Translated from the Norwegian of
by W. W. Worster
With an Introduction
by W. W. Worster
Under the Autumn Star
A Wanderer Plays on Muted Strings
An autobiographical element is evident in practically everything that Hamsun has written. But it is particularly marked in the two volumes now published under the common title of "Wanderers," as well as in the sequel named "The Last Joy." These three works must be considered together. They have more in common than the central figure of "Knut Pedersen from the Northlands" through whose vision the fates of Captain Falkenberg and his wife are gradually unfolded to us. Not only do they refer undisguisedly to events known to be taken out of Hamsun's own life, but they mirror his moods and thoughts and feelings during a certain period so closely that they may well be regarded as diaries of an unusually intimate character. It is as psychological documents of the utmost importance to the understanding of Hamsun himself that they have their chief significance. As a by-product, one might almost say, the reader gets the art which reveals the story of the Falkenbergs by a process of indirect approach equalled in its ingenuity and verisimilitude only by Conrad's best efforts.
The line of Hamsun's artistic evolution is easily traceable through certain stages which, however, are not separated by sharp breaks. It is impossible to say that one stage ended and the next one began in a certain year. Instead they overlap like tiles on a roof. Their respective characters are strikingly symbolized by the titles of the dramatic trilogy which Hamsun produced between 1895 and 1898—"At the Gate of the Kingdom," "The Game of Life," and "Sunset Glow."
"Hunger" opened the first period and "Pan" marked its climax, but it came to an end only with the eight-act drama of "Vendt the Monk" in 1902, and traces of it are to be found in everything that Hamsun ever wrote. Lieutenant Glahn might survive the passions and defiances of his youth and lapse into the more or less wistful resignation of Knut Pedersen from the Northlands, but the cautious, puzzled Knut has moments when he shows not only the Glahn limp but the Glahn fire.
Just when the second stage found clear expression is a little hard to tell, but its most characteristic products are undoubtedly the two volumes now offered to the American public, and it persists more or less until 1912, when "The Last Joy" appeared, although the first signs of Hamsun's final and greatest development showed themselves as early as 1904, when "Dreamers" was published. The difference between the second and the third stages lies chiefly in a maturity and tolerance of vision that restores the narrator's sense of humour and eliminates his own personality from the story he has to tell.
Hamsun was twenty-nine when he finished "Hunger," and that was the age given to one after another of his central figures. Glahn is twenty-nine, of course, and so is the Monk Vendt. With Hamsun that age seemed to stand principally for the high water mark of passion. Because of the fire burning within themselves, his heroes had the supreme courage of being themselves in utter defiance of codes and customs. Because of that fire they were capable of rising above everything that life might bring—above everything but the passing of the life-giving passion itself. A Glahn dies, but does not grow old.
Life insists on its due course, however, and in reality passion may sink into neurasthenia without producing suicides. Ivar Kareno discovers it in "Sunset Glow," when, at the age of fifty, he turns renegade in more senses than one. But even then his realization could not be fully accepted by the author himself, still only thirty-eight, and so Kareno steps down into the respectable and honoured sloth of age only to be succeeded, by another hero who has not yet passed the climacteric twenty-ninth year. Even Telegraph-Rolandsen in "Dreamers" retains the youthful glow and charm and irresponsibility that used to be thought inseparable from the true Hamsun character.
It is therefore with something of a shock one encounters the enigmatic Knut Pedersen from the Northlands, who has turned from literature to tramping, who speaks of old age as if he had reached the proverbial three-score and ten, and who time and again slips into something like actual whining, as when he says of himself: "Time has worn me out so that I have grown stupid and sterile and indifferent; now I look upon a woman merely as literature." The two volumes named "Under the Autumn Star" and "A Wanderer Plays on Muted Strings" form an unbroken cry of regret, and the object of that regret is the hey-day of youth—that golden age of twenty-nine—when every woman regardless of age and colour and caste was a challenging fragment of life.
Something more than the passing of years must have characterized the period immediately proceeding the production of the two volumes just mentioned. They mark some sort of crisis reaching to the innermost depths of the soul it wracked with anguish and pain. Perhaps a clue to this crisis may be found in the all too brief paragraph devoted to Hamsun in the Norwegian "Who's who." There is a line that reads as follows: "Married, 1898, Bergljot Bassoe Bech (marriage dissolved); 1908, Marie Andersen." The man that wrote "Under the Autumn Star" was unhappy. But he was also an artist. In that book the artist within him is struggling for his existence. In "A Wanderer Plays with Muted Strings" the artist is beginning to assert himself more and more, and that he had conquered in the meantime we know by "Benoni" and "Rosa" which appeared in 1908. The crisis was past, but echoes of it were heard as late as 1912, the year of "Last Joy," which well may be called Hamsun's most melancholy book. Yet that is the book which seems to have paved the way and laid the foundation for "The Growth of the Soil"—just as "Dreamers" was a sketch out of which in due time grew "Children of the Time" and "Segelfoss Town."
Hamsun's form is always fluid. In the two works now published it approaches formlessness. "Under the Autumn Star" is a mere sketch, seemingly lacking both plan and plot. Much of the time Knut Pedersen is merely thinking aloud. But out of his devious musings a purpose finally shapes itself, and gradually we find ourselves the spectator of a marital drama that becomes the dominant note in the sequel. The development of this main theme is, as I have already suggested, distinctly Conradian in its method, and looking back from the ironical epilogue that closes "A Wanderer Plays on Muted Strings," one marvels at the art that could work such a compelling totality out of such a miscellany of unrelated fragments.
There is a weakness common to both these works which cannot be passed up in silence. More than once the narrator falls out of his part as a tramp worker to rail journalistically at various things that have aroused his particular wrath, such as the tourist traffic, the city worker and everything relating to Switzerland. It is done very naively, too, but it is well to remember how frequently in the past this very kind of naivete has associated with great genius. And whatever there be of such shortcomings is more than balanced by the wonderful feeling for and understanding of nature that most frequently tempt Hamsun into straying from the straight and narrow path of conventional story telling. What cannot be forgiven to the man who writes of "faint whisperings that come from forest and river as if millions of nothingnesses kept streaming and streaming," and who finds in those whisperings "one eternity coming to an understanding with another eternity about something"?
Smooth as glass the water was yesterday, and smooth as glass it is again today. Indian summer on the island, mild and warm—ah! But there is no sun.
It is many years now since I knew such peace. Twenty or thirty years, maybe; or maybe it was in another life. But I have felt it some time, surely, since I go about now humming a little tune; go about rejoicing, loving every straw and every stone, and feeling as if they cared for me in return.
When I go by the overgrown path, in through the woods, my heart quivers with an unearthly joy. I call to mind a spot on the eastern shores of the Caspian, where I once stood. All just as it is here, with the water still and heavy and iron-grey as now. I walked through the woods, touched to the heart, and verging on tears for sheer happiness' sake, and saying to myself all the time: God in heaven. To be here again....
As if I had been there before.
Ah well, I may have been there once before, perhaps, coming from another time and another land, where the woods and the woodland paths were the same. Perhaps I was a flower then, in the woods, or perhaps a beetle, with its home in some acacia tree.
And now I have come to this place. Perhaps I was a bird and flew all that long way. Or the kernel in some fruit sent by a Persian trader.
See, now I am well away from the rush and crowd of the city, from people and newspapers; I have fled away from it all, because of the calling that came to me once more from the quiet, lonely tracts where I belong. "It will all come right this time," I tell myself, and am full of hope. Alas, I have fled from the city like this before, and afterwards returned. And fled away again.
But this time I am resolved. Peace I will have, at any cost. And for the present I have taken a room in a cottage here, with Old Gunhild to look after me.
Here and there among the pines are rowans, with ripe coral berries; now the berries are falling, heavy clusters striking the earth. So they reap themselves and sow themselves again, an inconceivable abundance to be squandered every single year. Over three hundred clusters I can count on a single tree. And here and there about are flowers still in bloom, obstinate things that will not die, though their time is really past.
But Old Gunhild's time is past as well—and think you she will die? She goes about as if death were a thing did not concern her. When the fishermen are down on the beach, painting their boats or darning nets, comes Gunhild with her vacant eyes, but with a mind as keen as any to a bargain.
"And what is the price of mackerel today?" she asks.
"The same as yesterday."
"Then you can keep it, for all I care."
And Gunhild goes back home.
But the fishermen know that Gunhild is not one of those that only pretend to go away; she has gone off like that before now, up to her cottage, without once looking back. So, "Hey" they call to her, and say they'll make it seven to the half-dozen today, seeing she is an old customer.
And Gunhild buys her fish.
Washing hangs on the lines to dry; red petticoats and blue shirts, and under-things of preposterous thickness, all spun and woven on the island by the old women still left alive. But there is washing, too, of another sort: those fine chemises without sleeves, the very thing to make a body blue with cold, and mauve woollen undervests that pull out to no more than the thickness of a string. And how did these abominations get there? Why, 'tis the daughters, to be sure, the young girls of the present day, who've been in service in the towns, and earned such finery that way. Wash them carefully, and not too often, and the things will last for just a month. And then there is a lovely naked feeling when the holes begin to spread.
But there is none of that sort of nonsense, now, about Gunhild's shoes, for instance. At suitable intervals, she goes round to one of the fishermen, her like in age and mind, and gets the uppers and the soles done in thoroughly with a powerful mess of stuff that leaves the water simply helpless. I've seen that dubbin boiling on the beach; there's tallow in it, and tar and resin as well.
