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Title: Hunger
Author: Knut Hamsun

Translated from the Norwegian by George Egerton


Since the death of Ibsen and Strindberg, Hamsun is undoubtedly the
foremost creative writer of the Scandinavian countries. Those
approaching most nearly to his position are probably Selma Lagerlöf in
Sweden and Henrik Pontoppidan in Denmark. Both these, however, seem to
have less than he of that width of outlook, validity of interpretation
and authority of tone that made the greater masters what they were.

His reputation is not confined to his own country or the two
Scandinavian sister nations. It spread long ago over the rest of Europe,
taking deepest roots in Russia, where several editions of his collected
works have already appeared, and where he is spoken of as the equal of
Tolstoy and Dostoyevski. The enthusiasm of this approval is a
characteristic symptom that throws interesting light on Russia as well
as on Hamsun.

Hearing of it, one might expect him to prove a man of the masses, full
of keen social consciousness. Instead, he must be classed as an
individualistic romanticist and a highly subjective aristocrat, whose
foremost passion in life is violent, defiant deviation from everything
average and ordinary. He fears and flouts the dominance of the many, and
his heroes, who are nothing but slightly varied images of himself, are
invariably marked by an originality of speech and action that brings
them close to, if not across, the borderline of the eccentric.

In all the literature known to me, there is no writer who appears more
ruthlessly and fearlessly himself, and the self thus presented to us is
as paradoxical and rebellious as it is poetic and picturesque. Such a
nature, one would think, must be the final blossoming of powerful
hereditary tendencies, converging silently through numerous generations
to its predestined climax. All we know is that Hamsun's forebears were
sturdy Norwegian peasant folk, said only to be differentiated from their
neighbours by certain artistic preoccupations that turned one or two of
them into skilled craftsmen. More certain it is that what may or may not
have been innate was favoured and fostered and exaggerated by physical
environment and early social experiences.

Hamsun was born on Aug. 4, 1860, in one of the sunny valleys of central
Norway. From there his parents moved when he was only four to settle in
the far northern district of Lofoden--that land of extremes, where the
year, and not the day, is evenly divided between darkness and light;
where winter is a long dreamless sleep, and summer a passionate dream
without sleep; where land and sea meet and intermingle so gigantically
that man is all but crushed between the two--or else raised to titanic
measures by the spectacle of their struggle.

The Northland, with its glaring lights and black shadows, its unearthly
joys and abysmal despairs, is present and dominant in every line that
Hamsun ever wrote. In that country his best tales and dramas are laid.
By that country his heroes are stamped wherever they roam. Out of that
country they draw their principal claims to probability. Only in that
country do they seem quite at home. Today we know, however, that the
pathological case represents nothing but an extension of perfectly
normal tendencies. In the same way we know that the miraculous
atmosphere of the Northland serves merely to develop and emphasize
traits that lie slumbering in men and women everywhere. And on this
basis the fantastic figures created by Hamsun relate themselves to
ordinary humanity as the microscopic enlargement of a cross section to
the living tissues. What we see is true in everything but proportion.

The artist and the vagabond seem equally to have been in the blood of
Hamsun from the very start. Apprenticed to a shoemaker, he used his
scant savings to arrange for the private printing of a long poem and a
short novel produced at the age of eighteen, when he was still signing
himself Knud Pedersen Hamsund. This done, he abruptly quit his
apprenticeship and entered on that period of restless roving through
trades and continents which lasted until his first real artistic
achievement with "Hunger," In 1888-90. It has often been noted that
practically every one of Hamsun's heroes is of the same age as he was
then, and that their creator takes particular pain to accentuate this
fact. It is almost as if, during those days of feverish literary
struggle, he had risen to heights where he saw things so clearly that
no subsequent experience could add anything but occasional details.

Before he reached those heights, he had tried life as coal-heaver and
school teacher, as road-mender and surveyor's attendant, as farm hand
and streetcar conductor, as lecturer and free-lance journalist, as
tourist and emigrant. Twice he visited this country during the middle
eighties, working chiefly on the plains of North Dakota and in the
streets of Chicago. Twice during that time he returned to his own
country and passed through the experiences pictured in "Hunger," before,
at last, he found his own literary self and thus also a hearing from the
world at large. While here, he failed utterly to establish any
sympathetic contact between himself and the new world, and his first
book after his return in 1888 was a volume of studies named "The
Spiritual Life of Modern America," which a prominent Norwegian critic
once described as "a masterpiece of distorted criticism." But I own a
copy of this book, the fly-leaf of which bears the following inscription
in the author's autograph:

    "A youthful work. It has ceased to represent my opinion of America.
    May 28, 1903. Knut Hamsun."

In its original form, "Hunger" was merely a sketch, and as such it
appeared in 1888 in a Danish literary periodical, "New Earth." It
attracted immediate widespread attention to the author, both on account
of its unusual theme and striking form. It was a new kind of realism
that had nothing to do with photographic reproduction of details. It was
a professedly psychological study that had about as much in common with
the old-fashioned conceptions of man's mental activities as the
delirious utterances of a fever patient. It was life, but presented in
the Impressionistic temper of a Gauguin or Cezanne. On the appearance of
the completed novel in 1890, Hamsun was greeted as one of the chief
heralds of the neo-romantlc movement then spreading rapidly through the
Scandinavian north and finding typical expressions not only in the works
of theretofore unknown writers, but in the changed moods of masters like
Ibsen and Bjornson and Strindberg.

It was followed two years later by "Mysteries," which pretends to be a
novel, but which may be better described as a delightfully irresponsible
and defiantly subjective roaming through any highway or byway of life or
letters that happened to take the author's fancy at the moment of
writing. Some one has said of that book that in its abrupt swingings
from laughter to tears, from irreverence to awe, from the ridiculous to
the sublime, one finds the spirits of Dostoyevski and Mark Twain

The novels "Editor Lynge" and "New Earth," both published in 1893, were
social studies of Christiania's Bohemia and chiefly characterized by
their violent attacks on the men and women exercising the profession
which Hamsun had just made his own. Then came "Pan" in 1894, and the
real Hamsun, the Hamsun who ever since has moved logically and with
increasing authority to "The Growth of the Soil," stood finally
revealed. It is a novel of the Northland, almost without a plot, and
having its chief interest in a primitively spontaneous man's reactions
to a nature so overwhelming that it makes mere purposeless existence
seem a sufficient end in itself. One may well question whether Hamsun
has ever surpassed the purely lyrical mood of that book, into which he
poured the ecstatic dreams of the little boy from the south as, for the
first time, he saw the forestclad northern mountains bathing their feet
in the ocean and their crowns in the light of a never-setting sun. It is
a wonderful paean to untamed nature and to the forces let loose by it
within the soul of man.

Like most of the great writers over there, Hamsun has not confined
himself to one poetic mood or form, but has tried all of them. From the
line of novels culminating in "Pan," he turned suddenly to the drama,
and in 1895 appeared his first play, "At the Gates of the Kingdom." It
was the opening drama of a trilogy and was followed by "The Game of
Life" in 1896 and "Sunset Glow" in 1898. The first play is laid in
Christiania, the second in the Northland, and the third in Christiania
again. The hero of all three is Ivar Kareno, a student and thinker who
is first presented to us at the age of 29, then at 39, and finally at
50. His wife and several other characters accompany the central figure
through the trilogy, of which the lesson seems to be that every one is
a rebel at 30 and a renegade at 50. But when Kareno, the irreconcilable
rebel of "At the Gates of the Kingdom," the heaven-storming truth-seeker
of "The Game of Life," and the acclaimed radical leader in the first
acts of "Sunset Glow," surrenders at last to the powers that be in order
to gain a safe and sheltered harbor for his declining years, then
another man of 29 stands ready to denounce him and to take up the rebel
cry of youth to which he has become a traitor. Hamsun's ironical humor
and whimsical manner of expression do more than the plot itself to knit
the plays into an organic unit, and several of the characters are
delightfully drawn, particularly the two women who play the greatest
part in Kareno's life: his wife Eline, and Teresita, who is one more
of his many feminine embodiments of the passionate and changeable
Northland nature. Any attempt to give a political tendency to the
trilogy must be held wasted. Characteristically, Kareno is a sort of
Nietzschean rebel against the victorious majority, and Hamsun's
seemingly cynical conclusions stress man's capacity for action
rather than the purposes toward which that capacity may be directed.

Of three subsequent plays, "Vendt the Monk," (1903), "Queen Tamara"
(1903) and "At the Mercy of Life" (1910), the first mentioned is by far
the most remarkable. It is a verse drama in eight acts, centred about
one of Hamsun's most typical vagabond heroes. The monk Vendt has much
in common with Peer Gynt without being in any way an imitation or a
duplicate. He is a dreamer in revolt against the world's alleged
injustice, a rebel against the very powers that invisibly move the
universe, and a passionate lover of life who in the end accepts it as
a joyful battle and then dreams of the long peace to come. The vigor
and charm of the verse proved a surprise to the critics when the play
was published, as Hamsun until then had given no proof of any poetic
gift in the narrower sense.

From 1897 to 1912 Hamsun produced a series of volumes that simply marked
a further development of the tendencies shown in his first novels:
"Siesta," short stories, 1897; "Victoria" a novel with a charming love
story that embodies the tenderest note in his production, 1898; "In
Wonderland," travelling sketches from the Caucasus, 1903; "Brushwood,"
short stories, 1903; "The Wild Choir," a collection of poems, 1904;
"Dreamers," a novel, 1904; "Struggling Life," short stories and
travelling sketches, 1905; "Beneath the Autumn Star" a novel, 1906;
"Benoni," and "Rosa," two novels forming to some extent sequels to
"Pan," 1908; "A Wanderer Plays with Muted Strings," a novel, 1909;
and "The Last Joy," a shapeless work, half novel and half mere
uncoordinated reflections, 1912.

The later part of this output seemed to indicate a lack of development,
a failure to open up new vistas, that caused many to fear that the
principal contributions of Hamsun already lay behind him. Then appeared
in 1913 a big novel, "Children of the Time," which in many ways struck
a new note, although led up to by "Rosa" and "Benoni." The horizon is
now wider, the picture broader. There is still a central figure, and
still he possesses many of the old Hamsun traits, but he has crossed the
meridian at last and become an observer rather than a fighter and doer.
Nor is he the central figure to the same extent as Lieutenant Glahn in
"Pan" or Kareno in the trilogy. The life pictured is the life of a
certain spot of ground--Segelfoss manor, and later the town of
Segelfoss--rather than that of one or two isolated individuals. One
might almost say that Hamsun's vision has become social at last, were it
not for his continued accentuation of the irreconcilable conflict
between the individual and the group.

"Segelfoss Town" in 1915 and "The Growth of the Soil"--the title ought
to be "The Earth's Increase"--in 1918 continue along the path Hamsun
entered by "Children of the Time." The scene is laid in his beloved
Northland, but the old primitive life is going--going even in the
outlying districts, where the pioneers are already breaking ground for
new permanent settlements. Business of a modern type has arrived, and
much of the quiet humor displayed in these the latest and maturest of
Hamsun's works springs from the spectacle of its influence on the
natives, whose hands used always to be in their pockets, and whose
credulity in face of the improbable was only surpassed by their
unwillingness to believe anything reasonable. Still the life he
pictures is largely primitive, with nature as man's chief antagonist,
and to us of the crowded cities it brings a charm of novelty rarely
found in books today. With it goes an understanding of human nature
which is no less deep-reaching because it is apt to find expression in
whimsical or flagrantly paradoxical forms.

Hamsun has just celebrated his sixtieth birthday anniversary. He is as
strong and active as ever, burying himself most of the time on his
little estate in the heart of the country that has become to such a
peculiar extent his own. There is every reason to expect from him works
that may not only equal but surpass the best of his production so far.
But even if such expectations should prove false, the body of his work
already accomplished is such, both in quantity and quality, that he must
perforce be placed in the very front rank of the world's living writers.
To the English-speaking world he has so far been made known only through
the casual publication at long intervals of a few of his books:
"Hunger," "Fictoria" and "Shallow Soil" (rendered in the list above as
"New Earth"). There is now reason to believe that this negligence will
be remedied, and that soon the best of Hamsun's work will be available
in English. To the American and English publics it ought to prove a
welcome tonic because of its very divergence from what they commonly
feed on. And they may safely look to Hamsun as a thinker as well as a
poet and laughing dreamer, provided they realize from the start that his
thinking is suggestive rather than conclusive, and that he never meant
it to be anything else.


* * * * *


Part I

It was during the time I wandered about and starved in Christiania:
Christiania, this singular city, from which no man departs without
carrying away the traces of his sojourn there.

       *       *       *       *       *

I was lying awake in my attic and I heard a clock below strike six. It was
already broad daylight, and people had begun to go up and down the stairs.
By the door where the wall of the room was papered with old numbers of the
_Morgenbladet_, I could distinguish clearly a notice from the
Director of Lighthouses, and a little to the left of that an inflated
advertisement of Fabian Olsens' new-baked bread.

The instant I opened my eyes I began, from sheer force of habit, to think
if I had anything to rejoice over that day. I had been somewhat hard-up
lately, and one after the other of my belongings had been taken to my
"Uncle." I had grown nervous and irritable. A few times I had kept my bed
for the day with vertigo. Now and then, when luck had favoured me, I had
managed to get five shillings for a feuilleton from some newspaper or

It grew lighter and lighter, and I took to reading the advertisements near
the door. I could even make out the grinning lean letters of "winding-
sheets to be had at Miss Andersen's" on the right of it. That occupied me
for a long while. I heard the clock below strike eight as I got up and put
on my clothes.

I opened the window and looked out. From where I was standing I had a view
of a clothes, line and an open field. Farther away lay the ruins of a
burnt-out smithy, which some labourers were busy clearing away. I leant
with my elbows resting on the window-frame and gazed into open space. It
promised to be a clear day--autumn, that tender, cool time of the year,
when all things change their colour, and die, had come to us. The
ever-increasing noise in the streets lured me out. The bare room, the
floor of which rocked up and down with every step I took across it, seemed
like a gasping, sinister coffin. There was no proper fastening to the
door, either, and no stove. I used to lie on my socks at night to dry them
a little by the morning. The only thing I had to divert myself with was a
little red rocking-chair, in which I used to sit in the evenings and doze
and muse on all manner of things. When it blew hard, and the door below
stood open, all kinds of eerie sounds moaned up through the floor and from
out the walls, and the _Morgenbladet_ near the door was rent in strips a
span long.

I stood up and searched through a bundle in the corner by the bed for a
bite for breakfast, but finding nothing, went back to the window.

God knows, thought I, if looking for employment will ever again avail me
aught. The frequent re pulses, half-promises, and curt noes, the
cherished, deluded hopes, and fresh endeavours that always resulted in
nothing had done my courage to death. As a last resource, I had applied
for a place as debt collector, but I was too late, and, besides, I could
not have found the fifty shillings demanded as security. There was always
something or another in my way. I had even offered to enlist in the Fire
Brigade. There we stood and waited in the vestibule, some half-hundred
men, thrusting our chests out to give an idea of strength and bravery,
whilst an inspector walked up and down and scanned the applicants, felt
their arms, and put one question or another to them. Me, he passed by,
merely shaking his head, saying I was rejected on account of my sight. I
applied again without my glasses, stood there with knitted brows, and made
my eyes as sharp as needles, but the man passed me by again with a smile;
he had recognized me. And, worse than all, I could no longer apply for a
situation in the garb of a respectable man.

How regularly and steadily things had gone downhill with me for a long
time, till, in the end, I was so curiously bared of every conceivable
thing. I had not even a comb left, not even a book to read, when things
grew all too sad with me. All through the summer, up in the churchyards or
parks, where I used to sit and write my articles for the newspapers, I had
thought out column after column on the most miscellaneous subjects.
Strange ideas, quaint fancies, conceits of my restless brain; in despair I
had often chosen the most remote themes, that cost me long hours of
intense effort, and never were accepted. When one piece was finished I set
to work at another. I was not often discouraged by the editors' "no." I
used to tell myself constantly that some day I was bound to succeed; and
really occasionally when I was in luck's way, and made a hit with
something, I could get five shillings for an afternoon's work.

Once again I raised myself from the window, went over to the
washing-stand, and sprinkled some water on the shiny knees of my trousers
to dull them a little and make them look a trifle newer. Having done this,
I pocketed paper and pencil as usual and went out. I stole very quietly
down the stairs in order not to attract my landlady's attention (a few
days had elapsed since my rent had fallen due, and I had no longer
anything wherewith to raise it).

It was nine o'clock. The roll of vehicles and hum of voices filled the
air, a mighty morning-choir mingled with the footsteps of the pedestrians,
and the crack of the hack-drivers' whips. The clamorous traffic everywhere
exhilarated me at once, and I began to feel more and more contented.
Nothing was farther from my intention than to merely take a morning walk
in the open air. What had the air to do with my lungs? I was strong as a
giant; could stop a dray with my shoulders. A sweet, unwonted mood, a
feeling of lightsome happy-go-luckiness took possession of me. I fell to
observing the people I met and who passed me, to reading the placards on
the wall, noted even the impression of a glance thrown at me from a
passing tram-car, let each bagatelle, each trifling incident that crossed
or vanished from my path impress me.

If one only had just a little to eat on such a lightsome day! The sense of
the glad morning overwhelmed me; my satisfaction became ill-regulated, and
for no definite reason I began to hum joyfully.

At a butcher's stall a woman stood speculating on sausage for dinner. As I
passed her she looked up at me. She had but one tooth in the front of her
head. I had become so nervous and easily affected in the last few days
that the woman's face made a loathsome impression upon me. The long yellow
snag looked like a little finger pointing out of her gum, and her gaze was
still full of sausage as she turned it upon me. I immediately lost all
appetite, and a feeling of nausea came over me. When I reached the
market-place I went to the fountain and drank a little. I looked up; the
dial marked ten on Our Saviour's tower.

I went on through the streets, listlessly, without troubling myself about
anything at all, stopped aimlessly at a corner, turned off into a side
street without having any errand there. I simply let myself go, wandered
about in the pleasant morning, swinging myself care-free to and fro
amongst other happy human beings. This air was clear and bright and my
mind too was without a shadow.

For quite ten minutes I had had an old lame man ahead of me. He carried a
bundle in one hand and exerted his whole body, using all his strength in
his endeavours to get along speedily. I could hear how he panted from the
exertion, and it occurred to me that I might offer to bear his bundle for
him, but yet I made no effort to overtake him. Up in Graendsen I met Hans
Pauli, who nodded and hurried past me. Why was he in such a hurry? I had
not the slightest intention of asking him for a shilling, and, more than
that, I intended at the very first opportunity to return him a blanket
which I had borrowed from him some weeks before.

Just wait until I could get my foot on the ladder, I would be beholden to
no man, not even for a blanket. Perhaps even this very day I might
commence an article on the "Crimes of Futurity," "Freedom of Will," or
what not, at any rate, something worth reading, something for which I
would at least get ten shillings.... And at the thought of this article I
felt myself fired with a desire to set to work immediately and to draw
from the contents of my overflowing brain. I would find a suitable place
to write in the park and not rest until I had completed my article.

But the old cripple was still making the same sprawling movements ahead of
me up the street. The sight of this infirm creature constantly in front of
me, commenced to irritate me--his journey seemed endless; perhaps he had
made up his mind to go to exactly the same place as I had, and I must
needs have him before my eyes the whole way. In my irritation it seemed to
me that he slackened his pace a little at every cross street, as if
waiting to see which direction I intended to take, upon which he would
again swing his bundle in the air and peg away with all his might to keep
ahead of me. I follow and watch this tiresome creature and get more and
more exasperated with him, I am conscious that he has, little by little,
destroyed my happy mood and dragged the pure, beautiful morning down to
the level of his own ugliness. He looks like a great sprawling reptile
striving with might and main to win a place in the world and reserve the
footpath for himself. When we reached the top of the hill I determined to
put up with it no longer. I turned to a shop window and stopped in order
to give him an opportunity of getting ahead, but when, after a lapse of
some minutes, I again walked on there was the man still in front of me--he
too had stood stock still,--without stopping to reflect I made three or
four furious onward strides, caught him up, and slapped him on the

He stopped directly, and we both stared at one another fixedly. "A
halfpenny for milk!" he whined, twisting his head askew.

So that was how the wind blew. I felt in my pockets and said: "For milk,
eh? Hum-m--money's scarce these times, and I don't really know how much
you are in need of it."

"I haven't eaten a morsel since yesterday in Drammen; I haven't got a
farthing, nor have I got any work yet!"

"Are you an artisan?"

"Yes; a binder."

"A what?"

"A shoe-binder; for that matter, I can make shoes too."

"Ah, that alters the case," said I, "you wait here for some, minutes and I
shall go and get a little money for you; just a few pence."

I hurried as fast as I could down Pyle Street, where I knew of a
pawnbroker on a second-floor (one, besides, to whom I had never been
before). When I got inside the hall I hastily took off my waistcoat,
rolled it up, and put it under my arm; after which I went upstairs and
knocked at the office door. I bowed on entering, and threw the waistcoat
on the counter.

"One-and-six," said the man.

"Yes, yes, thanks," I replied. "If it weren't that it was beginning to be
a little tight for me, of course I wouldn't part with it."

I got the money and the ticket, and went back. Considering all things,
pawning that waistcoat was a capital notion. I would have money enough
over for a plentiful breakfast, and before evening my thesis on the
"Crimes of Futurity" would be ready. I began to find existence more
alluring; and I hurried back to the man to get rid of him.

"There it is," said I. "I am glad you applied to me first."

The man took the money and scrutinized me closely. At what was he standing
there staring? I had a feeling that he particularly examined the knees of
my trousers, and his shameless effrontery bored me. Did the scoundrel
imagine that I really was as poor as I looked? Had I not as good as begun
to write an article for half-a-sovereign? Besides, I had no fear whatever
for the future. I had many irons in the fire. What on earth business was
it of an utter stranger if I chose to stand him a drink on such a lovely
day? The man's look annoyed me, and I made up my mind to give him a good
dressing-down before I left him. I threw back my shoulders, and said:

"My good fellow, you have adopted a most unpleasant habit of staring at a
man's knees when he gives you a shilling."

He leant his head back against the wall and opened his mouth widely;
something was working in that empty pate of his, and he evidently came to
the conclusion that I meant to best him in some way, for he handed me back
the money. I stamped on the pavement, and, swearing at him, told him to
keep it. Did he imagine I was going to all that trouble for nothing? If
all came to all, perhaps I owed him this shilling; I had just recollected
an old debt; he was standing before an honest man, honourable to his
finger-tips--in short, the money was his. Oh, no thanks were needed; it
had been a pleasure to me. Good-bye!

I went on. At last I was freed from this work-ridden plague, and I could
go my way in peace. I turned down Pyle Street again, and stopped before a
grocer's shop. The whole window was filled with eatables, and I decided to
go in and get something to take with me.

"A piece of cheese and a French roll," I said, and threw my sixpence on to
the counter.

"Bread and cheese for the whole of it?" asked the woman ironically,
without looking up at me.

"For the whole sixpence? Yes," I answered, unruffled.

I took them up, bade the fat old woman good-morning, with the utmost
politeness, and sped, full tilt, up Castle Hill to the park.

I found a bench to myself, and began to bite greedily into my provender.
It did me good; it was a long time since I had had such a square meal,
and, by degrees, I felt the same sated quiet steal over me that one feels
after a good long cry. My courage rose mightily. I could no longer be
satisfied with writing an article about anything so simple and
straight-ahead as the "Crimes of Futurity," that any ass might arrive at,
ay, simply deduct from history. I felt capable of a much greater effort
than that; I was in a fitting mood to overcome difficulties, and I decided
on a treatise, in three sections, on "Philosophical Cognition." This
would, naturally, give me an opportunity of crushing pitiably some of
Kant's sophistries ... but, on taking out my writing materials to commence
work, I discovered that I no longer owned a pencil: I had forgotten it in
the pawn-office. My pencil was lying in my waistcoat pocket.

Good Lord! how everything seems to take a delight in thwarting me today! I
swore a few times, rose from the seat, and took a couple of turns up and
down the path. It was very quiet all around me; down near the Queen's
arbour two nursemaids were trundling their perambulators; otherwise, there
was not a creature anywhere in sight. I was in a thoroughly embittered
temper; I paced up and down before my seat like a maniac. How strangely
awry things seemed to go! To think that an article in three sections
should be downright stranded by the simple fact of my not having a
pennyworth of pencil in my pocket. Supposing I were to return to Pyle
Street and ask to get my pencil back? There would be still time to get a
good piece finished before the promenading public commenced to fill the
parks. So much, too, depended on this treatise on "Philosophical
Cognition"--mayhap many human beings' welfare, no one could say; and I
told myself it might be of the greatest possible help to many young
people. On second thoughts, I would not lay violent hands on Kant; I might
easily avoid doing that; I would only need to make an almost imperceptible
gliding over when I came to query Time and Space; but I would not answer
for Renan, old Parson Renan....

At all events, an article of so-and-so many columns has to be completed.
For the unpaid rent, and the landlady's inquiring look in the morning when
I met her on the stairs, tormented me the whole day; it rose up and
confronted me again and again, even in my pleasant hours, when I had
otherwise not a gloomy thought.

I must put an end to it, so I left the park hurriedly to fetch my pencil
from the pawnbroker's.

As I arrived at the foot of the hill I overtook two ladies, whom I passed.
As I did so, I brushed one of them accidentally on the arm. I looked up;
she had a full, rather pale, face. But she blushes, and, becomes suddenly
surprisingly lovely. I know not why she blushes; maybe at some word she
hears from a passer-by, maybe only at some lurking thought of her own. Or
can it be because I touched her arm? Her high, full bosom heaves violently
several times, and she closes her hand tightly above the handle of her
parasol. What has come to her?

I stopped, and let her pass ahead again. I could, for the moment, go no
further; the whole thing struck me as being so singular. I was in a
tantalizing mood, annoyed with myself on account of the pencil incident,
and in a high degree disturbed by all the food I had taken on a totally
empty stomach. Suddenly my thoughts, as if whimsically inspired, take a
singular direction. I feel myself seized with an odd desire to make this
lady afraid; to follow her, and annoy her in some way. I overtake her
again, pass her by, turn quickly round, and meet her face-to-face in order
to observe her well. I stand and gaze into her eyes, and hit, on the spur
of the moment, on a name which I have never heard before--a name with a
gliding, nervous sound--Ylajali! When she is quite close to me I draw
myself up and say impressively:

"You are losing your book, madam!" I could hear my heart beat audibly as I
said it.

"My book?" she asks her companion, and she walks on.

My devilment waxed apace, and I followed them. At the same time, I was
fully conscious that I was playing a mad prank without being able to stop
myself. My disordered condition ran away with me; I was inspired with the
craziest notions, which I followed blindly as they came to me. I couldn't
help it, no matter how much I told myself that I was playing the fool. I
made the most idiotic grimaces behind the lady's back, and coughed
frantically as I passed her by. Walking on in this manner--very slowly,
and always a few steps in advance--I felt her eyes on my back, and
involuntarily put down my head with shame for having caused her annoyance.
By degrees, a wonderful feeling stole over me of being far, far away in
other places; I had a half-undefined sense that it was not I who was going
along over the gravel hanging my head.

A few minutes later, they reached Pascha's bookshop. I had already stopped
at the first window, and as they go by I step forward and repeat:

"You are losing your book, madam!"

"No; what book?" she asks affrightedly. "Can you make out what book it is
he is talking about?" and she comes to a stop.

I hug myself with delight at her confusion; the irresolute perplexity in
her eyes positively fascinates me. Her mind cannot grasp my short,
passionate address. She has no book with her; not a single page of a book,
and yet she fumbles in her pockets, looks down repeatedly at her hands,
turns her head and scrutinizes the streets behind her, exerts her
sensitive little brain to the utmost in trying to discover what book it is
I am talking about. Her face changes colour, has now one, now another
expression, and she is breathing quite audibly--even the very buttons on
her gown seem to stare at me, like a row of frightened eyes.

"Don't bother about him!" says her companion, taking her by the arm. "He
is drunk; can't you see that the man is drunk?"

Strange as I was at this instant to myself, so absolutely a prey to
peculiar invisible inner influences, nothing occurred around me without my
observing it. A large, brown dog sprang right across the street towards
the shrubbery, and then down towards the Tivoli; he had on a very narrow
collar of German silver. Farther up the street a window opened on the
second floor, and a servant-maid leant out of it, with her sleeves turned
up, and began to clean the panes on the outside. Nothing escaped my
notice; I was clear-headed and ready-witted. Everything rushed in upon me
with a gleaming distinctness, as if I were suddenly surrounded by a strong
light. The ladies before me had each a blue bird's wing in their hats, and
a plaid silk ribbon round their necks. It struck me that they were

They turned, stopped at Cisler's music-shop, and spoke together. I stopped
also. Thereupon they both came back, went the same road as they had come,
passed me again, and turned the corner of University Street and up towards
St. Olav's place. I was all the time as close at their heels as I dared to
be. They turned round once, and sent me a half-fearful, half-questioning
look, and I saw no resentment nor any trace of a frown in it.

This forbearance with my annoyance shamed me thoroughly and made me lower
my eyes. I would no longer be a trouble to them; out of sheer gratitude I
would follow them with my gaze, not lose sight of them until they entered
some place safely and disappeared.

Outside No. 2, a large four-storeyed house, they turned again before going
in. I leant against a lamp-post near the fountain and listened for their
footsteps on the stairs. They died away on the second floor. I advanced
from the lamp-post and looked up at the house. Then something odd
happened. The curtains above were stirred, and a second after a window
opened, a head popped out, and two singular-looking eyes dwelt on me.
"Ylajali!" I muttered, half-aloud, and I felt I grew red.

Why does she not call for help, or push over one of these flower-pots and
strike me on the head, or send some one down to drive me away? We stand
and look into one another's eyes without moving; it lasts a minute.
Thoughts dart between the window and the street, and not a word is spoken.
She turns round, I feel a wrench in me, a delicate shock through my
senses; I see a shoulder that turns, a back that disappears across the
floor. That reluctant turning from the window, the accentuation in that
movement of the shoulders was like a nod to me. My blood was sensible of
all the delicate, dainty greeting, and I felt all at once rarely glad.
Then I wheeled round and went down the street.

I dared not look back, and knew not if she had returned to the window. The
more I considered this question the more nervous and restless I became.
Probably at this very moment she was standing watching closely all my
movements. It is by no means comfortable to know that you are being
watched from behind your back. I pulled myself together as well as I could
and proceeded on my way; my legs began to jerk under me, my gait became
unsteady just because I purposely tried to make it look well. In order to
appear at ease and indifferent, I flung my arms about, spat out, and threw
my head well back--all without avail, for I continually felt the pursuing
eyes on my neck, and a cold shiver ran down my back. At length I escaped
down a side street, from which I took the road to Pyle Street to get my

I had no difficulty in recovering it; the man brought me the waistcoat
himself, and as he did so, begged me to search through all the pockets. I
found also a couple of pawn-tickets which I pocketed as I thanked the
obliging little man for his civility. I was more and more taken with him,
and grew all of a sudden extremely anxious to make a favourable impression
on this person. I took a turn towards the door and then back again to the
counter as if I had forgotten something. It struck me that I owed him an
explanation, that I ought to elucidate matters a little. I began to hum in
order to attract his attention. Then, taking the pencil in my hand, I held
it up and said:

"It would never have entered my head to come such a long way for any and
every bit of pencil, but with this one it was quite a different matter;
there Was another reason, a special reason. Insignificant as it looked,
this stump of pencil had simply made me what I was in the world, so to
say, placed me in life." I said no more. The man had come right over to
the counter.

"Indeed!" said he, and he looked inquiringly at me.

"It was with this pencil," I continued, in cold blood, "that I wrote my
dissertation on 'Philosophical Cognition,' in three volumes." Had he never
heard mention of it?

Well, he did seem to remember having heard the name, rather the title.

"Yes," said I, "that was by me, so it was." So he must really not be
astonished that I should be desirous of having the little bit of pencil
back again. I valued it far too highly to lose it; why, it was almost as
much to me as a little human creature. For the rest I was honestly
grateful to him for his civility, and I would bear him in mind for it.
Yes, truly, I really would. A promise was a promise; that was the sort of
man I was, and he really deserved it. "Good-bye!" I walked to the door
with the bearing of one who had it in his power to place a man in a high
position, say in the fire-office. The honest pawnbroker bowed twice
profoundly to me as I withdrew. I turned again and repeated my good-bye.

On the stairs I met a woman with a travelling-bag in her hand, who
squeezed diffidently against the wall to make room for me, and I
voluntarily thrust my hand in my pocket for something to give her, and
looked foolish as I found nothing and passed on with my head down. I heard
her knock at the office door; there was an alarm over it, and I recognized
the jingling sound it gave when any one rapped on the door with his

The sun stood in the south; it was about twelve. The whole town began to
get on its legs as it approached the fashionable hour for promenading.
Bowing and laughing folk walked up and down Carl Johann Street. I stuck my
elbows closely to my sides, tried to make myself look small, and slipped
unperceived past some acquaintances who had taken up their stand at the
corner of University Street to gaze at the passers-by. I wandered up
Castle Hill and fell into a reverie.

How gaily and lightly these people I met carried their radiant heads, and
swung themselves through life as through a ball-room! There was no sorrow
in a single look I met, no burden on any shoulder, perhaps not even a
clouded thought, not a little hidden pain in any of the happy souls. And
I, walking in the very midst of these people, young and newly-fledged as I
was, had already forgotten the very look of happiness. I hugged these
thoughts to myself as I went on, and found that a great injustice had been
done me. Why had the last months pressed so strangely hard on me? I failed
to recognize my own happy temperament, and I met with the most singular
annoyances from all quarters. I could not sit down on a bench by myself or
set my foot any place without being assailed by insignificant accidents,
miserable details, that forced their way into my imagination and scattered
my powers to all the four winds. A dog that dashed by me, a yellow rose in
a man's buttonhole, had the power to set my thoughts vibrating and occupy
me for a length of time.

       *       *       *       *       *

What was it that ailed me? Was the hand of the Lord turned against me? But
why just against me? Why, for that matter, not just as well against a man
in South America? When I considered the matter over, it grew more and more
incomprehensible to me that I of all others should be selected as an
experiment for a Creator's whims. It was, to say the least of it, a
peculiar mode of procedure to pass over a whole world of other humans in
order to reach me. Why not select just as well Bookseller Pascha, or
Hennechen the steam agent?

As I went my way I sifted this thing, and could not get quit of it. I
found the most weighty arguments against the Creator's arbitrariness in
letting me pay for all the others' sins. Even after I had found a seat and
sat down, the query persisted in occupying me, and prevented me from
thinking of aught else. From the day in May when my ill-luck began I could
so clearly notice my gradually increasing debility; I had become, as it
were, too languid to control or lead myself whither I would go. A swarm of
tiny noxious animals had bored a way into my inner man and hollowed me

Supposing God Almighty simply intended to annihilate me? I got up and
paced backwards and forwards before the seat.

My whole being was at this moment in the highest degree of torture, I had
pains in my arms, and could hardly bear to hold them in the usual way. I
experienced also great discomfort from my last full meal; I was oversated,
and walked backwards and forwards without looking up. The people who came
and went around me glided past me like faint gleams. At last my seat was
taken up by two men, who lit cigars and began to talk loudly together. I
got angry and was on the point of addressing them, but turned on my heel
and went right to the other end of the Park, and found another seat. I sat

       *       *       *       *       *

The thought of God began to occupy me. It seemed to me in the highest
degree indefensible of Him to interfere every time I sought for a place,
and to upset the whole thing, while all the time I was but imploring
enough for a daily meal.

I had remarked so plainly that, whenever I had been hungry for any length
of time, it was just as if my brains ran quite gently out of my head and
left me with a vacuum--my head grew light and far off, I no longer felt
its weight on my shoulders, and I had a consciousness that my eyes stared
far too widely open when I looked at anything.

I sat there on the seat and pondered over all this, and grew more and more
bitter against God for His prolonged inflictions. If He meant to draw me
nearer to Him, and make me better by exhausting me and placing obstacle
after obstacle in my way, I could assure Him He made a slight mistake.
And, almost crying with defiance, I looked up towards Heaven and told Him
so mentally, once and for all.

