Pan, by Knut Hamsun


Rain and storm —’tis not such things that count. Many a time some little joy can come along on a rainy day, and make a man turn off somewhere to be alone with his happiness — stand up somewhere and look out straight ahead, laughing quietly now and again, and looking round. What is there to think of? One clear pane in a window, a ray of sunlight in the pane, the sight of a little brook, or maybe a blue strip of sky between the clouds. It needs no more than that.

At other times, even quite unusual happenings cannot avail to lift a man from dulness and poverty of mind; one can sit in the middle of a ballroom and be cool, indifferent, unaffected by anything. Sorrow and joy are from within oneself.

One day I remember now. I had gone down to the coast. The rain came on suddenly, and I slipped into an open boathouse to sit down for a while. I was humming a little, but not for any joy or pleasure, only to pass the time. Æsop was with me; he sat up listening, and I stopped humming and listened as well. Voices outside; people coming nearer. A mere chance — nothing more natural. A little party, two men and a girl, came tumbling in suddenly to where I sat, calling to one another and laughing:

“Quick! Get in here till it stops!”

I got up.

One of the men had a white shirt front, soft, and now soaked with rain into the bargain, and all bagging down; and in that wet shirt front a diamond clasp. Long, pointed shoes he wore, too, that looked somewhat affected. I gave him good-day. It was Mack, the trader; I knew him because he was from the store where I used to get my bread. He had asked me to look in at the house any time, but I had not been there yet.

“Aha, it’s you, is it?” said Mack at sight of me. “We were going up to the mill, but had to turn back. Ever see such weather — what? And when are you coming up to see us at Sirilund, Lieutenant?”

He introduced the little black-bearded man who was with him; a doctor, staying down near the church.

The girl lifted her veil the least little bit, to her nose, and started talking to Æsop in a whisper. I noticed her jacket; I could see from the lining and the buttonholes that it had been dyed. Mack introduced me to her as well; his daughter, Edwarda.

Edwarda gave me one glance through her veil, and went on whispering to the dog, and reading on its collar:

“So you’re called Æsop, are you? Doctor, who was Æsop? All I can remember is that he wrote fables. Wasn’t he a Phrygian? I can’t remember.”

A child, a schoolgirl. I looked at her — she was tall, but with no figure to speak of, about fifteen or sixteen, with long, dark hands and no gloves. Like as not she had looked up Æsop in the dictionary that afternoon, to have it ready.

Mack asked me what sport I was having. What did I shoot mostly? I could have one of his boats at any time if I wanted — only let him know. The Doctor said nothing at all. When they went off again, I noticed that the Doctor limped a little, and walked with a stick.

I walked home as empty in mind as before, humming all indifferently. That meeting in the boathouse had made no difference either way to me; the one thing I remembered best of all was Mack’s wet shirt front, with a diamond clasp — the diamond all wet, too, and no great brilliance about it, either.

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