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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesAbsalom's Hair; And A Painful Memory - Chapter 2
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Absalom's Hair; And A Painful Memory - Chapter 2 Post by :juanita Category :Long Stories Author :Bjornstjerne Bjornson Date :July 2011 Read :2179

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Absalom's Hair; And A Painful Memory - Chapter 2

Chapter 2

Within a few days of the funeral mother and son were in England.

Rafael was now to enter upon a long course of study, for which, by
his earlier education, his mother had prepared him, and for which,
by painful privations, she had saved up sufficient money.

The property was to the last degree impoverished, and burdened
with mortgages, and the timber only fit for fuel.

Their neighbour the Dean, a clear-headed and practical man, took
upon himself the management of affairs; as money was needed the
work of devastation must begin at once. The mother and son did not
wish to witness it.

They came to England like two fugitives who, after many and great
trials, for affection's sake seek a new home and a new country.

Rafael was then twelve years old.

They were inseparable, and in the shiftless life that they led in
their new surroundings they became, if possible, more closely
attached to each other.

Yet not long afterwards they had their first disagreement.

He had gone to school, had begun to learn the language and to make
friends, and had developed a great desire to show off.

He was very tall and slender and was anxious to be athletic. He
took an active part in the play-ground, but here he achieved no
great success. On the other hand, thanks to his mother, he was
better informed than his comrades, and he contrived to obtain
prominence by this. This prominence must be maintained, and
nothing answered so well as boasting about Norway and his father's
exploits. His statements were somewhat exaggerated, but that was
not altogether his fault, He knew English fairly well, but had not
mastered its niceties. He made use of superlatives, which always
come the most readily. It was true that he had inherited from his
father twenty guns, a large sailing-boat, and several smaller
ones; but how magnificent these boats and guns had become!

He intended to go to the North Pole, he said, as his father had
done, to shoot white bears, and invited them all to come with him.

He made a greater impression on his hearers than he himself was
aware of; but something more was wanted, for it was impossible to
foretell from day to day what might be expected of him. He had to
study hard in order to meet the demand.

As an outcome of this, he betook himself one evening to the
hairdresser's, with some of his schoolfellows, and, without more
ado, requested him to cut his hair quite close. That ought to
satisfy them for a long time.

The other boys had teased him about his hair, and it got in the
way when he was playing--he hated it. Besides, ever since the
story of Absalom's rebellion and punishment, it had remained a
secret terror to him, but it had never before occurred to him to
have it cut off.

His schoolfellows were dismayed, and the hairdresser looked on it
as a work of wilful destruction.

Rafael felt his heart begin to sink, but the very audacity of the
thing gave him courage They should see what he dare do. The
hairdresser hesitated to act without Fru Kaas's knowledge, but at
length he ceased to make objections.

Rafael's heart sank lower and lower, but he must go through with
it now. "Off with it," he said, and remained immovable in the

"I have never seen more splendid hair," said the hairdresser
diffidently, taking up the scissors but still hesitating.

Rafael saw that his companions were on the tiptoe of expectation.
"Off with it," he said again with assumed indifference.

The hairdresser cut the hair into his hand and laid it carefully
in paper.

The boys followed every snip of the scissors with their eyes,
Rafael with his ears; he could not see in the glass.

When the hairdresser had finished and had brushed his clothes for
him, he offered him the hair. "What do I want with it?" said
Rafael. He dusted his elbows and knees a little, paid, and left
the shop, followed by his companions. They, however, exhibited no
particular admiration. He caught a glimpse of himself in the glass
as he went out, and thought that he looked frightful.

He would have given all that he possessed (which was not much), he
would have endured any imaginable suffering, he thought, to have
his hair back again.

His mother's wondering eyes rose up before him with every shade of
expression; his misery pursued him, his vanity mocked him. The end
of it all was that he stole up to his room and went to bed without
his supper.

But when his mother had vainly waited for him, and some one
suggested that he might be in the house, she went to his room.