Wandering idly along the beach yesterday, looking at driftwood and scales and stones, I came upon a tiny bit of plate glass. How it ever got there, is more than I can make out; but the thing seems a mistake, a very lie, to look at. Would any fisherman, now, have rowed out here with it and laid it down and rowed away again? I left it where it lay; it was thick and common and vulgar; perhaps a bit of a tramcar window. Once on a time glass was rare, and bottle-green. God's blessing on the old days, when something could be rare!
Smoke rising now from the fisher-huts on the southern point of the island. Evening time, and porridge cooking for supper. And when supper's done, decent folk go to their beds, to be up again with the dawn. Only young and foolish creatures still go trapesing round from house to house, putting off their bedtime, not knowing what is best for themselves.
A man landed here this morning—come to paint the house. But Old Gunhild, being very old indeed, and perishing with gout most times, gets him to cut up a few days' firewood for her cooking before he starts. I've offered many a time to cut that wood myself, but she thinks my clothes too fine, and would not let me have the ax on any account.
This painter, now, is a short, thick-set fellow with red hair and no beard. I watch him from behind a window as he works, to see how he handles the ax. Then, noticing that he is talking to himself, I steal out of the house to listen. If he makes a false stroke, he takes it patiently, and does not trouble himself; but whenever he knocks his knuckles, he turns irritable and says: "Fan! Fansmagt!" [Footnote: "The Devil! Power of the Devil!"]—and then looks round suddenly and starts humming a tune to cover his words.
Yes; I recognize that painter man. Only, he's not a painter at all, the rascal, but Grindhusen, one of the men I worked with when I was roadmaking at Skreia.
I go up to him, and ask if he remembers me, and we talk a bit.
Many, many years it is now since we were roadmenders together, Grindhusen and I; we were youngsters then, and danced along the roads in the sorriest of shoes, and ate what we could get as long as we had money enough for that. But when we'd money to spare, then there would be dancing with the girls all Saturday night, and a crowd of our fellow-workers would come along, and the old woman in the house sold us coffee till she must have made a little fortune. Then we worked on heart and soul another week through, looking forward to the Saturday again. But Grindhusen, he was as a red-headed wolf after the girls.
Did he remember the old days at Skreia?
He looks at me, taking stock of me, with something of reserve; it is quite a while before I can draw him out to remember it at all.
Yes, he remembers Skreia well enough.
"And Anders Fila and 'Spiralen' and Petra?"
"Petra—the one that was your girl."
"Ay, I remember her. I got tied up with her at last." Grindhusen falls to chopping wood again.
"Got tied up with her, did you?"
"Ay, that was the end of it. Had to be, I suppose. What was I going to say, now? You've turned out something fine, by the look of things."
"Why? Is it these clothes you're thinking of? You've Sunday clothes yourself, now, haven't you?"
"What d'you give for those you've got on?"
"I can't remember, but it was nothing very much. Couldn't say exactly what it was."
Grindhusen looks at me in astonishment and bursts out laughing.
"What? Can't remember what you paid for them?"
Then he turns serious, shakes his head, and says: "No, I dare say you wouldn't. No. That's the way when you've money enough and beyond."
Old Gunhild comes out from the house, and seeing us standing there by the chopping-block wasting time in idle talk, she tells Grindhusen he'd better start on the painting.
"So you've turned painter now?" said I.
Grindhusen made no answer, and I saw I had said a thing that should not have been said in others' hearing.
Grindhusen works away a couple of hours with his putty and paint, and soon one side of the little house, the north side, facing the sea, is done all gaily in red. At the mid-day rest, I go out and join him, with something to drink, and we lie on the ground awhile, chatting and smoking.
"Painter? Not much of a one, and that's the truth," says he. "But if any one comes along and asks if I can paint a bit of a wall, why, of course I can. First-rate Brandevin this you've got."
His wife and two children lived some four miles off, and he went home to them every Saturday. There were two daughters besides, both grown up, and one of them married. Grindhusen was a grandfather already. As soon as he'd done painting Gunhild's cottage—two coats it was to have—he was going off to the vicarage to dig a well. There was always work of some sort to be had about the villages. And when winter set in, and the frost began to bind, he would either take a turn of woodcutting in the forests or lie idle for a spell, till something else turned up. He'd no big family to look after now, and the morrow, no doubt, would look after itself just as today.
"If I could only manage it," said Grindhusen, "I know what I'd do. I'd get myself some bricklayer's tools."
"So you're a bricklayer, too?"
"Well, not much of a one, and that's the truth. But when that well's dug, why, it'll need to be lined, that's clear...."
I sauntered about the island as usual, thinking of this and that. Peace, peace, a heavenly peace comes to me in a voice of silence from every tree in the wood. And now, look you, there are but few of the small birds left; only some crows flying mutely from place to place and settling. And the clusters from the rowans drop with a sullen thud and bury themselves in the moss.
Grindhusen is right, perhaps: tomorrow will surely look after itself, just as today. I have not seen a paper now these last two weeks, and, for all that, here I am, alive and well, making great progress in respect of inward calm; I sing, and square my shoulders, and stand bareheaded watching the stars at night.
For eighteen years past I have sat in cafes, calling for the waiter if a fork was not clean: I never call for Gunhild in the matter of forks clean or not! There's Grindhusen, now, I say to myself; did you mark when he lit his pipe, how he used the match to the very last of it, and never burned his horny fingers? I saw a fly crawling over his hand, but he simply let it crawl; perhaps he never noticed it was there. That is the way a man should feel towards flies....
In the evening, Grindhusen takes the boat and rows off. I wander along the beach, singing to myself a little, throwing stones at the water, and hauling bits of driftwood ashore. The stars are out, and there is a moon. In a couple of hours Grindhusen comes back, with a good set of bricklayer's tools in the boat. Stolen them somewhere, I think to myself. We shoulder each our load, and hide away the tools among the trees.
Then it is night, and we go each our separate way.
Grindhusen finishes his painting the following afternoon, but agrees to go on cutting wood till six o'clock to make up a full day's work. I get out Gunhild's boat and go off fishing, so as not to be there when he leaves. I catch no fish, and it is cold sitting in the boat; I look at my watch again and again. At last, about seven o'clock: he must be gone by now, I say to myself, and I row home. Grindhusen has got over to the mainland, and calls across to me from there: "Farvel!"
Something thrilled me warmly at the word; it was like a calling from my youth, from Skreia, from days a generation gone.
I row across to him and ask:
"Can you dig that well all alone?"
"No. I'll have to take another man along."
"Take me," I said. "Wait for me here, while I go up and settle at the house."
Half-way up I heard Grindhusen calling again:
"I can't wait here all night. And I don't believe you meant it, anyway."
"Wait just a minute. I'll be down again directly."
And Grindhusen sets himself down on the beach to wait. He knows I've some of that first-rate Brandevin still left.
We came to the vicarage on a Saturday. After much doubting, Grindhusen had at last agreed to take me as his mate. I had bought provisions and some working clothes, and stood there now, in blouse and high boots, ready to start work. I was free and unknown; I learned to walk with a long, slouching stride, and for the look of a laboring man, I had that already both in face and hands. We were to put up at the vicarage itself, and cook our food in the brew-house across the yard.
And so we started on our digging.
I did my share of the work, and Grindhusen had no fault to find with me as a work-mate. "You'll turn out a first-rate hand at this, after all," he said.
Then after we'd been working a bit, the priest came out to look, and we took off our hats. He was an oldish man, quiet and gentle in his ways and speech; tiny wrinkles spread out fanwise from the corners of his eyes, like the traces of a thousand kindly smiles. He was sorry to interrupt, and hoped we wouldn't mind—but they'd so much trouble every year with the fowls slipping through into the garden. Could we leave the well just for a little, and come round and look at the garden wall? There was one place in particular....
Grindhusen answered: surely; we'd manage that for him all right.
So we went up and set the crumbling wall to rights. While we were busy there a young lady came out and stood looking on. We greeted her politely, and I thought her a beautiful creature to see. Then a half-grown lad came out to look, and asked all sorts of questions. The two were brother and sister, no doubt. And the work went on easily enough with the young folk there looking on.
Then evening came. Grindhusen went off home, leaving me behind. I slept in the hayloft for the night.
Next day was Sunday. I dared not put on my town clothes lest they should seem above my station, but cleaned up my working things as neatly as I could, and idled about the place in the quiet of Sunday morning. I chatted to the farm-hands and joined them in talking nonsense to the maids; when the bell began ringing for church, I sent in to ask if I might borrow a Prayer Book, and the priest's son brought me one himself. One of the men lent me a coat; it wasn't big enough, really, but, taking off my blouse and vest, I made it do. And so I went to church.
That inward calm I had been at such pains to build up on the island proved all too little yet; at the first thrill of the organ I was torn from my setting and came near to sobbing aloud. "Keep quiet, you fool," I said to myself, "it's only neurasthenia." I had chosen a seat well apart from the rest, and hid my emotion as best I could. I was glad when that service was over.
When I had boiled my meat and had some dinner, I was invited into the kitchen for a cup of coffee. And while I sat there, in came Frokenen, the young lady I had seen the day before; I stood up and bowed a greeting, and she nodded in return. She was charming, with her youth and her pretty hands. When I got up to go, I forgot myself and said:
"Most kind of you, I'm sure, my dear young lady!"
She glanced at me in astonishment, frowned, and the colour spread in her cheeks till they burned. Then with a toss of her head she turned and left the room. She was very young.
Well, I had done a nice thing now!
