“Why, sir, in the universal game
of double-dealing, shall not the cleverest tricksters
play each other false by haphazard, and so betray
their closest secrets, to their own and their friends’
infinite amazement?” CONGREVE.
When Olaf Gueldmar and his daughter
left the yacht that evening, Errington accompanied
them, in order to have the satisfaction of escorting
his beautiful betrothed as far as her own door.
They were all three very silent the bonde
was pensive, Thelma shy, and Errington himself was
too happy for speech. Arriving at the farmhouse,
they saw Sigurd curled up under the porch, playing
idly with the trailing rose-branches, but, on hearing
their footsteps, he looked up, uttered a wild exclamation,
and fled. Gueldmar tapped his own forehead significantly.
“He grows worse and worse, the
poor lad!” he said somewhat sorrowfully.
“And yet there is a strange mingling of foresight
and wit with his wild fancies. Wouldst thou believe
it, Thelma, child,” and here he turned to his
daughter and encircled her waist with his arm “he
seemed to know how matters were with thee and Philip,
when I was yet in the dark concerning them!”
This was the first allusion her father
had made to her engagement, and her head drooped with
a sort of sweet shame.
“Nay, now, why hide thy face?”
went on the old man cheerily. “Didst thou
think I would grudge my bird her summer-time?
Not I! And little did I hope for thee, my darling,
that thou wouldst find a shelter worthy of thee in
this wild world!” He paused a moment, looking
tenderly down upon her, as she nestled in mute affection
against his breast, then addressing himself
to Errington, he went on
“We have a story in our Norse
religion, my lad, of two lovers who declared their
passion to each other, on one stormy night in the depth
of winter. They were together in a desolate hut
on the mountains, and around them lay unbroken tracts
of frozen snow. They were descended from the
gods, and therefore the gods protected them and
it happened that after they had sworn their troth,
the doors of the snow-bound hut flew suddenly open,
and lo! the landscape had changed the hills
were gay with grass and flowers, the sky
was blue and brilliant, the birds sang, and everywhere
was heard the ripple of waters let loose from their
icy fetters, and gamboling down the rocks in the joyous
sun. This was the work of the goddess Friga, the
first kiss exchanged by the lovers she watched over,
banished Winter from the land, and Spring came instead.
’Tis a pretty story, and true all the world over true
for all men and women of all creeds! It must
be an ice-bound heart indeed that will not warm to
the touch of love and mine, though aged,
grows young again in the joy of my children.”
He put his daughter gently from him to-wards Philip,
saying with more gravity, “Go to him, child! go with
thy old father’s blessing! And take with
thee the three best virtues of a wife, truth,
humility, and obedience. Good night, my son!”
and he wrung Errington’s hand with fervor.
“You’ll take longer to say good night to
Thelma,” and he laughed, “so I’ll
go in and leave you to it!”
And with a good-natured nod, he entered
the house whistling a tune as he went, that they might
not think he imagined himself lonely or neglected, and
the two lovers paced slowly up and down the garden-path
together, exchanging those first confidences which
to outsiders seem so eminently foolish, but which
to those immediately concerned are most wonderful,
delightful, strange, and enchanting beyond all description.
Where, from a practical point of view, is the sense
of such questions as these “When
did you love me first?” “What did you feel
when I said so-and-so?” “Have you dreamt
of me often?” “Will you love me always,
always, always?” and so on ad infinitum.
“Ridiculous rubbish!” exclaims the would-be
strong-minded, but secretly savage old maid, and
the selfishly matter-of-fact, but privately fidgety
and lonely old bachelor. Ah! but there are those
who could tell you that at one time or another of
their lives this “ridiculous rubbish” seemed
far more important than the decline and fall of empires, more
necessary to existence than light and air, more
fraught with hope, fear, suspense, comfort, despair,
and anxiety than anything that could be invented or
imagined! Philip and Thelma, man and
woman in the full flush of youth, health, beauty,
and happiness, had just entered their Paradise, their
fairy-garden, and every little flower and
leaf on the way had special, sweet interest for them.