He heard her on the stairs; he felt that she was at the door. When
she entered he had hidden his head beneath the bedclothes. She
dragged them back; and at the first sight of her dismay he was
reduced to such despair that the tears which were beginning to
flow ceased at once.

White and horror-struck she stood there; indeed she thought at
first that some one had done it maliciously; but when she could
not extract a word of enlightenment, she suspected mischief.

He felt that she was waiting for an explanation, an excuse, a
prayer for forgiveness, but he could not, for the life of him, get
out a word.

What, indeed, could he say? He did not understand it himself. But
now he began to cry violently. He huddled himself together,
clasping his head between his hands. It felt like a bristly

When he looked up again his mother was gone.

A child sleeps in spite of everything. He came down the next
morning in a contrite mood and thoroughly shamefaced. His mother
was not up; she was unwell, for she had not slept a wink. He heard
this before he went to her. He opened her door timidly. There she
lay, the picture of wretchedness.

On the toilet-table, in a white silk handkerchief, was his hair,
smoothed and combed.

She lay there in her lace-trimmed nightgown, great tears rolling
down her cheeks. He had come, intending to throw himself into her
arms and beg her pardon a thousand times. But he had a strong
feeling that he had better not do so, or was he afraid to? She was
in the clouds, far, far away. She seemed in a trance: something,
at once painful and sacred, held her enchained. She was both
pathetic and sublime,

The boy stepped quietly from the room and hurried off to school.

She remained in bed that day and the next, and made him sit with
the servant in order that she might be alone. When she was in
trouble she always behaved thus, and that he should cross her in
this way was the greatest trial that she had ever known. It came
upon her, too, like a deluge of rain from a clear sky. NOW it
seemed to her that she could foresee his future--and her own.

She laid the blame of all this on his paternal ancestry. She could
not see that incessant artistic fuss and too much intellectual
training had, perhaps, aroused in him a desire for independence.

The first time that she saw him again with his cropped head, which
grew more and more like his father's in shape, her tears flowed

When he wished to come to her side, she waived him back with her
shapely hand, nor would she talk to him; when he talked she hardly
looked at him; till at last he burst into tears. For he suffered
as one can suffer but once, when the childish penitence is fresh
and therefore boundless, and when the yearning for love has
received its first rebuff.

But when, on the fifth day, she met him coming up the stairs, she
stood still in dismay at his appearance: pale, thin, timid; the
effect perhaps heightened by the loss of his hair. He, too, stood
still, looking forlorn and abject, with disconsolate eyes. Then
hers filled; she stretched out her arms. He was once more in his
Paradise, but they both cried as though they must wade through an
ocean of tears before they could talk to each other again.

"Tell me about it now," she whispered. This was in her own room.
They had spoken the first fond words and kissed each other over
and over again. "How could this have happened, Rafael?" she
whispered again, with her head pressed to his; she did not wish to
look at him while she spoke.

"Mother," he answered, "it is worse to cut down the woods at home,
at Hellebergene, than that I--"

She raised her head and looked at him. She had taken off her hat
and gloves, but now she put them quickly on again.

"Rafael, dear," she said, "shall we go for a walk together in the
park, under the grand old trees?"

She had felt his retort to be ingenious.

After this episode, however, England, and more especially her
son's schoolfellows, became distasteful to her, and she constantly
made plans to keep him away from the latter out of school hours.

She found this very easy; sometimes she went over his studies with
him, at others they visited all the Manufactories and "Works" for
miles round.

She liked to see for herself and awakened the same taste in him.

Factories which, as a rule, were closed to visitors, were readily
opened to the pretty elegant lady and her handsome boy, "who after
all knew nothing at all about it;" and they were able to see
almost all that they wished. It was a less congenial task to use
her influence to turn his thoughts to higher things, but it was
rarely, nevertheless, that she failed. She struggled hard over
what she did not understand and sought for help. To explain these
things to Rafael in the most attractive manner possible became a
new occupation for her.