Miserable at heart, I sneaked up into the woods to hide. Impertinent fool, why hadn't I held my tongue! Of all the ridiculous things to say....
The vicarage buildings lay on the slope of a small hill; from the top, the land stretched away flat and level, with alternating timber and clearing. It struck me that here would be the proper place to dig the well, and then run a pipe-line down the slope to the house. Judging the height as nearly as I can, it seems more than enough to give the pressure needed; on the way back I pace out the approximate length: two hundred and fifty feet.
But what business was it of mine, after all? For Heaven's sake let me not go making the same mistake again, and insulting folk by talking above my station.
Grindhusen came out again on Monday morning, and we fell to digging as before. The old priest came out to look, and asked if we couldn't fix a post for him on the road up to the church. He needed it badly, that post; it had stood there before, but had got blown down; he used it for nailing up notices and announcements.
We set up a new post, and took pains to get it straight and upstanding as a candle in a stick. And by the way of thanks we hooded the top with zinc.
While I was at work on the hood, I got Grindhusen to suggest that the post should be painted red; he had still a trifle of red paint left over from the work at Gunhild's cottage. But the priest wanted it white, and Grindhusen was afraid to contradict, and carefully agreed to all he said, until at last I put in a word, and said that notices on white paper would show up better against red. At that the priest smiled, with the endless wrinkles round his eyes, and said: "Yes, yes, of course, you're quite right."
And that was enough; just that bit of a smile and saying I was right made me all glad and proud again within.
Then Frokenen came up, and said a few words to Grindhusen; even jested with him, asking what that red cardinal was to be stuck up there for on the road. But to me she said nothing at all, and did not even look at me when I took off my hat.
Dinner was a sore trial to me that day, not that the food was bad, no, but Grindhusen, he ate his soup in a disgusting fashion, and his mouth was all greasy with fat.
"What'll he be like when it comes to eating porridge?" I thought to myself hysterically.
Then when he leaned back on the bench to rest after his meal in the same greasy state, I called to him straight out:
"For Heaven's sake, man, aren't you going to wipe your mouth?"
He stared at me, wiping his mouth with one hand. "Mouth?" he said.
I tried to turn it off then as a joke, and said: "Haha, I had you there!" But I was displeased with myself, for all that, and went out of the brewhouse directly after.
Then I fell to thinking of Frokenen. "I'll make her answer when I give a greeting," I said to myself. "I'll let her see before very long that I'm not altogether a fool." There was that business of the well and the pipe-line, now; what if I were to work out a plan for the whole installation all complete! I had no instruments to take the height and fall of the hill ... well, I could make one that would serve. And I set to work. A wooden tube, with two ordinary lamp-glasses fixed in with putty, and the whole filled with water.
Soon it was found there were many little things needed seeing to about the vicarage—odd matters here and there. A stone step to be set straight again, a wall to be repaired; the bridgeway to the barn had to be strengthened before the corn could be brought in. The priest liked to have everything sound and in order about the place—and it was all one to us, seeing we were paid by the day. But as time went on I grew more and more impatient of my work-mate's company. It was torture to me, for instance, to see him pick up a loaf from the table, hold it close in to his chest, and cut off a slice with a greasy pocket-knife that he was always putting in his mouth. And then, again, he would go all through the week, from Sunday to Sunday, without a wash. And in the morning, before the sun was up, and the evening, after it had gone, there was always a shiny drop hanging from the tip of his nose. And then his nails! And as for his ears, they were simply deformed.
Alas! I was an upstart creature, that had learned fine manners in the cafes in town. And since I could not keep myself from telling my companion now and then what I thought of his uncleanly ways, there grew up a certain ill-feeling between us, and I feared we should have to separate before long. As it was, we hardly spoke now beyond what was needed.
And there was the well, as undug as ever. Sunday came, and Grindhusen had gone home.
I had got my apparatus finished now, and in the afternoon I climbed up to the roof of the main building and set it up there. I saw at once that the sight cut the hillside several metres below the top. Good. Even reckoning a whole metre down to the water-level, there would still be pressure enough and to spare.
While I was busy up there the priest's son caught sight of me. Harald Meltzer was his name. And what was I doing up there? Measuring the hill; what for? What did I want to know the height for? Would I let him try?
Later on I got hold of a line ten metres long, and measured the hill from foot to summit, with Harald to help. When we came down to the house, I asked to see the priest himself, and told him of my plan.
The priest listened patiently, and did not reject the idea at once.
"Really, now!" he said, with a smile. "Why, perhaps you're right. But it will cost a lot of money. And why should we trouble about it at all?"
"It's seventy paces from the house to the well we started to dig. Seventy steps for the maids to go through mud and snow and all sorts, summer and winter."
"That's true, yes. But this other way would cost a terrible lot of money."
"Not counting the well—that you'll have to have in any case; the whole installation, with work and material, ought not to come to more than a couple of hundred Kroner," said I.
The priest looked surprised.
"Is that all?"
I waited a little each time before answering, as if I were slow by nature, and born so. But, really, I had thought out the whole thing beforehand.
"It would be a great convenience, that's true," said the priest thoughtfully. "And that water tub in the kitchen does make a lot of mess."
"And it will save carrying water to the bedrooms as well."
"The bedrooms are all upstairs. It won't help us there, I'm afraid."
"We can run the pipes up to the first floor."
"Can we, though? Up to the bedrooms? Will there be pressure enough for that, do you think?"
Here I waited longer than usual before answering, as a stolid fellow, who did not undertake things lightly.
"I think I can answer for a jet the height of the roof," I said.
"Really, now!" exclaimed the priest. And then again: "Come and let us see where you think of digging the well."
We went up the hill, the priest, Harald, and I, and I let the priest look through my instrument, and showed him that there would be more than pressure enough.
"I must talk to the other man about it," he said.
But I cut out Grindhusen at once, and said: "Grindhusen? He's no idea of this work at all."
The priest looked at me.
"Really?" he said.
Then we went down again, the priest talking as if to himself.
"Quite right; yes. It's an endless business fetching water in the winter. And summer, too, for that matter. I must see what the women think about it."
And he went indoors.
After ten minutes or so, I was sent for round to the front steps; the whole family were there now.
"So you're the man who's going to give us water laid on to the house?" said Fruen kindly.
I took off my cap and bowed in a heavy, stolid fashion, and the priest answered for me: yes, this was the man.
Frokenen gave me one curious glance, and then started talking in an undertone to her brother. Fruen went on with more questions—would it really be a proper water-supply like they had in town, just turn on a tap and there was the water all ready? And for upstairs as well? A couple of hundred Kroner? "Really, I think you ought to say yes," she said to her husband.
"You think so? Well, let's all go up to the top of the hill and look through the thing and see."
We went up the hill, and I set the instrument for them and let them look.
"Wonderful!" said Fruen.
But Frokenen said never a word.
The priest asked:
"But are you sure there's water here?"
I answered carefully, as a man of sober judgment, that it was not a thing to swear to beforehand, but there was every sign of it.
"What sort of signs?" asked Fruen.
"The nature of the ground. And you'll notice there's willow and osiers growing about. And they like a wet soil."
The priest nodded, and said:
"He knows his business, Marie, you can see."
On the way back, Fruen had got so far as to argue quite unwarrantably that she could manage with one maid less once they'd water laid on. And not to fail her, I put in:
"In summer at least you might. You could water all the garden with a hose fixed to the tap and carried out through the cellar window."
"Splendid!" she exclaimed.
But I did not venture to speak of laying a pipe to the cow-shed. I had realized all the time that with a well twice the size, and a branch pipe across the yard, the dairymaid would be saved as much as the kitchen-maids in the house. But it would cost nearly twice as much. No, it was not wise to put forward so great a scheme.
Even as it was, I had to agree to wait till Grindhusen came back. The priest said he wanted to sleep on it.
So now I had to tell Grindhusen myself, and prepare him for the new arrangement. And lest he should turn suspicious, I threw all the blame on the priest, saying it was his idea, but that I had backed him up. Grindhusen had no objection; he saw at once it meant more work for us since we should have the well to dig in any case, and the bed for the pipes besides.
As luck would have it, the priest came out on Monday morning, and said to Grindhusen half jestingly:
"Your mate here and I have decided to have the well up on the hill, and lay down a pipe-line to the house. What do you think of it? A mad idea?"
Grindhusen thought it was a first-rate idea.
But when we came to talk it over, and went up all three to look at the site of the well, Grindhusen began to suspect I'd had more to do with it than I had said. We should have to lay the pipes deep down, he said, on account of the frost....
"One metre thirty's plenty," I said.
... and that it would cost a great deal of money.
"Your mate here said about a couple of hundred Kroner in all," answered the priest.
Grindhusen had no idea of estimates at all, and could only say:
"Well, well, two hundred Kroner's a deal of money, anyway."
"It will mean so much less in Aabot when you move."
The priest looked at me in surprise.
"Aabot? But I'm not thinking of leaving the place," he said.
"Why, then, you'll have the full use of it. And may your reverence live to enjoy it for many a year," said I.
At this the priest stared at me, and asked:
"What is your name?"
"Where are you from?"
But I understood why he had asked, and resolved not to talk in that bookish way any more.
Anyhow, the well and the pipe-line were decided on, and we set to work....
The days that followed were pleasant enough. I was not a little anxious at first as to whether we should find water on the site, and I slept badly for some nights. But once that fear was past, all that remained was simple and straightforward work. There was water enough; after a couple of days we had to bale it out with buckets every morning. It was clay lower down, and our clothes were soon in a sorry state from the work.
