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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesAbsalom's Hair; And A Painful Memory - Chapter 5
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Absalom's Hair; And A Painful Memory - Chapter 5 Post by :chris24wms Category :Long Stories Author :Bjornstjerne Bjornson Date :July 2011 Read :1094

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Absalom's Hair; And A Painful Memory - Chapter 5

Chapter 5


The next day they were married. That night, long after his wife
had fallen into her usual healthy sleep, Rafael thought
sorrowfully of his lost Paradise. HE could not sleep. As he lay
there he seemed to look out over a meadow, which had no
springtime, and therefore no flowers. He retraced the events of
the past day. His would be a marred life which had never known the
sweet joys of courtship.

Angelika did not share his beliefs. She was a stern realist, a
sneering sceptic, in the most literal sense a cynic.

Her even breathing, her regular features, seemed to answer him.
"Hey-dey, my boy, we shall be merry for a thousand years! Better
sleep now, you will need sleep if you mean to try which of us is
the stronger."

The next day their marriage was the marvel of the town and
neighbourhood.

"Just like his mother!" people exclaimed; "what promise there was
in her! She might have chosen so as to have been now in one of the
best positions in the country--when, lo and behold! she went and
made the most idiotic marriage. The most idiotic? No, the son's is
more idiotic still." And so on and so forth.

Most people seem naturally impelled to exalt the hero of the hour
higher than they themselves intend, and when a reaction comes, to
decry him in an equal degree. Few people see with their own eyes,
and on special occasions even magnifying or diminishing glasses
are called into play with most amusing results.

"Rafael Kaas a handsome fellow?--well, yes, but too big, too fair,
no repose, altogether too restless. Rich? He? He has not a stiver!
The savings eaten up long ago, nothing coming in, they have been
encroaching on their capital for some time; and the beds of cement
stone--who the deuce would join with him in any large undertaking?
They talk about his gifts, his genius even; but IS he very highly
gifted? Is it anything more than what he has acquired? The saving
of motive power at the factory? Was that anything more than a mere
repetition of what he had done before?--and that, of course, only
what he had seen elsewhere."

Just the same with the hints which he had given. "Merely close
personal observation; for it must be admitted that he had more of
that than most people; but as for ingenuity! Well, he could make
out a good case for himself, but that was about the extent of his
ingenuity."

"His earlier articles, as well as those which had recently
appeared on the use of electricity in baking and tanning--could
you call those discoveries? Let us see what he will invent now
that he has come home, and cannot get ideas from reading and from
seeing people."

Rafael noticed this change--first among the ladies, who all seemed
to have been suddenly blown away, with a few exceptions, who did
not respect a marriage like his, and who would not give in.

His relations, also, held somewhat aloof. "It was not thus that he
showed himself a true Ravn. He was so in temperament and
disposition, perhaps, but it was just his defect that he was only
a half-breed."

The change of front was complete: he noticed it on all hands. But
he was man enough, and had sufficient obstinacy as well, to let
himself be urged on by this to hard work, and in his wife there
was still more of the same feeling.

He had a sense of elevation in having done his duty, and as long
as this tension lasted it kept him up to the mark. On the day of
his marriage (from early in the morning until the time when the
ceremony took place) he employed himself in writing to his mother;
a wonderful, a solemn letter in the sight of the All-Knowing,--the
cry of a tortured soul in utmost peril.

It depended on his mother whether she would receive them and let
their life become all that was now possible. Angelika--their
business, manager, housekeeper, chief. He--devoted to his
experiments. She--the tender mother, the guide of both.

It seemed to him that their future depended on this letter and the
answer to it, and he wrote in that spirit. Never had he so fully
depicted himself, so fully searched his own heart.

It was the outcome of what he had lived through during these last
few days, the mellowing influence of his struggles during the
night watches. Nothing could have been more candid.

He was pained that he did not receive an answer at once, although
he realised what a blow it would be to her. He understood that, to
begin with, it would destroy all her dreams, as it had already
destroyed. But he relied on her optimistic nature, which he had
never known surpassed, and on the depth of her purpose in all that
she undertook. He knew that she drew strength and resolution from
all that was deepest in their common life.

Therefore he gave her time, notwithstanding Angelika's
restlessness, which could hardly be controlled. She even began to
sneer; but there was something holy in his anticipation: her words
fell unheeded.

When on the third day he had received no letter, he telegraphed,
merely these words: "Mother, send me an answer." The wires had
never carried anything more fraught with unspoken grief.

He could not return home. He remained alone outside the town until
the evening, by which time the answer might well have arrived. It
was there.

"My beloved son, YOU are always welcome; most of all when you are
unhappy!" The word YOU was underlined. He grew deadly pale, and
went slowly into his own room. There Angelika let him remain for a
while in peace, then came in and lit the lamp. He could see that
she was much agitated, and that every now and then she cast hasty
glances at him.

"Do you know what, Rafael? you ought simply to go straight to your
mother. It is too bad, both on account of our future and hers. We
shall be ruined by gossip and trash."

He was too unhappy to be contemptuous. She had no respect for
anybody or anything, he thought; why, then, should he be angry
because she felt none, either for his mother or for his position
in regard to her? But how vulgar Angelika seemed to him, as she
bent over a troublesome lamp and let her impatience break out! Her
mouth but too easily acquired a coarse expression. Her small head
would rear itself above her broad shoulders with a snake-like
expression, and her thick wrist--

"Well," she said, "when all is said and done, that disgusting
Hellebergene is not worth making a fuss over."

Now she is annoyed with herself, he thought, and must have her
say. She will not rest until she has picked a quarrel; but she
shall not have that satisfaction.