His natural disposition inclined him to such studies; but to a boy
of thirteen, who was thus kept from his comrades and their sports,
it soon became a nuisance.

No sooner had Fru Kaas noticed this than she took active steps.
They left England and crossed to France.

The strange speech threw him back on her; no one shared him with
her. They settled in Calais. A few days after their arrival she
cut her hair short; she hoped that it would touch him to see that
as he would not look like her, she tried to look like him--to be
a. boy like him. She bought a smart new hat, she composed a jaunty
costume, new from top to toe, for EVERYTHING must be altered with
the hair. But when she stood before him, looking like a girl of
twenty-five, merry, almost boisterous, he was simply dismayed--
nay, it was some time before he could altogether comprehend what
had happened. As long as he could remember his mother, her eyes
had always looked forth from beneath a crown; more solemn, more

"Mother," he said, "where are you?"

She grew pale and grave, and stammered something about its being
more comfortable--about red hair not looking well when it began to
lose its colour--and went into her room. There she sat with his
hair before her and her own beside it; she wept.

"Mother, where are you?" She might have answered, "Rafael, where
are you?"

She went about with him everywhere. In France two handsome,
stylishly dressed people are always certain to be noticed, a thing
which she thoroughly appreciated.

During their different expeditions she always spoke French; he
begged her to talk Norse at least now and then, but all in vain.

Here, too, they visited every possible and impossible factory.
Unpractical and reserved as she was on ordinary occasions, she
could be full of artifice and coquetry whenever she wished to gain
access to a steam bakery and particular as she generally was about
her toilette, she would come away again sooty and grimy if thereby
she could procure for Rafael some insight into mechanics. She
shrank from foul air as from the cholera, yet inhaled sulphuric
acid gas as though it had been ozone for his sake.

"Seeing for yourself, Rafael, is the substance, other methods are
its shadow;" or "Seeing for yourself, Rafael, is meat and drink,
the other is but literature."

He was not quite of the same opinion: he thought that Notre Dame
de Paris, from which he was daily dragged away, was the richest
banquet that he had yet enjoyed, while from the factory of Mayel
et fils there issued the most deadly odours.

His reading--she had encouraged him in it for the sake of the
language and had herself helped him; now she was jealous of it and
could not be persuaded to get him new books; but he got them

They had been in Calais for several months; he had masters and was
beginning to feel himself at home, when there arrived at the
pension a widow from one of the colonies, accompanied by her
daughter, a girl of thirteen.

The new comers had not appeared at meals for more than two days
before the young gentleman began to pay his court to the young
lady. From the first moment it was a plain case. Very soon every
one in the pension was highly amused to notice how fluent his
French was becoming; his choice of words at times was even
elegant! The girl taught him it without a trace of grammar, by
charm, sprightliness, a little nonsense; a pair of confiding eyes
and a youthful voice were sufficient. It was from her that he got,
by stealth, one novel after another. By stealth it had to be; by
stealth Lucie had procured them; by stealth she gave them to him;
by stealth they were read; by stealth she took them back again.
This reading made him a little absent-minded, but otherwise
nothing betrayed his flights into literature: to be sure, they
were not very wonderful.

Fru Kaas noticed her son's flirtation, and smiled with the rest
over his progress in French. She had less objection to this
friendship, in which, to a great extent, she shared, than to those
in England, from which she had been quite excluded. In the
evenings she would take the mother and daughter out for short
excursions; and these she greatly enjoyed. But the novel reading
which the young people carried on secretly had resulted in
conversations of a "grown up" type. They talked of love with the
deep experience which is proper to their age, they talked with
still greater discretion as to when their wedding should take
place; on this point they indirectly said much which caused them
many a delightful tremor. As they were accustomed to talk about
themselves before others, to describe their feelings in a veiled
form, it often happened when there were many people near that they
carried this amusement further, and before they were themselves
aware of it, they were in the full tide of a symbolic language and
played "catch" with each other.