We dug for a week, and started the next getting out stones to line the well. This was work we were both used to from the old days at Skreia. Then we put in another week digging, and by that time we had carried it deep enough. The bottom was soon so soft that we had to begin on the stonework at once, lest the clay walls should cave in on top of us.
So week after week passed, with digging and mining and mason's work. It was a big well, and made a nice job; the priest was pleased with it. Grindhusen and I began to get on better together; and when he found that I asked no more than a fair labourer's wage, though much of the work was done under my directions, he was inclined to do something for me in return, and took more care about his table manners. Altogether, I could not have wished for a happier time; and nothing on earth should ever persuade me to go back to town life again!
In the evenings I wandered about the woods, or in the churchyard reading the inscriptions on the tombstones, and thinking of this and that. Also, I was looking about for a nail from some corpse. I wanted a nail; it was a fancy of mine, a little whim. I had found a nice piece of birch-root that I wanted to carve to a pipe-bowl in the shape of a clenched fist; the thumb was to act as a lid, and I wanted a nail to set in, to make it specially lifelike. The ring finger was to have a little gold ring bent round.
Thinking of such trifles kept my mind calm and at ease. There was no hurry now for me about anything in life. I could dream as I pleased, having nothing else to do; the evenings were my own. If possible, too, I would see and arrive at some feeling of respect for the sacredness of the church and terror of the dead; I had still a memory of that rich mysticism from days now far, far behind, and wished I could have some share in it again. Now, perhaps, when I found that nail, there would come a voice from the tombs: "That is mine!" and I would drop the thing in horror, and take to my heels and run.
"I wish that vane up there wouldn't creak so," Grindhusen would say at times.
"Are you afraid?"
"Well, not properly afraid; no. But it gives you a creeping feeling now and then to think of all the corpses lying there so near."
One day Harald showed me how to plant pine cones and little bushes. I'd no idea of that sort of work before; we didn't learn it in the days when I was at school. But now I'd seen the way of it, I went about planting busily on Sundays; and, in return, I taught Harald one or two little things that were new to him at his age, and got to be friends with him.
And all might have been well if it had not been for Frokenen, the daughter of the house. I grew fonder of her every day. Her name was Elischeba, Elisabeth. No remarkable beauty, perhaps; but she had red lips, and a blue, girlish glance that made her pretty to see. Elischeba, Elisabeth—a child at the first dawn of life, with eyes looking out upon the world. She spoke one evening with young Erik from the neighbouring gaard, and her eyes were full of sweetness and of something ripening.
It was all very well for Grindhusen. He had gone ravening after the girls when he was young, and he still spanked about with his hat on one side, out of habit. But he was quiet and tame enough now, as well he might be—'tis nature's way. But some there are who would not follow nature's way, and be tamed; and how shall it fare with them at last? And then there was little Elisabeth; and she was none so little after all, but as tall as her mother. And she'd her mother's high breast.
Since that first Sunday they had not asked me in to coffee in the kitchen, and I took care myself they should not, but kept out of the way. I was still ashamed of the recollection. But then, at last, in the middle of the week, one of the maids came with a message that I was not to go running off into the woods every Sunday afternoon, but come to coffee with the rest. Fruen herself had said so.
Now, should I put on my best clothes or not? No harm, perhaps, in letting that young lady get into her head that I was one who had chosen to turn my back upon the life of cities, and taken upon myself the guise of a servant, for all I was a man of parts, that could lay on water to a house. But when I had dressed, I felt myself that my working clothes were better suited to me now; I took off my best things again, and hid them carefully in my bag.
But, as it happened, it was not Frokenen at all who received me on that Sunday afternoon, but Fruen. She talked to me for quite a while, and she had spread a little white cloth under my cup.
"That trick of yours with the egg is likely to cost us something before we've done with it," said Fruen, with a kindly laugh. "The boy's used up half a dozen eggs already."
I had taught Harald the trick of passing a hard boiled egg with the shell off through the neck of a decanter, by thinning the air inside. It was about the only experiment in physics that I knew.
"But that one with breaking the stick in the two paper loops was really interesting," Fruen went on. "I don't understand that sort of thing myself, but.... When will the well be done?"
"The well is done. We're going to start on the trench tomorrow."
"And how long will that take to do?"
"About a week. Then the man can come and lay the pipes."
I said my thanks and went out. Fruen had a way she had kept, no doubt, from earlier years; now and again she would glance at one sideways, though there was nothing the least bit artful in what she said....
Now the woods showed a yellowing leaf here and there, and earth and air began to smell of autumn. Only the fungus growths were now at their best, shooting up everywhere, and flourishing fine and thick on woolly stems— milk mushrooms, and the common sort, and the brown. Here and there a toadstool thrust up its speckled top, flaming its red all unashamed. A wonderful thing! Here it is growing on the same spot as the edible sorts, fed by the same soil, given sun and rain from heaven the same as they; rich and strong it is, and good to eat, save, only, that it is full of impertinent muscarin. I once thought of making up a fine old story about the toadstool, and saying I had read it in a book.
It has always been a pleasure to me to watch the flowers and insects in their struggle to keep alive. When the sun was hot they would come to life again, and give themselves up for an hour or so to the old delight; the big, strong flies were just as much alive as in midsummer. There was a peculiar sort of earth-bug here that I had not seen before—little yellow things, no bigger than a small-type comma, yet they could jump several thousand times their own length. Think of the strength of such a body in proportion to its size! There is a tiny spider here with its hinder part like a pale yellow pearl. And the pearl is so heavy that the creature has to clamber up a stalk of grass back downwards. When it comes upon an obstacle the pearl cannot pass, it simply drops straight down and starts to climb another. Now, a little pearl-spider like that is not just a spider and no more. If I hold out a leaf towards it to help it to its footing on a floor, it fumbles about for a while on the leaf, and thinks to itself: "H'm, something wrong about this!" and backs away again, refusing to be in any way entrapped on to a floor....
Some one calls me by name from down in the wood. It is Harald; he has started a Sunday school with me. He gave me a lesson out of Pontoppidan to learn, and now I'm to be heard. It is touching to be taught religion now as I should have taught it myself when I was a child.
The well was finished, the trench was dug, and the man had come to lay the pipes. He chose Grindhusen to help him with the work, and I was set to cutting a way for the pipes up from the cellar through the two floors of the house.
Fruen came down one day when I was busy in the cellar. I called out to her to mind the hole in the floor; but she took it very calmly.
"There's no hole there now, is there?" she asked, pointing one way. "Or there?" But at last she missed her footing after all, and slipped down into the hole where I was. And there we stood. It was not light there anyway; and for her, coming straight in from the daylight outside, it must have seemed quite dark. She felt about the edge, and said:
"Now, how am I to get up again?"
I lifted her up. It was no matter to speak of; she was slight of figure, for all she had a big girl of her own.
"Well, I must say...." She stood shaking the earth from her dress. "One, two, three, and up!—as neatly as could be.... Look here, I'd like you to help me with something upstairs one day, will you? I want to move some things. Only we must wait till a day when my husband's over at the annexe; he doesn't like my changing things about. How long will it be before you've finished all there is to do here?"
I mentioned a time, a week or thereabout.
"And where are you going then?"
"To the farm just by. Grindhusen's fixed it up for us to go and dig potatoes there...."
Then came the work in the kitchen; I had to saw through the floor there. Froken Elisabeth came in once or twice while I was there; it could hardly have been otherwise, seeing it was the kitchen. And for all her dislike of me, she managed to say a word or two, and stand looking at the work a little.
"Only fancy, Oline," she said to the maid, "when it's all done, and you'll only have to turn on a tap."
But Oline, who was old, did not look anyways delighted. It was like going against Providence, she said, to go sending water through a pipe right into the house. She'd carried all the water she'd a use for these twenty years; what was she to do now?
"Take a rest," said I.
"Rest, indeed! We're made to work, I take it, not to rest."
"And sew things against the time you get married," said Froken Elisabeth, with a smile.
It was only girlish talk, but I was grateful to her for taking a little part in the talk with us, and staying there for a while. And heavens, how I did try to behave, and talk smartly and sensibly, showing off like a boy. I remember it still. Then suddenly Froken Elisabeth seemed to remember it wasn't proper for her to stay out here with us any longer, and so she went.
That evening I went up to the churchyard, as I had done so many times before, but seeing Frokenen already there, I turned away, and took myself off into the woods. And afterwards I thought: now she will surely be touched by my humility, and think: poor fellow, he showed real delicacy in that. And the next thing, of course, was to imagine her coming after me. I would get up from the stone where I was sitting, and give a greeting. Then she would be a little embarrassed, and say: "I was just going for a walk— it's such a lovely evening—what are you doing here?" "Just sitting here," say I, with innocent eyes, as if my thoughts had been far away. And when she hears that I was just sitting there in the late of the evening, she must realize that I am a dreamer and a soul of unknown depth, and then she falls in love with me....
She was in the churchyard again the following evening, and a thought of high conceit flew suddenly into my mind: it was myself she came to see! But, watching her more closely, I saw that she was busy, doing something about a grave, so it was not me she had come for. I stole away up to the big ant-heap in the wood and watched the insects as long as I could see; afterwards, I sat listening to the falling cones and clusters of rowan berries. I hummed a tune, and whispered to myself and thought; now and again I had to get up and walk a little to get warm. The hours passed, the night came on, and I was so in love I walked there bare-headed, letting myself be stared out of all countenance by the stars.
"How's the time?" Grindhusen might ask when I came back to the barn.
