Under the Autumn Star, by Knut Hamsun

Chapter XXXI

After a couple of days, I set myself down calmly and loftily to write to Falkenberg. I had a bit of a saw thing I’d left there at Øvrebø, I wrote; it might be a useful thing for owners of timber lands some day, and I proposed to come along and fetch it away shortly. Please keep an eye on it and see it doesn’t get damaged.

Yes, I wrote in that gentle style. That was the most dignified way. And since Falkenberg, of course, would mention it in the kitchen, and perhaps show the letter round, it had to be delicacy itself. But it was not all delicacy and nothing else; I fixed a definite date, to make it serious: I will come for the machine on Monday, 11th December.

I thought to myself: there, that’s clear and sound; if the machine’s not there that Monday, why, then, something will happen.

I took the letter to the post myself, and stuck a strip of stamps across the envelope as before. . . .

My beautiful ecstasy was still on me. I had received the loveliest letter in the world; here it was in my breast pocket; it was to me. Skriv ikke. No, indeed, but I could come. And then a dash at the end.

There wasn’t anything wrong, by any chance, about that underlining the word: as, for instance, meaning to emphasize the whole thing as an order? Ladies were always so fond of underlining all sorts of words, and putting in dashes here, there, and everywhere. But not she; no, not she!

A few days more, and the work at the Lensmand’s would be at an end; it fitted in very well, everything worked out nicely; on the 11th I was to be at Øvrebø. And that perhaps not a minute too soon. If the Captain really had any idea of his own about my machine, it would be necessary to act at once. Was a stranger to come stealing my hard-earned million? Hadn’t I toiled for it? I almost began to regret the gentleness of my letter to Falkenberg; I might have made it a good deal sharper; now, perhaps, he would imagine I was too soft to stand up for myself. Why, he might even take it into his head to bear witness against me, and say I hadn’t invented the machine at all! Hoho, Master Falkenberg, just try it on! In the first place, ’twill cost you your eternal salvation; and if that’s not enough, I’ll have you up for perjury before my friend and patron, the Lensmand. And you know what that’ll mean.

“Of course you must go,” said the Lensmand when I spoke to him about it. “And just come back here to me with your machine. You must look after your interests, of course; it may be a question of something considerable.”

The following day’s post brought a piece of news that changed the situation in a moment; there was a letter from Captain Falkenberg himself in the paper, saying it was due to a misunderstanding that the new timber saw had been stated as being of his invention. The apparatus had been designed by a man who had worked on his estate some time back. As to its value, he would not express any opinion. — Captain Falkenberg.

The Lensmand and I looked at each other.

“Well, what do you say now?” he asked.

“That the Captain, at any rate, is innocent.”

“Ho! D’you know what I think?”

Pause. The Lensmand playing Lensmand from top to toe, unravelling schemes and plots.

“He is not innocent,” said he.

“Really?”

“Ah, I’ve seen that sort of thing before. Drawing in his horns, that’s all. Your letter put him on his guard. Haha!”

At this I had to confess to the Lensmand that I had not written to the Captain at all but had merely sent a bit of a note to one of the hands at Øvrebø; and even that letter could not have reached there yet, seeing it was only posted the night before.

This left the Lensmand dumb, and he gave up unravelling things. On the other hand, he seemed from now onward to be greatly in doubt as to whether the whole thing had any value at all.

“Quite likely the machine’s no good at all,” he said. But then he added kindly: “I mean, it may need touching up a bit, and improving. You’ve seen yourself how they’re always altering things like warships and flying-machines. Are you still determined to go?”

No more was said about my coming back here and bringing the machine with me. But the Lensmand wrote me a very nice recommendation. He would gladly have kept me on longer, it said, but the work was interrupted by private affairs of my own elsewhere. . . .

In the morning, when I was ready to start, a little girl stood in the courtyard waiting for me to come out. It was Olga. Was there ever such a child? She must have been afoot since midnight to get here so early. And there she stood in her blue skirt and her jacket.

“That you, Olga? Where are you going?”

She had come to see me.

How did she know I was here?

She had asked about me and found out where I was. And please was it true she was to keep the sewing-machine? But of course it couldn’t. . . .

Yes, the machine was hers all right; hadn’t I taken her picture in exchange? Did it work all right?

Yes, it worked all right.

We did not talk much together; I wanted to get her away before the Lensmand came out and began asking questions.

“Well, run along home now, child; you’ve a long way to go.”

Olga gives me her hand — it is swallowed up completely in mine, and she lets it lie there as long as I will. Then she thanks me, and shambles gaily off again. And her toes turning in and out all odd ways.

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