Read CHAPTER VI - AT THE CLERK’S of The Visionary Pictures From Nordland, free online book, by Jonas Lie, on ReadCentral.com.

It was only two days before I was to start for Trondenaes in a vessel which was lying ready to go north.

While I was irresolutely considering every possible means of getting a last talk with Susanna before I started, there came a message from the clerk to say that I must be sure to come out to him the next day at eleven o’clock precisely; he would not be at home later.

The same morning that the message came Susanna had been at the clerk’s. Without saying a word, she sat down at the table with her face buried in her arms.

When the alarmed clerk pressed the “child of his heart” as he called her in his concern for an explanation, she at length lifted up a tear-stained face to him, and said she was crying because she was so very, very unhappy.

“But why, dear Susanna?”

“Because,” burst suddenly on his ear, “I love David, and he loves me, and we are engaged; but no one must know it except you and you will not betray us?”

With this last question she threw herself weeping upon the neck of the stunned and bewildered clerk, who in his heart was already won over, long before he had made out what it was he was undertaking.

He replaced Susanna in her chair, talked to her and comforted her until he had matured in his own mind the sensible reply, that we ought to look upon the coming two years of separation as trial years, and therefore, during that time, we ought not to write to one another. Only, he had to promise in return that we should meet the next morning at his house for a few moments, for a last farewell, and that, during the time I was away, he should tell her everything he heard about me.

When I came to him the next day, I found him sitting on a wooden chair, very serious and thoughtful, with his arms supported on his knees, and staring down at the floor, which was strewn with juniper, as if for a grand occasion. My arrival did not seem to disturb his reflections, although a little nod when I entered showed me that at any rate I was noticed. He swung his violin slowly backwards and forwards before his knees, with a gentle twang of the strings at each swing, so that it sounded like a far-off church bell. His gentle grey eyes rested on me with a pondering, critical gaze, as if he were really looking at me now for the first time, and a faint smile showed that the examination had not a bad result.

A little while after, a shadow crossed the doorway, and to my surprise Susanna came in. She came quickly up to me, blushing, and took my hand, saying:

“Dear David, the clerk knows everything; he has given us leave to say good-bye here.”

“Yes, children, I have,” said the clerk, “but only for a few moments, because Susanna begged so hard for it, and also that you may both hear my opinion of the whole thing after thinking it over.”

He now made a little speech, in which he said that he did not see anything very wrong in our loving one another, although we were indeed absurdly young. He hoped, too and he had thought a great deal about it that our not revealing our engagement to our parents was excusable, as they would scarcely even look at the matter as really serious, and we might feel hurt. He did not intend to be a receiver of secret love-letters, as Susanna had asked him, and that both for his own sake and for ours, because we ought to use the approaching two years of trial to see if there really were any truth in our love, or if it were only a childish fancy of the kind that afterwards evaporates.

With these words the old clerk good-naturedly left the room.

When we were alone, Susanna told me in a whisper why she had ventured to confide in the clerk. She had heard at home that in his youth he had once been disappointed in love, and that that was the reason why he had never married, and had become so strange. Then in eager haste she drew out of her pocket she still wore her old, short, blue-checked, every-day dress, but her hair “in grown-up fashion” a cross of small, blue beads. She also drew from her pocket a silk cord which I was to wear round my neck nearest my heart.

With some further trouble she produced from the pocket that contained so much, a small pair of scissors. With these she cut off a curl of my hair, just that black one on the temple, that she had long had her eye upon, she said, and which she meant to keep in her confirmation locket. When I asked for one of hers that I “had long had my eye upon,” she said it was not necessary, as the bead cross she had given me was threaded on her own hair.

Then there was something I must promise her, which she had thought out while she sat sewing at home, for she thought of so much then. It was, that when I became a student, I should give her a gold engagement ring with the inscription “David and Susanna” on one half of the inside, and on the other half there should be “like David and Jonathan.” It was the disagreement between our parents that had made her think of this.

“But,” she broke off, “you are not listening to me, David?”

And, indeed, I was thinking about something else, and that was, whether I dared give her a farewell kiss: I remembered last summer out among the Vaette Rocks.

At that moment there was a scraping of feet on the doorstep outside, which meant that the clerk thought our interview must soon come to an end, and, to my disappointment, Susanna hastened to hide the presents, which I still held in my hand, in my breast pocket. She had just done this when the clerk came in, and said that now we must say good-bye to one another.

Susanna looked at the clerk, and then, pale, and with eyes full of tears, at me, as if the thought that we were to part now struck her for the first time. She made a quick movement she evidently wanted to throw her arms round my neck, but restrained herself, because the clerk was present.

So she only took my hand, lifted it to her lips without saying a word and hurried away.

It was more than I could bear, and I think it was too much for the old clerk too. He walked up and down, gently twanging his violin strings, while I, at the table, let my tears flow freely.

Before I left he played a beautiful little piece which he had composed when he was twenty. It touched me deeply, because I felt as if it were written about Susanna and me; it echoed long after in my mind, so that I learnt it by heart.

“There is a continuation of it,” said he, when he had ended, and then after a short pause as of sad recollection “but it is not very cheerful, and is not suitable for you!”

The next morning early, when the yacht sailed, a handkerchief was waved from the drawing-room window in the parsonage, and, in answer, a glazed hat was lifted on board.