"After all that has been said and all that has happened there--"

But this, too, missed fire. "How could I have supposed that she
could manage my mother?" He got up and paced the room. "Is that
what mother felt? Yet they were such good friends. I suspected
nothing then. How is it that mother's instinct is always more
delicate? have I blunted mine?"

When, a little later, Angelika came in again, he looked so unhappy
that she was struck by it, and she then showed herself so kind and
fertile in resource on his behalf, and there was such sunshine in
her cheerfulness and flow of spirits during the evening, that he
actually brightened up under it, and thought--If mother could have
brought herself to try the experiment, perhaps after all it might
have answered. There is so much that is good and capable in this
curious creature.

He went to the children. From the first day he and they had taken
to each other. They had been unhappy in the great pension, with a
mother who seldom came near them or took any notice of them,
except as clothes to be patched, mouths to feed, or faults to be
punished.

Rafael had in his nature the unconventionality which delights in
children's confidence, and he felt a desire to love and to be
loved. Children are quick to feel this.

They only wasted Angelika's time. They were in her way now more
than ever; for it may be said at once that, Rafael had become
EVERYTHING to her. This was the fascination in her, and whatever
happened, it never lost its power. Her tenderness, her devotion,
were boundless. By the aid of her personal charm, her resourceful
ingenuity, she obtained every advantage for him within her range,
and even beyond it. It was felt in her devotion by night and day,
when anything was to be done, in an untiring zeal such as only so
strong and healthy a woman could have had in her power to render.
But in words it did not show itself, hardly even in looks: except,
perhaps, while she fought to win him, but never since then.

Had she been able to adhere to one line of conduct, if only for a
few weeks at a time, and let herself be guided by her never-
failing love, he would, in this stimulating atmosphere, have made
of his married life what his mother, in spite of all, had made of
hers.

Why did not this happen? Because the jealousy which she had
aroused in him and which had drawn him to her again was now
reversed.

They were hardly married before it was she who was jealous! Was it
strange? A middle-aged woman, even though she be endowed with the
strongest personality and the widest sympathy, when she wins a
young husband who is the fashion--wins him as Angelika won hers--
begins to live in perpetual disquietude lest any one should take
him from her. Had she not taken him herself?

If we were to say that she was jealous of every human being who
came there, man or woman, old or young, beside those whom he met
elsewhere, it would be an exaggeration, but this exaggeration
throws a strong light upon the state of things, which actually
existed.

If he became at all interested in conversation with any one, she
always interrupted. Her face grew hard, her right foot began to
move; and if this did not suffice, she struck in with sulky or
provoking remarks, no matter who was there.

If something were said in praise of any one, and it seemed to
excite his interest, she would pooh-pooh it, literally with a
"pooh!" a shrug of the shoulders, a toss of the head, or an
impatient tap of the foot.

At first he imagined that she really knew something
disadvantageous about all those whom she thus disparaged, and he
was filled with admiration at her acquaintance with half Norway.
He believed in her veracity as he believed in few things. He
believed, too, that it was unbounded like so many of her
qualities. She said the most cynical things in the plainest manner
without apparent design.

But little by little it dawned upon him that she said precisely
what it pleased her to say, according to the humour that she was
in.

One day, as they were going to table--he had come in late and was
hungry--he was delighted to see that there were oysters.

"Oysters! at this time of the year," he cried. "They must be very
expensive."

"Pooh! that was the old woman, you know. She persuaded me to take
them for you. I got them for next to nothing."

"That was odd; you have been out, then, too?"

"Yes, and I saw YOU; you were walking with Emma Ravn."

He understood at once, by the tone of her voice, that this was not
permitted, but all the same he said, "Yes; how sweet she is! so
fresh and candid."

"She! Why, she had a child before she was married."

"Emma? Emma Ravn?"

"Yes! But I do not know who by."

"Do you know, Angelika, I do not believe that," he said solemnly.

"You can do as you please about that, but she was at the pension
at the time, so you can judge for yourself if I am right."

He could not believe that any human being could so belie
themselves. Emma's eyes, clear as water in a fountain where one
can count the pebbles at the bottom, rose to his mind, in all
their innocence. He could not believe that such eyes could lie. He
grew livid, he could not eat, he left the table. The world was
nothing but a delusion, the purest was impure.

For a long time after this, whenever he met Emma or her white-
haired mother, he turned aside, so as not to come face to face
with them.

He had clung to his relations: their weak points were apparent to
every one, but their ability and honesty no less so. This one
story destroyed his confidence, impaired his self-reliance,
shattered his belief, and thus made him the poorer. How could he
be fit for anything, when he so constantly allowed himself to be
befooled?

There was not one word of truth in the whole story.

His simple confidence was held in her grasp, like a child in the
talons of an eagle; but this did not last much longer.

Fortunately, she was without calculation or perseverance. She did
not remember one day what she had said the day before; for each
day she coolly asserted whatever was demanded by the necessity of
the moment. He, on the contrary, had an excellent memory; and his
mathematical mind ranged the evidence powerfully against her. Her
gifts were more aptness and quickness than anything else, they
were without training, without cohesion, and permeated with
passion at all points. Therefore he could, at any moment, crush
her defence; but whenever this happened, it was so evident that
she had been actuated by jealousy that it flattered his vanity;
which was the reason why he did not regard it seriously enough--
did not pursue his advantage. Perhaps if he had done so, he would
have discovered more, for this jealousy was merely the form which
her uneasiness took. This uneasiness arose from several causes.

The fact was that she had a past and she had debts which she had
denied, and now she lived in perpetual dread lest any one should
enlighten him. If any one got on the scent, she felt sure that
this would be used against her. It merely depended on what he
learned--in other words, with whom he associated.

She could disregard anonymous letters because he did so, but there
were plenty of disagreeable people who might make innuendoes.