Fragments of the teachings of my childhood ran through my memory. The
rhythmical sound of Biblical language sang in my ears, and I talked quite
softly to myself, and held my head sneeringly askew. Wherefore should I
sorrow for what I eat, for what I drink, or for what I may array this
miserable food for worms called my earthy body? Hath not my Heavenly
Father provided for me, even as for the sparrow on the housetop, and hath
He not in His graciousness pointed towards His lowly servitor? The Lord
stuck His finger in the net of my nerves gently--yea, verily, in desultory
fashion--and brought slight disorder among the threads. And then the Lord
withdrew His finger, and there were fibres and delicate root-like
filaments adhering to the finger, and they were the nerve-threads of the
filaments. And there was a gaping hole after the finger, which was God's
finger, and a wound in my brain in the track of His finger. But when God
had touched me with His finger, He let me be, and touched me no more, and
let no evil befall me; but let me depart in peace, and let me depart with
the gaping hole. And no evil hath befallen me from the God who is the Lord
God of all Eternity.

The sound of music was borne up on the wind to me from the Students'
Allée. It was therefore past two o'clock. I took out my writing materials
to try to write something, and at the same time my book of shaving-tickets
[Footnote: Issued by the barbers at cheaper rates, as few men in Norway
shave themselves.] fell out of my pocket. I opened it, and counted the
tickets; there were six. "The Lord be praised," I exclaimed involuntarily;
"I can still get shaved for a couple of weeks, and look a little decent";
and I immediately fell into a better frame of mind on account of this
little property which still remained to me. I smoothed the leaves out
carefully, and put the book safely into my pocket.

But write I could not. After a few lines nothing seemed to occur to me; my
thought ran in other directions, and I could not pull myself together
enough for any special exertion.

Everything influenced and distracted me; everything I saw made a fresh
impression on me. Flies and tiny mosquitoes stick fast to the paper and
disturb me. I blow at them to get rid of them--blow harder and harder; to
no purpose, the little pests throw themselves on their backs, make
themselves heavy, and fight against me until their slender legs bend. They
are not to be moved from the spot; they find something to hook on to, set
their heels against a comma or an unevenness in the paper, or stand
immovably still until they themselves think fit to go their way.

These insects continued to busy me for a long time, and I crossed my legs
to observe them at leisure. All at once a couple of high clarionet notes
waved up to me from the bandstand, and gave my thoughts a new impulse.

Despondent at not being able to put my article together, I replaced the
paper in my pocket, and leant back in the seat. At this instant my head is
so clear that I can follow the most delicate train of thought without
tiring. As I lie in this position, and let my eyes glide down my breast
and along my legs, I notice the jerking movement my foot makes each time
my pulse beats. I half rise and look down at my feet, and I experience at
this moment a fantastic and singular feeling that I have never felt
before--a delicate, wonderful shock through my nerves, as if sparks of
cold light quivered through them--it was as if catching sight of my shoes
I had met with a kind old acquaintance, or got back a part of myself that
had been riven loose. A feeling of recognition trembles through my senses;
the tears well up in my eyes, and I have a feeling as if my shoes are a
soft, murmuring strain rising towards me. "Weakness!" I cried harshly to
myself, and I clenched my fists and I repeated "Weakness!" I laughed at
myself, for this ridiculous feeling, made fun of myself, with a perfect
consciousness of doing so, talked very severely and sensibly, and closed
my eyes very tightly to get rid of the tears.

As if I had never seen my shoes before, I set myself to study their looks,
their characteristics, and, when I stir my foot, their shape and their
worn uppers. I discover that their creases and white seams give them
expression--impart a physiognomy to them. Something of my own nature had
gone over into these shoes; they affected me, like a ghost of my other
I--a breathing portion of my very self.

I sat and toyed with these fancies a long time, perhaps an entire hour. A
little, old man came and took the other end of the seat; as he seated
himself he panted after his walk, and muttered:

"Ay, ay, ay, ay, ay, ay, ay, ay, ay, ay; very true!"

As soon as I heard his voice, I felt as if a wind had swept through my
head. I let shoes be shoes, and it seemed to me that the distracted phase
of mind I had just experienced dated from a long-vanished period, maybe a
year or two back, and was about to be quietly effaced from my memory. I
began to observe the old fellow.

Did this little man concern me in any way? Not in the least, not in the
very slightest degree! Only that he held a newspaper in his hand, an old
number (with the advertisement sheet on the outside), in which something
or other seemed to be rolled up; my curiosity was aroused, and I could not
take my eyes away from this paper. The insane idea entered my head that it
might be a quite peculiar newspaper--unique of its kind. My curiosity
increased, and I began to move backwards and forwards on the seat. It
might contain deeds, dangerous documents stolen from some archive or
other; something floated before me about a secret treaty--a conspiracy.

The man sat quietly, and pondered. Why did he not carry his newspaper as
every other person carries a paper, with its name out? What species of
cunning lurked under that? He did not seem either to like letting his
package out of his hands, not for anything in the world; perhaps he did
not even dare trust it into his own pocket. I could stake my life there
was something at the bottom of that package--I considered a bit. Just the
fact of finding it so impossible to penetrate this mysterious affair
distracted me with curiosity. I searched my pockets for something to offer
the man in order to enter into conversation with him, took hold of my
shaving-book, but put it back again. Suddenly it entered my head to be
utterly audacious; I slapped my empty breast-pocket, and said:

"May I offer you a cigarette?"

"Thank you!" The man did not smoke; he had to give it up to spare his
eyes; he was nearly blind. Thank you very much all the same. Was it long
since his eyes got bad? In that case, perhaps, he could not read either,
not even a paper?

No, not even the newspaper, more's the pity. The man looked at me; his
weak eyes were each covered with a film which gave them a glassy
appearance; his gaze grew bleary, and made a disgusting impression on me.

"You are a stranger here?" he said.

"Yes." Could he not even read the name of the paper he held in his hand?

"Barely." For that matter, he could hear directly that I was a stranger.
There was something in my accent which told him. It did not need much; he
could hear so well. At night, when every one slept, he could hear people
in the next room breathing....

"What I was going to say was, 'where do you live?'"

On the spur of the moment a lie stood, ready-made, in my head. I lied
involuntarily, without any object, without any _arričre pensée_, and
I answered--

"St. Olav's Place, No. 2."

"Really?" He knew every stone in St. Olav's Place. There was a fountain,
some lamp-posts, a few trees; he remembered all of it. "What number do you
live in?"

Desirous to put an end to this, I got up. But my notion about the
newspaper had driven me to my wit's end; I resolved to clear the thing up,
at no matter what cost.

"When you cannot read the paper, why--"

"In No. 2, I think you said," continued the man, without noticing my
disturbance. "There was a time I knew every person in No. 2; what is your
landlord's name?"

I quickly found a name to get rid of him; invented one on the spur of the
moment, and blurted it out to stop my tormentor.

"Happolati!" said I.

"Happolati, ay!" nodded the man; and he never missed a syllable of this
difficult name.

I looked at him with amazement; there he sat, gravely, with a considering
air. Before I had well given utterance to the stupid name which jumped
into my head the man had accommodated himself to it, and pretended to have
heard it before.

In the meantime, he had laid his package on the seat, and I felt my
curiosity quiver through my nerves. I noticed there were a few grease
spots on the paper.

"Isn't he a sea-faring man, your landlord?" queried he, and there was not
a trace of suppressed irony in his voice; "I seem to remember he was."

"Sea-faring man? Excuse me, it must be the brother you know; this man is
namely J. A. Happolati, the agent."

I thought this would finish him; but he willingly fell in with everything
I said. If I had found a name like Barrabas Rosebud it would not have
roused his suspicions.

"He is an able man, I have heard?" he said, feeling his way.

"Oh, a clever fellow!" answered I; "a thorough business head; agent for
every possible thing going. Cranberries from China; feathers and down from
Russia; hides, pulp, writing-ink--"

"He, he! the devil he is?" interrupted the old chap, highly excited.

This began to get interesting. The situation ran away with me, and one lie
after another engendered in my head. I sat down again, forgot the
newspaper, and the remarkable documents, grew lively, and cut short the
old fellow's talk.

The little goblin's unsuspecting simplicity made me foolhardy; I would
stuff him recklessly full of lies; rout him out o' field grandly, and stop
his mouth from sheer amazement.

Had he heard of the electric psalm-book that Happolati had invented?

"What? Elec--"

"With electric letters that could give light in the dark! a perfectly
extraordinary enterprise. A million crowns to be put in circulation;
foundries and printing-presses at work, and shoals of regular mechanics to
be employed; I had heard as many as seven hundred men."

"Ay, isn't it just what I say?" drawled out the man calmly.

He said no more, he believed every word I related, and for all that, he
was not taken aback. This disappointed me a little; I had expected to see
him utterly bewildered by my inventions.

I searched my brain for a couple of desperate lies, went the whole hog,
hinted that Happolati had been Minister of State for nine years in Persia.
"You perhaps have no conception of what it means to be Minister of State
in Persia?" I asked. It was more than king here, or about the same as
Sultan, if he knew what that meant, but Happolati had managed the whole
thing, and was never at a loss. And I related about his daughter Ylajali,
a fairy, a princess, who had three hundred slaves, and who reclined on a
couch of yellow roses. She was the loveliest creature I had ever seen; I
had, may the Lord strike me, never seen her match for looks in my life!

"So--o; was she so lovely?" remarked the old fellow, with an absent air,
as he gazed at the ground.

"Lovely? She was beauteous, she was sinfully fascinating. Eyes like raw
silk, arms of amber! Just one glance from her was as seductive as a kiss;
and when she called me, her voice darted like a wine-ray right into my
soul's phosphor. And why shouldn't she be so beautiful?" Did he imagine
she was a messenger or something in the fire brigade? She was simply a
Heaven's wonder, I could just inform him, a fairy tale.

"Yes, to be sure!" said he, not a little bewildered. His quiet bored me; I
was excited by the sound of my own voice and spoke in utter seriousness;
the stolen archives, treaties with some foreign power or other, no longer
occupied my thoughts; the little flat bundle of paper lay on the seat
between us, and I had no longer the smallest desire to examine it or see
what it contained. I was entirely absorbed in stories of my own which
floated in singular visions across my mental eye. The blood flew to my
head, and I roared with laughter.

At this moment the little man seemed about to go. He stretched himself,
and in order not to break off too abruptly, added: "He is said to own much
property, this Happolati?"

How dared this bleary-eyed, disgusting old man toss about the rare name I
had invented as if it were a common name stuck up over every huckster-shop
in the town? He never stumbled over a letter or forgot a syllable. The
name had bitten fast in his brain and struck root on the instant. I got
annoyed; an inward exasperation surged up in me against this creature whom
nothing had the power to disturb and nothing render suspicious.

I therefore replied shortly, "I know nothing about that! I know absolutely
nothing whatever about that! Let me inform you once for all that his name
is Johann Arendt Happolati, if you go by his own initials."

"Johannn Arendt Happolati!" repeated the man, a little astonished at my
vehemence; and with that he grew silent.

"You should see his wife!" I said, beside myself. "A fatter creature ...
Eh? what? Perhaps you don't even believe she is really fat?"

Well, indeed he did not see his way to deny that such a man might perhaps
have a rather stout wife. The old fellow answered quite gently and meekly
to each of my assertions, and sought for words as if he feared to offend
and perhaps make me furious.

"Hell and fire, man! Do you imagine that I am sitting here stuffing you
chock-full of lies?" I roared furiously. "Perhaps you don't even believe
that a man of the name of Happolati exists! I never saw your match for
obstinacy and malice in any old man. What the devil ails you? Perhaps,
too, into the bargain, you have been all this while thinking to yourself I
am a poverty-stricken fellow, sitting here in my Sunday-best without even
a case full of cigarettes in my pocket. Let me tell you such treatment as
yours is a thing I am not accustomed to, and I won't endure it, the Lord
strike me dead if I will--neither from you nor any one else, do you know

The man had risen with his mouth agape; he stood tongue-tied and listened
to my outbreak until the end. Then he snatched his parcel from off the
seat and went, ay, nearly ran, down the patch, with the short, tottering
steps of an old man.

I leant back and looked at the retreating figure that seemed to shrink at
each step as it passed away. I do not know from where the impression came,
but it appeared to me that I had never in my life seen a more vile back
than this one, and I did not regret that I had abused the creature before
he left me.

The day began to decline, the sun sank, it commenced to rustle lightly in
the trees around, and the nursemaids who sat in groups near the parallel
bars made ready to wheel their perambulators home. I was calmed and in
good spirit. The excitement I had just laboured under quieted down little
by little, and I grew weaker, more languid, and began to feel drowsy.
Neither did the quantity of bread I had eaten cause me any longer any
particular distress. I leant against the back of the seat in the best of
humours, closed my eyes, and got more and more sleepy. I dozed, and was
just on the point of falling asleep, when a park-keeper put his hand on my
shoulder and said:

"You must not sit here and go to sleep!"

"No?" I said, and sprang immediately up, my unfortunate position rising
all at once vividly before my eyes. I must do something; find some way or
another out of it. To look for situations had been of no avail to me. Even
the recommendations I showed had grown a little old, and were written by
people all too little known to be of much use; besides that, constant
refusals all through the summer had somewhat disheartened me. At all
events, my rent was due, and I must raise the wind for that; the rest
would have to wait a little.

Quite involuntarily I had got paper and pencil into my hand again, and I
sat and wrote mechanically the date, 1848, in each corner. If only now one
single effervescing thought would grip me powerfully, and put words into
my mouth. Why, I had known hours when I could write a long piece, without
the least exertion, and turn it off capitally, too.

I am sitting on the seat, and I write, scores of times, 1848. I write this
date criss-cross, in all possible fashions, and wait until a workable idea
shall occur to me. A swarm of loose thoughts flutter about in my head. The
feeling of declining day makes me downcast, sentimental; autumn is here,
and has already begun to hush everything into sleep and torpor. The flies
and insects have received their first warning. Up in the trees and down in
the fields the sounds of struggling life can be heard rustling, murmuring,
restless; labouring not to perish. The down-trodden existence of the whole
insect world is astir for yet a little while. They poke their yellow heads
up from the turf, lift their legs, feel their way with long feelers and
then collapse suddenly, roll over, and turn their bellies in the air.

Every growing thing has received its peculiar impress: the delicately
blown breath of the first cold. The stubbles straggle wanly sunwards, and
the falling leaves rustle to the earth, with a sound as of errant

It is the reign of Autumn, the height of the Carnival of Decay, the roses
have got inflammation in their blushes, an uncanny hectic tinge, through
their soft damask.

I felt myself like a creeping thing on the verge of destruction, gripped
by ruin in the midst of a whole world ready for lethargic sleep. I rose,
oppressed by weird terrors, and took some furious strides down the path.
"No!" I cried out, clutching both my hands; "there must be an end to
this," and I reseated myself, grasped the pencil, and set seriously to
work at an article.

There was no possible use in giving way, with the unpaid rent staring me
straight in the face.

Slowly, quite slowly, my thoughts collected. I paid attention to them, and
wrote quietly and well; wrote a couple of pages as an introduction. It
would serve as a beginning to anything. A description of travel, a
political leader, just as I thought fit--it was a perfectly splendid
commencement for something or anything. So I took to seeking for some
particular subject to handle, a person or a thing, that I might grapple
with, and I could find nothing. Along with this fruitless exertion,
disorder began to hold its sway again in my thoughts. I felt how my brain
positively snapped and my head emptied, until it sat at last, light,
buoyant, and void on my shoulders. I was conscious of the gaping vacuum in
my skull with every fibre of my being. I seemed to myself to be hollowed
out from top and toe.

In my pain I cried: "Lord, my God and Father!" and repeated this cry many
times at a stretch, without adding one word more.

The wind soughed through the trees; a storm was brewing. I sat a while
longer, and gazed at my paper, lost in thought, then folded it up and put
it slowly into my pocket. It got chilly; and I no longer owned a
waistcoat. I buttoned my coat right up to my throat and thrust my hands in
my pockets; thereupon I rose and went on.

If I had only succeeded this time, just this once. Twice my landlady had
asked me with her eyes for payment, and I was obliged to hang my head and
slink past her with a shamefaced air. I could not do it again: the very
next time I met those eyes I would give warning and account for myself
honestly. Well, any way, things could not last long at this rate.

On coming to the exit of the park I saw the old chap I had put to flight.
The mysterious new paper parcel lay opened on the seat next him, filled
with different sorts of victuals, of which he ate as he sat. I immediately
wanted to go over and ask pardon for my conduct, but the sight of food
repelled me. The decrepit fingers looked like ten claws as they clutched
loathsomely at the greasy bread and butter; I felt qualmish, and passed by
without addressing him. He did not recognize me; his eyes stared at me,
dry as horn, and his face did not move a muscle.

And so I went on my way.

As customary, I halted before every newspaper placard I came to, to read
the announcements of situations vacant, and was lucky enough to find one
that I might try for.

A grocer in Groenlandsleret wanted a man every week for a couple of hours'
book-keeping; remuneration according to agreement. I noted my man's
address, and prayed to God in silence for this place. I would demand less
than any one else for my work; sixpence was ample, or perhaps fivepence.
That would not matter in the least.

On going home, a slip of paper from my landlady lay on my table, in which
she begged me to pay my rent in advance, or else move as soon as I could.
I must not be offended, it was absolutely a necessary request. Friendlily
Mrs. Gundersen.

I wrote an application to Christy the grocer, No. 13 Groenlandsleret, put
it in an envelope, and took it to the pillar at the corner. Then I
returned to my room and sat down in the rocking-chair to think, whilst the
darkness grew closer and closer. Sitting up late began to be difficult

I woke very early in the morning. It was still quite dark as I opened my
eyes, and it was not till long after that I heard five strokes of the
clock down-stairs. I turned round to doze again, but sleep had down. I
grew more and more wakeful, and lay and thought of a thousand things.

Suddenly a few good sentences fitted for a sketch or story strike me,
delicate linguistic hits of which I have never before found the equal. I
lie and repeat these words over to myself, and find that they are capital.
Little by little others come and fit themselves to the preceding ones. I
grow keenly wakeful. I get up and snatch paper and pencil from the table
behind my bed. It was as if a vein had burst in me; one word follows
another, and they fit themselves together harmoniously with telling
effect. Scene piles on scene, actions and speeches bubble up in my brain,
and a wonderful sense of pleasure empowers me. I write as one possessed,
and fill page after page, without a moment's pause.

Thoughts come so swiftly to me and continue to flow so richly that I miss
a number of telling bits, that I cannot set down quickly enough, although
I work with all my might. They continue to invade me; I am full of my
subject, and every word I write is inspired.

This strange period lasts--lasts such a blessedly long time before it
comes to an end. I have fifteen--twenty written pages lying on my knees
before me, when at last I cease and lay my pencil aside, So sure as there
is any worth in these pages, so sure am I saved. I jump out of bed and
dress myself, It grows lighter. I can half distinguish the lighthouse
director's announcement down near the door, and near the window it is
already so light that I could, in case of necessity, see to write. I set
to work immediately to make a fair copy of what I have written.

An intense, peculiar exhalation of light and colour emanates from these
fantasies of mine. I start with surprise as I note one good thing after
another, and tell myself that this is the best thing I have ever read. My
head swims with a sense of satisfaction; delight inflates me; I grow

I weigh my writing in my hand, and value it, at a loose guess, for five
shillings on the spot.

It could never enter any one's head to chaffer about five shillings; on
the contrary, getting it for half-a-sovereign might be considered
dirt-cheap, considering the quality of the thing.

I had no intention of turning off such special work gratis. As far as I
was aware, one did not pick up stories of that kind on the wayside, and I
decided on half-a-sovereign.

The room brightened and brightened. I threw a glance towards the door, and
could distinguish without particular trouble the skeleton-like letters of
Miss Andersen's winding-sheet advertisement to the right of it. It was
also a good while since the clock has struck seven.

I rose and came to a standstill in the middle of the floor. Everything
well considered, Mrs. Gundersen's warning came rather opportunely. This
was, properly speaking, no fit room for me: there were only common enough
green curtains at the windows, and neither were there any pegs too many on
the wall. The poor little rocking-chair over in the corner was in reality
a mere attempt at a rocking-chair; with the smallest sense of humour, one
might easily split one's sides with laughter at it. It was far too low for
a grown man, and besides that, one needed, so to speak, the aid of a
boot-jack to get out of it. To cut it short, the room was not adopted for
the pursuit of things intellectual, and I did not intend to keep it any
longer. On no account would I keep it. I had held my peace, and endured
and lived far too long in such a den.

Buoyed up by hope and satisfaction, constantly occupied with my remarkable
sketch, which I drew forth every moment from my pocket and re-read, I
determined to set seriously to work with my flitting. I took out my
bundle, a red handkerchief that contained a few clean collars and some
crumpled newspapers, in which I had occasionally carried home bread. I
rolled my blanket up and pocketed my reserve white writing-paper. Then I
ransacked every corner to assure myself that I had left nothing behind,
and as I could not find anything, went over to the window and looked out.

The morning was gloomy and wet; there was no one about at the burnt-out
smithy, and the clothesline down in the yard stretched tightly from wall
to wall shrunken by the wet. It was all familiar to me, so I stepped back
from the window, took the blanket under my arm, and made a low bow to the
lighthouse director's announcement, bowed again to Miss Andersen's
winding-sheet advertisement, and opened the door. Suddenly the thought of
my land-lady struck me; she really ought to be informed of my leaving, so
that she could see she had had an honest soul to deal with.

I wanted also to thank her in writing for the few days' overtime in which
I occupied the room. The certainty that I was now saved for some time to
come increased so strongly in me that I even promised her five shillings.
I would call in some day when passing by.

Besides that, I wanted to prove to her what an upright sort of person her
roof had sheltered.

I left the note behind me on the table.

Once again I stopped at the door and turned round; the buoyant feeling of
having risen once again to the surface charmed me, and made me feel
grateful towards God and all creation, and I knelt down at the bedside and
thanked God aloud for His great goodness to me that morning.

I knew it; ah! I knew that the rapture of inspiration I had just felt and
noted down was a miraculous heaven-brew in my spirit in answer to my
yesterday's cry for aid.

"It was God! It was God!" I cried to myself, and I wept for enthusiasm
over my own words; now and then I had to stop and listen if any one was on
the stairs. At last I rose up and prepared to go. I stole noiselessly down
each flight and reached the door unseen.

The streets were glistening from the rain which had fallen in the early
morning. The sky hung damp and heavy over the town, and there was no glint
of sunlight visible. I wondered what the day would bring forth? I went as
usual in the direction of the Town Hall, and saw that it was half-past
eight. I had yet a few hours to walk about; there was no use in going to
the newspaper office before ten, perhaps eleven. I must lounge about so
long, and think, in the meantime, over some expedient to raise breakfast.
For that matter, I had no fear of going to bed hungry that day; those
times were over, God be praised! That was a thing of the past, an evil
dream. Henceforth, Excelsior!

But, in the meanwhile, the green blanket was a trouble to me. Neither
could I well make myself conspicuous by carrying such a thing about right
under people's eyes. What would any one think of me? And as I went on I
tried to think of a place where I could have it kept till later on. It
occurred to me that I might go into Semb's and get it wrapped up in paper;
not only would it look better, but I need no longer be ashamed of carrying

I entered the shop, and stated my errand to one of the shop boys.

He looked first at the blanket, then at me. It struck me that he shrugged
his shoulders to himself a little contemptuously as he took it; this
annoyed me.

"Young man," I cried, "do be a little careful! There are two costly glass
vases in that; the parcel has to go to Smyrna."

This had a famous effect. The fellow apologized with every movement he
made for not having guessed that there was something out of the common in
this blanket. When he had finished packing it up I thanked him with the
air of a man who had sent precious goods to Smyrna before now. He held the
door open for me, and bowed twice as I left.

I began to wander about amongst the people in the market place, kept from
choice near the woman who had potted plants for sale. The heavy crimson
roses--the leaves of which glowed blood-like and moist in the damp
morning--made me envious, and tempted me sinfully to snatch one, and I
inquired the price of them merely as an excuse to approach as near to them
as possible.

If I had any money over I would buy one, no matter how things went;
indeed, I might well save a little now and then out of my way of living to
balance things again.

It was ten o'clock, and I went up to the newspaper office. "Scissors" is
running through a lot of old papers. The editor has not come yet. On being
asked my business, I delivered my weighty manuscript, lead him to suppose
that it is something of more than uncommon importance, and impress upon
his memory gravely that he is to give it into we editor's own hands as
soon as he arrives.

I would myself call later on in the day for an answer.

"All right," replied "Scissors," and busied himself again with his papers.

It seemed to me that he treated the matter somewhat too coolly; but I said
nothing, only nodded rather carelessly to him, and left.

I had now time on hand! If it would only clear up! It was perfectly
wretched weather, without either wind or freshness. Ladies carried their
umbrellas, to be on the safe side, and the woollen caps of the men looked
limp and depressing.

I took another turn across the market and looked at the vegetables and
roses. I feel a hand on my shoulder and turn round--"Missy" bids me good
morning! "Good-morning!" I say in return, a little questioningly. I never
cared particularly for "Missy."

He looks inquisitively at the large brand-new parcel under my arm, and

"What have you got there?"

"Oh, I have been down to Semb and got some cloth for a suit," I reply, in
a careless tone. "I didn't think I could rub on any longer; there's such a
thing as treating oneself too shabbily."

He looks at me with an amazed start.

"By the way, how are you getting on?" He asks it slowly.

"Oh, beyond all expectation!"

"Then you have got something to do now?"

"Something to do?" I answer and seem surprised. "Rather! Why, I am
book-keeper at Christensen's--a wholesale house."

"Oh, indeed!" he remarks and draws back a little.

"Well, God knows I am the first to be pleased at your success. If only you
don't let people beg the money from you that you earn. Good-day!"

A second after he wheels round and comes back and, pointing with his cane
to my parcel, says:

"I would recommend my tailor to you for the suit of clothes. You won't
find a better tailor than Isaksen--just say I sent you, that's all!"

This was really rather more than I could swallow. What did he want to poke
his nose in my affairs for? Was it any concern of his which tailor I
employed? The sight of this empty-headed dandified "masher" embittered me,
and I reminded him rather brutally of ten shilling he had borrowed from
me. But before he could reply I regretted that I had asked for it. I got
ashamed and avoided meeting his eyes, and, as a lady came by just then, I
stepped hastily aside to let her pass, and seized the opportunity to
proceed on my way.

What should I do with myself whilst I waited? I could not visit a cafe
with empty pockets, and I knew of no acquaintance that I could call on at
this time of day. I wended my way instinctively up town, killed a good
deal of time between the marketplace and the Graendsen, read the
_Aftenpost,_ which was newly posted up on the board outside the
office, took a turn down Carl Johann, wheeled round and went straight on
to Our Saviour's Cemetery, where I found a quiet seat on the slope near
the Mortuary Chapel.

I sat there in complete quietness, dozed in the damp air, mused,
half-slept and shivered.

And time passed. Now, was it certain that the story really was a little
masterpiece of inspired art? God knows if it might not have its faults
here and there. All things well weighed, it was not certain that it would
be accepted; no, simply not even accepted. It was perhaps mediocre enough
in its way, perhaps downright worthless. What security had I that it was
not already at this moment lying in the waste-paper basket?... My
confidence was shaken. I sprang up and stormed out of the graveyard.

Down in Akersgaden I peeped into a shop window, and saw that it was only a
little past noon. There was no use in looking up the editor before four.
The fate of my story filled me with gloomy forebodings; the more I thought
about it the more absurd it seemed to me that I could have written
anything useable with such suddenness, half-asleep, with my brain full of
fever and dreams. Of course I had deceived myself and been happy all
through the long morning for nothing!... Of course!... I rushed with
hurried strides up Ullavold-sveien, past St. Han's Hill, until I came to
the open fields; on through the narrow quaint lanes in Sagene, past waste
plots and small tilled fields, and found myself at last on a country road,
the end of which I could not see.

Here I halted and decided to turn.

I was warm from the walk, and returned slowly and very downcast. I met two
hay-carts. The drivers were lying flat upon the top of their loads, and
sang. Both were bare-headed, and both had round, care-free faces. I passed
them and thought to myself that they were sure to accost me, sure to fling
some taunt or other at me, play me some trick; and as I got near enough,
one of them called out and asked what I had under my arm?

"A blanket!"

"What o'clock is it?" he asked then.

"I don't know rightly; about three, I think!"
Whereupon they both laughed and drove on. I felt at the same moment the
lash of a whip curl round one of my ears, and my hat was jerked off. They
couldn't let me pass without playing me a trick. I raised my hand to my
head more or less confusedly, picked my hat out of the ditch, and
continued on my way. Down at St. Han's Hill I met a man who told me it was
past four. Past four! already past four! I mended my pace, nearly ran down
to the town, turned off towards the news office. Perhaps the editor had
been there hours ago, and had left the office by now. I ran, jostled
against folk, stumbled, knocked against cars, left everybody behind me,
competed with the very horses, struggled like a madman to arrive there in
time. I wrenched through the door, took the stairs in four bounds, and

No answer.

"He has left, he has left," I think. I try the door which is open, knock
once again, and enter. The editor is sitting at his table, his face
towards the window, pen in hand, about to write. When he hears my
breathless greeting he turns half round, steals a quick look at me, shakes
his head, and says:

"Oh, I haven't found time to read your sketch yet."

I am so delighted, because in that case he has not rejected it, that I

"Oh, pray, sir, don't mention it. I quite understand--there is no hurry;
in a few days, perhaps--"

"Yes, I shall see; besides, I have your address."

I forgot to inform him that I no longer had an address, and the interview
is over. I bow myself out, and leave. Hope flames up again in me; as yet,
nothing is lost--on the contrary, I might, for that matter, yet win all.
And my brain began to spin a romance about a great council in Heaven, in
which it had just been resolved that I should win--ay, triumphantly win
ten shillings for a story.

If I only had some place in which to take refuge for the night! I consider
where I can stow myself away, and am so absorbed in this query that I come
to a standstill in the middle of the street. I forget where I am, and pose
like a solitary beacon on a rock in mid-sea, whilst the tides rush and
roar about it.

A newspaper boy offers me _The Viking_.

"It's real good value, sir!"

I look up and start; I am outside Semb's shop again. I quickly turn to the
right-about, holding the parcel in front of me, and hurry down Kirkegaden,
ashamed and afraid that any one might have seen me from the window. I pass
by Ingebret's and the theatre, turn round by the box-office, and go
towards the sea, near the fortress. I find a seat once more, and begin to
consider afresh.

Where in the world shall I find a shelter for the night?

Was there a hole to be found where I could creep in and hide myself till
morning? My pride forbade my returning to my lodging--besides, it could
never really occur to me to go back on my word; I rejected this thought
with great scorn, and I smiled superciliously as I thought of the little
red rocking-chair. By some association of ideas, I find myself suddenly
transported to a large, double room I once occupied in Haegdehaugen. I
could see a tray on the table, filled with great slices of
bread-and-butter. The vision changed; it was transformed into beef--a
seductive piece of beef--a snow-white napkin, bread in plenty, a silver
fork. The door opened; enter my landlady, offering me more tea....

Visions; senseless dreams! I tell myself that were I to get food now my
head would become dizzy once more, fever would fill my brain, and I would
have to fight again against many mad fancies. I could not stomach food, my
inclination did not lie that way; that was peculiar to me--an idiosyncrasy
of mine.

Maybe as night drew on a way could be found to procure shelter. There was
no hurry; at the worst, I could seek a place out in the woods. I had the
entire environs of the city at my disposal; as yet, there was no degree of
cold worth speaking of in the weather.

And outside there the sea rocked in drowsy rest; ships and clumsy,
broad-nosed prams ploughed graves in its bluish surface, and scattered
rays to the right and left, and glided on, whilst the smoke rolled up in
downy masses from the chimney-stacks, and the stroke of the engine pistons
pierced the clammy air with a dull sound. There was no sun and no wind;
the trees behind me were almost wet, and the seat upon which I sat was
cold and damp.

Time went. I settled down to doze, waxed tired, and a little shiver ran
down my back. A while after I felt that my eyelids began to droop, and I
let them droop....

When I awoke it was dark all around me. I started up, bewildered and
freezing. I seized my parcel and commenced to walk. I went faster and
faster in order to get warm, slapped my arms, chafed my legs--which by now
I could hardly feel under me--and thus reached the watch-house of the fire
brigade. It was nine o'clock; I had been asleep for several hours.

Whatever shall I do with myself? I must go to some place. I stand there
and stare up at the watch-house, and query if it would not be possible to
succeed in getting into one of the passages if I were to watch for a
moment when the watchman's back was turned. I ascend the steps, and
prepare to open a conversation with the man. He lifts his ax in salute,
and waits for what I may have to say. The uplifted ax, with its edge
turned against me, darts like a cold slash through my nerves. I stand dumb
with terror before this armed man, and draw involuntarily back. I say
nothing, only glide farther and farther away from him. To save appearances
I draw my hand over my forehead, as if I had forgotten something or other,
and slink away. When I reached the pavement I felt as much saved as if I
had just escaped a great peril, and I hurried away.

Cold and famished, more and more miserable in spirit, I flew up Carl
Johann. I began to swear out aloud, troubling myself not a whit as to
whether any one heard me or not. Arrived at Parliament House, just near
the first trees, I suddenly, by some association of ideas, bethought
myself of a young artist I knew, a stripling I had once saved from an
assault in the Tivoli, and upon whom I had called later on. I snap my
fingers gleefully, and wend my way to Tordenskjiolds Street, find the
door, on which is fastened a card with C. Zacharias Bartel on it, and

He came out himself, and smelt so fearfully of ale and tobacco that it was

"Good-evening!" I say.

"Good-evening! is that you? Now, why the deuce do you come so late? It
doesn't look at all its best by lamplight. I have added a hayrick to it
since, and have made a few other alterations. You must see it by daylight;
there is no use our trying to see it now!"

"Let me have a look at it now, all the same," said I; though, for that
matter, I did not in the least remember what picture he was talking about.

"Absolutely impossible," he replied; "the whole thing will look yellow;
and, besides, there's another thing"--and he came towards me, whispering:
"I have a little girl inside this evening, so it's clearly impracticable."

"Oh, in that case, of course there's no question about it."

I drew back, said good-night, and went away.

So there was no way out of it but to seek some place out in the woods. If
only the fields were not so damp. I patted my blanket, and felt more and
more at home at the thought of sleeping out. I had worried myself so long
trying to find a shelter in town that I was wearied and bored with the
whole affair. It would be a positive pleasure to get to rest, to resign
myself; so I loaf down the street without thought in my head. At a place
in Haegdehaugen I halted outside a provision shop where some food was
displayed in the window. A cat lay there and slept beside a round French
roll. There was a basin of lard and several basins of meal in the
background. I stood a while and gazed at these eatables; but as I had no
money wherewith to buy, I turned quickly away and continued my tramp. I
went very slowly, passed by Majorstuen, went on, always on--it seemed to
me for hours,--and came at length at Bogstad's wood.

I turned off the road here, and sat down to rest. Then I began to look
about for a place to suit me, to gather together heather and juniper
leaves, and make up a bed on a little declivity where it was a bit dry. I
opened the parcel and took out the blanket; I was tired and exhausted with
the long walk, and lay down at once. I turned and twisted many times
before I could get settled. My ear pained me a little--it was slightly
swollen from the whip-lash--and I could not lie on it. I pulled off my
shoes and put them under my head, with the paper from Semb on top.

And the great spirit of darkness spread a shroud over me ... everything
was silent--everything. But up in the heights soughed the everlasting
song, the voice of the air, the distant, toneless humming which is never
silent. I listened so long to this ceaseless faint murmur that it began to
bewilder me; it was surely a symphony from the rolling spheres above.
Stars that intone a song....

"I am damned if it is, though," I exclaimed;
and I laughed aloud to collect my wits. "They're
night-owls hooting in Canaan!"

I rose again, pulled on my shoes, and wandered
about in the gloom, only to lay down once more.
I fought and wrestled with anger and fear until
nearly dawn, then fell asleep at last.

       *        *        *        *        *

It was broad daylight when I opened my eyes, and I had a feeling that it
was going on towards noon.

I pulled on my shoes, packed up the blanket again, and set out for town.
There was no sun to be seen today either; I shivered like a dog, my feet
were benumbed, and water commenced to run from my eyes, as if they could
not bear the daylight.

