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be found.

" That fellow's too clever for us," said Lars Peter,
and they went on, he and Ditte ahead and the three
little ones close behind. Even Kristian never ran off
by himself, but kept close to the others; it was all too
strange here — too fine and Copenhagenish; one felt out
of it.

In one of the arbors of the hotel they ate the food
they had brought and the doughnuts, which were still
warm. A man in a white jacket with a cloth over his
arm served the beer and the coffee. Ditte thought
it queer work for a man. But it was great fun to be
having a meal at an hotel !

And then it was time to put the horse in. The sun
had already begun to think about bedtime; it must
have been something like five o'clock. Ditte had to be
back at the farm that evening, and it wouldn't do for
her to come too late.


4UTUMN set in with cold and sleet; the cattle
AA stood with their backs to the wind most of the
day instead of feeding, and Ditte froze. It was
difficult to keep them out now; they only thought of
one thing — coming home again. On all the other
farms the cattle had long ago been brought in, but
the Hill Farm was slow to make a change, in this as
in everything else. But one morning they woke up
to find a fall of snow — it was early in October. It dis-
appeared again in the course of an hour or two, but
all the same it gave them the reminder they always
waited for.

The summer pasturage had been good and they were
in pretty good condition, the cattle — smooth in the coat
and fairly fat. Now was the time when they would
lose flesh; at the Hill Farm they went on the old-
fashioned plan — sufficient unto the season was the evil
thereof. Feeding-stuffs were never bought, and com-
paratively little of the good pasture had been brought
home as hay. Karen had been more than usually in-
different about everything this summer, and her son
was too green and too slack to do things of his own

Ditte's days were harder now. Apart from clear-
ing out the cowsheds and the rest of the roughest work,



which was done by the son, It was her task to look after
the cattle and to help with all sorts of work in the rest
of her time. But she was glad of the change. Her
mind needed occupation from outside herself; the lone-
liness of the pastures had only impoverished her exist-

Throughout the summer she had made efforts to un-
derstand the life about her — people and things. But
it was not easy while she spent her time alone; there
were not enough chances of picking up anything. Was
Karen Bakkegaards poor? It came natural to her
to regard all farmers as rich, but here a good many
things pointed to the opposite, amongst others the re-
lations between other farmers and the Hill Farm.
As a rule farmers were as thick as thieves; each had
his faults which made him indulgent to others. But
they all agreed in keeping the Hill Farm at a distance.

Why did so many people look scared as soon as
Karen Bakkegaard was mentioned? Was It only
on account of the husband's horrible death? And why
did she herself have that strange shuddering feeling
In her mistress's company? — for she was not really
afraid of her. But it must be that strong, bewildering
smell. What did it come from?

And above all, was there anything between her mis-
tress and Uncle Johannes? That was after all the
most exciting thing, and she kept her eyes and ears
open. For a long while there was nothing to be no-
ticed; but a few days after the cattle were brought
In, he came again. He and the mistress suddenly
appeared in the half light of the cowshed and inspected


the animals,. He had to give his opinion about each
one of them. From their way with each other and
the glances they exchanged it could be seen that they
had been together since his last visit here, and that
there was more between them than they wanted to
have known. So after all it was true that they
met round about in secret. He nodded to Ditte
but did not take any further notice of her; she un-
derstood that she was not to claim relationship there

At dinner one end of the table was specially laid
for him — with a tablecloth! He had roast pork and
sausages and other delicacies, and Karen waited on him
herself. It was strange to see that big, middle-aged
female attending on the swarthy whippersnapper and
watching his eyes like a dog, to guess his wants. Sine
and the laborer exchanged glances. The son sat with
his head in his plate, looking embarrassed. It was
always his way to feel shame for others.

Suddenly he raised his head and did a thing that was
quite unlike him. "Tell me now — aren't you and the
little girl relations?" he asked, looking across at Jo-
hannes. Rasmus Rytter cleared his throat. "Ow,
blast it!" he said, shaking his fingers as if he had burnt
himself. The mistress looked at him sharply.
"You're jretting old, aren't you?" she said.

