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who was taking her home. A third voice, sharp and strident, was heard.

"Hurry up, now, Baard; push off the boat, or we sha'n't be home

The rattle of cart-wheels followed, and Baard fetched a box out of the
cart, and carried it down to the boat.

Then Mathilde, the parson's daughter, came running up calling, "Eli!

The two girls wept in each other's arms.

"You must take this," said Mathilde, giving her friend a bird-cage.
"Mother wants you to. Yes, you must take Narrifas, and then you'll often
think of me."

"Eli! Come, come, Eli!" came the summons from the boat.

A moment after, and Arne saw the boat out in the water, Eli standing up
in the stern, holding the bird-cage and waving her hand to Mathilde. His
eyes followed the boat, and he watched it draw near to the land. He
could see the three forms mirrored in the water, and continued gazing
until they had left the boat and gone indoors at the biggest house on
the opposite side of the lake.

Mathilde had sat for some time by the landing stage, but she had left
now, and Arne was alone when Eli came out again for a last look across
the water. Arne could see her image in the lake. "Perhaps she sees me
now," he thought. Then, when the sun had set, he got up and went home,
feeling that all things were at peace.

Arne's fancies for some time now were of dreams of love and fair
maidens. Old ballads and romances mirrored them for him, as the water
had mirrored the young girl.

A two-fold longing - the yearning to have someone to love, and a desire
to do something great - sprang up together in his soul, and melted into
one. Again he began to work at the song, "Over the mountains high,"
altering it, and thinking each time, "One day it will carry me off." But
he never forgot his mother in his thoughts of travel, and decided that
he would send for her as soon as he had got a footing abroad.

There was in the parish a merry old fellow of the name of Ejnar Aasen.
He was well off, and, in spite of a lameness that made him use a crutch,
was fond of organising parties of children to go nutting. All the young
people called him "godfather."

Aasen liked Arne, and invited him to join in the next nutting party, and
though Arne blushed, and made excuses, he decided to go. He found
himself the only young man among many girls. They were not the maidens
of whom he had made songs, nor yet was he afraid of them. They were more
full of life than anything he had seen, and they could make merry over
anything. All of them laughed at Arne, as they caught at the branches,
because he was serious, so that he could not help laughing himself.

After a while they all sat on a large knoll, old Aasen in the middle,
and told stories. And then they were anxious to tell their dreams, but
this could be done only to one person, and Arne was trusted to hear the
dreams. The last of the girls to tell her dreams was called Eli, and she
was the girl he had seen in the boat.

Arne had to say which was the best dream, and as he said he wanted time
to think, they left him sitting on the knoll and trooped off with
godfather. Arne sat for some time, and the old yearnings to travel came
back, and drove him to his song, "Over the mountains high." Now, at
last, he had got the words; and taking paper out of his pocket, he wrote
the song through to the end. When he had finished he rose, and left the
paper on the knoll; and later, when he found he had forgotten it, he
went back. But the paper was gone.

One of the girls, who had returned to seek him, had found - not Arne, but
his song.

_III. - Love's Awakening_

Whenever Arne mentioned his friend Kristen, and wondered why he never
heard from him, his mother left the room, and seemed unhappy for days
afterwards. He noticed, too, that she would get specially nice meals for
him at such times.

He had never been so gentle since his father's death as he was that
winter. On Sundays he would read a sermon to his mother, and go to
church with her; but she knew this was only to win her consent to his
going abroad in the spring. Upland Knut, who had always been alone, now
came to live at Kampen. Arne had become very skilful with axe and saw,
and that winter he was often busy at the parsonage as well as Kampen.

One day a messenger came from Böen to ask him if he would go over there
for some carpentry work. He answered "Yes," without thinking about the
matter. As soon as the man had gone, his mother told him that it was
Baard Böen who had injured his father; but Arne decided to go all the

It was a fine homestead, and Baard and Arne soon became on friendly
terms. He had many talks, too, with Eli, and at times would sing his own
songs to her, and afterwards feel ashamed.

Then Eli fell ill, and Birgit blamed Baard because Mathilde had gone
away from the parsonage on a visit to town without bidding good-bye to
Eli. It seemed to Baard that whatever he did was wrong.