It was three o'clock. Hunger began to assail me downright in earnest. I
was faint, and now and again I had to retch furtively. I swung round by
the Dampkökken, [Footnote: Steam cooking-kitchen and famous cheap
eating-house] read the bill of fare, and shrugged my shoulders in a way to
attract attention, as if corned beef or salt port was not meet food for
me. After that I went towards the railway station.

A singular sense of confusion suddenly darted through my head. I stumbled
on, determined not to heed it; but I grew worse and worse, and was forced
at last to sit down on a step. My whole being underwent a change, as if
something had slid aside in my inner self, or as if a curtain or tissue of
my brain was rent in two.

I was not unconscious; I felt that my ear was gathering a little, and, as
an acquaintance passed by, I recognized him at once and got up and bowed.

What sore of fresh, painful perception was this that was being added to
the rest? Was it a consequence of sleeping in the sodden fields, or did it
arise from my not having had any breakfast yet? Looking the whole thing
squarely in the face, there was no meaning in living on in this manner, by
Christ's holy pains, there wasn't. I failed to see either how I had made
myself deserving of this special persecution; and it suddenly entered my
head that I might just as well turn rogue at once and go to my "Uncle's"
with the blanket. I could pawn it for a shilling, and get three full
meals, and so keep myself going until I thought of something else. 'Tis
true I would have to swindle Hans Pauli. I was already on my way to the
pawn-shop, but stopped outside the door, shook my head irresolutely, then
turned back. The farther away I got the more gladsome, ay, delighted I
became, that I had conquered this strong temptation. The consciousness
that I was yet pure and honourable rose to my head, filled me with a
splendid sense of having principle, character, of being a shining white
beacon in a muddy, human sea amidst floating wreck.

Pawn another man's property for the sake of a meal, eat and drink one's
self to perdition, brand one's soul with the first little scar, set the
first black mark against one's honour, call one's self a blackguard to
one's own face, and needs must cast one's eyes down before one's self?
Never! never! It could never have been my serious intention--it had really
never seriously taken hold of me; in fact, I could not be answerable for
every loose, fleeting, desultory thought, particularly with such a
headache as I had, and nearly killed carrying a blanket, too, that
belonged to another fellow.

There would surely be some way or another of getting help when the right
time came! Now, there was the grocer in Groenlandsleret. Had I importuned
him every hour in the day since I sent in my application? Had I rung the
bell early and late, and been turned away? Why, I had not even applied
personally to him or sought an answer! It did not follow, surely, that it
must needs be an absolutely vain attempt.

Maybe I had luck with me this time. Luck often took such a devious course,
and I started for Groenlandsleret.

The last spasm that had darted through my head had exhausted me a little,
and I walked very slowly and thought over what I would say to him.

Perhaps he was a good soul; if the whim seized him he might pay me for my
work a shilling in advance, even without my asking for it. People of that
sort had sometimes the most capital ideas.

I stole into a doorway and blackened the knees of my trousers with spittle
to try and make them look a little respectable, left the parcel behind me
in a dark corner at the back of a chest, and entered the little shop.

A man is standing pasting together bags made of old newspaper.

"I would like to see Mr. Christie," I said.

"That's me!" replied the man.

"Indeed!" Well, my name was so-and-so. I had taken the liberty of sending
him an application, I did not know if it had been of any use.

He repeated my name a couple of times and commenced to laugh.

"Well now, you shall see," he said, taking my letter out of his
breast-pocket, "if you will just be good enough to see how you deal with
dates, sir. You dated your letter 1848," and the man roared with laughter.

"Yes, that was rather a mistake," I said, abashed--a distraction, a want
of thought; I admitted it.

"You see I must have a man who, as a matter of fact, makes no mistakes in
figures," said he. "I regret it, your handwriting is clear, and I like
your letter, too, but--"

I waited a while; this could not possibly be the man's final say. He
busied himself again with the bags.

"Yes, it was a pity," I said; "really an awful pity, but of course it
would not occur again; and, after all, surely this little error could not
have rendered me quite unfit to keep books?"

"No, I didn't say that," he answered, "but in the meantime it had so much
weight with me that I decided at once upon another man."

"So the place is filled?"


"A--h, well, then there's nothing more to be said about it!"

"No! I'm sorry, but--"

"Good-evening!" said I.

Fury welled up in me, blazing with brutal strength. I fetched my parcel
from the entry, set my teeth together, jostled against the peaceful folk
on the footpath, and never once asked their pardon.

As one man stopped and set me to rights rather sharply for my behaviour, I
turned round and screamed a single meaningless word in his ear, clenched
my fist right under his nose, and stumbled on, hardened by a blind rage
that I could not control.

He called a policeman, and I desired nothing better than to have one
between my hands just for one moment. I slackened my pace intentionally in
order to give him an opportunity of overtaking me; but he did not come.
Was there now any reason whatever that absolutely every one of one's most
earnest and most persevering efforts should fail? Why, too, had I written
1828? In what way did that infernal date concern me? Here I was going
about starving, so that my entrails wriggle together in me like worms, and
it was, as far as I knew, not decreed in the book of fate that anything in
the shape of food would turn up later on in the day.

I was becoming mentally and physically more and more prostrate; I was
letting myself down each day to less and less honest actions, so that I
lied on each day without blushing, cheated poor people out of their rent,
struggled with the meanest thoughts of making away with other men's
blankets--all without remorse or prick of conscience.

Foul places began to gather in my inner being, black spores which spread
more and more. And up in Heaven God Almighty sat and kept a watchful eye
on me, and took heed that _my_ destruction proceeded in accordance
with all the rules of art, uniformly and gradually, without a break in the

But in the abysses of hell the angriest devils bristled with range because
it lasted such a long time until I committed a mortal sin, an unpardonable
offence for which God in His justice must cast me--down....

I quickened my pace, hurried faster and faster, turned suddenly to the
left and found myself, excited and angry, in a light ornate doorway. I did
not pause, not for one second, but the whole peculiar ornamentation of the
entrance struck on my perception in a flash; every detail of the
decoration and the tiling of the floor stood clear on my mental vision as
I sprang up the stairs. I rang violently on the second floor. Why should I
stop exactly on the second floor? And why just seize hold of this bell
which was some little way from the stairs?

A young lady in a grey gown with black trimming came out and opened the
door. She looked for a moment in astonishment at me, then shook her head
and said:

"No, we have not got anything today," and she made a feint to close the

What induced me to thrust myself in this creature's way? She took me
without further ado for a beggar.

I got cool and collected at once. I raised my hat, made a respectful bow,
and, as if I had not caught her words, said, with the utmost politeness:

"I hope you will excuse me, madam, for ringing so hard, the bell was new
to me. Is it not here that an invalid gentleman lives who has advertised
for a man to wheel him about in a chair?"

She stood awhile and digested this mendacious invention and seemed to be
irresolute in her summing up of my person.

"No!" she said at length; "no, there is no invalid gentleman living here."

"Not really? An elderly gentleman--two hours a day--sixpence an hour?"


"Ah! in that case, I again ask pardon," said I. "It is perhaps on the
first floor. I only wanted, in any case, to recommend a man I know, in
whom I am interested; my name is Wedel-Jarlsberg," [Footnote: The last
family bearing title of nobility in Norway.] and I bowed again and drew
back. The young lady blushed crimson, and in her embarrassment could not
stir from the spot, but stood and stared after me as I descended the

My calm had returned to me, and my head was clear. The lady's saying that
she had nothing for me today had acted upon me like an icy shower. So it
had gone so far with me that any one might point at me, and say to
himself, "There goes a beggar--one of those people who get their food
handed out to them at folk's back-doors!"

I halted outside an eating-house in Möller Street, and sniffed the fresh
smell of meat roasting inside; my hand was already upon the door-handle,
and I was on the point of entering without any fixed purpose, when I
bethought myself in time, and left the spot. On reaching the market, and
seeking for a place to rest for a little, I found all the benches
occupied, and I sought in vain all round outside the church for a quiet
seat, where I could sit down.

Naturally, I told myself, gloomily--naturally, naturally; and I commenced
to walk again. I took a turn round the fountain at the corner of the
bazaar, and swallowed a mouthful of water. On again, dragging one foot
after the other; stopped for a long time before each shop window; halted,
and watched every vehicle that drove by. I felt a scorching heat in my
head, and something pulsated strangely in my temples. The water I had
drunk disagreed with me fearfully, and I retched, stopping here and there
to escape being noticed in the open street. In this manner I came up to
Our Saviour's Cemetery.

I sat down here, with my elbows on my knees and my head in my hands. In
this cramped position I was more at ease, and I no longer felt the little
gnawing in my chest.

A stone-cutter lay on his stomach on a large slab of granite, at the side
of me, and cut inscriptions. He had blue spectacles on, and reminded me of
an acquaintance of mine, whom I had almost forgotten.

If I could only knock all shame on the head and apply to him. Tell him the
truth right out, that things were getting awfully tight with me now; ay,
that I found it hard enough to keep alive. I could give him my

Zounds! my shaving-tickets; tickets for nearly a shilling. I search
nervously for this precious treasure. As I do not find them quickly
enough, I spring to my feet and search, in a sweat of fear. I discover
them at last in the bottom of my breast-pocket, together with other
papers--some clean, some written on--of no value.

I count these six tickets over many times, backwards and forwards; I had
not much use for them; it might pass for a whim--a notion of mine--that I
no longer cared to get shaved.

I was saved to the extent of sixpence--a white sixpence of Kongsberg
silver. The bank closed at six; I could watch for my man outside the
Opland Café between seven and eight.

I sat, and was for a long time pleased with this thought. Time went. The
wind blew lustily through the chestnut trees around me, and the day

After all, was it not rather petty to come slinking up with six
shaving-tickets to a young gentleman holding a good position in a bank?
Perhaps, he had already a book, maybe two, quite full of spick and span
tickets, a contrast to the crumpled ones I held.

Who could tell? I felt in all my pockets for anything else I could let go
with them, but found nothing. If I could only offer him my tie? I could
well do without it if I buttoned my coat tightly up, which, by the way, I
was already obliged to do, as I had no waistcoat. I untied it--it was a
large overlapping bow which hid half my chest,--brushed it carefully, and
folded it up in a piece of clean white writing-paper, together with the
tickets. Then I left the churchyard and took the road leading to the

It was seven by the Town Hall clock. I walked up and down hard by the
café, kept close to the iron railings, and kept a sharp watch on all who
went in and came out of the door. At last, about eight o'clock, I saw the
young fellow, fresh, elegantly dressed, coming up the hill and across to
the cafe door. My heart fluttered like a little bird in my breast as I
caught sight of him, and I blurted out, without even a greeting:

"Sixpence, old friend!" I said, putting on cheek; "here is the worth of
it," and I thrust the little packet into his hand.

"Haven't got it," he exclaimed. "God knows if I have!" and he turned his
purse inside out right before my eyes. "I was out last night and got
totally cleared out! You must believe me, I literally haven't got it."

"No, no, my dear fellow; I suppose it is so," I answered, and I took his
word for it. There was, indeed, no reason why he should lie about such a
trifling matter. It struck me, too, that his blue eyes were moist whilst
he ransacked his pockets and found nothing. I drew back. "Excuse me," I
said; "it was only just that I was a bit hard up." I was already a piece
down the street, when he called after me about the little packet. "Keep
it! keep it," I answered; "you are welcome to it. There are only a few
trifles in it--a bagatelle; about all I own in the world," and I became so
touched at my own words, they sounded so pathetic in the twilight, that I
fell a-weeping....

The wind freshened, the clouds chased madly across the heavens, and it
grew cooler and cooler as it got darker. I walked, and cried as I walked,
down the whole street; felt more and more commiseration with myself, and
repeated, time after time, a few words, an ejaculation, which called forth
fresh tears whenever they were on the point of ceasing: "Lord God, I feel
so wretched! Lord God, I feel so wretched!"

An hour passed; passed with such strange slowness, such weariness. I spent
a long time in Market Street; sat on steps, stole into doorways, and when
any one approached, stood and stared absently into the shops where people
bustled about with wares or money. At last I found myself a sheltered
place, behind a deal hoarding, between the church and the bazaar.

No; I couldn't go out into the woods again this evening. Things must take
their course. I had not strength enough to go, and it was such an endless
way there. I would kill the night as best I could, and remain where I was;
if it got all too cold, well, I could walk round the church. I would not
in any case worry myself any more about that, and I leant back and dozed.

The noise around me diminished; the shops closed. The steps of the
pedestrians sounded more and more rarely, and in all the windows about the
lights went out. I opened my eyes, and became aware of a figure standing
in front of me. The flash of shining buttons told me it was a policeman,
though I could not see the man's face.

"Good-night," he said.

"Good-night," I answered and got afraid.

"Where do you live?" he queried.

I name, from habit, and without thought, my old address, the little attic.

He stood for a while.

"Have I done anything wrong?" I asked anxiously.

"No, not at all!" he replied; "but you had perhaps better be getting home
now; it's cold lying here."

"Ay, that's true; I feel it is a little chilly." I said good-night, and
instinctively took the road to my old abode. If I only set about it
carefully, I might be able to get upstairs without being heard; there were
eight steps in all, and only the two top ones creaked under my tread. Down
at the door I took off my shoes, and ascended. It was quiet everywhere. I
could hear the slow tick-tack of a clock, and a child crying a little.
After that I heard nothing. I found my door, lifted the latch as I was
accustomed to do, entered the room, and shut the door noiselessly after

Everything was as I had left it. The curtains were pulled aside from the
windows, and the bed stood empty. I caught a glimpse of a note lying on
the table; perhaps it was my note to the landlady--she might never have
been up here since I went away.

I fumbled with my hands over the white spot, and felt, to my astonishment,
that it was a letter. I take it over to the window, examine as well as it
is possible in the dark the badly-written letters of the address, and make
out at least my own name. Ah, I thought, an answer from my landlady,
forbidding me to enter the room again if I were for sneaking back.

Slowly, quite slowly I left the room, carrying my shoes in one hand, the
letter in the other, and the blanket under my arm. I draw myself up, set
my teeth as I tread on the creaking steps, get happily down the stairs,
and stand once more at the door. I put on my shoes, take my time with the
laces, sit a while quietly after I'm ready, and stare vacantly before me,
holding the letter in my hand. Then I get up and go.

The flickering ray of a gas lamp gleams up the
street. I make straight for the light, lean my parcel
against the lamp-post and open the letter. All
this with the utmost deliberation. A stream of
light, as it were, darts through my breast, and I hear
that I give a little cry--a meaningless sound of
joy. The letter was from the editor. My story
was accepted--had been set in type immediately,
straight off! A few slight alterations.... A
couple of errors in writing amended.... Worked
out with talent ... be printed tomorrow ...

I laughed and cried, took to jumping and running down the street, stopped,
slapped my thighs, swore loudly and solemnly into space at nothing in
particular. And time went.

All through the night until the bright dawn I "jodled" about the streets
and repeated--"Worked out with talent--therefore a little masterpiece--a
stroke of genius--and half-a-sovereign."

Part II

A few weeks later I was out one evening. Once more I had sat out in a
churchyard and worked at an article for one of the newspapers. But whilst
I was struggling with it eight o'clock struck, and darkness closed in, and
time for shutting the gates.

I was hungry--very hungry. The ten shillings had, worse luck, lasted all
too short. It was now two, ay, nearly three days since I had eaten
anything, and I felt somewhat faint; holding the pencil even had taxed me
a little. I had half a penknife and a bunch of keys in my pocket, but not
a farthing.

When the churchyard gate shut I meant to have gone straight home, but,
from an instinctive dread of my room--a vacant tinker's workshop, where
all was dark and barren, and which, in fact, I had got permission to
occupy for the present--I stumbled on, passed, not caring where I went,
the Town Hall, right to the sea, and over to a scat near the railway

At this moment not a sad thought troubled me. I forgot my distress, and
felt calmed by the view of the sea, which lay peaceful and lovely in the
murkiness. For old habit's sake I would please myself by reading through
the bit I had just written, and which seemed to my suffering head the best
thing I had ever done.

I took my manuscript out of my pocket to try and decipher it, held it
close up to my eyes, and ran through it, one line after the other. At last
I got tired, and put the papers back in my pocket. Everything was still.
The sea stretched away in pearly blueness, and little birds flitted
noiselessly by me from place to place.

A policeman patrols in the distance; otherwise there is not a soul
visible, and the whole harbour is hushed in quiet.

I count my belongings once more--half a penknife, a bunch of keys, but not
a farthing. Suddenly I dive into my pocket and take the papers out again.
It was a mechanical movement, an unconscious nervous twitch. I selected a
white unwritten page, and--God knows where I got the notion from--but I
made a cornet, closed it carefully, so that it looked as if it were filled
with something, and threw it far out on to the pavement. The breeze blew
it onward a little, and then it lay still.

By this time hunger had begun to assail me in earnest. I sat and looked at
the white paper cornet, which seemed as if it might be bursting with
shining silver pieces, and incited myself to believe that it really did
contain something. I sat and coaxed myself quite audibly to guess the sum;
if I guessed aright, it was to be mine.

I imagined the tiny, pretty penny bits at the bottom and the thick fluted
shillings on top--a whole paper cornet full of money! I sat and gazed at
it with wide opened eyes, and urged myself to go and steal it.

Then I hear the constable cough. What puts it into my head to do the same?
I rise up from the seat and repeat the cough three times so that he may
hear it. Won't he jump at the corner when he comes. I sat and laughed at
this trick, rubbed my hands with glee, and swore with rollicking
recklessness. What a disappointment he will get, the dog! Wouldn't this
piece of villainy make him inclined to sink into hell's hottest pool of
torment! I was drunk with starvation; my hunger had made me tipsy.

A few minutes later the policeman comes by, clinking his iron heels on the
pavement, peering on all sides. He takes his time; he has the whole night
before him; he does not notice the paper bag--not till he comes quite
close to it. Then he stops and stares at it. It looks so white and so full
as it lies there; perhaps a little sum--what? A little sum of silver
money?... and he picks it up. Hum ... it is light--very light; maybe an
expensive feather; some hat trimming.... He opened it carefully with his
big hands, and looked in. I laughed, laughed, slapped my thighs, and
laughed, like a maniac. And not a sound issued from my throat; my laughter
was hushed and feverish to the intensity of tears.

Clink, clink again over the paving-stones, and the policeman took a turn
towards the landing-stage. I sat there, with tears in my eyes, and
hiccoughed for breath, quite beside myself with feverish merriment. I
commenced to talk aloud to myself all about the cornet, imitated the poor
policeman's movements, peeped into my hollow hand, and repeated over and
over again to myself, "He coughed as he threw it away--he coughed as he
threw it away." I added new words to these, gave them additional point,
changed the whole sentence, and made it catching and piquant. He coughed
once--Kheu heu!

I exhausted myself in weaving variations on these words, and the evening
was far advanced before my mirth ceased. Then a drowsy quiet overcame me;
a pleasant languor which I did not attempt to resist. The darkness had
intensified, and a slight breeze furrowed the pearl-blue sea. The ships,
the masts of which I could see outlined against the sky, looked with their
black hulls like voiceless monsters that bristled and lay in wait for me.
I had no pain--my hunger had taken the edge off it. In its stead I felt
pleasantly empty, untouched by everything around me, and glad not to be
noticed by any one. I put my feet up on the seat and leant back. Thus I
could best appreciate the well-being of perfect isolation. There was not a
cloud on my mind, not a feeling of discomfort, and so far as my thought
reached, I had not a whim, not a desire unsatisfied. I lay with open eyes,
in a state of utter absence of mind. I felt myself charmed away. Moreover,
not a sound disturbed me. Soft darkness had hidden the whole world from my
sight, and buried me in ideal rest. Only the lonely, crooning voice of
silence strikes in monotones on my ear, and the dark monsters out there
will draw me to them when night comes, and they will bear me far across
the sea, through strange lands where no man dwells, and they will bear me
to Princess Ylajali's palace, where an undreamt-of grandeur awaits me,
greater than that of any other man. And she herself will be sitting in a
dazzling hall where all is amethyst, on a throne of yellow roses, and will
stretch out her hands to me when I alight; will smile and call as I
approach and kneel: "Welcome, welcome, knight, to me and my land! I have
waited twenty summers for you, and called for you on all bright nights.
And when you sorrowed I have wept here, and when you slept I have breathed
sweet dreams in you!"... And the fair one clasps my hand and, holding it,
leads me through long corridors where great crowds of people cry,
"Hurrah!" through bright gardens where three hundred tender maidens laugh
and play; and through another hall where all is of emerald; and here the
sun shines.

In the corridors and galleries choirs of musicians march by, and rills of
perfume are wafted towards me.

I clasp her hand in mine; I feel the wild witchery of enchantment shiver
through my blood, and I fold my arms around her, and she whispers, "Not
here; come yet farther!" and we enter a crimson room, where all is of
ruby, a foaming glory, in which I faint.

Then I feel her arms encircle me; her breath fans my face with a whispered
"Welcome, loved one! Kiss me ... more ... more...."

I see from my seat stars shooting before my eyes, and my thoughts are
swept away in a hurricane of light....

I had fallen asleep where I lay, and was awakened by the policeman. There
I sat, recalled mercilessly to life and misery. My first feeling was of
stupid amazement at finding myself in the open air; but this was quickly
replaced by a bitter despondency, I was near crying with sorrow at being
still alive. It had rained whilst I slept, and my clothes were soaked
through and through, and I felt a damp cold in my limbs.

The darkness was denser; it was with difficulty that I could distinguish
the policeman's face in front of me.

"So, that's right," he said; "get up now."

I got up at once; if he had commanded me to lie down again I would have
obeyed too. I was fearfully dejected, and utterly without strength; added
to that, I was almost instantly aware of the pangs of hunger again.

"Hold on there!" the policeman shouted after me; "why, you're walking off
without your hat, you Juggins! So--h there; now, go on."

"I indeed thought there was something--something I had forgotten," I
stammered, absently. "Thanks, good-night!" and I stumbled away.

If one only had a little bread to eat; one of those delicious little brown
loaves that one could bite into as one walked along the street; and as I
went on I thought over the particular sort of brown bread that would be so
unspeakably good to munch. I was bitterly hungry; wished myself dead and
buried; I got maudlin, and wept.

There never was any end to my misery. Suddenly I stopped in the street,
stamped on the pavement, and cursed loudly. What was it he called me? A
"Juggins"? I would just show him what calling me a "Juggins" means. I
turned round and ran back. I felt red-hot with anger. Down the street I
stumbled, and fell, but I paid no heed to it, jumped up again, and ran on.
But by the time I reached the railway station I had become so tired that I
did not feel able to proceed all the way to the landing-stage; besides, my
anger had cooled down with the run. At length I pulled up and drew breath.
Was it not, after all, a matter of perfect indifference to me what such a
policeman said? Yes; but one couldn't stand everything. Right enough, I
interrupted myself; but he knew no better. And I found this argument
satisfactory. I repeated twice to myself, "He knew no better"; and with
that I returned again.

"Good Lord!" thought I, wrathfully, "what things you do take into your
head: running about like a madman through the soaking wet streets on dark
nights." My hunger was now tormenting me excruciatingly, and gave me no
rest. Again and again I swallowed saliva to try and satisfy myself a
little; I fancied it helped.

I had been pinched, too, for food for ever so many weeks before this last
period set in, and my strength had diminished considerably of late. When I
had been lucky enough to raise five shillings by some manoeuvre or another
they only lasted any time with difficulty; not long enough for me to be
restored to health before a new hunger period set in and reduced me again.
My back and shoulders caused me the worst trouble. I could stop the little
gnawing I had in my chest by coughing hard, or bending well forward as I
walked, but I had no remedy for back and shoulders. Whatever was the
reason that things would not brighten up for me? Was I not just as much
entitled to live as any one else? for example, as Bookseller Pascha or
Steam Agent Hennechen? Had I not two shoulders like a giant, and two
strong hands to work with? and had I not, in sooth, even applied for a
place as wood-chopper in Möllergaden in order to earn my daily bread? Was
I lazy? Had I not applied for situations, attended lectures, written
articles, and worked day and night like a man possessed? Had I not lived
like a miser, eaten bread and milk when I had plenty, bread alone when I
had little, and starved when I had nothing? Did I live in an hotel? Had I
a suite of rooms on the first floor? Why, I am living in a loft over a
tinker's workshop, a loft already forsaken by God and man last winter,
because the snow blew in. So I could not understand the whole thing; not a
bit of it.

I slouched on, and dwelt upon all this, and there was not as much as a
spark of bitterness or malice or envy in my mind.

I halted at a paint-shop and gazed into the window. I tried to read the
labels on a couple of the tins, but it was too dark. Vexed with myself
over this new whim, and excited--almost angry at not being able to make
out what these tins held,--I rapped twice sharply on the window and went

Up the street I saw a policeman. I quickened my pace, went close up to
him, and said, without the slightest provocation, "It is ten o'clock."

"No, it's two," he answered, amazed.

"No, it's ten," I persisted; "it is ten o'clock!" and, groaning with
anger, I stepped yet a pace or two nearer, clenched my fist, and said,
"Listen, do you know what, it's ten o'clock!"

He stood and considered a while, summed up my appearance, stared aghast at
me, and at last said, quite gently, "In any case, it's about time ye were
getting home. Would ye like me to go with ye a bit?"

I was completely disarmed by this man's unexpected friendliness. I felt
that tears sprang to my eyes, and I hastened to reply:

"No, thank you! I have only been out a little too late in a café. Thank
you very much all the same!"

He saluted with his hand to his helmet as I turned away. His friendliness
had overwhelmed me, and I cried weakly, because I had not even a little
coin to give him.

I halted, and looked after him as he went slowly on his way. I struck my
forehead, and, in measure, as he disappeared from my sight, I cried more

I railed at myself for my poverty, called myself abusive names, invented
furious designations--rich, rough nuggets--in a vein of abuse with which I
overwhelmed myself. I kept on at this until I was nearly home. On coming
to the door I discovered I had dropped my keys.

"Oh, of course," I muttered to myself, "why shouldn't I lose my keys? Here
I am, living in a yard where there is a stable underneath and a tinker's
workshop up above. The door is locked at night, and no one, no one can
open it; therefore, why should I not lose my keys?

"I am as wet as a dog--a little hungry--ah, just ever such a little
hungry, and slightly, ay, absurdly tired about my knees; therefore, why
should I not lose them?

"Why, for that matter, had not the whole house flitted out to Aker by the
time I came home and wished to enter it?" ... and I laughed to myself,
hardened by hunger and exhaustion.

I could hear the horses stamp in the stables, and I could see my window
above, but I could not open the door, and I could not get in.

It had begun to rain again, and I felt the water soak through to my
shoulders. At the Town Hall I was seized by a bright idea. I would ask the
policeman to open the door. I applied at once to a constable, and
earnestly begged him to accompany me and let me in, if he could.

Yes, if he could, yes! But he couldn't; he had no key. The police keys
were not there; they were kept in the Detective Department.

What was I to do then?

Well, I could go to an hotel and get a bed!

But I really couldn't go to an hotel and get a bed; I had not money, I had
been out--in a café ... he knew....

We stood a while on the Town Hall steps. He considered and examined my
personal appearance. The rain fell in torrents outside.

"Well then, you must go to the guard-house and report yourself as
homeless!" said he.

Homeless? I hadn't thought of that. Yes, by Jove, that was a capital idea;
and I thanked the constable on the spot for the suggestion. Could I simply
go in and say I was homeless?

"Just that."...

       *       *       *       *       *

"Your name?" inquired the guard.

"Tangen--Andreas Tangen!"

I don't know why I lied; my thoughts fluttered about disconnectedly and
inspired me with many singular whims, more than I knew what to do with. I
hit upon this out-of-the-way name on the spur of the moment, and blurted
it out without any calculation. I lied without any occasion for doing so.


This was driving me into a corner with a vengeance. Occupation! what was
my occupation? I thought first of turning myself into a tinker--but I
dared not; firstly, I had given myself a name that was not common to every
and any tinker--besides, I wore _pince-nez_. It suddenly entered my
head to be foolhardy. I took a step forward and said firmly, almost

"A journalist."

The guard gave a start before he wrote it down, whilst I stood as
important as a homeless Cabinet Minister before the barrier. It roused no
suspicions. The guard understood quite well why I hesitated a little
before answering. What did it look like to see a journalist in the night
guard-house without a roof over his head?

"On what paper, Herr Tangen?"

"_Morgenbladet_!" said I. "I have been out a little too late this
evening, more's the shame!"

"Oh, we won't mention that," he interrupted, with a smile; "when young
people are out ... we understand!"

Turning to a policeman, he said, as he rose and bowed politely to me,
"Show this gentleman up to the reserved section. Good-night!"

I felt ice run down my back at my own boldness, and I clenched my hands to
steady myself a bit. If I only hadn't dragged in the _Morgenbladet_.
I knew Friele could show his teeth when he liked, and I was reminded of
that by the grinding of the key turning in the lock.

"The gas will burn for ten minutes," remarked the policeman at the door.

"And then does it go out?"

"Then it goes out!"

I sat on the bed and listened to the turning of the key. The bright cell
had a friendly air; I felt comfortably and well sheltered; and listened
with pleasure to the rain outside--I couldn't wish myself anything better
than such a cosy cell. My contentment increased. Sitting on the bed, hat
in hand, and with eyes fastened on the gas jet over in the wall, I gave
myself up to thinking over the minutes of my first interview with the
police. This was the first time, and how hadn't I fooled them?
"Journalist!--Tangen! if you please! and then _Morgenbladet_!" Didn't
I appeal straight to his heart with _Morgenbladet_? "We won't mention
that! Eh? Sat in state in the Stiftsgaarden till two o'clock; forgot
door-key and a pocket-book with a thousand kroner at home. Show this
gentleman up to the reserved section!"...

All at once out goes the gas with a strange suddenness, without
diminishing or flickering.

I sit in the deepest darkness; I cannot see my hand, nor the white
walls--nothing. There was nothing for it but to go to bed, and I

But I was not tired from want of sleep, and it would not come to me. I lay
a while gazing into the darkness, this dense mass of gloom that had no
bottom--my thoughts could not fathom it.

It seemed beyond all measure dense to me, and I felt its presence oppress
me. I closed my eyes, commenced to sing under my breath, and tossed to and
fro, in order to distract myself, but to no purpose. The darkness had
taken possession of my thoughts and left me not a moment in peace.
Supposing I were myself to be absorbed in darkness; made one with it?

I raise myself up in bed and fling out my arms. My nervous condition has
got the upper hand of me, and nothing availed, no matter how much I tried
to work against it. There I sat, a prey to the most singular fantasies,
listening to myself crooning lullabies, sweating with the exertion of
striving to hush myself to rest. I peered into the gloom, and I never in
all the days of my life felt such darkness. There was no doubt that I
found myself here, in face of a peculiar kind of darkness; a desperate
element to which no one had hitherto paid attention. The most ludicrous
thoughts busied me, and everything made me afraid.

A little hole in the wall at the head of my bed occupies me greatly--a
nail hole. I find the marks in the wall--I feel it, blow into it, and try
to guess its depth. That was no innocent hole--not at all. It was a
downright intricate and mysterious hole, which I must guard against!
Possessed by the thought of this hole, entirely beside myself with
curiosity and fear, I get out of bed and seize hold of my penknife in
order to gauge its depth, and convince myself that it does not reach right
into the next wall.

I lay down once more to try and fall asleep, but in reality to wrestle
again with the darkness. The rain had ceased outside, and I could not hear
a sound. I continued for a long time to listen for footsteps in the
street, and got no peace until I heard a pedestrian go by--to judge from
the sound, a constable. Suddenly I snap my fingers many times and laugh:
"That was the very deuce! Ha--ha!" I imagined I had discovered a new word.
I rise up in bed and say, "It is not in the language; I have discovered
it. 'Kuboa.' It has letters as a word has. By the benign God, man, you
have discovered a word!... 'Kuboa' ... a word of profound import."

I sit with open eyes, amazed at my own find, and laugh for joy. Then I
begin to whisper; some one might spy on me, and I intended to keep my
discovery a secret. I entered into the joyous frenzy of hunger. I was
empty and free from pain, and I gave free rein to my thoughts.

In all calmness I revolve things in my mind. With the most singular jerks
in my chain of ideas I seek to explain the meaning of my new word. There
was no occasion for it to mean either God or the Tivoli; [Footnote:
Theatre of Varieties, etc., and Garden in Christiania.] and who said that
it was to signify cattle show? I clench my hands fiercely, and repeat once
again, "Who said that it was to signify cattle show?" No; on second
thoughts, it was not absolutely necessary that it should mean padlock, or
sunrise. It was not difficult to find a meaning for such a word as this. I
would wait and see. In the meantime I could sleep on it.

I lie there on the stretcher-bed and laugh slily, but say nothing; give
vent to no opinion one way or the other. Some minutes pass over, and I wax
nervous; this new word torments me unceasingly, returns again and again,
takes up my thoughts, and makes me serious. I had fully formed an opinion
as to what it should not signify, but had come to no conclusion as to what
it should signify. "That is quite a matter of detail," I said aloud to
myself, and I clutched my arm and reiterated: "That is quite a matter of
detail." The word was found, God be praised! and that was the principal
thing. But ideas worry me without end and hinder me from falling asleep.
Nothing seemed good enough to me for this unusually rare word. At length I
sit up in bed again, grasp my head in both hands, and say, "No! it is just
this, it is impossible to let it signify emigration or tobacco factory. If
it could have meant anything like that I would have decided upon it long
since and taken the consequences." No; in reality the word is fitted to
signify something psychical, a feeling, a state. Could I not apprehend it?
and I reflect profoundly in order to find something psychical. Then it
seems to me that some one is interposing, interrupting my confab. I answer
angrily, "Beg pardon! Your match in idiocy is not to be found; no, sir!
Knitting cotton? Ah! go to hell!" Well, really I had to laugh. Might I ask
why should I be forced to let it signify knitting cotton, when I had a
special dislike to its signifying knitting cotton? I had discovered the
word myself, so, for that matter, I was perfectly within my right in
letting it signify whatsoever I pleased. As far as I was aware, I had not
yet expressed an opinion as to....

But my brain got more and more confused. At last I sprang out of bed to
look for the water-tap. I was not thirsty, but my head was in a fever, and
I felt an instinctive longing for water. When I had drunk some I got into
bed again, and determined with all my might to settle to sleep. I closed
my eyes and forced myself to keep quiet. I lay thus for some minutes
without making a movement, sweated and felt my blood jerk violently
through my veins. No, it was really too delicious the way he thought to
find money in the paper cornet! He only coughed once, too! I wonder if he
is pacing up and down there yet! Sitting on my bench? the pearly blue
sea ... the ships....

I opened my eyes; how could I keep them shut when I could not sleep? The
same darkness brooded over me; the same unfathomable black eternity which
my thoughts strove against and could not understand. I made the most
despairing efforts to find a word black enough to characterize this
darkness; a word so horribly black that it would darken my lips if I named
it. Lord! how dark it was! and I am carried back in thought to the sea and
the dark monsters that lay in wait for me. They would draw me to them, and
clutch me tightly and bear me away by land and sea, through dark realms
that no soul has seen. I feel myself on board, drawn through waters,
hovering in clouds, sinking--sinking.

I give a hoarse cry of terror, clutch the bed tightly--I had made such a
perilous journey, whizzing down through space like a bolt. Oh, did I not
feel that I was saved as I struck my hands against the wooden frame! "This
is the way one dies!" said I to myself. "Now you will die!" and I lay for
a while and thought over that I was to die.

Then I start up in bed and ask severely, "If I found the word, am I not
absolutely within my right to decide myself what it is to signify?"... I
could hear myself that I was raving. I could hear it now whilst I was
talking. My madness was a delirium of weakness and prostration, but I was
not out of my senses. All at once the thought darted through my brain that
I was insane. Seized with terror, I spring out of bed again, I stagger to
the door, which I try to open, fling myself against it a couple of times
to burst it, strike my head against the wall, bewail loudly, bite my
fingers, cry and curse....

All was quiet; only my own voice echoed from the walls. I had fallen to
the floor, incapable of stumbling about the cell any longer.

