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

UPS AND DOWNS.

When a new swarm is ready in a hive to attempt its own flight, warning voices may be heard on still evenings in the little state, calling forth, “Out! out!”

People have interpreted it to be the old queen bee, which thus warns the young ones forth into the world to fashion their own kingdom. I should rather imagine it to be the young ones who in this manner sing forth their longing. But let it be with them as it may, certain it is that in the human hive, Home, a similar cry sometimes makes itself heard. Then also there, when the young swarm is become strong with the honey and wax of home, it finds the house too narrow and longs to get abroad. This is common to all homes; but it is peculiar to the good and happy home, that the same voice which exclaims, “Out! out!” exclaims afterwards yet more animatedly, “In! in!”

So was it in the home of the Franks.

The period to which we must now cast our eyes conducts us several years beyond the time when we saw father and daughters on the heights of the Dofrine Mountains, and shows us our Petrea returned home after a long absence.

The mother, Petrea, and Gabriele, are deep in a conversation which appears to interest them all three in a very lively manner, and the mild voice of the mother is heard saying

“You may freely decide for yourself, my good child, that you know perfectly well; but as you describe Mr. M., and with the feelings, or more properly speaking, the want of feeling you have for him, I can never believe that you will be happy with him, and I cannot therefore advise this marriage. See, here are some almonds in the shell, my dear girl! We have not forgotten so soon your love for them I set the basket before you.”

“And the Countess Solenstrale,” said the lively Gabriele, archly, “has herself spoken for her nephew, and invited you to her house. Very polite and handsome of her! And you, Petrea, no longer covet this exaltation?”

“Ah, no, Gabriele!” answered Petrea, “this childish desire is long past; it is another kind of exaltation than this, that I pine for.”

“And this is called?” asked Gabriele, with a light in her lovely eyes, which showed her that she very well knew that, which however she had not pronounced in words.

“I do not know what I should call it; but there lives and moves here a longing difficult to describe,” said Petrea, laying her hand upon her breast, and with eyes full of tears; “oh, if I could only rise upwards to light to a higher, freer life!”

“You do not wish to die!” said Gabriele, warmly; “not that I now fear death. Since Henrik has trod this path, I feel so entirely different to what I used to do. Heaven is come quite near to the grave. To die is to me to go to him, and to his home. But I am yet so happy to be living here with my family, and you, my Petrea, must feel so too. Ah! life on earth, with those that we love, may indeed be so beautiful!”

“So I think, and so I feel, Gabriele,” replied Petrea, “and more so than ever when I am at home, and with my own family. On that account I will gladly live on the earth, at least till I am more perfect. But I must have a sense of this life having in it a certain activity, by which I may arrive at the consciousness of that which lives within me there moves in me a fettered spirit, which longs after freedom!”

“Extraordinary!” said Gabriele, half displeased, “how unlike people are one to another. I, for my part, feel, not the least desire for activity. I, unworthy mortal, would much rather do nothing.” And so saying she leaned her pretty head with half-shut eyes against her mother, who looked on her with an expression that seemed to say, “live only; that is enough for thee!”

Petrea continued: “When I have read or heard of people who have lived and laboured for some great object, for some development of human nature, who have dedicated all their thoughts and powers to this purpose, and have been able to suffer and to die for it; oh! then I have wept for burning desire that it also might be granted to me to spend and to sacrifice my life. I have looked around me, have listened after such an occasion, have waited and called upon it; but ah! the world goes past me on its own way nobody and nothing has need of me.”

Petrea both wept and laughed as she spoke, and with smiles and tears also did both Gabriele and the mother listen to her, and she continued

“As there was now an opportunity for my marrying, I thought that here was a sphere in which I might be active But, ah! I feel clearly that it is not the right one for me, neither is it the one for which I am suitable especially with a husband whose tastes and feelings are so different to mine.”

“But, my good girl,” said the mother, disconcerted, “how came it then, that he could imagine you sympathised so well together; it seems from his letter that he makes himself quite sure of your consent, and that you are very well suited to each other.”

“Ah!” replied Petrea, blushing, and not without embarrassment, “there are probably two causes for that, and it was partly his fault and partly mine. In the country, where I met him, he was quite left to himself; nobody troubled themselves about him; he had ennui, and for that reason I began to find pleasure for him.”

“Very noble,” said Gabriele, smiling.

“Not quite so much so as you think,” replied Petrea, again blushing, “because at first I wished really to find pleasure for him, and then also a little for myself. Yes, the truth is this that I had nothing to do, and while I busied myself about Mr. M., I did not think it so very much amiss to busy him a little about me; and for this reason I entered into his amusements, which turned upon all sorts of petty social tittle-tattle; for this reason I preserved apricots for him, I told stories to him, and sang to him in an evening in the twilight ’Welcome, O Moon!’ and let him think if he would, that he was the moon. Mother, Gabriele, forgive me, I know how little edification there is in all this, it is quite too but you cannot believe how dangerous it is to be idle, when one has an active spirit within one, and an object before one that You laugh! God bless you for it! the affair is not worth anything more, for it is anything but tragic yet it might become so, if on account of my sins I were to punish myself by marrying Mr. M. I should be of no worth to him, excepting as housekeeper and plaything, and this would not succeed in the long run; for the rest he does not love me, cannot love me seriously, and would certainly easily console himself for my refusal.”