Fru Kaas noticed one evening that the word "rose" was drawn out to
a greater length than it was possible for any rose to attain to;
at the same time she saw the languishing look in their eyes, and
broke in with the question, "What do you mean about the rose,

If any one had peeped behind a rose-bush and caught them kissing
one another, a thing they had never done, they could not have
blushed more.

The next day Fru Kaas found new rooms, a long way from the quay
near which they were living.

Rafael had suffered greatly at being torn away from England just
as he had come down from his high horse and had put himself on a
par with his companions, but not the least notice was taken of his
trouble; it had only annoyed his mother.

To be absolutely debarred from the books he was so fond of had
been hard; but up to this time, being in a foreign land, amid
foreign speech, he had always fallen back upon her. Now he openly
defied her. He went straight off to the hotel and sought out
Madame Mery and her daughter as though nothing had occurred. This
he did every day when he had finished his lessons. Lucie had now
become his sole romance; he gave all his leisure time to her, and
not only that (for it no longer sufficed to see her at her
mother's), they met on the quay! At times a maid-servant walked
with them for appearance sake, at others she kept in the
background. Sometimes they would go on board a Norwegian ship,
sometimes they wandered about or strolled beneath some great
trees. When he saw her in her short frock come out of the door,
saw her quick movements, and her lively signals to him with
parasol or hat or flowers, the quay, the ships, the bales, the
barrels, the air, the noise, the crowd, all seemed to play and

"Enfant! si j'etais roi je donerais l'empire,
Et mon char, et mon septre, et mon peuple a genoux,"

and he ran to meet her.

He never dared to do more than to take both her chubby brown
hands, nor to say more than "You are very sweet, you are very very
good." And she never went further than to look at him, walk with
him, laugh with him, and say to him, "You are not like the
others." What experiences there had been in the life of this girl
of thirteen goodness alone knows. He never asked her, he was too
sure of her.

He learned French from her as one bird feeds from another's bill,
or as one who looks at his image in a fountain, as be drinks from

One day, as mother and son were at breakfast, she glanced quietly
across at him. "I heard of an excellent preparatory school of
mechanics at Rouen," she said, "so I wrote to inquire about it,
and here is the answer. I approve of it in all respects, as you
will do when you read it. I think that we shall go to Rouen; what
do you say to it?"

He grew first red, then white; then put down his bread, his table
napkin; got up and left the room. Later in the day she asked him
whether he would not read the letter; he left her without
answering. At last, just as he was going to meet Lucie on the
quay, she said, and this time with determination, that they were
to leave in the course of an hour. She had already packed up; as
they stood there the man came to fetch the luggage. At that moment
he felt that he could thoroughly understand why his father had
beaten her.

As they sat in the carriage which took them to the station he
suffered keenly. It could not nave been worse, he thought, if his
mother had stabbed him with a knife. He did not sit beside her in
the railway carriage.

During the first days at Rouen he would not answer when she spoke
to him, nor ask a single question. He had adopted her own tactics;
he carried them through with a cruelty of which he was not aware.

For a long time he had been disposed to criticise her; now that
this criticism was extended to all that she said or did, the
spirit of accusation tinctured her whole life; their joint past
seemed altered and debased.

His father's bent form, in the log chair on the hairless skin,
malodorous and dirty, rose up before him, in vivid contrast with
his mother in her well appointed, airy, perfumed rooms!

When Rafael stood by his father's body he had felt the same thing-
-that the old man had been badly treated. He himself had been
encouraged to neglect his father, to shun him, to evade his
orders. At that time he had laid the blame on the people on the
estate; now he put it all down to his mother's account. His father
had certainly adored her once, and this feeling had changed into
wild self-consuming hatred. What had happened? He did not know;
but he could not but admit that his mother would have tried the
patience of Job.