Lying there I catch a glimpse, high up, straight before my eyes, of a
greyish square in the wall, a suggestion of white, a presage--it must be
of daylight. I felt it must be daylight, felt it through every pore in my
body. Oh, did I not draw a breath of delighted relief! I flung myself flat
on the floor and cried for very joy over this blessed glimpse of light,
sobbed for very gratitude, blew a kiss to the window, and conducted myself
like a maniac. And at this moment I was perfectly conscious of what I was
doing. All my dejection had vanished; all despair and pain had ceased, and
I had at this moment, at least as far as my thought reached, not a wish
unfilled. I sat up on the floor, folded my hands, and waited patiently for
the dawn.

What a night this had been!

That they had not heard any noise! I thought with astonishment. But then I
was in the reserved section, high above all the prisoners. A homeless
Cabinet Minister, if I might say so.

Still in the best of humours, with eyes turned towards the lighter, ever
lighter square in the wall, I amused myself acting Cabinet Minister;
called myself Von Tangen, and clothed my speech in a dress of red-tape. My
fancies had not ceased, but I was far less nervous. If I only had not been
thoughtless enough to leave my pocket-book at home! Might I not have the
honour of assisting his Right Honourable the Prime Minister to bed? And in
all seriousness, and with much ceremony I went over to the stretcher and
lay down.

By this it was so light that I could distinguish in some degree the
outlines of the cell and, little by little, the heavy handle of the door.
This diverted me; the monotonous darkness so irritating in its
impenetrability that it prevented me from seeing myself was broken; my
blood flowed more quietly; I soon felt my eyes close.

I was aroused by a couple of knocks on my door. I jumped up in all haste,
and clad myself hurriedly; my clothes were still wet through from last

"You'll report yourself downstairs to the officer on duty," said the

Were there more formalities to be gone through, then? I thought with fear.

Below I entered a large room, where thirty or forty people sat, all
homeless. They were called up one by one by the registering clerk, and one
by one they received a ticket for breakfast. The officer on duty repeated
constantly to the policeman at his side, "Did he get a ticket? Don't
forget to give them tickets; they look as if they wanted a meal!"

And I stood and looked at these tickets, and wished I had one.

"Andreas Tangen--journalist."

I advanced and bowed.

"But, my dear fellow, how did you come here?"

I explained the whole state of the case, repeated the same story as last
night, lied without winking, lied with frankness--had been out rather
late, worse luck ... café ... lost door-key....

"Yes," he said, and he smiled; "that's the way! Did you sleep well then?"

I answered, "Like a Cabinet Minister--like a Cabinet Minister!"

"I am glad to hear it," he said, and he stood up. "Good-morning."

And I went!

A ticket! a ticket for me too! I have not eaten for more than three long
days and nights. A loaf! But no one offered me a ticket, and I dared not
demand one. It would have roused suspicion at once. They would begin to
poke their noses into my private affairs, and discover who I really was;
they might arrest me for false pretences; and so, with elevated head, the
carriage of a millionaire, and hands thrust under my coat-tails, I stride
out of the guard-house.

The sun shone warmly, early as it was. It was ten o'clock, and the traffic
in Young's Market was in full swing. Which way should I take? I slapped my
pockets and felt for my manuscript. At eleven I would try and see the
editor. I stand a while on the balustrade, and watch the bustle under me.
Meanwhile, my clothes commenced to steam. Hunger put in its appearance
afresh, gnawed at my breast, clutched me, and gave small, sharp stabs that
caused me pain.

Had I not a friend--an acquaintance whom I could apply to? I ransack my
memory to find a man good for a penny piece, and fail to find him.

Well, it was a lovely day, anyway! Sunlight bright and warm surrounded me.
The sky stretched away like a beautiful sea over the Lier mountains.

Without knowing it, I was on my way home. I hungered sorely. I found a
chip of wood in the street to chew--that helped a bit. To think that I
hadn't thought of that sooner! The door was open; the stable-boy bade me
good-morning as usual.

"Fine weather," said he.

"Yes," I replied. That was all I found to say. Could I ask for the loan of
a shilling? He would be sure to lend it willingly if he could; besides
that, I had written a letter for him once.

He stood and turned something over in his mind before he ventured on
saying it.

"Fine weather! Ahem! I ought to pay my landlady today; you wouldn't be so
kind as to lend me five shillings, would you? Only for a few days, sir.
You did me a service once before, so you did."

"No; I really can't do it, Jens Olaj," I answered. "Not now--perhaps later
on, maybe in the afternoon," and I staggered up the stairs to my room.

I flung myself on my bed, and laughed. How confoundedly lucky it was that
he had forestalled me; my self-respect was saved. Five shillings! God
bless you, man, you might just as well have asked me for five shares in
the Dampkökken, or an estate out in Aker.

And the thought of these five shillings made me
laugh louder and louder. Wasn't I a devil of a
fellow, eh? Five shillings! My mirth increased,
and I gave way to it. Ugh! what a shocking smell
of cooking there was here--a downright disgustingly
strong smell of chops for dinner, phew! and
I flung open the window to let out this beastly smell.
"Waiter, a plate of beef!" Turning to the table
--this miserable table that I was forced to support
with my knees when I wrote--I bowed profoundly,
and said:

"May I ask will you take a glass of wine? No? I am Tangen--Tangen, the
Cabinet Minister. I--more's the pity--I was out a little late ... the
door-key." Once more my thoughts ran without rein in intricate paths. I
was continually conscious that I talked at random, and yet I gave
utterance to no word without hearing and understanding it. I said to
myself, "Now you are talking at random again," and yet I could not help
myself. It was as if one were lying awake, and yet talking in one's sleep.

My head was light, without pain and without pressure, and my mood was
unshadowed. It sailed away with me, and I made no effort.

"Come in! Yes, only come right in! As you see everything is of
ruby--Ylajali, Ylajali! that swelling crimson silken divan! Ah, how
passionately she breathes. Kiss me--loved one--more--more! Your arms are
like pale amber, your mouth blushes.... Waiter I asked for a plate of

The sun gleamed in through the window, and I could hear the horses below
chewing oats. I sat and mumbled over my chip gaily, glad at heart as a

I kept all the time feeling for my manuscript. It wasn't really in my
thoughts, but instinct told me it was there--'twas in my blood to remember
it, and I took it out.

It had got wet, and I spread it out in the sun to dry; then I took to
wandering up and down the room. How depressing everything looked! Small
scraps of tin shavings were trodden into the floor; there was not a chair
to sit upon, not even a nail in the bare walls. Everything had been
brought to my "Uncle's," and consumed. A few sheets of paper lying on the
table, covered with thick dust, were my sole possession; the old green
blanket on the bed was lent to me by Hans Pauli some months ago.... Hans
Pauli! I snap my fingers. Hans Pauli Pettersen shall help me! He would
certainly be very angry that I had not appealed to him at once. I put on
my hat in haste, gather up the manuscript, thrust it into my pocket, and
hurry downstairs.

"Listen, Jens Olaj!" I called into the stable, "I am nearly certain I can
help you in the afternoon."

Arrived at the Town Hall I saw that it was past eleven, and I determined
on going to the editor at once. I stopped outside the office door to see
if my sheets were paged rightly, smoothed them carefully out, put them
back in my pocket, and knocked. My heart beat audibly as I entered.

"Scissors" is there as usual. I inquire timorously for the editor. No
answer. The man sits and probes for minor items of news amongst the
provincial papers.

I repeat my question, and advance a little farther.

"The editor has not come yet!" said "Scissors" at length, without looking

How soon would he come?

"Couldn't say--couldn't say at all!"

How long would the office be open?

To this I received no answer, so I was forced to leave. "Scissors" had not
once looked up at me during all this scene; he had heard my voice, and
recognized me by it. You are in such bad odour here, thought I, that he
doesn't even take the trouble to answer you. I wonder if that is an order
of the editor's. I had, 'tis true enough, right from the day my celebrated
story was accepted for ten shillings, overwhelmed him with work, rushed to
his door nearly every day with unsuitable things that he was obliged to
peruse only to return them to me. Perhaps he wished to put an end to
this--take stringent measures.... I took the road to Homandsbyen.

Hans Paul! Pettersen was a peasant-farmer's son, a student, living in the
attic of a five-storeyed house; therefore, Hans Pauli Pettersen was a poor
man. But if he had a shilling he wouldn't stint it. I would get it just as
sure as if I already held it in my hand. And I rejoiced the whole time, as
I went, over the shilling, and felt confident I would get it.

When I got to the street door it was closed and I had to ring.

"I want to see Student Pettersen," I said, and was about to step inside.
"I know his room."

"Student Pettersen," repeats the girl. "Was it he who had the attic?" He
had moved.

Well, she didn't know the address; but he had asked his letters to be sent
to Hermansen in Tolbod-gaden, and she mentioned the number.

I go, full of trust and hope, all the way to Tolbod-gaden to ask Hans
Pauli's address; being my last chance, I must turn it to account. On the
way I came to a newly-built house, where a couple of joiners stood planing
outside. I picked up a few satiny shavings from the heap, stuck one in my
mouth, and the other in my pocket for by-and-by, and continued my journey.

I groaned with hunger. I had seen a marvellously large penny loaf at a
baker's--the largest I could possibly get for the price.

"I come to find out Student Pettersen's address!"

"Bernt Akers Street, No. 10, in the attic." Was I going out there? Well,
would I perhaps be kind enough to take out a couple of letters that had
come for him?

I trudge up town again, along the same road, pass by the joiners--who are
sitting with their cans between their knees, eating their good warm dinner
from the Dampkökken--pass the bakers, where the loaf is still in its
place, and at length reach Bernt Akers Street, half dead with fatigue. The
door is open, and I mount all the weary stairs to the attic. I take the
letters out of my pocket in order to put Hans Pauli into a good humour on
the moment of my entrance.

He would be certain not to refuse to give me a helping hand when I
explained how things were with me; no, certainly not; Hans Pauli had such
a big heart--I had always said that of him.... I discovered his card
fastened to the door--"H. P. Pettersen, Theological Student, 'gone home.'"

I sat down without more ado--sat down on the bare floor, dulled with
fatigue, fairly beaten with exhaustion. I mechanically mutter, a couple of
times, "Gone home--gone home!" then I keep perfectly quiet. There was not
a tear in my eyes; I had not a thought, not a feeling of any kind. I sat
and stared, with wide-open eyes, at the letters, without coming to any
conclusion. Ten minutes went over--perhaps twenty or more. I sat stolidly
on the one spot, and did not move a finger. This numb feeling of
drowsiness was almost like a brief slumber. I hear some one come up the

"It was Student Pettersen, I ... I have two letters for him."

"He has gone home," replies the woman; "but he will return after the
holidays. I could take the letters if you like!"

"Yes, thanks! that was all right," said I. "He could get them then when he
came back; they might contain matters of importance. Good-morning."

When I got outside, I came to a standstill and said loudly in the open
street, as I clenched my hands: "I will tell you one thing, my good Lord
God, you are a bungler!" and I nod furiously, with set teeth, up to the
clouds; "I will be hanged if you are not a bungler."

Then I took a few strides, and stopped again. Suddenly, changing my
attitude, I fold my hands, hold my head to one side, and ask, with an
unctuous, sanctimonious tone of voice: "Hast thou appealed also to him, my
child?" It did not sound right!

With a large H, I say, with an H as big as a cathedral! once again, "Hast
thou invoked Him, my child?" and I incline my head, and I make my voice
whine, and answer, No!

That didn't sound right either.

You can't play the hypocrite, you idiot! Yes, you should say, I have
invoked God my Father! and you must set your words to the most piteous
tune you have ever heard in your life. So--o! Once again! Come, that was
better! But you must sigh like a horse down with the colic. So--o! that's
right. Thus I go, drilling myself in hypocrisy; stamp impatiently in the
street when I fail to succeed; rail at myself for being such a blockhead,
whilst the astonished passers-by turn round and stare at me.

I chewed uninterruptedly at my shaving, and proceeded, as steadily as I
could, along the street. Before I realized it, I was at the railway
square. The dock on Our Saviour's pointed to half-past one. I stood for a
bit and considered. A faint sweat forced itself out on my face, and
trickled down my eyelids. Accompany me down to the bridge, said I to
myself--that is to say, if you have spare time!--and I made a bow to
myself, and turned towards the railway bridge near the wharf.

The ships lay there, and the sea rocked in the sunshine. There was bustle
and movement everywhere, shrieking steam-whistles, quay porters with cases
on their shoulders, lively "shanties" coming from the prams. An old woman,
a vendor of cakes, sits near me, and bends her brown nose down over her
wares. The little table before her is sinfully full of nice things, and I
turn away with distaste. She is filling the whole quay with her smell of
cakes--phew! up with the windows!

I accosted a gentleman sitting at my side, and represented forcibly to him
the nuisance of having cake-sellers here, cake-sellers there.... Eh? Yes;
but he must really admit that.... But the good man smelt a rat, and did
not give me time to finish speaking, for he got up and left. I rose, too,
and followed him, firmly determined to convince him of his mistake.

"If it was only out of consideration for sanitary conditions," said I; and
I slapped him on the shoulders.

"Excuse me, I am a stranger here, and know nothing of the sanitary
conditions," he replied, and stared at me with positive fear.

Oh, that alters the case! if he was a stranger.... Could I not render him
a service in any way? show him about? Really not? because it would be a
pleasure to me, and it would cost him nothing....

But the man wanted absolutely to get rid of me, and he sheered off, in all
haste, to the other side of the street.

I returned to the bench and sat down. I was fearfully disturbed, and the
big street organ that had begun to grind a tune a little farther away made
me still worse--a regular metallic music, a fragment of Weber, to which a
little girl is singing a mournful strain. The flute-like sorrowfulness of
the organ thrills through my blood; my nerves vibrate in responsive echo.
A moment later, and I fall back on the seat, whimpering and crooning in
time to it.

Oh, what strange freaks one's thoughts are guilty of when one is starving.
I feel myself lifted up by these notes, dissolved in tones, and I float
out, I feel so clearly. How I float out, soaring high above the mountains,
dancing through zones of light!...

"A halfpenny," whines the little organ-girl, reaching forth her little tin
plate; "only a halfpenny."

"Yes," I said, unthinkingly, and I sprang to my feet and ransacked all my
pockets. But the child thinks I only want to make fun of her, and she goes
away at once without saying a word.

This dumb forbearance was too much for me. If she had abused me, it would
have been more endurable. I was stung with pain, and recalled her.

"I don't possess a farthing; but I will remember you later on, maybe
tomorrow. What is your name? Yes, that is a pretty name; I won't forget
it. Till tomorrow, then...."

But I understood quite well that she did not believe me, although she
never said one word; and I cried with despair because this little street
wench would not believe in me.

Once again I called her back, tore open my coat, and was about to give her
my waistcoat. "I will make up to you for it," said I; "wait only a
moment" ... and lo! I had no waistcoat.

What in the world made me look for it? Weeks had gone by since it was in
my possession. What was the matter with me, anyway? The astonished child
waited no longer, but withdrew fearsomely, and I was compelled to let her
go. People throng round me, laugh aloud; a policeman thrusts his way
through to me, and wants to know what is the row.

"Nothing!" I reply, "nothing at all; I only wanted to give the little girl
over there my waistcoat ... for her father ... you needn't stand there and
laugh at that ... I have only to go home and put on another."

"No disturbance in the street," says the constable; "so, march," and he
gives me a shove on.

"Is them your papers?" he calls after me.

"Yes, by Jove! my newspaper leader; many important papers! However could I
be so careless?" I snatch up my manuscript, convince myself that it is
lying in order and go, without stopping a second or looking about me,
towards the editor's office.

It was now four by the clock of Our Saviour's Church. The office is shut.
I stead noiselessly down the stairs, frightened as a thief, and stand
irresolutely outside the door. What should I do now? I lean up against the
wall, stare down at the stones, and consider. A pin is lying glistening at
my feet; I stoop and pick it up. Supposing I were to cut the buttons off
my coat, how much could I get for them? Perhaps it would be no use, though
buttons are buttons; but yet, I look and examine them, and find them as
good as new--that was a lucky idea all the same; I could cut them off
with my penknife and take them to the pawn-office. The hope of being able
to sell these five buttons cheered me immediately, and I cried, "See, see;
it will all come right!" My delight got the upper hand of me, and I at
once set to cut off the buttons one by one. Whilst thus occupied, I
held the following hushed soliloquy:

Yes, you see one has become a little impoverished; a momentary
embarrassment ... worn out, do you say? You must not make slips when you
speak? I would like to see the person who wears out less buttons than I
do, I can tell you! I always go with my coat open; it is a habit of mine,
an idiosyncrasy.... No, no; of course, if you _won't_, well! But I
must have a penny for them, at least.... No indeed! who said you were
obliged to do it? You can hold your tongue, and leave me in peace.... Yes,
well, you can fetch a policeman, can't you? I'll wait here whilst you are
out looking for him, and I won't steal anything from you. Well, good-day!
Good-day! My name, by the way, is Tangen; have been out a little late.

Some one comes up the stairs. I am recalled at once to reality. I
recognize "Scissors," and put the buttons carefully into my pocket. He
attempts to pass; doesn't even acknowledge my nod; is suddenly intently
busied with his nails. I stop him, and inquire for the editor.

"Not in, do you hear."

"You lie," I said, and, with a cheek that fairly amazed myself, I
continued, "I must have a word with him; it is a necessary
errand--communications from the Stiftsgaarden. [Footnote: Dwelling of the
civil governor of a Stift or diocese.]

"Well, can't you tell me what it is, then?"

"Tell you?" and I looked "Scissors" up and down. This had the desired
effect. He accompanied me at once, and opened the door. My heart was in my
mouth now; I set my teeth, to try and revive my courage, knocked, and
entered the editor's private office.

"Good-day! Is it you?" he asked kindly; "sit down."

If he had shown me the door it would have been almost as acceptable. I
felt as if I were on the point of crying and said:

"I beg you will excuse...."

"Pray, sit down," he repeated. And I sat down, and explained that I again
had an article which I was extremely anxious to get into his paper. I had
taken such pains with it; it had cost me much effort.

"I will read it," said he, and he took it. "Everything you write is
certain to cost you effort, but you are far too impetuous; if you could
only be a little more sober. There's too much fever. In the meantime, I
will read it," and he turned to the table again.

There I sat. Dared I ask for a shilling? explain to him why there was
always fever? He would be sure to aid me; it was not the first time.

I stood up. Hum! But the last time I was with him he had complained about
money, and had sent a messenger out to scrape some together for me. Maybe
it might be the same case now. No; it should not occur! Could I not see
then that he was sitting at work?

Was there otherwise anything? he inquired.

"No," I answered, and I compelled my voice to sound steady. "About how
soon shall I call in again?"

"Oh, any time you are passing--in a couple of days or so."

I could not get my request over my lips. This man's friendliness seemed to
me beyond bounds, and I ought to know how to appreciate it. Rather die of
hunger! I went. Not even when I was outside the door, and felt once more
the pangs of hunger, did I repent having left the office without having
asked for that shilling. I took the other shaving out of my pocket and
stuck it into my mouth. It helped. Why hadn't I done so before? "You ought
to be ashamed of yourself," I said aloud. "Could it really have entered
your head to ask the man for a shilling and put him to inconvenience
again?" and I got downright angry with myself for the effrontery of which
I had almost been guilty. "That is, by God! the shabbiest thing I ever
heard," said I, "to rush at a man and nearly tear the eyes out of his head
just because you happen to need a shilling, you miserable dog! So--o,
march! quicker! quicker! you big thumping lout; I'll teach you." I
commenced to run to punish myself, left one street after the other behind
me at a bound, goaded myself on with suppressed cries, and shrieked dumbly
and furiously at myself whenever I was about to halt. Thus I arrived a
long way up Pyle Street, when at last I stood still, almost ready to cry
with vexation at not being able to run any farther. I was trembling over
my whole body, and I flung myself down on a step. "No; stop!" I said, and,
in order to torture myself rightly, I arose again, and forced myself to
keep standing. I jeered at myself and hugged myself with pleasure at the
spectacle of my own exhaustion. At length, after the lapse of a few
moments, I gave myself, with a nod, permission to be seated, though, even
then, I chose the most uncomfortable place on the steps.

Lord! how delicious it was to rest! I dried the sweat off my face, and
drew great refreshing breaths. How had I not run! But I was not sorry; I
had richly deserved it. Why did I want to ask for that shilling? Now I
could see the consequences, and I began to talk mildly to myself, dealing
out admonitions as a mother might have done. I grew more and more moved,
and tired and weak as I was, I fell a-crying. A quiet, heart-felt cry; an
inner sobbing without a tear.

I sat for the space of a quarter of an hour, or more, in the same place.
People came and went, and no one molested me. Little children played about
around me, and a little bird sang on a tree on the other side of the

A policeman came towards me. "Why do you sit here?" said he.

"Why do I sit here?" I replied; "for pleasure."

"I have been watching you for the last half-hour. You've sat here now

"About that," I replied; "anything more?"

I got up in a temper and walked on. Arrived at the market-place, I stopped
and gazed down the street. For pleasure. Now, was that an answer to give?
For weariness, you should have replied, and made your voice whining. You
are a booby; you will never learn to dissemble. From exhaustion, and you
should have gasped like a horse.

When I got to the fire look-out, I halted afresh, seized by a new idea. I
snapped my fingers, burst into a loud laugh that confounded the
passers-by, and said: "Now you shall just go to Levion the parson. You
shall, as sure as death--ay, just for a try. What have you got to lose by
it? and it is such glorious weather!"

I entered Pascha's book-shop, found Pastor Levion's address in the
directory, and started for it.

Now for it! said I. Play no pranks. Conscience, did you say? No rubbish,
if you please. You are too poor to support a conscience. You are hungry;
you have come on important business--the first thing needful. But you
shall hold your head askew, and set your words to a sing-song. You won't!
What? Well then, I won't go a step farther. Do you hear that? Indeed, you
are in a sorely tempted condition, fighting with the powers of darkness
and great voiceless monsters at night, so that it is a horror to think of;
you hunger and thirst for wine and milk, and don't get them. It has gone
so far with you. Here you stand and haven't as much as a halfpenny to
bless yourself with. But you believe in grace, the Lord be praised; you
haven't yet lost your faith; and then you must clasp your hands together,
and look a very Satan of a fellow for believing in grace. As far as Mammon
was concerned, why, you hated Mammon with all its pomps in any form. Now
it's quite another thing with a psalm-book--a souvenir to the extent of a
few shillings.... I stopped at the pastor's door, and read, "Office hours,
12 to 4."

Mind, no fudge, I said; now we'll go ahead in earnest! So hang your head a
little more, and I rang at the private entrance.

"I want to see the pastor," said I to the maid; but it was not possible
for me to get in God's name yet awhile.

"He has gone out."

Gone out, gone out! That destroyed my whole plan; scattered all I intended
to say to the four winds. What had I gained then by the long walk? There I

"Was it anything particular?" questioned the maid.

"Not at all," I replied, "not at all." It was only just that it was such
glorious God's weather that I thought I would come out and make a call.

There I stood, and there she stood. I purposely thrust out my chest to
attract her attention to the pin that held my coat together. I implored
her with a look to see what I had come for, but the poor creature didn't
understand it at all.

Lovely God's weather. Was not the mistress at home either?

Yes; but she had gout, and lay on a sofa without being able to move
herself.... Perhaps I would leave a message or something?

No, not at all; I only just took walks like this now and again, just for
exercise; it was so wholesome after dinner.... I set out on the road
back--what would gossiping longer lead to? Besides, I commenced to feel
dizzy. There was no mistake about it; I was about to break down in
earnest. Office hours from 12 to 4. I had knocked at the door an hour too
late. The time of grace was over. I sat down on one of the benches near
the church in the market. Lord! how black things began to look for me now!
I did not cry; I was too utterly tired, worn to the last degree. I sat
there without trying to arrive at any conclusion, sad, motionless, and
starving. My chest was much inflamed; it smarted most strangely and
sorely--nor would chewing shavings help me much longer. My jaws were tired
of that barren work, and I let them rest. I simply gave up. A brown
orange-peel, too, I had found in the street, and which I had at once
commenced to chew, had given me nausea. I was ill--the veins swelled up
bluely on my wrists. What was it I had really sought after? Run about the
whole live-long day for a shilling, that would but keep life in me for a
few hours longer. Considering all, was it not a matter of indifference if
the inevitable took place one day earlier or one day later? If I had
conducted myself like an ordinary being I should have gone home long ago,
and laid myself down to rest, and given in. My mind was clear for a
moment. Now I was to die. It was in the time of the fall, and all things
were hushed to sleep. I had tried every means, exhausted every resource of
which I knew. I fondled this thought sentimentally, and each time I still
hoped for a possible succour I whispered repudiatingly: "You fool, you
have already begun to die."

I ought to write a couple of letters, make all ready--prepare myself. I
would wash myself carefully and tidy my bed nicely. I would lay my head
upon the sheets of white paper, the cleanest things I had left, and the
green blanket. I ... The green blanket! Like a shot I was wide awake. The
blood mounted to my head, and I got violent palpitation of the heart. I
arise from the seat, and start to walk. Life stirs again in all my fibres,
and time after time I repeat disconnectedly, "The green blanket--the green
blanket." I go faster and faster, as if it is a case of fetching
something, and stand after a little time in my tinker's workshop. Without
pausing a moment, or wavering in my resolution, I go over to the bed, and
roll up Hans Pauli's blanket. It was a strange thing if this bright idea
of mine couldn't save me. I rose infinitely superior to the stupid
scruples which sprang up in me--half inward cries about a certain stain on
my honour. I bade good-bye to the whole of them. I was no hero--no
virtuous idiot. I had my senses left.

So I took the blanket under my arm and went to No. 5 Stener's Street. I
knocked, and entered the big, strange room for the first time. The bell on
the door above my head gave a lot of violent jerks. A man enters from a
side room, chewing, his mouth is full of food, and stands behind the

"Eh, lend me sixpence on my eye-glasses?" said I. "I shall release them in
a couple of days, without fail--eh?"

"No! they're steel, aren't they?"


"No; can't do it."

"Ah, no, I suppose you can't. Well, it was really at best only a joke.
Well, I have a blanket with me for which, properly speaking, I have no
longer any use, and it struck me that you might take it off my hands."

"I have--more's the pity--a whole store full of bed-clothes," he replied;
and when I had opened it he just cast one glance over it and said, "No,
excuse me, but I haven't any use for that either."

"I wanted to show you the worse side first," said I; "it's much better on
the other side."

"Ay, ay; it's no good. I won't own it; and you wouldn't raise a penny on
it anywhere."

"No, it's clear it isn't worth anything," I said; "but I thought it might
go with another old blanket at an auction."

"Well, no; it's no use."

"Three pence?" said I.

"No; I won't have it at all, man! I wouldn't have it in the house!" I took
it under my arm and went home.

I acted as if nothing had passed, spread it over the bed again, smoothed
it well out, as was my custom, and tried to wipe away every trace of my
late action. I could not possibly have been in my right mind at the moment
when I came to the conclusion to commit this rascally trick. The more I
thought over it the more unreasonable it seemed to me. It must have been
an attack of weakness; some relaxation in my inner self that had surprised
me when off my guard. Neither had I fallen straight into the trap. I had
half felt that I was going the wrong road, and I expressly offered my
glasses first, and I rejoiced greatly that I had not had the opportunity
of carrying into effect this fault which would have sullied the last hours
I had to live.

I wandered out into the city again. I let myself sink upon one of the
seats by Our Saviour's Church; dozed with my head on my breast, apathetic
after my last excitement, sick and famished with hunger. And time went by.

I should have to sit out this hour, too. It was a little lighter outside
than in the house, and it seemed to me that my chest did not pain quite so
badly out in the open air. I should get home, too, soon enough--and I
dozed, and thought, and suffered fearfully.

I had found a little pebble; I wiped it clean on my coat sleeve and put it
into my mouth so that I might have something to mumble. Otherwise I did
not stir, and didn't even wink an eyelid. People came and went; the noise
of cars, the tramp of hoofs, and chatter of tongues filled the air. I
might try with the buttons. Of course there would be no use in trying; and
besides, I was now in a rather bad way; but when I came to consider the
matter closely, I would be obliged, as it were, to pass in the direction
of my "Uncle's" as I went home. At last I got up, dragging myself slowly
to my feet, and reeled down the streets. It began to burn over my
eyebrows--fever was setting in, and I hurried as fast as I could. Once
more I passed the baker's shop where the little loaf lay. "Well, we must
stop here!" I said, with affected decision. But supposing I were to go in
and beg for a bit of bread? Surely that was a fleeting thought, a flash;
it could never really have occurred to me seriously. "Fie!" I whispered to
myself, and shook my head, and held on my way. In Rebslager a pair of
lovers stood in a doorway and talked together softly; a little farther up
a girl popped her head out of a window. I walked so slowly and
thoughtfully, that I looked as if I might be deep in meditation on nothing
in particular, and the wench came out into the street. "How is the world
treating you, old fellow? Eh, what, are you ill? Nay, the Lord preserve
us, what a face!" and she drew away frightened. I pulled up at once:
What's amiss with my face? Had I really begun to die? I felt over my
cheeks with my hand; thin--naturally, I was thin--my cheeks were like two
hollowed bowls; but Lord ... I reeled along again, but again came to a
standstill; I must be quite inconceivably thin. Who knows but that my eyes
were sinking right into my head? How did I look in reality? It was the
very deuce that one must let oneself turn into a living deformity for
sheer hunger's sake. Once more I was seized by fury, a last flaring up, a
final spasm. "Preserve me, what a face. Eh?" Here I was, with a head that
couldn't be matched in the whole country, with a pair of fists that, by
the Lord, could grind a navvy into finest dust, and yet I went and
hungered myself into a deformity, right in the town of Christiania. Was
there any rhyme or reason in that? I had sat in saddle, toiled day and
night like a carrier's horse.

I had read my eyes out of their sockets, had starved the brains out of my
head, and what the devil had I gained by it? Even a street hussy prayed
God to deliver her from the sight of me. Well, now, there should be a stop
to it. Do you understand that? Stop it shall, or the devil take a worse
hold of me.

With steadily increasing fury, grinding my teeth under the consciousness
of my impotence, with tears and oaths I raged on, without looking at the
people who passed me by. I commenced once more to martyr myself, ran my
forehead against lamp-posts on purpose, dug my nails deep into my palms,
bit my tongue with frenzy when it didn't articulate clearly, and laughed
insanely each time it hurt much.

Yes; but what shall I do? I asked myself at last, and I stamped many times
on the pavement and repeated, What shall I do? A gentleman just going by
remarks, with a smile, "You ought to go and ask to be locked up." I looked
after him. One of our well-known lady's doctors, nicknamed "The Duke." Not
even he understood my real condition--a man I knew; whose hand I had
shaken. I grew quiet. Locked up? Yes, I was mad; he was right. I felt
madness in my blood; felt its darting pain through my brain. So that was
to be the end of me! Yes, yes; and I resume my wearisome, painful walk.
There was the haven in which I was to find rest.

Suddenly I stop again. But not locked up! I say, not that; and I grew
almost hoarse with fear. I implored grace for myself; begged to the wind
and weather not to be locked up. I should have to be brought to the
guard-house again, imprisoned in a dark cell which had not a spark of
light in it. Not that! There must be other channels yet open that I had
not tried, and I would try them. I would be so earnestly painstaking;
would take good time for it, and go indefatigably round from house to
house. For example, there was Cisler the music-seller; I hadn't been to
him at all. Some remedy would turn up!.... Thus I stumbled on, and talked
until I brought myself to weep with emotion. Cisler! Was that perchance a
hint from on high? His name had struck me for no reason, and he lived so
far away; but I would look him up all the same, go slowly, and rest
between times. I knew the place well; I had been there often, when times
were good had bought much music from him. Should I ask him for sixpence?
Perhaps that might make him feel uncomfortable. I would ask him for a
shilling. I went into the shop, and asked for the chief. They showed me
into his office; there he sat--handsome, well-dressed in the latest
style--running down some accounts. I stammered through an excuse, and set
forth my errand. Compelled by need to apply to him ... it should not be
very long till I could pay it back ... when I got paid for my newspaper
article.... He would confer such a great benefit on me.... Even as I was
speaking he turned about to his desk, and resumed his work. When I had
finished, he glanced sideways at me, shook his handsome head, and said,
"No"; simply "no"--no explanation--not another word.

My knees trembled fearfully, and I supported myself against the little
polished barrier. I must try once more. Why should just his name have
occurred to me as I stood far away from there in "It won't be I that will
do that," he observed; adding, "and let me tell you, at the same time,
I've had about enough of this."

I tore myself out, sick with hunger, and boiling with shame. I had turned
myself into a dog for the sake of a miserable bone, and I had not got it.
Nay, now there must be an end of this! It had really gone all too far with
me. I had held myself up for many years, stood erect through so many hard
hours, and now, all at once, I had sunk to the lowest form of begging.
This one day had coarsened my whole mind, bespattered my soul with
shamelessness. I had not been too abashed to stand and whine in the
pettiest huckster's shop, and what had it availed me?

But was I not then without the veriest atom of bread to put inside my
mouth? I had succeeded in rendering myself a thing loathsome to myself.
Yes, yes; but it must come to an end. Presently they would lock the outer
door at home? I must hurry unless I wished to lie in the guard-house

This gave me strength. Lie in that cell again I would not. With body bent
forward, and my hands pressed hard against my left ribs to deaden the
stings a little, I struggled on, keeping my eyes fastened upon the
paving-stones that I might not be forced to bow to possible acquaintances,
and hastened to the fire look-out. God be praised! it was only seven
o'clock by the dial on Our Saviour's; I had three hours yet before the
door would be locked. What a fright I had been in!

Well, there was not a stone left unturned. I had done all I could. To
think that I really could not succeed once in a whole day! If I told it no
one could believe it; if I were to write it down they would say I had
invented it. Not in a single place! Well, well, there is no help for it.
Before all, don't go and get pathetic again. Bah! how disgusting! I can
assure you, it makes me have a loathing for you. If all hope is over, why
there is an end of it. Couldn't I, for that matter, steal a handful of
oats in the stable? A streak of light--a ray--yet I knew the stable was

I took my ease, and crept home at a slow snail's pace. I felt thirsty,
luckily for the first time through the whole day, and I went and sought
about for a place where I could get a drink. I was a long distance away
from the bazaar, and I would not ask at a private house. Perhaps, though,
I could wait till I got home; it would take a quarter of an hour. It was
not at all so certain that I could keep down a draught of water, either;
my stomach no longer suffered in any way--I even felt nausea at the
spittle I swallowed. But the buttons! I had not tried the buttons at all
yet. There I stood, stock-still, and commenced to smile. Maybe there was a
remedy, in spite of all! I wasn't totally doomed. I should certainly get a
penny for them; tomorrow I might raise another some place or other, and
Thursday I might be paid for my newspaper article. I should just see it
would come out all right. To think that I could really go and forget the
buttons. I took them out of my pocket, and inspected them as I walked on
again. My eyes grew dazed with joy. I did not see the street; I simply
went on. Didn't I know exactly the big pawn-shop--my refuge in the dark
evenings, with my blood-sucking friend? One by one my possessions had
vanished there--my little things from home--my last book. I liked to go
there on auction days, to look on, and rejoice each time my books seemed
likely to fall into good hands. Magelsen, the actor, had my watch; I was
almost proud of that. A diary, in which I had written my first small
poetical attempt, had been bought by an acquaintance, and my topcoat had
found a haven with a photographer, to be used in the studio. So there was
no cause to grumble about any of them. I held my buttons ready in my hand;
"Uncle" is sitting at his desk, writing. "I am not in a hurry," I say,
afraid of disturbing him, and making him impatient at my application. My
voice sounded so curiously hollow I hardly recognized it again, and my
heart beat like a sledge-hammer.

He came smilingly over to me, as was his wont, laid both his hands flat on
the counter, and looked at my face without saying anything. Yes, I had
brought something of which I would ask him if he could make any use;
something which is only in my way at home, assure you of it--are quite an
annoyance--some buttons. Well, what then? what was there about the
buttons? and he thrusts his eyes down close to my hand. Couldn't he give
me a couple of halfpence for them?--whatever he thought himself--quite
according to his own judgment. "For the buttons?"--and "Uncle" stares
astonishedly at me--"for these buttons?" Only for a cigar or whatever he
liked himself; I was just passing, and thought I would look in.