"Just gone eleven," I would say, though it might be two or three in the morning.
"Huh! And a nice time to be coming to bed. Fansmagt! Waking folk up when they've been sleeping decently!"
And Grindhusen turns over on the other side, to fall asleep again in a moment. There was no trouble with Grindhusen.
Eyah, it's over-foolish of a man to fall in love when he's getting on in years. And who was it set out to show there was a way to quiet and peace of mind?
A man came out for his bricklayer's tools; he wanted them back. What? Then Grindhusen had not stolen them at all! But it was always the same with Grindhusen: commonplace, dull, and ordinary, never great in anything, never a lofty mind.
"You, Grindhusen, there's nothing in you but eat and sleep and work. Here's a man come for those tools now. So you only borrowed them; that's all you're good for. I wouldn't be you for anything."
"Don't be a fool," said Grindhusen.
He was offended now, but I got him round again, as I had done so many times before, by pretending I had only spoken in jest.
"What are we to do now?" he asked.
"You'll manage it all right," said I.
"Manage it—will I?"
"Yes, or I am much mistaken."
And Grindhusen was pacified once more.
But at the midday rest, when I was cutting his hair, I put him out of temper once again by suggesting he should wash his head.
"A man of your age ought to know better than to talk such stuff," he said.
And Heaven knows but he may have been right. His red thatch of hair was thick as ever, for all he'd grandchildren of his own....
Now what was coming to that barn of ours? Were spirits about? Who had been in there one day suddenly and cleaned the place and made all comfortable and neat? Grindhusen and I had each our own bedplace; I had bought a couple of rugs, but he turned in every night fully dressed, with all he stood up in, and curled himself up in the hay all anyhow. And now here were my two rugs laid neatly, looking for all the world like a bed. I'd nothing against it; 'twas one of the maids, no doubt, setting to teach me neat and orderly ways. 'Twas all one to me.
I was ready now to start cutting through the floor upstairs, but Fruen begged me to leave it to next day; her husband would be going over to the annexe, and that way I shouldn't disturb him. But next morning we had to put it off again; Froken Elisabeth was going in to the store to buy no end of things, and I was to go with her and carry them.
"Good," said I, "I'll come on after."
Strange girl! had she thought to put up with my company on the way? She said:
"But do you think you can find the way alone?"
"Surely; I've been there before. It's where we buy our things."
Now, I couldn't well walk through all the village in my working things all messed up with clay: I put on my best trousers, but kept my blouse on over. So I walked on behind. It was a couple of miles or more; the last part of the way I caught sight of Froken Elisabeth on ahead now and again, but I took care not to come up close. Once she looked round, and at that I made myself utterly small, and kept to the fringe of the wood.
Froken Elisabeth stayed behind with some girl friend after she had done her shopping; I carried the things back to the vicarage, getting in about noon, and was asked in to dinner in the kitchen. The house seemed deserted. Harald was away, the maids were wringing clothes, only Oline was busy in the kitchen.
After dinner, I went upstairs, and started sawing in the passage.
"Come and lend me a hand here, will you?" said Fruen, walking on in front of me.
We passed by her husband's study and into the bedroom.
"I want my bed moved," said Fruen. "It's too near the stove in winter, and I can't stand the heat."
We moved the bed over to the window.
"It'll be nicer here, don't you think? Cooler," said she.
And, happening to glance at her, I saw she was watching me with that queer, sideways look.... Ey.... And in a moment I was all flesh and blood and foolishness. I heard her say:
"Are you mad?—Oh no, dear, please ... the door...."
Then I heard my name whispered again and again....
I sawed through the floor in the passage, and got everything done. Fruen was there all the time. She was so eager to talk, to explain, and laughing and crying all the time.
"That picture that was hanging over your bed—wouldn't it be as well to move that too?"
"Ye—es, perhaps it would," said Fruen.
Now all the pipes were laid, and the taps fixed; the water spurted out in the sink in a fine, powerful jet. Grindhusen had borrowed the tools we needed from somewhere else, so we could plaster up a few holes left here and there; a couple of days more, and we had filled in the trench down the hillside, and our work at the vicarage was done. The priest was pleased with us; he offered to stick up a notice on the red post saying we were experts in the business of wells and pipes and water-supply, but, seeing it was so late in the year, and the frost might set in any time, it wouldn't have helped us much. We begged him instead to bear us in mind next spring.
Then we went over to the neighbouring farm to dig potatoes, promising to look in at the vicarage again some time.
There were many hands at work on the new place; we divided up into gangs and were merry enough. But the work would barely last over a week; after that we should have to shift again.
One evening the priest came over and offered to take me on as an outdoor hand at the vicarage. It was a nice offer, and I thought about it for a while, but ended by saying no. I would rather wander about and be my own master, doing such work as I could find here and there, sleeping in the open, and finding a trifle to wonder at in myself. I had come across a man here in the potato fields that I might join company with when Grindhusen was gone. This new man was a fellow after my own mind, and from what I had heard and seen of him a good worker; Lars Falkberget was his name, wherefore he called himself Falkenberg. [Footnote: The latter name has a more distinguished sound than the native and rustic "Falkberget."]
Young Erik was foreman and overseer in charge of the potato diggers, and carted in the crop. He was a handsome lad of twenty, steady and sound for his age, and a proper son of the house. There was something no doubt between him and Froken Elisabeth from the vicarage, seeing she came over one day and stood talking with him out in the fields for quite a while. When she was leaving, she found a few words for me as well, saying Oline was beginning to get used to the new contrivances of water-pipes and tap.
"And yourself?" I asked.
Out of politeness, she made some little answer to this also, but I could see she had no wish to stay talking to me.
So prettily dressed she was, with a new light cloak that went so well with her blue eyes....
Next day Erik met with an accident; his horse bolted, dragging him across the fields and throwing him up against a fence at last. He was badly mauled, and spitting blood; a few hours later, when he had come to himself a little, he was still spitting blood. Falkenberg was now set to drive.
I feigned to be distressed at what had happened, and went about silent and gloomy as the rest, but I did not feel so. I had no hope of Froken Elisabeth for myself, indeed; still, I was rid of one that stood above me in her favour.
That evening I went over to the churchyard and sat there a while. If only she would come, I thought to myself. And after a quarter of an hour she came. I got up suddenly, entirely as I had planned, made as if to slip away and hide, then I stopped, stood helplessly and surrendered. But here all my schemes and plans forsook me, and I was all weakness at having her so near; I began to speak of something.
"Erik—to think it should have happened—and that, yesterday...."
"I know about it," she answered.
"He was badly hurt."
"Yes, yes, of course, he was badly hurt—why do you talk to me about him?"
"I thought.... No, I don't know. But, anyhow, he'll get better. And then it will be all right again, surely."
It sounded as if she had been making fun of me. Then suddenly she said with a smile:
"What a strange fellow you are! What makes you walk all that way to come and sit here of an evening?"
"It's just a little habit I've got lately. For something to do till bedtime."
"Then you're not afraid?"
Her jesting tone gave me courage; I felt myself on surer ground, and answered:
"No, that's just the trouble. I wanted to learn to shiver and shake."
"Learn to shiver and shake? Like the boy in the fairy tale. Now where did you read about that, I wonder?"
"I don't know. In some book or other, I suppose."
"Why wouldn't you come and work for us when Father asked you?"
"I'd be no good at that sort of work. I'm going out on the roads now with another man."
"Which way are you going?"
"That I cannot say. East or west. We are just wanderers."
"I'm sorry," she said. "I mean, I don't think it's wise of you.... Oh, but what was it you said about Erik? I only came to ask about him...."
"He's in a baddish way now, but still."
"Does the doctor think he will get better?"
"Yes, as far as I know. I've not heard otherwise."
Oh to be young and rich and handsome, and famous and learned in sciences!... There she goes....
Before leaving the churchyard I found a serviceable thumbnail and put it in my pocket. I waited a little, peering this way and that, and listening, but all was still. No voice came saying, "That's mine!"
Falkenberg and I set out. It is evening; cool air and a lofty sky with stars lighting up. I persuaded him to go round by way of the churchyard; in my foolishness I wished to go that way, to see if there should be light in one little window down at the vicarage. Oh to be young and rich and....
We walked some hours, having but little weight to carry, and, moreover, we were two wanderers still a bit strange each to the other, so we could talk a little. We passed by the first trading station, and came to another; we could see the tower of the annexe church in the evening light.
From sheer habit I would have gone into the churchyard here as well. I said:
"What do you think? We might find a place here for the night?"
"No sense on earth in that," said Falkenberg, "when there's hay in every barn along the road. And if we're turned out, there'll be shelter in the woods."
And we went on again, Falkenberg leading.
He was a man of something over thirty. Tall and well-built, but with a slight stoop; his long moustaches rounded downwards. He was short of speech for the most, quick-witted and kindly; also he had a splendid voice for songs; a different sort from Grindhusen in every way. And when he spoke he used odd words from different local dialects, with a touch of Swedish here and there; no one could tell what part he came from.
We came to a farmstead where the dogs barked, and folk were still about. Falkenberg asked to see the man. A lad came out.
Had he any work for us?
But the fence there along by the road was all to pieces, if we couldn't mend that, now?
No. Man himself had nothing else to do this time of the year.
Could they give us shelter for the night?
Very sorry, but....
Not in the barn?
No, the girls were still sleeping there.
"Swine," muttered Falkenberg, as we moved away. We turned in through a little wood, keeping a look out now for a likely place to sleep.
"Suppose we went back to the farm now to the girls in the barn? Like as not they wouldn't turn us out."