But Johannes was not a man to be put out so easily;
he just stared back — with an impudent grin. "Oh,
more or less; that's to say she was out at nurse at my
brother's," he answered as jauntily as might be. Ditte
sat shivering, with the feeling that she was being thrown


about like a missile. But then, thank goodness, the
subject dropped.

After dinner Karen Bakkegaards and Johannes went
up into the parlor — just like two regular sweethearts I
A queer couple they made, though, for they sat the
whole afternoon playing cards and drinking coffee with
rum in it — Karen with her pipe between her teeth, the
same one she smoked her husband to death with, ac-
cording to Rasmus Rytter's story. Johannes never
smoked anything but cigars, he was quite the gentle-

After that he came regularly, and the woman was
away just as regularly too. She drove herself, and
everybody knew where she was going. She met hira
and others of his kidney in the hotels round about in
the nearest market towns, and nice goings-on there must
have been. Well, for that matter Karen had never
been exactly a Sunday-school child; but until now she
had always kept within her own four walls. Now she
threw all shame to the winds and gave a free rein
to her dissolute nature.

It was an old custom that those farm servants who
were not changing their places had a holiday on the
Sunday after hiring day, and on the first Sunday in
November Sine and Ditte left the farm by church time
in the morning. They had got their wages and were
going into Frederiksværk to shop. It was all Sine
could do to get her fifty crowns in time; she had to
pretend to her mistress that she owed the money in
the town. "Oh, you're only going to put it in the sav-


ings-bank, 1 suppose?" Karen had said, but she had to
find it. Ditte's five crowns was not such a big sum,
there was no difficulty about them.

"Ah, it's a lot of money for you," said Sine; "but
■wait and see how far it goes. I can remember the first
money I got — and how bad I felt when it all went with-
out I knew how."

"Is if. true that you put money in the savings-bank?"
asked Ditte, shifting her bundle to the other arm. She
had her washing in it besides the homespun cloth, the
wool, the holland shift and the new wooden shoes.

Sine took the bundle from her. "Come here, you'll
kill yourself dragging that, my girl," she said. "You
might just as well have left the wooden shoes behind,
you're going to wear them out at work anyhow. Or
were you thinking of leaving them on the chest of
drawers at home?"

"I only want to show them to my brothers and sis-
ter," said Ditte. "And Father!" she added solemnly.

"Oh well, you're a child, aren't you? Sometimes
you seem quite a baby!"

Ditte returned to her question. Was she really
fellow-servant with some one who had money in the
savings-bank? It was very important to have this con-
firmed. "We had money in the savings-bank once,"
she said.

"Yes, that was the money your mother — " Sine
stopped suddenly. And to make up for her slip she
confided to Ditte that she already had five hundred
crowns in the savings-bank; two hundred she had in-
herited, but the rest she had saved herself. And


when she had a thousand, she would start a little haber-
dasher's shop in one of the towns. "You ought to
put a little by too," she said; "however little it may
be, it grows into something. And it's a good thing
to have something when you get old."

"Oh no, I'm going to get married," said Ditte. She
didn't want to be an old maid.

"Yes, if he doesn't fool you," suggested Sine.

"Have you been deceived then?" Ditte preferred
that expression.

"Yes, and shamefully too !" she said, suddenly break-
ing down. It was some years ago now, but whenever
she was reminded of it, she could hardly keep back her

"Did he leave you to bear the shame?" Ditte put
a weight of experience into her voice; she was proud
of being talked to like a grown-up.

"No, I didn't let it go so far as that — and that was
why he threw me over," said Sine, half sobbing. They
walked on, and she sniffled for a while, but then pulled
herself together, blew her nose resolutely and put her
handkerchief in her pocket. "Yes, you may well stare,"
she said, "you don't often see Sine crying. But every
roof has its leaks that you have to run and fetch a
bucket to."

"Why did he throw you over, though?" asked Ditte
again, wondering.

"Yes, you may well ask that again," said Sine with,
a laugh. "But just you wait till they begin pulling your
things about, first at one knot and then at another — and
tell you they must know whether you're like this or like


that before they can marry you ; then you'll understand
better than you do now. No, men folks are best left
alone. At first they're all cringing and humble as can
be, but when they've got what they want, they turn
round and put their foot on you."

