Read CHAPTER XI - CONCLUSION of The Visionary Pictures From Nordland, free online book, by Jonas Lie, on ReadCentral.com.

I can now calmly write down the little, for me so much, that remains to be told for many years it would have been impossible.

The storm lasted from Saturday midday until Sunday night, when towards morning the wind gradually subsided into complete stillness, although the sea continued restless.

The same day, Monday, at midday, there landed at the parsonage landing-place, not the minister’s white house-boat, that was expected home, but an ordinary tarred, ten-oared boat, with a number of people in it.

From it four of the men slowly bore a burden between them up to the house, while a big man and a little woman went, bowed down, hand in hand, after them. It was the minister and his wife.

I understood at once what had happened, and my heart cried with despair.

The dreadful message, which came to us directly after, told me nothing new it only confirmed my belief that it was the minister’s daughter Susanna they had borne up.

The parsonage boat had been only a little more than three-quarters of a mile away from home that Saturday morning when the storm came on so suddenly. A “windfall” had come down with terrible force from the mountains into the Sound, and had capsized the boat, which was not far from land.

The minister had quickly helped his wife up on to the boat, and the men held on round the edge, while they drifted before the wind the short distance in to the shore. But he searched in vain for his child, to find her and save her.

With the sea seething round the boat, the strong man three times in his despair let go his hold in order to swim to the place where he imagined he saw her in the water. He was going to try again, but his wife, in great distress, begged his men to hinder him, and they did so.

They said afterwards that they saw drops of perspiration running down the minister’s forehead, as he lay there on the boat in the wintry-cold sea, and that they believed he even thought of purposely letting go his hold that he might follow his daughter.

Too late they found out that Susanna was under the boat. She had become entangled in a rope, so that she could not rise to the surface.

Her death had at any rate been quick and painless.

The whole of Saturday and Sunday, while the storm lasted, they were compelled to lie weatherbound at a peasant’s house in the neighbourhood, where the minister’s wife had kept her bed from exhaustion and grief.

The minister had sat nearly the whole time in the large parlour where they had laid Susanna, and talked with his God; and on Monday morning, when they were to go home, he was resigned and cairn, arranged everything, and comforted his poor, weeping wife.

I had lain in dumb, despairing sorrow the whole afternoon and throughout the long night, and determined to go the next day and see Susanna for the last time.

Early in the forenoon, the minister unexpectedly entered our parlour, and asked to speak to my father. He looked pale and solemn as he sat on the sofa, with his stick in front of him, and waited.

When my father came in at the door, the minister rose and took his hand, while the tears stood in his eyes.

After a pause, as if to recover himself, he said that my father saw before him an unhappy but humble man, whom God had to chasten severely before his will would bend to Him. He wanted now, because of his unhappiness, to ask my father not to deny him his old friendship any longer.

Of the matter that had caused the estrangement he would not now speak; he had acted to the best of his judgment. There was, however, something else which now lay on his heart, and here he put his hand on my shoulder and drew me affectionately to him, as he once more sat down on the sofa.

His daughter Susanna, he continued, sighing at the name, a few days before God took her to Himself, had admitted him into her confidence, and told him that she had loved me from the time she was a child, and that we two had already given each other our promise, with the intention of telling our parents when I became a student.

At first he had been strongly opposed to the engagement for many reasons, first and foremost my health and our youth. But Susanna had shown such intense earnestness in the matter and expressed such determined will, that, knowing her nature, it became clear to him that this affection had been growing for many years and could not now be rooted up. And it was now the greatest comfort he had in the midst of his sorrow, that the same morning on which they were to start on their ill-fated journey home, he had given in, and had also promised to use his influence in getting my father to give his consent.

Instead of this he now stood without a daughter, and only as one bringing tidings that the disaster had fallen on my father’s house too, and struck his only child. He wished, he hoped with my father’s permission, henceforth to regard me as his son.