Falkenberg thought for a moment.
"The dogs will make a row," he said.
We came out into a field where two horses were loose. One had a bell at its neck.
"Nice fellow this," said Falkenberg, "with his horses still out and his womenfolk still sleeping in the barn. It'd be doing these poor beasts a good turn to ride them a bit."
He caught the belled horse, stuffed its bell with grass and moss, and got on its back. My beast was shy, and I had a deal of trouble to get hold of it.
We rode across the field, found a gate, and came out on to the road. We each had one of my rugs to sit on, but neither had a bridle.
Still, we managed well enough, managed excellently well; we rode close on five miles, and came to another village. Suddenly we heard some one ahead along the road.
"Better take it at a gallop," said Falkenberg over his shoulder. "Come along."
But Falkenberg was no marvel of a horseman, for all his leg; he clutched the bell-strap first, then slithered forward and hung on with both arms round the horse's neck. I caught a glimpse of one of his legs against the sky as he fell off.
Fortunately, there was no great danger waiting us after all; only a young couple out sweethearting.
Another half-hour's riding, and we were both of us stiff and sore. We got down, turned the horses' faces to home, and drove them off. And now we were foot-passengers once more.
Gakgak, gakgak—the sound came from somewhere far off. I knew it well; it was the grey goose. When we were children, we were taught to clasp our hands and stand quite still, lest we should frighten the grey goose as it passed. No harm in that; no harm in doing so now. And so I do. A quiet sense of mystery steals through me; I hold my breath and gaze. There it comes, the sky trailing behind it like the wake of a ship. Gakgak, high overhead. And the splendid ploughshare glides along beneath the stars....
We found a barn at last, at a farmstead where all was still, and there we slept some hours. They found us next morning sound asleep.
Falkenberg went up to the farmer at once and offered to pay for our lodging. We had come in late the night before, he explained, and didn't like to wake folk out of their beds, but we were no runaways for all that. The man would not take our money; instead he gave us coffee in the kitchen. But he had no work for us; the harvest was in, and he and his lad had nothing to do themselves now but mend their fences here and there.
We tramped three days and found no work, but had to pay for our food and drink, getting poorer every day.
"How much have you got left, and how much have I got left? We'll never get any great way at this rate," said Falkenberg. And he threw out a hint that we'd soon have to try a little stealing.
We talked it over a bit, and agreed to wait and see how things turned out. Food was no difficulty, we could always get hold of a fowl or so at a pinch. But ready money was the thing we really needed, and that we'd have to get. If we couldn't manage it one way, we'd have to manage another. We didn't set up to be angels.
"I'm no angel out of heaven alive," said Falkenberg. "Here am I now, sitting around in my best clothes, and they no better than another man's workaday things. I can give them a wash in a stream, and sit and wait till they're dry; if there's a hole I mend it, and if I chance to earn a bit extra some day, I can get some more. And that's the end of it."
"But young Erik said you were a beggar to drink."
"That young cock. Drink—well, of course I do. No sense in only eating.... Let's look about for a place where there's a piano," said Falkenberg.
I thought to myself: a piano on a place means well-to-do folk; that's where he is going to start stealing.
In the afternoon we came to just such a place. Falkenberg had put on my town clothes beforehand, and given me his sack to carry so he could walk in easily, with an air. He went straight up to the front steps, and I lost sight of him for a bit, then he came out again and said yes, he was going to tune their piano.
"Going to what?"
"You be quiet," said Falkenberg. "I've done it before, though I don't go bragging about it everywhere."
He fished out a piano-tuner's key from his sack, and I saw he was in earnest.
I was ordered to keep near the place while he was tuning.
Well, I wandered about to pass the time; every now and then coming round to the south side of the house, I could hear Falkenberg at work on the piano in the parlour, and forcibly he dealt with it. He could not strike a decent chord, but he had a good ear; whenever he screwed up a string, he was careful to screw it back again exactly where it was before, so the instrument at any rate was none the worse.
I got into talk with one of the farm-hands, a young fellow. He got two hundred Kroner a year, he said, besides his board. Up at half-past six in the morning to feed the horses, or half-past five in the busy season. Work all day, till eight in the evening. But he was healthily content with his life in that little world. I remember his fine, strong set of teeth, and his pleasant smile as he spoke of his girl. He had given her a silver ring with a gold heart on the front.
"And what did she say to that?"
"Well, she was all of a wonder, you may be sure."
"And what did you say?"
"What I said? Why, I don't know. Said I hoped she'd like it and welcome. I'd like to have given her stuff for a dress as well, but...."
"Is she young?"
"Why, yes. Talk away like a little jews' harp. Young—I should think so."
"And where does she live?"
"Ah, that I won't say. They'd know it all over the village if I did."
And there I stood like another Alexander, so sure of the world, and half contemptuous of this boy and his poor little life. When we went away, I gave him one of my rugs; it was too much of a weight to go carrying two. He said at once he would give it to his girl; she would be glad of a nice warm rug.
And Alexander said: If I were not myself I would be you....
When Falkenberg had finished and came out, he was grown so elegant in his manners all at once, and talked in such a delicate fashion, I could hardly understand him. The daughter of the house came out with him. We were to pass on without delay, he said, to the farm adjacent; there was a piano there which needed some slight attention. And so "Farvel, Froken, Farvel."
"Six Kroner, my boy," he whispered in my ear. "And another six at the next place, that's twelve."
So off we went, and I carried our things.
Falkenberg was right; the people at the next farm would not be outdone by their neighbours; their piano must be seen to as well. The daughter of the house was away for the moment, but the work could be done in her absence as a little surprise for her when she came home. She had often complained that the piano was so dreadfully out of tune it was impossible to play on it at all. So now I was left to myself again as before, while Falkenberg was busy in the parlour. When it got dark he had lights brought in and went on tuning. He had his supper in there too, and when he had finished, he came out and asked me for his pipe.
"You fool! the one with the clenched fist, of course."
Somewhat unwillingly I handed him my neatly carved pipe; I had just got it finished; with the nail set in and a gold ring, and a long stem.
"Don't let the nail get too hot," I whispered, "or it might curl up."
Falkenberg lit the pipe and went swaggering up with it indoors. But he put in a word for me too, and got them to give me supper and coffee in the kitchen.
I found a place to sleep in the barn.
I woke up in the night, and there was Falkenberg standing close by, and calling me by name. The full moon shone right in, and I could see his face.
"What's the matter now?"
"Here's your pipe. Here you are, man, take it."
"Yes, your pipe. I won't have the thing about me another minute. Look at it—the nail's all coming loose."
I took the pipe, and saw the nail had begun to curl away from the wood. Said Falkenberg:
"The beastly thing was looking at me with a sort of nasty grin in the moonlight. And then when I remembered where you'd got that nail...."
Next morning when we were ready to start off again, the daughter of the house had come home. We heard her thumping out a waltz on the piano, and a little after she came out and said:
"It's made no end of difference with the piano. Thank you very much."
"I hope you may find it satisfactory," said the piano-tuner grandly.
"Yes, indeed. There's quite a different tone in it now."
"And is there anywhere else Frokenen could recommend...?"
"Ask the people at Ovrebo; Falkenberg's the name."
"Falkenberg. Go straight on from here, and you'll come to a post on the right-hand side about a mile and a half along. Turn off there and that'll take you to it."
At that Falkenberg sat down plump at the steps and began asking all sorts of questions about the Falkenbergs at Ovrebo. Only to think he should come across his kinsmen here, and find himself, as it were, at home again. He was profusely grateful for the information. "Thanks most sincerely, Froken."
Then we went on our way again, and I carried the things.
Once in the wood we sat down to talk over what was to be done. Was it advisable, after all, for a Falkenberg of the rank of piano-tuner to go walking up to the Captain at Ovrebo and claim relationship? I was the more timid, and ended by making Falkenberg himself a little shy of it. On the other hand, it might be a merry jest.
Hadn't he any papers with his name on? Certificates of some sort?
"Yes, but for Fan, there's nothing in them except saying I'm a reliable workman."
We cast about for some way of altering the papers a little, but finally agreed it could be better to make a new one altogether. We might do one for unsurpassed proficiency in piano-tuning and put in the Christian name as Leopold instead of Lars. [Footnote: Again substituting an aristocratic for a rustic name.] There was no limit to what we could do in that way.
"Think that you can write out that certificate?" he asked.
"Yes, that I can."
But now that wretched brain of mine began playing tricks, and making the whole thing ridiculous. A piano-tuner wasn't enough, I thought; no, make him a mechanical genius, a man who had solved most intricate problems, an inventor with a factory of his own....
"Then I wouldn't need to go about waving certificates," said Falkenberg, and refused to listen any more. No, the whole thing looked like coming to nothing after all.
Downcast and discouraged both, we tramped on till we came to the post.
"You're not going up, are you?" I asked.
"You can go yourself," said Falkenberg sourly. "Here, take your rags of things."
But a little way farther on he slackened his pace, and muttered:
"It's a wicked shame to throw away a chance like that. Why, it's just cut out for us as it is."
"Well, then, why don't you go up and pay them a call? Who knows, you might be some relation after all."
"I wish I'd thought to ask if he'd a nephew in America."
"What then? Could you talk English to them if he had?"
"You mind your own business, and don't talk so much," said Falkenberg. "I don't see what you've got to brag about, anyway."
He was nervous and out of temper, and began stepping out. Then suddenly he stopped and said:
"I'll do it. Lend me that pipe of yours again. I won't light it."