"You either keep silent too much, or you talk too much," said his wife.

During Eli's illness Baard would often sit and talk with Arne, and one
day he told him how he had been driven to attack Nils, and then how he
had courted and won Birgit.

"She was very melancholy at first," said Baard, "and I had nothing to
say; and then she got into bustling, domineering ways, and I had nothing
to say to that. But one day of real happiness I've not had the twenty
years we've been married."

When Eli was getting better, her mother came down one evening and asked
Arne, in her daughter's name, to go up and sing to her. Eli had heard
him singing. Arne was confused, but gave in and went upstairs.

The room was in darkness, and he had not seen Eli since the day she had
fallen ill, and he had helped to carry her to her room. Arne sat down in
a chair at the foot of the bed. When people talk in the dark they are
generally more truthful than when they see one another's faces.

Eli made Arne sing to her, first a hymn, and then a song of his own. For
some time there was silence between them, and then Eli said, "I wonder,
Arne, that you, who have so much that is beautiful within, should want
to go away. You must not go away."

"There are times when I seem not to want to so much," he answered.

Presently Arne could hear her weeping, and he felt that he must
move - either forward or back.


"Yes." Both voices were at a whisper.

"Give me your hand."

She made no answer. He listened, quickly, closely, stretched out his own
hand, and grasped a warm little hand that lay bare.

There was a step on the stairs; they let go of one another, and Birgit
entered with a light. "You've been sitting too long in the dark," she
said, putting the candle on the table. But neither Eli nor Arne could
bear the light; she turned to the pillow, and he shaded his face with
his hands.

"Ah, yes; it's a bit dazzling at first," said the mother, "but the
feeling soon passes away."

Next day Arne heard that Eli was better and going to come down for a
time after dinner. He at once put his tools together, and bade farewell
to the farm. And when Eli came downstairs he was gone.

_IV. - After Many Years_

It was springtime when Margit went up to the parsonage. There was
something heavy on her heart. Letters had come from Kristen for Arne,
and she had been afraid to give them to her son lest he should go away
and join his friend. Kristen had even sent money, and this Margit had
given to Arne, pretending it had been left him by his grandmother. All
this Margit poured out to the old pastor, and also her fears that Arne
would go travelling.

"Ah!" he said, smiling, "if only there was some little lassie who could
get hold of him. Eli Böen, eh? And if he could manage so that they could
meet sometimes at the parsonage."

Margit looked up anxiously.

"Well, we'll see what we can do," he went on; "for, to tell you the
truth, my wife and daughter have long been of the same mind."

Then came the summer, and one day, when the heavens were clear, Arne
walked out and threw himself down on the grass. He meant to go to the
parsonage and borrow a newspaper. He had not been to Böen since that
night in the sick-room, and now he glanced towards the house, and then
turned away his eyes. Presently he heard someone singing his song, the
song he had lost the very day he made it.

Fain would I know what the world may be
Over the mountains high.
Mine eyes can nought but the white snow see,
And up the steep sides the dark fir-tree,
That climbs as if yearning to know.
Say, tree, dost thou venture to go?

There were eight verses, and Arne stood listening till the last word had
died away. He must see who it was, and presently above him he caught
sight of Eli.

The sunlight was falling straight on her, and it seemed to Arne, as he
looked at her, that he had never seen or dreamt of anything more
beautiful in his life. He watched her get up, without letting himself be
seen, and presently she was gone. Arne no longer wanted to go to the
parsonage, but he went and sat where she had sat, and his breast was
full of gentle feelings.

Eli often went to the parsonage, and one Sunday evening Margit found her
there, and persuaded the girl to walk back to Kampen with her. Eli
entered the house only when she heard that Arne was not at home. It was
the first time she had visited the homestead. Margit took her all over
the house, and showed her Arne's room, and opened a little chest full of
silk kerchiefs and ribbons.

"He bought something each time he's been to the town," Margit remarked.

Eli would have given anything to go away, but she dared not speak.

In a special compartment in the chest she had seen a buckle, a pair of
gold rings, and a hymn-book bound with silver clasps, and wrought on the
clasps was:

"Eli Baardsdatter Böen."

The mother put back the things, closed the box, and clasped the girl to
her heart; for Eli was weeping.