Love’s indefinable glories, Love’s
proud possibilities, Love’s long
ecstasies, these, like so many spirit-figures,
seemed to smile and beckon them on, on, on, through
golden seas of sunlight, through flower-filled
fields of drowsy entrancement, through
winding ways of rose-strewn and lily-scented leafage, on,
on, with eyes and hearts absorbed in one another, unseeing
any end to the dreamlike wonders that, like some heavenly
picture-scroll, unrolled slowly and radiantly before
them. And so they murmured those unwise, tender
things which no wisdom in the world has ever surpassed,
and when Philip at last said “Good night!”
with more reluctance than Romeo, and pressed his parting
kiss on his love’s sweet, fresh mouth, the
riddle with which he had puzzled himself so often was
resolved at last, life was worth
living, worth cherishing, worth ennobling. The
reason of all things seemed clear to him, Love,
and Love only, supported, controlled, and grandly
completed the universe! He accepted this answer
to all perplexities, his heart expanded
with a sense of large content his soul
Meanwhile, during his friend’s
absence from the yacht, Lorimer took it upon himself
to break the news to Duprez and Macfarlane. These
latter young gentlemen had had their suspicions already,
but they were not quite prepared to hear them so soon
confirmed. Lorimer told the matter in his own
“I say, you fellows!”
he remarked carelessly, as he sat smoking in their
company on deck, “you’d better look out!
If you stare at Miss Gueldmar too much, you’ll
have Phil down upon you!”
“Ha, ha!” exclaimed Duprez
slyly, “the dear Phil-eep is in love?”
“Something more than that,”
said Lorimer, looking absently at the cigarette he
held between his fingers, “he’s
an engaged man.”
“Engaged!” cried Macfarlane
excitedly. “Ma certes! He has the deevil’s
own luck! He’s just secured for himself
the grandest woman in the warld!”
“Je lé crois bien!”
said Duprez gravely, nodding his head several times.
“Phil-eep is a wise boy! He is the fortunate
one! I am not for marriage at all no!
not for myself, it is to tie one’s
hands, to become a prisoner, and that would
not suit me; but if I were inclined to captivity,
I should like Mademoiselle Gueldmar for my beautiful
gaoler. And beautiful she is, mon Dieu!
. . . beyond all comparison!”
Lorimer was silent, so was Macfarlane.
After a pause Duprez spoke again.
“And do you know, cher
Lorimer, when our Phil-eep will marry?”
“I haven’t the slightest
idea,” returned Lorimer. “I know he’s
engaged, that’s all.”
Suddenly Macfarlane broke into a chuckling laugh.
“I say, Lorimer,” he said,
with his deep-set, small grey eyes sparkling with
mischief. “’Twould be grand fun to see
auld Dyceworthy’s face when he hears o’t.
By the Lord! He’ll fall to cursin’
an’ swearin’ like ma pious aunt in Glasgie,
or that auld witch that cursed Miss Thelma yestreen!”
“An eminently unpleasant old
woman she was!” said Lorimer musingly.
“I wonder what she meant by it!”
“She meant, mon cher,”
said Duprez airily, “that she knew herself to
be ugly and venerable, while Mademoiselle was youthful
and ravishing, it is a sufficient reason
to excite profanity in the mind of a lady!”
“Here comes Errington!”
said Macfarlane, pointing to the approaching boat
that was coming swiftly back from the Gueldmars’
pier. “Lorimer, are we to congratulate
“If you like!” returned
Lorimer. “I dare say he won’t object.”
So that as soon as Sir Philip set
foot on the yacht, his hands were cordially grasped,
and his friends out-vied each other in good wishes
for his happiness. He thanked them simply and
with a manly straightforwardness, entirely free from
the usual affected embarrassment that some modern
young men think it seemly to adopt under similar circumstances.
“The fact is,” he said
frankly, “I congratulate myself, I’m
more lucky than I deserve, I know!”
“What a sensation she will make
in London, Phil!” said Lorimer suddenly.
“I’ve just thought of it! Good Heavens!
Lady Winsleigh will cry for sheer spite and vexation!”
Philip laughed. “I hope
not,” he said. “I should think it
would need immense force to draw a tear from her ladyship’s
cold bright eyes.”
“She used to like you awfully,
Phil!” said Lorimer. “You were a great
favorite of hers.”
