Read MAN AND WIFE of Strife and Peace , free online book, by Fredrika Bremer, on ReadCentral.com.

A FRESH STRIFE.

And I will show what a fellow I am!
My master I am incensed!

SIFUL SIFADDA.

We have said that Harald, just as little as Griselda’s blessed husband, appeared to like a life which flowed like oil. Perhaps it seemed to him that his intercourse with Susanna was now assuming this character, and therefore was it perhaps that, as he could no longer excite her abhorrence as a misanthropist, one fine day he undertook to irritate her as a woman-tyrant.

“I am expecting my sister here one of these days,” said he one evening in a disrespectful tone to Susanna; “I have occasion for her, to sew a little for me, and to put my things in order. Alette is a good, clever girl, and I think of keeping her with me till I marry, and can be waited on by my wife.”

“Waited on by your wife!” exclaimed Susanna one may easily conceive in what a tone.

“Yes, certainly. The woman is made to be subject to the man; and I do not mean to teach my wife otherwise. I mean to be master in my house, I.”

“The Norwegian men must be despots, tyrants, actual Heathens and Turks!” said Susanna.

“Every morning,” said Harald, “precisely at six o’clock, my wife shall get up and prepare my coffee.”

“But if she will not?”

“Will not? I will teach her to will, I. And if she will not by fair means, then she shall by foul. I tolerate no disobedience, not I; and this I mean to teach in the most serious manner; and if she does not wish to experience this, why then I advise her to rise at six o’clock, boil my coffee, and bring it me up to bed.”

“Nay, never did I hear anything like this! You are the sole God have mercy on the wives of this abominable country!”

“And a good dinner,” continued Harald, “shall she set before me every day at noon, or I shall not be in the best temper! And she must not come with her ’Fattig Leilighed’ more than once a fortnight; and then I demand that it shall be made right savoury.”

“If you will have good eating, then you must make good provision for the housekeeping,” said Susanna.

“That I shall not trouble myself about; that my wife must care for. She shall provide stores for housekeeping how she can.”

“I hope, then,” said Susanna, “you will never have a wife, except she be a regular Xantippe.”

“For that we know a remedy; and therefore, to begin with, every evening she shall pull off my boots. All that is necessary is, for a man to begin in time to maintain his authority; for the women are by nature excessively fond of ruling.”

“And that because the men are tyrants,” said Susanna.

“And besides,” continued Harald, “so horribly petty-minded.”

“Because,” retorted Susanna, “the men have engrossed to themselves all matters of importance.”

“And are so full of caprice,” said Harald.

“Because the men,” said Susanna, “are so brimful of conceit.”

“And so fickle,” added Harald.

“Because the men,” retorted Susanna, “are not deserving of constancy.”

“And so obstinate and violent,” continued Harald.

“When the men,” said Susanna, “are absurd.”

“But I,” proceeded Harald, very sharply, “do not like an obstinate, passionate, imperious woman. It is in general the men themselves who spoil them; they are too patient, too conceding, too obliging. But in my house it shall be different. I do not intend to spoil my wife. On the contrary, she shall learn to show herself patient, devoted, and attentive to me; and for this purpose I intend to send for my dear sister. She must not expect that I shall move from the spot for her sake; she must not

At this moment a carriage was heard to drive into the court, and stop before the door. Harald looked through the window, made an exclamation of surprise and joy, and darted like an arrow out of the room. Susanna in her turn looked with anxiety through the window, and saw Harald lift a lady from the carriage, whom he then warmly and long folded in his arms, and quitted only to take from her the boxes and packages which she would bring out, and loaded himself with them.

“Oh, indeed!” thought Susanna, “it is thus then that it stands with his tyranny:” and satisfied that it was Harald’s sister whom she thus received, she went into the kitchen to make some preparations for supper.

When she returned to the sitting-room, she found the brother and sister there. With beaming eyes Harald presented to Susanna “My sister Alette!” And then he began to dance about with her, laughing and singing. Never had Susanna seen him so thoroughly glad at heart.

At supper Harald had eyes only for his sister, whom he did nothing but wait upon with jest and merriment, now and then playing her, indeed, some joke, for which she scolded him; and this only seemed to enliven him still more. Mrs. Astrid had this evening never quitted her room, and Harald could therefore all the more enjoy himself with Alette. After supper, he took his seat beside her on the sofa, and with her hand in his, he reminded her of the days of childhood, and how little they were then able to endure each other.

“You were then so intolerably provoking,” said Alette.

“And you so unbearably genteel and high,” said Harald. “Do you remember how we used to wrangle at breakfast? That is, how I did, for you never made much answer, but carried yourself so excessively knowingly and loftily, because you were then a little taller than I.”

“And I remember, too, how you sometimes quitted the field, left the breakfast, and complained to our mother you could not support my genteel airs.”

“Yes, if that had but in the end availed me anything. But I was compelled to hear, ’Alette is much more sensible than you. Alette is much more steady than you.’ That had a bitter taste with it; but as some amends, I ate up your confectionary.”

“Yes, you rogue you, that you did; and then persuaded me into the bargain that a rat had done it.”

“Ay, I was a graceless lad, good for nothing, conceited, intolerable!”

“And I a tiresome girl, a little old woman, peevish and sanctified. For every trick you played me I gave you a moral lecture.”

“Nay, not one, my sister, but seven, and more than that. That was too strong for anything!” exclaimed Harald, laughing, and kissing Alette’s hand. “But,” continued he, “they were necessary, and well merited. But I, unworthy one, was rather glad when I escaped from them, and went to the University.”

“Nor was I either at all sorry to have my pincushion and things left in peace. But when you came home three years later, then the leaf had turned itself over; then it was otherwise. Then became I truly proud of my brother.”

“And I of my sister. Do you know, Alette, I think you must actually break off with Lexow. I really cannot do without you. Remain with me, instead of going with him up into the shivering, cold North, which you really never can like.”

“You must ask Lexow about that, my brother.”

Thus continued the conversation long, and became by degrees more serious and still. The brother and sister seemed to talk of their future, and that is always a solemn matter, but ever and anon burst forth a hearty laughter from the midst of their consultations. It went on to midnight, but neither of them appeared to mark this.

Susanna, during the conversation of the relatives, had retired to the next room, so as to leave them the more freedom. Her bosom was oppressed by unwonted and melancholy feelings. With her brow leaned against the cool window panes, she gazed out into the lovely summer evening, while she listened to the soft and familiar voices within. The twilight cast its soft dusky veil over the dale; and tree and field, hill and plain, heaven and earth, seemed to mingle in confidential silence. In the grass slumbered the flowers, leaning on each other; and from amongst the leaves, which gently waved themselves side by side, Susanna seemed to hear whispered the words, “Brother! Sister!” With an ineffable yearning opened she her arms as if she would embrace some one but when they returned again empty to her bosom, tears of anguish rolled over her cheeks, while her lips whispered, “Little Hulda!”

Little Hulda, all honour to thy affections, to thy radiant locks; but I do not believe that Susanna’s tears now flowed alone for thee.