When they were downstairs again, they heard a man's step in the passage,
and Arne entered, and saw Eli.

"You here?" he said, and blushed a fiery red. Then he put his arms
around her, and she leant her head on his breast. He whispered something
in her ear, and for a long while they stood in silence, her arms around
his neck.

As they walked home together in the fair summer evening, they could
utter but few words in their strange, new Happiness. Nature interpreted
their hearts to one another, and on his way back from that first
summer-night's walk, Arne made many new songs.

It was harvest time when the marriage of Eli with Arne was celebrated.
The Black Water was full of boats taking people to Böen.

All the doors were open at the house. Eli was in her room with Mathilde
and the pastor's wife. Arne was downstairs looking out from the window.

Presently Baard and Birgit, both dressed, for church, met on the stairs,
and went up together to a garret where they were alone. Baard had
something to say, but it was hard to say it.

"Birgit," he began, "you've been thinking, as I've been, I daresay. _He_
stood between us two, I know, and it's gone on a long time. To-day a son
of his has come into our house, and to him we've given our only
daughter.... Birgit, can't we, too, join our hearts to-day?"

His voice trembled, but no answer came.

They heard Eli outside, calling gently: "Aren't you coming, mother?"

"Yes, I'm coming now, dear!" said Birgit, in a choking voice. She walked
across the room to Baard, took his hand in hers, and broke into violent
sobs. The two hands clung tight and it was hand in hand they opened the
door and went downstairs. And when the bridal train streamed down to the
landing stage, and Arne gave his hand to Eli, Baard, against all custom,
took Birgit's hand in his own and followed them calmly, happily,

In the boat his eyes rested on the bridal pair and on his wife. "Ah!" he
said to himself, "no one would have thought such a thing possible twenty
years ago."

* * * * *

In God's Way

"In God's Way" belongs to the second group of Björnson's
novels, of which the first group is represented by early
peasant tales like "Arne." In this later category the stories
are of a more or less didactic nature. Although "In God's Way"
lacks something of the freshness and beauty that distinguished
"Arne," it is, nevertheless a powerful and vivid picture of
Norwegian religious life; and it is, of all Björnson's books,
the one by which he is most widely known outside his native
country. In this story Björnson has been influenced by the
social dramas of his compatriot, Ibsen; but it may be
questioned whether he has not brought to his task a higher
inspiration and a stronger faith in humanity than the famous
dramatist possessed. Published in 1889, the main theme of "In
God's Way" was undoubtedly suggested by the religious
excitement which then prevailed in Norway.

_I. - A Strange Home-coming_

Pastor Tuft was walking up and down his study, composing his Sunday
sermon. He was a handsome man, with a long, fair face, and dreamy eyes;
his wife, Josephine, in the days when she thought she was in love with
him, used to call him Melanchthon - that was not many years ago, and he
still resembled in appearance the poet of the Reformation. But his
features had now lost their fine serenity, and he was glad when his
bitter and troubled thoughts on the doctrine of justification - a subject
he had chosen for its bearing on his brother-in-law's conduct - were
interrupted by his wife. Josephine burst into his study in a state of
fierce excitement.

"They will be here in a moment," she said. "The steamer has arrived. Oh,
that woman, that woman! She has ruined my brother's life!"

"If he wanted to settle again in Norway with her," said the pastor,
"couldn't he have chosen some spot where the story of their misconduct
was not known? But to come to the very town! Everybody will remember!"

"Yes," said Josephine; "it is only six years since Edward ran off to
America with Sören Kule's wife. Surely, he will not expect you, a
minister, to receive the woman, especially as Kule is still living."

While she was talking, Tuft stared out of the window. A tall man in
light clothes was coming to the house - a tall man, with a clear-cut,
sunburnt face, and a lean, curved nose that gave him the air of a bird
of prey. By his side was a lady with sweet, delicate features, dressed
in a tartan travelling costume. There was a knock at the door. Josephine
went down very slowly, and opened it. "Edward!"

There was a glow in her eyes as she welcomed her brother, and his eyes
also lighted up. He was about to cross the threshold, when he noticed
that she completely disregarded his companion. In the meantime, Tuft had
come to the door; he, too, made no advances. There was always something
of the keen, wild look of an eagle about Edward Kallem; it became still
more striking as he glared at his sister and brother-in-law.