Ditte considered this well and went over the little
world of her acquaintance. "Father's not like that,"
she said decidedly; she thought of how long-suffering
he had been with Serine, and how he was only waiting
for her to come out again.

"No, I don't think so either," said Sine readily;
"but most of them are !" She was even redder in
the cheeks than usual and her brown eyes sparkled
quite angrily. "She's really pretty!" thought Ditte

"And you've only got to get used to it," Sine con-
tinued after a while. " 'You'll never be able to do it,'
Mother used to say — 'your blood's too red; you may
just as well give in first as last. What you save to-day
you lose to-morrow' — and all the other sayings she
could think of. But you've only got to get used to
it — like everything else. When the feeling comes over
you, you just cry a little and think of what happened
before and take out your savings-bank book — and then
it passes off."

When they got to the town the shops were open
on account of the day. The street was full of farm-
servants; some of them had already been celebrating
the occasion. The only place that was not open was
the savings-bank; Sine had to leave her money with


some people she knew and ask them to see to it for
her. Then they went out to do their shopping; there
was not much time, if they were to go down to Ditte's
home and be back at the Hill Farm before night. "You
must be quick about it," said Sine, "or else we shan't
get there."

Yes, Ditte would be quick — for they must get home.
"Father will be so glad to see you,*" she said. "He's
terribly fond of you because you help me and are kind
to me. He's so kind himself, he is!"

"Then I'll have to take him something too," said
Sine, laughing, and bought a bottle of old rum.

Ditte had remembered her promise to little Povl
and spent a whole crown on a toy for him; and as the
others were not to be left out in the cold — Father least
of all — the money all vanished. And she had plenty
to carry, too ! There was a pipe and tobacco for Lars
Peter, a horse on wheels for Povl, a doll for Sister,
and a carriage which could be wound up and would go
by itself for Kristian to pull to pieces.

They got it all safely home, and then there was real
joy. It was the first time in her life Ditte had been
able to give presents, and the first time the children
had had real toys from a shop ; it was hard to say on
which side the joy was greatest. Lars Peter at once
iilled his pipe and lit it. It was a grand smoke he
puffed from it; he thought he had never seen such blue
smoke before. And what a fine smell it had! "But
you haven't saved much, have you?" he said teasingly.
Oh well, she still had the best part of her wages, the
cloth and the wool and the wooden shoes. Lars Jen-


sen's widow, who was clever with her fingers, had
promised to make the dress for her; Ditte wanted to
take her the stuff at once.

"Kristian can run round with that," said Lars Peter.
"And you can make us a drop of coffee; real good cof-
fee we can have to-day. When we have company like
this!" He sent Sine a bright look.

Ditte came with the coffee and put a glass on the
table. "You must have a taste of your present," she

"Not unless you two join me," said Lars Peter, and
he brought two more glasses. He sat caressing the
bottle before he uncorked it; let it rest in his hand a
little and then held it up to the light. "There hasn't
been such a thing in the house for many a year," he
said, and his voice was full of warmth. "I'm blest if
it isn't like meeting one's first love again."

"Was she like that?" asked Sine, laughing.

"She was pretty, you may be sure. — But all the same,
such lovely rosy cheeks as yours I've never seen be-
fore !"

"But, Father!" said Ditte, admonishingly.

"Well, damn it — why should I sit here and tell lies?
All I can say is, that if one was young again — " He
was quite animated, though he had not yet tasted the

Sine only chuckled; she took no offense to-day. But
if it had been Rasmus Rytter or any one else — . Ditte
looked proudly at her father, "Well, here's thanks for
the drink, and thanks for being good to my girl," said
Lars Peter and they touched glasses, Ditte joined


them, but she put down her glass with a shudder after
just sipping it.

While she ran across to Lars Jensen's widow with
the stuff for the dress, Lars Peter and Sine had time
for a little serious talk about her; the children lay about
the floor, taken up with their different toys.

"Is she getting on pretty well?" Lars Peter asked.
They were both following Ditte with their eyes; she
ran like a kid among the sandhills — full of excitement
over the new dress.