“All men are her favorites with
the exception of one her husband!”
observed Errington gaily. “Come along, let’s
have some champagne to celebrate the day! We’ll
propose toasts and drink healths we’ve
got a fair excuse for jollity this evening.”
They all descended into the saloon,
and had a merry time of it, singing songs and telling
good stories, Lorimer being the gayest of the party,
and it was long past midnight when they retired to
their cabins, without even looking at the wonders
of, perhaps, the most gorgeous sky that had yet shone
on their travels a sky of complete rose-color,
varying from the deepest shade up to the palest, in
which the sun glowed with a subdued radiance like
an enormous burning ruby.
Thelma saw it, standing under her
house-porch, where her father had joined her, Sigurd
saw it, he had come out from some thicket
where he had been hiding, and he now sat, in a humble,
crouching posture at Thelma’s feet. All
three were silent, reverently watching the spreading
splendor of the heavens. Once Gueldmar addressed
his daughter in a soft tone.
“Thou are happy, my bird?”
She smiled the expression of her face was
almost divine in its rapture.
“Perfectly happy, my father!”
At the sound of her dulcet voice,
Sigurd looked up. His large blue eyes were full
of tears, he took her hand and held it in his meagre
and wasted one.
“Mistress!” he said suddenly, “do
you think I shall soon die?”
She turned her pitying eyes down upon
him, startled by the vibrating melancholy of his tone.
“Thou wilt die, Sigurd,”
answered Gueldmar gently, “when the gods please, not
one second sooner or later. Art thou eager to
Sigurd nodded dreamily. “They
will understand me there!” he murmured.
“And I shall grow straight and strong and brave!
Mistress, if you meet me in Valhalla, you will love
She stroked his wild fair locks.
“I love you now, Sigurd,” she said tenderly.
“But perhaps we shall all love each other better
“Yes, yes!” exclaimed
Sigurd, patting her hand caressingly. “When
we are all dead, dead! When our bodies crumble
away and turn to flowers and birds and butterflies, and
our souls come out like white and red flames, yes!
. . . then we shall love each other and talk of such
strange, strange things!” He paused and laughed
wildly. Then his voice sank again into melancholy
monotony and he added: “Mistress,
you are killing poor Sigurd!”
Thelma’s face grow very earnest
and anxious. “Are you vexed with me, dear?”
she asked soothingly. “Tell me what it is
that troubles you?”
Sigurd met her eyes with a look of
speechless despair and shook his head.
“I cannot tell you!” he
muttered. “All my thoughts have gone to
drown themselves one by one in the cold sea!
My heart was buried yesterday, and I saw it sealed
down into its coffin. There is something of me
left, something that dances before me like
a flame, but it will not rest, it does
not obey me. I call it, but it will not come!
And I am getting tired, mistress very,
very tired!” His voice broke, and a low sob
escaped him, he hid his face in the folds
of her dress. Gueldmar looked at the poor fellow
“The wits wander further and
further away!” he said to his daughter in a
low tone. “’Tis a mind like a broken rainbow,
split through by storm ’twill soon
vanish. Be patient with him, child, it
cannot be for long!”
“No, not for long!” cried
Sigurd, raising his head brightly. “That
is true not for long! Mistress, will
you come to-morrow with me and gather flowers?
You used to love to wander with your poor boy in the
fields, but you have forgotten, and
I cannot find any blossoms without you! They
will not show themselves unless you come! Will
you? dear, beautiful mistress! will you come?”
She smiled, pleased to see him a little
more cheerful. “Yes, Sigurd,” she
said; “I will come. We will go together
early to-morrow morning and gather all the flowers
we can find. Will that make you happy?”
“Yes!” he said, softly
kissing the hem of her dress. “It will make
me happy for the last time.”
Then he rose in an attitude of attention,
as though he had been called by some one at a distance, and
with a grave, preoccupied air he moved away, walking
on tip-toe as though he feared to interrupt the sound
of some soft invisible music. Gueldmar sighed
as he watched him disappear.
“May the gods make us thankful
for a clear brain when we have it!” he said
devoutly; and then turning to his daughter, he bade
her good night, and laid his hands on her golden head
in silent but fervent blessing. “Child,”
he said tremulously, “in the new joys that await
thee, never forget how thy old father loves thee!”
