Pan, by Knut Hamsun

XXX

The mail-packet came; it brought my uniform; it was to take the Baron and all his cases of scales and seaweeds on board. Now it was loading up barrels of herrings and oil at the quay; towards evening it would be off again.

I took my gun and put a heavy load of powder in each barrel. When I had done that, I nodded to myself. I went up into the hills and filled my mine with powder as well; I nodded again. Now everything was ready. I lay down to wait.

I waited for hours. All the time I could hear the steamer’s winches at work hoisting and lowering. It was already growing dusk. At last the whistle sounded: the cargo was on board, the ship was putting off. I still had some minutes to wait. The moon was not up, and I stared like a madman through the gloom of the evening.

When the first point of the bow thrust out past the islet, I lit my slow match and stepped hurriedly away. A minute passed. Suddenly there was a roar — a spurt of stone fragments in the air — the hillside trembled, and the rock hurtled crashing down the abyss. The hills all round gave echo. I picked up my gun and fired off one barrel; the echo answered time and time again. After a moment I fired the second barrel too; the air trembled at the salute, and the echo flung the noise out into the wide world; it was as if all the hills had united in a shout for the vessel sailing away.

A little time passed; the air grew still, the echoes died away in all the hills, and earth lay silent again. The ship disappeared in the gloom.

I was still trembling with a strange excitement. I took my drills and my gun under my arm and set off with slack knees down the hillside. I took the shortest way, marking the smoking track left by my avalanche. Æsop followed me, shaking his head all the time and sneezing at the smell of burning.

When I came down to the shed, I found a sight that filled me with violent emotion. A boat lay there, crushed by the falling rock. And Eva — Eva lay beside it, mangled and broken, dashed to pieces by the shock — torn beyond recognition. Eva — lying there, dead.

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Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:38