"Oh yes, she's pretty smart at her work," said Sine.
"I wish everybody was as willing and as conscientious."

No, there wasn't much shirking about her — so far
as Lars Peter knew. But what about the treatment
she got? She never complained — never a word; but
the Hill Farm people hadn't a very good name.

Well, to be sure, they had their faults like every-
body else, perhaps a bit worse than most. But it was
a place you could put up with — not worse than that.
And the food was good.

Yes, of course, that meant a good deal, and Sine
herself was the best proof that the Hill Farm was not
too bad, he remarked, fixing his eyes on her kindly
round face. This made Sine laugh, and Lars Peter
laughed too; they sat looking out of the window and
got quite red about the eyes with the effort to over-
come their laughter, and then they came to look at each
other and laughed again. "Well, if it isn't — " Lars
Peter began, but came to a stop.

It was the lovely rosy cheeks that made him so happy
— and her not blaming her employers but shielding


them. She must be a good girl — and a real fine piece
into the bargain ! In the middle of her soft throat,
where her dress was open, there was a little hollow
which moved in and out as she talked. But when she
laughed, it worked all the time in quick little throbs,
as if she had some joker inside her throat playing
pranks. How the devil could it be — "How is it that
such a fine girl is allowed to go about without a hus-
band?" he said.

"Yes, it's hard to say," she answered and laughed

Well, then Ditte came back and they had to go.
Lars Peter stood for a moment gazing absently past
them, "ril go a bit of the way with you," he said
then, with a shrug.


TO begin with, winter brought chiefly cold and
darkness; Ditte thought she had never known
such a dark and cold December at home. The
snow came at the very beginning of the month; it came
driving in from the sea and was caught by the three
wings of the farm buildings, which lay open to take
it in their embrace, and lay in deep drifts, blocking
the way. Ditte felt the cold badly and had big chil-
blains on her hands and feet; the snow got into her
wooden shoes and her feet were always wet. Sine
found a chance of drying her stockings on the stove,
but that did not help. She got sores on her heels and
ankles and the backs of her hands from the cold and
could not bear to wear shoes or put her hands in cold
water. When she came to dress in the morning, her
clothes were half covered by stiff snow that had drifted
in through the ill-fitting door; and outside it might be
so deep that she could only open the upper half door.
Then she had to climb out and wade across to the scul-
lery door; when she got inside, the snow melted on
her and she was soaking wet from the waist down.

There was nothing amusing about the snow. At
home the boys used to go quite wild when they woke
up in the morning and found a fall of snow. They
simply had to go out and stand on their heads in it —



in nothing out their shirts for choice ; it was all one could
do to keep them back till they had some clothes on.
Ditte couldn't understand it; to her snow meant only
cold, trouble and discomfort.

And the darkness didn't make things better. There
was never any daylight to speak of till late in the fore-
noon, when most of the hard work was done; and
early in the afternoon the darkness came tumbling in
on them again. It came from out at sea, where it had
been brooding in the meantime in the form of leaden
fog and black dead-water. It was never really

One day passed like another, in cutting chaff, thresh-
ing and winnowing corn, and looking after the cattle.
They were always hard at it and didn't get through
very much; when at last one job was finished, two or
three more had stacked themselves up waiting to be

At the Hill Farm nothing was ever in proper work-
ing order — and nothing had its proper place either,
neither the hands nor the work they had to do. Ditte
had to be here, there and everywhere; just as she was
going to feed the cattle, they would call her off to help
at the chaff-cutter.

She had to try her hand at everything, and gener-
ally at work that would be done by grown-up people
anywhere else. She passed the corn to the feeder
when they were threshing, or lay up in the loft, where
there wasn't room for any of the others, and cleared
the straw out of the way. And she had to take turns
with Sine at working the winnowing-machine while


Karl fed it. It was hard work, but at any rate It was
■warm in the barn, and Karl would often change places
with her, while she fed the machine. Then they were
able to have a chat — she looked forward to these hours.
Karl was shy and silent with the grown-up people — he
couldn't stand being laughed at. But he felt at ease
with Ditte and could talk freely with her. She had
stopped her teasing and had gradually come to like
him — she could see that he had a bad time and wanted
somebody to be kind to him. But still she could not
understand how he — a man — could put up with it all.
When she told him so, he was helplessly dumb.