Upon this, the old pawnbroker burst out laughing, and returned to his desk
without saying a word. There I stood; I had not hoped for much, yet, all
the same, I had thought of a possibility of being helped. This laughter
was my death-warrant. It couldn't, I suppose, be of any use trying with my
eyeglasses either? Of course, I would let my glasses go in with them; that
was a matter of course, said I, and I took them off. Only a penny, or if
he wished, a halfpenny.

"You know quite well I can't lend you anything on your glasses," said
"Uncle"; I told you that once before."

"But I want a stamp," I said, dully. "I can't even send off the letters I
have written; a penny or a halfpenny stamp, just as you will."

"Oh, God help you, go your way!" he replied, and motioned me off with his

Yes, yes; well, it must be so, I said to myself. Mechanically, I put on my
glasses again, took the buttons in my hand, and, turning away, bade him
good-night, and closed the door after me as usual. Well, now, there was
nothing more to be done! To think he would not take them at any price, I
muttered. They are almost new buttons; I can't understand it.

Whilst I stood, lost in thought, a man passed by and entered the office.
He had given me a little shove in his hurry. We both made excuses, and I
turned round and looked after him.

"What! is that you?" he said, suddenly, when half-way up the steps. He
came back, and I recognized him. "God bless me, man, what on earth do you
look like? What were you doing in there?"

"Oh, I had business. You are going in too, I see."

"Yes; what were you in with?"

My knees trembled; I supported myself against the wall, and stretched out
my hand with the buttons in it.

"What the deuce!" he cried. "No; this is really going too far."

"Good-night!" said I, and was about to go; I felt the tears choking my

"No; wait a minute," he said.

What was I to wait for? Was he not himself on the road to my "Uncle,"
bringing, perhaps, his engagement ring--had been hungry, perhaps, for
several days--owed his landlady?

"Yes," I replied; "if you will be out soon...."

"Of course," he broke in, seizing hold of my arm; "but I may as well tell
you I don't believe you. You are such an idiot, that it's better you come
in along with me."

I understood what he meant, suddenly felt a little spark of pride, and

"I can't; I promised to be in Bernt Akers Street at half-past seven,

"Half-past seven, quite so; but it's eight now. Here I am, standing with
the watch in my hand that I'm going to pawn. So, in with you, you hungry
sinner! I'll get you five shillings anyhow," and he pushed me in.

Part III

A week passed in glory and gladness.

I had got over the worst this time, too. I had had food every day, and my
courage rose, and I thrust one iron after the other into the fire.

I was working at three or four articles, that plundered my poor brain of
every spark, every thought that rose in it; and yet I fancied that I wrote
with more facility than before.

The last article with which I had raced about so much, and upon which I
had built such hopes, had already been returned to me by the editor; and,
angry and wounded as I was, I had destroyed it immediately, without even
re-reading it again. In future, I would try another paper in order to open
up more fields for my work.

Supposing that writing were to fail, and the worst were to come to the
worst, I still had the ships to take to. The _Nun_ lay alongside the
wharf, ready to sail, and I might, perhaps, work my way out to Archangel,
or wherever else she might be bound; there was no lack of openings on many
sides. The last crisis had dealt rather roughly with me. My hair fell out
in masses, and I was much troubled with headaches, particularly in the
morning, and my nervousness died a hard death. I sat and wrote during the
day with my hands bound up in rags, simply because I could not endure the
touch of my own breath upon them. If Jens Olaj banged the stable door
underneath me, or if a dog came into the yard and commenced to bark, it
thrilled through my very marrow like icy stabs piercing me from every
side. I was pretty well played out.

Day after day I strove at my work, begrudging myself the short time it
took to swallow my food before I sat down again to write. At this time
both the bed and the little rickety table were strewn over with notes and
written pages, upon which I worked turn about, added any new ideas which
might have occurred to me during the day, erased, or quickened here and
there the dull points by a word of colour--fagged and toiled at sentence
after sentence, with the greatest of pains. One afternoon, one of my
articles being at length finished, I thrust it, contented and happy, into
my pocket, and betook myself to the "commandor." It was high time I made
some arrangement towards getting a little money again; I had only a few
pence left.

The "commandor" requested me to sit down for a moment; he would be
disengaged immediately, and he continued writing.

I looked about the little office--busts, prints, cuttings, and an enormous
paper-basket, that looked as if it might swallow a man, bones and all. I
felt sad at heart at the sight of this monstrous chasm, this dragon's
mouth, that always stood open, always ready to receive rejected work,
newly crushed hopes.

"What day of the month is it?" queried the "commandor" from the table.

"The 28th," I reply, pleased that I can be of service to him, "the 28th,"
and he continues writing. At last he encloses a couple of letters in their
envelopes, tosses some papers into the basket, and lays down his pen. Then
he swings round on his chair, and looks at me. Observing that I am still
standing near the door, he makes a half-serious, half-playful motion with
his hand, and points to a chair.

I turn aside, so that he may not see that I have no waistcoat on, when I
open my coat to take the manuscript out of my pocket.

"It is only a little character sketch of Correggio," I say; "but perhaps
it is, worse luck, not written in such a way that...."

He takes the papers out of my hand, and commences to go through them. His
face is turned towards me.

And so it is thus he looks at close quarters, this man, whose name I had
already heard in my earliest youth, and whose paper had exercised the
greatest influence upon me as the years advanced? His hair is curly, and
his beautiful brown eyes are a little restless. He has a habit of tweaking
his nose now and then. No Scotch minister could look milder than this
truculent writer, whose pen always left bleeding scars wherever it
attacked. A peculiar feeling of awe and admiration comes over me in the
presence of this man. The tears are on the point of coming to my eyes, and
I advanced a step to tell him how heartily I appreciated him, for all he
had taught me, and to beg him not to hurt me; I was only a poor bungling
wretch, who had had a sorry enough time of it as it was....

He looked up, and placed my manuscript slowly together, whilst he sat and
considered. To make it easier for him to give me a refusal, I stretch out
my hand a little, and say:

"Ah, well, of course, it is not of any use to you," and I smile to give
him the impression that I take it easily.

"Everything has to be of such a popular nature to be of any use to us," he
replies; "you know the kind of public we have. But can't you try and write
something a little more commonplace, or hit upon something that people
understand better?"

His forbearance astonishes me. I understand that my article is rejected,
and yet I could not have received a prettier refusal. Not to take up his
time any longer, I reply:

"Oh yes, I daresay I can."

I go towards the door. Hem--he must pray forgive me for having taken up
his time with this ... I bow, and turn the door handle.

"If you need it," he says, "you are welcome to draw a little in advance;
you can write for it, you know."

Now, as he had just seen that I was not capable of writing, this offer
humiliated me somewhat, and I answered:

"No, thanks; I can pull through yet a while, thanking you very much, all
the same. Good-day!"

"Good-day!" replies the "commandor," turning at the same time to his desk

He had none the less treated me with undeserved kindness, and I was
grateful to him for it--and I would know how to appreciate it too. I made
a resolution not to return to him until I could take something with me,
that satisfied me perfectly; something that would astonish the "commandor"
a bit, and make him order me to be paid half-a-sovereign without a
moment's hesitation. I went home, and tackled my writing once more.

During the following evenings, as soon as it got near eight o'clock and
the gas was lit, the following thing happened regularly to me.

As I come out of my room to take a walk in the streets after the labour
and troubles of the day, a lady, dressed in black, stands under the
lamp-post exactly opposite my door.

She turns her face towards me and follows me with her eyes when I pass her
by--I remark that she always has the same dress on, always the same thick
veil that conceals her face and falls over her breast, and that she
carries in her hand a small umbrella with an ivory ring in the handle.
This was already the third evening I had seen her there, always in the
same place. As soon as I have passed her by she turns slowly and goes down
the street away from me. My nervous brain vibrated with curiosity, and I
became at once possessed by the unreasonable feeling that I was the object
of her visit. At last I was almost on the point of addressing her, of
asking her if she was looking for any one, if she needed my assistance in
any way, or if I might accompany her home. Badly dressed, as I
unfortunately was, I might protect her through the dark streets; but I had
an undefined fear that it perhaps might cost me something; a glass of
wine, or a drive, and I had no money left at all. My distressingly empty
pockets acted in a far too depressing way upon me, and I had not even the
courage to scrutinize her sharply as I passed her by. Hunger had once more
taken up its abode in my breast, and I had not tasted food since yesterday
evening. This, 'tis true, was not a long period; I had often been able to
hold out for a couple of days at a time, but latterly I had commenced to
fall off seriously; I could not go hungry one quarter as well as I used to
do. A single day made me feel dazed, and I suffered from perpetual
retching the moment I tasted water. Added to this was the fact that I lay
and shivered all night, lay fully dressed as I stood and walked in the
daytime, lay blue with cold, lay and froze every night with fits of icy
shivering, and grew stiff during my sleep. The old blanket could not keep
out the draughts, and I woke in the mornings with my nose stopped by the
sharp outside frosty air which forced its way into the dilapidated room.

I go down the street and think over what I am to do to keep myself alive
until I get my next article finished. If I only had a candle I would try
to fag on through the night; it would only take a couple of hours if I
once warmed to my work, and then tomorrow I could call on the "commandor."

I go without further ado into the Opland Cafe and look for my young
acquaintance in the bank, in order to procure a penny for a candle. I
passed unhindered through all the rooms; I passed a dozen tables at which
men sat chatting, eating, and drinking; I passed into the back of the
cafe, ay, even into the red alcove, without succeeding in finding my man.

Crestfallen and annoyed I dragged myself out again into the street and
took the direction to the Palace.

Wasn't it now the very hottest eternal devil existing to think that my
hardships never would come to an end! Taking long, furious strides, with
the collar of my coat hunched savagely up round my ears, and my hands
thrust in my breeches pockets, I strode along, cursing my unlucky stars
the whole way. Not one real untroubled hour in seven or eight months, not
the common food necessary to hold body and soul together for the space of
one short week, before want stared me in the face again. Here I had, into
the bargain, gone and kept straight and honourable all through my
misery--Ha! ha! straight and honourable to the heart's core. God preserve
me, what a fool I had been! And I commenced to tell myself how I had even
gone about conscience-stricken because I had once brought Hans Pauli's
blanket to the pawn-broker's. I laughed sarcastically at my delicate
rectitude, spat contemptuously in the street, and could not find words
half strong enough to mock myself for my stupidity. Let it only happen
now! Were I to find at this moment a schoolgirl's savings or a poor
widow's only penny, I would snatch it up and pocket it; steal it
deliberately, and sleep the whole night through like a top. I had not
suffered so unspeakably much for nothing--my patience was gone--I was
prepared to do anything.

I walked round the palace three, perhaps four, times, then came to the
conclusion that I would go home, took yet one little turn in the park and
went back down Carl Johann. It was now about eleven. The streets were
fairly dark, and the people roamed about in all directions, quiet pairs
and noisy groups mixed with one another. The great hour had commenced, the
pairing time when the mystic traffic is in full swing--and the hour of
merry adventures sets in. Rustling petticoats, one or two still short,
sensual laughter, heaving bosoms, passionate, panting breaths, and far
down near the Grand Hotel, a voice calling "Emma!" The whole street was a
swamp, from which hot vapours exuded.

I feel involuntarily in my pockets for a few shillings. The passion that
thrills through the movements of every one of the passers-by, the dim
light of the gas lamps, the quiet pregnant night, all commence to affect
me--this air, that is laden with whispers, embraces, trembling admissions,
concessions, half-uttered words and suppressed cries. A number of cats are
declaring their love with loud yells in Blomquist's doorway. And I did not
possess even a florin! It was a misery, a wretchedness without parallel to
be so impoverished. What humiliation, too; what disgrace! I began again to
think about the poor widow's last mite, that I would have stolen a
schoolboy's cap or handkerchief, or a beggar's wallet, that I would have
brought to a rag-dealer without more ado, and caroused with the proceeds.

In order to console myself--to indemnify myself in some measure--I take to
picking all possible faults in the people who glide by. I shrug my
shoulders contemptuously, and look slightingly at them according as they
pass. These easily-pleased, confectionery-eating students, who fancy they
are sowing their wild oats in truly Continental style if they tickle a
sempstress under the ribs! These young bucks, bank clerks, merchants,
flâneurs--who would not disdain a sailor's wife; blowsy Molls, ready to
fall down in the first doorway for a glass of beer! What sirens! The place
at their side still warm from the last night's embrace of a watch-man or a
stable-boy! The throne always vacant, always open to newcomers! Pray,

I spat out over the pavement, without troubling if it hit any one. I felt
enraged; filled with contempt for these people who scraped
acquaintanceship with one another, and paired off right before my eyes. I
lifted my head, and felt in myself the blessing of being able to keep my
own sty clean. At Stortingsplads (Parliament Place) I met a girl who
looked fixedly at me as I came close to her.

"Good-night!" said I.

"Good-night!" She stopped.

Hum! was she out walking so late? Did not a young lady run rather a risk
in being in Carl Johann at this time of night? Really not? Yes; but was
she never spoken to, molested, I meant; to speak plainly, asked to go
along home with any one?

She stared at me with astonishment, scanned my face closely, to see what I
really meant by this, then thrust her hand suddenly under my arm, and

"Yes, and we went too!"

I walked on with her. But when we had gone a few paces past the car-stand
I came to a standstill, freed my arm, and said:

"Listen, my dear, I don't own a farthing!" and with that I went on.

At first she would not believe me; but after she had searched all my
pockets, and found nothing, she got vexed, tossed her head, and called me
a dry cod.

"Good-night!" said I.

"Wait a minute," she called; "are those eyeglasses that you've got gold?"


"Then go to blazes with you!" and I went.

A few seconds after she came running behind me, and called out to me:

"You can come with me all the same!"

I felt humiliated by this offer from an unfortunate street wench, and I
said "No." Besides, it was growing late at night, and I was due at a
place. Neither could she afford to make sacrifices of that kind.

"Yes; but now I will have you come with me."

"But I won't go with you in this way."

"Oh, naturally; you are going with some one else."

"No," I answered.

But I was conscious that I stood in a sorry plight in face of this unique
street jade, and I made up my mind to save appearances at least.

"What is your name?" I inquired. "Mary, eh? Well, listen to me now, Mary!"
and I set about explaining my behaviour. The girl grew more and more
astonished in measure as I proceeded. Had she then believed that I, too,
was one of those who went about the street at night and ran after little
girls? Did she really think so badly of me? Had I perhaps said anything
rude to her from the beginning? Did one behave as I had done when one was
actuated by any bad motive? Briefly, in so many words, I had accosted her,
and accompanied her those few paces, to see how far she would go on with
it. For the rest, my name was So-and-so--Pastor So-and-so. "Good-night;
depart, and sin no more!" With these words I left her.

I rubbed my hands with delight over my happy notion, and soliloquized
aloud, "What a joy there is in going about doing good actions." Perhaps I
had given this fallen creature an upward impulse for her whole life; save
her, once for all, from destruction, and she would appreciate it when she
came to think over it; remember me yet in her hour of death with thankful
heart. Ah! in truth, it paid to be honourable, upright, and righteous!

My spirits were effervescing. I felt fresh and courageous enough to face
anything that might turn up. If I only had a candle, I might perhaps
complete my article. I walked on, jingling my new door-key in my hand;
hummed, and whistled, and speculated as to means of procuring a candle.
There was no other way out of it. I would have to take my writing
materials with me into the street, under a lamp-post. I opened the door,
and went up to get my papers. When I descended once more I locked the door
from the outside, and planted myself under the light. All around was
quiet; I heard the heavy clanking footstep of a constable down in
Taergade, and far away in the direction of St. Han's Hill a dog barked.
There was nothing to disturb me. I pulled my coat collar up round my ears,
and commenced to think with all my might.

It would be such an extraordinary help to me if I were lucky enough to
find a suitable winding up for this little essay. I had stuck just at a
rather difficult point in it, where there ought to be a quite
imperceptible transition to something fresh, then a subdued gliding
finale, a prolonged murmur, ending at last in a climax as bold and as
startling as a shot, or the sound of a mountain avalanche--full stop. But
the words would not come to me. I read over the whole piece from the
commencement; read every sentence aloud, and yet failed absolutely to
crystallize my thoughts, in order to produce this scintillating climax.
And into the bargain, whilst I was standing labouring away at this, the
constable came and, planting himself a little distance away from me,
spoilt my whole mood. Now, what concern was it of his if I stood and
strove for a striking climax to an article for the _Commandor_? Lord,
how utterly impossible it was for me to keep my head above water, no
matter how much I tried! I stayed there for the space of an hour. The
constable went his way. The cold began to get too intense for me to keep
still. Disheartened and despondent over this abortive effort, I opened the
door again, and went up to my room.

It was cold up there, and I could barely see my window for the intense
darkness. I felt my towards the bed, pulled off my shoes, and set about
warming my feet between my hands. Then I lay down, as I had done for a
long time now, with all my clothes on.

The following morning I sat up in bed as soon as it got light, and set to
work at the essay once more. I sat thus till noon; I had succeeded by then
in getting ten, perhaps twenty lines down, and still I had not found an

I rose, put on my shoes, and began to walk up and down the floor to try
and warm myself. I looked out; there was rime on the window; it was
snowing. Down in the yard a thick layer of snow covered the paving-stones
and the top of the pump. I bustled about the room, took aimless turns to
and fro, scratched the wall with my nail, leant my head carefully against
the door for a while, tapped with my forefinger on the floor, and then
listened attentively, all without any object, but quietly and pensively as
if it were some matter of importance in which I was engaged; and all the
while I murmured aloud, time upon time, so that I could hear my own voice.

But, great God, surely this is madness! and yet I kept on just as before.
After a long time, perhaps a couple of hours, I pulled myself sharply
together, bit my lips, and manned myself as well as I could. There must be
an end to this! I found a splinter to chew, and set myself resolutely to

A couple of short sentences formed themselves with much trouble, a score
of poor words which I tortured forth with might and main to try and
advance a little. Then I stopped, my head was barren; I was incapable of
more. And, as I could positively not go on, I set myself to gaze with wide
open eyes at these last words, this unfinished sheet of paper; I stared at
these strange, shaky letters that bristled up from the paper like small
hairy creeping things, till at last I could neither make head nor tail of
any of it. I thought on nothing.

Time went; I heard the traffic in the street, the rattle of cars and tramp
of hoofs. Jens Olaj's voice ascended towards me from the stables as he
chid the horses. I was perfectly stunned. I sat and moistened my lips a
little, but otherwise made no effort to do anything; my chest was in a
pitiful state. The dusk closed in; I sank more and more together, grew
weary, and lay down on the bed again. In order to warm my fingers a little
I stroked them through my hair backwards and forwards and crosswise. Small
loose tufts came away, flakes that got between my fingers, and scattered
over the pillow. I did not think anything about it just then; it was as if
it did not concern me. I had hair enough left, anyway. I tried afresh to
shake myself out of this strange daze that enveloped my whole being like a
mist. I sat up, struck my knees with my flat hands, laughed as hard as my
sore chest permitted me--only to collapse again. Naught availed; I was
dying helplessly, with my eyes wide open--staring straight up at the roof.
At length I stuck my forefinger in my mouth, and took to sucking it.
Something stirred in my brain, a thought that bored its way in there--a
stark-mad notion.

Supposing I were to take a bite? And without a moment's reflection, I shut
my eyes, and clenched my teeth on it.

I sprang up. At last I was thoroughly awake. A little blood trickled from
it, and I licked it as it came. It didn't hurt very much, neither was the
wound large, but I was brought at one bound to my senses. I shook my head,
went to the window, where I found a rag, and wound it round the sore
place. As I stood and busied myself with this, my eyes filled with tears;
I cried softly to myself. This poor thin finger looked so utterly
pitiable. God in Heaven! what a pass it had come to now with me! The gloom
grew closer. It was, maybe, not impossible that I might work up my finale
through the course of the evening, if I only had a candle. My head was
clear once more. Thoughts came and went as usual, and I did not suffer
particularly; I did not even feel hunger so badly as some hours
previously. I could hold out well till the next day. Perhaps I might be
able to get a candle on credit, if I applied to the provision shop and
explained my situation--I was so well known in there; in the good old
days, when I had the means to do it, I used to buy many a loaf there.
There was no doubt I could raise a candle on the strength of my honest
name; and for the first time for ages I took to brushing my clothes a
little, got rid as well as the darkness allowed me of the loose hairs on
my collar, and felt my way down the stairs.

When I got outside in the street it occurred to me that I might perhaps
rather ask for a loaf. I grew irresolute, and stopped to consider. "On no
account," I replied to myself at last; I was unfortunately not in a
condition to bear food. It would only be a repetition of the same old
story--visions, and presentiments, and mad notions. My article would never
get finished, and it was a question of going to the "Commandor" before he
had time to forget me. On no account whatever! and I decided upon the
candle. With that I entered the shop.

A woman is standing at the counter making purchases; several small parcels
in different sorts of paper are lying in front of her. The shopman, who
knows me, and knows what I usually buy, leaves the woman, and packs
without much ado a loaf in a piece of paper and shoves it over to me.

"No, thank you, it was really a candle I wanted this evening," I say. I
say it very quietly and humbly, in order not to vex him and spoil my
chance of getting what I want.

My answer confuses him; he turns quite cross at my unexpected words; it
was the first time I had ever demanded anything but a loaf from him.

"Well then, you must wait a while," he says at last, and busies himself
with the woman's parcels again.

She receives her wares and pays for them---gives him a florin, out of
which she gets the change, and goes out. Now the shop-boy and I are alone.
He says:

"So it was a candle you wanted, eh?" He tears open a package, and takes
one out for me. He looks at me, and I look at him; I can't get my request
over my lips.

"Oh yes, that's true; you paid, though!" he says suddenly. He simply
asserts that I had paid. I heard every word, and he begins to count some
silver out of the till, coin after coin, shining stout pieces. He gives me
back change for a crown.

"Much obliged," he says.

Now I stand and look at these pieces of money for a second. I am conscious
something is wrong somewhere. I do not reflect; do not think about
anything at all--I am simply struck of a heap by all this wealth which is
lying glittering before my eyes--and I gather up the money mechanically.

I stand outside the counter, stupid with amazement, dumb, paralyzed. I
take a stride towards the door, and stop again. I turn my eyes upon a
certain spot in the wall, where a little bell is suspended to a leather
collar, and underneath this a bundle of string, and I stand and stare at
these things.

The shop-boy is struck by the idea that I want to have a chat as I take my
time so leisurely, and says, as he tidies a lot of wrapping-papers strewn
over the counter:

"It looks as if we were going to have winter snow!"

"Humph! Yes," I reply; "it looks as if we were going to have winter in
earnest now; it looks like it," and a while after, I add: "Ah, well, it is
none too soon."

I could hear myself speak, but each word I uttered struck my ear as if it
were coming from another person. I spoke absolutely unwittingly,
involuntarily, without being conscious of myself.

"Oh, do you think so?" says the boy.

I thrust the hand with the money into my pocket, turned the door-handle,
and left. I could hear that I said good-night, and that the shop-boy
replied to me.

I had gone a few paces away from the shop when the shop-door was torn
open, and the boy called after me. I turned round without any
astonishment, without a trace of fear; I only collected the money into my
hand, and prepared to give it back.

"Beg pardon, you've forgotten your candle," says the boy.

"Ah, thanks," I answered quietly. "Thanks, thanks"; and I strolled on,
down the street, bearing it in my hand.

My first sensible thought referred to the money. I went over to a
lamp-post, counted it, weighed it in my hand, and smiled. So, in spite of
all, I was helped--extraordinarily, grandly, incredibly helped--helped for
a long, long time; and I thrust my hand with the money into my pocket, and
walked on.

Outside an eating-house in Grand Street I stopped, and turned over in my
mind, calmly and quietly, if I should venture so soon to take a little
refreshment. I could hear the rattle of knives and plates inside, and the
sound of meat being pounded. The temptation was too strong for me--I

"A helping of beef," I say.

"One beef!" calls the waitress down through the door to the lift.

I sat down by myself at a little table next to the door, and prepared to
wait. It was somewhat dark where I was sitting, and I felt tolerably well
concealed, and set myself to have a serious think. Every now and then the
waitress glanced over at me inquiringly. My first downright dishonesty was
accomplished--my first theft. Compared to this, all my earlier escapades
were as nothing--my first great fall.... Well and good! There was no help
for it. For that matter, it was open to me to settle it with the
shopkeeper later on, on a more opportune occasion. It need not go any
farther with me. Besides that, I had not taken upon myself to live more
honourably than all the other folk; there was no contract that....

"Do you think that beef will soon be here?"

"Yes; immediately"; the waitress opens the trapdoor, and looks down into
the kitchen.

But suppose the affair did crop up some day? If the shop-boy were to get
suspicious and begin to think over the transaction about the bread, and
the florin of which the woman got the change? It was not impossible that
he would discover it some day, perhaps the next time I went there. Well,
then, Lord!... I shrugged my shoulders unobserved.

"If you please," says the waitress, kindly placing the beef on the table,
"wouldn't you rather go to another compartment, it's so dark here?"

"No, thanks; just let me be here," I reply; her kindliness touches me at
once. I pay for the beef on the spot, put whatever change remains into her
hand, close her fingers over it. She smiles, and I say in fun, with the
tears near my ears, "There, you're to have the balance to buy yourself a
farm.... Ah, you're very welcome to it."

I commenced to eat, got more and more greedy I as I did so, swallowed
whole pieces without chewing them, enjoyed myself in an animal-like way at
every mouthful, and tore at the meat like a cannibal.

The waitress came over to me again.

"Will you have anything to drink?" she asks, bending down a little towards
me. I looked at her. She spoke very low, almost shyly, and dropped her
eyes. "I mean a glass of ale, or whatever you like best ... from me ...
without ... that is, if you will...."

"No; many thanks," I answer. "Not now; I shall come back another time."

She drew back, and sat down at the desk. I could only see her head. What a
singular creature!

When finished, I made at once for the door. I felt nausea already. The
waitress got up. I was afraid to go near the light--afraid to show myself
too plainly to the young girl, who never for a moment suspected the depth
of my misery; so I wished her a hasty good-night, bowed to her, and left.

The food commenced to take effect. I suffered much from it, and could not
keep it down for any length of time. I had to empty my mouth a little at
every dark corner I came to. I struggled to master this nausea which
threatened to hollow me out anew, clenched my hands, and tried to fight it
down; stamped on the pavement, and gulped down furiously whatever sought
to come up. All in vain. I sprang at last into a doorway, doubled up, head
foremost, blinded with the water which gushed from my eyes, and vomited
once more. I was seized with bitterness, and wept as I went along the
street.... I cursed the cruel powers, whoever they might be, that
persecuted me so, consigned them to hell's damnation and eternal torments
for their petty persecution. There was but little chivalry in fate, really
little enough chivalry; one was forced to admit that.

I went over to a man staring into a shop-window, and asked him in great
haste what, according to his opinion, should one give a man who had been
starving for a long time. It was a matter of life and death, I said; he
couldn't even keep beef down.

"I have heard say that milk is a good thing--hot milk," answered the man,
astonished. "Who is it, by the way, you are asking for?"

"Thanks, thanks," I say; "that idea of hot milk might not be half a bad
notion;" and I go.

I entered the first café I came to going along, and asked for some boiled
milk. I got the milk, drank it down, hot as it was, swallowed it greedily,
every drop, paid for it, and went out again. I took the road home.

Now something singular happened. Outside my door, leaning against the
lamp-post, and right under the glare of it, stands a person of whom I get
a glimpse from a long distance--it is the lady dressed in black again. The
same black-clad lady of the other evenings. There could be no mistake
about it; she had turned up at the same spot for the fourth time. She is
standing perfectly motionless. I find this so peculiar that I
involuntarily slacken my pace. At this moment my thoughts are in good
working order, but I am much excited; my nerves are irritated by my last
meal. I pass her by as usual; am almost at the door and on the point of
entering. There I stop. All of a sudden an inspiration seizes me. Without
rendering myself any account of it, I turn round and go straight up to the
lady, look her in the face, and bow.


"Good-evening," she answers.

Excuse me, was she looking for anything? I had noticed her before; could I
be of assistance to her in any way? begged pardon, by-the-way, so
earnestly for inquiring.

Yes; she didn't quite know....

No one lived inside that door besides three or four horses and myself; it
was, for that matter, only a stable and a tinker's workshop.... She was
certainly on a wrong track if she was seeking any one there.

At this she turns her head away, and says: "I am not seeking for anybody.
I am only standing here; it was really only a whim. I" ... she stops.

Indeed, really, she only stood there, just stood there, evening after
evening, just for a whim's sake!

That was a little odd. I stood and pondered over it, and it perplexed me
more and more. I made up my mind to be daring; I jingled my money in my
pocket, and asked her, without further ado, to come and have a glass of
wine some place or another ... in consideration that winter had come, ha,
ha! ... it needn't take very long ... but perhaps she would scarcely....

Ah, no, thanks; she couldn't well do that. No! she couldn't do that; but
would I be so kind as to accompany her a little way? She ... it was rather
dark to go home now, and she was rather nervous about going up Carl Johann
after it got so late.

We moved on; she walked at my right side. A strange, beautiful feeling
empowered me; the certainty of being near a young girl. I looked at her
the whole way along. The scent of her hair; the warmth that irradiated
from her body; the perfume of woman that accompanied her; the sweet breath
every time she turned her face towards me--everything penetrated in an
ungovernable way through all my senses. So far, I just caught a glimpse of
a full, rather pale, face behind the veil, and a high bosom that curved
out against her cape. The thought of all the hidden beauty which I
surmised lay sheltered under the cloak and veil bewildered me, making me
idiotically happy without any reasonable grounds. I could not endure it
any longer; I touched her with my hand, passed my fingers over her
shoulder, and smiled imbecilely.

"How queer you are," said I.

"Am I, really; in what way?"

Well, in the first place, simply, she had a habit of standing outside a
stable door, evening after evening, without any object whatever, just for
a whim's sake....

Oh, well, she might have her reason for doing so; besides, she liked
staying up late at night; it was a thing she had always had a great fancy
for. Did I care about going to bed before twelve?

I? If there was anything in the world I hated it was to go to bed before
twelve o'clock at night.

Ah, there, you see! She, too, was just the same; she took this little tour
in the evenings when she had nothing to lose by doing so. She lived up in
St. Olav's Place.

"Ylajali," I cried.

"I beg pardon?"

"I only said 'Ylajali' ... it's all right. Continue...."

She lived up in St. Olav's Place, lonely enough, together with her mother,
to whom one couldn't talk because she was so deaf. Was there anything odd
in her liking to get out for a little?

"No, not at all," I replied.

"No? well, what then?"

I could hear by her voice that she was smiling.

Hadn't she a sister?

Yes; an older sister. But, by-the-way, how did
I know that? She had gone to Hamburg.


"Yes; five weeks ago." From where did I learn that she had a sister?

I didn't learn it at all; I only asked.

We kept silence. A man passes us, with a pair of shoes under his arm;
otherwise, the street is empty as far as we can see. Over at the Tivoli a
long row of coloured lamps are burning. It no longer snows; the sky is

"Gracious! don't you freeze without an overcoat?" inquires the lady,
suddenly looking at me.

Should I tell her why I had no overcoat; make my sorry condition known at
once, and frighten her away? As well first as last. Still, it was
delightful to walk here at her side and keep her in ignorance yet a while
longer. So I lied. I answered:

"No, not at all"; and, in order to change the subject, I asked, "Have you
seen the menagerie in the Tivoli?"

"No," she answered; "is there really anything to see?"

Suppose she were to take it into her head to wish to go there? Into that
blaze of light, with the crowd of people. Why, she would be filled with
shame; I would drive her out again, with my shabby clothes, and lean face;
perhaps she might even notice that I had no waistcoat on....

"Ah, no; there is sure to be nothing worth seeing!"

And a lot of happy ideas occurred to me, of which I at once made use; a
few sparse words, fragments left in my dessicated brain. What would one
expect from such a small menagerie? On the whole, it did not interest me
in the least to see animals in cases. These animals know that one is
standing staring at them; they feel hundreds of inquisitive looks upon
them; are conscious of them. No; I would prefer to see animals that didn't
know one observed them; shy creatures that nestle in their lair, and lie
with sluggish green eyes, and lick their claws, and muse, eh?

Yes; I was certainly right in that.

It was only animals in all their peculiar fearfulness and peculiar
savagery that possessed a charm. The soundless, stealthy tread in the
total darkness of night; the hidden monsters of the woods; the shrieks of
a bird flying past; the wind, the smell of blood, the rumbling in space;
in short, the reigning spirit of the kingdom of savage creatures hovering
over savagery ... the unconscious poetry!... But I was afraid this bored
her. The consciousness of my great poverty seized me anew, and crushed me.
If I had only been in any way well-enough dressed to have given her the
pleasure of this little tour in the Tivoli! I could not make out this
creature, who could find pleasure in letting herself be accompanied up the
whole of Carl Johann Street by a half-naked beggar. What, in the name of
God, was she thinking of? And why was I walking there, giving myself airs,
and smiling idiotically at nothing? Had I any reasonable cause, either,
for letting myself be worried into a long walk by this dainty, silken-clad
bird? Mayhap it did not cost me an effort? Did I not feel the ice of death
go right into my heart at even the gentlest puff of wind that blew against
us? Was not madness running riot in my brain, just for lack of food for
many months at a stretch? Yet she hindered me from going home to get even
a little milk into my parched mouth; a spoonful of sweet milk, that I
might perhaps be able to keep down. Why didn't she turn her back on me,
and let me go to the deuce?...

I became distracted; my despair reduced me to the last extremity. I said:

"Considering all things, you ought not to walk with me. I disgrace you
right under every one's eyes, if only with my clothes. Yes, it is
positively true; I mean it."

She starts, looks up quickly at me, and is silent; then she exclaims

"Indeed, though!" More she doesn't say.

"What do you mean by that?" I queried.

"Ugh, no; you make me feel ashamed.... We have not got very far now"; and
she walked on a little faster.

We turned up University Street, and could already see the lights in St.
Olav's Place. Then she commenced to walk slowly again.

"I have no wish to be indiscreet," I say; "but won't you tell me your name
before we part? and won't you, just for one second, lift up your veil so
that I can see you? I would be really so grateful."

A pause. I walked on in expectation.

"You have seen me before," she replies.

"Ylajali," I say again.

"Beg pardon. You followed me once for half-a-day, almost right home. Were
you tipsy that time?"

I could hear again that she smiled.

"Yes," I said. "Yes, worse luck, I was tipsy that time."

"That was horrid of you!"

And I admitted contritely that it was horrid of me.

We reached the fountains; we stop and look up at the many lighted windows
of No. 2.

"Now, you mustn't come any farther with me," she says. "Thank you for
coming so far."

I bowed; I daren't say anything; I took off my hat and stood bareheaded. I
wonder if she will give me her hand.

"Why don't you ask me to go back a little way with you?" she asks, in a
low voice, looking down at the toe of her shoe.

"Great Heavens!" I reply, beside myself, "Great Heavens, if you only

"Yes; but only a little way."

And we turned round.

I was fearfully confused. I absolutely did not know if I were on my head
or my heels. This creature upset all my chain of reasoning; turned it
topsy-turvy. I was bewitched and extraordinarily happy. It seemed to me as
if I were being dragged enchantingly to destruction. She had expressly
willed to go back; it wasn't my notion, it was her own desire. I walk on
and look at her, and get more and more bold. She encourages me, draws me
to her by each word she speaks. I forget for a moment my poverty, my
humble position, my whole miserable condition. I feel my blood course
madly through my whole body, as in the days before I caved in, and
resolved to feel my way by a little ruse.

"By-the-way, it wasn't you I followed that time," said I. "It was your

"Was it my sister?" she questions, in the highest degree amazed. She
stands still, looks up at me, and positively waits for an answer. She puts
the question in all sober earnest.

"Yes," I replied. "Hum--m, that is to say, it was the younger of the two
ladies who went on in front of me."

"The youngest, eh? eh? a-a-ha!" she laughed out all at once, loudly,
heartily, like a child. "Oh, how sly you are; you only said that just to
get me to raise my veil, didn't you? Ah, I thought so; but you may just
wait till you are blue first ... just for punishment."

We began to laugh and jest; we talked incessantly all the time. I do not
know what I said, I was so happy. She told me that she had seen me once
before, a long time ago, in the theatre. I had then comrades with me, and
I behaved like a madman; I must certainly have been tipsy that time too,
more's the shame.

Why did she think that?

Oh, I had laughed so.

"Really, a-ah yes; I used to laugh a lot in those days."

