, does not even care to see how the work is done. Inger has
come to show herself, that is all. When she saw the other women going
up, she felt she must go too. A disfiguring scar on her upper lip, and
grown children of her own, has Inger, but she must go as the others
did. It irks her to think of the others, young women, ay ... but she
will try if she can't compete with them all the same. She has not
begun to grow stout as yet, but has still a good figure enough, tall
and natty enough; she can still look well. True, her colouring is
not what it used to be, and her skin is not comparable to a golden
peach - but they should see for all that; ay, they should say, after
all, she was good enough!

They greet her kindly as she could wish; the workmen know her, she has
given them many a drink of milk, and they show her over the mine, the
huts, the stables and kitchens, the cellars and storesheds; the bolder
men edge in close to her and take her lightly by the arm, but Inger
does not feel hurt at all, it does her good. And where there are
steps to go up or down, she lifts her skirts high, showing her legs a
trifle; but she manages it quietly, as if without a thought. Ay, she's
good enough, think the men to themselves.

Oh, but there is something touching about her, this woman getting on
in years; plain to see that a glance from one of these warm-blooded
menfolk came all unexpectedly to her; she was grateful for it, and
returned it; she was a woman like other women, and it thrilled her to
feel so. An honest woman she had been, but like enough 'twas for lack
of opportunity.

Getting on in years....

Gustaf came up. Left two girls from the village, and a comrade, just
to come. Gustaf knew what he was at, no doubt; he took Inger's hand
with more warmth, more pressure than was needed, and thanked her for
the last pleasant evening at Sellanraa, but he was careful not to
plague her with attention.

"Well, Gustaf, and when are you coming to help us with the building?"
says Inger, going red. And Gustaf says he will come sure enough before
long. His comrades hear it, and put in a word that they'll all be
coming down before long.

"Ho!" says Inger. "Aren't you going to stay on the mine, then, come
winter?"

The men answer cautiously, that it doesn't look like it, but can't be
sure. But Gustaf is bolder, and laughs and says, looks like they've
scraped out the bit of copper there was.

"You'll not say that in earnest surely?" says Inger. And the other men
put in that Gustaf had better be careful not to say any such thing.

But Gustaf was not going to be careful; he said a great deal more, and
as for Inger, 'twas strange how he managed to win her for himself, for
all that he never seemed to put himself forward that way. One of
the other lads played a concertina, but 'twas not like Gustaf's
mouth-organ; another lad again, and a smart fellow he was too, tried
to draw attention to himself by singing a song off by heart to the
music, but that was nothing either, for all that he had a fine rolling
voice. And a little while after, there was Gustaf, and if he hadn't
got Inger's gold ring on his little finger! And how had it come about,
when he never plagued nor pushed himself forward? Oh, he was forward
enough in his way, but quiet with it all, as Inger herself; they did
not talk of things, and she let him play with her hand as if without
noticing. Later on, when she sat in one of the huts drinking coffee,
there was a noise outside, high words between the men, and she knew it
was about herself, and it warmed her. A pleasant thing to hear, for
one no longer young, for a woman getting on in years.

And how did she come home from the hills that Sunday evening? Ho, well
enough, virtuous as she had come, no more and no less. There was a
crowd of men to see her home, the crowd of them that would not turn
back as long as Gustaf was there; would not leave her alone with him,
not if they knew it! Inger had never had such a gay time, not even in
the days when she had been out in the world.

"Hadn't Inger lost something?" they asked at last.

"Lost something? No."

"A gold ring, for instance?"

And at that Gustaf had to bring it out; he was one against all, a
whole army.

"Oh, 'twas a good thing you found it," said Inger, and made haste to
say good-bye to her escort. She drew nearer Sellanraa, saw the many
roofs of the buildings; it was her home that lay there. And she awoke
once more, came back to herself, like the clever wife she was, and
took a short cut through to the summer shed to look to the cattle. On
the way she passes by a place she knows; a little child had once lain
buried there; she had patted down the earth with her hands, set up a
tiny cross - oh, but it was long ago. Now, she was wondering if those
girls had finished their milking in good time....

