Martin Andersen Nexø.

Ditte, daughter of Man online

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One day little Povl came rushing home, — with only
one wooden shoe on. "Mother, is it true that the stork
has bitten Sister Ditte in the leg, and she will have a
little one after it?" He could scarcely breathe, poor
little chap, he was so excited.

"Where is your other wooden shoe?" Sorine
scowled at him to direct his thoughts to something
else, but he was not to be intimidated.

"I lost it out there. Is it really true?"

"Who talks such rubbish?"

"All the children do, they are screaming after me :
'Yah, yah, Ditte is going to have a baby.' "

"Stay at home and play, then no one will be able to
cry after you."

"But is it true?" He got a piece of sugared bread,
which effectually stopped his mouth. Then he went


to sit on the lowest step of the stairs leading to the
loft and gobbled it down.

Ditte was sitting in the parlor darning the children's
things; she bent low over her work.

Shortly after Sister Else came in with Povl's lost
shoe in her hand : a crowd of children stood down by
the rocks booing. It was not hard to see that they
had called after her, and her eyes were red-rimmed.
She went silently into the parlor and stationed herself
at the window. There she stood looking DItte up
and down. "What are you staring at, lass ?" said Ditte
at last, blushing furiously. Else looked away and"
went into the kitchen to help her mother, but DItte
felt her accusing eyes on her for long afterwards, and
they worried her.

But Kristian was the worst of all, for he would
not look at her. He kept away all day long, and only
turned his little nose homewards when it was feeding-
time, came in when the others had begun and slipped
into his place with his hat on his knees, ready to be
off again. He would not look at any of them, and
kept his eyes cast down. If he was spoken to, and
he could not avoid answering, he was rude and short
in his reply. It made Ditte most unhappy; he had
always been the most difficult of the children, and
for that reason she loved him the best. He needed
more love.

One day Ditte found him up in the loft. He was
sitting right up under the roof with an old fishing line
in his lap : frightfully busy with it. He had wet, dirty
streaks on his cheeks.


"What are you sitting up here for?" said she and
pretended to be surprised.

"What business is it of yours?" he retorted and
kicked her in the shin.

She sank down on a wooden box, and rocked herself
to and fro, with her hands folded over her leg, and
her head bowed down. "Oh, Kristian, little Kristian !"
she moaned.

Kristian saw that she had grown very white, and
he crept out of his hiding place. "You can just let
me alone," he said, "I haven't done you any harm."
He stood glowering past her and knew not what to

"I have not done you any harm either," answered
Ditte. Her voice sounded meek and appeasing.

"Ah — perhaps you think I'm stupid and can't see
anything! I've got to go about fighting the other
fellows, and giving them a smack in the eye, and it's true
after all."

"What is true?" Ditte asked feebly. But she gave
up the pretense and collapsed with her apron over her

Kristian pulled helplessly at her hands. "Don't go
and cry!" he begged. "It is so silly. I didn't mean
to kick you, raally. I was only so sick of it all !"

"Oh, it doesn't matter," answered Ditte, sniffing.
"You can kick me if you want to — 1 deserve it!" She
tried to smile and be more cheerful, and Kristian took
hold of her to help her up. But he only pulled at the
sleeve of her dress; it seemed as if he was afraid to
touch her. She had noticed that the other childrea


were the same, they never came and leaned against
her now, and seemed too bashful to touch her. Some-
thing that was none of theirs lay within her now.

"Ah, Kristian, I could not help it! It was not my
fault !" She took his face in her hands and looked into
his eyes.

"I know that all right!" he answered, and twisted
his face away from her. "And I don't say anything
against you either. But they shall get paid out!"
Then he sprang off down the stairs, and she saw him
making off towards the northeast over the rocks.

"Where is Kristian?" asked Lars Peter as they sat
at supper. "He has to help me bail out the boat."
No one knew : Ditte had her doubts, but dared not say
anything. At bedtime he had not come home. "So
he's out on the loose!" said Lars Peter sadly. "I was
so pleased to think that he had got over that : he hasn't
gone for a year or more. Yes, not since he made off
to see you at the Hill Farm, Ditte."