We walked up the hill, Falkenberg putting on mighty airs, pointing this way and that with the pipe and criticizing the place. It annoyed me somewhat to see him stalking along in that vainglorious fashion while I carried the load. I said:
"Going to be a piano-tuner this time?"
"I think I've shown I can tune a piano," he said shortly. "I am good for that at any rate."
"But suppose there's some one in the house knows all about it—Fruen, for instance—and tries the piano after you've done?"
Falkenberg was silent. I could see he was growing doubtful again. Little by little his lordly gait sank to a slouching walk.
"Perhaps we'd better not," he said. "Here, take your pipe. We'll just go up and simply ask for work."
As it happened, there was a chance for us to make ourselves useful the moment we came on the place. They were getting up a new flagstaff, and were short of hands. We set to work and got it up in fine style. There was a crowd of women looking on from the window.
Was Captain Falkenberg at home?
Fruen came out. She was tall and fair, and friendly as a young foal; and she answered our greeting in the kindliest way.
Had she any work for us now?
"Well, I don't know. I don't think so really, not while my husband's away."
I had an idea she found it hard to say no, and touched my cap and was turning away, not to trouble her any more. But she must have found something strange about Falkenberg, coming up like that wearing decent clothes, and with a man to carry his things; she looked at him inquisitively and asked:
"What sort of work?"
"Any kind of outdoor work," said Falkenberg. "We can take on hedging and ditching, bricklayer's work...."
"Getting late in the year for that sort," put in one of the men by the flagstaff.
"Yes, I suppose it is," Fruen agreed. "I don't know.... Anyhow, it's just dinner-time; if you'd like to go in and get something to eat meanwhile. Such as it is."
"Thank you kindly," answered Falkenberg.
Now, that seemed to my mind a poor and vulgar way to speak; I felt he shamed us both in answering so, and it distressed me. So I must put in a word myself.
"Mille graces, Madame; vous etes trop aimable," I said gallantly, and took off my cap.
Fruen turned round and stared at me in astonishment; the look on her face was comical to see.
We were shown into the kitchen and given an excellent meal. Fruen went indoors. When we had finished, and were starting off, she came out again; Falkenberg had got back his courage now, and, taking advantage of her kindness offered to tune the piano.
"Can you tune pianos too?" she asked, in surprise.
"Yes, indeed; I tuned the one on the farm down below."
"Mine's a grand piano, and a good one. I shouldn't like it...."
"Fruen can be easy about that."
"Have you any sort of...."
"I've no certificate, no. It's not my way to ask for such. But Fruen can come and hear me."
"Well, perhaps—yes, come this way."
She went into the house, and he followed. I looked through the doorway as they went in, and saw a room with many pictures on the walls.
The maids fussed about in and out of the kitchen, casting curious glances at me, stranger as I was; one of the girls was quite nice-looking. I was thankful I had shaved that morning.
Some ten minutes passed; Falkenberg had begun. Fruen came out into the kitchen again and said:
"And to think you speak French! It's more than I do."
Now, Heaven be thanked for that. I had no wish to go farther with it myself. If I had, it would have been mostly hackneyed stuff, about returning to our muttons and looking for the lady in the case, and the State, that's me, and so on.
"Your friend showed me his papers," said Fruen. "You seem to be decent folk. I don't know.... I might telegraph to my husband and ask if he's any work for you."
I would have thanked her, but could not get a word out for swallowing at something in my throat.
Afterwards I went out across the yard and walked about the fields a bit; all was in good order everywhere, and the crops in under cover. Even the potato stalks had been carted away though there's many places where they're left out till the snow comes. I could see nothing for us to do at all. Evidently these people were well-to-do.
When it was getting towards evening, and Falkenberg was still tuning, I took a bit of something to eat in my pocket and went off for a walk, to be out of the way so they should not ask me in to supper. There was a moon, and the stars were out, but I liked best to grope my way into the dense part of the wood and sit down in the dark. It was more sheltered there, too. How quiet the earth and air seemed now! The cold is beginning, there is rime on the ground; now and again a stalk of grass creaks faintly, a little mouse squeaks, a rook comes soaring over the treetops, then all is quiet again. Was there ever such fair hair as hers? Surely never. Born a wonder, from top to toe, her lips a ripened loveliness, and the play of dragonflies in her hair. If only one could draw out a diadem from a sack of clothes and give it her. I'll find a pink shell somewhere and carve it to a thumbnail, and offer her the pipe to give her husband for a present ... yes....
Falkenberg comes across the yard to meet me, and whispers hurriedly:
"She's got an answer from the Captain; he says we can set to work felling timber in the woods. Are you any good at that?"
"Well, then, go inside, into the kitchen. She's been asking for you."
I went in and Fruen said:
"I wondered where you'd got to. Sit down and have something to eat. Had your supper? Where?"
"We've food with us in the sack."
"Well, there was no need to do that. Won't you have a cup of tea, then? Nothing?... I've had an answer from my husband. Can you fell trees? Well, that's all right. Look, here it is: 'Want couple of men felling timber, Petter will show trees marked.'...."
Heaven—she stood there beside me, pointing to the message. And the scent of a young girl in her breath....
In the woods. Petter is one of the farm-hands; he showed us the way here.
When we talked together, Falkenberg was not by any means so grateful to Fruen for giving us work. "Nothing to bow and scrape for in that," he said. "It's none so easy to get workmen these days." Falkenberg, by the way, was nothing out of the ordinary in the woodcutting line, while I'd had some experience of the work in another part of the world, and so could take a lead in this at a finish. And he agreed I was to be leader.
Just now I began working in my mind on an invention.
With the ordinary sort of saw now in use, the men have to lie down crookedwise on the ground and pull sideways. And that's why there's not so much gets done in a day, and a deal of ugly stumps left after in the woods. Now, with a conical transmission apparatus that could be screwed on to the root, it should be possible to work the saw with a straight back-and-forward movement, but the blade cutting horizontally all the time. I set to work designing parts of a machine of this sort. The thing that puzzled me most was how to get the little touch of pressure on the blade that's needed. It might be done by means of a spring that could be wound up by clockwork, or perhaps a weight would do it. The weight would be easier, but uniform, and, as the saw went deeper, it would be getting harder all the time, and the same pressure would not do. A steel spring, on the other hand, would slacken down as the cut grew deeper, and always give the right amount of pressure. I decided on the spring system. "You can manage it," I told myself. And the credit for it would be the greatest thing in my life.
The days passed, one like another; we felled our nine-inch timber, and cut off twigs and tops. We lived in plenty, taking food and coffee with us when we started for the woods, and getting a hot meal in the evening when we came home. Then we washed and tidied ourselves—to be nicer-mannered than the farm-hands—and sat in the kitchen, with a big lamp alight, and three girls. Falkenberg had become Emma's sweetheart.
And every now and then there would come a wave of music from the piano in the parlour; sometimes Fruen herself would come out to us with her girlish youth and her blessed kindly ways. "And how did you get on today?" she would ask. "Did you meet a bear in the woods?" But one evening she thanked Falkenberg for doing her piano so nicely. What? did she mean it? Falkenberg's weather-beaten face grew quite handsome with pleasure; I felt proud of him when he answered modestly that he thought himself it was a little better now.
Either he had gained by his experience in tuning already, or Fruen was grateful to him for not having spoiled the grand piano.
Falkenberg dressed up in my town clothes every evening. It wouldn't do for me to take them back now and wear them myself; every one would believe I'd borrowed them from him.
"Let me have Emma, and you can keep the clothes," I said in jest.
"All right, you can take her," he answered.
I began to see then that Falkenberg was growing cooler towards his girl. Oh, but Falkenberg had fallen in love too, the same as I. What simple boys we were!
"Wonder if she will give us a look in this evening again?" Falkenberg would say while we were out at work.
And I would answer that I didn't care how long the Captain stayed away.
"No, you're right," said Falkenberg. "And I say, if I find he isn't decent to her, there'll be trouble."
Then one evening Falkenberg gave us a song. And I was proud of him as ever. Fruen came out, and he had to sing it over again, and another one after; his fine voice filled the room, and Fruen was delighted, and said she had never heard anything like it.
And then it was I began to be envious.
"Have you learnt singing?" asked Fruen. "Can you read music at all?"
"Yes, indeed," said Falkenberg. "I used to sing in a club."
Now that was where he should have said: no, worse luck, he'd never learned, so I thought to myself.
"Have you ever sung to any one? Has any one ever heard you?"
"I've sung at dances and parties now and again. And once at a wedding."
"But I mean for any one that knew: has any one tried your voice?"
"No, not that I know of—or yes, I think so, yes."
"Well, won't you sing some more now? Do."
And Falkenberg sang.
The end of it'll be he'll be asked right into the parlour one evening, I thought to myself, with Fruen—to play for him. I said:
"Beg pardon, but won't the Captain be coming home soon?"
"Yes, soon," answered Fruen. "Why do you ask?'
"I was only thinking about the work."
"Have you felled all the trees that were marked?"
"No, not yet—no, not by a long way. But...."
"Oh...." said Fruen suddenly, as if she had just thought of something. "You must have some money. Yes, of course...."
I grasped at that to save myself, and answered:
"Thank you very much."
Falkenberg said nothing.
"Well, you've only to ask, you know. Varsaagod" and she handed me the money I had asked for. "And what about you?"
"Nothing, thank you all the same," answered Falkenberg.
Heavens, how I had lost again—fallen to earth again! And Falkenberg, that shameless imposter, who sat there playing the man of property who didn't need anything in advance. I would tear my clothes off him that very night, and leave him naked.