He was quite under the thumb of his mother — that
must be it. Not that he was fond of her — he talked
of her as a stranger and would often join in discussing
her bad points; but he hadn't the strength to free him-

One day he began to speak about his father, with-
out anything having led up to it; he had never men-
tioned him before.

"Did you like him?" asked Ditte. "Because I know
you can't stand your mother," she went on, when there
was no answer. "You needn't be ashamed to own up
to it — we're not obliged to be fond of anything we can't
be fond of. I don't like my mother either !"

"But that's sinful ! God has told us that we are to
love our parents," Karl replied gloomily.

"Not if we can't be fond of them — for what will
He do to us then? And what if they're not good? —
You can see yourself, you're not fond of your mother —
how will you get out of that, eh?"


Karl didn't know — but one ought to. The Scripture
said so!

"But did your father love your mother? For he
was such a God-fearing man, they say."

"No, he couldn't — but he was sorry for it. Mother
smoked tobacco in the bedroom when he was ill. And
it made him cough and spit blood, but still she didn't
stop. Go on, she said, spit up your dirty blood and
then you'll get some fresh. It was horrible to see Fa-
ther's blood about the floor — his face was as white as
chalk; but as for asking her to stop, he wouldn't do
that. Then my brothers took away her pipe and to-
bacco and hid them, and she tempted me until I told
her where they were — she gave me sweets."

"Didn't she thrash you into telling? — that would
have been more like her."

"No, she never cared to strike the small and defense-
less. But she thrashed my big brothers. And then
they thrashed me again — for blabbing."

"And well you deserved it — even if you were a lit-
tle one. Nobody would have got Povl or Else to do
that, nor even Kristian either, thoughtless as he is. We
stuck to Mother, all four of us, though Father thought
it was wrong. But it was for his own sake — mostly."

"Was she unkind to him too, I wonder?"

"Oh, nobody can hurt Father; for he takes every-
thing — you know — the same way as God does — he
thinks the best of everybody."

"You mustn't compare a human being to God," said
Karl reprovingly.

"I do it all the same," Ditte replied in irritation.


"With Father I do ! You're not a parson, are

And so they fell out and didn't talk any more while
that job lasted.

The evenings were the best part of life. Luckily
the days were short, and at dark all work in the yard
and the barn came to an end; it was only the cattle
that gave one something to do at intervals. The rest
of the time Ditte sat in the warm living-room with its
comfortable smell of peat-smoke, and helped at card-
ing, spinning and winding yarn. Karl sat reading some-
thing pious, a missionary paper or whatever it might
be: and when Rasmus Rytter was employed at the farm
he sat asleep in the corner or told coarse stories about
the people of the neighborhood. If the stories got
really juicy, Karen struck up her scornful laugh and
egged him on to tell some more. She had a grudge
against everybody, without respect of persons, and
wished them all bad luck; she never spoke up for any
one or had any good to say of her neighbors.

"And why should I?" she answered when Sine once
reproached her with this. "Do you think there's any-
body that has a good word to say of Karen Bakke-
gaards?" They didn't spare her, so why should she
spare them? And she didn't lose a chance of telling a
dirty story herself — especially if it gave her a hit at
somebody. She was always going for her son about
his piety; but that was such poor sport. He never
answered back, but pretended he hadn't heard.

Ditte too had to stand a good deal from her mistress


and Rasmus Rytter. Her transitional age constantly
tickled something in them. The woman in her was
beginning to peep out, and in her childish Innocence
she would ask questions that prompted them to laugh-
ter and ambiguous allusions. Sine snapped at them,
and gave them, so to say, a rap over the knuckles; but
nothing would stop them, they had to have their paws
on this fresh young life that was feebly seeking its way
out — and make fun of the experiences that were to

Otherwise Sine took no part in the conversation when
those two were in it, but sat there with her round, rosy

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Online LibraryMartin Andersen NexøDitte, daughter of Man → online text (page 5 of 23)