On the morning of the next day a strange man ar-
rived with Kristian in tow. Serine went into the
kitchen. "Here is a boy who belongs to you," said
the stranger, and pushed Kristian forwards inside the
back door.

Lars Peter came to the stairhead in the loft: he had
just come back from fishing and was going to bed.
"What does all this mean?" he asked, looking from the
one to the other.

"One of our ricks was burnt down last night, and
this morning I found this fellow hidden outside the
farm. It was only a chance that worse didn't happen,"


said the man in an ev^en voice that expressed neither
passion nor any other feeling.

Lars Peter stood staring stupidly in front of him.
He could not understand any of it. "That's a bit
too thick, what's your burnt rick to do with the lad?
You know he's not one to burn a rick down !" Kris-
tian looked at him with defiant eyes. "You may thrash
me if you like !" they seemed to say.

"You can say what you like, — that's how it is !" said
the stranger.

A light dawned on Lars Peter. "Are you the son
up at the Hill Farm?" he asked. The man nodded.

"Well, — then you've got off cheap," and he laughed
unpleasantly. "It would serve you just right if the
whole damned place was burnt down about your ears.
But the lad shall answer for it all the same. Go
straight off to bed, you varmint!" Besides I should
like a word in quiet with you." Lars Peter pulled on
a sweater.

"I should be very glad to get a word with you too,"
answered the son at the Hill Farm. Lars Peter started
— this was not just the answer he had expected.

They walked inland. "Well, what are you thinking
of doing for the lass?" asked Lars Peter, when they
had passed the cottages.

"You had better say what I should do!" said Karl.

"Does that mean that you will acknowledge the child
before all the world?"

Karl nodded. "I had not thought of trying to get
out of anything," he replied and looked Lars Peter
squarely in the face.


"Well, that is always something!" Lars Peter
seemed quite cheered. "Will you get married — if it

"1 am only nineteen," said Karl, "but we can get

"So that's how it stands^ That seems a bit cal-
lo.r." Lars Peter had got quite cooled down again.
He felt much inclined to give the son of the Hill Farm
a proper dressing down, but the opportunity for that
had gone by — they had talked too long over things.
"I must say that you have behaved very shabbily," said
he, and then stopped. "But that's just what we poor
folks must expect of farmers."

"You ought not to say that," answered Karl. "I
have no right to look down on any one. And I never
dreamed of doing you any harm !"

"Well, it's possible !" Lars Peter stretched out his
hand half reluctantly — he could not be angry long.
He was a perfect booby — but what the deuce —
"Well, good-by then. Perhaps you will write to us."

"I should like to have spoken to Ditte," said Karl

"Would you indeed!" Lars Peter laughed. "And
should another do it for you, — foolishly good as peo-
ple are ? No, no, we may be pigs, but we do not go
about rooting!" Lars Peter went off a few steps, but
came back again. "Do not misunderstand me! If
the lass wants to continue the acquaintance, she may as
far as I am concerned. But that she must decide for

Then he went home to sleep.


WHEN Lars Peter came home for a talk with
the little culprit, he had disappeared. He
had got out through the window.
Lars Peter went up to the loft and lay down, but
could not sleep. The meeting with the son from the
Hill Farm had not exactly cheered him; it was cer-
tainly a comical scarecrow of a fellow the lass had got
herself mixed up with, — an awfully silly ass! For a
brief period he had fancied that perhaps Karl would
prove to be the means of helping them up, so that they
could look folks in the face again : but after all, he
had turned out to be a mere hobbledehoy, — too young
for marriage as yet. He could not even earn his own
livelihood, and possessed no money at all. So that was
a truly pleasant state of things! He could not help
lying awake and worrying over it, and could hear the
incessant wailing of old Doriom's twin down on the
ground floor. "Granny is sleeping! Granny is sleep-
ing!" wailed the babe unceasingly. It sounded like a
cradle song.