The work at the mine goes on, but there are whisperings of something
wrong, the yield is not as good as it had promised. The mining expert,
who had gone back home, came out again with another expert to help
him; they went about blasting and boring and examining all the ground.
What was wrong? The copper is fine enough, nothing wrong with that,
but thin, and no real depth in it; getting thicker to the southward,
lying deep and fine just where the company's holding reached its
limit - and beyond that was _Almenning_, the property of the State.
Well, the first purchasers had perhaps not thought so much of the
thing, anyway. It was a family affair, some relatives who had bought
the place as a speculation; they had not troubled to secure the whole
range, all the miles to the next valley, no; they had but taken over
a patch of ground from Isak Sellanraa and Geissler, and then sold it
again.

And what was to be done now? The leading men, with the experts and the
foremen, know well enough; they must start negotiations with the State
at once. So they send a messenger off at full speed to Sweden, with
letters and plans and charts, and ride away themselves down to the
Lensmand below, to get the rights of the fjeld south of the water. And
here their difficulties begin; the law stands in their way; they are
foreigners, and cannot be purchasers in their own right. They knew all
about that, and had made arrangements. But the southern side of the
fjeld was sold already - and that they did not know. "Sold?"

"Ay, long ago, years back."

"Who bought it then?"

"Geissler."

"What Geissler? - oh, that fellow - h'm."

"And the title-deeds approved and registered," says the Lensmand.
"'Twas bare rock, no more, and he got it for next to nothing."

"Who is this fellow Geissler that keeps cropping up? Where is he?"

"Heaven knows where he is now!"

And a new messenger is sent off to Sweden. They must find out all
about this Geissler. Meanwhile, they could not keep on all the men;
they must wait and see.

So Gustaf came down to Sellanraa, with all his worldly goods on his
back, and here he was, he said. Ay, Gustaf had given up his work at
the mine - that is to say, he had been a trifle too outspoken the
Sunday before, about the mine and the copper in the mine; the foreman
had heard of it, and the engineer, and Gustaf was given his discharge.
Well, good-bye then, and maybe 'twas the very thing he wanted; there
could be nothing suspicious now about his coming to Sellanraa. They
set him to work at once on the cowshed.

They worked and worked at the stone walls, and when a few days later
another man came down from the mine, he was taken on too; now there
were two spells, and the work went apace. Ay, they would have it ready
by the autumn, never fear.

But now one after another of the miners came down, dismissed, and took
the road to Sweden; the trial working was stopped for the present.
There was something like a sigh from the folk in the village at the
news; foolish folk, they did not understand what a trial working was,
that it was only working on trial, but so it was. There were dark
forebodings and discouragement among the village folk; money was
scarcer, wages were reduced, things were very quiet at the trading
station at Storborg. What did it all mean? Just when everything was
going on finely, and Aronsen had got a flagstaff and a flag, and had
bought a fine white bearskin for a rug to have in the sledge for the
winter, and fine clothes for all the family ... Little matters these,
but there were greater things happening as well. Here were two new
men had bought up land for clearing in the wilds; high up between
Maaneland and Sellanraa, and that was no small event for the whole of
that little outlying community. The two new settlers had built
their turf huts and started clearing ground and digging. They were
hard-working folk, and had done much in a little time. All that summer
they had bought their provisions at Storborg, but when they came
down now, last time, there was hardly anything to be had. Nothing in
stock - and what did Aron want with heavy stocks of this and that now
the work at the mine had stopped? He had hardly anything of any sort
on the place now - only money. Of all the folk in the neighbourhood,
Aronsen was perhaps the most dejected; his reckoning was all upset.
When some one urged him to cultivate his land and live on that till
better times, he answered: "Cultivate the land? 'Twas not that I came
and set up house here for."

At last Aronsen could stand it no longer; he must go up to the mine
and see for himself how things were. It was a Sunday. When he got to
Sellanraa, he wanted Isak to go with him, but Isak had never yet set
foot on the mine since they had started; he was more at home on the
hillside below. Inger had to put in a word. "You might as well go with
Aronsen, when he asks you," she said. And maybe Inger was not sorry to
have him go; 'twas Sunday, and like as not she wanted to be rid of him
for an hour or so. And so Isak went along.

There were strange things to be seen up there in the hills; Isak did
not recognize the place at all now, with its huts and sheds, a whole
town of them, and carts and waggons and great gaping holes in the
ground. The engineer himself showed them round. Maybe he was not in
the best of humour just now, that same engineer, but he had tried
all along to keep away the feeling of gloom that had fallen upon the
village folk and the settlers round - and here was his chance, with no
less persons than the Margrave of Sellanraa and the great trader from
Storborg on the spot.