He pictured to himself how Lucie would come running with her
flowers, search for him over the whole quay, farther and farther
every time, standing still at last. He could not think of it
without tears, and without a feeling of bitterness.

But a child is a child. It was not a life-long grief. As the place
was new and historically interesting, and as lessons had now begun
and his mother was always with him, this feeling wore off, but the
mutual restraint was still there. The critical spirit which had
first been roused in England never afterwards left Rafael.

The hours of study which they passed together produced good
results. Beginning as her pupil, he had ended by becoming her
teacher. She was anxious to keep up with him, and this was an
advantage to him, on account of her almost too minute accuracy,
but still more from her intelligent questions. Apart from study
they passed many pleasant hours together, but they both knew that
something was missing in their conversation which could never be
there again.

At longer or shorter intervals a shy silence interrupted this
intercourse. Sometimes it was he, sometimes she, who, for some
cause or other, often a most trivial one, elected not to reply,
not to ask a question, not to see. When they were good friends he
appreciated the best side of her character, the self-sacrificing
life which she led for him. When they were not friends it was
exactly the opposite. When they were friends, he, as a rule, did
whatever she wished. He tried to atone for the past. He was in the
land of courtesy and influenced by its teaching. When he was not
friends with her he behaved as badly as possible. He early got
among bad companions and into dissipated habits; he was the very
child of Rebellion. At times he had qualms of conscience on
account of it.

She guessed this, and wished him to guess that she guessed it.

"I perceive a strange atmosphere here, fie! Some one has mixed
their atmosphere with yours, fie!" And she sprinkled him with

He turned as red as fire and, in his shame and misery, did not
know which way to look. But if he attempted to speak she became as
stiff as a poker, and, raising her small hand, "Taisez-vous des
egards, sil vous plait."

It must be said in her excuse that, notwithstanding the daring
books which she had written, she had had no experience of real
life; she knew no form of words for such an occasion. It came at
last to this pass, that she, who had at one time wished to control
his whole life and every thought in it, and who would not share
him with any one, not even with a book, gradually became unwilling
to have any relations with him outside his studies.

The French language especially lends itself to formal intercourse
and diplomacy. They grasped this fact from the first. It may,
indeed, have contributed to form their mutual life. It was more
equitable and caused fewer collisions. At the slightest
disagreement it was at once "Monsieur mon fils" or simply
"Monsieur," or "Madame ma mere," or "Madame."

At one time his health seemed likely to suffer: his rapid growth
and the studies, to which she kept him very closely, were too much
for his strength.

But just then something remarkable occurred. At the time when
Rafael was nineteen he was one day in a French chemical factory,
and, as it were in a flash, saw how half the power used in the
machinery might be saved. The son of the owner who had brought him
there was a fellow-student. To him he confided his discovery. They
worked it out together with feverish excitement to the most minute
details. It was very complex, for it was the working of the
factory itself which was involved. The scheme was carefully gone
into by the owner, his son, and their assistants together, and it
was decided to try it. It was entirely successful; LESS than half
the motive power now sufficed.

Rafael was away at the time that it was inaugurated; he had gone
down a mine. His mother was not with him; he never took her down
mines with him. As soon as ever he returned home he hurried off
with her to see the result of his work. They saw everything, and
they both blushed at the respect shown to them by the workmen.
They were quite touched when, the owner being called, they heard
his expressions of boundless delight. Champagne flowed for them,
accompanied by the warmest thanks. The mother received a beautiful
bouquet. Excited by the wine and the congratulations, proud of his
recognition as a genius, Rafael left the place with his mother on
his arm. It seemed to him as though he were on one side, and all
the rest of the world on the other. His mother walked happily
beside him, with her bouquet in her hand. Rafael wore a new
overcoat--one after his own heart, very long and faced with silk,
and of which he was excessively proud. It was a clear winter's
day; the sun shone on the silk, and on something more as well.

"There is not a speck on the sky, mother," he said.