He got up, went across the loft and down the steps
into the next house. The twin was sitting on the down
quilt that covered the old woman's bed, tear-stained, and
piteous, and repeated his cry. Beside him lay his dead
grandmother. She had been dead quite a time, for



she was cold, and the rats had already been at her.
The twin looked as though he had been lying on her
quilt crying all night long. It was a shame that no
one had heard him. But they had got so accustomed
to hearing the baby crying that they took no further
notice of it. Lars Peter took the little one home with

"I have a little fellow here, who has no one to care
for him any more," said he. "Mother has not shown
up for a long time, and now the Grandmother is lying
dead in there. Do you think we can find a bite of
bread and a corner of the bed for him here?" Sonne
did not reply. But she took the little one by the hand
and led him into the room. Lars Peter looked grate-
fully after her. "We must send one of the boys up
to the innkeeper to report the death," he said, and went
to bed again. This time he was able to sleep.

When he woke up and came down to dinner, Kristian
had returned home ; he put himself in his father's way
as if he wanted the business over and done with. Lars
Peter noticed this all right, but did not see clearly
how he was to tackle the situation. It would have
been another matter in old days, then such an affair
would have made him simply furious; but now he re-
garded it chiefly from the point of view of the risk
the boy had run — and that was now over. Lars Peter
had had many experiences in later years; what hap-
pened was like water on a duck's back no longer, but
was retained In his memory and made him ponder
over the puzzles of existence. He had been steadily
going down the hill But he himself had not been


to blame ! His property had been taken from him, —
then the money he had got for it, — then Big Klaus.
And then Sorine, — though he had her back again now,
in what a condition! In spite of all his struggles, his
slaving and striving to live uprightly, what had he be-
come? A poor lousy wretch, a harmless fool, stripped
to the skin of all he possessed! An empty barrel, —
that was the result of it all. And now Ditte's mis-
fortune was the last straw! What was the use of
being particular and guarding his property and life
for those who simply wasted it all? Lars Peter had
never known what it was to feel grateful to those
placed over him in station — he had never had occasion
to cultivate that feeling. But he had accustomed him-
self to the conditions, and tried to make the best out
of it for all parties. Now he would often have liked
to smite upwards with a hard hand. He would not
have cared if Hill Farm had gone up in smoke and
flames — not unless the boy and he had suffered for it

After some time had elapsed the son from the Hill
Farm turned up again; this time, it seemed, to settle
down there. He had no shame at all about it. He
came down to the inn with a bundle of working clothes
under his arm, and a shovel and spade on his shoul-
der, and asked for work; an officious soul brought
Lars Peter the news. "If he sets his foot here again,
he goes out head first!" said Lars Peter threateningly.

One morning when Ditte went to the window to
open it, Karl was wheeling earth in the new garden laid
down round the villa. She nearly screamed when she


saw him; no one had told her he was there. At the
sight of him all the horror and terrors of the Hill
Farm woke anew in her. He was not guilty, — she
regarded him more as a helpless victim like herself: but
he reminded her of it all.

She stood gazing after him, in a strange mood, hid-
ing behind the flowering geraniums, and gazing still.
He was working better than he had done at home,
but he did not look happy. "It is for my sake that
he came down here," she thought; and a new feeling,
one of pride, went through her while she swept the
room. She was no longer only a poor, ill-used girl,
whom people jeered at: she had won a victory! She
enjoyed the feeling without trying to analyze it, or cal-
culate what the results would be. She was inside the
room and kept her eyes on him. "What shall I do
If he comes and wants to speak to me?" she thought.
She was not in love with him. She felt a certain sat-
isfaction that he had come, but no wish to speak to

But he did not look towards the house, but stuck
to his work; at dinner-time he turned his wheelbarrow
upside down, opened his bundle and took out food,
and began to eat. The bottom of the barrow formed
his table. Ditte could see him from where she sat. It
was odd to see him sitting there alone to feed, espe-
cially for her, when she had served in his home, laid
his place at the table and made his bed. He had a
stronger and nearer right to be master over her now!
Ditte felt an instinctive desire to run out and say:
"Please come in to dinner, Karl!"


He was working there the next day, and the follow-
ing days. It was said that he had taken on the work
of making all the garden to the villa, and lived in a
straw thatched shed near the inn. He kept house for
himself, washed for himself, and lived on scrap meals.
It must be a lonely and sad life. He did not come in
to visit them, he was always a curious fellow, and per-
haps he was afraid of being turned out again ! But
one evening he prowled around the house. Ditte had
not been out yet, — she was too much afraid of what
folks would say; but she understood from the remarks
of her brothers and sister. She saw that they knew
him and the whole affair. Kristian must have told

Lars Peter was cross. "What the devil does he
want here?" he said to Sorine. "He makes a laugh-
ing stock of us before the whole village, by this silly
haunting the house in the dark!"

