Under the Autumn Star, by Knut Hamsun

Chapter XXXII

I am nearly at my goal.

Sunday evening I lay in a watchman’s hut not far from Øvrebø, so as to be on the place early Monday morning. By nine o’clock every one would be up, then surely I must be lucky enough to meet the one I sought.

I had grown dreadfully nervous, and kept imagining ugly things. I had written a nice letter to Falkenberg, using no sharp words, but the Captain might after all have been offended at my fixing the date like that; giving him so and so much time. . . . If only I had never written at all!

Coming up towards the house I stoop more and more, and make myself small, though indeed I had done no wrong. I turn off from the road up, and go round so as to reach the outbuildings first — and there I come upon Falkenberg. He is washing down the carriage. We gave each other greeting, and were the same good comrades as before.

Was he going out with the carriage?

No, just come back the night before. Been to the railway station.

Who had gone away, then?

Fruen.

Fruen?

Fruen, yes.

Pause.

Really? And where was Fruen gone to?

Gone to stay in town for a bit.

Pause.

“Stranger man’s been here writing in the papers about that machine of yours,” says Falkenberg.

“Is the Captain gone away too?”

“No, Captain’s at home. You should have seen his face when your letter came.”

I got Falkenberg to come up to the old loft. I had still two bottles of wine in my sack, and I took them out and we started on them together; eh, those bottles that I had carried backward and forward, mile after mile, and had to be so careful with, they served me well just now. Save for them Falkenberg would never have said so much.

“What was that about the Captain and my letter? Did he see it?”

“Well, it began like this,” said Falkenberg. “Fruen was in the kitchen when I came in with the post. ‘What letter’s that with all those stamps on?’ she says. I opened it, and said it was from you, to say you were coming on the 11th.”

“And what did she say?”

“She didn’t say any more. Yes, she asked once again, ‘Coming on the 11th, is he?’ And I said yes, he was.”

“And then, a couple of days after, you got orders to drive her to the station?”

“Why, yes, it must have been about a couple of days. Well, then, I thought, if Fruen knows about the letter, then Captain surely knows too. D’you know what he said when I brought it in?”

I made no answer to this, but thought and thought. There must be something behind all this. Was she running away from me? Madman! the Captain’s Lady at Øvrebø would not run away from one of her labourers. But the whole thing seemed so strange. I had hoped all along she would give me leave to speak with her, since I was forbidden to write.

Falkenberg went on, a little awkwardly:

“Well, I showed the Captain your letter, though you didn’t say I was to. Was there any harm in that?”

“It doesn’t matter. What did he say?”

“‘Yes, look after the machine, do,’ he said, and made a face. ‘In case any one comes to steal it,’ he said.”

“Then the Captain’s angry with me now?”

“Nay, I shouldn’t think so. I’ve heard no more about it since that day.”

It mattered little after all about the Captain. When Falkenberg had taken a deal of wine, I asked him if he knew where Fruen was staying in town. No, but Emma might, perhaps. We get hold of Emma, treat her to wine, talk a lot of nonsense, and work gradually round to the point; at last asking in a delicate way. No, Emma didn’t know the address. But Fruen had gone to buy things for Christmas, and she was going with Frøken Elisabeth from the vicarage, so they’d know the address there. What did I want it for, by the way?

Well, it was only about a filigree brooch I had got hold of, and wanted to ask if she’d care to buy it.

“Let’s look.”

Luckily I was able to show her the brooch; it was a beautiful piece of old work; I had bought it of one of the maids at Hersæt.

“Fruen wouldn’t have it,” said Emma. “I wouldn’t have it myself.”

“Not if you got me into the bargain, Emma, what?” And I forced myself to jest again.

Emma goes off. I try drawing out Falkenberg again. Falkenberg was sharp enough at times to understand people.

Did he still sing for Fruen?

Lord, no; that was all over. Falkenberg wished he hadn’t taken service here at all; ’twas nothing but trouble and misery about the place.

Trouble and misery? Weren’t they friends, then, the Captain and his Lady?

Oh yes, they were friends. In the same old way. Last Saturday she had been crying all day.

“Funny thing it should be like that,” say I, “when they’re so upright and considerate towards each other.” And I watch to see what Falkenberg says to that.

“Eh, but they’re ever weary,” says Falkenberg in his Valdres dialect. “And she’s losing her looks too. Only in the time you’ve been gone, she’s got all pale and thin.”

I sat up in the loft for a couple of hours, keeping an eye on the main building from my window, but the Captain did not appear. Why didn’t he go out? It was hopeless to wait any longer; I should have to go without making my excuses to the Captain. I could have found good grounds enough; I might have put the blame on to the first article in the paper, and said it had rather turned my head for the moment — and there was some truth in that. Well, all I had to do now was to tie up the machine in a bundle, cover it up as far as possible with my sack, and start off on my wanderings again.

Emma stole some food for me before I went.

It was another long journey this time; first to the vicarage — though that was but a little out of the way — and then on to the railway station. A little snow was falling, which made it rather heavy walking; and what was more, I could not take it easy now, but must get on as fast as I could. The ladies were only staying in town for their Christmas shopping, and they had a good start already.

On the following afternoon I came to the vicarage. I had reckoned out it would be best to speak with Fruen.

“I’m on my way into town,” I told her. “And I’ve this machine thing with me; if I might leave the heaviest of the woodwork here meanwhile?”

“Are you going into town?” says Fruen. “But you’ll stay here till tomorrow, surely?”

“No, thanks all the same. I’ve got to be in town tomorrow.”

Fruen thinks for a bit and then says:

“Elisabeth’s in town. You might take a parcel in for her — something she’s forgotten.”

That gives me the address! I thought to myself.

“But I’ve got to get it ready first.”

“Then Frøken Elisabeth might be gone again before I got there?”

“Oh no, she’s with Fru Falkenberg, and they’re staying in town for the week.”

This was grand news, joyous news. Now I had both the address and the time.

Fruen stands watching me sideways, and says:

“Well, then, you’ll stay the night, won’t you? You see, it’s something I’ve got to get ready first. . . . ”

I was given a room in the main building, because it was too cold to sleep in the barn. And when all the household had gone to rest that night, and everything was quiet, came Fruen to my room with the parcel, and said:

“Excuse my coming so late. But I thought you might be going early to-morrow morning before I was up.”

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