“Then let him console himself, and do not think any further on the affair,” cried Gabriele, with animation.

“I am of Gabriele’s opinion,” said the mother; “for to marry merely to be married; merely to obtain a settlement, an establishment, and all that, is wrong; and, moreover, with your family relationships, the most unnecessary thing in the world. You know, my dear child, that we have enough for ourselves and for you, and a sphere of action suitable for you will present itself in time. Your father will soon return home, and then we can talk with him on the subject. He will assist us directly in the best way.”

“I had, indeed, presentiments,” said Petrea, with a sigh, “and hopes, and dreams, perhaps of a way, of an activity, which would have made me useful and happy according to my own abilities. I make now much humbler demands on life than formerly; I have a much less opinion of myself than I had but, oh! if I might only ally myself, as the least atom of light, to the beams which penetrate humanity at the same time that they animate the soul of man, I would thank God and esteem myself happy! I have made an attempt you know, mother, and Gabriele to express in a book somewhat of that which has lived in me and which still lives; you know that I have sent the manuscript to an enlightened printer for his judgment, and also if his judgment be favourable that he should publish it. If this should succeed, if a sphere of action should open itself to me in this way, oh! then some time or other I might become a more useful and happy being; should give pleasure to my connexions, and ”

Petrea was here interrupted by the arrival of a large packet directed to herself. A shuddering apprehension went through her; her heart beat violently as she broke the seal, and recognised her own manuscripts. The enlightened, intelligent printer sent them back to her, accompanied by a little note, containing the pleasant tidings that he would not offer the merest trifle for the book, neither could he undertake the printing of it at his own cost.

“Then this path is also closed against me!” said Petrea, bowing her head to her hand that nobody might see how deeply she felt this. Thus then she had deceived herself regarding her talents and her ability. But now that this way also was closed against her what should she undertake? Marriage with Mr. M. began again to haunt her brain. She stumbled about in the dark.

Gabriele would not allow, however, that the path of literature was closed against her; she was extremely excited against the printer. “He was certainly,” she said, “a man without any taste.”

“Ah!” said Petrea, readily smiling, “I also will gladly flatter myself with that belief, and that if the book could only be printed, then we soon but that is not to be thought of!”

Gabriele thought it was quite worth while to think about it, and did not doubt but that means might be found, some time or other, to make the gentleman printer make a long face about it.

The mother agreed; spoke of the return of her husband, who, she said, would set all right. “Keep only quietly with us, Petrea, calmly, and don’t be uneasy about the means for bringing out your book; they will be found without difficulty, if we only give ourselves time.”

“And here,” added Gabriele, “you shall have as much quiet as you desire. If you would like to spend the whole day in reading and writing, I will take care that nobody disturbs you. I will attend to all your friends and acquaintance, if it be needful, to insure your quiet. I will only come in to you to tell you when breakfast is ready and when dinner; and on the post-day, I’ll only come at the post-hour and knock at your door, and take your letters and send them off. And in the evening, then then we may see you amongst us you cannot believe how welcome you will be! Ah! certainly you will feel yourself happy among those who love you so much! And your book! we will send it out into the world, and it too shall succeed one of these days!”

Loving voices! domestic voices in happy families, what adversity, what suffering is there which cannot be comforted by you!

Petrea felt their healing balsam. She wept tears of love and gratitude. An hour afterwards, much calmer in mind, she stood at the window, and noticed the scene without. Christmas was at hand, and every thing was in lively motion, in order to celebrate the beautiful festival joyously. The shops were ornamented, and people made purchases. A little bird came and sate on the window, looked up to Petrea, twittered joyfully, and flew away. A lively sentiment passed through Petrea’s heart.

“Thou art happy, little bird,” thought she; “so many beings are happy. My mishap grieves no one, hurts no one. Wherefore, then, should it depress me? The world is large, and its Creator rich and good. If this path will not succeed for me, what then? I will find out another.”

In the evening she was cheerful with her family. But when night came, and she was alone; when the external world presented no longer its changing pictures; when loving, sweet voices no more allured her out of herself, then anguish and disquiet returned to her breast. In no condition to sleep, and urged by irresistible curiosity, she sate herself down sighingly to go through her unlucky manuscripts. She found many pencil-marks, notes of interrogation, and traces of the thumb on the margin, which plainly proved that the reader had gone through the manuscript with a censorious hand, and had had satisfaction in passing his judgment of “good for nothing!”

Ah! Petrea had built so many plans for herself and her family upon this, which was now good for nothing; had founded upon it so many hopes for her ascent upwards. Was nothing now to come out of them all?

Petrea read; she acknowledged the justice of many marginal remarks, but she found, more and more, that the greater part of them had reference to single expressions, and other trifles. Petrea read and read, and was involuntarily captivated by that which she read. Her heart swelled, her eyes glowed, and suddenly animated by that feeling which (we say it sans comparaison) gave courage to Correggio, and which comforted Galileo, she raised herself, and struck her hand upon the manuscript with the exclamation, “It is good for something after all!”

Animated to the depths of her heart, she ran to Gabriele, and laughing, embraced her with the words, “You shall see that some fine day I’ll ascend upwards yet.”