"It must be for a good reason he has come here,"
answered Sorine. Now whether it was because he was
a farmer's son, or whether her mind was not strong
enough to grasp anything more, it was easy to see that
Sorine felt forgiving about it.

"For a good reason? I like that! Cheeky fool!
If he was only half right in his noddle! But then no
doubt we should see no more of him! The lass had
better pray the Lord to look after him, and I can't
see myself that she is crazy about him either, and the
devil take me if I can understand how she came to
get mixed up with such a silly stick!"


They were sitting at supper, and they had fish and
potato pie. It was difficult to get anything out of the
innkeeper that summer, so they had to ring the changes
on fish three times a day. But Serine had been lucky
enough to get hold of a little piece of smoked bacon : — >
one might say she had coughed it home, for when her
cough was very bad, the innkeeper would give her
something to get her out of the place. She had minced
up the bacon and the small pieces gave a pleasant smoky
flavor to the fish. There was great enthusiasm shown
for the dinner on these occasions.

The twin, whose real name was Rasmus, but who
was always called As, sat on Lars Peter's knee; he
was the smallest. The mother had never turned up,
and he was there ! It was quite jolly to have a young-
ster on his knee again; Lars Peter had missed it lately;
Povl fancied himself too big, and was shy over it.
But As liked to be there. He was in his fourth year.

"There sits Mother!" said Lars Peter, pointing at
Sorlne. But the boy shook his head.

Serine put more fish pie on their plates; that was
her answer. She never overflowed with caresses or
coaxing words, but she looked after the twin, just as
she did for their own. "She is a good little mother,"
said Lars Peter when she went out into the kitchen
for a moment, "only she finds it difficult to show her
love in words." He wanted the children to be fond
of her, and tried to point out her good qualities on
every possible occasion, but there was still something
to be counteracted. Up to a certain point they liked
her, obeyed her, and distrusted her no longer. Ditte's


misfortune had helped Sorine to stand better with re-
gard to them: Ditte was no longer their one and all.
But she never possessed the children's confidence, and
she did not lay herself out to obtain it either. She
seemed happiest when she was able to wrap herself in
her own thoughts, and appeared not to miss other peo-
ple, not even Lars Peter. "She goes about like one
who has said good-by to all things earthly," thought
Lars Peter, often in depressed mood. But he never
said so out loud.

When they had finished, Lars Peter sat looking
at the sea, which was covered with white horses.
"Where can Kristian be?" he said, and began to fill
his pipe. This meant that he was going for a turn,
for he never smoked in the room because of Sorine.
Just then Kristian came in. He flung his hat down
in a corner and pushed his way in to the bench. He
was clearly in a rage.

"Why can't you come in in time?" asked Ditte re-
provingly. The boy's whims and tempers were get-
ting a bit too much !

Kristian did not answer but began devouring his
food. When the first pangs of hunger were satisfied
he raised his head. "There's some one standing be-
hind the fire-engine house," he announced to the gen-
eral public. "He asked me to say so at home, — but 1
was not to let any one hear it, he said." With the
last words he looked spitefully at Ditte.

"What the devil! Is he going to begin night
walks?" exclaimed Lars Peter angrily. "Has he not
done us harm enough?"


"Father !" said a voice from the half-open bedroom
door. Serine was already undressing. There was a
little hint of wonder in the cry.

"What the devil! You must admit — " he began,
but broke off. The children stood listening, with open
mouths and staring eyes.

Ditte went into the kitchen, and put on a scarf.
"Else can clear away the things," she said. "I am
going out a little." Her voice trembled. Lars Peter
came out to her in the kitchen doorway.

"I did not mean to hurt you !" he said softly. "You
know that right well. But If I were in your place, I
should keep away from him. He means you no good."
He laid his hand affectionately on Ditte's shoulder.