He explained the nature of the ore and the rocks in which it was
found. Copper, iron, and sulphur, all were there together. Ay, they
knew exactly what there was in the rocks up there - even gold and
silver was there, though not so much of it. A mining engineer, he
knows a deal of things.

"And it's all going to shut down now?" asked Aronsen.

"Shut down?" repeated the engineer in astonishment. "A nice thing
that'd be for South America if we did!" No, they were discontinuing
their preliminary operations for a while, only for a short time; they
had seen what the place was like, what it could produce; then they
could build their aerial railway and get to work on the southern side
of the fjeld. He turned to Isak: "You don't happen to know where this
Geissler's got to?"

"No."

Well, no matter - they'd get hold of him all right. And then they'd
start to work again. Shut down? The idea!

Isak is suddenly lost in wonder and delight over a little machine
that works with a treadle - simply move your foot and it works. He
understands it at once - 'tis a little smithy to carry about on a cart
and take down and set up anywhere you please.

"What's a thing like that cost, now?" he asks.

"That? Portable forge? Oh, nothing much." They had several of the same
sort, it appeared, but nothing to what they had down at the sea; all
sorts of machines and apparatus, huge big things. Isak was given to
understand that mining, the making of valleys and enormous chasms
in the rock, was not a business that could be done with your
fingernails - ha ha!

They stroll about the place, and the engineer mentions that he himself
will be going across to Sweden in a few days' time.

"But you'll be coming back again?" says Aronsen.

Why, of course. Knew of no reason why the Government or the police
should try to keep him.

Isak managed to lead round to the portable forge once more and
stopped, looking at it again. "And what might a bit of a machine like
that cost?" he asked.

Cost? Couldn't say off-hand - a deal of money, no doubt, but nothing to
speak of in mining operations. Oh, a grand fellow was the engineer;
not in the best of humour himself just then, perhaps, but he kept up
appearances and played up rich and fine to the last. Did Isak want a
forge? Well, he might take that one - the company would never trouble
about a little thing like that - the company would make him a present
of a portable forge!

An hour after, Aronsen and Isak were on their way down again. Aronsen
something calmer in mind - there was hope after all. Isak trundles down
the hillside with his precious forge on his back. Ay, a barge of a
man, he could bear a load! The engineer had offered to send a couple
of men down with it to Sellanraa next morning, but Isak thanked
him - 'twas more than worth his while. He was thinking of his own folk;
'twould be a fine surprise for them to see him come walking down with
a smithy on his back.

But 'twas Isak was surprised after all.

A horse and cart turned into the courtyard just as he reached home.
And a highly remarkable load it brought. The driver was a man from
the village, but beside him walked a gentleman at whom Isak stared in
astonishment - it was Geissler.




Chapter V


There were other things that might have given Isak matter for
surprise, but he was no great hand at thinking of more than one thing
at a time. "Where's Inger?" was all he said as he passed by the
kitchen door. He was only anxious to see that Geissler was well
received.

Inger? Inger was out plucking berries; had been out plucking berries
ever since Isak started - she and Gustaf the Swede. Ay, getting on in
years, and all in love again and wild with it; autumn and winter near,
but she felt the warmth in herself again, flowers and blossoming
again. "Come and show where there's cloudberries," said Gustaf;
"cranberries," said he. And how could a woman say no? Inger ran
into her little room and was both earnest and religious for several
minutes; but there was Gustaf standing waiting outside, the world was
at her heels, and all she did was to tidy her hair, look at herself
carefully in the glass, and out again. And what if she did? Who would
not have done the same? Oh, a woman cannot tell one man from another;
not always - not often.

And they two go out plucking berries, plucking cloudberries on the
moorland, stepping from tuft to tuft, and she lifts her skirts high,
and has her neat legs to show. All quiet everywhere; the white grouse
have their young ones grown already and do not fly up hissing any
more; they are sheltered spots where bushes grow on the moors. Less
than an hour since they started, and already they are sitting down to
rest. Says Inger: "Oh, I didn't think you were like that?" Oh, she
is all weakness towards him, and smiles piteously, being so deep in
love - ay, a sweet and cruel thing to be in love, 'tis both! Right and
proper to be on her guard - ay, but only to give in at last. Inger
is so deep in love - desperately, mercilessly; her heart is full of
kindliness towards him, she only cares to be close and precious to
him.

Ay, a woman getting on in years....

"When the work's finished, you'll be going off again," says she.

No, he wasn't going. Well, of course, some time, but not yet, not for



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