Then, not trusting himself to say
more, he strode into the house and betook himself
to slumber. Thelma followed his example, and the
old farmhouse was soon wrapped in the peace and stillness
of the strange night a night of glittering
sunshine. Sigurd alone was wakeful, he
lay at the foot of one of the tallest pine-trees,
and stared persistently at the radiant sky through
the network of dark branches. Now and then he
smiled as though he saw some beatific vision sometimes
he plucked fitfully at the soft long moss on which
he had made his couch, and sometimes he broke into
a low, crooning song. God alone knew the broken
ideas, the dim fancies, the half born desires, that
glimmered like pale ghosts in the desert of his brain, God
alone, in the great Hereafter, could solve the problem
of his sorrows and throw light on his soul’s
It was past six in the morning when
he arose, and smoothing back his tangled locks, went
to Thelma’s window and sat down beneath it, in
mute expectancy. He had not long to wait, at
the expiration of ten or fifteen minutes, the little
lattice was thrown wide open, and the girl’s
face, fresh as a rose, framed in a shower of amber
locks, smiled down upon him.
“I am coming, Sigurd!”
she cried softly and joyously. “How lovely
the morning is! Stay for me there! I shall
not be long.”
And she disappeared, leaving her window
open. Sigurd heard her singing little scraps
of song to herself, as she moved about in the interior
of her room. He listened, as though his soul
were drawn out of him by her voice, but
presently the rich notes ceased, and there was a sudden
silence. Sigurd knew or guessed the reason of
that hush, Thelma was at her prayers.
Instinctively the poor forlorn lad folded his wasted
hands most piteously and most imploringly
he raised his bewildered eyes to the blue and golden
glory of the sky. His conception of God was indefinable;
his dreams of heaven, chaotic minglings of fairy-land
with Valhalla, but he somehow felt that
wherever Thelma’s holy aspirations turned, there
the angels must be listening.
Presently she came out of the house,
looking radiant as the morning itself, her
luxuriant hair was thrown back over her shoulders,
and fell loosely about her in thick curls, simply
confined by a knot of blue ribbon. She carried
a large osier basket, capacious, and gracefully shaped.
“Now, Sigurd,” she called
sweetly, “I am ready! Where shall we go?”
Sigurd hastened to her side, happy and smiling.
“Across there,” he said,
pointing toward the direction of Bosekop. “There
is a stream under the trees that laughs to itself all
day you know it, mistress? And the
poppies are in the field as you go and by
the banks there are the heart’s-ease flowers we
cannot have too many of them! Shall we
“Wherever you like, dear,”
answered Thelma tenderly, looking down from her stately
height on the poor stunted creature at her side, who
held her dress as though he were a child clinging
to her as his sole means of guidance. “All
the land is pleasant to-day.”
They left the farm and its boundaries.
A few men were at work on one of Gueldmar’s
fields, and these looked up, half in awe,
half in fear, as Thelma and her fantastic
servitor passed along.
“’Tis a fine wench!”
said one man, resting on his spade, and following
with his eyes the erect, graceful figure of his employer’s
“Maybe, maybe!” said another
gruffly; “but a fine wench is a snare of the
devil! Do ye mind what Lovisa Elsland told us?”
“Ay, ay,” answered the
first speaker, “Lovisa knows, Lovisa
is the wisest woman we have in these parts that’s
true! The girl’s a witch, for sure!”
And they resumed their work in gloomy
silence. Not one of them would have willingly
labored on Olaf Gueldmar’s land, had not the
wages he offered been above the usual rate of hire, and
times were bad in Norway. But otherwise, the
superstitious fear of him was so great that his fields
might have gone untilled and his crops ungathered, however,
as matters stood, none of them could deny that he was
a good paymaster, and just in his dealings with those
whom he employed.