My father sat a long time, surprised and pale; he seemed to have great difficulty in taking in what was said.

At last he rose and in silence gave his hand to the minister. Then he laid it on my shoulder so that I felt its pressure, looked into my eyes and said, in a low, wonderfully gentle voice:

“The Lord be with you, my son! Sorrow has visited you young; only, do not be weak in bearing it!”

He was going out to leave us alone together, but bethought himself in the doorway, and said that I had better go with the minister and take a last farewell of Susanna.

A little later the minister and I were walking side by side along the road. Our relations had now become confidential, and to comfort me he told me all that Susanna had said to induce him to consent. She knew, thank God, he concluded with a sigh of relief, that she had in her father a friend in whom she could confide in the hour of need.

The minister led me into the room with its drawn blinds; he stood for a moment by the bier, then the tears fell like rain down his broad, strong face, and he turned and went out.

She lay there in her maidenly white dress. They had twined a wreath of green leaves with white flowers about her head, and for a moment I saw again the vision I had at the ball. The delicate hands now lay meekly folded upon her breast, and on the engagement finger I recognised with tears my own old bronze ring with the purple glass stones in it, that she had worn from the moment she had obtained her father’s consent. The expression of the mouth, so energetic in life, was transformed in death into a quiet, happy smile, in which her beautiful delicate face, with its broad pure marble brow shone with a heavenly radiance; she lay in such innocent security, as if she now knew the secret of true love’s victory over everything here on earth, and was only gone in advance, with white wings on her shoulders, to teach it to me, since God had not allowed her to share the burden of my cross here below.

When I noticed that they wanted me to go, I silently repeated “Our Father” over her as a last farewell, pressed one gentle kiss upon her brow, then one upon her mouth, and one upon her folded hands where the bronze ring was, and went out without looking back.

Two days after, I followed Susanna’s remains to the grave.

One sunshiny day in winter, when I as usual visited the place where she rested in the churchyard, the snow had drifted over her grave. It lay pure and dazzlingly white, with the fine upper edge like translucent marble in the sunlight.

I took this to mean that Susanna would have me think of her in her shining bridal dress before God, in order to give me courage to go my lonely way through life, and not to fear that the hardest of all trials even insanity, if it came and enthralled me in its confusion could separate us.

Late in the summer, when I was to go south by the steamer, together with the minister and his wife, who had both, in a short time, aged perceptibly, and who were now moving to a southern parish, I went for the last time to take leave of my sorrowful friend, the clerk.

He played the beautiful, joyful, beloved piece again for me, which he had composed when he was twenty, and which I had thought suited Susanna and me so well, and now he played the continuation too it was wonderfully touching and sad, but with comfort in it, like a psalm.

Thus ends a poor, delicate Nordlander’s simple story; for to tell how, with my father’s help, I became a student with “laud” [There are four grades in the Academic Degrees Examination viz., laudabilis prae ceteris, laudabilis, haud illaudabilis, and non-contemnendus.] he died the same year that I passed my Examen artium, a respected but ruined man and how I afterwards became something of a literary man, a private tutor and a master in a school, is only to relate the outward circumstances of a monotonous life, whose thoughts all dwell in the past.

My love for Susanna has, as she said to me with such confidence, been the fountain of health that saved me from the worst madness. When restlessness came over me, and I roamed about aimlessly in field and forest, it always came to a crisis, when I saw her, in her white dress, floating by a little way off, or sometimes even coming gently towards me; then the danger was over for the time.

During the last two years, when I have been getting worse, I have not been fortunate enough to see her, and have had a dreary time, often as if the darkness were closing helplessly round me.

But not long ago, as I lay ill in my garret, Susanna came one night, when the full moon was shining, up to the bed, in her white bridal dress, with a wreath upon her beautiful hair, and beckoned to me with the hand that bore the ring. I know she came to bring me the glad tidings that I shall soon go hence and see again the love of my youth.