"Are you waiting," he said, "for me to introduce my wife? Well, here she
is - Ragni Kallem."

So the pair had married in America! If Tuft and Josephine had not been
so eager to impute every sort of misconduct to runaways, they would have
foreseen this natural event. Tuft tried to find something to say, but
failed, and glanced at Josephine. But she did not look as if she were
willing to help him.

For the fact that Edward and Ragni were now married increased rather
than diminished Josephine's bitterness. Although she would not admit it
to herself, her religious objections were a mere pretence. She was
jealous, jealous with the strange jealousy of a sister who wanted to be
all in all to her brilliant brother, and hated that another woman should
be more to him than she was. All her life had been centred on him. She
had married Ole Tuft, a poor peasant's son, because he was the bosom
friend of Edward. Her marriage, she thought, would connect them still
more closely. She wanted to live by his side, watching him rise into
fame as the greatest doctor in Norway. For young Kallem's masters had
predicted that he would prove to be a man of genius.

Possessing considerable wealth, he had taken up the study of medicine,
not as a means of livelihood, but as a matter of love and duty. Then,
six years ago, he had run off with old Sören Kule's young wife, and
Josephine's dream had come to an end, leaving her life little more than
a dull, empty round of routine housework.

This was why she now gazed with hard, cold eyes at Ragni. Edward Kallem
saw her look of wild hatred, and, taking his weeping wife gently by the
arm, he turned away, and led her from the house into the road.

Josephine went upstairs, and gazed from the study window at the
retreating figures. Her husband followed her, with a curious look in his
eyes. Neither of them spoke. In their hearts was raging a storm of
passion wilder than the anger which possessed Kallem, and the sorrow
which bowed down Ragni.

Josephine left the room without looking-at her husband. He gazed after
her still with the same curious look in his eyes. Then, pulling himself
together, he went on writing his sermon. "What makes God so merciful to
sinners?" he wrote. "His infinite love? Yes, justification is certainly
an act of mercy, but it is also an act of judgment. The claims of the
law must be first fulfilled. A sinner must believe in order to be

The point in this was that Edward Kallem was a freethinker. There could
be no forgiveness for him. At the bottom of his heart, Tuft was glad
that there had been no reconciliation. Ever since he had married the
wealthy and beautiful sister of his bosom friend, he had been jealous of
Josephine's passionate attachment to her brother. Her brother had
remained her hero, and the peasant she had married and enriched was
little more than her servant.

While, with these bitter thoughts in his head, Tuft was composing his
sermon Josephine was writing a dastardly letter. It was to Sören Kule.
Edward and Ragni had returned, married. There was an empty house near
the one they had bought. Would Sören Kule come and live in it? So the
letter ran. The next day, Sunday, Josephine went to church in a very
Christianlike frame of mind. She felt she had done her duty, and avenged
herself in doing it.

_II. - The Poison of Tongues_

At first things did not go as Josephine expected. With the exception of
his sister and brother-in-law, everybody welcomed Edward Kallem and his
wife back to his native town. At the house of Pastor Meek, the oldest
and most influential of the clergy, Ragni was introduced to a middle-
aged lady, who startled her by saying:

"I am Sören Kule's sister. I want to tell you that, in your position, I
should have acted just as you did."

This, indeed, was the general verdict. No one who knew Sören Kule blamed
Ragni. An old rake, blind and half-paralysed as the immediate result of
ill-living, he had worried his first wife, Ragni's sister, into the
grave, and then taken advantage of the young girl's innocence to marry
her. The man was a mass of corruption, and his second marriage was one
of those strangely cruel crimes which go unpunished in the present state
of society. Kallem, who was then lodging in the same house as Kule, was
maddened by it. Being a doctor, he foresaw clearly the fate of the pure,
lovely, girlish victim of Kule's brutal passion, and in rescuing her
from it he had displayed, in the opinion of his friends, the chivalry of
soul of a modern knight-errant.

Pastor Meek was a liberal-minded and courageous old man; he showed his
sympathy with the Kallems, and his trust in them, in a practical manner.