"But now not any more?"

"Oh yes; now too. It is a splendid thing to exist sometimes."

We reached Carl Johann. She said: "Now we won't go any farther," and we
returned through University Street. When we arrived at the fountain once
more I slackened my pace a little; I knew that I could not go any farther
with her.

"Well, now you must turn back here," she said, and stopped.

"Yes, I suppose I must."

But a second after she thought I might as well go as far as the door with
her. Gracious me, there couldn't be anything wrong in that, could there?

"No," I replied.

But when we were standing at the door all my misery confronted me clearly.
How was one to keep up one's courage when one was so broken down? Here I
stood before a young lady, dirty, ragged, torn, disfigured by hunger,
unwashed, and only half-clad; it was enough to make one sink into the
earth. I shrank into myself, bent my head involuntarily, and said:

"May I not meet you any more then?"

I had no hope of being permitted to see her again. I almost wished for a
sharp No, that would pull me together a bit and render me callous.

"Yes," she whispered softly, almost inaudibly.


"I don't know."

A pause....

"Won't you be so kind as to lift your veil, only just for a minute," I
asked. "So that I can see whom I have been talking to. Just for one
moment, for indeed I must see whom I have been talking to."

Another pause....

"You can meet me outside here on Tuesday evening," she said. "Will you?"

"Yes, dear lady, if I have permission to."

"At eight o'clock."

"Very well."

I stroked down her cloak with my hand, merely to have an excuse for
touching her. It was a delight to me to be so near her.

"And you mustn't think all too badly of me," she added; she was smiling


Suddenly she made a resolute movement and drew her veil up over her
forehead; we stood and gazed at one another for a second.

"Ylajali!" I cried. She stretched herself up, flung her arms round my neck
and kissed me right on the mouth--only once, swiftly, bewilderingly
swiftly, right on the mouth. I could feel how her bosom heaved; she was
breathing violently. She wrenched herself suddenly out of my clasp, called
a good-night, breathlessly, whispering, and turned and ran up the stairs
without a word more....

The hall door shut.

       *       *       *       *       *

It snowed still more the next day, a heavy snow mingled with rain; great
wet flakes that fell to earth and were turned to mud. The air was raw and
icy. I woke somewhat late, with my head in a strange state of confusion,
my heart intoxicated from the foregone evening by the agitation of that
delightful meeting. In my rapture (I had lain a while awake and fancied
Ylajali at my side) I spread out my arms and embraced myself and kissed
the air. At length I dragged myself out of bed and procured a fresh cup of
milk, and straight on top of that a plate of beef. I was no longer hungry,
but my nerves were in a highly-strung condition.

I went off to the clothes-shop in the bazaar. It occurred to me that I
might pick up a second-hand waistcoat cheaply, something to put on under
my coat; it didn't matter what.

I went up the steps to the bazaar and took hold of one and began to
examine it.

While I was thus engaged an acquaintance came by; he nodded and called up
to me. I let the waistcoat hang and went down to him. He was a designer,
and was on the way to his office.

"Come with me and have a glass of beer," he said. "But hurry up, I haven't
much time.... What lady was that you were walking with yesterday evening?"

"Listen here now," said I, jealous of his bare
thought. "Supposing it was my _fiancée_."

"By Jove!" he exclaimed.

"Yes; it was all settled yesterday evening."

This nonplussed him completely. He believed me implicitly. I lied in the
most accomplished manner to get rid of him. We ordered the beer, drank it,
and left.

"Well, good-bye! O listen," he said suddenly. "I owe you a few shillings.
It is a shame, too, that I haven't paid you long ago, but now you shall
have them during the next few days."

"Yes, thanks," I replied; but I knew that he would never pay me back the
few shillings. The beer, I am sorry to say, went almost immediately to my
head. The thought of the previous evening's adventure overwhelmed me--made
me delirious. Supposing she were not to meet me on Tuesday! Supposing she
were to begin to think things over, to get suspicious ... get suspicious
of what?... My thoughts gave a jerk and dwelt upon the money. I grew
afraid; deadly afraid of myself. The theft rushed in upon me in all its
details. I saw the little shop, the counter, my lean hands as I seized the
money, and I pictured to myself the line of action the police would adopt
when they would come to arrest me. Irons on my hands and feet; no, only on
my hands; perhaps only on one hand. The dock, the clerk taking down the
evidence, the scratch of his pen--perhaps he might take a new one for the
occasion--his look, his threatening look. There, Herr Tangen, to the cell,
the eternally dark....

Humph! I clenched my hands tightly to try and summon courage, walked
faster and faster, and came to the market-place. There I sat down.

Now, no child's play. How in the wide world could any one prove that I had
stolen? Besides, the huckster's boy dare not give an alarm, even if it
should occur to him some day how it had all happened. He valued his
situation far too dearly for that. No noise, no scenes, may I beg!

But all the same, this money weighed in my pocket sinfully, and gave me no
peace. I began to question myself, and I became clearly convinced that I
had been happier before, during the period in which I had suffered in all
honour. And Ylajali? Had I, too, not polluted her with the touch of my
sinful hands? Lord, O Lord my God, Ylajali! I felt as drunk as a bat,
jumped up suddenly, and went straight over to the cake woman who was
sitting near the chemist's under the sign of the elephant. I might even
yet lift myself above dishonour; it was far from being too late; I would
show the whole world that I was capable of doing so.

On the way over I got the money in readiness, held every farthing of it in
my hand, bent down over the old woman's table as if I wanted something,
clapped the money without further ado into her hands. I spoke not a word,
turned on my heel, and went my way.

What a wonderful savour there was in feeling oneself an honest man once
more! My empty pockets troubled me no longer; it was simply a delightful
feeling to me to be cleaned out. When I weighed the whole matter
thoroughly, this money had in reality cost me much secret anguish; I had
really thought about it with dread and shuddering time upon time. I was no
hardened soul; my honourable nature rebelled against such a low action.
God be praised, I had raised myself in my own estimation again! "Do as I
have done!" I said to myself, looking across the thronged market-place--
"only just do as I have done!" I had gladdened a poor old cake vendor to
such good purpose that she was perfectly dumbfounded. Tonight her children
wouldn't go hungry to bed.... I buoyed myself up with these reflections
and considered that I had behaved in a most exemplary manner. God be
praised! The money was out of my hands now!

Tipsy and nervous, I wandered down the street, and swelled with
satisfaction. The joy of being able to meet Ylajali cleanly and
honourably, and of feeling I could look her in the face, ran away with me.
I was not conscious of any pain. My head was clear and buoyant; it was as
if it were a head of mere light that rested and gleamed on my shoulders. I
felt inclined to play the wildest pranks, to do something astounding, to
set the whole town in a ferment. All up through Graendsen I conducted
myself like a madman. There was a buzzing in my ears, and intoxication ran
riot in my brains. The whim seized me to go and tell my age to a
commissionaire, who, by-the-way, had not addressed a word to me; to take
hold of his hands, and gaze impressively in his face, and leave him again
without any explanation. I distinguished every nuance in the voice and
laughter of the passers-by, observed some little birds that hopped before
me in the street, took to studying the expression of the paving-stones,
and discovered all sorts of tokens and signs in them. Thus occupied, I
arrive at length at Parliament Place. I stand all at once stock-still, and
look at the droskes; the drivers are wandering about, chatting and
laughing. The horses hang their heads and cower in the bitter weather. "Go
ahead!" I say, giving myself a dig with my elbow. I went hurriedly over to
the first vehicle, and got in. "Ullevoldsveien, No. 37," I called out, and
we rolled off.

On the way the driver looked round, stooped and peeped several times into
the trap, where I sat, sheltered underneath the hood. Had he, too, grown
suspicious? There was no doubt of it; my miserable attire had attracted
his attention.

"I want to meet a man," I called to him, in order to be beforehand with
him, and I explained gravely that I must really meet this man. We stop
outside 37, and I jump out, spring up the stairs right to the third
storey, seize a bell, and pull it. It gives six or seven fearful peals

A maid comes out and opens the door. I notice that she has round, gold
drops in her ears, and black stuff buttons on her grey bodice. She looks
at me with a frightened air.

I inquire for Kierulf--Joachim Kierulf, if I might add further--a
wool-dealer; in short, not a man one could make a mistake about....

The girl shook her head. "No Kierulf lives here," said she.

She stared at me, and held the door ready to close it. She made no effort
to find the man for me. She really looked as if she knew the person I
inquired for, if she would only take the trouble to reflect a bit. The
lazy jade! I got vexed, turned my back on her, and ran downstairs again.

"He wasn't there," I called to the driver.

"Wasn't he there?"

"No. Drive to Tomtegaden, No. 11." I was in a state of the most violent
excitement, and imparted something of the same feeling to the driver. He
evidently thought it was a matter of life and death, and he drove on,
without further ado. He whipped up the horse sharply.

"What's the man's name?" he inquired, turning round on the box.

"Kierulf, a dealer in wool--Kierulf."

And the driver, too, thought this was a man one would not be likely to
make any mistake about.

"Didn't he generally wear a light morning, coat?"

"What!" I cried; "a light morning-coat? Are you mad? Do you think it is a
tea-cup I am inquiring about?" This light morning-coat came most
inopportunely; it spoilt the whole man for me such as I had fancied him.

"What was it you said he was called?--Kierulf?"

"Of course," I replied. "Is there anything wonderful in that? The name
doesn't disgrace any one."

"Hasn't he red hair?"

Well, it was quite possible that he had red hair, and now that the driver
mentioned the matter, I was suddenly convinced that he was right. I felt
grateful to the poor driver, and hastened to inform him that he had hit
the man off to a T--he really was just as he described him,--and I
remarked, in addition, that it would be a phenomenon to see such a man
without red hair.

"It must be him I drove a couple of times," said the driver; "he had a
knobbed stick."

This brought the man vividly before me, and I
said, "Ha, ha! I suppose no one has ever yet seen
the man without a knobbed stick in his hand, of
that you can be certain, quite certain."

Yes, it was clear that it was the same man he had driven. He recognized
him--and he drove so that the horse's shoes struck sparks as they touched
the stones.

All through this phase of excitement I had not for one second lost my
presence of mind. We pass a policeman, and I notice his number is 69. This
number struck me with such vivid clearness that it penetrated like a
splint into my brain--69--accurately 69. I wouldn't forget it.

I leant back in the vehicle, a prey to the wildest fancies; crouched under
the hood so that no one could see me. I moved my lips and commenced to I
talk idiotically to myself. Madness rages through my brain, and I let it
rage. I am fully conscious that I am succumbing to influences over which I
have no control. I begin to laugh, silently, passionately, without a trace
of cause, still merry and intoxicated from the couple of glasses of ale I
have drunk. Little by little my excitement abates, my calm returns more
and more to me. I feel the cold in my sore finger, and I stick it down
inside my collar to warm it a little. At length we reach Tomtegaden. The
driver pulls up.

I alight, without any haste, absently, listlessly, with my head heavy. I
go through a gateway and come into a yard across which I pass. I come to a
door which I open and pass through; I find myself in a lobby, a sort of
anteroom, with two windows. There are two boxes in it, one on top of the
other, in one corner, and against the wall an old, painted sofa-bed over
which a rug is spread. To the right, in the next room, I hear voices and
the cry of a child, and above me, on the second floor, the sound of an
iron plate being hammered. All this I notice the moment as I enter.

I step quietly across the room to the opposite door without any haste,
without any thought of flight; open it, too, and come out in
Vognmansgaden. I look up at the house through which I have passed.
"Refreshment and lodgings for travellers."

It is not my intention to escape, to steal away from the driver who is
waiting for me. I go very coolly down Vognmansgaden, without fear of being
conscious of doing any wrong. Kierulf, this dealer in wool, who has
spooked in my brain so long--this creature in whose existence I believe,
and whom it was of vital importance that I should meet--had vanished from
my memory; was wiped out with many other mad whims which came and went in
turns. I recalled him no longer, except as a reminiscence--a phantom.

In measure, as I walked on, I become more and more sober; felt languid and
weary, and dragged my legs after me. The snow still fell in great moist
flakes. At last I reached Gronland; far out, near the church, I sat down
to rest on a seat. All the passers-by looked at me with much astonishment.
I fell a-thinking.

Thou good God, what a miserable plight I have come to! I was so heartily
tired and weary of all my miserable life that I did not find it worth the
trouble of fighting any longer to preserve it. Adversity had gained the
upper hand; it had been too strong for me. I had become so strangely
poverty-stricken and broken, a mere shadow of what I once had been; my
shoulders were sunken right down on one side, and I had contracted a habit
of stooping forward fearfully as I walked, in order to spare my chest what
little I could. I had examined my body a few days ago, one noon up in my
room, and I had stood and cried over it the whole time. I had worn the
same shirt for many weeks, and it was quite stiff with stale sweat, and
had chafed my skin. A little blood and water ran out of the sore place; it
did not hurt much, but it was very tiresome to have this tender place in
the middle of my stomach. I had no remedy for it, and it wouldn't heal of
its own accord. I washed it, dried it carefully, and put on the same
shirt. There was no help for it, it....

I sit there on the bench and ponder over all this, and am sad enough. I
loathe myself. My very hands seem distasteful to me; the loose, almost
coarse, expression of the backs of them pains me, disgusts me. I feel
myself rudely affected by the sight of my lean fingers. I hate the whole
of my gaunt, shrunken body, and shrink from bearing it, from feeling it
envelop me. Lord, if the whole thing would come to an end now, I would
heartily, gladly die!

Completely worsted, soiled, defiled, and debased in my own estimation, I
rose mechanically and commenced to turn my steps homewards. On the way I
passed a door, upon which the following was to be read on a
plate--"Winding-sheets to be had at Miss Andersen's, door to the right."
Old memories! I muttered, as my thoughts flew back to my former room in
Hammersborg. The little rocking-chair, the newspapers near the door, the
lighthouse director's announcement, and Fabian Olsen, the baker's
new-baked bread. Ah yes; times were better with me then than now; one
night I had written a tale for ten shillings, now I couldn't write
anything. My head grew light as soon as ever I attempted it. Yes, I would
put an end to it now; and I went on and on.

As I got nearer and nearer to the provision shop, I had the half-conscious
feeling of approaching a danger, but I determined to stick to my purpose;
I would give myself up. I ran quickly up the steps. At the door I met a
little girl who was carrying a cup in her hands, and I slipped past her
and opened the door. The shop boy and I stand face to face alone for the
second time.

"Well!" he exclaims; "fearfully bad weather now, isn't it?" What did this
going round the bush signify? Why didn't he seize me at once? I got
furious, and cried:

"Oh, I haven't come to prate about the weather."

This violent preliminary takes him aback; his little huckster brain fails
him. It has never even occurred to him that I have cheated him of five

"Don't you know, then, that I have swindled you?" I query impatiently, and
I breathe quickly with the excitement; I tremble and am ready to use force
if he doesn't come to the point.

But the poor man has no misgivings.

Well, bless my soul, what stupid creatures one has to mix with in this
world! I abuse him, explain to him every detail as to how it had all
happened, show him where the fact was accomplished, where the money had
lain; how I had gathered it up in my hand and closed my fingers over
it--and he takes it all in and does nothing. He shifts uneasily from one
foot to the other, listens for footsteps in the next room, make signs to
hush me, to try and make me speak lower, and says at last:

"It was a mean enough thing of you to do!"

"No; hold on," I explained in my desire to contradict him--to aggravate
him. It wasn't quite so mean as he imagined it to be, in his huckster
head. Naturally, I didn't keep the money; that could never have entered my
head. I, for my part, scorned to derive any benefit from it--that was
opposed to my thoroughly honest nature.

"What did you do with it, then?"

"I gave it away to a poor old woman--every farthing of it." He must
understand that that was the sort of person I was; I didn't forget the
poor so....

He stands and thinks over this a while, becomes manifestly very dubious as
to how far I am an honest man or not. At last he says:

"Oughtn't you rather to have brought it back again?"

"Now, listen here," I reply; "I didn't want to get you into trouble in any
way; but that is the thanks one gets for being generous. Here I stand and
explain the whole thing to you, and you simply, instead of being ashamed
as a dog, make no effort to settle the dispute with me. Therefore I wash
my hands of you, and as for the rest, I say, 'The devil take you!'

I left, slamming the door behind me. But when I got home to my room, into
the melancholy hole, wet through from the soft snow, trembling in my knees
from the day's wanderings, I dismounted instantly from my high horse, and
sank together once more.

I regretted my attack upon the poor shop-boy, wept, clutched myself by the
throat to punish myself for my miserable trick, and behaved like a
lunatic. He had naturally been in the most deadly terror for the sake of
his situation; he had not dared to make any fuss about the five shillings
that were lost to the business, and I had taken advantage of his fear, had
tortured him with my violent address, stabbed him with every loud word
that I had roared out. And the master himself had perhaps been sitting
inside the inner room, almost within an ace of feeling called upon to come
out and inquire what was the row. No, there was no longer any limit to the
low things I might be tempted to do.

Well, why hadn't I been locked up? then it would have come to an end. I
would almost have stretched out my wrists for the handcuffs. I would not
have offered the slightest resistance; on the contrary, I would have
assisted them. Lord of Heaven and Earth! one day of my life for one happy
second again! My whole life for a mess of lentils! Hear me only this

I lay down in the wet clothes I had on, with a vague idea that I might die
during the night. And I used my last strength to tidy up my bed a little,
so that it might appear a little orderly about me in the morning. I folded
my hands and chose my position.

All at once I remember Ylajali. To think that I could have forgotten her
the entire evening through! And light forces its way ever so faintly into
my spirit again--a little ray of sunshine that makes me so blessedly warm;
and gradually more sun comes, a rare, silken, balmy light that caresses me
with soothing loveliness. And the sun grows stronger and stronger, burns
sharply in my temples, seethes fiercely and glowingly in my emaciated
brain. And at last, a maddening pyre of rays flames up before my eyes; a
heaven and earth in conflagration men and beasts of fire, mountains of
fire, devils of fire, an abyss, a wilderness, a hurricane, a universe in
brazen ignition, a smoking, smouldering day of doom!

And I saw and heard no more....

       *       *       *       *       *

I woke in a sweat the next morning, moist all over, my whole body bathed
in dampness. The fever had laid violent hands on me. At first I had no
clear idea of what had happened to me; I looked about me in amazement,
felt a complete transformation of my being, absolutely failed to recognize
myself again. I felt along my own arms and down my legs, was struck with
astonishment that the window was where it was, and not in the opposite
wall; and I could hear the tramp of the horses' feet in the yard below as
if it came from above me. I felt rather sick, too--qualmish.

My hair clung wet and cold about my forehead. I raised myself on my elbow
and looked at the pillow; damp hair lay on it, too, in patches. My feet
had swelled up in my shoes during the night, but they caused me no pain,
only I could not move my toes much, they were too stiff.

As the afternoon closed in, and it had already begun to grow a little
dusk, I got up out of bed and commenced to move about the room a little. I
felt my way with short, careful steps, taking care to keep my balance and
spare my feet as much as possible. I did not suffer much, and I did not
cry; neither was I, taking all into consideration, sad. On the contrary, I
was blissfully content. It did not strike me just then that anything could
be otherwise than it was.

Then I went out.

The only thing that troubled me a little, in spite of the nausea that the
thought of food inspired in me, was hunger. I commenced to be sensible of
a shameless appetite again; a ravenous lust of food, which grew steadily
worse and worse. It gnawed unmercifully in my breast; carrying on a
silent, mysterious work in there. It was as if a score of diminutive
gnome-like insects set their heads on one side and gnawed for a little,
then laid their heads on the other side and gnawed a little more, then lay
quite still for a moment's space, and then began afresh, boring
noiselessly in, and without any haste, and left empty spaces everywhere
after them as they went on....

I was not ill, but faint; I broke into a sweat. I thought of going to the
market-place to rest a while, but the way was long and wearisome; at last
I had almost reached it. I stood at the corner of the market and Market
Street; the sweat ran down into my eyes and blinded me, and I had just
stopped in order to wipe it away a little. I did not notice the place I
was standing in; in fact, I did not think about it; the noise around me
was something frightful.

Suddenly a call rings out, a cold, sharp warning. I hear this cry--hear it
quite well, and I start nervously to one side, stepping as quickly as my
bad foot allows me to. A monster of a bread-van brushes past me, and the
wheel grazes my coat; I might perhaps have been a little quicker if I had
exerted myself. Well, there was no help for it; one foot pained me, a
couple of toes were crunched. I felt that they, as it were, curled up in
my shoes.

The driver reins in his horse with all his might. He turns round on the
van and inquires in a fright how it fares with me. Oh! it might have been
worse, far worse.... It was perhaps not so dangerous.... I didn't think
any bones were broken. Oh, pray....

I rushed over as quickly as I could to a seat; all these people who
stopped and stared at me abashed me. After all, it was no mortal blow;
comparatively speaking, I had got off luckily enough, as misfortune was
bound to come in my way. The worst thing was that my shoe was crushed to
pieces; the sole was torn loose at the toe. I help up my foot, and saw
blood inside the gap. Well, it wasn't intentional on either side; it was
not the man's purpose to make things worse for me than they were; he
looked much concerned about it. It was quite certain that if I had begged
him for a piece of bread out of his cart he would have given it to me. He
would certainly have given it to me gladly. God bless him in return,
wherever he is!...

I was terribly hungry, and I did not know what to do with myself and my
shameless appetite. I writhed from side to side on the seat, and bowed my
chest right down to my knees; I was almost distracted. When it got dark I
jogged along to the Town Hall--God knows how I got there--and sat on the
edge of the balustrade. I tore a pocket out of my coat and took to chewing
it; not with any defined object, but with dour mien and unseeing eyes,
staring straight into space. I could hear a group of little children
playing around near me, and perceive, in an instinctive sort of way, some
pedestrians pass me by; otherwise I observed nothing.

All at once, it enters my head to go to one of the meat bazaars underneath
me, and beg a piece of raw meat. I go straight along the balustrade to the
other side of the bazaar buildings, and descend the steps. When I had
nearly reached the stalls on the lower floor, I called up the archway
leading to the stairs, and made a threatening backward gesture, as if I
were talking to a dog up there, and boldly addressed the first butcher I

"Ah, will you be kind enough to give me a bone for my dog?" I said; "only
a bone. There needn't be anything on it; it's just to give him something
to carry in his mouth."

I got the bone, a capital little bone, on which there still remained a
morsel of meat, and hid it under my coat. I thanked the man so heartily
that he looked at me in amazement.

"Oh, no need of thanks," said he.

"Oh yes; don't say that," I mumbled; "it is kindly done of you," and I
ascended the steps again.

My heart was throbbing violently in my breast. I sneaked into one of the
passages, where the forges are, as far in as I could go, and stopped
outside a dilapidated door leading to a back-yard. There was no light to
be seen anywhere, only blessed darkness all around me; and I began to gnaw
at the bone.

It had no taste; a rank smell of blood oozed from it, and I was forced to
vomit almost immediately. I tried anew. If I could only keep it down, it
would, in spite of all, have some effect. It was simply a matter of
forcing it to remain down there. But I vomited again. I grew wild, bit
angrily into the meat, tore off a morsel, and gulped it down by sheer
strength of will; and yet it was of no use. Just as soon as the little
fragments of meat became warm in my stomach up they came again, worse
luck. I clenched my hands in frenzy, burst into tears from sheer
helplessness, and gnawed away as one possessed. I cried, so that the bone
got wet and dirty with my tears, vomited, cursed and groaned again, cried
as if my heart would break, and vomited anew. I consigned all the powers
that be to the lowermost torture in the loudest voice.

Quiet--not a soul about--no light, no noise; I am in a state of the most
fearful excitement; I breathe hardly and audibly, and I cry with gnashing
teeth, each time that the morsel of meat, which might satisfy me a little,
comes up. As I find that, in spite of all my efforts, it avails me naught,
I cast the bone at the door. I am filled with the most impotent hate;
shriek, and menace with my fists towards Heaven; yell God's name hoarsely,
and bend my fingers like claws, with ill-suppressed fury....

I tell you, you Heaven's Holy Baal, you don't exist; but that, if you did,
I would curse you so that your Heaven would quiver with the fire of hell!
I tell you, I have offered you my service, and you repulsed me; and I turn
my back on you for all eternity, because you did not know your time of
visitation! I tell you that I am about to die, and yet I mock you! You
Heaven God and Apis! with death staring me in the face--I tell you, I
would rather be a bondsman in hell than a freedman in your mansions! I
tell you, I am filled with a blissful contempt for your divine paltriness;
and I choose the abyss of destruction for a perpetual resort, where the
devils Judas and Pharaoh are cast down!

I tell you your Heaven is full of the kingdom of the earth's most
crass-headed idiots and poverty-stricken in spirit! I tell you, you have
filled your Heaven with the grossest and most cherished harlots from here
below, who have bent their knees piteously before you at their hour of
death! I tell you, you have used force against me, and you know not, you
omniscient nullity, that I never bend in opposition! I tell you, all my
life, every cell in my body, every power of my soul, gasps to mock
you--you Gracious Monster on High. I tell you, I would, if I could,
breathe it into every human soul, every flower, every leaf, every dewdrop
in the garden! I tell you, I would scoff you on the day of doom, and curse
the teeth out of my mouth for the sake of your Deity's boundless
miserableness! I tell you from this hour I renounce all thy works and all
thy pomps! I will execrate my thought if it dwell on you again, and tear
out my lips if they ever utter your name! I tell you, if you exist, my
last word in life or in death--I bid you farewell, for all time and
eternity--I bid you farewell with heart and reins. I bid you the last
irrevocable farewell, and I am silent, and turn my back on you and go my
way.... Quiet.

I tremble with excitement and exhaustion, and stand on the same spot,
still whispering oaths and abusive epithets, hiccoughing after the violent
crying fit, broken down and apathetic after my frenzied outburst of rage.
I stand there for maybe an hour, hiccough and whisper, and hold on to the
door. Then I hear voices--a conversation between two men who are coming
down the passage. I slink away from the door, drag myself along the walls
of the houses, and come out again into the light streets. As I jog along
Young's Hill my brain begins to work in a most peculiar direction. It
occurs to me that the wretched hovels down at the corner of the
market-place, the stores for loose materials, the old booths for
second-hand clothes, are really a disgrace to the place--they spoilt the
whole appearance of the market, and were a blot on the town, Fie! away
with the rubbish! And I turned over in my mind as I walked on what it
would cost to remove the Geographical Survey down there--that handsome
building which had always attracted me so much each time I passed it. It
would perhaps not be possible to undertake a removal of that kind under
two or three hundred pounds. A pretty sum--three hundred pounds! One must
admit, a tidy enough little sum for pocket-money! Ha, ha! just to make a
start with, eh? and I nodded my head, and conceded that it was a tidy
enough bit of pocket-money to make a start with. I was still trembling
over my whole body, and hiccoughed now and then violently after my cry. I
had a feeling that there was not much life left in me--that I was really
singing my last verse. It was almost a matter of indifference to me; it
did not trouble me in the least. On the contrary, I wended my way down
town, down to the wharf, farther and farther away from my room. I would,
for that matter, have willingly laid myself down flat in the street to
die. My sufferings were rendering me more and more callous. My sore foot
throbbed violently; I had a sensation as if the pain was creeping up
through my whole leg. But not even that caused me any particular distress.
I had endured worse sensations.

In this manner, I reached the railway wharf. There was no traffic, no
noise--only here and there a person to be seen, a labourer or sailor
slinking round with their hands in their pockets. I took notice of a lame
man, who looked sharply at me as we passed one another. I stopped him
instinctively, touched my hat, and inquired if he knew if the Nun had
sailed. Someway, I couldn't help snapping my fingers right under the man's
nose, and saying, "Ay, by Jove, the _Nun_; yes, the _Nun_!"
which I had totally forgotten. All the same, the thought of her had been
smouldering in me. I had carried it about unconsciously.

Yes, bless me, the Nun had sailed.

He couldn't tell me where she had sailed to?

The man reflects, stands on his long leg, keeps the other up in the air;
it dangles a little.

"No," he replies. "Do you know what cargo she was taking in here?"

"No," I answer. But by this time I had already lost interest in the
_Nun_, and I asked the man how far it might be to Holmestrand,
reckoned in good old geographical miles.

"To Holmestrand? I should think..."

"Or to Voeblungsnaess?"

"What was I going to say? I should think to Holmestrand..."

"Oh, never mind; I have just remembered it," I interrupted him again. "You
wouldn't perhaps be so kind as to give me a small bit of tobacco--only
just a tiny scrap?"

I received the tobacco, thanked the man heartily, and went on. I made no
use of the tobacco; I put it into my pocket. He still kept his eye on
me--perhaps I had aroused his suspicions in some other way or another.
Whether I stood still or walked on, I felt his suspicious look following
me. I had no mind to be persecuted by this creature. I turn round, and,
dragging myself back to him, say:

"Binder"--only this one word, "Binder!" no more. I looked fixedly at him
as I say it, indeed I was conscious of staring fearfully at him. It was as
if I saw him with my entire body instead of only with my eyes. I stare for
a while after I give utterance to this word, and then I jog along again to
the railway square. The man does not utter a syllable, he only keeps his
gaze fixed upon me.

"Binder!" I stood suddenly still. Yes, wasn't that just what I had a
feeling of the moment I met the old chap; a feeling that I had met him
before! One bright morning up in Graendsen, when I pawned my waistcoat. It
seemed to me an eternity since that day.

Whilst I stand and ponder over this, I lean and support myself against a
house wall at the corner of the railway square and Harbour Street.
Suddenly, I start quickly and make an effort to crawl away. As I do not
succeed in it, I stare case-hardened ahead of me and fling all shame to
the winds. There is no help for it. I am standing face to face with the
"Commandor." I get devil-may-care--brazen. I take yet a step farther from
the wall in order to make him notice me. I do not do it to awake his
compassion, but to mortify myself, place myself, as it were, on the
pillory. I could have flung myself down in the street and begged him to
walk over me, tread on my face. I don't even bid him good-evening.

Perhaps the "Commandor" guesses that something is amiss with me. He
slackens his pace a little, and I say, in order to stop him, "I would have
called upon you long ago with something, but nothing has come yet!"

"Indeed?" he replies in an interrogative tone. "You haven't got it
finished, then?"

"No, it didn't get finished."

My eyes by this time are filled with tears at his friendliness, and I
cough with a bitter effort to regain my composure. The "Commandor" tweaks
his nose and looks at me.

"Have you anything to live on in the meantime?" he questions.

"No," I reply. "I haven't that either; I haven't eaten anything today,

"The Lord preserve you, man, it will never do for you to go and starve
yourself to death," he exclaims, feeling in his pocket.

This causes a feeling of shame to awake in me, and I stagger over to the
wall and hold on to it. I see him finger in his purse, and he hands me

He makes no fuss about it, simply gives me half-a-sovereign, reiterating
at the same time that it would never do to let me starve to death. I
stammered an objection and did not take it all at once. It is shameful of
me to ... it was really too much....

"Hurry up," he says, looking at his watch. "I have been waiting for the
train; I hear it coming now."

I took the money; I was dumb with joy, and never said a word; I didn't
even thank him once.

"It isn't worth while feeling put out about it," said the "Commandor" at
last. "I know you can write for it."

And so off he went.

When he had gone a few steps, I remembered all at once that I had not
thanked him for this great assistance. I tried to overtake him, but could
not get on quickly enough; my legs failed me, and I came near tumbling on
my face. He went farther and farther away from me. I gave up the attempt;
thought of calling after him, but dared not; and when after all I did
muster up courage enough and called once or twice, he was already at too
great a distance, and my voice had become too weak.

I was left standing on the pavement, gazing after him. I wept quietly and
silently. "I never saw the like!" I said to myself. "He gave me half-a-
sovereign." I walked back and placed myself where he had stood, imitated
all his movements held the half-sovereign up to my moistened eyes,
inspected it on both sides, and began to swear--to swear at the top of my
voice, that there was no manner of doubt that what I held in my hand was
half-a-sovereign. An hour after, maybe--a very long hour, for it had grown
very silent all around me--I stood, singularly enough, outside No. 11
Tomtegaden. After I had stood and collected my wits for a moment and
wondered thereat, I went through the door for the second time, right into
the "Entertainment and lodgings for travellers." Here I asked for shelter
and was immediately supplied with a bed.

       *       *       *       *       *


Sunshine and quiet--a strangely bright day. The snow had disappeared.
There was life and joy, and glad faces, smiles, and laughter everywhere.
The fountains threw up sprays of water in jets, golden-tinted from the
sun-light, azure from the sky....

At noon I left my lodgings in Tomtegaden, where I still lived and found
fairly comfortable, and set out for town. I was in the merriest humour,
and lazied about the whole afternoon through the most frequented streets
and looked at the people. Even before seven o'clock I took a turn up St.
Olav's Place and took a furtive look up at the window of No. 2. In an hour
I would see her. I went about the whole time in a state of tremulous,
delicious dread. What would happen? What should I say when she came down
the stairs? Good-evening? or only smile? I concluded to let it rest with
the smile. Of course I would bow profoundly to her.

I stole away, a little ashamed to be there so early, wandered up Carl
Johann for a while, and kept my eyes on University Street. When the clocks
struck eight I walked once more towards St. Olav's Place. On the way it
struck me that perhaps I might arrive a few minutes too late, and I
quickened my pace as much as I could. My foot was very sore, otherwise
nothing ailed me.

I took up my place at the fountain and drew breath. I stood there a long
while and gazed up at the window of No. 2, but she did not come. Well, I
would wait; I was in no hurry. She might be delayed, and I waited on. It
couldn't well be that I had dreamt the whole thing! Had my first meeting
with her only existed in imagination the night I lay in delirium? I began
in perplexity to think over it, and wasn't at all sure.

"Hem!" came from behind me. I heard this, and I also heard light steps
near me, but I did not turn round, I only stared up at the wide staircase
before me.

"Good-evening," came then. I forget to smile; I don't even take off my hat
at first, I am so taken aback to see her come this way.

"Have you been waiting long?" she asks. She is breathing a little quickly
after her walk.

"No, not at all; I only came a little while ago," I reply. "And besides,
would it matter if I had waited long? I expected, by-the-way, that you
would come from another direction."

"I accompanied mamma to some people. Mamma is spending the evening with

"Oh, indeed," I say.

We had begun to walk on involuntarily. A policeman is standing at the
corner, looking at us.

"But, after all, where are we going to?" she asks, and stops.

"Wherever you wish; only where _you_ wish."

"Ugh, yes! but it's such a bore to have to decide oneself."

A pause.

Then I say, merely for the sake of saying something:

"I see it's dark up in your windows."

"Yes, it is," she replies gaily; "the servant has an evening off, too, so
I am all alone at home."

We both stand and look up at the windows of No. 2 as if neither of us had
seen them before.

"Can't we go up to your place, then?" I say; "I shall sit down at the door
the whole time if you like."

But then I trembled with emotion, and regretted greatly that I had perhaps
been too forward. Supposing she were to get angry, and leave me. Suppose I
were never to see her again. Ah, that miserable attire of mine! I waited
despairingly for her reply.

"You shall certainly not sit down by the door," she says. She says it
right down tenderly, and says accurately these words: "You shall certainly
not sit down by the door."

We went up.

Out on the lobby, where it was dark, she took hold of my hand, and led me
on. There was no necessity for my being so quiet, she said, I could very
well talk. We entered. Whilst she lit the candle--it was not a lamp she
lit, but a candle--whilst she lit the candle, she said, with a little

"But now you mustn't look at me. Ugh! I am
so ashamed, but I will never do it again."

"What will you never do again?"

"I will never ... ugh ... no ... good gracious ... I will never kiss you

"Won't you?" I said, and we both laughed. I stretched out my arms to her,
and she glided away; slipped round to the other side of the table. We
stood a while and gazed at one another; the candle stood right between us.

"Try and catch me," she said; and with much laughter I tried to seize hold
of her. Whilst she sprang about, she loosened her veil, and took off her
hat; her sparkling eyes hung on mine, and watched my movements. I made a
fresh sortie, and tripped on the carpet and fell, my sore foot refusing to
bear me up any longer. I rose in extreme confusion.

"Lord, how red you did get!" she said. "Well it was awfully awkward of

"Yes, it was," I agreed, and we began the chase afresh.

"It seems to me you limp."

"Yes; perhaps I do--just a little--only just a little, for that matter."