Only, of course, I did nothing of the sort.
And two days went by.
"If she comes out again this evening," Falkenberg would say up in the woods, "I'll sing that one about the poppy. I'd forgotten that."
"You've forgotten Emma, too, haven't you?" I ask.
"Emma? Look here, I'll tell you what it is: you're just the same as ever, that's what you are."
"Ho, am I?"
"Yes; inside, I mean. You wouldn't mind taking Emma right there, with Fruen looking on. But I couldn't do that."
"That's a lie!" I answered angrily. "You won't see me tangled up in any foolery with the girls as long as I am here."
"Ah, and I shan't be out at nights with any one after. Think she'll come this evening? I'd forgotten that one about the poppy till now. Just listen."
Falkenberg sang the Poppy Song.
"You're lucky, being able to sing like that," I said. "But there's neither of us'll get her, for all that."
"Get her! Why, whoever thought.... What a fool you are!"
"Ah, if I were young and rich and handsome, I'd win her all the same," I said.
"If—and if.... So could I, for the matter of that. But there's the Captain."
"Yes, and then there's you. And then there's me. And then there's herself and everybody else in the world. And we're a couple of brutes to be talking about her like this at all," said I, furious now with myself for my own part. "A nice thing, indeed, for two old woodcutters to speak of their mistress so."
We grew pale and thin the pair of us, and the wrinkles showed up in Falkenberg's drawn face; neither of us could eat as we used. And by way of trying to hide our troubles from each other, I went about talking all sorts of cheerful nonsense, while Falkenberg bragged loudly at every meal of how he'd got to eating too much of late, and was getting slack and out of form.
"Why, you don't seem to eat anything at all," Fruen would say when we came home with too much left of the food we had taken with us. "Nice woodcutters, indeed."
"It's Falkenberg that won't eat," said I.
"Ho, indeed!" said Falkenberg; "I like that. He's given up eating altogether."
Now and again when she asked us to do her a favour, some little service or other, we would both hurry to do it; at last we got to bringing in water and firewood of our own accord. But one day Falkenberg played me a mean trick: he came home with a bunch of hazel twigs for a carpet-beater, that Fruen had asked me expressly to cut for her.
And he sang every evening now.
Then it was I resolved to make Fruen jealous—ey, ey, my good man, are you mad now, or merely foolish? As if Fruen would ever give it as much as a thought, whatever you did.
But so it was. I would try to make her jealous.
Of the three girls on the place, there was only one that could possibly be used for the experiment, and that was Emma. So I started talking nonsense to Emma.
"Emma, I know of some one that is sighing for you."
"And where did you get to know of that, pray?"
"From the stars above."
"I'd rather hear of it from some one here on earth."
"I can tell you that, too. At first hand."
"It's himself he means," put in Falkenberg, anxious to keep well out of it.
"Well, and I don't mind saying it is. Paratum cor meum."
But Emma was ungracious, and didn't care to talk to me, for all I was better at languages than Falkenberg. What—could I not even master Emma? Well ... I turned proud and silent after that, and went my own ways, making drawings for that machine of mine and little models. And when Falkenberg was singing of an evening, and Fruen listening, I went across to the men's quarters and stayed there with them. Which, of course, was much more dignified. The only trouble about it was that Petter was ill in bed, and couldn't stand the noise of ax and hammer, so I had to go outside every time I'd any heavy piece of work to do.
Still, now and again I fancied Fruen might perhaps be sorry, after all, at missing my company in the kitchen. It looked so, to me. One evening, when we were at supper, she turned to me and said:
"What's that the men were saying about a new machine you're making?"
"It's a new kind of saw he's messing about with," said Falkenberg. "But it's too heavy to be any good."
I made no answer to that, but craftily preferred to be wronged. Was it not the fate of all inventors to be so misjudged? Only wait: my time was not yet come. There were moments when I could hardly keep from bursting out with a revelation to the girls, of how I was really a man of good family, led astray by desperation over an unhappy love affair, and now taking to drink. Alas, yes, man proposes, God disposes.... And then, perhaps, Fruen herself might come to hear of it....
"I think I'll take to going over with the men in the evenings," said Falkenberg, "the same as you."
And I knew well enough why Falkenberg had suddenly taken it into his head to spend his evenings there; he was not asked to sing now as often as before; some way or other, he was less in demand of late.
The Captain had returned.
A big man, with a full beard, came out to us one day while we were at work, and said:
"I'm Captain Falkenberg. Well, lads, how goes it?"
We greeted him respectfully, and answered: "Well enough."
Then there was some talk of what we had done and what remained to do. The Captain was pleased with our work—all clean cut and close to the root. Then he reckoned out how much we had got through per day, and said it came to a good average.
"Captain's forgetting Sundays." said I.
"That's true," said he. "Well, that makes it over the average. Had any trouble at all with the tools? Is the saw all right?"
"Quite all right."
"And nobody hurt?"
"You ought by rights to provide your own food," he said, "but if you would rather have it the other way, we can square it when we come to settle up."
"We'll be glad to have it as Captain thinks best."
"Yes," agreed Falkenberg as well.
The Captain took a turn up through the wood and came back again.
"Couldn't have better weather," he said. "No snow to shovel away."
"No, there's no snow—that's true; but a little more frost'd do no harm."
"Why? Cooler to work in d'you mean?"
"That, too, perhaps; yes. But the saw cuts easier when timber's frozen."
"You're an old hand at this work, then?"
"And are you the one that sings?"
"No, more's the pity. He is the one that sings."
"Oh, so you are the singer, are you? We're namesakes, I believe?"
"Why, yes, in a way," said Falkenberg, a little awkwardly, "My name is Lars Falkenberg, and I've my certificate to show for that."
"What part d'you come from?"
The Captain went home. He was friendly enough, but spoke in a short, decisive way, with never a smile or a jesting word. A good face, something ordinary.
From that day onwards Falkenberg never sang but in the men's quarters, or out in the open; no more singing in the kitchen now the Captain had come home. Falkenberg was irritable and gloomy; he would swear at times and say life wasn't worth living these days; a man might as well go and hang himself and have done with it. But his fit of despair soon came to an end. One Sunday he went back to the two farms where he had tuned the pianos, and asked for a recommendation from each. When he came back he showed me the papers, and said:
"They'll do to keep going with for a bit."
"Then you're not going to hang yourself, after all?"
"You've better cause to go that way, if you ask me," said Falkenberg.
But I, too, was less despairing now. When the Captain heard about my machine idea, he wanted to know more about it at once. He saw at the first glance that my drawings were far from perfect, being made on small pieces of paper, and without so much as a pair of dividers to work with. He lent me a set of drawing instruments, and gave me some useful hints about how such things were done. He, too, was afraid my saw would prove too cumbersome. "But keep on with it, anyway," he said. "Get the whole thing drawn to a definite scale, then we can see."
I realized, however, that a decently constructed model of the thing would give a better idea of it, and as soon as I was through with the drawings I set to work carving a model in wood. I had no lathe, and had to whittle out the two rollers and several wheels and screws by hand. I was working at this on the Sunday, and so taken up with it I never heard the dinner-bell. The Captain came out and called, "Dinner!" Then, when he saw what I was doing, he offered to drive over himself to the smithy the very next day, and get the parts I needed cut on the lathe. "All you need do is to give me the measurements," he said. "And you must want some tools, surely? Saw and drills; right! Screws, yes, and a fine chisel ... is that all?"
He made a note of the things on the spot. A first-rate man to work under.
But in the evening, when I had finished supper and was crossing the courtyard to the men's room, Fruen called me. She was standing between the kitchen windows, in the shadow, but slipped forward now.
"My husband said ... he ... said ... you can't be warm enough in these thin clothes," she said. "And would you ... here, take these."
She bundled a whole suit into my arms.
I thanked her, stammering foolishly. I was going to get myself some new things soon. There was no hurry; I didn't need....
"Of course, I know you can get things yourself. But when your friend is so ... so ... oh, take these."
And she ran away indoors again, the very fashion of a young girl fearing to be caught doing something over-kind. I had to call my last thanks after her.
When the Captain came out next evening with my wheels and rollers, I took the opportunity of thanking him for the clothes.
"Oh—er—yes," he answered. "It was my wife that.... Do they fit you all right?"
"Yes; many thanks."
"That's all right, then. Yes; it was my wife that ... well, here are the things for your machine, and the tools. Good-night."
It seemed, then, as if the two of them were equally ready to do an act of kindness. And when it was done, each would lay the blame on the other. Surely this must be the perfect wedded life, that dreamers dreamed of here on earth....
The woods are stripped of leaf now, and the bird sounds are gone; only the crows rasp out their screeching note at five in the morning, when they spread out over the fields. We see them, Falkenberg and I, as we go to our work; the yearling birds, that have not yet learned fear of the world, hop along the path before our feet.
Then we meet the finch, the sparrow of the timbered lands. He has been out in the woods already, and is coming back now to humankind, that he likes to live with and study from all sides. Queer little finch. A bird of passage, really, but his parents have taught him that one can spend a winter in the north; and now he will teach his children that the north's the only place to spend the winter in at all. But there is still a touch of emigrant blood in him, and he remains a wanderer. One day he and his will gather together and set off for somewhere else, many parishes away, to study a new collection of humans there—and in the aspen grove never a finch to be seen. And it may be a whole week before a new flock of this winged life appears and settles in the same place.... Herregud! how many a time have I watched the finches in their doings, and found pleasure in all.