Pan, by Knut Hamsun


A man can be drunk with joy. I fire off my gun, and an unforgettable echo answers from hill to hill, floats out over the sea and rings in some sleepy helmsman’s ears. And what have I to be joyful about? A thought that came to me, a memory; a sound in the woods, a human being. I think of her, I close my eyes and stand still there on the road, and think of her; I count the minutes.

Now I am thirsty, and drink from the stream; now I walk a hundred paces forward and a hundred paces back; it must be late by now, I say to myself.

Can there be anything wrong? A month has passed, and a month is no long time; there is nothing wrong. Heaven knows this month has been short. But the nights are often long, and I am driven to wet my cap in the stream and let it dry, only to pass the time, while I am waiting.

I reckoned my time by nights. Sometimes there would be an evening when Edwarda did not come — once she stayed away two evenings. Nothing wrong, no. But I felt then that perhaps my happiness had reached and passed its height.

And had it not?

“Can you hear, Edwarda, how restless it is in the woods to-night? Rustling incessantly in the undergrowth, and the big leaves trembling. Something brewing, maybe — but it was not that I had in mind to say. I hear a bird away up on the hill — only a tomtit, but it has sat there calling in the same place two nights now. Can you hear — the same, same note again?”

“Yes, I hear it. Why do you ask me that?”

“Oh, for no reason at all. It has been there two nights now. That was all . . . Thanks, thanks for coming this evening, love. I sat here, expecting you this evening, or the next, looking forward to it, when you came.”

“And I have been waiting too. I think of you, and I have picked up the pieces of the glass you upset once, and kept them — do you remember? Father went away last night. I could not come, there was so much to do with the packing, and reminding him of things. I knew you were waiting here in the woods, and I cried, and went on packing.”

But it is two evenings, I thought to myself. What was she doing the first evening? And why is there less joy in her eyes now than before?

An hour passed. The bird up in the hills was silent, the woods lay dead. No, no, nothing wrong; all as before; she gave me her hand to say good-night, and looked at me with love in her eyes.

“To-morrow?” I said.

“No, not to-morrow,” she answered.

I did not ask her why.

“To-morrow is our party,” she said with a laugh. “I was only going to surprise you, but you looked so miserable, I had to tell you at once. I was going to send you an invitation all on paper.”

And my heart was lightened unspeakably.

She went off, nodding farewell.

“One thing more,” said I, standing where I was. “How long is it since you gathered up the pieces of that glass and put them away?”

“Why — a week ago, perhaps, or a fortnight. Yes, perhaps a fortnight. But why do you ask? Well, I will tell you the truth — it was yesterday.”

Yesterday! No longer ago than yesterday she had thought of me. All was well again now.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:55