She saw that Rafael too, to some extent, avoided his countless
friends of old days. She did not understand the reason, but it was
this: that he, as well, felt that they knew more of her than it
was expedient for HIM to know. She saw that he made ingenious
excuses for not being seen out with her. This, too, she
misconstrued. She did not at all understand that he, in his way,
was quite as frightened as she was of what people might say. She
believed that he sought the society of others rather than hers. If
nothing more came of such intercourse, stories might be told. This
was the reason for her slanders about almost every one he spoke
to. If they had vilified her, they must be vilified in return.

She had debts, and this could not be concealed unless she
increased them; this she did with a boldness worthy of a better
cause. The house was kept on an extravagant scale, with an
excellent table and great hospitality. Otherwise he would not be
comfortable at home, she said and believed.

She herself vied with the most fashionably dressed ladies in the
town. Her daily struggle to maintain her hold on him demanded
this. It followed, of course, that she got everything for
"nothing" or "the greatest bargain in the world." There was always
some one "who almost gave it" to her. He did not know himself how
much money he spent, perhaps, because she hunted and drove him
from one thing to another.

Originally he had thought of going abroad; but with a wife who
knew no foreign languages, with a large family--

Here at home, as he soon discovered, every one had lost confidence
in him. He dared not take up anything important, or else he wished
to wait a little before he came to any definite determination. In
the meantime, he did whatever came to hand, and that was often
work of a subordinate description. Both from weariness, and from
the necessity to earn a living, he ended by doing only mediocre
work, and let things drift.

He always gave out that this was only "provisional." His
scientific gifts, his inventive genius, with so many pounds on his
back, did not rise high, but they should yet! He had youth's
lavish estimate of time and strength, and therefore did not see,
for a long time, that the large family, the large house were
weighing him farther and farther down. If only he could have a
little peace, he thought, he would carry out his present ideas and
new ones also. He felt such power within him.

But peace was just what he never had. Now we come to the worst, or
more properly, to the sum of what has gone before. The ceaseless
uneasiness in which Angelika lived broke out into perpetual
quarrelling. For one thing, she had no self-command. A caprice, a
mistake, an anxiety over-ruled everything. She seized the smallest
opportunities. Again--and this was a most important factor--there
was her overpowering anxiety to keep possession of him; this drew
her away from what she should have paid most heed to, in order to
let him have peace. She continued her lavish housekeeping, she let
the children drift, she concentrated all her powers on him. Her
jealousy, her fears, her debts, sapped his fertile mind, destroyed
his good humour, laid desolate his love of the beautiful and his
creative power.

He had in particular one great project, which he had often, but
ineffectually, attempted to mature. The effort to do so had begun
seriously one day on the heights above Hellebergene, and had
continued the whole summer. Curiously enough, one morning, as he
sat at some most wearisome work, Hellebergene and Helene, in the
spring sunshine, rose before him, and with them his project, lofty
and smiling, came to him again. Then he begged for a little peace
in the house.

"Let me be quiet, if only for a month," he said. "Here is some
money. I have got an idea; I must and will have quiet. In a
month's time I shall have got on so far that perhaps I shall be
able to judge if it is worth continuing. It may be that this one
idea may entirely support us."

This was something which she could understand, and now he was able
to be quiet.

He had an office in the town, but sometimes took his papers home
with him in the evenings, for it often happened that something
would occur to him at one moment or another. She bestowed every
care on him; she even sat on the stairs while he was asleep at
midday, to prevent him from being disturbed.

This went on for a fortnight. Then it so chanced that, when he had
gone out for a walk, she rummaged among his papers, and there,
among drawings, calculations, and letters, she actually, for once
in a way, found something. It was in his handwriting and as
follows:

"More of the mother than the lover in her; more of the solicitude
of love than of its enjoyment. Rich in her affection, she would
not squander it in one day with you, but, mother-like, would
distribute it throughout your life. Instead of the whirl of the
rapids, a placid stream. Her love was devotion, never absorption.
YOU were one and SHE was one. Together we should have been more
powerful than two lovers are wont to be."

There was more of this, but Angelika could not read further, she
became so furious. Were these his own thoughts, or had he merely
copied them? There were no corrections, so most likely it was a
copy. In any case it showed where his thoughts were.

Rafael came quietly home, went straight to his room and lighted a
candle, even before he took off his overcoat. As he stood he wrote
down a few formulae, then seized a book, sat down astride of a
chair, and made a rapid calculation. Just then Angelika came in,
leaned forward towards him, and said in a low voice:

"You are a nice fellow! Now I know what you have in hand. Look
there: your secret thoughts are with that beast."

"Beast!" he repeated. His anger at being disturbed, at her having
found this particular paper, and now the abuse from her coarse
lips of the most delicate creature he had ever known, and, above
all, the absolute unexpectedness of the attack, made him lose his
head.

"How dare you? What do you mean?"

"Don't be a fool. Do you suppose that I don't guess that that is
meant for the girl who looked after your estate in order to catch
you?"

She saw that this hit the mark, so she went still further.

"She, the model of virtue! why, when she was a mere girl, she
disgraced herself with an old man."

As she spoke she was seized by the throat and flung backwards on
to the sofa, without the grasp being relaxed. She was breathless,
she saw his face over her; deadly rage was in it. A strength, a
wildness of which she had no conception, gazed upon her in sensual
delight at being able to strangle her.

After a wild struggle her arms sank down powerless, her will with
them; only her eyes remained wide open, in terror and wonderment.

Dare he? "Yes, he dare!" Her eyes grew dim, her limbs began to
tremble.

"You have taken MY apple, I tell you," was heard in a childish
voice from the next room, a soft lisping voice.

It came from the most peaceful innocence in the world! It saved
her!