Thelma and Sigurd took their way in
silence across a perfumed stretch of meadow-land, the
one naturally fertile spot in that somewhat barren
district. Plenty of flowers blossomed at their
feet, but they did not pause to gather these, for
Sigurd was anxious to get to the stream where the
purple pansies grew. They soon reached it it
was a silvery clear ribbon of water that unrolled
itself in bright folds, through green, transparent
tunnels of fern and waving grass leaping
now and then with a swift dash over a smooth block
of stone or jagged rock but for the most
part gliding softly, with a happy, self-satisfied murmur,
as though it were some drowsy spirit dreaming joyous
dreams. Here nodded the grave, purple-leaved
pansies, legendary consolers of the heart, their
little, quaint, expressive physiognomies turned in
every direction; up to the sky, as though absorbing
the sunlight, down to the ground, with
an almost severe air of meditation, or curled sideways
on their stems in a sort of sly reflectiveness.
Sigurd was among them at once they
were his friends, his playmates, his favorites, and
he gathered them quickly, yet tenderly, murmuring as
he did so, “Yes, you must all die; but death
does not hurt; no! life hurts, but not death!
See! as I pluck you, you all grow wings and fly away away
to other meadows, and bloom again.” He paused,
and a puzzled look came into his eyes. He turned
toward Thelma, who had seated herself on a little
knoll just above the stream, “Tell me, mistress,”
he said, “do the flowers go to heaven?”
She smiled. “I think so,
dear Sigurd,” she said; “I hope so!
I am almost sure they do.”
Sigurd nodded with an air of satisfaction.
“That is right,” he observed.
“It would never do to leave them behind, you
know! They would be missed, and we should have
to come down again and fetch them ”
A crackling among the branches of some trees startled
him, he looked round, and uttered a peculiar
cry like the cry of a wild animal, and exclaimed,
“Spies, spies! ha! ha! secret, wicked faces that
are afraid to show themselves! Come out!
Mistress, mistress! make them come out!”
Thelma rose, surprised as his gesticulations,
and came towards him; to her utter astonishment she
found herself confronted by old Lovisa Elsland, and
the Reverend Mr. Dyceworthy’s servant, Ulrika.
On both women’s faces there was a curious expression
of mingled fear, triumph, and malevolence. Lovisa
was the first to break silence.
“At last!” she croaked,
in a sort of slow, monotonous tone “At last,
Thelma Gueldmar, the Lord has delivered you into my
Thelma drew Sigurd close to her, and
slipped one arm around him.
“Poor soul!” she said
softly, with sweet pitying eyes fixed fearlessly on
the old hag’s withered, evil visage. “You
must be tired, wandering about on the hills as you
do! If you are her friend,” she added,
addressing Ulrika, “why do you not make her rest
at home and keep warm? She is so old and feeble!”
“Feeble!” shrieked Lovisa;
“feeble!” And she seemed choking with
passion. “If I had my fingers at your throat,
you should then see if I am feeble! I ”
Ulrika pulled her by the arm, and whispered something
which had the effect of calming her a little.
“Well,” she said, “you speak then!
I can wait!”
Ulrika cleared her husky voice, and
fixed her dull eyes on the girl’s radiant countenance.
“You must go away,” she
said coldly and briefly; “You and your father,
and this creature,” and she pointed contemptuously
to the staring Sigurd. “Do you understand?
You must leave the Alten Fjord. The people are
tired of you tired of bad harvests, ill-luck,
sickness, and continued poverty. You are the
cause of all our miseries, and we have
resolved you shall not stay among us. Go quickly, take
the blight and pestilence of your presence elsewhere!
Go! or if you will not ”
“We shall burn, burn, burn,
and utterly destroy!” interrupted Lovisa, with
a sort of eldritch shriek. “The strong pine
rafters of Olaf Gueldmar’s dwelling shall be
kindled into flame to light the hills with crimson,
far and near! Not a plank shall be spared! not
a vestige of his pride be left ”
“Stop!” said Thelma quietly.
“What do you mean? You must both be very
mad or very wicked! You want us to go away you
threaten to set fire to our home why?
We have done you no harm. Tell me, poor soul!”
and she turned with queenly forbearance to Lovisa,
“is it for Britta’s sake that you would
burn the house she lives in? That is not wise!
You cursed me the other day, and why?
What have I done that you should hate me?”
The old woman regarded her with steadfast, cruel eyes.