"Nor one on your coat either," she retorted; for there had been a
great many on his old one, and each had had its history.

He was too big now to be turned to ridicule, and too happy as
well. She heard him humming to himself: it was the Norwegian
national air. They came back to the town again as from Elysium.
All the passers-by looked at them: people quickly detect
happiness. Besides Rafael was a head taller than most of them and
fairer in complexion. He walked quickly along beside his elegant
mother, and looked across the Boulevard as though from a sunny

"There are days on which one feels oneself a different person," he

"There are days on which one receives so much," she answered,
pressing his arm.

They went home, threw aside their wraps, and looked at one
another. Sketches of the machinery which they had just seen lay
about, as well as some rough drawings. These she collected and
made into a roll.

"Rafael," she said, and drew herself up, half laughing, half
trembling, "kneel; I wish to knight you."

It did not seem unnatural to him; he did so.

"Noblesse oblige," she said, and let the roll of paper approach
his head; but therewith she dropped it and burst into tears.

He spent a merry evening with his friends, and was
enthusiastically applauded. But as he lay in bed that night he
felt utterly despondent. The whole thing might, after all, have
been a mere chance. He had seen so much, had acquired so much
information; it was no discovery that he had made. What was it,
then? He was certainly not a genius; that must be an exaggeration.
Could one imagine a genius without a victor's confidence, or had
his peculiar life destroyed that confidence? This anxiety which
constantly intruded itself; this bad conscience; this dreadful,
vile conscience; this ineradicable dread; was it a foreboding? Did
it point to the future?

It was about half a year after this that his desultory studies
became concentrated on electricity, and after a time this took
them to Munich. During the course of these studies he began to
write, quite spontaneously. The students had formed a society, and
Rafael was expected to contribute a paper. But his contribution
was so original that they begged him to show it to the professor,
and this encouraged him greatly. It was the professor, too, who
had his first article printed. A Norwegian technical periodical
accepted a subsequent one, and this was the external influence
which turned his thoughts once more towards Norway. Norway rose
before him as the promised land of electricity. The motive power
of its countless waterfalls was sufficient for the whole world! He
saw his country during the winter darkness gleaming with electric
lustre. He saw her, too, the manufactory of the world, the
possessor of navies. Now he had something to go home for!

His mother did not share his love for their country, and had no
desire to live in Norway. But the money which she had saved up for
his education bad been spent long ago. Hellebergene had had its
share. The estate did not yield an equivalent, for it was
essentially a timbered estate, and the trees on it were still

So it was to be home! A few years alone at Hellebergene was just
what he wished for. But--something always occurred to prevent
their departure at the time fixed for it. First he was detained by
an invention which he wished to patent. Up to the present time he
had only sketched out ideas which others had adopted; now it was
to be different. The invention was duly patented and handed over
to an agent to sell; but still they did not start. What was the
hindrance? Another invention with a fresh patent more likely to
sell than the first, which unfortunately did not go off. This
patent was also taken out, which again cost money, and was handed
over to the agent to be sold. Could he not start now? Well, yes,
he thought he could. But Fru Kaas soon realised that he was not
serious, so she sought the help of a young relative, Hans Ravn, an
engineer, like most of the Ravns. Rafael liked Hans, for he was
himself a Ravn in temperament, a thing that he had not realised
before; it was quite a revelation to him. He had believed that the
Ravns were like his mother, but now found that she greatly
differed from them. To Hans Ravn Fru Kaas said plainly that now
they must start. The last day of May was the date fixed on, and
this Hans was to tell every one, for it would make Rafael bestir
himself, his mother thought, if this were known everywhere. Hans
Ravn spread this news far and near, partly because it was his
province to do so, partly because he hoped it would be the
occasion of a farewell entertainment such as had never been seen.
A banquet actually did take place amid general enthusiasm, which
ended in the whole company forming a procession to escort their
guest to his house. Here they encountered a crowd of officers who
were proceeding home in the same manner. They nearly came to
blows, but fraternised instead, and the engineers cheered the
officers and the officers the engineers.