"Last time you had a sore finger, now you have got a sore foot; it is
awful the number of afflictions you have."

"Ah, yes. I was run over slightly, a few days ago."

"Run over! Tipsy again? Why, good heavens! what a life you lead, young
man!" and she threatened me with her forefinger, and tried to appear
grave. "Well, let us sit down, then; no, not down there by the door; you
are far too reserved! Come here--you there, and I here--so, that's it ...
ugh, it's such a bore with reticent people! One has to say and do
everything oneself; one gets no help to do anything. Now, for example, you
might just as well put your arm over the back of my chair; you could
easily have thought of that much out of your own head, couldn't you? But
if I say anything like that, you open your eyes as wide as if you couldn't
believe what was being said. Yes, it is really true; I have noticed it
several times; you are doing it now, too; but you needn't try to persuade
me that you are always so modest; it is only when you don't dare to be
otherwise than quiet. You were daring enough the day you were tipsy--when
you followed me straight home and worried me with your witticisms. 'You
are losing your book, madam; you are quite certainly losing your book,
madam!' Ha, ha, ha! it was really shameless of you."

I sat dejectedly and looked at her; my heart beat violently, my blood
raced quickly through my veins, there was a singular sense of enjoyment in

"Why don't you say something?"

"What a darling you are," I cried. "I am simply sitting here getting
thoroughly fascinated by you--here this very moment thoroughly
fascinated.... There is no help for it.... You are the most extraordinary
creature that ... sometimes your eyes gleam so, that I never saw their
match; they look like flowers ... eh? No, well, no, perhaps, not like
flowers, either, but ... I am so desperately in love with you, and it is
so preposterous ... for, great Scott! there is naturally not an atom of a
chance for me.... What is your name? Now, you really must tell me what you
are called."

"No; what is _your_ name? Gracious, I was nearly forgetting that
again! I thought about it all yesterday, that I meant to ask you--yes,
that is to say, not _all_ yesterday, but--"

"Do you know what I named you? I named you Ylajali. How do you like that?
It has a gliding sound...."



"Is that a foreign language?"

"Humph--no, it isn't that either!"

"Well, it isn't ugly!"

After a long discussion we told one another our names. She seated herself
close to my side on the sofa, and shoved the chair away with her foot, and
we began to chatter afresh.

"You are shaved this evening, too," she said; look on the whole a little
better than the last time--that is to say, only just a scrap better. Don't
imagine ... no; the last time you were really shabby, and you had a dirty
rag round your finger into the bargain; and in that state you absolutely
wanted me to go to some place, and take wine with you--thanks, not me!"

"So it was, after all, because of my miserable appearance that you would
not go with me?" I said.

"No," she replied and looked down. "No; God knows it wasn't. I didn't even
think about it."

"Listen," said I; "you are evidently sitting here labouring under the
delusion that I can dress and live exactly as I choose, aren't you? And
that is just what I can't do; I am very, very poor."

She looked at me. "Are you?" she queried.

"Yes, worse luck, I am."

After an interval.

"Well, gracious, so am I, too," she said, with a cheerful movement of her

Every one of her words intoxicated me, fell on my heart like drops of
wine. She enchanted me with the trick she had of putting her head a little
on one side, and listening when I said anything, and I could feel her
breath brush my face.

"Do you know," I said, "that ... but, now, you mustn't get angry--when I
went to bed last night I settled this arm for you ... so ... as if you lay
on it ... and then I went to sleep."

"Did you? That was lovely!" A pause. "But of course it could only be from
a distance that you would venture to do such a thing, for otherwise...."

"Don't you believe I could do it otherwise?"

"No, I don't believe it."

"Ah, from me you may expect everything," I said, and I put my arm around
her waist.

"Can I?" was all she said.

It annoyed me, almost wounded me, that she should look upon me as being so
utterly inoffensive. I braced myself up, steeled my heart, and seized her
hand; but she withdrew it softly, and moved a little away from me. That
just put an end to my courage again; I felt ashamed, and looked out
through the window. I was, in spite of all, in far too wretched a
condition; I must, above all, not try to imagine myself any one in
particular. It would have been another matter if I had met her during the
time that I still looked like a respectable human being--in my old,
well-off days when I had sufficient to make an appearance; and I felt
fearfully downcast!

"There now, one can see!" she said, "now one can just see one can snub you
with just the tiniest frown--make you look sheepish by just moving a
little away from you" ... she laughed, tantalizingly, roguishly, with
tightly-closed eyes, as if she could not stand being looked at, either.

"Well, upon my soul!" I blurted out, "now you shall just see," and I flung
my arms violently around her shoulders. I was mortified. Was the girl out
of her senses? Did she think I was totally inexperienced! Ha! Then I
would, by the living.... No one should say of me that I was backward on
that score. The creature was possessed by the devil himself! If it were
only a matter of going at it, well....

She sat quite quietly, and still kept her eyes closed; neither of us
spoke. I crushed her fiercely to me, pressed her body greedily against my
breast, and she spoke never a word. I heard her heart's beat, both hers
and mine; they sounded like hurrying hoofbeats.

I kissed her.

I no longer knew myself. I uttered some nonsense, that she laughed at,
whispered pet names into her mouth, caressed her cheek, kissed her many

She winds her arms about my neck, quite slowly, tenderly, the breath of
her pink quivering nostrils fans me right in the face; she strokes down my
shoulders with her left hand, and says, "What a lot of loose hair there

"Yes," I reply.

"What can be the reason that your hair falls out so?"

"Don't know."

"Ah, of course, because you drink too much, and perhaps ... fie, I won't
say it. You ought to be ashamed. No, I wouldn't have believed that of you!
To think that you, who are so young, already should lose your hair! Now,
do please just tell me what sort of way you really spend your life--I am
certain it is dreadful! But only the truth, do you hear; no evasions.
Anyway, I shall see by you if you hide anything--there, tell now!"

"Yes; but let me kiss you first, then."

"Are you mad?... Humph, ... I want to hear what kind of a man you are....
Ah, I am sure it is dreadful."

It hurt me that she should believe the worst of me; I was afraid of
thrusting her away entirely, and I could not endure the misgivings she had
as to my way of life. I would clear myself in her eyes, make myself worthy
of her, show her that she was sitting at the side of a person almost
angelically disposed. Why, bless me, I could count my falls up to date on
my fingers. I related--related all--and I only related truth. I made out
nothing any worse than it was; it was not my intention to rouse her
compassion. I told her also that I had stolen five shillings one evening.

She sat and listened, with open mouth, pale, frightened, her shining eyes
completely bewildered. I desired to make it good again, to disperse the
sad impression I had made, and I pulled myself up.

"Well, it is all over now!" I said; "there can be no talk of such a thing
happening again; I am saved now...."

But she was much dispirited. "The Lord preserve me!" was all she said,
then kept silent. She repeated this at short intervals, and kept silent
after each "the Lord preserve me."

I began to jest, caught hold of her, tried to tickle her, lifted her up to
my breast. I was irritated not a little--indeed, downright hurt. Was I
more unworthy in her eyes now, than if I had myself been instrumental in
causing the falling out of my hair? Would she have thought more of me if I
had made myself out to be a _roué_?... No nonsense now;... it was
just a matter of going at it; and if it was only just a matter of going at
it, so, by the living...

"No;... what do you want?" she queried, and she added these distressing
words, "I can't be sure that you are not insane!"

I checked myself involuntarily, and I said: "You don't mean that!"

"Indeed, God knows I do! you look so strangely. And the forenoon you
followed me--after all, you weren't tipsy that time?"

"No; but I wasn't hungry then, either; I had just eaten...."

"Yes; but that made it so much the worse."

"Would you rather I had been tipsy?"

"Yes ... ugh ... I am afraid of you! Lord, can't you let me be now!"

I considered a moment. No, I couldn't let her be.... I happened, as if
inadvertently, to knock over the light, so that it went out. She made a
despairing struggle--gave vent at last to a little whimper.

"No, not that! If you like, you may rather kiss me, oh, dear, kind...."

I stopped instantly. Her words sounded so terrified, so helpless, I was
struck to the heart. She meant to offer me a compensation by giving me
leave to kiss her! How charming, how charmingly naďve. I could have fallen
down and knelt before her.

"But, dear pretty one," I said, completely bewildered, "I don't
understand.... I really can't conceive what sort of a game this is...."

She rose, lit the candle again with trembling hands. I leant back on the
sofa and did nothing. What would happen now? I was in reality very ill at

She cast a look over at the clock on the wall, and started.

"Ugh, the girl will soon come now!" she said; this was the first thing she
said. I took the hint, and rose. She took up her jacket as if to put it
on, bethought herself, and let it lie, and went over to the fireplace. So
that it should not appear as if she had shown me the door, I said:

"Was your father in the army?" and at the same time I prepared to leave.

"Yes; he was an officer. How did you know?"

"I didn't know; it just came into my head."

"That was odd."

"Ah, yes; there were some places I came to where I got a kind of
presentiment. Ha, ha!--a part of my insanity, eh?"

She looked quickly up, but didn't answer. I felt I worried her with my
presence, and determined to make short work of it. I went towards the
door. Would she not kiss me any more now? not even give me her hand? I
stood and waited.

"Are you going now, then?" she said, and yet she remained quietly standing
over near the fireplace.

I did not reply. I stood humbly in confusion, and looked at her without
saying anything. Why hadn't she left me in peace, when nothing was to come
of it? What was the matter with her now? It didn't seem to put her out
that I stood prepared to leave. She was all at once completely lost to me,
and I searched for something to say to her in farewell--a weighty, cutting
word that would strike her, and perhaps impress her a little. And in the
face of my first resolve, hurt as I was, instead of being proud and cold,
disturbed and offended, I began right off to talk of trifles. The telling
word would not come; I conducted myself in an exceedingly aimless fashion.
Why couldn't she just as well tell me plainly and straightly to go my way?
I queried. Yes, indeed, why not? There was no need of feeling embarrassed
about it. Instead of reminding me that the girl would soon come home, she
could have simply said as follows: "Now you must run, for I must go and
fetch my mother, and I won't have your escort through the street." So it
was not that she had been thinking about? Ah, yes; it was that all the
same she had thought about; I understood that at once. It did not require
much to put me on the right track; only, just the way she had taken up her
jacket, and left it down again, had convinced me immediately. As I said
before, I had presentiments; and it was not altogether insanity that was
at the root of it....

"But, great heavens! do forgive me for that word! It slipped out of my
mouth," she cried; but yet she stood quite quietly, and did not come over
to me.

I was inflexible, and went on. I stood there and prattled, with the
painful consciousness that I bored her, that not one of my words went
home, and all the same I did not cease.

At bottom one might be a fairly sensitive nature, even if one were not
insane, I ventured to say. There were natures that fed on trifles, and
died just for one hard word's sake; and I implied that I had such a
nature. The fact was, that my poverty had in that degree sharpened certain
powers in me, so that they caused me unpleasantness. Yes, I assure you
honestly, unpleasantness; worse luck! But this had also its advantages. It
helped me in certain situations in life. The poor intelligent man is a far
nicer observer than the rich intelligent man. The poor man looks about him
at every step he takes, listens suspiciously to every word he hears from
the people he meets, every step he takes affords in this way a task for
his thoughts and feelings--an occupation. He is quick of hearing, and
sensitive; he is an experienced man, his soul bears the sears of the

And I talked a long time over these sears my soul had. But the longer I
talked, the more troubled she grew. At last she muttered, "My God!" a
couple of times in despair, and wrung her hands. I could see well that I
tormented her, and I had no wish to torment her--but did it, all the same.
At last, being of the opinion that I had succeeded in telling her in rude
enough terms the essentials of what I had to say, I was touched by her
heart-stricken expression. I cried:

"Now I am going, now I am going. Can't you see that I already have my hand
on the handle of the door? Good-bye, good-bye," I say. "You might answer
me when I say good-bye twice, and stand on the point of going. I don't
even ask to meet you again, for it would torment you. But tell me, why
didn't you leave me in peace? What had I done to you? I didn't get in your
way, now, did I? Why did you turn away from me all at once, as if you
didn't know me any longer? You have plucked me now so thoroughly bare,
made me even more wretched than I ever was at any time before; but,
indeed, I am not insane. You know well, if you think it over, that nothing
is the matter with me now. Come over, then, and give me your hand--or give
me leave to go to you, will you? I won't do you any harm; I will only
kneel before you, only for a minute--kneel down on the floor before you,
only for a minute, may I? No, no; there, I am not to do it then, I see.
You are getting afraid. I will not, I will not do it; do you hear? Lord,
why do you get so terrified. I am standing quite still; I am not moving. I
would have knelt down on the carpet for a moment--just there, upon that
patch of red, at your feet; but you got frightened--I could see it at once
in your eyes that you got frightened; that was why I stood still. I didn't
move a step when I asked you might I, did I? I stood just as immovable as
I stand now when I point out the place to you where I would have knelt
before you, over there on the crimson rose in the carpet. I don't even
point with my finger. I don't point at all; I let it be, not to frighten
you. I only nod and look over at it, like this! and you know perfectly
well which rose I mean, but you won't let me kneel there. You are afraid
of me, and dare not come near to me. I cannot conceive how you could have
the heart to call me insane. It isn't true; you don't believe it, either,
any longer? It was once in the summer, a long time ago, I was mad; I
worked too hard, and forgot to go to dine at the right hour, when I had
too much to think about. That happened day after day. I ought to have
remembered it; but I went on forgetting it--by God in Heaven, it is true!
God keep me from ever coming alive from this spot if I lie. There, you can
see, you do me an injustice. It was not out of need I did it; I can get
credit, much credit, at Ingebret's or Gravesen's. I often, too, had a good
deal of money in my pocket, and did not buy food all the same, because I
forgot it. Do you hear? You don't say anything; you don't answer; you
don't stir a bit from the fire; you just stand and wait for me to go...."

She came hurriedly over to me, and stretched out her hand. I looked at
her, full of mistrust. Did she do it with any true heartiness, or did she
only do it to get rid of me? She wound her arms round my neck; she had
tears in her eyes; I only stood and looked at her. She offered her mouth;
I couldn't believe in her; it was quite certain she was making a sacrifice
as a means of putting an end to all this.

She said something; it sounded to me like, "I am fond of you, in spite of
all." She said it very lowly and indistinctly; maybe I did not hear
aright. She may not have said just those words; but she cast herself
impetuously against my breast, clasped both her arms about my neck for a
little while, stretched even up a bit on her toes to get a good hold, and
stood so for perhaps a whole minute. I was afraid that she was forcing
herself to show me this tenderness, and I only said:

"What a darling you are now!"

More I didn't say. I crushed her in my arms, stepped back, rushed to the
door, and went out backwards. She remained in there behind me.

Part IV

Winter had set in--a raw, wet winter, almost without snow. A foggy, dark,
and everlasting night, without a single blast of fresh wind the whole week
through. The gas was lighted almost all the day in the streets, and yet
people jostled one another in the fog. Every sound, the clang of the
church bells, the jingling of the harness of the droske horses, the
people's voices, the beat of the hoofs, everything, sounded choked and
jangling through the close air, that penetrated and muffled everything.

Week followed week, and the weather was, and remained, still the same.

And I stayed steadily down in Vaterland. I grew more and more closely
bound to this inn, this lodging-house for travellers, where I had found
shelter, in spite of my starving condition. My money was exhausted long
since; and yet I continued to come and go in this place as if I had a
right to it, and was at home there. The landlady had, as yet, said
nothing; but it worried me all the same that I could not pay her. In this
way three weeks went by. I had already, many days ago, taken to writing
again; but I could not succeed in putting anything together that satisfied
me. I had not longer any luck, although I was very painstaking, and strove
early and late; no matter what I attempted, it was useless. Good fortune
had flown; and I exerted myself in vain.

It was in a room on the second floor, the best guest-room, that I sat and
made these attempts. I had been undisturbed up there since the first
evening when I had money and was able to settle for what I got. All the
time I was buoyed up by the hope of at last succeeding in getting together
an article on some subject or another, so that I could pay for my room,
and for whatever else I owed. That was the reason I worked on so
persistently. I had, in particular, commenced a piece from which I
expected great things--an allegory about a fire--a profound thought upon
which I intended to expend all my energy, and bring it to the "Commander"
in payment. The "Commandor" should see that he had helped a talent this
time. I had no doubt but that he would eventually see that; it only was a
matter of waiting till the spirit moved me; and why shouldn't the spirit
move me? Why should it not come over me even now, at a very early date?
There was no longer anything the matter with me. My landlady gave me a
little food every day, some bread and butter, mornings and evenings, and
my nervousness had almost flown. I no longer used cloths round my hands
when I wrote; and I could stare down into the street from my window on the
second floor without getting giddy. I was much better in every way, and it
was becoming a matter of astonishment to me that I had not already
finished my allegory. I couldn't understand why it was....

But a day came when I was at last to get a clear idea of how weak I had
really become; with what incapacity my dull brain acted. Namely, on this
day my landlady came up to me with a reckoning which she asked me to look
over. There must be something wrong in this reckoning, she said; it didn't
agree with her own book; but she had not been able to find out the

I set to work to add up. My landlady sat right opposite and looked at me.
I added up these score of figures first once down, and found the total
right; then once up again, and arrived at the same result. I looked at the
woman sitting opposite me, waiting on my words. I noticed at the same time
that she was pregnant; it did not escape my attention, and yet I did not
stare in any way scrutinizingly at her.

"The total is right," said I.

"No; go over each figure now," she answered. "I am sure it can't be so
much; I am positive of it."

And I commenced to check each line--2 loaves at 2 1/2d., 1 lamp chimney,
3d., soap, 4d., butter, 5d.... It did not require any particularly shrewd
head to run up these rows of figures--this little huckster account in
which nothing very complex occurred. I tried honestly to find the error
that the woman spoke about, but couldn't succeed. After I had muddled
about with these figures for some minutes I felt that, unfortunately,
everything commenced to dance about in my head; I could no longer
distinguish debit or credit; I mixed the whole thing up. Finally, I came
to a dead stop at the following entry--"3. 5/16ths of a pound of cheese at
9d." My brain failed me completely; I stared stupidly down at the cheese,
and got no farther.

"It is really too confoundedly crabbed writing," I exclaimed in despair.
"Why, God bless me, here is 5/16ths of a pound of cheese entered--ha, ha!
did any one ever hear the like? Yes, look here; you can see for yourself."

"Yes," she said; "it is often put down like that; it is a kind of Dutch
cheese. Yes, that is all right--five-sixteenths is in this case five

"Yes, yes; I understand that well enough," I interrupted, although in
truth I understood nothing more whatever.

I tried once more to get this little account right, that I could have
totted up in a second some months ago. I sweated fearfully, and thought
over these enigmatical figures with all my might, and I blinked my eyes
reflectingly, as if I was studying this matter sharply, but I had to give
it up. These five ounces of cheese finished me completely; it was as if
something snapped within my forehead. But yet, to give the impression that
I still worked out my calculation, I moved my lips and muttered a number
aloud, all the while sliding farther and farther down the reckoning as if
I were steadily coming to a result. She sat and waited. At last I said:

"Well, now, I have gone through it from first to last, and there is no
mistake, as far as I can see."

"Isn't there?" replied the woman, "isn't there really?" But I saw well
that she did not believe me, and she seemed all at once to throw a dash of
contempt into her words, a slightly careless tone that I had never heard
from her before. She remarked that perhaps I was not accustomed to reckon
in sixteenths; she mentioned also that she must only apply to some one who
had a knowledge of sixteenths, to get the account properly revised. She
said all this, not in any hurtful way to make me feel ashamed, but
thoughtfully and seriously. When she got as far as the door, she said,
without looking at me:

"Excuse me for taking up your time then."

Off she went.

A moment after, the door opened again, and she re-entered. She could
hardly have gone much farther than the stairs before she had turned back.

"That's true," said she; "you mustn't take it amiss; but there is a little
owing to me from you now, isn't there? Wasn't it three weeks yesterday
since you came?" Yes, I thought it was. "It isn't so easy to keep things
going with such a big family, so that I can't give lodging on credit,
more's the...."

I stopped her. "I am working at an article that I think I told you about
before," said I, "and as soon as ever that is finished, you shall have
your money; you can make yourself quite easy...."

"Yes; but you'll never get that article finished, though."

"Do you think that? Maybe the spirit will move me tomorrow, or perhaps
already, tonight; it isn't at all impossible but that it may move me some
time tonight, and then my article will be completed in a quarter of an
hour at the outside. You see, it isn't with my work as with other
people's; I can't sit down and get a certain amount finished in a day. I
have just to wait for the right moment, and no one can tell the day or
hour when the spirit may move one--it must have its own time...."

My landlady went, but her confidence in me was evidently much shaken.

As soon as I was left alone I jumped up and tore my hair in despair. No,
in spite of all, there was really no salvation for me--no salvation! My
brain was bankrupt! Had I then really turned into a complete dolt since I
could not even add up the price of a piece of Dutch cheese? But could it
be possible I had lost my senses when I could stand and put such questions
to myself? Had not I, into the bargain, right in the midst of my efforts
with the reckoning, made the lucid observation that my landlady was in the
family way? I had no reason for knowing it, no one had told me anything
about it, neither had it occurred to me gratuitously. I sat and saw it
with my own eyes, and I understood it at once, right at a despairing
moment where I sat and added up sixteenths. How could I explain this to

I went to the window and gazed out; it looked out into Vognmandsgade. Some
children were playing down on the pavement; poorly dressed children in the
middle of a poor street. They tossed an empty bottle between them and
screamed shrilly. A load of furniture rolled slowly by; it must belong to
some dislodged family, forced to change residence between "flitting time."
[Footnote: In Norway, l4th of March and October.] This struck me at once.
Bed-clothes and furniture were heaped on the float, moth-eaten beds and
chests of drawers, red-painted chairs with three legs, mats, old iron, and
tin-ware. A little girl--a mere child, a downright ugly youngster, with a
running cold in her nose--sat up on top of the load, and held fast with
her poor little blue hands in order not to tumble off. She sat on a heap
of frightfully stained mattresses, that children must have lain on, and
looked down at the urchins who were tossing the empty bottle to one

I stood gazing at all this; I had no difficulty in apprehending everything
that passed before me. Whilst I stood there at the window and observed
this, I could hear my landlady's servant singing in the kitchen right
alongside of my room. I knew the air she was singing, and I listened to
hear if she would sing false, and I said to myself that an idiot could not
have done all this.

I was, God be praised, all right in my senses as any man.

Suddenly, I saw two of the children down in the street fire up and begin
to abuse one another. Two little boys; I recognized one of them; he was my
landlady's son. I open the window to hear what they are saying to one
another, and immediately a flock of children crowded together under my
window, and looked wistfully up. What did they expect? That something
would be thrown down? Withered flowers, bones, cigar ends, or one thing or
another, that they could amuse themselves with? They looked up with their
frost-pinched faces and unspeakably wistful eyes. In the meantime, the two
small foes continued to revile one another.

Words like great buzzing noxious insects swarm out of their childish
mouths; frightful nicknames, thieves' slang, sailors' oaths, that they
perhaps had learnt down on the wharf; and they are both so engaged that
they do not notice my landlady, who rushes out to see what is going on.

"Yes," explains her son, "he catched me by the throat; I couldn't breaths
for ever so long," and turning upon the little man who is the cause of the
quarrel, and who is standing grinning maliciously at him, he gets
perfectly furious, and yells, "Go to hell, Chaldean ass that you are! To
think such vermin as you should catch folk by the throat. I will, may the

And the mother, this pregnant woman, who dominates the whole street with
her size, answers the ten-year-old child, as she seizes him by the arm and
tries to drag him in:

"Sh--sh. Hold your jaw! I just like to hear the way you swear, too, as if
you had been in a brothel for years. Now, in with you."

"No, I won't."

"Yes, you will."

"No, I won't."

I stand up in the window and see that the mother's temper is rising; this
disagreeable scene excites me frightfully. I can't endure it any longer.
I call down to the boy to come up to me for a minute; I call twice, just
to distract them--to change the scene. The last time I call very loudly,
and the mother turns round flurriedly and looks up at me. She regains her
self-possession at once, looks insolently at me, nay, downright
maliciously, and enters the house with a chiding remark to her offspring.
She talks loudly, so that I may hear it, and says to him, "Fie, you ought
to be ashamed of yourself to let people see how naughty you are."

Of all this that I stood there and observed not one thing, not even one
little accessory detail, was lost on me; my attention was acutely keen; I
absorbed carefully every little thing as I stood and thought out my own
thought, about each thing according as it occurred. So it was impossible
that there could be anything the matter with my brain. How could there, in
this case, be anything the matter with it?

Listen; do you know what, said I all at once to myself, that you have been
worrying yourself long enough about your brain, giving yourself no end of
worry in this matter? Now, there must be an end to this tomfoolery. Is it
a sign of insanity to notice and apprehend everything as accurately as you
do? You make me almost laugh at you, I reply. To my mind it is not without
its humorous side, if I am any judge of such a case. Why, it happens to
every man that he once in a way sticks fast, and that, too, just with the
simplest question. It is of no significance, it is often a pure accident.
As I have remarked before, I am on the point of having a good laugh at
your expense. As far as that huckster account is concerned, that paltry
five-sixteenths of beggar-man's cheese, I can happily dub it so. Ha,
ha!--a cheese with cloves and pepper in it; upon my word, a cheese in
which, to put the matter plainly, one could breed maggots. As far as that
ridiculous cheese is concerned, it might happen to the cleverest fellow in
the world to be puzzled over it! Why, the smell of the cheese was enough
to finish a man; ... and I made the greatest fun of this and all other
Dutch cheeses.... No; set me to reckon up something really eatable, said
I--set me, if you like, at five-sixteenths of good dairy butter. That is
another matter.

I laughed feverishly at my own whim, and found it peculiarly diverting.
There was positively no longer anything the matter with me. I was in good
form--was, so to say, still in the best of form; I had a level head,
nothing was wanting there, God be praised and thanked! My mirth rose in
measure as I paced the floor and communed with myself. I laughed aloud,
and felt amazingly glad. Besides, it really seemed, too, as if I only
needed this little happy hour, this moment of airy rapture, without a care
on any side, to get my head into working order once more.

I seated myself at the table, and set to work at my allegory; it
progressed swimmingly, better than it had done for a long time; not very
fast, 'tis true, but it seemed to me that what I did was altogether
first-rate. I worked, too, for the space of an hour without getting tired.

I am sitting working at a most crucial point in this Allegory of a
Conflagration in a Bookshop. It appears to me so momentous a point, that
all the rest I have written counted as nothing in comparison. I was,
namely, just about to weave in, in a downright profound way, this thought.
It was not books that were burning, it was brains, human brains; and I
intended to make a perfect Bartholomew's night of these burning brains.

Suddenly my door was flung open with a jerk and in much haste; my landlady
came sailing in. She came straight over to the middle of the room, she did
not even pause on the threshold.

I gave a little hoarse cry; it was just as if I had received a blow.

"What?" said she, "I thought you said something. We have got a traveller,
and we must have this room for him. You will have to sleep downstairs with
us tonight. Yes; you can have a bed to yourself there too." And before she
got my answer, she began, without further ceremony, to bundle my papers
together on the table, and put the whole of them into a state of dire

My happy mood was blown to the winds; I stood up at once, in anger and
despair. I let her tidy the table, and said nothing, never uttered a
syllable. She thrust all the papers into my hand.

There was nothing else for me to do. I was forced to leave the room. And
so this precious moment was spoilt also. I met the new traveller already
on the stairs; a young man with great blue anchors tattooed on the backs
of his hands. A quay porter followed him, bearing a sea-chest on his
shoulders. He was evidently a sailor, a casual traveller for the night; he
would therefore not occupy my room for any lengthened period. Perhaps,
too, I might be lucky tomorrow when the man had left, and have one of my
moments again; I only needed an inspiration for five minutes, and my essay
on the conflagration would be completed. Well, I should have to submit to

I had not been inside the family rooms before, this one common room in
which they all lived, both day and night--the husband, wife, wife's
father, and four children. The servant lived in the kitchen, where she
also slept at night. I approached the door with much repugnance, and
knocked. No one answered, yet I heard voices inside.

The husband did not speak as I stepped in, did not acknowledge my nod
even, merely glanced at me carelessly, as if I were no concern of his.
Besides, he was sitting playing cards with a person I had seen down on the
quays, with the by-name of "Pane o' glass." An infant lay and prattled to
itself over in the bed, and an old man, the landlady's father, sat doubled
together on a settle-bed, and bent his head down Over his hands as if his
chest or stomach pained him. His hair was almost white, and he looked in
his crouching position like a poke-necked reptile that sat cocking its
ears at something.

"I come, worse luck, to beg for house-room down here tonight," I said to
the man.

"Did my wife say so?" he inquired.

"Yes; a new lodger came to my room."

To this the man made no reply, but proceeded to finger the cards. There
this man sat, day after day, and played cards with anybody who happened to
come in--played for nothing, only just to kill time, and have something in
hand. He never did anything else, only moved just as much as his lazy
limbs felt inclined, whilst his wife bustled up and down stairs, was
occupied on all sides, and took care to draw customers to the house. She
had put herself in connection with quay-porters and dock-men, to whom she
paid a certain sum for every new lodger they brought her, and she often
gave them, in addition, a shelter for the night. This time it was "Pane o'
glass" that had just brought along the new lodger.

A couple of the children came in--two little girls, with thin, freckled,
gutter-snipe faces; their clothes were positively wretched. A while after
the landlady herself entered. I asked her where she intended to put me up
for the night, and she replied that I could lie in here together with the
others, or out in the ante-room on the sofa, as I thought fit. Whilst she
answered me she fussed about the room and busied herself with different
things that she set in order, and she never once looked at me.

My spirits were crushed by her reply.

I stood down near the door, and made myself small, tried to make it appear
as if I were quite content all the same to change my room for another for
one night's sake. I put on a friendly face on purpose not to irritate her
and perhaps be hustled right out of the house.

"Ah, yes," I said, "there is sure to be some way I . . .," and then held my

She still bustled about the room.

"For that matter, I may as well just tell you that I can't afford to give
people credit for their board and lodging," said she, "and I told you that
before, too."

"Yes; but, my dear woman, it is only for these few days, until I get my
article finished," I answered, "and I will willingly give you an extra
five shillings--willingly."

But she had evidently no faith in my article, I could see that; and I
could not afford to be proud, and leave the house, just for a slight
mortification; I knew what awaited me if I went out.

       *       *       *       *       *

A few days passed over.

I still associated with the family below, for it was too cold in the
ante-room where there was no stove. I slept, too, at night on the floor of
the room.

The strange sailor continued to lodge in my room, and did not seem like
moving very quickly. At noon, too, my landlady came in and related how he
had paid her a month in advance, and besides, he was going to take his
first-mate's examination before leaving, that was why he was staying in
town. I stood and listened to this, and understood that my room was lost
to me for ever.

I went out to the ante-room, and sat down. If I were lucky enough to get
anything written, it would have perforce to be here where it was quiet. It
was no longer the allegory that occupied me; I had got a new idea, a
perfectly splendid plot; I would compose a one-act drama--"The Sign of the
Cross." Subject taken from the Middle Ages. I had especially thought out
everything in connection with the principal characters: a magnificently
fanatical harlot who had sinned in the temple, not from weakness or
desire, but for hate against heaven; sinner right at the foot of the
altar, with the altar-cloth under her head, just out of delicious contempt
for heaven.

I grew more and more obsessed by this creation as the hours went on. She
stood at last, palpably, vividly embodied before my eyes, and was exactly
as I wished her to appear. Her body was to be deformed and repulsive,
tall, very lean, and rather dark; and when she walked, her long limbs
should gleam through her draperies at every stride she took. She was also
to have large outstanding ears. Curtly, she was nothing for the eye to
dwell upon, barely endurable to look at. What interested me in her was her
wonderful shamelessness, the desperately full measure of calculated sin
which she had committed. She really occupied me too much, my brain was
absolutely inflated by this singular monstrosity of a creature, and I
worked for two hours, without a pause, at my drama. When I had finished
half-a score of pages, perhaps twelve, often with much effort, at times
with long intervals, in which I wrote in vain and had to tear the page in
two, I had become tired, quite stiff with cold and fatigue, and I arose
and went out into the street. For the last half-hour, too, I had been
disturbed by the crying of the children inside the family room, so that I
could not, in any case, have written any more just then. So I took a long
time up over Drammensveien, and stayed away till the evening, pondering
incessantly, as I walked along, as to how I would continue my drama.
Before I came home in the evening of this day, the following happened:

I stood outside a shoemaker's shop far down in Carl Johann Street, almost
at the railway square. God knows why I stood just outside this shoemaker's
shop. I looked into the window as I stood there, but did not, by the way,
remember that I needed shoes then; my thoughts were far away in other
parts of the world. A swarm of people talking together passed behind my
back, and I heard nothing of what was said. Then a voice greeted me


It was "Missy" who bade me good-evening! I answered at random, I looked at
him, too, for a while, before I recognized him.

"Well, how are you getting along?" he inquired.

"Oh, always well ... as usual."

"By the way, tell me," said he, "are you, then, still with Christie?"


"I thought you once said you were book-keeper at Christie's?"

"Ah, yes. No; that is done with. It was impossible to get along with that
fellow; that came to an end very quickly of its own accord."

"Why so?"

"Well, I happened to make a mis-entry one day, and so--"

"A false entry, eh?"

False entry! There stood "Missy," and asked me straight in the face if I
had done this thing. He even asked eagerly, and evidently with much
interest. I looked at him, felt deeply insulted, and made no reply.

"Yes, well, Lord! that might happen to the best fellow," he said, as if to
console me. He still believed I had made a false entry designedly.

"What is it that, 'Yes, well, Lord! indeed might happen to the best
fellow'?" I inquired. "To do that. Listen, my good man. Do you stand there
and really believe that I could for a moment be guilty of such a mean
trick as that? I!"

"But, my dear fellow, I thought I heard you distinctly
say that."

"No; I said that I had made a mis-entry once, a bagatelle; if you want to
know, a false date on a letter, a single stroke of the pen wrong--that was
my whole crime. No, God be praised, I can tell right from wrong yet a
while. How would it fare with me if I were, into the bargain, to sully my
honour? It is simply my sense of honour that keeps me afloat now. But it
is strong enough too; at least, it has kept me up to date."

I threw back my head, turned away from "Missy," and looked down the
street. My eyes rested on a red dress that came towards us; on a woman at
a man's side. If I had not had this conversation with "Missy," I would not
have been hurt by his coarse suspicion, and I would not have given this
toss of my head, as I turned away in offence; and so perhaps this red
dress would have passed me without my having noticed it. And at bottom
what did it concern me? What was it to me if it were the dress of the Hon.
Miss Nagel, the lady-in-waiting? "Missy" stood and talked, and tried to
make good his mistake again. I did not listen to him at all; I stood the
whole time and stared at the red dress that was coming nearer up the
street, and a stir thrilled through my breast, a gliding delicate dart. I
whispered in thought without moving my lips:


Now "Missy" turned round also and noticed the
two--the lady and the man with her,--raised his
hat to them, and followed them with his eyes. I
did not raise my hat, or perhaps I did unconsciously.
The red dress glided up Carl Johann, and disappeared.

"Who was it was with her?" asked "Missy."

"The Duke, didn't you see? The so-called 'Duke.' Did you know the lady?"

"Yes, in a sort of way. Didn't you know her?"

"No," I replied.

"It appears to me you saluted profoundly enough."

"Did I?"

"Ha, ha! perhaps you didn't," said "Missy." "Well, that is odd. Why, it
was only at you she looked, too, the whole time."

"When did you get to know her?" I asked. He did not really know her. It
dated from an evening in autumn. It was late; they were three jovial souls
together, they came out late from the Grand, and met this being going
along alone past Cammermeyer's, and they addressed her. At first she
answered rebuffingly; but one of the jovial spirits, a man who neither
feared fire nor water, asked her right to her face if he might not have
the civilized enjoyment of accompanying her home? He would, by the Lord,
not hurt a hair on her head, as the saying goes--only go with her to her
door, reassure himself that she reached home in safety, otherwise he could
not rest all night. He talked incessantly as they went along, hit upon one
thing or another, dubbed himself Waldemar Atterdag, and represented
himself as a photographer. At last she was obliged to laugh at this merry
soul who refused to be rebuffed by her coldness, and it finally ended by
his going with her.

