Pan, by Knut Hamsun


A woman’s voice outside the hut. The blood rushed to my head — it was Edwarda. “Glahn — Glahn is ill, so I have heard.”

And my washerwoman answered outside the door:

“He’s nearly well again now.”

That “Glahn — Glahn” went through me to the marrow of my bones; she said my name twice, and it touched me; her voice was clear and ringing.

She opened my door without knocking, stepped hastily in, and looked at me. And suddenly all seemed as in the old days. There she was in her dyed jacket and her apron tied low in front, to give a longer waist. I saw it all at once; and her look, her brown face with the eyebrows high-arched into the forehead, the strangely tender expression of her hands, all came on me so strongly that my brain was in a whirl. I have kissed her! I thought to myself.

I got up and remained standing.

“And you get up, you stand, when I come?” she said. “Oh, but sit down. Your foot is bad, you shot yourself. Heavens, how did it happen? I did not know of it till just now. And I was thinking all the time: What can have happened to Glahn? He never comes now. I knew nothing of it all. And you had shot yourself, and it was weeks ago, they tell me, and I knew never a word. How are you now? You are very pale: I should hardly recognize you. And your foot — will you be lame now? The Doctor says you will not be lame. Oh, I am so fond of you because you are not going to be lame! I thank God for that. I hope you will forgive me for coming up like this without letting you know; I ran nearly all the way . . . ”

She bent over me, she was close to me, I felt her breath on my face; I reached out my hands to hold her. Then she moved away a little. Her eyes were still dewy.

“It happened this way,” I stammered out. “I was putting the gun away in the corner, but I held it awkwardly — up and down, like that; then suddenly I heard the shot. It was an accident.”

“An accident,” she said thoughtfully, nodding her head. “Let me see — it is the left foot — but why the left more than the right? Yes, of course, an accident . . . ”

“Yes, an accident,” I broke in. “How should I know why it just happened to be the left foot? You can see for yourself — that’s how I was holding the gun — it couldn’t be the right foot that way. It was a nuisance, of course.” She looked at me curiously.

“Well, and so you are getting on nicely,” she said, looking around the hut. “Why didn’t you send the woman down to us for food? What have you been living on?”

We went on talking for a few minutes. I asked her:

“When you came in, your face was moved, and your eyes sparkled; you gave me your hand. But now your eyes are cold again. Am I wrong?”


“One cannot always be the same . . . ”

“Tell me this one thing,” I said. “What is it this time that I have said or done to displease you? Then, perhaps, I might manage better in future.”

She looked out the window, towards the far horizon; stood looking out thoughtfully and answered me as I sat there behind her:

“Nothing, Glahn. Just thoughts that come at times. Are you angry now? Remember, some give a little, but it is much for them to give; others can give much, and it costs them nothing — and which has given more? You have grown melancholy in your illness. How did we come to talk of all this?” And suddenly she looked at me, her face flushed with joy. “But you must get well soon, now. We shall meet again.”

And she held out her hand. Then it came into my head not to take her hand. I stood up, put my hands behind my back, and bowed deeply; that was to thank her for her kindness in coming to pay me a visit.

“You must excuse me if I cannot see you home,” I said.

When she had gone, I sat down again to think it all over. I wrote a letter, and asked to have my uniform sent.

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