Read PART II: CHAPTER IX of The Home , free online book, by Fredrika Bremer, on ReadCentral.com.

THE RETURN HOME.

What was it that Jacobi and Henrik had so much to arrange together before their departure from Axelholm, and even whilst they were there? Petrea’s curiosity was terribly excited, but she could not come at any clue by which to satisfy it. Some kind of plot which concerned the family, seemed to be in agitation.

Henrik and his friend had long intended to give a little entertainment to the family, and the opportunity to do so now seemed favourable, as well as also to combine it with an agreeable surprise; the scene of which should be a pretty and good Inn, half way between Axelholm and the city. Here, on their return, they would halt under pretence of some repair being necessary to one of the carriages, and the ladies should be persuaded to enter the house, where, in the mean time, all should be prepared.

The two friends had greatly delighted themselves over this scheme, and in order to obtain for Louise her favourite luxury of ices, Jacobi had drained his already reduced purse.

In going to Axelholm the family had so divided themselves that Louise with Petrea went in what is called a Medewi-carriage, the Judge’s own equipage, which was driven by Jacobi, with whom Henrik sate on the driving-box, whilst the mother and the other daughters went in a covered hired carriage, driven by the Judge himself. On the return, the same arrangement was to be observed, with the difference of Jacobi driving the large carriage, and Henrik driving his sisters.

The mother, and even the young gentlemen, declared with becoming discretion that they would not confide the reins to less skilful hands, because the road was rough and hilly, and moreover bad from rain. Notwithstanding all this, however, Jacobi intrigued so that, contrary to the established arrangement, he mounted the coach-box of the young ladies, and Henrik that of his mother. But the Candidate had not much pleasure from so doing, since “the object” was no longer such as she was during the drive thither. At that time she was more cheerful than common; rejoiced so heartily over the spring air, over the song of the lark; over fields, and cows, and cottages, and over everything that she saw, communicating all her delight to Jacobi, who sate all the way on the driving-box with his face turned towards the carriage (Henrik solemnly advised him to fix himself in this reversed position), and their blue eyes then rested on each other with a spring of pure devotion. Now, everything was otherwise: “the object” appeared to give attention to nothing. She leaned back in the carriage with her veil over her face, and a cathedral is far more conversable than she; for it speaks through the tongue in its tower, but Louise’s tongue was perfectly dumb, and Petrea’s, which once never ceased, enlivened her not. In vain Jacobi sought to catch Louise’s eye. She avoided him, and he was quite cast down.

After having been many times most properly jogged and shaken, they arrived fortunately at the wayside inn; yet no! not so fortunately either, one of the carriage-wheels was discovered to be somewhat broken: it was not dangerously so, oh no, heaven forbid that! but it must of necessity be mended before they could proceed further. Henrik prayed his mother and sisters while this was doing to alight and enter the inn, the host and hostess of which now stood at the door, and with bows and curtseys besought the travellers to enter. The host came himself and opened the carriage-doors. Elise was startled, and uttered an exclamation of surprise; the host really and truly must be her husband; and the hostess, the very prettiest hostess in the world, was bodily her daughter Eva! The travelling daughters, too, were as much astonished, made all kinds of exclamations, and recognised in host and hostess father and sister. But neither host nor hostess were confounded, nor allowed themselves to be confused by the confusion of the travellers; they knew themselves too well who they were, and knew, too, how to conduct themselves in their office. They led their guests, with many apologies and politenesses, up to two large and handsome rooms, and here the host, quite in despair, began to bustle about, and to summon both maid and waiter. At last the waiter came in his blue apron. A new miracle! He was a living image of the Candidate! And now came the maid. A new amazement! A handsomer person, or one that more nearly resembled Henrik it would have been impossible to find! But she went about clumsily, and had nearly fallen down, stumbling first with this, and then with that. The host scolded her vehemently on account of her clumsiness, and scolded the waiter also till he made them both cry, at least so it seemed; whereupon he chased them both out with the order to return instantly with refreshments. The host, now again in brilliant, excellent, polite humour, let fly with his own hand the corks of two champagne bottles, poured out, and drank with the ladies. After they had refreshed themselves with all kinds of delicious eating, amid the most lively conversation, some person, who called himself Noah’s grandson, was announced, requesting permission to exhibit to the company various strange animals and other beautiful curiosities, which had been found in the ark. The grandson of Noah was called in by a great majority of voices, and a face presented itself at the door which, with the exception of a certain grey beard, bore a great resemblance to Jeremias Munter. His menagerie, and his cabinet of art, were set out in another room, into which the company were conducted; and there many strangely-formed creatures were exhibited, and little scenes represented, to which Noah’s grandson gave explanations and made speeches which were almost as humorous and witty (to be quite so was impossible) as those of Japhet, in that wonderful and exquisite book, “Noah’s Ark." Two other grandsons of Noah, who bore no resemblance to any acquaintance of the family, assisted at this exhibition, at the end of which Noah’s learned grandson gave to each of the spectators a little souvenir from the contents of the ark, and that with so much tact, that every one received precisely the thing which gave him pleasure. Louise, moreover, received a remarkable sermon, which was preached by Father Noah himself on the first Sunday of his abode in the ark. But near the title-page of this same sermon she found a piece of poetry which evidently bore a later date. Louise did not, however, read it then, but blushing very deeply, put it carefully by.

