Pan, by Knut Hamsun

GLAHN’S DEATH

A DOCUMENT OF 1861

I

The Glahn family can go on advertising as long as they please for Lieutenant Thomas Glahn, who disappeared; but he will never come back. He is dead, and, what is more, I know how he died.

To tell the truth, I am not surprised that his people should still keep on seeking information; for Thomas Glahn was in many ways an uncommon and likable man. I admit this, for fairness’ sake, and despite the fact that Glahn is still repellant to my soul, so that the bare memory of him arouses hatred. He was a splendidly handsome man, full of youth, and with an irresistible manner. When he looked at you with his hot animal eyes, you could not but feel his power; even I felt it so. A woman, they say, said: “When he looks at me, I am lost; I feel a sensation as if he were touching me.”

But Thomas Glahn had his faults, and I have no intention of hiding them, seeing that I hate him. He could at times be full of nonsense like a child, so kindly natured was he; and perhaps it was that which made him so irresistible to women. God knows! He could chat with them and laugh at their senseless twaddle; and so he made an impression. Once, speaking of a very corpulent man in the place, he said that he looked as if he went about with his breeches full of lard. And he laughed at that joke himself, though I should have been ashamed of it. Another time, after we had come to live in the same house together, he showed his foolishness in an unmistakable way. My landlady came in one morning and asked what I would have for breakfast, and in my hurry I happened to answer: “A bread and a slice of egg.” Thomas Glahn was sitting in my room at the time — he lived in the attic up above, just under the roof — and he began to chuckle and laugh childishly over my little slip of the tongue. “A bread and a slice of egg!” he repeated time over and over, until I looked at him in surprise and made him stop.

Maybe I shall call to mind other ridiculous traits of his later on. If so, I will write them down too, and not spare him, seeing that he is still my enemy. Why should I be generous? But I will admit that he talked nonsense only when he was drunk. But is it not a great mistake to be drunk at all?

When I first met him, in the autumn of 1859, he was a man of two-and-thirty — we were of an age. He wore a full beard at that time, and affected woolen sports shirts with an exaggerated lowness of neck; not content with that, he sometimes left the top button undone. His neck appeared to me at first to be remarkably handsome; but little by little he made me his deadly enemy, and then I did not consider his neck handsomer than mine, though I did not show off mine so openly. I met him first on a river boat, and we were going to the same place, on a hunting trip; we agreed to go together up-country by ox-wagon when we came to the end of the railway. I purposely refrained from stating the place we were going to, not wishing to set anyone on the track. But the Glahns can safely stop advertising for their relative; for he died at the place we went to, which I will not name.

I had heard of Thomas Glahn, by the way, before I met him; his name was not unknown to me. I had heard of some affair of his with a young girl from Nordland, from a big house there, and that he had compromised her in some way, after which she broke it off. This he had sworn, in his foolish obstinacy, to revenge upon himself, and the lady calmly let him do as he pleased in that respect, considering it no business of hers. From that time onwards, Thomas Glahn’s name began to be well known; he turned wild, mad; he drank, created scandal after scandal, and resigned his commission in the army. A queer way of taking vengeance for a girl’s refusal!

There was also another story of his relations with that young lady, to the effect that he had not compromised her in any way, but that her people had showed him the door, and that she herself had helped in it, after a Swedish Count, whose name I will not mention, had proposed to her. But this account I am less inclined to trust; I regard the first as true, for after all I hate Thomas Glahn and believe him capable of the worst. But, however it may have been, he never spoke himself of the affair with that noble lady, and I did not ask him about it. What business was it of mine?

As we sat there on the boat, I remember we talked about the little village we were making for, to which neither of us had been before.

“There’s a sort of hotel there, I believe,” said Glahn, looking at the map. “Kept by an old half-caste woman, so they say. The chief lives in the next village, and has a heap of wives, by all accounts — some of them only ten years old.”

Well, I knew nothing about the chief and his wives, or whether there was a hotel in the place, so I said nothing. But Glahn smiled, and I thought his smile was beautiful.

I forgot, by the way, that he could not by any means be called a perfect man, handsome though he was. He told me himself that he had an old gunshot wound in his left foot, and that it was full of gout whenever the weather changed.

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