“You are your mother’s
child!” she said. “I hated her I
hate you! You are a witch! the village
knows it Mr. Dyceworthy knows it! Mr.
Dyceworthy says we shall be justified in the Lord’s
sight for wreaking evil upon you! Evil, evil
be on those of evil deeds!”
“Then shall the evil fall on
Mr. Dyceworthy,” said the girl calmly. “He
is wicked in himself, and doubly wicked
to encourage you in wickedness. He is
ignorant and false why do you believe in
such a man?”
“He is a saint a
saint!” cried Lovisa wildly. “And
shall the daughter of Satan withstand his power?”
And she clapped her hands in a sort of fierce ecstasy.
Thelma glanced at her pityingly and
smiled. “A saint! Poor thing, how
little you know him!” she said. “And
it is a pity you should hate me, for I have done you
no wrong. I would do good to all if I knew how, tell
me can I comfort you, or make your life more cheerful?
It must be hard to be so old and all alone!”
“Your death would comfort me!”
returned Lovisa grimly. “Why do you keep
Britta from me?”
“I do not keep her,” Thelma
answered. “She stays with me because she
is happy. Why do you grudge her, her happiness?
And as for burning my father’s house, surely
you would not do so wicked and foolish a thing! but
still, you must do as you choose, for it is not possible
that we shall leave the Altenfjord to please you.”
Here Ulrika started forward angrily.
“You defy us!” she cried. “You
will not go?” And in her excitement she seized
Thelma’s arm roughly.
This action was too much for Sigurd;
he considered it an attack on the person of his beloved
mistress and he resented it at once in his own fashion.
Throwing himself on Ulrika with sudden ferocity, he
pushed and beat her back as though he were a wolf-hound
struggling with refractory prey; and though the ancient
Lovisa rushed to the rescue, and Thelma imploringly
called upon her zealous champion to desist, all
remonstrances were unavailing, till Sigurd had reduced
his enemy to the most abject and whimpering terror.
“A demon a demon!”
she sobbed and moaned, as the valiant dwarf at last
released her from his clutches; and, tossing his long,
fair locks over his misshapen shoulders, laughed loudly
and triumphantly with delight at his victory.
“Lovisa! Lovisa Elsland! this is your doing;
you brought this upon me! I may die now, and
you will not care! O Lord, Lord, have mercy ”
Suddenly she stopped; her eyes dilated, her
face grew grey with the sickening pallor of fear.
Slowly she raised her hand and pointed to Sigurd his
fantastic dress had become disordered in the affray,
and his jacket was torn open, and on his
bare chest a long red scar in the shape of a cross
was distinctly visible. “That scar!”
she muttered. “How did he get that scar?”
Lovisa stared at her in impatient
derision. Thelma was too surprised to answer
immediately, and Sigurd took it upon himself to furnish
what he considered a crushing reply.
“Odin’s mark!” he
said, patting the scar with much elation. “No
wonder you are afraid of it! Everybody knows
it birds, flowers, trees, and stars!
Even you you are afraid!”
And he laughed again, and snapped
his fingers in her face. The woman shuddered
violently. Step by step she drew near to the wondering
Thelma, and spoke in low and trembling accents, without
a trace of her former anger.
“They say you are wicked,”
she said slowly, “and that the devil has your
soul ready, before you are dead! But I am not
afraid of you. No; I will forgive you, and pray
for you, if you will tell me, . . .” She
paused, and then continued, as with a strong effort.
“Yes tell me who is this Sigurd?”
“Sigurd is a foundling,”
answered Thelma simply. “He was floating
about in the Fjord in a basket, and my father saved
him. He was quite a baby. He had this scar
on his chest then. He has lived with us ever since.”
Ulrika looked at her searchingly, then
bent her head, whether in gratitude or
despair it was difficult to say.
“Lovisa Elsland,” she
said monotonously, “I am going home. I cannot
help you any longer! I am tired ill.”
Here she suddenly broke down, and, throwing up her
arms with a wild gesture, she cried, “O God,
God! O God!” and burst into a stormy passion
of sobs and tears.
Thelma, touched by her utter misery,
would have offered consolation, but Lovisa repelled
her with a fierce gesture.