The whole affair might have been as merry as it was droll, had not Louise herself the most important person in the entertainment been in no state of mind to enjoy it. But although she used her utmost endeavour to take part in all the diversion, and to appear cheerful, she became every moment more depressed; and when at last the ices came, and the waiter, with the utmost cordiality beaming from his eyes, urged her to take a vanilla-ice, she was only just able to taste it, upon which she set it down, rushed out of the room, and burst into a convulsive fit of weeping. This was a thing so unusual with Louise, that it occasioned a general perplexity. Host, hostess, maid, waiter, Noah’s grandson, all threw off their characters; and all illusion, as well as all reality of festivity, were at an end. It is true that Louise composed herself speedily, besought pardon, and assigned as the cause of her emotion sudden spasm in the chest. Elise and Eva, and more particularly Petrea, endeavoured, on account of Henrik and Jacobi, to jest back again the former merriment, but it would not come, and nothing more could succeed. Everybody, but more especially Jacobi, were out of tune, and they now began to speak of returning home.

But now all at once the heavy trampling of horses, and a bustle at the inn door was heard, and at the same moment a splendid landau, drawn by four prancing bays, drew up before it. It was the Landed-proprietor, who, unacquainted with returning there after a short absence, and who had drawn up at this inn for a moment’s breathing-time for his horses, and to order for himself a glass of the beer for which the place was renowned. The company which he here so unexpectedly encountered occasioned an alteration in his first plan. He determined to accompany the family to the city, and besought his aunt and cousins to make use of his landau. It would certainly please them so much; it went with such unexampled ease; was so comfortable that one could sleep therein with perfect convenience even on the heaviest roads, etc., etc. Elise, who really had suffered from the merciless shaking of the hired carriage, was inclined to accept the offer; and as it immediately began to rain, and as the Judge preferred the carriage to the chaise in which he had driven with Eva, the affair was quickly arranged. Elise and some of the daughters were to go in the landau, which was turned in the mean time into a coach; and the Judge and the rest of the company were to divide themselves among the other carriages. As these were ready to receive the company, Jacobi drove his Medewi-carriage close on the landau of the Landed-proprietor, who looked more than once with a dark countenance to see whether any profane or injurious contact had taken place between the great and the little carriage.

Jacobi’s heart beat violently as Louise came out on the steps of the inn door. The Landed-proprietor stood on one side offering her his hand, and Jacobi on the other offering his also, to conduct her to her former seat. She appeared faint, and moved slowly. She hesitated for one moment, and then gave, with downcast eyes, her hand to the Landed-proprietor, who assisted her triumphantly into the carriage to her mother, and mounting the box himself, away the next moment dashed the landau with its four prancing bays. Jacobi laid his hand on his heart, a choking sensation seemed to deprive him of breath, and with tears in his eyes he watched the handsome departing carriage. He was roused out of his painful observations by the voice of Petrea, who jestingly announced to him that the enviable happiness awaited him of driving herself and the Assessor in the Medewi-carriage. He took his former seat in silence; his heart was full of disquiet; and intentionally he remained far behind the others, in order that he might not have the least glimpse of the landau.

