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

I see thine eyes in beauty fling
Back the tall taper’s splendour;
Yet can still, and clear, and tender,
Dwell on an angel’s wing.

Velhaven.

When Susanna the next morning went in to Alette, to inquire how she had slept and so on, she found Harald already with his sister, and around her were outspread the linen, the neckerchiefs, the pocket-handkerchiefs, the tablecloths, etc., which he told Susanna he had purchased for himself, but which in reality were presents for his sister, on the occasion of her approaching marriage. Scarcely had Susanna entered the room, when to her great amazement the brother and sister both united in begging her to accept the very handsome dress which she had once proposed that Harald should buy for his sister. She blushed and hesitated, but could not resist the cordiality of Harald, and received the gift with thanks, though glad was she not. Tears were ready to start into her eyes, and she felt herself poor in more than one respect. When Harald immediately after this went out, Alette broke forth into a hearty panegyric upon him, and concluded with these words: “Yes, one may probably three times a day get angry with him before we can rightly get to know him; but this is certain, that if he wishes it, you cannot get clear of him without first loving him.” Susanna sate silent; listened to Alette’s words; and her heart beat at once with painful and affectionate feelings. The call to breakfast broke off the conversation.

Alette was something more than twenty years of age, and had the beautiful growth, the pure complexion, the fine features, with which mother Nature seems especially to have endowed her daughters of Norway. Something fine and transparent lay in her appearance; and her body seemed merely to be a light garment for the soul, so full of life. Her manner of action and of speaking had something fascinating in them, and betrayed happy endowments of nature and much accomplishment. Betrothed to a wealthy merchant of Nordland, she was to be married in the autumn; but in the meanwhile came to spend some time with her brother, and with some other near relatives in Hallingdal.

Susanna felt herself but little at ease with Alette, beside whose fine, half-ethereal being, she perceived in herself for the first time, an unpleasant consciousness of being lumpish.

From the moment of Alette’s arrival in Semb, there commenced a change there. Her charming disposition and great talents made her quickly the centre round which all assembled. Even Mrs. Astrid felt her influence, and remained in the evenings with the rest, and took part in the conversation, which Alette knew how to make interesting. But Mrs. Astrid herself contributed not the less thereto, when she for hours together, as it were, forgot herself in the subjects of the conversation, and then uttered words which gave evidence of a deeply feeling and thinking spirit. Susanna regarded her with joy and admiration. Yet often a painful thought seemed to snatch her away from the genial impression, some dark memory appeared spectre-like to step between her and gladness; the words then died on her pallid lips, the hand was laid on the heart, and she heard and saw no more of what was going on around her, till the interest of the conversation was again able to take hold of her.

There was frequently reading aloud. Alette had a real talent for this, and it was a genuine enjoyment to hear from her lips, poems of Velhaven and Vergeland; which two young men, although personal enemies, in this respect have extended to each other a brotherly hand, because they sincerely love their native land, and have exhibited much that is beautiful and ennobling in its literature.

In the mean time, Susanna became continually less at ease in her mind; Harald no longer, as before, sought her company, and seemed almost to have forgotten her in Alette. In the conversations, at which she was now often present, there was much which touched her feelings, and awoke in her questions and imaginations; but when she attempted to express any of these, when she would take part and would show that she too could think and speak, then fell the words so ill, and her thoughts came forth so obscurely, that she herself was compelled to blush for them; especially when on this, Alette would turn her eyes upon her with some astonishment, and Harald cast down his; and she vowed to herself never again to open her mouth on subjects which she did not understand.

But all this sunk deep into her bosom; and in her self-humiliation she lamented bitterly the want of a more careful education, and sighed from the depths of her heart, “Ah! that I did but know a little more! That I did but possess some beautiful talent!”