Pan, by Knut Hamsun


She came at ten o’clock. I heard her voice outside; she was talking loud to a child whom she led by the hand. Why did she not come in, and what had she brought the child for? I watched her, and it struck me that she was giving a signal by talking out loud to the child; I noticed, too, that she kept her eyes fixed on the attic — on Glahn’s window up there. Had he nodded to her, I wondered, or beckoned to her from inside when he heard her talking outside? Anyhow, I had sense enough myself to know there was no need to look up aloft when talking to a child on the ground.

I was going out to take her by the arm. But just then she let go the child’s hand, left the child standing there, and came in herself, through the door to the hut. She stepped into the passage. Well, there she was at last; I would take care to give her a good talking to when she came!

Well, I stood there and heard Maggie step into the passage. There was no mistake: she was close outside my door. But instead of coming in to me, I heard her step up the ladder — up to the attic — to Glahn’s hole up there. I heard it only too well. I threw my door open wide, but Maggie had gone up already. That was ten o’clock.

I went in, sat down in my room, and took my gun and loaded it. At twelve o’clock I went up the ladder and listened at Glahn’s door. I could hear Maggie in there; I went down again. At one I went up again; all was quiet this time. I waited outside the door. Three o’clock, four o’clock, five. Good, I thought to myself. But a little after, I heard a noise and movement below in the hut, in my landlady’s room; and I had to go down again quickly, so as not to let her find me there. I might have listened much more, but I had to go.

In the passage I said to myself: “See, here she went: she must have touched my door with her arm as she passed, but she did not open the door: she went up the ladder, and here is the ladder itself — those four steps, she has trodden them.”

My bed still lay untouched, and I did not lie down now, but sat by the window, fingering my rifle now and again. My heart was not beating — it was trembling.

Half an hour later I heard Maggie’s footstep on the ladder again. I lay close up to the window and saw her walk out of the hut. She was wearing her little short cotton petticoat, that did not even reach to her knees, and over her shoulders a woolen scarf borrowed from Glahn. She walked slowly, as she always did, and did not so much as glance towards my window. Then she disappeared behind the huts.

A little after came Glahn, with his rifle under his arm, all ready to go out. He looked gloomy, and did not even say good-morning. I noticed, though, that he had got himself up and taken special care about his dress.

I got ready at once and went with him. Neither of us said a word. The first two birds we shot were mangled horribly, through shooting them with the rifle; but we cooked them under a tree as best we could, and ate in silence. So the day wore on till noon.

Glahn called out to me:

“Sure your gun is loaded? We might come across something unexpectedly. Load it, anyhow.”

“It is loaded,” I answered.

Then he disappeared a moment into the bush. I felt it would be a pleasure to shoot him then — pick him off and shoot him down like a dog. There was no hurry; he could still enjoy the thought of it for a bit. He knew well enough what I had in mind: that was why he had asked if my gun were loaded. Even to-day he could not refrain from giving way to his beastly pride. He had dressed himself up and put on a new shirt; his manner was, lordly beyond all bounds.

About one o’clock he stopped, pale and angry, in front of me, and said:

“I can’t stand this! Look and see if you’re loaded, man — if you’ve anything in your gun.”

“Kindly look after your own gun,” I answered. But I knew well enough why he kept asking about mine.

And he turned away again. My answer had so effectively put him in his place that he actually seemed cowed: he even hung his head as he walked off.

After a while I shot a pigeon, and loaded again. While I was doing so, I caught sight of Glahn standing half hidden behind a tree, watching me to see if I really loaded. A little later he started singing a hymn — and a wedding hymn into the bargain. Singing wedding hymns, and putting on his best clothes, I thought to myself — that’s his way of being extra fascinating to-day. Even before he had finished the hymn he began walking softly in front of me, hanging his head, and still singing as he walked. He was keeping right in front of the muzzle of my gun again, as if thinking to himself: Now it is coming, and that is why I am singing this wedding hymn! But it did not come yet, and when he had finished his singing he had to look back at me.

“We shan’t get much to-day anyhow, by the look of it,” he said, with a smile, as if excusing himself, and asking pardon of me for singing while we were out after game. But even at that moment his smile was beautiful. It was as if he were weeping inwardly, and his lips trembled, too, for all that he boasted of being able to smile at such a solemn moment.

I was no woman, and he saw well enough that he made no impression on me. He grew impatient, his face paled, he circled round me with hasty steps, showing up now to the left, now to the right of me, and stopping every now and then to wait for me to come up.

About five, I heard a shot all of a sudden, and a bullet sang past my left ear. I looked up. There was Glahn standing motionless a few paces off, staring at me; his smoking rifle lay along his arm. Had he tried to shoot me? I said:

“You missed that time. You’ve been shooting badly of late.”

But he had not been shooting badly. He never missed. He had only been trying to irritate me.

“Then take your revenge, damn you!” he shouted back.

“All in good time,” I said, clenching my teeth.

We stood there looking at each other. And suddenly Glahn shrugged his shoulders and called out “Coward” to me. And why should he call me a coward? I threw my rifle to my shoulder — aimed full in his face — fired.

As a man soweth . . .

Now, there is no need, I insist, for the Glahns to make further inquiry about this man. It annoys me to be constantly seeing their advertisements offering such and such reward for information about a dead man. Thomas Glahn was killed by accident — shot by accident when out on a hunting trip in India. The court entered his name, with the particulars of his end, in a register with pierced and threaded leaves. And in that register it says that he is dead — dead, I tell you — and what is more, that he was killed by accident.

This web edition published by:

The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005

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