"Indeed, did it? and what came of it?" I inquired; and I held my breath
for his reply.

"Came of it? Oh, stop there; there is the lady in question."

We both kept silent a moment, both "Missy" and I.

"Well, I'm hanged, was that 'the Duke'? So that's what he looks like," he
added, reflectively. "Well, if she is in contact with that fellow; well,
then, I wouldn't like to answer for her."

I still kept silent. Yes, of course "the Duke" would make the pace with
her. Well, what odds? How did it concern me? I bade her good-day with all
her wiles: a good-day I bade her; and I tried to console myself by
thinking the worst thoughts about her; took a downright pleasure in
dragging her through the mire. It only annoyed me to think that I had
doffed my hat to the pair, if I really had done so. Why should I raise my
hat to such people? I did not care for her any longer, certainly not; she
was no longer in the very slightest degree lovely to me; she had fallen
off. Ah, the devil knows how soiled I found her! It might easily have been
the case that it was only me she looked at; I was not in the least
astounded at that; it might be regret that began to stir in her. But that
was no reason for me to go and lower myself and salute, like a fool,
especially when she had become so seriously besmirched of late. "The Duke"
was welcome to her; I wish him joy! The day might come when I would just
take into my head to pass her haughtily by without glancing once towards
her. Ay, it might happen that I would venture to do this, even if she were
to gaze straight into my eyes, and have a blood-red gown on into the
bargain. It might very easily happen! Ha, ha! that would be a triumph. If
I knew myself aright, I was quite capable of completing my drama during
the course of the night, and, before eight days had flown, I would have
brought this young woman to her knees--with all her charms, ha, ha! with
all her charms....

"Good-bye," I muttered, shortly; but "Missy" held me back. He queried:

"But what do you do all day now?"

"Do? I write, naturally. What else should I do? Is it not that I live by?
For the moment, I am working at a great drama, 'The Sign of the Cross.'
Theme taken from the Middle Ages."

"By Jove!" exclaimed "Missy," seriously. "Well, if you succeed with that,

"I have no great anxiety on that score," I replied. "In eight days' time
or so, I think you and all the folks will have heard a little more of me."

With that I left him.

When I got home I applied at once to my landlady, and requested a lamp. It
was of the utmost importance to me to get this lamp; I would not go to bed
tonight; my drama was raging in my brain, and I hoped so surely to be able
to write a good portion of it before morning. I put forward my request
very humbly to her, as I had noticed that she made a dissatisfied face on
my re-entering the sitting-room. I said that I had almost completed a
remarkable drama, only a couple of scenes were wanting; and I hinted that
it might be produced in some theatre or another, in no time. If she would
only just render me this great service now....

But madam had no lamp. She considered a bit, but could not call to mind
that she had a lamp in any place. If I liked to wait until twelve o'clock,
I might perhaps get the kitchen lamp. Why didn't I buy myself a candle?

I held my tongue. I hadn't a farthing to buy a candle, and knew that right
well. Of course I was foiled again! The servant-girl sat inside with
us--simply sat in the sitting-room, and was not in the kitchen at all; so
that the lamp up there was not even lit. And I stood and thought over
this, but said no more. Suddenly the girl remarked to me:

"I thought I saw you come out of the palace a while ago; were you at a
dinner party?" and she laughed loudly at this jest.

I sat down, took out my papers, and attempted to write something here, in
the meantime. I held the paper on my knees, and gazed persistently at the
floor to avoid being distracted by anything; but it helped not a whit;
nothing helped me; I got no farther. The landlady's two little girls came
in and made a row with the cat--a queer, sick cat that had scarcely a hair
on it; they blew into its eyes until water sprang out of them and trickled
down its nose. The landlord and a couple of others sat at a table and
played _cent et un_. The wife alone was busy as ever, and sat and
sewed at some garment. She saw well that I could not write anything in the
midst of all this disturbance; but she troubled herself no more about me;
she even smiled when the servant-girl asked me if I had been out to dine.
The whole household had become hostile towards me. It was as if I had only
needed disgrace of being obliged to resign my room to a stranger to be
treated as a man of no account. Even the servant, a little, brown-eyed,
street-wench, with a big fringe over her forehead, and a perfectly flat
bosom, poked fun at me in the evening when I got my ration of bread and
butter. She inquired perpetually where, then, was I in the habit of
dining, as she had never seen me picking my teeth outside the Grand? It
was clear that she was aware of my wretched circumstances, and took a
pleasure in letting me know of it.

I fall suddenly into thought over all this, and am not able to find a
solitary speech for my drama. Time upon time I seek in vain; a strange
buzzing begins inside my head, and I give it up. I thrust the papers into
my pocket, and look up. The girl is sitting straight opposite me. I look
at her--look at her narrow back and drooping shoulders, that are not yet
fully developed. What business was it of hers to fly at me? Even supposing
I did come out of the palace, what then? Did it harm her in any way? She
had laughed insolently in the past few days at me, when I was a bit
awkward and stumbled on the stairs, or caught fast on a nail and tore my
coat. It was not later than yesterday that she gathered up my rough copy,
that I had thrown aside in the ante-room--stolen these rejected fragments
of my drama, and read them aloud in the room here; made fun of them in
every one's hearing, just to amuse herself at my expense. I had never
molested her in any way, and could not recall that I had ever asked her to
do me a service. On the contrary, I made up my bed on the floor in the
ante-room myself, in order not to give her any trouble with it. She made
fun of me, too, because my hair fell out. Hair lay and floated about in
the basin I washed in the mornings, and she made merry over it. Then my
shoes, too, had grown rather shabby of late, particularly the one that had
been run over by the bread-van, and she found subject for jesting in them.
"God bless you and your shoes!" said she, looking at them; "they are as
wide as a dog's house." And she was right; they were trodden out. But then
I couldn't procure myself any others just at present.

Whilst I sit and call all this to mind, and marvel over the evident malice
of the servant, the little girls have begun to tease the old man over in
the bed; they are jumping around him, fully bent on this diversion. They
both found a straw, which they poked into his ears. I looked on at this
for a while, and refrained from interfering. The old fellow did not move a
finger to defend himself; he only looked at his tormentors with furious
eyes each time they prodded him, and jerked his head to escape when the
straws were already in his ears. I got more and more irritated at this
sight, and could not keep my eyes away from it. The father looked up from
his cards, and laughed at the youngsters; he also drew the attention of
his comrades at play to what was going on. Why didn't the old fellow move?
Why didn't he fling the children aside with his arms? I took a stride, and
approached the bed.

"Let them alone! let them alone! he is paralysed," called the landlord.

And out of fear to be shown the door for the night, simply out of fear of
rousing the man's displeasure by interfering with this scene, I stepped
back silently to my old place and kept myself quiet. Why should I risk my
lodging and my portion of bread and butter by poking my nose into the
family squabbles? No idiotic pranks for the sake of a half-dying old man,
and I stood and felt as delightfully hard as a flint.

The little urchins did not cease their plaguing; it amused them that the
old chap could not hold his head quiet, and they aimed at his eyes and
nostrils. He stared at them with a ludicrous expression; he said nothing,
and could not stir his arms. Suddenly he raised the upper part of his body
a little and spat in the face of one of the little girls, drew himself up
again and spat at the other, but did not reach her. I stood and looked on,
saw that the landlord flung the cards on the table at which he sat, and
sprang over towards the bed. His face was flushed, and he shouted:

"Will you sit and spit right into people's eyes, you old boar?"

"But, good Lord, he got no peace from them!" I cried, beside myself.

But all the time I stood in fear of being turned out, and I certainly did
not utter my protest with any particular force; I only trembled over my
whole body with irritation. He turned towards me, and said:

"Eh, listen to him, then. What the devil is it to you? You just keep your
tongue in your jaw, you--just mark what I tell you, 'twill serve you

But now the wife's voice made itself heard, and the house was filled with
scolding and railing.

"May God help me, but I think you are mad or possessed, the whole pack of
you!" she shrieked. "If you want to stay in here you'll have to be quiet,
both of you! Humph! it isn't enough that one is to keep open house and
food for vermin, but one is to have sparring and rowing and the devil's
own to-do in the sitting-room as well. But I won't have any more of it,
not if I know it. Sh--h! Hold your tongues, you brats there, and wipe your
noses, too; if you don't, I'll come and do it. I never saw the like of
such people. Here they walk in out of the street, without even a penny to
buy flea-powder, and begin to kick up rows in the middle of the night and
quarrel with the people who own the house, I don't mean to have any more
of it, do you understand that? and you can go your way, every one who
doesn't belong home here. I am going to have peace in my own quarters, I

I said nothing, I never opened my mouth once. I sat down again next the
door and listened to the noise. They all screamed together, even the
children, and the girl who wanted to explain how the whole disturbance
commenced. If I only kept quiet it would all blow over sometime; it would
surely not come to the worst if I only did not utter a word; and what word
after all could I have to say? Was it not perhaps winter outside, and far
advanced into the night, besides? Was that a time to strike a blow, and
show one could hold one's own? No folly now!... So I sat still and made no
attempt to leave the house; I never even blushed at keeping silent, never
felt ashamed, although I had almost been shown the door. I stared coolly,
case-hardened, at the wall where Christ hung in an oleograph, and held my
tongue obstinately during all the landlady's attack.

"Well, if it is me you want to get quit of, ma'am, there will be nothing
in the way as far as I am concerned," said one of the card-players as he
stood up. The other card-players rose as well.

"No, I didn't mean you--nor you either," replied the landlady to them. "If
there's any need to, I will show well enough who I mean, if there's the
least need to, if I know myself rightly. Oh, it will be shown quick enough
who it is...."

She talked with pauses, gave me these thrusts at short intervals, and spun
it out to make it clearer and clearer that it was me she meant. "Quiet,"
said I to myself; "only keep quiet!" She had not asked me to go--not
expressly, not in plain words. Just no putting on side on my part--no
untimely pride! Brave it out!... That was really most singular green hair
on that Christ in the oleograph. It was not too unlike green grass, or
expressed with exquisite exactitude thick meadow grass. Ha! a perfectly
correct remark--unusually thick meadow grass.... A train of fleeting ideas
darts at this moment through my head. From green grass to the text, Each
life is like unto grass that is kindled; from that to the Day of Judgment,
when all will be consumed; then a little detour down to the earthquake in
Lisbon, about which something floated before me in reference to a brass
Spanish spittoon and an ebony pen handle that I had seen down at
Ylajali's. Ah, yes, all was transitory, just like grass that was kindled.
It all ended in four planks and a winding-sheet. "Winding-sheets to be had
from Miss Andersen's, on the right of the door...." And all this was
tossed about in my head during the despairing moment when my landlady was
about to thrust me from her door.

"He doesn't hear," she yelled. "I tell you, you'll quit this house. Now
you know it. I believe God blast me, that the man is mad, I do! Now, out
you go, on the blessed spot, and so no more chat about it."

I looked towards the door, not in order to leave--no, certainly not in
order to leave. An audacious notion seized me--if there had been a key in
the door, I would have turned it and locked myself in along with the rest
to escape going. I had a perfectly hysterical dread of going out into the
streets again.

But there was no key in the door.

Then, suddenly my landlord's voice mingled with that of his wife, and I
stood still with amazement. The same man who had threatened me a while ago
took my part, strangely enough now. He said:

"No, it won't do to turn folk out at night; do you know one can be
punished for doing that?"

"I didn't know if there was a punishment for that; I couldn't say, but
perhaps it was so," and the wife bethought herself quickly, grew quiet,
and spoke no more.

She placed two pieces of bread and butter before me for supper, but I did
not touch them, just out of gratitude to the man; so I pretended that I
had had a little food in town.

When at length I took myself off to the anteroom to go to bed, she came
out after me, stopped on the threshold, and said loudly, whilst her
unsightly figure seemed to strut out towards me:

"But this is the last night you sleep here, so now you know it."

"Yes, yes," I replied.

There would perhaps be some way of finding a shelter tomorrow, if I tried
hard for it. I would surely be able to find some hiding-place. For the
time being I would rejoice that I was not obliged to go out tonight.

I slept till between five and six in the morning--it was not yet light
when I awoke--but all the same I got up at once. I had lain in all my
clothes on account of the cold, and had no dressing to do. When I had
drunk a little cold water and opened the door quietly, I went out
directly, for I was afraid to face my landlady again.

A couple of policemen who had been on watch all night were the only living
beings I saw in the street. A while after, some men began to extinguish
the lamps. I wandered about without aim or end, reached Kirkegaden and the
road down towards the fortress. Cold and still sleepy, weak in the knees
and back after my long walk, and very hungry, I sat down on a seat and
dozed for a long time. For three weeks I had lived exclusively on the
bread and butter that my landlady had given me morning and evening. Now it
was twenty-four hours since I had had my last meal. Hunger began to gnaw
badly at me again; I must seek a help for it right quickly. With this
thought I fell asleep again upon the seat....

I was aroused by the sound of people speaking near me, and when I had
collected myself a little I saw that it was broad day, and that every one
was up and about. I got up and walked away. The sun burst over the
heights, the sky was pale and tender, and in my delight over the lovely
morning, after the many dark gloomy weeks, I forgot all cares, and it
seemed to me as if I had fared worse on other occasions. I clapped myself
on the chest and sang a little snatch for myself. My voice sounded so
wretched, downright exhausted it sounded, and I moved myself to tears with
it. This magnificent day, the white heavens swimming in light, had far too
mighty an effect upon me, and I burst into loud weeping.

"What is the matter with you?" inquired a man. I did not answer, but
hurried away, hiding my face from all men. I reached the bridge. A large
barque with the Russian flag lay and discharged coal. I read her name,
_Copégoro_, on her side. It distracted me for a time to watch what
took place on board this foreign ship. She must be almost discharged; she
lay with IX foot visible on her side, in spite of all the ballast she had
already taken in, and there was a hollow boom through the whole ship
whenever the coal-heavers stamped on the deck with their heavy boots.

The sun, the light, and the salt breath from the sea, all this busy, merry
life pulled me together a bit, and caused my blood to run lustily.
Suddenly it entered my head that I could work at a few scenes of my drama
whilst I sat here, and I took my papers out of my pocket.

I tried to place a speech into a monk's mouth--a speech that ought to
swell with pride and intolerance, but it was of no use; so I skipped over
the monk and tried to work out an oration--the Deemster's oration to the
violator of the Temple,--and I wrote half-a-page of this oration, upon
which I stopped. The right local colour would not tinge my words, the
bustle about me, the shanties, the noise of the gangways, and the
ceaseless rattle of the iron chains, fitted in so little with the
atmosphere of the musty air of the dim Middle Ages, that was to envelop my
drama as with a mist.

I bundled my papers together and got up.

All the same, I got into a happy vein--a grand vein,--and I felt convinced
that I could effect something if all went well.

If I only had a place to go to. I thought over it--stopped right there in
the street and pondered, but I could not bring to mind a single quiet spot
in the town where I could seat myself for an hour. There was no other way
open; I would have to go back to the lodging-house in Vaterland. I shrank
at the thought of it, and I told myself all the while that it would not
do. I went ahead all the same, and approached nearer and nearer to the
forbidden spot. Of course it was wretched. I admitted to myself that it
was degrading--downright degrading, but there was no help for it. I was
not in the least proud; I dared make the assertion roundly, that I was one
of the least arrogant beings up to date. I went ahead.

I pulled up at the door and weighed it over once more. Yes, no matter what
the result was, I would have to dare it. After all said and done, what a
bagatelle to make such a fuss about. For the first it was only a matter of
a couple of hours; for the second, the Lord forbid that I should ever seek
refuge in such a house again. I entered the yard. Even whilst I was
crossing the uneven stones I was irresolute, and almost turned round at
the very door. I clenched my teeth. No! no pride! At the worst I could
excuse myself by saying I had come to say good-bye, to make a proper
adieu, and come to a clear understanding about my debt to the house....

I took forth my papers once more, and determined to thrust all irrelevant
impressions aside. I had left off right in the middle of a sentence in the
inquisitor's address--"Thus dictate God and the law to me, thus dictates
also the counsel of my wise men, thus dictate I and my own conscience...."
I looked out of the window to think over what his conscience should
dictate to him. A little row reached me from the room inside. Well, it was
no affair of mine anyway; it was entirely and totally indifferent to me
what noise arose. Why the devil should I sit thinking about it? Keep quiet
now! "Thus dictate I and my own conscience...." But everything conspired
against me. Outside in the street, something was taking place that
disturbed me. A little lad sat and amused himself in the sun on the
opposite side of the pavement. He was happy and in fear of no danger--just
sat and knotted together a lot of paper streamers, and injuring no one.
Suddenly he jumps up and begins to curse; he goes backwards to the middle
of the street and catches sight of a man, a grown-up man, with a red
beard, who is leaning out of an open window in the second storey, and who
spat down on his head. The little chap cried with rage, and swore
impatiently up at the window; and the man laughed in his face. Perhaps
five minutes passed in this way. I turned aside to avoid seeing the little
lad's tears.

"Thus dictate I and my own conscience...." I found it impossible to get
any farther. At last everything began to get confused; it seemed to me
that even that which I had already written was unfit to use, ay, that the
whole idea was contemptible rubbish. How could one possibly talk of
conscience in the Middle Ages? Conscience was first invented by
Dancing-master Shakespeare, consequently my whole address was wrong. Was
there, then, nothing of value in these pages? I ran through them anew, and
solved my doubt at once. I discovered grand pieces--downright lengthy
pieces of remarkable merit--and once again the intoxicating desire to set
to work again darted through my breast--the desire to finish my drama.

I got up and went to the door, without paying any attention to my
landlord's furious signs to go out quietly; I walked out of the room
firmly, and with my mind made up. I went upstairs to the second floor, and
entered my former room. The man was not there, and what was to hinder me
from sitting here for a moment? I would not touch one of his things. I
wouldn't even once use his table; I would just seat myself on a chair near
the door, and be happy. I spread the papers hurriedly out on my knees.
Things went splendidly for a few minutes. Retort upon retort stood ready
in my head, and I wrote uninterruptedly. I filled one page after the
other, dashed ahead over stock and stone, chuckled softly in ecstasy over
my happy vein, and was scarcely conscious of myself. The only sound I
heard in this moment was my own merry chuckle.

A singularly happy idea had just struck me about a church bell--a church
bell that was to peal out at a certain point in my drama. All was going
ahead with overwhelming rapidity. Then I heard a step on the stairs. I
tremble, and am almost beside myself; sit ready to bolt, timorous,
watchful, full of fear at everything, and excited by hunger. I listen
nervously, just hold the pencil still in my hand, and listen. I cannot
write a word more. The door opens and the pair from below enter.

Even before I had time to make an excuse for what I had done, the landlady
calls out, as if struck of a heap with amazement:

"Well, God bless and save us, if he isn't sitting here again!"

"Excuse me," I said, and I would have added more, but got no farther; the
landlady flung open the door, as far as it would go, and shrieked:

"If you don't go out, now, may God blast me, but I'll fetch the police!"

I got up.

"I only wanted to say good-bye to you," I murmured; "and I had to wait for
you. I didn't touch anything; I only just sat here on the chair...."

"Yes, yes; there was no harm in that," said the man. "What the devil does
it matter? Let the man alone; he--"

By this time I had reached the end of the stairs. All at once I got
furious with this fat, swollen woman, who followed close to my heels to
get rid of me quickly, and I stood quiet a moment with the worst abusive
epithets on my tongue ready to sling at her. But I bethought myself in
time, and held my peace, if only out of gratitude to the stranger man who
followed her, and would have to hear them. She trod close on my heels,
railing incessantly, and my anger increased with every step I took.

We reached the yard below. I walked very slowly, still debating whether I
would not have it out with her. I was at this moment completely blinded
with rage, and I searched for the worst word--an expression that would
strike her dead on the spot, like a kick in her stomach. A commissionaire
passes me at the entrance. He touches his hat; I take no notice; he
applies to her; and I hear that he inquires for me, but I do not turn
round. A couple of steps outside the door he overtakes and stops me. He
hands me an envelope. I tear it open, roughly and unwillingly. It contains
half-a-sovereign--no note, not a word. I look at the man, and ask:

"What tomfoolery is this? Who is the letter from?"

"Oh, that I can't say!" he replies; "but it was a lady who gave it to me."

I stood still. The commissionaire left.

I put the coin into the envelope again, crumple it up, coin and envelope,
wheel round and go straight towards the landlady, who is still keeping an
eye on me from the doorway, and throw it in her face. I said nothing; I
uttered no syllable--only noticed that she was examining the crumpled
paper as I left her.... Ha! that is what one might call comporting oneself
with dignity. Not to say a word, not to mention the contents, but crumple
together, with perfect calmness, a large piece of money, and fling it
straight in the face of one's persecutor! One might call that making one's
exit with dignity. That was the way to treat such beasts I....

When I got to the corner of Tomtegaden and the railway place, the street
commenced suddenly to swim around before my eyes; it buzzed vacantly in my
head, and I staggered up against the wall of a house. I could simply go no
farther, couldn't even straighten myself from the cramped position I was
in. As I fell up against it, so I remained standing, and I felt that I was
beginning to lose my senses. My insane anger had augmented this attack of
exhaustion. I lifted my foot, and stamped on the pavement. I also tried
several other things to try and regain my strength: I clenched my teeth,
wrinkled my brows, and rolled my eyes despairingly; it helped a little. My
thoughts grew more lucid. It was clear to me that I was about to succumb.
I stretched out my hands, and pushed myself back from the wall. The street
still danced wildly round me. I began to hiccough with rage, and I
wrestled from my very inmost soul with my misery; made a right gallant
effort not to sink down. It was not my intention to collapse; no, I would
die standing. A dray rolls slowly by, and I notice there are potatoes in
it; but out of sheer fury and stubbornness, I take it into my head to
assert that they are not potatoes, but cabbages, and I swore frightful
oaths that they were cabbages. I heard quite well what I was saying, and I
swore this lie wittingly; repeating time after time, just to have the
vicious satisfaction of perjuring myself. I got intoxicated with the
thought of this matchless sin of mine. I raised three fingers in the air,
and swore, with trembling lips, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy
Ghost, that they were cabbages.

Time went. I let myself sink down on the steps near me, and dried the
sweat from my brow and throat, drew a couple of long breaths, and forced
myself into calmness. The sun slid down; it declined towards the
afternoon. I began once more to brood over my condition. My hunger was
really something disgraceful, and, in a few hours more, night would be
here again. The question was, to think of a remedy while there was yet
time. My thoughts flew again to the lodging-house from which I had been
hunted away. I could on no account return there; but yet one could not
help thinking about it. Properly speaking, the woman was acting quite
within her rights in turning me out. How could I expect to get lodging
with any one when I could not pay for it? Besides, she had occasionally
given me a little food; even yesterday evening, after I had annoyed her,
she offered me some bread and butter. She offered it to me out of sheer
good nature, because she knew I needed it, so I had no cause to complain.
I began, even whilst I sat there on the step, to ask her pardon in my own
mind for my behaviour. Particularly, I regretted bitterly that I had shown
myself ungrateful to her at the last, and thrown half-a-sovereign in her

Half-a-sovereign! I gave a whistle. The letter the messenger brought me,
where did it come from? It was only this instant I thought clearly over
this, and I divined at once how the whole thing hung together. I grew sick
with pain and shame. I whispered "Ylajali" a few times, with hoarse voice,
and flung back my head. Was it not I who, no later than yesterday, had
decided to pass her proudly by if I met her, to treat her with the
greatest indifference? Instead of that, I had only aroused her compassion,
and coaxed an alms from her. No, no, no; there would never be an end to my
degradation! Not even in her presence could I maintain a decent position.
I sank, simply sank, on all sides--every way I turned; sank to my knees,
sank to my waist, dived under in ignominy, never to rise again--never!
This was the climax! To accept half-a-sovereign in alms without being able
to fling it back to the secret donor; scramble for half-pence whenever the
chance offered, and keep them, use them for lodging money, in spite of
one's intense inner aversion....

Could I not regain the half-sovereign in some way or another? To go back
to the landlady and try to get it from her would be of no use. There must
be some way, if I were to consider--if I were only to exert myself right
well, and consider it over. It was not, in this case, great God,
sufficient to consider in just an ordinary way! I must consider so that it
penetrated my whole sentient being; consider and find some way to procure
this half-sovereign. And I set to, to consider the answer to this problem.

It might be about four o'clock; in a few hours' time I could perhaps meet
the manager of the theatre; if only I had my drama completed.

I take out my MSS. there where I am sitting, and resolve, with might and
main, to finish the last few scenes. I think until I sweat, and re-read
from the beginning, but make no progress. No bosh! I say--no obstinacy,
now! and I write away at my drama--write down everything that strikes me,
just to get finished quickly and be able to go away. I tried to persuade
myself that a new supreme moment had seized me; I lied right royally to
myself, deceived myself knowingly, and wrote on, as if I had no need to
seek for words.

That is capital! That is really a find! whispered I, interpolatingly; only
just write it down! Halt! they sound questionable; they contrast rather
strongly with the speeches in the first scenes; not a trace of the Middle
Ages shone through the monk's words. I break my pencil between my teeth,
jump to my feet, tear my manuscript in two, tear each page in two, fling
my hat down in the street and trample upon it. I am lost! I whisper to
myself. Ladies and gentlemen, I am lost! I utter no more than these few
words as long as I stand there, and tramp upon my hat.

A policeman is standing a few steps away, watching me. He is standing in
the middle of the street, and he only pays attention to me. As I lift my
head, our eyes meet. Maybe he has been standing there for a long time
watching me. I pick up my hat, put it on, and go over to him.

"Do you know what time it is?" I ask. He pauses a bit as he hauls out his
watch, and never takes his eyes off me the whole time.

"About four," he replies.

"Accurately," I say, "about four, perfectly accurate. You know your
business, and I'll bear you in mind." Thereupon I left him. He looked
utterly amazed at me, stood and looked at me, with gaping mouth, still
holding his watch in his hand.

When I got in front of the Royal Hotel I turned and looked back. He was
still standing in the same position, following me with his eyes.

Ha, ha! That is the way to treat brutes! With the most refined effrontery!
That impresses the brutes--puts the fear of God into them.... I was
peculiarly satisfied with myself, and began to sing a little strain. Every
nerve was tense with excitement. Without feeling any more pain, without
even being conscious of discomfort of any kind, I walked, light as a
feather, across the whole market, turned round at the stalls, and came to
a halt--sat down on a bench near Our Saviour's Church. Might it not just
as well be a matter of indifference whether I returned the half-sovereign
or not? When once I received it, it was mine; and there was evidently no
want where it came from. Besides, I was obliged to take it when it was
sent expressly to me; there could be no object in letting the messenger
keep it. It wouldn't do, either, to send it back--a whole half-sovereign
that had been sent to me. So there was positively no help for it.

I tried to watch the bustle about me in the market, and distract myself
with indifferent things, but I did not succeed; the half-sovereign still
busied my thoughts. At last I clenched my fists and got angry. It would
hurt her if I were to send it back. Why, then, should I do so? Always
ready to consider myself too good for everything--to toss my head and say,
No, thanks! I saw now what it led to. I was out in the street again. Even
when I had the opportunity I couldn't keep my good warm lodging. No; I
must needs be proud, jump up at the first word, and show I wasn't the man
to stand trifling, chuck half-sovereigns right and left, and go my way....
I took myself sharply to task for having left my lodging and brought
myself into the most distressful circumstances.

As for the rest, I consigned the whole affair to the keeping of the
yellowest of devils. I hadn't begged for the half-sovereign, and I had
barely had it in my hand, but gave it away at once--paid it away to
utterly strange people whom I would never see again. That was the sort of
man I was; I always paid out to the last doit whatever I owed. If I knew
Ylajali aright, neither did she regret that she had sent me the money,
therefore why did I sit there working myself into a rage? To put it
plainly, the least she could do was to send me half-a-sovereign now and
then. The poor girl was indeed in love with me--ha! perhaps even fatally
in love with me; ... and I sat and puffed myself up with this notion.
There was no doubt that she was in love with me, the poor girl.

It struck five o'clock! Again I sank under the weight of my prolonged
nervous excitement. The hollow whirring in my head made itself felt anew.
I stared straight ahead, kept my eyes fixed, and gazed at the chemist's
under the sign of the elephant. Hunger was waging a fierce battle in me at
this moment, and I was suffering greatly. Whilst I sit thus and look out
into space, a figure becomes little by little clear to my fixed stare. At
last I can distinguish it perfectly plainly, and I recognize it. It is
that of the cake-vendor who sits habitually near the chemist's under the
sign of the elephant. I give a start, sit half-upright on the seat, and
begin to consider. Yes, it was quite correct--the same woman before the
same table on the same spot! I whistle a few times and snap my fingers,
rise from my seat, and make for the chemist's. No nonsense at all! What
the devil was it to me if it was the wages of sin, or well-earned
Norwegian huckster pieces of silver from Kongsberg? I wasn't going to be
abused; one might die of too much pride....

I go on to the corner, take stock of the woman, and come to a standstill
before her. I smile, nod as to an acquaintance, and shape my words as if
it were a foregone conclusion that I would return sometime.

"Good-day," say I; "perhaps you don't recognize me again."

"No," she replied slowly, and looks at me.

I smile still more, as if this were only an excellent joke of hers, this
pretending not to know me again, and say:

"Don't you recollect that I gave you a lot of silver once? I did not say
anything on the occasion in question; as far as I can call to mind, I did
not; it is not my way to do so. When one has honest folk to deal with, it
is unnecessary to make an agreement, so to say, draw up a contract for
every trifle. Ha, ha! Yes, it was I who gave you the money!"

"No, then, now; was it you? Yes, I remember you, now that I come to think
over it...."

I wanted to prevent her from thanking me for the money, so I say,
therefore, hastily, whilst I cast my eye over the table in search of
something to eat:

"Yes; I've come now to get the cakes."

She did not seem to take this in.

"The cakes," I reiterate; "I've come now to get them--at any rate, the
first instalment; I don't need all of them today."

"You've come to get them?"

"Yes; of course I've come to get them," I reply, and I laugh boisterously,
as if it ought to have been self-evident to her from the outset that I
came for that purpose. I take, too, a cake up from the table, a sort of
white roll that I commenced to eat.

When the woman sees this, she stirs uneasily inside her bundle of clothes,
makes an involuntary movement as if to protect her wares, and gives me to
understand that she had not expected me to return to rob her of them.

"Really not?" I say, "indeed, really not?" She certainly was an
extraordinary woman. Had she, then, at any time, had the experience that
some one came and gave her a heap of shillings to take care of, without
that person returning and demanding them again? No; just look at that now!
Did she perhaps run away with the idea that it was stolen money, since I
slung it at her in that manner? No; she didn't think that either. Well,
that at least was a good thing--really a good thing. It was, if I might so
say, kind of her, in spite of all, to consider me an honest man. Ha, ha!
yes indeed, she really was good!

But why did I give her the money, then? The woman was exasperated, and
called out loudly about it. I explained why I had given her the money,
explained it temperately and with emphasis. It was my custom to act in
this manner, because I had such a belief in every one's goodness. Always
when any one offered me an agreement, a receipt, I only shook my head and
said: No, thank you! God knows I did.

But still the woman failed to comprehend it. I had recourse to other
expedients--spoke sharply, and bade a truce to all nonsense. Had it never
happened to her before that any one had paid her in advance in this
manner? I inquired--I meant, of course, people who could afford it--for
example, any of the consuls? Never? Well, I could not be expected to
suffer because it happened to be a strange mode of procedure to her. It
was a common practice abroad. She had perhaps never been outside the
boundaries of her own country? No? Just look at that now! In that case,
she could of course have no opinion on the subject; ... and I took several
more cakes from the table.

She grumbled angrily, refused obstinately to give up any more of her
stores from off the table, even snatched a piece of cake out of my hand
and put it back into its place. I got enraged, banked the table, and
threatened to call the police. I wished to be lenient with her, I said.
Were I to take all that was lawfully mine, I would clear her whole stand,
because it was a big sum of money that I had given to her. But I had no
intention of taking so much, I wanted in reality only half the value of
the money, and I would, into the bargain, never come back to trouble her
again. Might God preserve me from it, seeing that that was the sort of
creature she was.... At length she shoved some cakes towards me, four or
five, at an exorbitant price, the highest possible price she could think
of, and bade me take them and begone. I wrangled still with her, persisted
that she had at least cheated me to the extent of a shilling, besides
robbing me with her exorbitant prices. "Do you know there is a penalty for
such rascally trickery," said I; "God help you, you might get penal
servitude for life, you old fool!" She flung another cake to me, and, with
almost gnashing teeth, begged me to go.

And I left her.

Ha! a match for this dishonest cake-vendor was not to be found. The whole
time, whilst I walked to and fro in the market-place and ate my cakes, I
talked loudly about this creature and her shamelessness, repeated to
myself what we both had said to one another, and it seemed to me that I
had come out of this affair with flying colours, leaving her nowhere. I
ate my cakes in face of everybody and talked this over to myself.

The cakes disappeared one by one; they seemed to go no way; no matter how
I ate I was still greedily hungry. Lord, to think they were of no help! I
was so ravenous that I was even about to devour the last little cake that
I had decided to spare, right from the beginning, to put it aside, in
fact, for the little chap down in Vognmandsgade--the little lad who played
with the paper streamers. I thought of him continually--couldn't forget
his face as he jumped and swore. He had turned round towards the window
when the man spat down on him, and he had just looked up to see if I was
laughing at him. God knows if I should meet him now, even if I went down
that way.

I exerted myself greatly to try and reach Vognmandsgade, passed quickly by
the spot where I had torn my drama into tatters, and where some scraps of
papers still lay about; avoided the policeman whom I had amazed by my
behaviour, and reached the steps upon which the laddie had been sitting.

He was not there. The street was almost deserted--dusk was gathering in,
and I could not see him anywhere. Perhaps he had gone in. I laid the cake
down, stood it upright against the door, knocked hard, and hurried away
directly. He is sure to find it, I said to myself; the first thing he will
do when he comes out will be to find it. And my eyes grew moist with
pleasure at the thought of the little chap finding the cake.

I reached the terminus again.

Now I no longer felt hungry, only the sweet stuff I had eaten began to
cause me discomfort. The wildest thoughts, too surged up anew in my head.

Supposing I were in all secretness to cut the hawser mooring one of those
ships? Supposing I were to suddenly yell out "Fire"? I walk farther down
the wharf, find a packing-case and sit upon it, fold my hands, and am
conscious that my head is growing more and more confused. I do not stir; I
simply make no effort whatever to keep up any longer. I just sit there and
stare at the _Copégoro_, the barque flying the Russian flag.

I catch a glimpse of a man at the rail; the red lantern slung at the port
shines down upon his head, and I get up and talk over to him. I had no
object in talking, as I did not expect to get a reply, either.

I said:

"Do you sail tonight, Captain?"

"Yes; in a short time," answered the man. He spoke Swedish.

"Hem, I suppose you wouldn't happen to need a man?"

I was at this instant utterly indifferent as to whether I was met by a
refusal or not; it was all the same to me what reply the man gave me, so I
stood and waited for it.

"Well, no," he replied; "unless it chanced to be a young fellow."

"A young fellow!" I pulled myself together, took off my glasses furtively
and thrust them into my pocket, stepped up the gangway, and strode on

"I have no experience," said I; "but I can do anything I am put to. Where
are you bound for?"

"We are in ballast for Leith, to fetch coal for Cadiz."

"All right," said I, forcing myself upon the man; "it's all the same to me
where I go; I am prepared to do my work."

"Have you never sailed before?" he asked.

"No; but as I tell you, put me to a task, and I'll do it. I am used to a
little of all sorts."

He bethought himself again.

I had already taken keenly into my head that I was to sail this voyage,
and I began to dread being hounded on shore again.

"What do you think about it, Captain?" I asked at last. "I can really do
anything that turns up. What am I saying? I would be a poor sort of chap
if I couldn't do a little more than just what I was put to. I can take two
watches at a stretch, if it comes to that. It would only do me good, and I
could hold out all the same."

"All right, have a try at it. If it doesn't work, well, we can part in

"Of course," I reply in my delight, and I repeated over again that we
could part in England if it didn't work.

And he set me to work....

Out in the fjord I dragged myself up once, wet with fever and exhaustion,
and gazed landwards, and bade farewell for the present to the town--to
Christiania, where the windows gleamed so brightly in all the homes.


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