He rushed out again; but even when the rage had left him which had
seized upon him and dominated him as a rider does a horse, he was
still not horrified at himself. His satisfaction at having at
length made his power felt was too great for that.

But by degrees there came a revulsion. Suppose he had killed her,
and had to go into penal servitude for the rest of his life for
it! Had such a possibility come into his life? Might it happen in
the future? No! no! no! How strange that Angelika should have
wounded him! How frightful her state of mind must be when she
could think so odiously of absolutely innocent people; and how
angry she must have been to behave in such a way towards him, whom
she loved above all others, indeed, as the only one for whom she
had to live!

A long, long sum followed: his faults, her faults, and the faults
of others. He cooled down and began to feel more like himself.

In an hour or two he was fit to go home, to find her on her bed,
dissolved in tears, prepared at once to throw her arms round his
neck.

He asked pardon a hundred times, with words, kisses, and caresses.

But with this scene his invention had fled. The spell was broken.
It never did more than flutter before him, tempting him to pursue
it once more; but he turned away from the whole subject and began
to work for money again. Something offered itself just at that
moment which Angelika had hunted up.

Back to the unending toil again. Now at last it became an
irritation to him: he chafed as the war horse chafes at being made
a beast of burden.

This made the scenes at home still worse. Since that episode their
quarrels knew no bounds. Words were no longer necessary to bring
them about: a gesture, a look, a remark of his unanswered, was
enough to arouse the most violent scenes. Hitherto they had been
restrained by the presence of others, but now it was the same
whether they were alone or not. Very soon, as far as brutality of
expression or the triviality of the question was concerned, he was
as bad or worse than she.

His idle fancy and creative genius found no other vent, but
overthrew and trampled underfoot many of life's most beautiful
gifts. Thus he squandered much of the happiness which such talents
can duly give. Sometimes his daily regrets and sufferings,
sometimes his passionate nature, were in the ascendant, but the
cause of his despair was always the same--that this could have
happened to him. Should he leave her? He would not thus escape.
The state of the case had touched his conscience at first, later
he had become fond of the children, and his mother's example said
to him, "Hold out, hold out!"

The unanimous prediction that this marriage would be dissolved as
quickly as it had been made he would prove to be untrue. Besides,
he knew Angelika too well now not to know that he would never
obtain a separation from her until, with the law at her back, she
had flayed him alive. He could not get free.

From the first it had been a question of honour and duty; honour
and duty on account of the child which was to come--and which did
not come. Here he had a serious grievance against her; but yet, in
the midst of the tragedy, he could not but be amused at the skill
with which she turned his own gallantries against him. At last he
dared not mention the subject, for he only heard in return about
his gay bachelor life.

The longer this state of things lasted and the more it became
known, the more incomprehensible it became to most people that
they did not separate--to himself, too, at times, during sleepless
nights. But it is sometimes the case that he, who makes a thousand
small revolts, cannot brace himself to one great one. The endless
strife itself strengthens the bonds, in that it saps the strength.

He deteriorated. This married life, wearing in every way, together
with the hard work, resulted in his not being equal to more than
just the necessities of the day. His initiative and will became
proportionately deadened.

A strange stagnation developed itself: he had hallucinations,
visions; he saw himself in them--his father! his mother! all the
pictures were of a menacing description.

At night he dreamed the most frightful things: his unbridled
fancy, his unoccupied creative power, took revenge, and all this
weakened him. He looked with admiration at his wife's robust
health: she had the physique of a wild beast. But at times their
quarrels, their reconciliations, brought revelations with them: he
could perceive her sorrows as well. She did not complain, she did
not say a word, she could not do so; but at times she wept and
gave way as only the most despairing can. Her nature was powerful,
and the struggle of her love beyond belief. The beauty of the
fulness of life was there, even when she was most repulsive. The
wild creature, wrestling with her destiny, often gave forth tragic
gleams of light.

One day his relation, the Government Secretary, met him. They
usually avoided each other, but to-day he stopped.

"Ah, Rafael," said the dapper little man nervously, "I was coming
to see you."

"My dear fellow, what is it?"

"Ah, I see that you guess; it is a letter from your mother."

"From my mother?"

During all the time since her telegram they had not exchanged a
word.

"A very long letter, but she makes a condition."

"Hum, hum! a condition?"

"Yes, but do not be angry; it is not a hard one: it is only that
you are to go away from the town, wherever you like, so long as
you can be quiet, and then you are to read it."

"You know the contents?"

"I know the contents, I will go bail for it."

What he meant, or why he was so perturbed by it, Rafael did not
understand, but it infected him; if he had had the money, and if
on that day he had been disengaged, he would have gone at once.
But he had not the money, not more than he wanted for the fete
that evening. He had the tickets for it in his pocket at that
moment. He had promised Angelika that he would go there with her,
and he would keep his promise, for it had been given after a great
reconciliation scene. A white silk dress had been the olive branch
of these last peaceful days. She therefore looked very handsome
that evening as she walked into the great hall of the Lodge, with
Rafael beside her tall and stately. She was in excellent spirits.
Her quiet eyes had a haughty expression as she turned her steps
with confident superiority towards those whom she wished to
please, or those whom she hoped to annoy.

HE did not feel confident. He did not like showing himself in
public with her, and lately it had precisely been in public places
that she had chosen to make scenes; besides which, he felt nervous
as to what his mother could wish to say to him.

A short time before he came to the fete, he had tried, in two
quarters, to borrow money, and each time had received only
excuses. This had greatly mortified him. His disturbed state of
mind, as is so often the case with nervous people, made him
excited and boisterous, nay, even made him more than usually
jovial. And as though a little of the old happiness were actually
to come to him that evening, he met his friend and relative Hans
Ravn, him and his young Bavarian wife, who had just come to the
town. All three were delighted to meet.