"I will speak to him," said Ditte, still with angry-
eyes. "So you can just think what you like about it!
I believe he is only sorry about it all," she added more

"That's just the most deceitful kind. An old prov-
erb says that sniveling lads are not healthy. Well,
well, do as you think fit. I only wanted to warn you."

Ditte went out into the dusk. Ah, how grand It was
to get a mouthful of fresh air again after being shut
up so long. She wondered what Karl wanted to say
to her. Yes, and what did she want with him, after
all. She knew she did not want to marry, If It could
only take place after the great event. Then she would
go as a servant to Copenhagen, where there was a
little life, and no one would know her past. She would
not stay here and go about with a flabby fellow, with
no backbone to him. But she did not mind going for


a walk through the village on his arm, just to show
the folks that she had a father for her baby if she
wanted one.

He was waiting behind the engine house; he stepped
out when she left her home. "I knew your step !" said
he happily, and took her hand.

"Why do you hide like this?" asked she, a little

"It is not for my own sake ; every one may see my
way of life, and know what I am after." His voice
was even and calm; there was none of the thrill about
him, that always gave her palpitation, and a feeling of
misfortune. But he was still heavy-hearted and
gloomy; it showed in his walk and bearing.

"You don't need to go and hide for my sake," said
Ditte and laughed bitterly. "For every one knows
it, and even the little children go and call out about
it. If you want anything of me, you can come by day."

"I should like to," said Karl. "But your father
can't bear the sight of me."

"Oh, you don't need to be afraid of Father, — not
if you mean honestly by me."

They went on side by side, talking softly, and soon
came clear of the cottages and out into the hollow
lane leading up to the inn. It was Saturday evening,
and several women came from the inn with provisions
for Sunday. Ditte wished them good-evening in a
loud voice; she was not sorry that they should see her
in company of the one who had seduced her.

"May I come and fetch you for a walk to-morrow
morning?" said Karl imploringly, squeezing her hand.


"We could go together to the house of God." He
spoke forlornly, and his hand was cold — he needed
human companionship. Ditte noticed it, she was sorry
for him, and let him hold her hand.

No, she would not go to church with him ! She
did not feel like a sinner, and would not have people
sitting and saying, "See those two penitents over there,"
and perhaps beginning to sniff from sympathy. "But
will you go with me through the whole village, and
past the inn?" she asked and listened breathlessly for
the answer. "But I will take your arm, and say my-
self just how far we will walk. Perhaps right out to
Fredericksværk." She wanted to be seen all over
the place with him.

Karl smiled. "We will go as far as you like, — and
can hold out," he replied. "But will you give me a
really good kiss, not for sympathy, but for my own

"I'm not so crazy about you, but It might come
to that yet," said Ditte, and kissed him. She noticed
by the trembling of his lips how he needed warmth.
"You too have a sad life," she cried involuntarily and
thought as she said it of food and home comforts.
How could he pass the time, without a soul by him?

"Oh, I think a lot," he answered quietly.

"What do you think about then, about me?" Ditte
asked and laughed archly.

"Mostly about the child. It is so wonderful that
a new human life is born from our desires. God has
His own mysterious ways, my dear!"

Now he was beginning his old refrain, and Ditte be-


gan to think she had better go home. When they came
near the cottage and stood to say good-night, he slipped
something into her hand; it was a ten-kroner note.

"1 won't have your money," said Ditte, pushing it
away. He stood with it in his hand, crestfallen.
"Then I have nothing to work for," said he.

"Yes, when that is for the child, then it is another
thing. But you must not go and scrimp yourself, and
give us all your week's wages; I won't have that!" She
did not know what she was saying, she was so con-
fused: her voice sounded angry.

Only when she ^yas lying in bed with the note clasped
tightly in her hand did she realize what had happened.
She did not need to worry any more about taking
the bread out of the others' mouths, or shudder to
think where the money for the birth was to come from;
she had found a protector. Karl was no longer a
burden on her existence, she could rely on him. It re-
lieved her so much that she curled up in bed and cried
once more over him.


DITTE and her mother had .been busy; they had
taken advantage of a time when all the others
were out to let out the band of her best home-
spun dress. It was the second time the skirt had been
let out, but it was a struggle to get it hooked all the

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Online LibraryMartin Andersen NexøDitte, daughter of Man → online text (page 11 of 23)