The first day in the woods.
I was happy and weary; all the creatures came up close and looked at me; there were insects on the trees and oil-beetles crawling on the road. Well met! I said to myself. The feeling of the woods went through and through my senses; I cried for love of it all, and was utterly happy; I was dissolved in thanksgiving. Dear woods, my home, God’s peace with you from my heart . . . I stopped and turned all ways, named the things with tears. Birds and trees and stones and grass and ants, I called them all by name, looked round and called them all in their order. I looked up to the hills and thought: Now, now I am coming, as if in answer to their calling. Far above, the dwarf falcon was hacking away — I knew where its nests were. But the sound of those falcons up in the hills sent my thoughts far away.
About noon I rowed out and landed on a little island, an islet outside the harbour. There were mauve-coloured flowers with long stalks reaching to my knees; I waded in strange growths, raspberry and coarse grass; there were no animals, and perhaps there had never been any human being there. The sea foamed gently against the rocks and wrapped me in a veil of murmuring; far up on the egg-cliffs, all the birds of the coast were flying and screaming. But the sea wrapped me round on all sides as in an embrace. Blessed be life and earth and sky, blessed be my enemies; in this hour I will be gracious to my bitterest enemy, and bind the latchet of his shoe . . .
“Hiv . . . ohoi . . . “ Sounds from one of Herr Mack’s craft. My heart was filled with sunshine at the well-known song. I rowed to the quay, walked up past the fishers’ huts and home. The day was at an end. I had my meal, sharing it with Æsop, and set out into the woods once more. Soft winds breathed silently in my face. And I blessed the winds because they touched my face; I told them that I blessed them; my very blood sang in my veins for thankfulness. Æsop laid one paw on my knee.
Weariness came over me; I fell asleep.
* * * * *
Lul! lul! Bells ringing! Some leagues out at sea rose a mountain. I said two prayers, one for my dog and one for myself, and we entered into the mountain there. The gate closed behind us; I started at its clang, and woke.
Flaming red sky, the sun there stamping before my eyes; the night, the horizon, echoing with light. Æsop and I moved into the shade. All quiet around us. “No, we will not sleep now,” I said to the dog, “we will go out hunting tomorrow; the red sun is shining on us, we will not go into the mountain.” . . . And strange thoughts woke to life in me, and the blood rose to my head.
Excited, yet still weak, I felt someone kissing me, and the kiss lay on my lips. I looked round: there was nothing visible. “Iselin!” A sound in the grass — it might be a leaf falling to the ground, or it might be footsteps. A shiver through the woods — and I told myself it might be Iselin’s breathing. Here in these woods she has moved, Iselin; here she has listened to the prayers of yellow-booted, green-cloaked huntsmen. She lived out on my farm, two miles away; four generations ago she sat at her window, and heard the echo of horns in the forest. There were reindeer and wolf and bear, and the hunters were many, and all of them had seen her grow up from a child, and each and all of them had waited for her. One had seen her eyes, another heard her voice. When she was twelve years old came Dundas. He was a Scotsman, and traded in fish, and had many ships. He had a son. When she was sixteen, she saw young Dundas for the first time. He was her first love . . .
And such strange fancies flowed through me, and my head grew very heavy as I sat there; I closed my eyes and felt for Iselin’s kiss. Iselin, are you here, lover of life? And have you Diderik there? . . . But my head grew heavier still, and I floated off on the waves of sleep.
Lul! lul! A voice speaking, as if the Seven Stars themselves were singing through my blood; Iselin’s voice:
“Sleep, sleep! I will tell you of my love while you sleep. I was sixteen, and it was springtime, with warm winds; Dundas came. It was like the rushing of an eagle’s flight. I met him one morning before the hunt set out; he was twenty-five, and came from far lands; he walked by my side in the garden, and when he touched me with his arm I began to love him. Two red spots showed in his forehead, and I could have kissed those two red spots.
“In the evening after the hunt I went to seek him in the garden, and I was afraid lest I should find him. I spoke his name softly to myself, and feared lest he should hear. Then he came out from the bushes and whispered: ‘An hour after midnight!’ And then he was gone.
“‘An hour after midnight,’ I said to myself —‘what did he mean by that? I cannot understand. He must have meant he was going away to far lands again; an hour after midnight he was going away — but what was it to me?’
“An hour after midnight he came back.”
“‘May I sit there by you?’ he said.
“‘Yes,’ I told him. ‘Yes.’
“We sat there on the sofa; I moved away. I looked down.
“‘You are cold,’ he said, and took my hand. A little after he said: ‘How cold you are!’ and put his arm round me.
“And I was warmed with his arm. So we sat a little while. Then a cock crew.
“‘Did you hear,’ he said, ‘a cock crow? It is nearly dawn.’
“‘Are you quite sure it was the cock crow?’ I stammered.
“Then the day came — already it was morning. Something was thrilling all through me. What hour was it that struck just now?
“My maid came in.
“‘Your flowers have not been watered,’ she said.
“I had forgotten my flowers.
“A carriage drove up to the gate.
“‘Your cat has had no milk,’ said the maid.
“But I had no thought for my flowers, or my cat; I asked:
“‘Is that Dundas outside there? Ask him to come in here to me at once; I am expecting him; there was something . . . ’
“He knocked. I opened the door.
“‘Iselin!’ he cried, and kissed my lips a whole minute long.
“‘I did not send for you,’ I whispered to him.
“‘Did you not?’ he asked.
“Then I answered:
“‘Yes, I did — I sent for you. I was longing so unspeakably for you again. Stay here with me a little.’
“And I covered my eyes for love of him. He did not loose me; I sank forward and hid myself close to him.
“‘Surely that was something crowing again,’ he said, listening.
“But when I heard what he said, I cut off his words as swiftly as I could, and answered:
“‘No, how can you imagine it? There was nothing crowing then.’
“He kissed me.
“Then it was evening again, and Dundas was gone. Something golden thrilling through me. I stood before the glass, and two eyes all alight with love looked out at me; I felt something moving in me at my own glance, and always that something thrilling and thrilling round my heart. Dear God! I had never seen myself with those eyes before, and I kissed my own lips, all love and desire, in the glass . . .
“And now I have told you. Another time I will tell you of Svend Herlufsen. I loved him too; he lived a league away, on the island you can see out there, and I rowed out to him myself on calm summer evenings, because I loved him. And I will tell you of Stamer. He was a priest, and I loved him. I love all . . . ”
Through my helf-sleep I heard a cock crowing down at Sirilund.
“Iselin, hear! A cock is crowing for us too!” I cried joyfully, and reached out my arms. I woke. Æsop was already moving. “Gone!” I said in burning sorrow, and looked round. There was no one — no one there. It was morning now; the cock was still crowing down at Sirilund.
By the hut stood a woman — Eva. She had a rope in her hand; she was going to fetch wood. There was the morning of life in the young girl’s figure as she stood there, all golden in the sun.
“You must not think . . . ” she stammered out.
“What is it I must not think, Eva?”
“I— I did not come this way to meet you; I was just passing . . . ”
And her face darkened in a blush.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:55