And I put on my uniform for the first time, and went down to Sirilund. My heart was beating.
I remembered everything from the day when Edwarda had come hurrying to me and embraced me before them all. Now she had thrown me hither and thither for many months, and made my hair turn grey. My own fault? Yes, my star had led me astray. I thought: How she would chuckle if I were to throw myself at her feet and tell her the secret of my heart to-day! She would offer me a chair and have wine brought in, and just as she was raising the glass to her lips to drink with me, she would say: “Lieutenant, I thank you for the time we have been together. I shall never forget it!” But when I grew glad and felt a little hope, she’d pretend to drink, and set down the glass untouched. And she wouldn’t hide from me that she’d only been pretending to drink; she’d be careful to let me see it. That was her way.
Good — it was nearing the last hour now.
And as I walked down the road I thought further: My uniform will impress her; the trappings are new and handsome. The sword will rattle against the floor. A nervous joy thrilled me, and I whispered to myself: Who knows what may happen yet? I raised my head and threw out a hand. No more humility now — a man’s honour and pride! Whatever came of it, I would make no more advances now. Pardon me, my fair one, for not asking your hand . . .
Herr Mack met me in the courtyard, greyer still, more hollow-eyed.
“Going away? So? I suppose you’ve not been very comfortable lately, eh? Your hut burned down . . . ” And Herr Mack smiled.
In a moment it seemed as if the wisest man in the world stood before my eyes.
“Go indoors, Lieutenant; Edwarda is there. Well, I will say good-bye. See you on the quay, I suppose, when the vessel sails.” He walked off, with head bowed in thought, whistling.
Edwarda was sitting indoors, reading. At the instant of my entering, she started at my uniform; she looked at me sideways like a bird, and even blushed. She opened her mouth.
“I have come to say good-bye,” I managed to get out at last.
She rose quickly to her feet, and I saw that my words had had some effect.
“Glahn, are you going away? Now?”
“As soon as the boat comes.” I grasped her hand — both her hands — a senseless delight took possession of me — I burst out, “Edwarda!” and stared at her.
And in a moment she was cold — cold and defiant. Her whole being resisted me; she drew herself up. I found myself standing like a beggar before her. I loosed her hand and let her go. I remember that from that moment I stood repeating mechanically: “Edwarda, Edwarda!” again and again without thinking, and when she asked: “Yes? What were you going to say?” I explained nothing.
“To think you are going already,” she said again. “Who will come next year, I wonder?”
“Another,” I answered. “The hut will be built up again, no doubt.”
Pause. She was already reaching for her book.
“I am sorry my father is not in,” she said. “But I will tell him you were here.”
I made no answer to this. I stepped forward, took her hand once more, and said:
“Farvel,” she answered.
I opened the door as if to go. Already she was sitting with the book in her hand, reading — actually reading and turning the page. Nothing affected, not the least in the world affected by my saying good-bye.
She turned and said in surprise:
“Oh, are you not gone? I thought you were.”
Heaven alone knows, but it struck me that her surprise was too great; that she was not careful, that she overdid it. And it came into my head that perhaps she had known all the time that I was standing behind her.
“I am going now,” I said.
Then she rose and came over to me.
“I should like to have something to remember you by when you go,” she said. “I thought of asking you for something, but perhaps it is too much. Will you give me Æsop?”
I did not hesitate. I answered “Yes.”
“Then, perhaps, you would come and bring him to-morrow,” she said.
I looked up at the window. No one there.
It was all over now . . .
* * * * *
The last night in the hut. I sat in thought, I counted the hours; when the morning came I made ready my last meal. It was a cold day.
Why had she asked me to come myself and bring the dog? Would she tell me something, speak to me, for the last time? I had nothing more to hope for. And how would she treat Æsop? Æsop, Æsop, she will torture you! For my sake she will whip you, caress you too, perhaps, but certainly whip you, with and without reason; ruin you altogether . . .
I called Æsop to me, patted him, put our two heads together, and picked up my gun. He was already whining with pleasure, thinking we were going out after game. I put our heads together once more; I laid the muzzle of the gun against Æsop’s neck and fired . . .
I hired a man to carry Æsop’s body to Edwarda.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:51