"Do you remember," said Hans Ravn, "how often you have lent me
money, Rafael?" and he drew him on one side. "Now I am at the top
of the tree, now I am married to an heiress, and the most charming
girl too; ah, you must know her better."

"She is pretty as well," said Rafael.

"And pretty as well--and good tempered; in fact, you see before
you the happiest man in Norway."

Rafael's eyes filled. Ravn put his hands on to his friend's
shoulders.

"Are you not happy, Rafael?"

"Not quite so happy as you, Hans--"

He left him to speak to some one else, then returned again.

"You say, Hans, that I have often lent you money."

"Are you pressed? Do you want some, Rafael? My dear fellow, how
much?"

"Can you spare me two thousand kroner?"

"Here they are."

"No, no; not in here, come outside."

"Yes, let us go and have some champagne to celebrate our meeting.
No, not our wives," he added, as Rafael looked towards where they
stood talking.

"Not our wives," laughed Rafael. He understood the intention, and
now he wished to enjoy his freedom thoroughly. They came in again
merrier and more boisterous than before.

Rafael asked Hans Ravn's young wife to dance. Her personal
attractions, natural gaiety, and especially her admiration of her
husband's relations, took him by storm. They danced twice, and
laughed and talked together afterwards.

Later in the evening the two friends rejoined their wives, so that
they might all sit together at supper. Even from a distance Rafael
could see by Angelika's face that a storm was brewing. He grew
angry at once. He had never been blamed more groundlessly. He was
never to have any unalloyed pleasure, then! But he confined
himself to whispering, "Try to behave like other people." But that
was exactly what she did not mean to do. He had left her alone,
every one had seen it. She would have her revenge. She could not
endure Hans Ravn's merriment, still less that of his wife, so she
contradicted rudely once, twice, three times, while Hans Ravn's
face grew more and more puzzled. The storm might have blown over,
for Rafael parried each thrust, even turning them into jokes, so
that the party grew merrier, and no feelings were hurt; but on
this she tried fresh tactics. As has been already said, she could
make a number of annoying gestures, signs and movements which only
he understood. In this way she showed him her contempt for
everything which every one, and especially he himself, said. He
could not help looking towards her, and saw this every time he did
so, until under the cover of the laughter of the others, with as
much fervour and affection as can be put into such a word, "You
jade!" he said.

"Jade; was ist das?" asked the bright-eyed foreigner.

This made the whole affair supremely ridiculous. Angelika herself
laughed, and all hoped that the cloud had been finally dispersed.
No!--as though Satan himself had been at table with them, she
would not give in.

The conversation again grew lively, and when it was at its height,
she pooh-poohed all their jokes so unmistakably that they were
completely puzzled. Rafael gave her a furious look, and then she
jeered at him, "You boy!" she said. After this Rafael answered her
angrily, and let nothing pass without retaliation, rough, savage
retaliation; he was worse than she was.

"But God bless me!" said good-natured Hans Ravn at length, "how
you are altered, Rafael!" His genial kindly eyes gazed at him with
a look which Rafael never forget.

"Ja, ich kan es nicht mehr aushalten" said the young Fru Ravn,
with tears in her eyes. She rose, her husband hurried to her, and
they left together. Rafael sat down again, with Angelika. Those
near them looked towards them and whispered together. Angry and
ashamed, he looked across at Angelika, who laughed. Everything
seemed to turn red before his eyes--he rose; he had a wild desire
to kill her there, before every one. Yes! the temptation
overpowered him to such an extent that he thought that people must
notice it.

"Are you not well, Kaas?" he heard some one beside him say.

He could not remember afterwards what he answered, or how he got
away; but still, in the street, he dwelt with ecstasy on the
thought of killing her, of again seeing her face turn black, her
arms fall powerless, her eyes open wide with terror; for that was
what would happen some day. He should end his life in a felon's
cell. That was as certainly a part of his destiny as had been the
possession of talents which he had allowed to become useless.

A quarter of an hour later he was at the observatory: he scanned
the heavens, but no stars were visible. He felt that he was
perspiring, that his clothes clung to him, yet he was ice-cold.
That is the future that awaits you, he thought; it runs ice-cold
through your limbs.

Then it was that a new and, until then, unused power, which
underlay all else, broke forth and took the command.

"You shall never return home to her, that is all past now, boy; I
will not permit it any longer."

What was it? What voice was that? It really sounded as though
outside himself. Was it his father's? It was a man's voice. It
made him clear and calm. He turned round, he went straight to the
nearest hotel, without further thought, without anxiety. Something
new was about to begin.

He slept for three hours undisturbed by dreams; it was the first
night for a long time that he had done so.

The following morning he sat in the little pavilion at the station
at Eidsvold with his mother's packet of letters laid open before
him. It consisted of a quantity of papers which he had read
through.

The expanse of Lake Mjosen lay cold and grey beneath the autumn
mist, which still shrouded the hillsides. The sound of hammers
from the workshops to the right mingled with the rumble of wheels
on the bridge; the whistle of an engine, the rattle of crockery
from the restaurant; sights and sounds seethed round him like
water boiling round an egg.

As soon as his mother had felt sure that Angelika was not really
enceinte she had busied herself in collecting all the information
about her which it was possible to obtain.

By the untiring efforts of her ubiquitous relations she had
succeeded to such an extent and in such detail as no examining
magistrate could have accomplished. And there now lay before him
letters, explanations, evidence, which the deponent was ready to
swear to, besides letters from Angelika herself: imprudent letters
which this impulsive creature could perpetrate in the midst of her
schemes; or deeply calculated letters, which directly contradicted
others which had been written at a different period, based on
different calculations. These documents were only the
accompaniment of a clear summing-up by his mother. It was
therefore she who had guided the investigations of the others and
made a digest of their discoveries. With mathematical precision
was here laid down both what was certain and what, though not
certain, was probable. No comment was added, not a word addressed
to himself.