“Go!” said the old woman
harshly. “You have cast your spells upon
her I am witness of your work! And
shall you escape just punishment? No; not while
there is a God in heaven, and I, Lovisa Elsland, live
to perform His bidding! Go, white
devil that you are! go and carry misfortune
upon misfortune to your fine gentleman-lover!
Ah!” and she chuckled maliciously as the girl
recoiled from her, her proud face growing suddenly
paler, “have I touched you there? Lie in
his breast, and it shall be as though a serpent stung
him, kiss his lips, and your touch shall
be poison, live in doubt, and die in misery!
Go! and may all evil follow you!”
She raised her staff and waved it
majestically, as though she drew a circle in the air, Thelma
smiled pityingly, but deigned no answer to her wild
“Come, Sigurd!” she said
simply, “let us return home. It is growing
late father will wonder where we are.”
“Yes, yes,” agreed Sigurd,
seizing the basket full of the pansies he had plucked.
“The sunshine is slipping away, and we cannot
live with shadows! These are not real women,
mistress; they are dreams black dreams, I
have often fought with dreams, and I know how to make
them afraid! See how the one weeps because she
knows me, and the other is just going to
fall into a grave. I can hear the clods thrown
on her head thump thump!
It does not take long to bury a dream! Come,
mistress, let us follow the sunshine!”
And, taking the hand she extended
towards him, he turned away, looking back once, however,
to call out loudly
“Good-bye, bad dreams!”
As they disappeared behind the trees,
Lovisa turned angrily to the still-sobbing Ulrika.
“What is this folly?”
she exclaimed, striking her staff fiercely into the
ground. “Art mad or bewitched?”
Ulrika looked up, her plain
face swollen and stained with weeping.
“O Lord, have mercy upon me!
O Lord, forgive me!” she moaned. “I
did not know it how could I know?”
Lovisa grew so impatient that she
seized her by the shoulder and shook her violently.
“Know what?” she cried; “know what?”
“Sigurd is my son!” said
Ulrika, with a sort of solemn resignation, then,
with a sudden gesture, she threw her hands above her
head, crying, “My son, my son! The child
I thought I had killed! The Lord be praised I
did not murder him!”
Lovisa Elsland seemed stupefied with
surprise. “Is this the truth?” she
asked at last, slowly and incredulously.
“The truth, the truth!”
cried Ulrika passionately. “It is always
the truth that comes to light! He is my child,
I tell you! . . . I gave him that scar!”
She paused, shuddering, and continued in a lower tone,
“I tried to kill him with a knife, but when
the blood flowed, it sickened me, and I could not!
He was an infant abortion the evil fruit
of an evil deed and I threw him out to
the waves, as I told you, long ago.
You have had good use of my confession, Lovisa Elsland;
you have held me in your power by means of my secret,
but now ”
The old woman interrupted her with
a low laugh of contempt and malice.
“As the parents are, so are
the children!” she said scornfully. “Your
lover must have been a fine man, Ulrika, if the son
is like his father!”
Ulrika glared at her vengefully, then
drew herself up with an air of defiance.
“I care nothing for your taunts,
Lovisa Elsland!” she said. “You can
do me no harm! All is over between us! I
will help in no mischief against the Gueldmars.
Whatever their faults, they saved my child!”
“Is that so great a blessing?” asked Lovisa
“It makes your threats useless,”
answered Ulrika. “You cannot call me murderess
“Coward and fool!” shrieked
Lovisa. “Was it your intent that
the child should live? Were you not glad to think
it dead? And cannot I spread the story of your
infamy through all the villages where you are known?
Is not the wretched boy himself a living witness of
the attempt you made to kill him? Does not that
scar speak against you? Would not Olaf Gueldmar
relate the story of the child’s rescue to any
one that asked him? Would you like all Bosekop
to know of your intrigue with an escaped criminal,
who was afterwards caught and hung! The virtuous
Ulrika the zealous servant of the Gospel the
pious, praying Ulrika!” and the old woman trembled
with rage and excitement. “Out of my power?
Never, never! As long as there is breath in my
body I will hold you down! Not a murderess,
you say ?”
“No,” said Ulrika very
calmly, with a keen look, “I am not but