Scarcely had the Medewi-carriage again made acquaintance with the ruts of the road, than a violent shock brought off one of the fore wheels, and the Candidate, Petrea, and the Assessor, were tumbled one over the other into the mud. Quickly, however, they were all three once again on their feet; Petrea laughing, and the Assessor scolding and fuming. When Jacobi had discovered that all which had life was unhurt, he looked lightly on the affair, and began to think how best it might be remedied. A short council was held in the rain, and it was concluded that Jacobi should remain with the carriage till some one came to his assistance, and that in the mean time Petrea and the Assessor should make the best of their way on foot towards the city, and send, as soon as possible, some people to his help. A labourer, who came by immediately afterwards, promised to do the same, and Petrea and Assessor Munter, who, however, was anything but consistent with his name, began their walk through rain and mud. All this while, however, Petrea became more joyful and happy: firstly, all this was an adventure for her; secondly, she never before had been out in such weather; thirdly, she felt herself so light and unencumbered as she scarcely ever had done before; and because she looked upon her clothes as given up to fate to a power against which none other on earth could contend, she walked on in joy of heart, splashing through the puddles, and feeling with great delight how the rain penetrated her dress, and seeing how the colour was washed away both from shawl and bonnet. She held her nose high in the air, in order to enjoy the glorious rain.

Petrea had in all this a resemblance to her brother, and flattered herself also that she might have some resemblance to Diogenes; and as her inclination lay towards extremes, she would very willingly be Diogenes, since she could not, as she very well knew, be Alexander. Now she perceived that in reality she needed very little of outward comforts to make her happy; she felt herself in her adverse circumstances so free and rich; she had become on thee-and-thou terms with the rain-drops, with the wind, with the shrubs and grass, with all nature in short; she had not here the mishaps and the humiliations to fear which annoyed her so often in company. If the magpies laughed at her, she laughed at them in return. Long life to freedom!

With all these feelings, Petrea got into such excessively high spirits, that she infected therewith her companions in misfortune; or, according to her vocabulary, good fortune. But now, however, came on a horrible tempest, with hail, whose great stones made themselves thou to such a degree with Petrea’s nose as astonished and almost offended her. The Assessor looked out for shelter; and Petrea, quite charmed that she was nearly blown away, followed him along a narrow footpath that led into the wood, onward in the direction of a smoke, which, driven towards them by the storm, seemed to announce that a hospitable hut was at hand where they might obtain shelter from the tempest. Whilst they were wandering about to discover this, Petrea’s fancy, more unrestrained than the storm, busied itself with unbounded creations of robbers’ castles, wise hermits, hidden treasures, and other splendours, to which the smoke was to conduct her. But ah! they were altogether built up of smoke, since it arose from no other than a charcoal-burner’s kiln, and Petrea had not the smallest desire to make a nearer acquaintance with the hidden divinity of which this smoke was the evidence. The small hut of the charcoal-burner, in the form of a sugar-loaf, stood not far from the kiln, the unbolted door of which was opened by the Assessor. No hermit, nor even robber, had his abode therein; the hut was empty, but clean and compact, and it was with no little pleasure that the Assessor took possession of it, and seated himself with Petrea on the only bench which it possessed. Petrea sighed. What a miserable metamorphosis of her glorious castle in the air!

The prospect which the open door of the hut presented, and which had no interest for Petrea, appeared, on the contrary, captivating to her companion. He was there deep in the wood, in a solitude wild, but still of an elevating character. The hut stood in an open space, but round about it various species of pine-trees stood boldly grouped, and bowed themselves not before the storm which howled in their tops. Several lay fallen on the ground, but evidently from age; grass and flowers grew on the earth, which these patriarchs of the wood had torn up with their powerful roots. Among others, two tall pine-trees stood together: the one was decayed, and seemed about to separate itself from its root; but the other, young, green, and strong, had so entwined it in its branches, that it stood upright, mingling its withered arms with the verdure of the other, and yielding not, although shook by the tempest. The expressive glance of the Assessor rested long on these trees; his eyes filled with tears; his peculiar, beautiful, but melancholy smile played about his lips, and kindly sentiments seemed to fill his breast. He spoke to Petrea of a people of antiquity who dwelt in deserts; he spoke of the pure condition of the Essenes, a morning dawn of Christendom, and his words ran thus:

“A thirst after holiness drove men and women out of the tumult of the world, out of great cities, into desert places, in order that they might dedicate themselves to a pure and perfect life. There they built for themselves huts, and formed a state, whose law was labour and devotion to God. No earthly possession was enjoyed merely on account of pleasure, but only as the means of a higher life. They strove after purity in soul and body; tranquillity and seriousness characterised their demeanour. They assembled together at sunrise, and lifted up hymns and prayers to the Supreme Being. Seventeen hours of each day were devoted to labour, study, and contemplation. Their wants were few, and therefore life was easy. Their discourse was elevated, and was occupied by subjects of the sublime learning which belonged to their sect. They believed on one Eternal God, whose existence was light and purity. They sought to approach him by purity of heart and action, by renunciation of the pleasures of the world, and by humility of heart and mind to understand the works of the allwise Creator. They believed in quiet abodes on the other side of the desert pilgrimage, where clear waters ran and soft winds blew, where spring and peace had their home; there they hoped to arrive at the end of their journey through life.”

There is no want of rays of light on earth; they penetrate its misty atmosphere in manifold directions, although human perception is not as much aware of them at one time as at another. The words of the Assessor made at this moment an indescribable impression on Petrea. She wept from the sweet emotion excited by the description of a condition which was so perfect, and of endeavours which were so holy. It appeared to her as if she knew her own vocation, her own path through life; one which would release her soul from all trifles, all vanities, all disquiets, and which would speed her on to light and peace. Whilst these thoughts, or rather sentiments, swelled in her breast, she looked through her tears on her companion, as he sate there with his expressive countenance and his large beautiful eyes fixed on the scene before him, and she saw in him, not Jeremias Munter, but a wise hermit, with a soul full of sublime and holy knowledge. She longed to throw herself at his feet, and beseech his blessing; to propose to him that he should remain in this solitude, in this hut, with her; that he should teach her wisdom; and she would wait upon him as a daughter, or as a servant, would rise with him and pray at sunrise, and do in all things like the Essenes. Thus would they die to the world, and live only for heaven.

Overpowered by her excited feelings, surrendered to the transports of the moment, and nearly choked with tears, Petrea sank on the breast of Jeremias, stammering forth her undefined wishes.

If a millstone had fallen round his neck, our good Assessor could not have been more confounded than he was at that moment. Deeply sunk in his own thoughts, he had quite forgotten that Petrea was there, till reminded of her presence in this unexpected manner. But he was a man, nevertheless, who could easily understand the excitement of mind in a young girl, and with a pure fervour of eye, whilst a good-humoured satire played about his mouth, he endeavoured to tranquillise her over-wrought feelings. Beautiful, then, was the discourse he held with her on all that which calms and sanctifies life; on all that on which man may found his abode whether in the desert or in the human crowd. He spoke words then which Petrea never forgot, and which often, in a future day, broke the chaotic state of her soul like beams of pure light.

In the mean time the tempest had dispersed itself, and the Assessor began to think of a return; for Petrea thought nothing about it, but would willingly have seen herself compelled to pass the night in the gloomy wood. But now the thought of relating her adventures at home attracted her, and before she got out of the wood these adventures were increased, since fate presented her with the good fortune of assisting, with the help of her companion, an old woman, who had fallen with her bundle of sticks, upon her legs again, and of carrying the said bundle to her cottage, and of lighting her fire for her; with releasing two sparrows which a boy had made captive; and, last of all, with releasing the Assessor himself from a thorn-bush, which, as it appeared, would have held him with such force as vexed even himself. Petrea’s hands bled in consequence of this operation, but that only made her the livelier.

When they came out of the wood, the rain had ceased altogether, the wind had abated, and the setting sun illumined the heavens, and diffused over the landscape a peculiar and beautiful radiance. The countenance of Jeremias Munter was cheerful; he listened to the ascending song of the lark, and said, “That is beautiful!” He looked upon the rain-drops which hung on the young grass, and saw how heaven reflected itself in them, and smiled, and said, “That is pure indeed!” Petrea gave to little children that she met with all her savings from the feast at Axelholm, and would willingly also have given them some of her clothes, had she not had the fear of Louise and her mother before her eyes. She wished in her bravery for more adventures, and more particularly for a longer way than it at this time appeared to be; she thought she arrived at home too soon; but the Assessor thought not, neither did the rest of the party, who were beginning to be very uneasy on account of their long absence. In the mean time Petrea and her companion had become very good friends on the walk; Petrea was complimented for her courage, and Henrik pathetically declaimed in her praise

Not every one such height as Xenophon can gain,
As scholar and as hero, a laurel-wreath obtain;

and they laughed.