"My grandson, Karl," he said to Kallem, "is at school here. I wish you
would let him come, now and then, to your house. He is only nineteen
years old, but he promises to be a first-rate composer. Your wife plays
the piano beautifully. They ought to get on well together."

Kallem was so pleased with this mark of approval that he went the next
morning to the young musician's lodgings, and invited him to come and
live with him. Karl Meek was a lanky, awkward hobbledehoy, with a
tousled head of hair and long red hands, which were always covered with
chilblains. Ragni asked him to play a simple duet, but he made so many
mistakes in playing that she got up from the piano. He was upset, and
ran away from the house. Kallem spent an afternoon looking for him, and
brought him back with his hair cut, his nails trimmed, and his clothes

"Can't you see?" said Kallem to his wife. "The lad's shy and afraid of
you. Do, my dear, make him feel quite at home."

Ragni was a sweet and gentle woman, and though she did not like Karl
much at first, she took him in hand, and, little by little, obtained a
great influence over the wild creature. As his fine poetic nature
gradually revealed itself, she began to mother him. They were often seen
walking out together, and as soon as the snow was firm, they used to go
and meet Kallem, and drive home with him, each standing on one of the
runners of his sledge. One afternoon, after they had been skating
together on the frozen bay, they were returning, without Kallem, when a
carriage barred their way. At the sound of Ragni's voice, the man inside

"There she goes! Who is it with her? Another man? Ah, I thought that's
what would happen!"

Ragni shuddered. It was Sören Kule. The paralysed old rake turned his
blind face upon her, as though he could see her, and had caught her
doing wrong. The carriage stopped by the next house to the Kallems.
Before Kule could get out, Ragni had run indoors. Shortly afterwards her
husband arrived. She saw that he, too, had met Kule, and he saw that she
had gone into the bedroom to hide herself. She buried her head in his
arms; it seemed to her that the air was now full of evil spirits.

And so it was. Edward Kallem did not know it, as he was now too busy to
go out anywhere. He was spending a great deal of his wealth in fitting
out a private hospital for the study and treatment of the diseases that
he specialised in. But Karl Meek soon became aware of malign influences
working around him, and around the two persons for whom he would
willingly, nay, happily, have laid down his life. He met an old friend
in the street, who said to him:

"How do you stand in regard to Mrs. Kallem?"

Karl did not take in his meaning, and began to praise Ragni

"Yes, I know all about that," his friend interrupted. "But, to make a
clean breast of it, are you her lover?"

"How dare you, how dare you!" cried Karl.

His friend quietly said that he only wanted to warn Karl; the report had
certainly got about.

"You've been a great deal together, you know," said his friend; "that
has given the scandal-mongers something to go on."

Both Edward and Ragni saw that something had happened to Karl when he
returned. He was in a black mood; he did not speak; his blue eyes were,
by turns, strangely savage and strangely sorrowful. He had to go home at
once, he said. He could not tell them now what the matter was, but he
would write to them, as soon as he could pluck up the courage to do so.
He packed his luggage, and Kallem went to see him off.

A few days afterwards, Ragni received a letter from Karl. He was going
to Berlin, he said, to take up the study of music seriously. And then,
for four pages, he talked about his prospects. But there was another
page, a loose one, on which was written in red ink: "Read this when you
are alone."

"I have decided, Ragni," Karl wrote, "that it would be wisest to tell
you why I left so suddenly. Someone has started a dreadful slander
against us. If I do not now tell you, you will hear it from the lips of
some enemy. Ah, God! that I should have brought this upon you! Love you?
Of course I love you. How could I help doing so, after all your kindness
to me? And as for Edward, I worship the ground he treads on. He is the
noblest man I have ever met. But do not show him this letter. Spare him
the evil news as long as possible. Now that I have gone away, it may all
blow over."

Kallem did not get home from the hospital that night until eight
o'clock. When he came home his wife was lying in bed with a headache.
She did not get up the next morning. She was in bed several days. When
at last she got up, her husband noticed that she had grown very thin;
her face had a tired, delicate expression; there were dark rings around
her sweet eyes, and she was troubled with a cough.

_III. - The Fell Work of Slander_

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Online LibraryVariousThe World's Greatest Books — Volume 01 — Fiction → online text (page 22 of 26)