That portion of the disclosures which related to Angelika's past
does not concern us. That which had reference to her relations
with Rafael began by proving that the anonymous letters, which had
been the means of preventing his engagement with Helene, had been
written by Angelika. This revelation and that which preceded it,
give an idea of the overwhelming humiliation under which Rafael
now suffered. What was he that he could be duped and mastered like
a captured animal; that what was best and what was worst in him
could lead him so far astray? Like a weak fool he was swept along;
he had neither seen nor heard nor thought before he was dragged
away from everything that was his or that was dear to him.

As he sat there, the perspiration poured from him as it had done
the night before, and again he felt a deadly chill. He therefore
went up to his room with the papers, which he locked up in his
trunk, and then set off at a run along the road. The passers-by
turned to stare after the tall fellow.

As he ran he repeated to himself, "Who are you, my lad? who are
you?" Then he asked the hills the same question, and then the
trees as well. He even asked the fog, which was now rolling off,
"Who am I? can you answer me that?"

The close-cropped half-withered turf mocked him--the cleared
potato patches, the bare fields, the fallen leaves.

"That which you are you will never be; that which you can you will
never do; that which you ought to become you will never attain to!
As you, so your mother before you. She turned aside--and your
father too--into absolute folly; perhaps their fathers before
them! This is a branch of a great family who never attained to
what they were intended for."

"Something different has misled each one of us, but we have all
been misled. Why is that so? We have greater aims than many
others, but the others drove along the beaten highway right
through the gates of Fortune's house. We stray away from the
highway and into the wood. See! am I not there myself now? Away
from the highway and into the wood, as though I were led by an
inward law. Into the wood." He looked round among the mountain-
ashes, the birches, and other leafy trees in autumn tints. They
stood all round, dripping, as though they wept for his sorrow.
"Yes, yes; they will see me hang here, like Absalom by his long
hair." He had not recalled this old picture a moment before he
stopped, as though seized by a strong hand.

He must not fly from this, but try to fathom it. The more he
thought of it, the clearer it became: ABSALOM'S HISTORY WAS HIS
OWN. He began with rebellion. Naturally rebellion is the first
step in a course which leads one from the highway--leads to
passion and its consequences. That was clear enough.

Thus passion overpowered strength of purpose; thus chance
circumstances sapped the foundations--But David rebelled as well.
Why, then, was not David hung up by his hair? It was quite as long
as Absalom's. Yes, David was within an ace of it, right up to his
old age. But the innate strength in David was too great, his
energy was always too powerful: it conquered the powers of
rebellion. They could not drag him far away into passionate
wanderings; they remained only holiday flights in his life and
added poetry to it. They did not move his strength of purpose. Ah,
ha! It was so strong in David that he absorbed them and fed on
them; and yet he was within an ace--very often. See! That is what
I, miserable contemptible wretch, cannot do. So I must hang! Very
soon the man with the spear will be after me.

Rafael now set off running; probably he wished to escape the man
with the spear. He now entered the thickest part of the wood, a
narrow valley between two high hills which overshadowed it. Oh,
how thirsty he was, so fearfully thirsty! He stood still and
wondered whether he could get anything to drink. Yes, he could
hear the murmur of a brook. He ran farther down towards it. Close
by was an opening in the wood, and as he went towards the stream
he was arrested by something there: the sun had burst forth and
lighted up the tree-tops, throwing deep shadows below. Did he see
anything? Yes; it seemed to him that he saw himself, not
absolutely in the opening, but to one side, in the shadow, under a
tree; he hung there by his hair. He hung there and swung, a man,
but in the velvet jacket of his childhood and the tight-fitting
trousers: he swung suspended by his tangled red hair. And farther
away he distinctly saw another figure: it was his mother, stiff
and stately, who was turning round as if to the sound of music.
And, God preserve him! still farther away, broad and heavy, hung
his father, by the few thin hairs on his neck, with wretched
distorted face as on his death-bed. In other respects those two
were not great sinners. They were old; but his sins were great,
for he was young, and therefore nothing had ever prospered with
him, not even in his childhood. There had always been something
which had caused him to be misunderstood or which had frightened
him or made him constantly constrained and uncertain of himself.
Never had he been able to keep to the main point, and thus to be
in quiet natural peace. With only one exception--his meeting with
Helene.

It seemed to him that he was sitting in the boat with her out in
the bay. The sky was bright, there was melody in the woods. Now he
was up on the hill with her, among the saplings, and she was
explaining to him that it depended on her care whether they throve
or not.

He went to the brook to drink; he lay down over the water. He was
thus able to see his own face. How could that happen? Why, there
was sunshine overhead. He was able to see his own face. Great
heavens! how like his father he had become. In the last year he
had grown very like his father--people had said so. He well
remembered his mother's manner when she noticed it. But, good God!
were those grey hairs? Yes, in quantities, so that his hair was no
longer red but grey. No one had told him of it. Had he advanced so
far, been so little prepared for it, that Hans Ravn's remark, "How
you are altered, Rafael!" had frightened him?

He had certainly given up observing himself, in this coarse life
of quarrels. In it, certainly, neither words nor deeds were
weighed, and hence this hunted feeling. It was only natural that
he had ceased to observe. If the brook had been a little deeper,
he would have let himself be engulfed in it. He got up, and went
on again, quicker and quicker: sometimes he saw one person,
sometimes another, hanging in the woods.