The next day the history of the two entertainments and the
collision between the guests went the round of the papers.

This produced results which Fru Kaas had not foreseen. The first
was a very pleasant one. The professor who had had Rafael's first
article published drove up to the door, accompanied by his family.
He mounted the stairs, and asked her if she would not, in their
company, once more visit the prettiest parts of Munich and its
vicinity. She felt flattered, and accepted the invitation. As they
drove along they talked of nothing but Rafael: partly about his
person, for he was the darling of every lady, partly about the
future which lay before him. The professor said that he had never
had a more gifted pupil. Fru Kaas had brought an excellent
binocular glass with her, which she raised to her eyes from time
to time to conceal her emotion, and their hearty praise seemed to
flood the landscape and buildings with sunshine.

The little party lunched together, and drove home in the

When Fru Kaas re-entered her room, she was greeted by the scent of
flowers. Many of their friends who had not till now known when
they were to leave had wished to pay them some compliment. Indeed,
the maid said that the bell had been ringing the whole morning. A
little later Rafael and Hans Ravn came in with one or two friends.
They proposed to dine together. The sale of the last patent seemed
to be assured, and they wished to celebrate the event. Fru Kaas
was in excellent spirits, so off they went.

They dined in the open air with a number of other people round
them. There was music and merriment, and the subdued hum of
distant voices rose and fell in the twilight. When the lamps were
lighted, they had on one side the glare of a large town, on the
other the semi-darkness was only relieved by points of light; and
this was made the subject of poetical allusions in speeches to the
friends who were so soon to leave them.

Just then two ladies slowly passed near Rafael's chair. Fru Kaas,
who was sitting opposite, noticed them, but he did not. When they
had gone a short distance they stood still and waited, but did not
attract his attention. Then they came slowly back again, passing
close behind his chair, but still in vain. This annoyed Fru Kaas.
Her individuality was so strong that her silence cast a shadow
over the whole party; they broke up.

The next morning Rafael was out again on business connected with
the patent. The bell rang, and the maid came in with a bill; it
had been brought the previous day as well, she said. It was from
one of the chief restaurateurs of the town, and was by no means a
small one. Fru Kaas had no idea that Rafael owed money--least of
all to a restaurateur. She told the maid to say that her son was
of age, and that she was not his cashier. There was another ring--
the maid reappeared with a second bill, which had also been
brought the day before. It was from a well-known wine merchant;
this, too, was not a small one. Another ring; this time it was a
bill for flowers and by no means a trifle. This, too, had been
brought the day before. Fru Kaas read it twice, three times, four
times: she could not realise that Rafael owed money for flowers--
what did he want them for? Another ring; now it was a bill from a
jeweller. Fru Kaas became so nervous at the ringing and the bills
that she took to flight. Here, then, was the explanation of their
postponed departure: he was held captive; this was the reason for
all his anxiety about selling the patent. He had to buy his
freedom. She was hardly in the street when an unpretending little
old woman stepped up to her, and asked timidly if this might be
Frau von Kas? Another bill, thought Fru Kaas, eyeing her closely.
She reminded one of a worn-out rose-bush with a few faded blossoms
on it: she seemed poor and inexperienced in all save humility.

"What do you want with me?" inquired Fru Kaas sympathetically,
resolved to pay the poor thing at once, whatever it might be.

The little woman begged "Tausend Mal um Verzeihung," but she was
"Einer Beamten-Wittwe" and had read in the paper that the young
Von Kas was leaving, and both she and her daughter were in such
despair that she had resolved to come to Frau von Kas, who was the
only one--and here she began to cry.

