Pan, by Knut Hamsun

IV

We began going out shooting again. Glahn felt he had wronged me, and begged my pardon.

“And I’m dead sick of the whole thing,” he said. “I only wish you’d make a slip one day and put a bullet in my throat.” It was that letter from the Countess again, perhaps, that was smouldering in his mind. I answered:

“As a man soweth, so shall he also reap.”

Day by day he grew more silent and gloomy. He had given up drinking now, and didn’t say a word, either; his cheeks grew hollow.

One day I heard talking and laughter outside my window; Glahn had turned cheerful again, and he stood there talking out loud to Maggie. He was getting in all his fascinating tricks. Maggie must have come straight from her hut, and Glahn had been watching and waiting for her. They even had the nerve to stand there making up together right outside my glass window.

I felt a trembling in all my limbs. I cocked my gun; then I let the hammer down again. I went outside and took Maggie by the arm; we walked out of the village in silence; Glahn went back into the hut again at once.

“What were you talking with him again for?” I asked Maggie.

She made no answer.

I was thoroughly desperate. My heart beat so I could hardly breathe. I had never seen Maggie look so lovely as she did then — never seen a real white girl so beautiful. And I forgot she was a Tamil — forgot everything for her sake.

“Answer me,” I said. “What were you talking to him for?”

“I like him best,” she said.

“You like him better than me?”

“Yes.”

Oh, indeed! She liked him better than me, though I was at least as good a man! Hadn’t I always been kind to her, and given her money and presents? And what had he done?

“He makes fun of you; he says you’re always chewing things,” I said.

She did not understand that, and I explained it better; how she had a habit of putting everything in her mouth and chewing it, and how Glahn laughed at her for it. That made more impression on her than all the rest I said.

“Look here, Maggie,” I went on, “you shall be mine for always. Wouldn’t you like that? I’ve been thinking it over. You shall go with me when I leave here; I will marry you, do you hear? and we’ll go to our own country and live there. You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”

And that impressed her too. Maggie grew lively and talked a lot as we walked. She only mentioned Glahn once; she asked:

“And will Glahn go with us when we go away?”

“No,” I said. “He won’t. Are you sorry about that?”

“No, no,” she said quickly. “I am glad.”

She said no more about him, and I felt easier. And Maggie went home with me, too, when I asked her.

When she went, a couple of hours later, I climbed up the ladder to Glahn’s room and knocked at the thin reed door. He was in. I said:

“I came to tell you that perhaps we’d better not go out shooting to-morrow.”

“Why not?” said Glahn.

“Because I’m not so sure but I might make a little mistake and put a bullet in your throat.”

Glahn did not answer, and I went down again. After that warning he would hardly dare to go out to-morrow — but what did he want to get Maggie out under my window for, and fool with her there at the top of his voice? Why didn’t he go back home again, if the letter really asked him, instead of going about as he often did, clenching his teeth and shouting at the empty air: “Never, never! I’ll be drawn and quartered first”?

But the morning after I had warned him, as I said, there was Glahn the same as ever, standing by my bed, calling out:

“Up with you, comrade! It’s a lovely day; we must go out and shoot something. That was all nonsense you said yesterday.”

It was no more than four o’clock, but I got up at once and got ready to go with him, in spite of my warning. I loaded my gun before starting out, and I let him see that I did. And it was not at all a lovely day, as he had said; it was raining, which showed that he was only trying to irritate me the more. But I took no notice, and went with him, saying nothing.

All that day we wandered round through the forest, each lost in his own thoughts. We shot nothing — lost one chance after another, through thinking of other things than sport. About noon, Glahn began walking a bit ahead of me, as if to give me a better chance of doing what I liked with him. He walked right across the muzzle of my gun; but I bore with that too. We came back that evening. Nothing had happened. I thought to myself: “Perhaps he’ll be more careful now, and leave Maggie alone.”

“This has been the longest day of my life,” said Glahn when we got back to the hut.

Nothing more was said on either side.

The next few days he was in the blackest humor, seemingly all about the same letter. “I can’t stand it; no, it’s more than I can bear,” he would say sometimes in the night; we could hear it all through the hut. His ill temper carried him so far that he would not even answer the most friendly questions when our landlady spoke to him; and he used to groan in his sleep. He must have a deal on his conscience, I thought — but why in the name of goodness didn’t he go home? Just pride, no doubt; he would not go back when he had been turned off once.

I met Maggie every evening, and Glahn talked with her no more. I noticed that she had given up chewing things altogether; she never chewed now. I was pleased at that, and thought: She’s given up chewing things; that is one failing the less, and I love her twice as much as I did before!

One day she asked about Glahn — asked very cautiously. Was he not well? Had he gone away?

“If he’s not dead, or gone away,” I said, “he’s lying at home, no doubt. It’s all one to me. He’s beyond all bearing now.”

But just then, coming up to the hut, we saw Glahn lying on a mat on the ground, hands at the back of his neck, staring up at the sky.

“There he is,” I said.

Maggie went straight up to him, before I could stop her, and said in a pleased sort of voice:

“I don’t chew things now — nothing at all. No feathers or money or bits of paper — you can see for yourself.”

Glahn scarcely looked at her. He lay still. Maggie and I went on. When I reproached her with having broken her promise and spoken to Glahn again, she answered that she had only meant to show him he was wrong.

“That’s right — show him he’s wrong,” I said. “But do you mean it was for his sake you stopped chewing things?”

She didn’t answer. What, wouldn’t she answer?

“Do you hear? Tell me, was it for his sake?”

And I could not think otherwise. Why should she do anything for Glahn’s sake?

That evening Maggie promised to come to me, and she did.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/h/hamsun/knut/h23p/chapter40.html

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