Pan, by Knut Hamsun

XXXII

A man said:

“You never go out shooting now? Æsop is running loose in the woods; he is after a hare.”

I said:

“Go and shoot it for me.”

Some days passed. Herr Mack looked me up. He was hollow-eyed; his face was grey. I thought: Is it true that I can see through my fellows, or is it not? I do not know, myself.

Herr Mack spoke of the landslip, the catastrophe. It was a misfortune, a sad accident; I was in no way to blame.

I said:

“If it was someone who wished to separate Eva and me at any price, he has gained his end. God’s curse be on him!”

Herr Mack looked at me suspiciously. He murmured something about the fine funeral. Nothing had been spared.

I sat admiring the alertness of his mind. He would have no compensation for the boat that my landslide had crushed.

“Oh, but surely,” I said, “will you not have some payment for the boat and the tar-bucket and the brush?”

“No, my dear Lieutenant,” he answered. “How could you think of such a thing?” And he looked at me with hatred in his eyes.

For three weeks I saw nothing of Edwarda. Yes, once I met her at the store: when I went to buy some bread, she stood inside the counter looking over some different sorts of cloth stuff. Only the two assistants were there besides.

I greeted her aloud, and she looked up, but did not answer. It occurred to me that I could not ask for bread while she was there; I turned to the assistants and asked for powder and shot. While they were weighing it out, I watched her.

A grey dress, much too small for her, with the buttonholes worn; her flat breast heaved restlessly. How she had grown that summer! Her brow was knit in thought; those strangely curved eyebrows stood in her face like two riddles; all her movements were grown more mature. I looked at her hands; the contour of her long, delicate fingers moved me violently, made me tremble. She was still turning over the stuffs.

I stood wishing that Æsop would run to her behind the counter — then I could call him back at once and apologise. What would she say then?

“Here you are,” said the storekeeper.

I paid for the things, took up my parcels, and took my leave of her. She looked up, but again without speaking. Good, I thought to myself. She is the Baron’s bride already, as like as not. And I went, without my bread.

When I got outside, I looked up at the window. No one was watching me.

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