He dare not turn round. Was it so very wonderful that others
besides himself and his family had turned from the beaten track,
and peopled the byways and the boughs in the wood? He had been
unjust towards himself and his parents; they were not alone, they
were in only too large a company. What will unjust people say, but
that the very thing which requires strength does not receive it,
but half of it comes to nothing, more than half of the powers are
wasted. Here, in these strips of woodland which run up the hills
side by side, like organ-pipes, Henrik Vergeland had also roamed:
within an ace, with him too, within an ace! Wonderful how the
ravens gather together here, where so many people are hanging. Ha!
ha! He must write this to his mother! It was something to write
about to her, who had left him, who deserted him when he was the
most unhappy, because all that she cared for was to keep her
sacred person inviolate, to maintain her obstinate opinion, to
gratify her pique--Oh! what long hair!--How fast his mother was
held! She had not cut her hair enough then. But now she should
have her deserts. Everything from as far back as he could remember
should be recalled, for once in a way he would show her herself;
now he had both the power and the right. His powers of discovery
had been long hidden under the suffocating sawdust of the daily
and nightly sawing; but now it was awake, and his mother should
feel it.

People noticed the tall man break out of the wood, jump over
hedges and ditches, and make his way straight up the hill. At the
very top he would write to his mother!--

He did not return to the hotel till dark. He was wet, dirty, and
frightfully exhausted. He was as hungry as a wolf, he said, but he
hardly ate anything; on the other hand, he was consumed with
thirst. On leaving the table he said that he wished to stay there
a few days to sleep. They thought that he was joking, but he slept
uninterruptedly until the afternoon of the next day. He was then
awakened, ate a little and drank a great deal, for he had
perspired profusely; after which he fell asleep again. He passed
the next twenty-four hours in much the same way.

When he awoke the following morning he found himself alone.

Had not a doctor been there, and had he not said that it was a
good thing for him to sleep? It seemed to him that he had heard a
buzz of voices; but he was sure that he was well now, only
furiously hungry and thirsty, and when he raised himself he felt
giddy. But that passed off by degrees, when he had eaten some of
the food which had been left there. He drank out of the water-jug-
-the carafe was empty--and walked once or twice up and down before
the open window. It was decidedly cold, so he shut it. Just then
he remembered that he had written a frightful letter to his
mother!

How long ago was it? Had he not slept a long time? Had he not
turned grey? He went to the looking-glass, but forgot the grey
hair at the sight of himself. He was thin, lank, and dirty.--The
letter! the letter! It will kill my mother! There had already been
misfortunes enough, more must not follow.

He dressed himself quickly, as if by hurrying he could overtake
the letter. He looked at the clock--it had stopped. Suppose the
train were in! He must go by it, and from the train straight to
the steamer, and home, home to Hellebergene! But he must send a
telegram to his mother at once. He wrote it--"Never mind the
letter, mother. I am coming this evening and will never leave you
again."

So now he had only to put on a clean collar, now his watch--it
certainly was morning--now to pack, go down and pay the bill, have
something to eat, take his ticket, send the telegram; but first--
no, it must all be done together, for the train WAS there; it had
only a few minutes more to wait; he could only just catch it. The
telegram was given to some one else to send off.

But he had hardly got into the carriage, where he was alone, than
the thought of the letter tortured him, till he could not sit
still. This dreadful analysis of his mother, strophe after
strophe, it rose before him, it again drove him into the state of
mind in which he had been among the hills and woods of Eidsvold.
Beyond the tunnel the character of the scenery was the same.--Good
God! that dreadful letter was never absent from his thoughts,
otherwise he would not suffer so terribly. What right had he to
reproach his mother, or any one, because a mere chance should have
become of importance in their lives?

Would the telegram arrive in time to save her from despair, and
yet not frighten her from home because he was coming? To think
that he could write in such a way to her, who had but lived to
collect the information which would free him! His ingratitude must
appear too monstrous to her. The extreme reserve which she was
unable to break through might well lead to catastrophes. What
might not she have determined on when she received this violent
attack by way of thanks? Perhaps she would think that life was no
longer worth living, she who thought it so easy to die. He
shuddered.

But she will do nothing hastily, she will weigh everything first.
Her roots go deep. When she appears to have acted on impulse, it
is because she has had previous knowledge. But she has no previous
knowledge here; surely here she will deliberate.

He pictured her as, wrapped in her shawl, she wandered about in
dire distress--or with intent gaze reviewing her life and his own,
until both appeared to her to have been hopelessly wasted--or
pondering where she could best hide herself so that she should
suffer no more.

How he loved her! All that had happened had drawn a veil over his
eyes, which was now removed.

Now he was on board the steamer which was bearing him home. The
weather had become mild and summerlike; it had been raining, but
towards evening it began to clear. He would get to Hellebergene in
fine weather, and by moonlight. It grew colder; he spoke to no
one, nor had he eyes for anything about him.

The image of his mother, wrapped in her long shawl--that was all
the company he had. Only his mother! No one but his mother!
Suppose the telegram had but frightened her the more--that to see
HIM now appeared the worst that could happen. To read such a
crushing doom for her whole life, and that from him! She was not
so constituted that it could be cancelled by his asking
forgiveness and returning to her. On the contrary, it would
precipitate the worst, it must do so.

The violent perspiration began again; he had to put on more wraps.
His terror took possession of him: he was forced to contemplate
the most awful possibilities--to picture to himself what death his
mother would choose!

He sprang to his feet and paced up and down. He longed to throw
himself into somebody's arms, to cry aloud. But he knew well that
he must not let such words escape him.--He HAD to picture her as
she handled the guns, until she relinquished the idea of using any
of them. Then he imagined her recalling the deepest hiding-places
in the woods--where were they all?