"What does your daughter want from me?" asked Fru Kaas rather less

"Ach! tausend Mal um Verzeihung gnadige Frau," her daughter was
married to Hofrath von Rathen--"ihrer grossen Schonheit wegen"--
ah, she was so unhappy, for Hofrath von Rathen drank and was cruel
to her. Herr von Kas had met her at the artists' fete--"Und so
wissen Sie zwei so junge, reizende Leute." She looked up at Fru
Kaas through her tears--looked up as though from a rain-splashed
cellar window; but Fru Kaas had reverted to her abrupt manner, and
as if from an upper storey the poor little woman heard, "What does
your daughter want with my son?"

"Tausend Mal um Verzeihung," but it had seemed to them that her
daughter might go with them to Norway, Norway was such a free
country. "Und die zwei Jungen haben sich so gern."

"Has he promised her this?" said Fru Kaas, with haughty coldness.

"Nein, nein, nein," was the frightened reply. They two, mother and
daughter, had thought of it that day. They had read in the paper
that the young Von Kas was going away. "Herr Gott in Himmel!" if
her daughter could thus be rid at once of all her troubles! Frau
von Kas had not an idea of what a faithful soul, what a tender
wife her daughter was.

Fru Kaas crossed hastily over to the opposite pavement. She did
not go quite so fast as a person in chase of his hat, but it
seemed to the poor little creature, left in the lurch, with folded
hands and frightened eyes, that she had vanished faster than her
hopes. On the other side of the waystood a pretty young flower-
girl who was waiting for the elegant lady hurrying in her
direction. "Bitte, gnadige Frau." Here is another, thought the
hunted creature. She looked round for help, she flew up the
street, away, away--when another lady popped up right in front of
her, evidently trying to catch her eye. Fru Kaas dashed into the
middle of the street and took refuge in a carriage.

"Where to?" asked the driver.

This she had not stopped to consider, but nevertheless answered
boldly, "The Bavaria!"

In point of fact she had had an idea of seeing the view of the
city and its environs from "Bavaria's" lofty head before leaving.
There were a great many people there, but Fru Kaas's turn to go up
soon came; but just as she had reached the head of the giantess
and was going to look out, she heard a lady whisper close behind
her, "That is his mother." It was probable that there were several
mothers up there in "Bavaria's" head beside Fru Kaas, nevertheless
she gathered her skirts together and hurried down again.

Rafael came home to dine with his mother; he was in the highest
spirits--he had sold his patent. But he found her sitting in the
farthest corner of the sofa, with her big binocular glass in her
hand. When he spoke to her she did not answer, but turned the
glass with the small end towards him; she wished him to look as
far off as possible.

Content of Chapter 2 (Bjornstjerne Bjornson's book: Absalom's Hair; and A Painful Memory)

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Absalom's Hair; And A Painful Memory - Chapter 3 Absalom's Hair; And A Painful Memory - Chapter 3

Absalom's Hair; And A Painful Memory - Chapter 3
Chapter 3It was a bright evening in the beginning of June that theydisembarked from the steamer, and at once left the town in theboat which was to take them to Hellebergene. They did not know anyof the boatmen, although they were from the estate; the boat alsowas new.But the islands among which they were soon rowing were the oldones, which had long awaited them and seemed to have swum out tomeet them, and now to move one behind the other so that the boatmight pass between them. Neither mother nor son spoke to the men,nor did they talk to each ether.

Absalom's Hair; And A Painful Memory - Chapter 1 Absalom's Hair; And A Painful Memory - Chapter 1

Absalom's Hair; And A Painful Memory - Chapter 1
Chapter 1Harald Kaas was sixty.He had given up his free, uncriticised bachelor life; his yachtwas no longer seen off the coast in summer; his tours to Englandand the south had ceased; nay, he was rarely to be found even athis club in Christiania. His gigantic figure was never seen in thedoorways; he was failing.Bandy-legged he had always been, but this defect had increased;his herculean back was rounded, and he stooped a little. Hisforehead, always of the broadest--no one else's hat would fit him--was now one of the highest, that is to say, he had lost all hishair, except a ragged lock