HE recalled them, one after another. No, not in any of THOSE, for
she wished to hide herself where she would never be found! There
was the cement-bed; it went sheer down there, and the water was
deep!--He clung to the rigging to prevent himself from falling. He
prayed to be released from these terrors. But he saw her floating
there, rocked by the rippling water. Was it the face which was
uppermost, or was it the body, which for a while floated higher
than the face?

His thoughts were partially diverted from this by people coming up
to ask him if he were ill. He got something warm and strong to
drink, and now the steamer approached the part of the coast with
which he was familiar. They passed the opening into Hellebergene,
for one has to go first to the town, and thence in a boat. It now
became the question, whether a boat had been sent for him. In that
case his mother was alive, and would welcome him. But if there was
no boat, then a message from the gulf had been sent instead!

And there was no boat!--

For a moment his senses failed him; only confused sounds fell on
his ear. But then he seemed to emerge from a dark passage. He must
get to Hellebergene! He must see what had happened; be would go
and search!

By this time it was growing dark. He went on shore and looked
round for a boat as though half asleep. He could hardly speak, but
he did not give in till he got the men together and hired the
boat. He took the helm himself, and bade them row with all their
might. He knew every peak in the grey twilight. They might depend
on him, and row on without looking round. Soon they had passed the
high land and were in among the islands. This time they did not
come out to meet him; they all seemed gathered there to repel him.
No boat had been sent; there was, therefore, nothing more for him
to do here. No boat had been sent, because he had forfeited his
place here. Like savage beasts, with bristles erect, the peaks and
islands arrayed themselves against him. "Row on, my lads," he
cried, for now arose again in him that dormant power which only
manifested itself in his utmost need.

"How is it with you, my boy? I am growing weary. Courage, now, and
forward!"

Again that voice outside himself--a man's voice. Was it his
father's?

Whether or not it were his father's voice, here before his
father's home he would struggle against Fate.

In man's direst necessity, what he has failed in and what he can
do seem to encounter each other. And thus, just as the boat had
cleared the point and the islands and was turning into the bay, he
raised himself to his full height, and the boatmen looked at him
in astonishment. He still grasped the rudder-lines, and looked as
though he were about to meet an enemy. Or did he hear anything?
was it the sound of oars?

Yes, they heard them now as well. From the strait near the inlet a
boat was approaching them. She loomed large on the smooth surface
of the water and shot swiftly along.

"Is that a boat from Hellebergene?" shouted Rafael. His voice
shook.

"Yes," came a voice out of the darkness, and he recognised the
bailiff's voice. "Is it Rafael?"

"Yes. Why did you not come before?"

"The telegram has only just arrived."

He sat down. He did not speak. He became suddenly incapable of
uttering a word.

The other boat turned and followed them. Rafael nearly ran his
boat on shore; he forgot that he was steering. Very soon they
cleared the narrow passage which led into the inner bay, and
rounded the last headland, and there!--there lay Hellebergene
before them in a blaze of light! From cellar to attic, in every
single window, it glowed, it streamed with light, and at that
moment another light blazed out from the cairn on the hill-top.

It was thus that his mother greeted him. He sobbed; and the
boatmen heard him, and at the same time noticed that it had grown
suddenly light. They turned round, and were so engrossed in the
spectacle that they forgot to row.

"Come! you must let me get on," was all that he could manage to
say.

His sufferings were forgotten as he leapt from the boat. Nor did
it disturb him that he did not meet his mother at the landing-
place, or near the house, nor see her on the terrace. He simply
rushed up the stairs and opened the door.

The candles in the windows gave but little light within. Indeed,
something had been put in the windows for them to stand on, so
that the interior was half in shadow. But he had come in from the
semi-darkness. He looked round for her, but he heard some one
crying at the other end of the room. There she sat, crouched in
the farthest corner of the sofa, with her feet drawn up under her,
as in old days when she was frightened. She did not stretch out
her arms; she remained huddled together. But he bent over her,
knelt down, laid his face on hers, wept with her. She had grown
fragile, thin, haggard, ah! as though she could be blown away. She
let him take her in his arms like a child and clasp her to his
breast; let him caress and kiss her. Ah, how ethereal she had
become! And those eyes, which at last he saw, now looked tearfully
out from their large orbits, but more innocently than a bird from
its nest. Over her broad forehead she had wound a large silk
handkerchief in turban fashion. It hung down behind. She wished to
conceal the thinness of her hair. He smiled to recognise her again
in this. More spiritualised, more ethereal in her beauty, her
innermost aspirations shone forth without effort. Her thin hands
caressed his hair, and now she gazed into his eyes.

"Rafael, my Rafael!" She twined her arms round him and murmured
welcome. But soon she raised her head and resumed a sitting
posture. She wished to speak. He was beforehand with her.

"Forgive the letter," he whispered with beseeching eyes and voice,
and hands upraised.

"I saw the distress of your soul," was the whispered answer, for
it could not be spoken aloud. "And there was nothing to forgive,"
she added. She had laid her face against his again. "And it was
quite true, Rafael," she murmured.

She must have passed through terrible days and nights here, he
thought, before she could say that.

"Mother, mother! what a fearful time!"

Her little hand sought his: it was cold; it lay in his like an egg
in a deserted nest. He warmed it and took the other as well.

"Was not the illumination splendid?" she said. And now her voice
was like a child's.

He moved the screen which obstructed the light: he must see her
better. He thought, when he saw the look of happiness in her face,
if life looks so beautiful to her still, we shall have a long time
together.

"If you had told me all that about Absalom, the picture which you
made when you were told the story of David, Rafael; if you had
only told me that before!" She paused, and her lips quivered.

"How could I tell it to you, mother, when I did not understand it
myself?"

"The illumination--that must signify that I, too, understand. It
ought to light you forward; do you not think so?"

Content of Chapter 5 (Bjornstjerne Bjornson's book: Absalom's Hair; and A Painful Memory)

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